Seattle Mariners

Mariners 6, Rays 4: This time, Mariners hold on after building early lead

Chris Iannetta (top) was thrown out the plate in the seventh inning when Tampa Bay catcher Curt Casali held the throw from left fielder Jaff Decker after a collision.
Chris Iannetta (top) was thrown out the plate in the seventh inning when Tampa Bay catcher Curt Casali held the throw from left fielder Jaff Decker after a collision. AP

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Well, the Mariners ended a four-game skid and avoided a three-game sweep Thursday afternoon at Tropicana Field but, grandma, it sure wasn’t easy.

Steve Cishek closed out a 6-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays after the Mariners nearly let another lead slip away in the later innings.

"You’re in a losing streak," manager Scott Servais said, "and it’s been tough for us to get over the hump. A tough series for us. Every game was tough to get through. We’re lucky to get out of here with one today."

Kyle Seager provided a key insurance run with a two-out homer in the ninth inning that required a umpires review to determined that it cleared the right-field wall.

"They (guys on the bench) said it was close," Seager said. "They said the angles were tough, but that it would be a hard one to overturn."

The call stood and, three Cishek outs later, the Mariners could breathe. They won for just the seventh time in 20 games.

"It’s good to get a win," said catcher Chris Iannetta, who had three of the Mariners’ 13 hits. "It’s good to get a rally together. We can definitely do that, no matter what’s being said or written.

"We a very tight unit, and we’re going to keep playing that way."

It didn’t come easily.

Joaquin Benoit inherited a two-run lead to start the Tampa Bay eighth but, after striking out the leadoff hitter, surrendered two soft singles that put the tying runs on base.

Corey Dickerson grounded into a force at second before Benoit loaded the bases by walking Logan Forsythe. That got the game to ex-Mariner Brad Miller, who drove an RBI single through the left side of the infield.

Benoit held the lead by striking out Steve Pearce when Iannetta held a foul tip on a full-count fastball. Benoit then howled into his glove as he walked to the dugout, which pretty well summed up everything.

Dae-Ho Lee paced a balanced attack with an RBI single in a three-run first inning and a two-run double in the fourth. He said he cut down his swing after striking out in six of his seven previous at-bats.

"I was trying not to swing too much," he said. "Just trying to hit the ball easy."

Mariners starter James Paxton (1-2) weathered an elevated pitch count through the early innings by working through the sixth and handing a 5-3 lead to rookie reliever Edwin Diaz.

"It was a battle," Paxton said. "I didn’t have my best stuff early. I didn’t have the cutter going early. I just kept on throwing it, and it came around there about the fourth inning.

"I knew I had to get deep."

The Mariners were operating — still are — with a weary bullpen after their relief corps ate 12 innings over the two previous days.

Benoit pitched on back-to-back days for the first time since returning May 17 from the disabled list. Cishek returned after throwing 35 pitches in Wednesday’s 13-inning loss.

Diaz quickly found trouble in the seventh when two singles put runners at first and third with one out. Diaz escaped by striking out Logan Morrison and Desmond Jennings.

Tampa Bay lefty Blake Snell, the Shoreline native, gave up five runs in 3 1/3 innings but just one was earned. Snell (0-1) made his second career start after being recalled prior to the game from Triple-A Durham.

"I felt like my stuff was good," Snell said. "I felt like I had more at-bats where I was battling. I just feel like I should have attacked more."

The Mariners, for the third straight game, opened the scoring. This time, they struck for three runs in the first inning, aided by shortstop Tim Beckham’s two-out error.

Singles by Gutierrez and Nelson Cruz put runners at first and third with two outs. Lee then lined an RBI single, but Snell should have been out of the inning when Seager hit a grounder to short.

Instead, the ball skipped through Beckham for a run-scoring error. Iannetta followed with an RBI single for a 3-0 lead before Snell got the final out.

The Rays opened the third inning with three straight singles — by Logan Forsythe, Mikie Mahtook and Pearce — for one run. Mahtook took third when left fielder Nori Aoki threw home on Pearce’s single.

That permitted Mahtook to score on Morrison’s ground out.

The Mariners had a chance to answer in the fourth after Shawn O’Malley led off with a bunt single before another Beckham error and a walk loaded the base with one out — and finished Snell.

Ryan Garton struck out Cruz, but Lee lined a two-run double just fair into the right-field corner for a 5-2 lead. Tampa Bay got one run back later in the inning after Taylor Motter’s leadoff double.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Left fielder Nori Aoki inexplicably tried to throw out Logan Forsythe at the plate on Steve Pearce’s single with no outs and runners at first and second in the third inning.

Forsythe scored easily, and Mikie Mahtook moved from second to third on the throw, which was too high to cut off. Mahtook then scored on Logan Morrison’s ground out.

It was a gift run from Aoki because Paxton struck out the next batter before getting an inning-ending grounder.

PLUS: Dae-Ho Lee had two big two-out hits that produced runs. An RBI single that opened the scoring in the first inning and a two-run double in the fourth…Chris Iannetta caught 13 innings in Wednesday night’s loss. He started again Thursday afternoon, blocked several balls in the dirt and had three hits…closer Steve Cishek had his first one-two-three inning since June 2.

MINUS: The Mariners ran themselves out of a few late chances. Chris Iannetta was thrown out at the plate for an inning-ending double play when he tried to score on Shawn O’Malley’s fly to left in the seventh. And the Rays sniffed out Ketel Marte’s stolen-base attempt after a leadoff single in the eighth. A pitchout resulted in an easy out at second…

STAT PACK: Dae-Ho Lee had his seventh game with at least three RBIs. That matches Robinson Cano for the team lead.

QUOTABLE: Catcher Chris Iannetta on playing Thursday afternoon after playing all 13 innings in Wednesday’s game: "I feel good. I want to play. I’d love to play every day this season, but that’s not possible.

"I want to be out there. It’s no fun sitting on the bench and watching. If I get an opportunity to play, I definitely will."

SHORT HOPS: The Mariners snapped a four-game overall skid and a five-game road losing streak…the Mariners finished with a 4-2 edge in the season series against the Rays…Kyle Seager’s seven career homers at Tropicana Field are his second-highest total in any road ballpark. He has eight at Globe Life Park in Texas…the Mariners have scored at least six runs in 27 of the 66 games (40.9 percent). They finished last season at 24.1 percent.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners