Mariners ride strong start from Robbie Ray to take series from Guardians

The formula is proven to work in the postseason, and these Mariners have carved out their own version of it.

Their starting pitching, as Robbie Ray showed again Sunday afternoon, can match up with anyone. Their bullpen is ferocious. Their defense, by and large, has been excellent for five months. And even as their offense has been a source of consternation, they have had a knack for timely hitting.

Those components that can be successful at any time, in any era.

As August nears an end, and as the American League playoff chase grows tighter by the day, the question looms heavy: Will the Mariners get a chance to try out their formula in October?

In a four-game series that had all the trappings of the postseason, the Mariners won three of four against the AL Central-leading Cleveland Guardians, riding seven shutout innings from Ray on Sunday to close out the series with a 4-0 victory.

Dylan Moore, an injury fill-in for shortstop JP Crawford, delivered the timely hit — a towering three-run home run to left field — to break open a scoreless game in the fifth inning before a sold-out crowd of 45,190 on a perfect summer day at T-Mobile Park.

Ray (11-8) struck out seven and allowed just three hits, with no walks, on 103 pitches. That continued a dominant homestand for Seattle’s starting pitchers, who posted a 1.38 earned-run average over six games, with 39 strikeouts and just four walks in 39 innings.

But as the Mariners struggled for the first four innings to generate much of anything against Cleveland starter Aaron Civale, it was fair to wonder if another stellar pitching performance would go to waste.

Ty France broke out of an 0-for-21 slump with a solid single to lead off the fifth inning. Adam Frazier walked later in the inning, bringing up Moore, the No. 9 hitters.

On a 2-2 pitch, Moore popped a foul ball near the first-base dugout. Cleveland first baseman Owen Miller fell into the net trying to make the catch; Miller did hold onto the ball, but first base umpire Ramon DeJesus ruled that the ball touched the netting before Miller could complete the catch.

That gave Moore another chance, and on the next pitch he hammered a hanging curveball over the wall in left field for his sixth home run of the season — and first since July 7 — to give the Mariners a 3-0 lead.

The Guardians (67-59) threatened in the sixth inning, putting runners at first and third with no outs. But Ray escaped by getting Myles Straw to fly out to Mitch Haniger in right field, Steven Kwan to pop out and Amed Rosario to strike out swinging at a high fastball (with Jose Ramirez left in the on-deck circle).

Erik Swanson and Paul Sewald pitched the final two innings to complete the shutout for the Mariners.