Seattle Mariners

Edwin Diaz electric again, Mariners show-off fully healthy lineup. But they had to survive late drama

Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais, left, congratulates Kyle Seager after the Mariners defeated the Cleveland Indians 5-4 in a baseball game, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais, left, congratulates Kyle Seager after the Mariners defeated the Cleveland Indians 5-4 in a baseball game, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

That “Mini Green Monster” at Cleveland’s Progressive Field robbed the Seattle Mariners of three home runs, though you can argue the umpires actually committed the robbery on one of those.

It’s a 19-foot wall in left field and Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano have some bones to pick with it.

But that's the beauty of a fully healthy Mariners lineup (with first baseman Ryon Healy back) – they still scored five runs without those dingers.

And the beauty of having a lockdown closer. And set-up reliever.

Edwin Diaz and Juan Nicasio shut the door in the final two innings after Seager’s go-ahead RBI double in the eighth inning in a 5-4 Mariners victory over the Indians on Thursday in the first of this four-game series.

The Mariners (14-10) scored four of their five runs with two outs. And they now have three consecutive wins.

"We are leaning heavily on Juan Nicasio and Eddie Diaz," Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters afterward. "We are going to need to win a few by three or four here, hopefully, so we don't have to run those guys out there every night."

The Mariners have turned to those two in each of their past three games.

But maybe with a healthy lineup for the first time that might change.

Seager just missed a home run when he smoked a pitch the opposite way, but it just bounced back off the wall with two outs in the eighth inning.

It still scored Ichiro Suzuki, after he entered as a pinch-runner for Nelson Cruz, who skied a shot off that Progressive Field wall the batter before that also turned into a double.

Cano’s probably should have been a homer in the fifth inning, and was originally called that way. But it was overturned after review, saying it bounced off the top of the wall, though the replays looked like it careened off the railing behind the wall. It certainly was borderline conclusive.

So instead of a 5-0 Mariners lead, Cano got a double out of it, was stranded there and then the Indians tied the game two innings later.

"When you look at it with a naked eye, it looked like it hit something behind there," Servais said. "But replay didn't see it that way. Very frustrating. Lately the replay hasn't gone our way on a few of these."

The Mariners just had to score five runs a different way.

James Paxton pitched a solid game, keeping the Indians scoreless until two outs in the fifth inning, when he tried to power four consecutive 98-mph fastballs past former Mariner Yonder Alonso.

Alonso seems to have his former teammate pretty figured out. He sent the ninth pitch of the at-bat over the wall in right field for a two-run home run after hitting a grand slam on Paxton when the Indians played at Safeco Field in the season-opening series.

"I needed to go something else there 3-2," Paxton said. "Offspeed pitch or even a two-seam just to give him a different look. He's a good player. You give him four fastballs in a row and he's going to barrel one up eventually."

But Paxton pitched through six innings – the Mariners’ third consecutive game with their starter lasting six innings (after six in a row with their starter going fewer than six). He tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts, allowing five hits and the two runs.

But welcome back, Ryon Healy.

And welcome, for the first time, a fully healthy Mariners lineup.

Healy had the Mariners’ first hit of the game with a single up the middle with two outs in the third inning in his first major-league at-bat since April 7, the same day he sprained his ankle in a postgame workout in Minnesota and subsequently headed to the disabled list.

Healy finished 1-for-4 and was impressive defensively, too.

"It's nice to have the guys back, all of them, back out there," Servais said. "With the length of our lineup, once we get rolling we have the opportunity to string five, six hits together. And that's what we needed tonight."

But after Healy's hit, Dee Gordon then did what Dee Gordon does – run really, really fast.

He sent a line drive to left-center field and the 30-year-old was clocked racing from home to third base in 10.86 seconds, according to Statcast, while scoring Healy on the play.

But the Mariners weren’t done. Jean Segura followed with an RBI double and he scored on Cano’s single for a 3-0 lead.

The Mariners had taken a 4-0 lead when Mike Zunino scored Kyle Seager on an opposite-way single, one day after Zunino’s go-ahead home run led to a 4-3 win over the White Sox.

Three takeaways:

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Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Nicasio-Diaz: The Mariners bullpen was untouchable against the White Sox – their relievers had retired 21 consecutive batters, including 18 straight the final two games of the Mariners’ series win there.

But left-handed Marc Rzepczynski entered to face left-handed Jason Kipnis in the seventh inning, and Kipnis tagged him for an RBI double. Left-handed batters have gone 4-for-13 (.308) against Rzepczynski, a lefty specialist.

"Zep left the ball up to Kipnis and he paid for it," Servais said.

Kipnis then tied the game, 4-4, when scored on Edwin Encarnacion’s RBI single against Dan Altavilla two batters later.

But Juan Nicasio pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning for his major-league leading 10th hold.

Then Edwin Diaz's turn. He worked around a walk to close friend Francisco Lindor and struck out Jose Ramirez to earn his major-league leading 11th save in 11 opportunities.

Diaz has 22 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings pitched.

"Juan again tonight — outstanding," Servais said. "He made some pitches and Eddie’s stuff was right there like it has been the past three days.

"The pitching has been key lately the past couple of games and the bullpen has been outstanding."

Spee-Dee: It took Dee Gordon 10.86 to race from home to third base in the third inning.

Not that you’d expect less out of the 30-year-old Gordon, but that’s the fastest triple recorded by a Mariner since Statcast began tracking in 2015, passing the 10.92-second triple Jarrod Dyson had last season.

That’s also the fastest triple in the major leagues so far this season.

It came after Ryon Healy, in his first game since being activated from the disabled list with a sprained ankle. Healy hit .271 with 25 home runs with the Athletics last year — and he was batting ninth in this Mariners order.

"I think the guys are happy we’re all together as far as an entire group," Servais said.

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Seattle Mariners' Mitch Haniger jumps but can't reach a two-run home run by Cleveland Indians' Yonder Alonso during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

K-ehs: James Paxton tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts.

He was looking for No. 11 against Yonder Alonso in the sixth inning. Paxton powered three 98-mph fastballs at him, with one being a ball and the other two fouled off. Paxton tried one more time and Alonso skied it over the right-field wall for a two-run home run.

If not for that, Servais said the plan was for Paxton to pitch in the seventh inning.

"Paxton threw the ball outstanding," Servais said. "Probably one of the best outings he's had all year. The long at-bat against Alonso before the two-run homer kind of hurt him. Before that inning we were thinking we were good to go through seven tonight. Just didn't work out.

"But, outstanding. Very aggressive with the fastball and the curveball came around tonight, as well."

Paxton lasted six innings for the third time in his six starts this year, allowing the two runs and five hits.

But he said he felt good enough to go longer. Instead Servais turned to the bullpen and the Indians tied the game in the seventh. He finished the sixth at 100 pitches.

"I was still throwing pretty hard and my body felt good," Paxton said. "I had no issues. Hopefully at some point here I'll be allowed to go 115 or 120 (pitches) as we get into the summer months.

"But I want to be the guy who goes seven innings every time."

That’s Paxton’s second 10-strikeout start this year and the fifth time he’s had that many in his career.

And it was a needed bounce-back for him after needing 96 pitches in a four-inning outing against the Rangers on Saturday. He labored in allowing five runs before the Mariners rallied for a 9-7 win.

Play of the game: The Mariners had two outs in the eighth inning and just pulled Nelson Cruz after his double off of the wall for pinch-runner Ichiro Suzuki.

Kyle Seager followed with a shot the opposite way off Nick Goody and off of the 19-foot wall in left field. It was close to a home run. Regardless, it gave the Mariners a 5-4 lead.

Top pitcher: James Paxton was dealing through 5 1/3 innings. He had allowed just three hits with nine strikeouts.

Michael Brantley followed with a single, but Paxton then got his 10th strikeout, getting Yan Gomes on three pitches, all fastballs.

He tried a similar approach against Yonder Alonso, but the former Mariner drew a full count and shot Paxton’s 98-mph fastball just over the wall in right field for a two-run home run.

But a much-improved start from Paxton after laboring against the Rangers on Saturday.

Top hitter: Kyle Seager not only had the go-ahead double, but he finished 3-for-4, scoring a run in the fourth inning. He raised his batting average to .247.

The only players in the Mariners lineup not to get a hit: Mitch Haniger (0-for-3) and Ben Gamel (0-for-3), though both reached base on walks.

Quotable: Paxton couldn’t leave without a shout out to the Mariners’ closer, who picked up his major-league leading 11th save and two more strikeouts.

“You can’t say enough about Eddie,” Paxton said. “He’s been great. He comes in and shuts the door. He’s been awesome. That’s a big reason why we’ve won so many one-run ball games. He’s just been unreal.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
@TJCotterill
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