WASHINGTON — The circumstances weren’t ideal. The decision-making that went into the timing of the day left them a little peeved. The repercussions likely won’t be felt so much Thursday when they play the Rangers in Texas but probably on Friday or Saturday because that’s how heavy bullpen usage and lack of sleep works.
But winning makes everything easier to endure.
Despite the unwanted inconvenience of Wednesday’s split doubleheader in the mid-Atlantic heat and later-than-wanted travel to Dallas-Fort Worth, the Mariners leave the nation’s capital having swept the Nationals in the two-game series with businesslike execution.
After rolling to a 6-4 victory that only got close in the final inning of the opening game, the Mariners completed the sweep by hanging on for a 2-1 win in the sparsely attended nightcap at Nationals Park.
“We will sleep well tonight,” Mariners manager Scott Servis said. “That’s a long day of baseball, and I can’t say enough how proud I am of our guys today with the way they competed all day long. It’s hard to sweep a doubleheader. It really is. You need a lot of things to go your way. You need outstanding pitching, good defense, some timely hitting and we had it all going on today.”
Their win streak has reached double digits at 10 games. It’s just the fourth time in franchise history that the Mariners have put together a 10-game winning streak. The last time it happened was in 2002 (April 8-17). The other two times were a 10-game winning streak in 1996 (Sept. 12-21) and a 15-game winning streak in 2001 (May 23-June 8).
“It’s hard to win 10 games in a row,” Servais said. “I give a ton of credit to our guys. They have a very singular mission right now: show up every day and compete your tail off. We’ve got a lot of talent in that room and it’s starting to come together.”
Since June 19, when a lackluster 4-0 loss capped a dreadful 3-8 homestand, dropping them 29-39 and leaving fans clamoring for somebody, anybody to lose their job, the Mariners have won 18 of their last 21 games to improve to 47-42. The last time they were five games over .500 was on April 26 when Logan Gilbert beat the Rays to improve the Mariners’ record to 11-6.
Even with as well as they’ve been playing since and just how brutally awful the Nationals are this season — think 2010 Mariners — sweeping the doubleheader wasn’t a given even after winning the opening game.
Given the heat and the late-night flight into Texas, it would’ve been easy for a lapse in focus. But these Mariners don’t want to give away games, innings on the mound, outs in the field or at-bats.
“We can’t afford to give anything away from understanding where we’re at in our season and our turnaround here,” Servais said. “It has been driven by a number of different things, but I’ve said it from day one: Our guys come everyday and they prepare and they’re ready to compete. I don’t care who’s on the other side coming after us. They’re ready to go. We find a way and it’s a different guy every day. That’s what good teams do.”
With George Kirby optioned to Tacoma to control his workload, the Mariners went with a bullpen start for his turn in the rotation, featuring Erik Swanson as the opener, in the nightcap.
Four relievers — Swanson pitching two scoreless innings as the “opener,” veteran lefty Tommy Milone followed with 3 1/3 shutout innings as the “bulk” reliever and Matt Brash and Diego Castillo combined to hold the Nationals without a run for 2 2/ 3 — allowed the Mariners to take a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning.
The Mariners called on right-hander Paul Sewald, who got the save in the opening game, to close out the nightcap. After giving a mammoth solo homer to Juan Soto, Sewald worked the rest of the inning without allowing a run to notch his second save of the day and 12th on the season.
“Thank God we had a two-run cushion there,” Servais said.
He is the first Mariners reliever to record two saves in both ends of a doubleheader since Mike Schooler did it on May 6, 1989.
The Mariners offense was provided by two players they’d love to have play up to their past levels — Jesse Winker and Adam Frazier. Both had solid days at the plate in both games. Winker smashed a solo homer in the sixth inning to break a 0-0 tie and Frazier added a sac fly later in the inning to provide the offense.
Showing a new setup at the plate and some adjustments that he worked on during his suspension, Winker hit impressive solo homers to right-center in each of the games.
“Give Wink a ton of credit,” Servais said. “He worked on a few things and made a few adjustments. We saw them today.”
Frazier, who started having better at-bats on the homestand, had four hits in seven at-bats with two RBI, including a solo homer in the first game and a stolen base.
“Best day he’s had in quite a while,” Servais said. “Even the outs he made were barreled up.”
BOX SCORE (Game 1)
BOX SCORE (Game 2)