The Wolfpack returned Wednesday with a vengeance and drama. A lot of drama.
One day after the Mariners’ potent bullpen let two leads slip away in a one-run loss, a five-reliever relay worked through 4 2/3 tense innings Wednesday night in a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
Rookie closer Edwin Diaz gave up one run in the ninth inning before escaping a bases-loaded jam — thanks to a terrific defensive play by third baseman Kyle Seager.
"Just awesome, man," Diaz said. "When he made that catch, I started screaming, `Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go.’ And he made the throw, and we got the win."
The victory, fittingly, went to Drew Storen, who retired Mike Trout and Albert Pujols with the bases loaded in the fifth inning after replacing Cody Martin, who started one day after getting recalled from Triple-A Tacoma.
But, brother, it wasn’t a smooth ride to the end.
Diaz started the ninth inning by sandwiching a wild pitch between singles by Cliff Pennington and Yunel Escobar. That scored Pennington. Diaz struck out Kole Calhoun, but Trout punched a single into center.
Escobar raced to third, and Trout took second on the throw.
It marked the first time that Diaz surrendered three hits in an inning.
"They were on my fastball," Diaz said. "I had to go to my slider. I threw pretty good sliders. I didn’t have confidence in my fastball, but I had a lot of confidence in my slider."
An intentional walk to Pujols loaded the bases with one out but set up a better double-play situation.
Diaz struck out Jefry Marte on three pitches. Three sliders. But Diaz fell behind 3-1 to Andrelton Simmons before throwing another slider for a strike.
A 3-1 slider with the bases loaded in a one-run game in the ninth inning.
"At the time," catcher Chris Iannetta said, "that was the pitch that he had the most command of. So we went with the pitch he could throw for a strike.
"The conventional wisdom is you have the best command of your fastball. But some nights, you don’t. Some nights, the pitch you have the best feel for is your off-speed pitch."
Even so, it caught manager Scott Servais and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. by surprise.
"Mel was sitting next to me and said, `Holy (smokes), he just threw a 3-1 slider with the bases loaded," Servais said. "`Yes, he did. And here comes one on 3-2. And he slipped on it. He tried to throw it too hard."
True. Diaz came back with another slider but slipped as he released the ball, which came in high. A likely ball for a game-tying walk. Except Simmons swung and hit a sharp grounder up the third-base line.
Off the bat, it looked like a two-run, game-winning single.
But Seager made a diving stop behind the base, got to his feet and bounced a throw to first that beat Simmons — once first baseman Dae-Ho Lee scooped the ball for the out.
"The first step is try to stop it (to prevent two runs)," Seager said. "Thankfully, I did that. After that, it’s absolutely just panic mode and trying to get rid of it as fast as you can.
"I bounced it over there to Dae-Ho, and Dae-Ho made a great pick on the other end."
"Even more impressive," Seager said, "was the fact Diaz threw a 3-1 slider there with the bases juiced. Him and Iannetta, that takes some guts."
That wasn’t all.
Archimedes Caminero worked himself into a two-out jam in the seventh inning by allowing two singles but escaped by striking out Trout on a 100-mph fastball.
Tom Wilhelmsen did the same in the eighth inning in yielding a pair of two-out singles before retiring pinch-hitter Jett Bandy on a fly to center.
But the Mariners held on and won for the 12th time in 15 games. They erased a 2-0 deficit by scoring two runs in the second inning before knocking out LA starter Tyler Skaggs (1-2) with a two-run fourth.
Iannetta started the decisive fourth with a double to deep center and went to third on Leonys Martin’s single before scoring on Ketel Marte’s sacrifice fly to deep left.
Martin stole second prior to Marte’s sacrifice fly — and scored all the way from second on Shawn O’Malley’s bunt single.
First baseman Jefry Marte missed O’Malley with a sweep tag after taking the flip from Skaggs and then threw behind Martin to third base. Martin kept running and scored for a 4-2 lead.
That finished Skaggs, who was making his fifth start since returning from a two-year absence while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He gave up four runs and six hits in 3 1/3 innings.
Cody Martin survived a two-run first inning and carried that 4-2 lead into the fifth but couldn’t make it through as the Angels loaded the bases with one out on two singles and a walk.
The Mariners called on Storen, who struck out Trout with a killer slider before retiring Pujols on a drive to deep center. Storen (3-3) then got two outs in the sixth before Vidal Nuno closed the inning.
Then Caminero and drama. Then Wilhelmsen and more drama. Then Diaz and heart-pounding drama. Then handshakes.
PLAY(S) OF THE GAME: Third baseman Kyle Seager’s game-ending gem tops everything, but the Mariners also made two sparkling plays in the first inning that limited the Angels to two runs.
First, Seager threw to second to retire Albert Pujols, who tried to advance on Jefry Marte’s sacrifice fly to center. Seager took the throw from Leonys Martin and threw to second for the out.
And this was even better: Second baseman Robinson Cano, with a runner on third, ended the inning by tracking down Andrelton Simmons’ grounder to the left side, spinning and throwing to first for the out.
PLUS: Catcher Chris Iannetta threw out Gregorio Petit on an attempted steal of second in the second inning. Iannetta has thrown out 17 of 58 base-stealers — 29.3 percent. The American League average, entering Wednesday, was 29.3 percent…Iannetta also has two hits in four at-bats…Robinson Cano’s double in the third inning against Tyler Skaggs was his 52nd hit of the season against a left-handed pitcher, which leads the majors…Cano went 3-for-5.
MINUS: Franklin Gutierrez struck out three times in four at-bats before getting lifted for a pinch-hitter…Dae-Ho Lee was hit by a pitch in his first plate appearance, and then stuck out three times. He has four hits in his last 51 at-bats.
STAT PACK: Center fielder Leonys Martin had two assists, which gives him 10 for the season. It marks his fourth straight season in double figures. His career high is 14 in 2013 at Texas. Chicago’s Adam Eaton currently leads the American League with 17.
QUOTABLE: "That’s why you save (Edwin Diaz) for the ninth," manager Scott Servais said. "Everybody says pitch this guy in the eighth. Pitch this guy in the seventh. No. He pitches the ninth inning."
SHORT HOPS: Leonys Martin’s two assists marked the 16th time in Mariners history that a center fielder threw out two runners in a game. No center fielder has done it three times. The franchise record for an outfielder is three assists by left fielder Ron Roenicke on Aug. 13, 1983 against the Angels. Roenicke currently serves as the Angels’ third-base coach.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners