CINCINNATI — Boy-o-boy…the Mariners got a look at Cincinnati’s incendiary bullpen Friday night and — in the series opener, anyway — it was as bad as numbers suggest.
The Mariners feasted for seven runs against the Reds’ bullpen over the final three innings while rallying for an 8-3 victory through a drizzling rain at Great American Ball Park.
"We executed the plan, which was to get to the bullpen," right fielder Nelson Cruz said. " That was plan. We know they’ve struggled in the bullpen so, as a team, we had to get to the bullpen.
"We tried to get the starter, (Dan) Straily, out early, so we can face the bullpen."
It. Was. Brutal. But wonderfully so for the Mariners, who won for the third time in four games and, at 24-17, maintained a 1 1/2-game lead in the American League West over second-place Texas.
"That’s the difference between this team and years past," third baseman Kyle Seager said. "This is a really deep group we have here. Top to bottom, everyone is putting pressure on the pitcher.
"Eventually, it just takes one big swing to put us over the top."
Straily held the Mariners to one run in six innings — thanks in part to a terrific diving catch by center fielder Billy Hamilton as the Mariners were stirring in the sixth.
Blake Wood replaced Straily to start the seventh and everything changed.
Leonys Martin led off with a single and went to third when Nori Aoki punched a pinch single to left. The Mariners loaded the bases with no outs when Ketel Marte walked.
Wood then forced in a run by walking Seth Smith.
Cincinnati turned to lefty Tony Cingrani, whose first pitch hit Robinson Cano and forced in the tying run. And then the Mariners nearly let Cingrani off the hook.
Cruz struck out swinging, and Seager took a third strike before Dae-Ho Lee delivered that big swing that Seager mentioned by serving a two-run pinch single into right field for a 5-3 lead.
"I was waiting for a fastball (from Cingrani)," Lee said, "and it was a fastball. I was just going with the ball."
Mike Montgomery replaced Iwakuma and worked a scoreless seventh before the Mariners padded their lead with a run in the eighth inning against an old friend, J.C. Ramirez. Marte had a sacrifice fly.
Cruz and Lee capped the barrage with homers in the ninth inning against Jumbo Diaz. Cruz’s blast was the 250th of his career.
Hisashi Iwakuma (2-4) fell into a 3-0 hole before emerging as the comeback’s beneficiary. He held the Reds to three runs in six innings before Montgomery, Nick Vincent and Joel Peralta closed out the victory.
"I gave up some runs early, but I was patient," Iwakuma said. "I tried to keep the ball down, and I was able to do that. I was able to finish strong."
Wood (3-1) had been the Reds’ best reliever. He entered the game with a 3.10 ERA but didn’t retire any of four batters. The numbers now for Cincinnati’s bullpen are frightful:
A 6.76 ERA and with 10 blown saves in 14 opportunities while going 7-14.
"Straily threw the ball well," Seager said. "We were able to get him into some trouble, and he got out of it. Fortunately, in that (seventh) inning, we were able to get to the bullpen.
"A really huge hit by Dae-Ho to pick up Nelson and me."
PLAY OF THE GAME: The Mariners were mounting a comeback in the sixth inning when Cincinnati center fielder Billy Hamilton took extra bases away from Adam Lind with a diving catch in the left-center gap.
Lind hit a slicing one-out drive with Kyle Seager on second base that Hamilton simply outran the ball before making an outstanding catch. The Mariners settled for one run in the inning and still trailed 3-1.
PLUS: Leonys Martin started the four-run seventh with a single and continued his recent surge by going 2-for-2 with two walks. His average is up to .227…Mike Montgomery and Nick Vincent delivered shutdown innings after the Mariners took the lead…Nori Aoki fueled the four-run seventh with a pinch single.
MINUS: Catcher Chris Iannetta mishandled a throw to the plate in the first inning that should have retired Joey Votto for the final out. The relay throw from shortstop Ketel Marte was there early enough that Votto slowed down and didn’t bother to slide…Dae-Ho Lee got picked off first base after his tie-breaking single in the seventh inning. That led to Robinson Cano being thrown out at the plate when Lee got into a rundown.
STAT PACK: The Mariners were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position. That one hit was Lee’s two-out, two-run pinch single in the seventh inning, which broke a 3-3 tie.
QUOTABLE: Dae-Ho Lee on his flair for the dramatic: "I think the manager (likes) sending me up there at (those) moments but, sometimes, I get struck out. Like last time (in Wednesday’s loss at Baltimore). This time, it came out good."
SHORT HOPS: Rain delayed the start of Friday’s game by 45 minutes…the Mariners improved to 11-2 in their history against the Reds…the Mariners boosted the road record to 16-7, which is the best in the American League.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners