Drew Smyly struggled through four-plus innings Sunday afternoon before the Mariners’ revamped bullpen shut down a Cincinnati split squad in a 7-5 victory at Goodyear Ballpark.
The Mariners took the lead four times, and Smyly gave it back three times, before a two-run eighth inning provided the winning margin.
"Our bullpen did a really nice job," manager Scott Servais said. "We tried to put guys in situations that might come up this season, and I thought they all threw well."
It was 5-5 when Danny Valencia opened the eighth with a single up the middle against Lucas Benenati. Valencia went to third on Taylor Motter’s double over the head of center fielder T.J. Friedl Jr.
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Carlos Ruiz broke the tie with a sacrifice fly before Ian Miller delivered an RBI single for a 7-5 lead.
Edwin Diaz worked a scoreless eighth inning in his first appearance since returning from the World Baseball Classic. James Pazos gave up a leadoff homer in the ninth to Chad Wallach before closing out the victory.
The Mariners improved to 19-12 and, with five games remaining, clinched a winning Cactus League record.
Smyly was far from sharp in his final extended spring start. He gave up three homers, including one to Reds pitcher Rookie Davis, while allowing five runs on six hits and four walks.
"Not the best day, obviously," he said. "It was a day when I didn't have good fastball command, and I couldn’t throw my curveball. Those are my two best pitches."
Smyly started the fifth inning but exited after a leadoff walk, which came around to score against Tony Zych in his Cactus League debut. Zych wobbled through the inning but stranded two runners in scoring position.
"You can’t replicate a real game in practice," Zych said. "It was good to get thrown into the fire right away. I had runners on. It’s not going to get harder than that."
Nick Vincent, Marc Rzepczynski, Evan Scribner, Diaz and Pazos limited the Reds to one run and two hits over the final four innings.
Jose Peraza pulled Smyly’s third pitch to left field for a leadoff homer in the first inning before the Mariners answered with Motter’s two-run homer in the second inning against Davis.
That 2-1 lead lasted until Desmond Jennings led off the Reds’ second with a homer. One out later, Davis gave himself the lead with a no-doubt bomb of a homer to left field.
The Mariners regained the lead with a two-run fourth inning — and everything occurred with two outs.
Ruiz pulled a double into the left-field corner and scored when Ben Gamel soft-lined a single to left-center.
Gamel went to third on Tyler Smith’s looping single to center and scored when third baseman Hernan Iribarren threw wildly to first after fielding Guillermo Heredia’s grounder.
Smyly again couldn’t hold the lead. Peraza reached on a two-out infield single later in the inning and came around on Zack Cozart’s double into the right-center gap on an 0-2 pitch.
Another two-out throwing error by Iribarren in the fifth inning enabled the Mariners to take a 5-4 lead after Kyle Seager lined a two-out double against Davis.
After Blake Wood replaced Davis, a wild pitch moved Seager to third before Iribarren threw wildly to first on Motter’s grounder.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Cincinnati left fielder Adam Duvall took a homer away from Valencia by making a leaping catch at the wall for the first out in the fourth inning.
PLUS: Motter went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and a double that keyed the xx-run eighth inning…Valencia made a diving backhanded catch at first base for the final out in the seventh inning…Mitch Haniger had a double in three at-bats, which dropped his average to an even .400 (26-for-65)…reliever Scribner faced two batters, retired both, and lowered his ERA to 1.29 (one run in seven innings).
MINUS: Center Leonys Martin served as the designated hitter but went 0-for-3 with strikeouts. Heredia started in center field and also went hitless in three at-bats…the Mariners were just 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
STAT PACK: From the analytics-gone-wild department, it’s been calculated that Casey Candaele will "sprint" — that’s Servais’ word — to the first-base coaching box a minimum of 864 times this year.
That calculation further takes into account how many times Candaele must make the round trip from the third-base dugout
"That means he’ll play 18 holes each time and pick the ball out of the cup 2,916 times," Servais said. "Data? There it is."
Statcast will, presumably, determine whether Candaele takes the most direct route to the coaching box.
SPRING BATTLES: Pazos recovered well after giving up a leadoff homer in the ninth inning. He struck out the next hitter and ended the game by inducing two routine ground outs.
QUOTABLE: The first hitter that Zych faced, Scott Schebler, lined a ball off Zych’s leg. The ball caromed toward first base for a single.
"Right (above) the ankle," Zych said. "I was kind of glad it happened though. It woke me up a little bit. It reminded me that I’m really out there."
SHORT HOPS: Felix Hernandez said he returned Texas second baseman Rougned Odor’s phone. Hernandez snatched Odor’s phone out of the visiting clubhouse Saturday at Peoria Stadium in retaliation for getting doused by Odor with a cup of water as he left the field…the Mariners played with a designated hitter, but the Reds let their pitchers bat.
UP NEXT: Right-hander Yovani Gallardo makes his final extended spring start when the Mariners play complex co-tenant San Diego at 1:10 p.m. Monday at Peoria Stadium.
Gallardo is slotted for 85 pitches over six innings.
The Mariners plan for each member of their rotation to conclude their spring with a tapered start of two-to-three innings. That cycle begins Tuesday when Hernandez faces Arizona.
San Diego plans to start right-hander Matt Magill. The game can be seen in the Seattle area on MLB Network and heard on 710 ESPN and mariners.com.
DAYS LEFT UNTIL OPENING DAY: Seven.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners