Seattle Mariners

Bullpen protects strong start by Iwakuma in win

Tacoma News-Tribune

The Mariners’ Franklin Gutierrez, right, heads home to score as Pirates starter Jonathon Niese watches the play unfold during the fifth inning Tuesday in Seattle.
The Mariners’ Franklin Gutierrez, right, heads home to score as Pirates starter Jonathon Niese watches the play unfold during the fifth inning Tuesday in Seattle. The Associated Press

It is a constant refrain from manager Scott Servais, almost a mnemonic beat, that all success for the Mariners centers on strong starting pitching.

Hisashi Iwakuma carried a shutout into the seventh inning Tuesday night and, yep, the Mariners responded with a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Safeco Field.

The Mariners built a five-run lead for Iwakuma by scoring single runs in the third and fourth innings against Pittsburgh starter Jonathon Niese before mounting a three-run rally with two outs in the fifth.

Nelson Cruz capped the three-run burst with his 20th homer — a no-doubt, two-run shot to left for a 5-0 lead.

Iwakuma lost his shutout after yielding a leadoff double in the seventh inning to Gregory Polanco, who moved to third on Andrew McCutchen’s fly to center.

Starling Marte then pumped an RBI triple into the right-center gap. Iwakuma retired Matt Joyce on a pop-up, but David Freese lined an RBI single to center. The lead was down to 5-2.

When Adam Frazier followed with a single, the Mariners replaced Iwakuma (7-6) with right-hander Edwin Diaz, who stranded two runners by retiring Jordy Mercer on a fly to short right.

Diaz pitched a one-two-three eighth inning before Steve Cishek closed the victory for his 18th save in 22 chances. The Mariners edged back over .500 at 39-38.

This was a bounce-back effort for the bullpen, too, after letting a possible victory slip away Sunday by permitting six runs over the final four innings in an 11-6 loss to St. Louis.

The Mariners opened the scoring after Leonys Martin started the third inning with a single past third. Shawn O’Malley followed with a bunt single and, when Niese (6-6) threw wildly to first, Martin reached third.

Martin scored on Ketel Marte’s double-play grounder.

Pittsburgh got its first hit when Polanco opened the fourth with a bunt single on a roller up the third-base line that stubbornly stayed fair.

The Mariners extended their lead to 2-0 in their fourth after Robinson Cano’s leadoff with a single. Cano went to second on Dae-Ho Lee’s one-out walk. Kyle Seager lined a ball off the right-field wall but settled for a single when both runners held up to see whether the ball would be caught. Cano scored on Chris Iannetta’s sacrifice fly to center.

Only a fine running catch by Andrew McCutchen prevented Iannetta’s drive from being an extra-base hit and resulting in multiple runs.

Cano’s third single of the game, with two outs in the fifth, made it 3-0. Franklin Gutierrez worked a two-out walk and moved to second on a wild pitch before Cano grounded a single up the middle.

Cruz followed with a booming homer to left and it was 5-0. When Lee and Seager then reached on singles, the Pirates went to the bullpen for Arquimedes Caminero, who struck out Iannetta.

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