Muscle is a wonderful thing.
The Mariners used a three-homer salvo Friday night in off-setting some early defensive lapses while rallying for a 4-3 victory over the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field.
Mark Trumbo, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano cleared the wall in erasing a two-run deficit against lefty Cole Hamels, the Rangers’ marquee trade-deadline acquisition.
Cruz and Cano went back to back in the sixth inning. Cruz tied the game, while extending his hitting streak to 17 games. Cano then put the Mariners on top.
“Good game,” Cruz said. “We got the runs that we needed, and we beat a really good pitcher.”
And this time, the bullpen, while it had some anxious moments, avoided the sort of late breakdowns that produced two losses over the previous five games.
Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma worked through two long innings at the start and survived some shaky defense in the fourth in pitching through the seventh inning.
Iwakuma (3-2) threw a career-high 118 pitches and allowed three runs and six hits.
“I did feel a little fatigue toward the end, to be honest,” he said, “but I feel good. They put up good at-bats (early on). They were fouling off good pitches. But I was patient, and I was able to go long into the game.”
Then cue the bullpen.
Joe Beimel inherited a 4-3 lead to start the eighth inning and threw wild to first on Rougned Odor’s leadoff bunt. The play was scored a single.
“I felt real un-athletic on that play,” Beimel said. “I didn’t think I had as much time as I did. So I reached for the ball instead of going to it. … But I was able to add to my pickoff total.”
After the pickoff, Beimel retired Prince Fielder on a high, hold-your-breath fly to left.
“I was running back on it,” left fielder Seth Smith said, “and, toward the end, I realized it was coming down, and I wasn’t to the fence yet.”
Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon then opted for a right-on-right matchup by summoning Tom Wilhelmsen to face Adrian Beltre, who sent a drive to deep left that just hooked foul … before striking out.
The Mariners had a chance to gain some breathing space when they put runners at second and third with one out in the eighth against Spencer Patton. Cano singled, and Jesus Montero followed with a double.
The opportunity fizzled when Patton struck out Austin Jackson. The inning ended when Sam Freeman, after replacing Patton, retired Smith on a grounder to second.
It didn’t matter.
Carson Smith pitched around a leadoff single in the ninth for his 11th save in 13 chances. The Mariners have won five of their last seven. Hamels (0-1) gave up four runs and eight hits.
“Really, three pitches that (Hamels) didn’t get where he wanted them,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “To three guys who have power. They hit it out of the ballpark. That’s what they do.”
It didn’t look good early.
Iwakuma ran into a two-out jam in the second after Shin-Soo Choo flicked a double into left field. Elvis Andrus then battled through four two-strike fouls before getting hit by a pitch.
Both runners scored when Trumbo couldn’t come up with a diving catch on Billy Wilson’s sinking liner to left. The ball kicked off the bottom of Trumbo’s glove and turned into a double.
By the time the inning ended on Delino DeShields’ grounder to second, a normally efficient Iwakuma was down 2-0 and up to 52 pitches.
“From the third inning on,” Iwakuma said, “I felt they were more aggressive early in the count. When I saw that, I wanted to pitch to contact and get early outs.”
Logan Morrison, in his first start since July 29, opened the third inning with a double into the right-center gap. Hamels struck out Mike Zunino, but Ketel Marte beat out a slow roller to third.
Marte’s speed paid another dividend when he broke for second, which prompted a balk from Hamels. Morrison scored, and Marte moved to second.
Defense betrayed Iwakuma in the fourth. Mitch Moreland singled past Cano at second, and Josh Hamilton followed with single off the glove of a diving Trumbo in left.
The Mariners got an out at second on Choo’s hard grounder to first, but the Rangers challenged and, although replays showed Marte came off the base before making the catch, Hamilton was ruled out.
Replays determined the play was covered by the “neighborhood rule,” and thus not reviewable. The Rangers didn’t lose their challenge.
Iwakuma had a chance to get away clean when Andrus’ fly to right wasn’t deep enough to score the run — but he then bounced a pitch past Zunino that permitted Moreland to score. Texas led 3-1.
Then it turned.
The Mariners closed to within 3-2 when Trumbo led off the fifth with a 400-foot drive to center for his 13th homer of the season and fourth since arriving June 3 from Arizona in a trade.
Cruz pulled the Mariners even when he opened the sixth with 400-foot drive to left for his 32nd homer. Cano followed with his 12th homer, a 422-foot drive over the center-field wall, and the Mariners led 4-3.
“I was just looking for a pitch to get on base,” Cano said. “But on 3-1, you’re going to look for a fastball.”
He got one and didn’t miss it.