ARLINGTON, Texas — Four homers 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 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.
Just another day in a September chase the Mariners hope results in their first postseason appearance in 13 years. They now lead the chase for the AL’s final wild-card spot by one-half game over Detroit.
“It’s one of those things where everyone is feeling good, and everyone is enjoying it,” said catcher Mike Zunino, who hit one of those four homers.
“The good thing about this team is we can really embrace it. Guys are enjoying being in the race. Guys are enjoying coming to the field every day. And it seems like somebody new every day is contributing.”
These latest contributions boosted the Mariners to 77-63 and into postseason position. They are 14 games over .500 for the first time since ending the 2007 season at 88-74.
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.
“I’m still making adjustments at the plate,” said Morales, who is batting .267 over his last 20 games. “I’m starting to get comfortable. It’s tough. I haven’t gotten there as fast as I would have liked.
“Hopefully, today is a starting point to something better.”
Iwakuma (14-6) gave up three runs and seven hits while lasting just 5 1/3 innings before the bullpen lurched it way through the final 11 outs.
“I felt good in general,” he said. “I thought I had good arm action. My pitches were working.”
Iwakuma also flashed his best velocity of the season but didn’t struggled at times with umpire Paul Nauert’s tight (but consistent) strike zone.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said: “He didn’t get a lot of calls, but I thought his stuff was pretty good. He was 92-93 (mph), which the best velocity he’s had all year.”
Charlie Furbush replaced Iwakuma with one out and one on in the sixth. He retired Rougned Odor, but Brandon Maurer then 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.
“It’s never easy,” McClendon said. “That was one of those tough games to manage because so many things can go wrong. That’s a hungry club over there, but we pulled it out. The bullpen did a nice job.”
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.
“He made three bad pitches,” Texas interim manager Tim Bogar said, “and they didn't miss three bad pitches.”
Bogar stepped in for Ron Washington, who resigned unexpectedly earlier in the day after nearly eight seasons as the Rangers’ manager.
Iwakuma had a anxious moment in the second inning when he gloved a Ryan Rua liner at face level.
“Just unconscious,” Iwakuma admitted. “Just reaction. I didn’t know the ball was in the glove. I did see it for a split second, and it was just reaction.”
Right fielder Endy Chavez wasn’t as fortunate in stealing a base in the fifth inning.
Chavez’s helmet came loose on a head-first slide, and slammed back into Chavez’s forehead when he collided with the left knee of shortstop Luis Sardinas.
The impact opened a gash above Chavez’s left eye, which required three stitches to close. The good news? He avoided a concussion and might — might — be available for Saturday’s game.
“I don’t know,” he said, smiling. “Let me wake up tomorrow.”
When the postseason chase continues.