A day that started with the Mariners putting their leading hitter on the disabled list ended with his replacement hitting a grand slam in Friday’s 12-4 rout of the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field.
Taylor Motter again stepped in for injured shortstop Jean Segura and, motivated by a show-’em attitude, capped a five-run first inning with a slam against the club that traded him away in the offseason.
"They gave me my chance in baseball," Motter said, "but I’m going to succeed somewhere else. And I’m glad to show them that."
Motter will be the Mariners’ primary shortstop in Segura’s absence, which could be roughly a month after suffering a high right ankle sprain in Thursday’s loss to Colorado. Club officials will have a better idea regarding Segura in about a week.
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The Mariners also got five RBIs from first baseman Danny Valencia, who had a three-run homer in the third inning. It was Valencia’s two-out walk in the first innings that produced the game’s first run. Motter followed with a slam.
Right-hander Christian Bergman improved to 3-2 by limiting the Rays to two runs in six innings for his third quality start in his last four outings.
The series continues at 7:10 p.m. Saturday when right-hander Sam Gaviglio (1-1 with a 3.50 ERA) opposes Tampa Bay right-hander Alex Cobb (4-4 and 3.67).
Three takeaways from Friday’s victory:
***Replacing Segura: While Motter replaced Segura at shortstop, manager Scott Servais said rookie right fielder Ben Gamel will become the the club’s primary interim leadoff hitter.
Gamel went 2-for-5 in the victory, which raised his average to .311 and his on-base percentage to .390.
With Motter no longer available for the utilityman role, the Mariners promoted infielder Tyler Smith from Triple-A Tacoma in a series of roster moves prior to Friday’s game.
Smith made his big-league debut as a late-inning replacement for second baseman Robinson Cano and, in a feel-good moment, lashed a double in his first at-bat. Smith is also expected to start occasionally at shortstop.
***Bergman building a case: While Bergman’s stuff doesn’t dazzle, he again delivered a solid start. Take away one wretched inning in Washington, when a two-out catch not made led to seven runs, and his ERA would be 2.45 instead of 4.37.
"I’m feeling good right now," he said, "and trying to keep it simple. Go out every time and give them a good start."
The Mariners face decisions in their rotation over the next few weeks with three starting pitchers likely to return from the disabled list. Bergman’s future remains in doubt, but he’s no longer a lock to surrender his spot.
***Valencia still surging: While the attention Friday centered on Motter and his in-your-face slam against his former club, Valencia actually had the better night in going 3-for-3 with a bases-loaded walk, a three-run homer and five RBIs.
Valencia is on a sustained surge after a miserable start. He is batting .322 over 31 games since April 25 with five doubles, five homers and 21 RBIs.
"May was good," he said. "Hopefully, June will be better. Obviously, I didn’t want to get off to a slow start like I did. It’s in the rear-view mirror. Just trying to have good quality at-bats and drive guys in."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners