Justus Sheffield has another strong start as Mariners snap losing skid

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Justus Sheffield of the Seattle Mariners pitches during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park in San Diego on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. - Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images North America/TNS

Even in a brief season where he will only make 10 starts, Justus Sheffield has provided the Seattle Mariners some reassurance about his future in their starting rotation and his status as a key part of the current rebuild.

In his ninth start of the season and facing a solid San Diego Padres’ lineup, the rookie left-hander worked six innings, allowing one run on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts to set the tone in the Mariners’ much-needed 4-1 victory, ending a four-game losing streak.

The win didn’t come without a tense moment provided by the bullpen, like always. The Mariners’ “closer” Yoshihisa Hirano loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth inning. But he got Jake Cronenworth to hit a one hopper back to the mound for a 1-2-3 double play and got Jurickson Profar to ground out to second to end the game.

Even with the Mariners’ win, their playoff hopes grew a little more dim with the Astros also winning Saturday. Houston defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-2 to remain three games up on the Mariners in the standings for the second-place spot in the American League West with eight games remaining. And really the Astros are four games up for the postseason spot since they hold the tiebreaker over the Mariners on the season series.

For the sixth time in seven starts, Sheffield pitched at least six innings and allowed two runs or fewer. He also got some help from the Padres, who ran the bases like a drunken frat party streaking the campus quad, giving him some free outs.

During this stretch of seven starts, Sheffield has posted a 4-1 record with a 2.74 ERA, giving up 13 earned runs in 42 2/3 innings with 12 walks and 40 strikeouts.

Still, there was some doubt after a 2019 season that saw him start the season in Triple-A Tacoma, pitch his way into demotion to Double-A Arkansas where he was able to find success and give the Mariners eight uneven outings at the MLB level, posting a 5.50 ERA with most of them coming in September.

About two hours before first pitch, the Padres decided to scratch scheduled starting pitcher Mike Clevinger as a precautionary measure. Padres manager Jayce Tingler said that Clevinger had biceps tightness. As their prized acquisition at the trade deadline, and with a postseason spot as the second-place in the National League West, the Padres didn’t need to push Clevinger.

Instead the Padres started touted prospect Luis Patino. He was knocked out of the game in the second inning, as they grinded out at-bats and getting a run on a Ty France RBI single.

The Mariners scored two more runs off old friend Dan Altavilla, as another component of that seven-player trade, Luis Torrens, ripped a two-run double in the third inning.

Kyle Lewis continued his push for American League Rookie of the Year, blasting a solo homer in the fifth inning. It was Lewis’ 11th homer of the season.

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©2020 The Seattle Times