August 10, 2022

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Who else? Toro strikes again vs. former team Astros

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Second baseman’s pinch-hit, go-ahead knock lifts Mariners to an improbable win
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HOUSTON — It was a game full of highs and lows for the Mariners — from an early lead to injuries sustained by Dylan Moore, Julio Rodríguez and Sam Haggerty — but in the end, Abraham Toro came off the bench in the ninth inning and delivered another clutch hit against his former team. 

Toro, pinch-hitting for the banged-up Rodríguez, lined a sharp two-run single into right field off Astros closer Ryan Pressly in the ninth inning to send the Mariners to an improbable 5-4 win over the Astros on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, snapping a five-game losing streak against Houston.

“I have been part of many crazy games since I’ve been here, but this one may be near the top of the list,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “A lot of things happened with players coming in and out of the game. It was crazy but at the end of the day, credit to the players for sticking in there.”

The Mariners, trailing 4-3 entering the ninth, rallied against Pressly, who had retired 33 of the previous 34 hitters he had faced. The rally started when Jesse Winker and Adam Frazier reached base, but they were still stuck in scoring position with two outs.

It was supposed to be Rodríguez’s spot to hit, but the outfielder did not feel comfortable with the bat in his hand after being struck by a pitch in the eighth inning. It forced Servais to pinch-hit Toro, setting him up to deliver another dagger against the Astros.

Toro is no stranger to the Astros, as he was drafted by them in 2016 and spent his first 2 1/2 years in the Majors with Houston before getting traded in ‘21. Since the trade, Toro has struggled to establish himself with the Mariners, as he is slashing .178/.240/.324 in 80 games this season — except against Houston. 

He is slashing .277/.351/.538 with 20 RBIs in 24 career games against Houston and had been dubbed an “Astros killer” since he was traded. His first at-bat as a Mariner was against the Astros, and he hit a solo homer against Pressly last season. But his biggest moment against Houston was a grand slam against Kendall Graveman, who was sent to Houston from Seattle in the Toro trade, in a 4-0 win on Aug. 31.

Toro was the last person the Astros wanted to see in the clutch moment, as “he has been a thorn in our side since we traded him over there,” as Astros manager Dusty Baker put it. 

Toro proved why on the first pitch of the at-bat, as he hit an RBI single off of Pressly’s slider that brought in the eventual winning run. It was a moment in which the second baseman knew what he had to do and did so to come up big for the team. 

“It is easier for me to lock in when the crowd goes crazy and lets me not overthink things,” Toro said. “I stick to my approach and hit the ball hard which was the only thing I wanted to do.”

He was an unlikely hero given his numbers, but the Mariners were confident Toro would give them the win when he stepped into the plate.

“Huge, huge hit by Toro,” Servais said. “Toro has had his ups and downs over the course of the season, but he continues to get the big hits late in the season. He has done it multiple times and when the game is on the line, he puts a good swing on it. He certainly did that tonight.”

Toro was an unlikely hero for an unlikely win for the team that had its back against the wall — the bullpen was stretched thin, three Mariners were dealt injuries, and players were scattered in unfamiliar positions by the bottom of the ninth. But Seattle stuck through it and did what it had to do. It shows that the Mariners have playoff potential, and when everything is against them, they will figure it out, just like they did on Saturday.

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