Justin Smoak doubled in a pair of runs off Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta in the eighth inning, and the Seattle Mariners rallied for a 6-4 victory over the Rays on Friday night.
The Rays’ lead was cut to two games over the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles in the race for the second wild-card berth in the American League.
After tying the game in the top of the eighth, the Rays couldn’t keep the Mariners from going ahead.
Kyle Seager hit a fly ball off Peralta (2-6) deep into the gap in left-center.
Though center fielder Desmond Jennings got in position for the play, the ball caromed off the heel of his glove and fell to the turf allowing Seager to reach second base on the error.
Kendrys Morales walked before Smoak’s fly down the right-field line just missed the glove of a diving Wil Myers. Seager and pinch runner Abraham Almonte scored to give the Mariners a 6-4 lead.
Carter Capps (3-3) picked up the victory in relief.
Danny Farquhar pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 13th save.
PAXTON READY AND EAGER
The road that took James Paxton’s professional baseball career through Clinton, Wis., Jackson, Tenn., Tacoma and then Seattle is finally about to deliver him to the pitchers mound at
Paxton is scheduled to make his major league debut at 6:10 p.m. Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I can’t wait to get out there on that mound – get my opportunity to do my thing,” Paxton said Friday from his corner locker in the Mariners’ clubhouse. “I just can’t wait. I feel like I’ve kind of done my part in the minor leagues, learned a lot of things. I definitely feel like I’m ready for this shot up here. I’m just real excited about it and ready to go.”
Paxton, 24, was Seattle’s fourth-round selection in the 2010 June draft. In 2011, he moved from Single-A Clinton to Double-A Jackson. He spent all of 2012 in Jackson before being promoted to Triple-A Tacoma this season.
On Sunday, he was two innings into his last start with the Rainiers when manager John Stearns brought the hook – and the surprising news.
“I was expecting to go the rest of the game,” Paxton said. “But they pulled me out, told me it was a good thing, not a bad. ... I kind of got to give guys hugs in the dugout and stuff. My parents were actually at the game because they were going to watch me pitch that day. So, I actually got to call my dad down to the locker room and told him and got to hang out with them all night. So, that was a lot of fun.”
At Tacoma, the left-hander went 8-11 with a 4.45 ERA in 28 appearances and 26 starts. He averaged 8.09 strikeouts per 9.0 innings and held left-handed batters to a .222 batting average without a home run.
Paxton was asked what he would consider a successful Mariners debut.
“I don’t have any expectation,” he said. “I’m just going to go out there and execute pitches, and what happens, happens.”
Seattle manager Eric Wedge sounded as eager as anyone to see what plays out.
“I’m excited to watch him,” Wedge said. “I know he’s excited to pitch, as well he should be. It’s always fun to watch a debut, especially when it’s a starting pitcher. He’s been up here now for a few days, and he’s had a chance to get acclimated. He has a chance to do that here at home (Friday), too. I’m looking forward to watching him pitch.”
Wedge gave an update on Felix Hernandez, whose next start was delayed from Sunday to Wednesday after he experienced what was called a lower-back cramp this week. “We’re going to have him (throw) off the mound, for sure,” Wedge said. “He works off that angle and makes sure everything’s fine. He felt good playing catch (Thursday), so that’s a big start for him.” ... Wedge also said Brandon Maurer will move back into the starting rotation once 21-year-old Taijuan Walker reaches his innings limit for this season. Maurer, 23, went 2-7 with a 6.93 ERA this season before moving to the bullpen, where he has a 6.64 ERA in eight appearances. Wedge was asked what differences the club hopes to see when Maurer returns to a starting role. “Just to learn from what he’s experienced, both as a starter and in the bullpen, both at the big league level and Triple A,” he said. ... The Mariners will wear special “Marineros” uniforms Saturday as part of “Salute to Latin American Beisbol Night.” After the game, the jerseys will be auctioned at mariners.com.Staff writer Don Ruiz contributed to this report.