Mariners right-hander fans seven to win debut with new club
By Josh Horton
SEATTLE -- The Mariners' starting rotation is ailing, and Mike Leake might just be the medicine it needs.
Leake, who was acquired in a waiver trade with the Cardinals on Wednesday, bounced back after a shaky first inning to give up two runs over seven innings while striking out seven and only walking one in the Mariners' 3-2 win over the A's on Friday night.
It was the first time a Mariners' starter pitched seven innings since James Paxton did so against Boston on July 24.
"When you get traded like that, and in a day or two you're on the mound, there's a lot going on, moving family around and whatnot," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I really tip my hat. Awesome job after the first three hitters are right on him. You're starting to go, 'woah, what's going on?' But I think it's a great sign of a veteran pitcher. He's been around, he's been through a lot, no panic. It's great to see."
Soon after Leake hurled his first pitch, a dazzling outing didn't appear likely. Three consecutive base hits to begin the game put Leake on his heels early. He limited the damage the best he could in the first, then put up six consecutive scoreless frames.
"They showed that they were going to be aggressive today," Leake said. "[Catcher] Mike [Zunino] and I had to make an adjustment."
Locating his fastball and going after hitters was the anecdote. Servais took notice.
"I love the way he works," Servais said. "Very aggressive, attacking, up-tempo style, [while] mixing in his pitches."
Leake provides a different look to the Mariners' crop of starters. Leake is a sinker-ball pitcher with a propensity for keeping the ball on the ground; his groundball rate is at 54.5 percent, according to Fangraphs. The Mariners' other 16 starters combined for the 27th highest ground-ball rate in MLB this season at 40.3.
A starter who can keep the ball on the ground is a welcome addition to a rotation that's struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark. Seattle starters led the Majors in home runs allowed per nine innings in August with 2.27. The next closest team was the Tigers, at 2.05.
Ground balls were a bit down for Leake on Friday; nine of his 20 batted balls in play were on the ground. Tying his season-high seven strikeouts helped counteract that.
"I'd like to get a few more ground balls, honestly," Leake said. "I think the fact that I was able to continue to get some balls they couldn't put in play was very good. I think that's one thing that's been difficult for me, is to put guys away. I think the fact that I was able to do that later in the game was nice."
Four of those seven punchouts came in his last two innings and the last two were with Matt Chapman in scoring position.
"I thought his stuff was really good in the sixth and seventh innings," Servais said. "Sign of a veteran pitcher. He kind of dialed it up when he had to. I thought the fastball was crisper, the breaking balls, he made the huge pitch in the seventh to strike out Boog Powell when the runner advanced to third … and finishing it off and getting [Marcus] Semien out."
Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.