OAKLAND, Calif. — It might be time to start viewing the Mariners’ bullpen as a reliable strength Monday’s shutdown relay effort closed out a 4-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
Vidal Nuno, Nick Vincent, Joel Peralta and Steve Cishek combined for three scoreless innings after starter Nathan Karns weakened after being staked to a three-run lead to start the seventh inning.
"We don’t have the biggest names or the hardest throwers in the game," Peralta said. "But these guys are not afraid to throw strikes and attack hitters. That’s the main thing.
"Who cares about the names as long as you do your job?"
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The unit now has a 2.41 ERA, and Cishek is perfect in seven save opportunities. Not bad through 25 games for a revamped relief corps that entered the season viewed as major question mark.
"Not one person has a role besides Cishek," Vincent said. "So everybody is just ready from the sixth inning on. We’re solidifying ourselves as one of the better bullpens in the league right now. It’s early, but so far, so good."
Oakland starter Kendall Graveman (1-3) gave up three runs and 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings. He exited after Nori Aoki’s one-out double in the seventh inning.
After Mark Rzepcynski replaced Graveman, Aoki stole third and came home on a wild throw by catcher Stephen Vogt for a 4-1 lead.
"It was part of the game plan," Aoki said, "to be aggressive on the bases. We don’t have a lot of stolen bases as a whole, so we want to be aggressive when we can."
That turned into the lead run when Oakland jumped Karns (3-1) in the bottom of the inning. Josh Reddick led off with a double, and Khris Davis followed with his second homer of the game — a 443-foot boomer to center.
When Vogt then doubled to right, the Mariners went to the bullpen for Nuno, who retired Chris Coghlan on a pop. Vincent replaced Nuno and held the lead by retiring the next two batters.
Peralta pitched a one-two-three eighth inning, which got the game to Cishek, who stranded the tying and winning runs by striking out pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie.
"Our bullpen really stepped up," manager Scott Servais said. "The key to the game, stepping in there when the game got a little tight. They got some huge outs."
The Athletics opened the scoring when Davis turned on a 1-0 breaking ball from Karns for a leadoff homer in the second inning. It was a 383-foot drive to left for Davis’ fourth homer of the season.
Robinson Cano’s leadoff off double in the fourth inning led to the tying runs when Nelson Cruz and Adam Lind followed with singles.
Cano’s leadoff single in the sixth turned into the go-ahead run when Kyle Seager delivered a two-out double into the right-field corner. Chris Iannetta followed with an RBI single for a 3-1 lead.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Shortstop Ketel Marte, playing on the right side of second base, speared Chris Coghlan’s line drive in the second inning and turned it into a double play.
Marte also turned a double play on Billy Burns’ liner in the third inning and got a force at second base on Mark Canha’s grounder into the deep hole in the fifth inning.
"Great defense today by Marte," pitcher Nathan Karns said. "I felt he was all over the place."
PLUS: Nelson Cruz had singles in each of his first three at-bats…Robinson Cano started two run-scoring innings with leadoff hits. He finished with three hits in four at-bats and raised his average to .257…Nori Aoki had two hits and a walk in five plate appearances.
MINUS: Cruz failed to advance from second to third on Kyle Seager’s fly to deep left with no outs in the fourth and then thrown out when trying to advance on Chris Iannetta’s fly to center for an inning-ending double play. It was a good throw by Billy Burns…Leonys Martin was hitless in three at-bats. His average is down to .169…Seth Smith was hitless in five at-bats.
STAT PACK: Robinson Cano’s double in the fourth inning was the 450th of his career. He is the fifth second baseman in history to reach 2,000 hits, 450 doubles, 200 home runs and 1,000 RBIs.
QUOTABLE: "One bad pitch to (Khris) Davis in the seventh inning changed it all for me at that point," Mariners starter Nathan Karns said, but I had weak contact for most of the game.
"For the most part, I’m pretty happy with what I did except for those two curveballs to Davis."
Karns gave up three runs and seven hits in six-plus innings.
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners beat the Athletics for the first time in four games…the Mariners are 12-5 since a five-game skid in mid-April…the Mariners need one victory in the next two games to win their sixth straight series…shortstop Ketel Marte has reached base in all 13 of his career games against Oakland…Nathan Karns (3-1) is the first Mariners pitcher this season to win three games.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners