SEATTLE — The roll continues for the Mariners and the future looks so bright…well, first baseman Dae-Ho Lee distributed sunglasses to all of his teammates and the coaching staff before the game.
"I got them from Korea," he said, "and I just wanted to give them to my teammates and all of the coaches in appreciation that I’m here."
Lee then hit a three-run homer Tuesday night in the fourth inning that proved the decisive blow in a 6-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field.
The Mariners won for the 18th time in 25 games and, at 20-13, reached 20 victories in 33 games for the first time in 13 years. But this was a "hold on" victory that saw the bullpen muster three scoreless innings.
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"Interesting game," manager Scott Servais summarized. "It probably took a few years off my life."
The Mariners jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first inning against Tampa Bay starter Drew Smyly. The key blow was Franklin Gutierrez’s first homer of the season, a two-run shot that followed Ketel Marte’s leadoff single.
After Tampa Bay closed to 3-2 on two homers by Steve Pearce against Wade Miley, Lee floated a three-run drive over the right-field wall in the fourth inning against Smyly (1-4) for a 6-2 lead.
"Guti, it was great to see him bust out tonight," Servais said. "A big home run early. Dae-Ho continues to do it. It’s tough to hit the ball out to the opposite field at Safeco, and he put a good swing on it."
The Mariners got nothing more, which meant they had to squirm their way through the final innings before Steve Cishek got the final four outs for his 11th save in 12 chances.
"A couple of days ago," Servais said, "I did talk to Cishek about the possibility of a four- or five-out save. He’s done it before. `Are you comfortable doing it?’ I could see where we’d get to that at some point.
Cishek stranded two runners in the eighth inning and pitched around a leadoff single in the ninth. It was his first save of the season that required more than three outs.
"The in-between is the only difference," he said. "I don’t like to sit down (between innings). I try to treat it like I’m in the bullpen. Stand up and watch the game. I don’t want to relax. I want to keep my mind going and stay fired up."
It worked. Cishek struck out the side in the ninth after Hank Conger’s leadoff single.
Miley (3-2) gave up only four hits in three-plus innings, but three left the park. The third one was Steven Souza’s leadoff blast in the seventh, which prompted the bullpen parade.
Nick Vincent, Vidal Nuno, Joel Peralta and Cishek closed it out.
"They’ve been great," Miley said. "You try to go as deep as possible, but you know when Scott calls in those guys, they’ve had success. It’s been fun to watch."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Dae-Ho Lee appeared fooled on a 1-2 cutter from Tampa Bay starter Drew Smyly in the fourth inning. Lee seemed to merely flick at the ball.
It cleared the right-field wall. Easily. For a three-run homer.
"I don’t feel comfortable," Lee said, "but every at-bat, I’m focused. I just concentrate on every at-bat."
PLUS: Ketel Marte followed up his 4-for-5 effort on Monday by getting two more hits…Robinson Cano also had two more hits and raised his average to .307…Nelson Cruz had two hits and a sliding two-out catch in the right with two runners on base in the eighth inning.
MINUS: Luis Sardinas was hitless over three at-bats in his first start since May 1.
STAT PACK: Kyle Seager extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the fourth inning…ex-Mariners shortstop Brad Miller was 1-for-4…Logan Morrison, another ex-Mariner, struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth against Steve Cishek.
QUOTABLE: "I’m playing as a rookie," first baseman Dae-Ho Lee said, "but I’m not a kid. I’m not a baby. I’m 33 years. I’m trying to have fun."
SHORT HOPS: Home-plate umpire Jerry Layne initially called a run-scoring balk with two outs in the first inning on Tampa Bay pitcher Drew Smyly, who believed time had been called. After the umpires huddled, Layne reversed the call. The Mariners stranded the runner at third.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners