Seattle Mariners

Wild-card hopeful M’s win 8th straight

Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma pitched 6 1/3 innings and left with a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning but had to sweat out the finish.
Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma pitched 6 1/3 innings and left with a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning but had to sweat out the finish. The Associated Press

It’s eight in a row now for the Mariners after Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. And while that’s great, eight isn’t enough.

Not quite.

But the Mariners continue to claw closer in their bid to end a 14-year postseason drought. They now trail Toronto by just 1 1/2 games in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.

The Mariners have an open date Friday before opening a six-game homestand that includes three games against the Blue Jays.

When Edwin Diaz closed out Wednesday’s victory, the Mariners matched a season best in climbing back to 10 games over .500 at 78-68. They’ve been there twice before.

After easy 8-1 and 8-0 victories in the first two games against the Angels, the Mariners had to sweat through the final pitch in closing out their sweep. But Diaz collected his 16th save in 17 chances.

The Mariners erased a 1-0 deficit on Kyle Seager’s home run in the fifth inning and took a 2-1 lead on Nelson Cruz’s homer in the seventh.

Hisashi Iwakuma (16-11) turned that lead over to Tom Wilhelmsen with the tying run at second base and one out in the Angels seventh. Wilhelmsen stranded the runner.

Steve Cishek worked a one-two-three eighth inning against the heart of the Angels’ order: Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. That got the game to Diaz.

Angels right-hander Jhoulys Chacin drew the start after lefty Tyler Skaggs was scratched because of forearm soreness just nine outings after returning from Tommy John surgery.

Chacin limited the Mariners to one run and three hits in six innings.

Jose Valdez replaced Chacin to start the seventh and threw two pitches. Cruz hit the second one for a homer and a 2-1 lead, and Angels replaced Valdez (1-3) with Jose Alvarez.

Ketel Marte led off the sixth inning with a single after fouling two earlier pitches off his foot, but that threat died when Trout made a diving catch on Seth Smith’s slicing liner into left-center field.

If the ball gets by Trout, it’s a likely RBI double.

The Mariners momentarily took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when umpire Doug Eddings ruled Nori Aoki beat the throw to first by shortstop Cliff Pennington as Leonys Martin scored.

Los Angeles challenged, and the call was overturned. The run came off the board.

Juan Graterol then led off the Angels’ third by squirting a single past first base, and Gregorio Petit yanked a hit-and-run single through the vacated hole at shortstop. That put runners at first and third with no outs.

Iwakuma struck out Yunel Escobar and got to a 1-2 count on Kole Calhoun before throwing a splitter that got past catcher Chris Iannetta for a run-scoring wild pitch.

But Iwakuma stopped it there, and the Mariners pulled even when Seager opened the fifth inning by driving a first-pitch fastball from Chacin into the right-field seats.

PLAY OF THE GAME: There was the diving catch mentioned above by Trout, but Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano turned a slick double play in the second inning.

Cano ran down Rafael Ortega’s sharp grounder up the middle, stepped on the base for the force and threw back across his body to first base for the double play.

STAT PACK: Cruz’s homer in the seventh inning was his 10th of the season against the Angels. It is the most ever hit by a Mariner in a single season against any opponent.

Only two players have hit more than 10 homers against the Angels in a single season. Both were players with Mariners connections, although they did it for other teams. Willie Horton hit 11 while playing for Detroit in 1968, and Alex Rodriguez hit 11 while playing for Texas in 2003.

SHORT HOPS: Former Mariners reliever J.C. Ramirez (briefly last year) hit Dae-Ho Lee with a pickoff throw to first base in the seventh inning. Lee wasn’t hurt. The Mariners’ dugout erupted in laughter.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners