Four home runs in support of Hisashi Iwakuma against the American League’s worst club with the league’s best bullpen in reserve.
This should have been a cakewalk Friday night for the Seattle Mariners, right?
Oh, they held on for a 7-5 victory over the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park when Fernando Rodney, the sixth reliever the Mariners used, survived a shaky ninth inning for his 42nd save on the season.
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In doing so, the Mariners improved to 77-63 and moved to 14 games over .500 for the first time since ending the 2007 season at 88-74. They also pulled, temporarily, into a tie with the Detroit Tigers for the AL’s final wild-card spot.
The Tigers played San Francisco on Friday in a rain-interrupted game.
About those homers:
Kendrys Morales’ two-run shot in the second inning opened the scoring. After the Rangers scratched one run back in the fourth, the Mariners answered with homers by Mike Zunino and Brad Miller in a three-run fifth.
After Texas scored once in the fifth, Morales hit his second two-run homer of the game in the sixth that pushed the lead to 7-2.
It was enough to ease the Mariners through a subpar effort from Hisashi Iwakuma, who lasted just 51/3 innings. He gave up seven hits but limited the damage to three earned runs before the bullpen took over.
Charlie Furbush retired Rougned Odor, but Brandon Maurer surrendered a two-run homer to Adam Rosales before ending the inning.
Joe Beimel started the seventh but departed after Leonys Martin’s leadoff single. Tom Wilhelmsen ended the inning with no damage.
The Mariners summoned Yoervis Medina for the eighth, and he found trouble in yielding a one-out single and a walk — before Michael Choice grounded into a double play.
Rodney gave up one run in the ninth before closing it out, and Iwakuma improved to 14-6 on the season.
The four homers matched the Mariners’ season high. They also had four on Aug. 7 in a 13-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Safeco Field, and on June 30 in a 10-4 victory at Houston.
The first three homers came against Texas starter Scott Baker (3-4), who exited in the fifth.
Kyle Seager opened the second inning with a four-pitch walk, and Morales followed with a 371-foot drive to right for a two-run homer and a 2-0 lead.
Iwakuma started the Texas second by deflecting Adrian Beltre’s hopper back to second baseman Robinson Cano for an out. Ryan Rua then sent a liner that Iwakuma caught at face level in self-defense.
The Rangers got one run back in the fourth inning after Tomas Telis reached on a one-out infield single, and Beltre followed by drawing a rare Iwakuma walk.
Rua struck out, but Odor grounded an RBI single up the middle. Iwakuma limited the damage to one run by retiring Adam Rosales on a popup to short.
The Mariners got that run back immediately when Zunino drove a one-out homer to right in the fifth. It was his 20th of the season, and set a club record for homers by a catcher. Miguel Olivo had 19 in 2011.
Baker had retired 10 in a row before Zunino’s homer.
And the Mariners weren’t done.
Endy Chavez followed with a single. Chavez then stole second but left the game after his head struck the the left knee of shortstop Luis Sardinas on the slide.
James Jones replaced Chavez, who received three stitches to close a gash in his forehead. An examination revealed no concussion, and Chavez is expected to be available for Saturday’s game.
Miller drove Baker’s next pitch, a 1-2 slider, into the right-field seats for a two-run homer and a 5-1 lead. That also finished Baker, who yielded five runs and four hits in 41/3 innings.
What the Mariners needed then was a shutdown inning from Iwakuma. Instead, he began the Texas fifth by yielding successive singles to Sardinas, Choice and Martin.
That loaded the bases for Elvis Andrus, who grounded into a double play. When Telis grounded out to Cano, Iwakuma had, again, wiggled out of a potential big inning with just one run.
And, again, the Mariners responded immediately.
Shawn Tolleson walked Seager with one out in the sixth, and Morales followed with a no-doubt drive to right for his second two-run homer of the game.
The Mariners led 7-2.
Iwakuma exited with a runner at second with one out in the sixth. Rosales’ homer against Maurer closed the gap to 7-4.