CINCINNATI — On a day when the Cincinnati Reds honored Ken Griffey Jr., one-time teammate Franklin Gutierrez delivered the sort of majestic, tape-measure homer that aided Griffey’s path to the Hall of Fame.
Gutierrez rocked a 473-foot drive to left field Saturday that landed midway up the the upper deck for a three-run homer that carried the Mariners to a 4-0 victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
"Only two times in my career did I hit the ball like that," Gutierrez said. "You don’t feel anything in the bat. Today, I think, was the longest homer that I’ve ever hit in my career. It’s amazing."
The Mariners didn’t do much else offensively, but Gutierrez’s blast and an earlier solo shot by Leonys Martin proved sufficient for Felix Hernandez and a relay of three relievers.
Hernandez (4-3) pitched six shutout innings but needed to escape two bases-loaded jams by retiring Joey Votto. Each threat began with two outs and nobody on base when Hernandez couldn’t retire pitcher John Lamb.
"It shouldn’t happen," Hernandez said. "But after they got the bases loaded, I just tried to make good pitches. Just calm myself. Try to get out of it."
Vidal Nuno, Mike Montgomery and Joel Peralta closed out the victory by each working a one-two-three inning. The victory ensured the Mariners (25-17) of a winning road trip at 4-1 with one game remaining.
The Mariners also improved to 10-3-1 in series while winning for the 20th time in their last 29 games. They began the day with atop the American League West Division with a 1 1/2-game lead over second-place Texas.
One sobering note: Shortstop Ketel Marte left the game in the fifth inning after suffering a sprained left thumb on a slide at second base. X-rays revealed no break, but the Mariners have yet to decide whether he will require time on the disabled list.
"He’s going to miss a few days," manager Scott Servais said. "We’re cautiously optimistic that he’s not going to be out too long, but he is going to miss a few days."
The Reds marked Griffey’s induction later this summer into the Hall of Fame by giving away a dual bobblehead doll that depicted him in Mariners and Reds uniforms. It helped attract a crowd of 38,200.
The Mariners opened the scoring when Martin tomahawked an 0-1 cutter from Lamb (0-2) for a two-out homer in the second inning. Martin pulled the ball on a line over the right-field wall just inside the foul pole for a 1-0 lead.
Hernandez retired the first eight Reds before Lamb hit a squibber in front of the plate. Either Hernandez or catcher Chris Iannetta could have made the play. Instead, they looked at each other, and Lamb recorded a single.
Billy Hamilton then squirted a grounder through the left side for a single before a walk to Tyler Holt loaded the bases for Votto.
Hernandez escaped when he caught Votto’s low liner back through the box, but the gaffe on Lamb’s ball meant Hernandez threw 17 more pitches to end the inning.
Nelson Cruz opened the fourth inning with a liner that ricocheted off Lamb for a single. Dae-Ho Lee followed with a grounder past third baseman Eugenio Suarez that moved Cruz to third.
Initially, Lee was credited with a single, but a scoring change switched the call to an error on Suarez.
After Iannetta popped out to short left, Gutierrez crushed a 2-0 fastball to left field — and the Mariners led 4-0.
"I put a good swing on it," he said. "I got into a good hitter’s count. He threw me a fastball, and I hit it really good."
Hernandez created his next jam by walking Lamb with two outs in the fifth. When Hamilton singled and Holt walked, the Reds had the bases loaded again with two outs for Votto.
Again, Hernandez escaped. Votto grounded out to first. The Reds went down in order over the last four innings.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips, a four-time Gold Glove recipient, made a diving stop on a Franklin Gutierrez’s sharp one-one grounder in the second inning.
Phillips made a spin to get to his knees and threw to first for the out.
Gutierrez got even the next time up.
PLUS: The distance on Franklin Gutierrez’s homer (473 feet) was the second longest by a Mariners player in the last two years. Nelson Cruz had a 483-foot blast last year at Texas. Gutierrez’s homer was the longest hit this season at Great American Ball Park…Leonys Martin opened the scoring with a homer and ran down a deep fly by Ivan De Jesus for the first out in the seventh…Robinson Cano had two walks and has reached base safely in 20 straight games…reliever Vidal Nuno lowered his ERA to 1.29 for 17 appearances.
MINUS: The Mariners were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position after going 1-for-13 in Friday’s series opener…Shawn O’Malley was 0-for-2 after replacing Ketel Marte and each time made the final out of the inning with runners at first and third…Chris Iannetta was hitless in three at-bats and is 0-for-7 in the series, although he does have a walk in each game.
STAT PACK: Leonys Martin matched a career high when he hit his eighth home run with two outs in the second inning. He also had eight on 2013 at Texas. Martin also walked twice, which gave him 16 in 40 games. He had 16 all of last season in 95 games for the Rangers.
QUOTABLE: As whether he believed his low 362-foot laser had enough carry to clear the right-field wall, Leonys Martin said: "Yeah, I know we’re playing in Cincinnati."
SHORT HOPS: Felix Hernandez is a 20-game winner — in interleague games. He improved to 20-9 with a 2.75 ERA in 37 career starts against National League clubs…Cincinnati blew up its bullpen after the game by optioning right-handers Jumbo Diaz and Keyvius Sampson to Triple-A Louisville and designating right-hander Steve Delabar for assignment. Corresponding moves will be announced prior to Sunday’s game…the Reds scratched right fielder Jay Bruce prior to the game because of a sore left knee.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners