PITTSBURGH — Felix is back, but the King is still a ways away. The bartender is back and better than ever. And Edwin Diaz proved he also possesses escapability skills.
The Mariners rallied back from a pair of three-run deficits Tuesday night for a 7-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates behind an 11-hit attack that included homers from Franklin Gutierrez and Kyle Seager.
There was plenty of noise from the lineup. Every starter except Hernandez had at least one hit, but the drama centered on the pitching staff.
Hernandez (5-4) got his first victory since May 21 by working six innings after surviving a shaky start. Tom Wilhelmsen (aka the bartender) rescued Vidal Nuno from a big jam in the seventh.
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And Diaz worked around a second-and-third jam with no outs in the eighth inning before Steve Cishek closed out the victory for his 24th save in 29 chances.
Let’s take them in order.
Hernandez gave up three runs in the first inning and a home run to Pittsburgh pitcher Francisco Liriano in the second before finding a comfort zone and allowing nothing more before exiting after the sixth.
“I’ve got to have better mechanics,” said Hernandez, who was making his second start after a six-week stay on the disabled listed because of a strained right calf muscle.
“I’ve got to stay back a little more. I’m going too quick. I’m not that kind of pitcher, who gives up four runs in the first two innings.”
The Mariners, meanwhile, battered Liriano (6-10) for seven runs in 3 1/3 innings in erasing deficits of 3-0 after one inning and 4-1 after two.
“That’s something we’ve been able to do this year,” Seager said. “We’re able to string together some good at-bats. It’s a real deep lineup, and we get contributions from top to bottom.”
Vidal Nuno inherited a 7-4 lead to start the seventh inning and ran into immediate trouble by walking David Freese on four pitches and yielding a single to Gregory Polanco.
That prompted a switch to Wilhelmsen with runners at first and third with no outs —and Wilhelmsen was terrific against the three-four-five hitters in the Pirates’ lineup.
Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte struck out before Jung Ho Kang hit a grounder to short that resulted in a force at second.
“That’s always the goal,” he said. “Get three outs with no runs. Or however many outs you’re asked to get.”
Then it was Diaz’s turn in the eighth after Francisco Cervelli led off with a single and moved to third on Adam Frazier’s double to right.
“The pitching coach (Mel Stottlemyre Jr.) came up to me,” Diaz said, “and said, `Stay relaxed. Make pitches.’ (Robinson) Cano did the same thing. And I made pitches and got out of trouble.”
Diaz got an assist when Cervelli inexplicably chose to hold third on Jordy Mercer’s fly to center — even though Leonys Martin conceded the run by throwing to third.
That was all Diaz needed. Pinch-hitter Josh Harrison flied to short left, and David Freese grounded out to short.
Hernandez gave up three runs in the first inning of his previous start, his first after returning from the disabled list, and he did it again.
Pittsburgh grabbed a 1-0 lead on Polanco’s one-out homer later in the inning. His 404-foot drive to center just cleared a leaping Martin at the center-field wall.
Hernandez hit McCutchen with a pitch, and Marte followed with an RBI triple off the right-center wall. Marte scored on Kang’s grounder to short.
That quickly, the Mariners trailed 3-0.
The Mariners got one run back in the second after Seager’s one-out bunt single. After Liriano walked Mike Zunino, Martin pulled an RBI double past first base.
Liriano got that run back on his own with a two-out homer later in the second. It was a 416-foot bomb to center. A no-doubter.
The Mariners came all the way back in the third inning.
Gutierrez led off with a homer and, after Dae-Ho Lee’s two-out single, Seager sent a 377-foot drive over the right-field wall. It was Seager’s 20th of the season, and the Mariners were even at 4-4.
The Mariners then grabbed the lead in the fourth on Shawn O’Malley’s one-out RBI double into the left-field corner. Martin led off with a single and moved to second on Hernandez’s sacrifice before scoring.
Liriano then walked Gutierrez before Robinson Cano lined an RBI single to left for a 6-4 lead. The Pirates went to the bullpen for Jared Hughes, who yielded an RBI grounder to Cruz before ending the inning.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Third baseman Kyle Seager bailed out left fielder Franklin Gutierrez for a lackadaisical throw back to the infield after Adam Frazier’s one-out single in the sixth inning.
Frazier raced for second on Gutierrez’s looping throw as Jung Ho Kang stopped at third. Seager snapped a throw to second, and Robinson Cano applied the tag.
Frazier actually beat the throw, but he came off the base in a pop-up slide. Cano kept the tag applied. When crew chief Larry Vanover signaled safe, Cano motioned to the dugout to challenge.
The Mariners challenged, and the call was overturned. Frazier was out. Felix Hernandez escaped the inning with no damage.
Gutierrez got an assist on the play.
PLUS: Kyle Seager reached 20 homers for the fifth straight year. Seager also went 3-for-4 and raised his average to .288…Felix Hernandez is 21-9 with 2.83 ERA in 38 career interleague starts…Leonys Martin had two hits, including a leadoff single that started a three-run fourth inning.
MINUS: Nelson Cruz fouled another ball off his leg, and it appeared to affect him when he ran from first to third on a double in the seventh inning…Felix Hernandez gave up three runs in the first inning for a second straight start…Franklin Gutierrez’s lollypop throw back to the infield was similar to the gaffe committed by Stefen Romero in a June 5 loss at Texas. Romero was optioned back to Triple-A Tacoma after that game…Edwin Diaz did not have a strikeout for only the second time in his last 19 appearances.
STAT PACK: Franklin Gutierrez’s homer in the third inning was his 10th of the season, and he became the eighth Mariner to reach double figures. The others: Nelson Cruz (25), Robinson Cano (22), Kyle Seager (20), Adam Lind (15), Leonys Martin (13), Dae-Ho Lee (12) and Seth Smith (11). Chris Iannetta needs three more to join the group.
QUOTABLE: Felix Hernandez pitched four scoreless innings after his early struggles. What changed?
“Just getting into a rhythm,” he said. “More in control of myself. Made better pitches. I feel fine. I’ve just got to get out of the middle of the plate.”
SHORT HOPS: Pittsburgh was 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position…Kyle Seager’s homer was the 118th of his career, which moved him past Jim Presley into eighth place on the Mariners’ all-time list. It also means Seager ranks first among the franchise’s third basemen. Next up on the list: Bret Boone at 143…the Mariners improved to 10-3 in interleague play and need to win just one of their seven remaining interleague games to finish with a winning record against National League teams for the first time since going 11-7 in 2009.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners