Mariners Insider Blog

Mariners 2, Angels 1: Winning streak hits eight; M’s claw closer to wild card

Seattle Mariners' Nelson Cruz, right, is congratulated by Kyle Seager after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif.
Seattle Mariners' Nelson Cruz, right, is congratulated by Kyle Seager after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif. AP

It’s eight in a row now for the Mariners after Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. And while that’s great, eight isn’t enough.

Not quite.

But the Mariners continue to claw closer in their bid to end a 14-year postseason drought. They now trail Toronto by just 1 1/2 games in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.

"It’s exciting to come every day to the ballpark," said Nelson Cruz, whose homer in the seventh inning broke a 1-1 tie. "The pitching has been amazing. It’s in our hands. If we keep playing the way we’ve been doing…"

Then who knows?

The Mariners have an open date Friday before opening a six-game homestand that includes three games against the Blue Jays.

"You know what’s going on," Kyle Seager, whose homer in the fifth inning provided the Mariners’ only other run.

"We know where we’re at. We know we still have our work cut out for us. If we keep taking care of our business, hopefully things will work out for us."

When Edwin Diaz closed out Wednesday’s victory, the Mariners matched a season best in climbing back to 10 games over .500 at 78-68. They’ve been there twice earlier in the season before sliding back.

"You get on the plane (prior to the trip)," manager Scott Servais said, "and you’re thinking, `Win the series.’ Then you win the first couple, and you think, `Why not sweep it?’

"That’s been our attitude, the mentality with this club."

After easy 8-1 and 8-0 victories in the first two games against the Angels, the Mariners had to sweat through the final pitch in closing out their sweep. OK, just sort of sweat. Diaz needed just 10 pitched to collect his 16th save.

The Mariners erased a 1-0 deficit on Seager’s home run in the fifth inning and took a 2-1 lead on Cruz’s homer in the seventh.

Hisashi Iwakuma (16-11) turned that lead over to Tom Wilhelmsen with the tying run at second base and one out in the Angels seventh. Wilhelmsen stranded the runner.

Steve Cishek worked a one-two-three eighth inning against the heart of the Angels’ order: Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. That got the game to Diaz.

Iwakuma opened the six-game road trip with a victory at Oakland and has delivered two strong performances after losing his previous four starts.

"I don’t think I’ve made any dramatic adjustment," he said. "I think it’s just pitching my game and believing I know how to get guys out. Go as deep as I can.

"But more than that, I think we have the momentum right now. We’ve won eight straight. The team feels good. We’re very confident. Just keep the ball rolling is what I had in mind today."

Angels right-hander Jhoulys Chacin drew the start after lefty Tyler Skaggs was scratched because of forearm soreness just nine outings after returning from Tommy John surgery.

Chacin limited the Mariners to one run and three hits in six innings.

Jose Valdez replaced Chacin to start the seventh and threw two pitches. Cruz hit the second one for a homer and a 2-1 lead, and Angels replaced Valdez (1-3) with Jose Alvarez.

Ketel Marte led off the sixth inning with a single after fouling two earlier pitches off his foot, but that threat died when Trout made a diving catch on Seth Smith’s slicing liner into left-center field.

If the ball gets by Trout, it’s a likely RBI double.

The Mariners momentarily took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when umpire Doug Eddings ruled Nori Aoki beat the throw to first by shortstop Cliff Pennington as Leonys Martin scored.

Los Angeles challenged, and the call was overturned. The run came off the board.

Juan Graterol then led off the Angels third by squirting a single past first base, and Gregorio Petit yanked a hit-and-run single through the vacated hole at shortstop. That put runners at first and third with no outs.

Iwakuma struck out Yunel Escobar and got to a 1-2 count on Kole Calhoun before throwing a splitter that got past catcher Chris Iannetta for a run-scoring wild pitch.

But Iwakuma stopped it there, and the Mariners pulled even when Seager opened the fifth inning by driving a first-pitch fastball from Chacin into the right-field seats.

PLAY OF THE GAME: There was the diving catch mentioned above by Angels outfielder Mike Trout, but Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano turned a slick double play in the second inning.

Cano ran down Rafael Ortega’s sharp grounder up the middle, stepped on the base for the force and threw back across his body to first base for the double play.

PLUS: Hisashi Iwakuma’s 16 victories are a career high. His previous best was 15 in 2014…Kyle Seager’s 29 homers extended his career high. His previous best was 26 in 2015…Nelson Cruz has homers in consecutive games for the sixth time this season.

MINUS: Not much. Nori Aoki cooled off by going hitless in four at-bats after getting eight hits in his previous 20 at-bats…the Mariners were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position (but the Angels were 0-for-7).

STAT PACK: Nelson Cruz’s homer in the seventh inning was his 10th of the season against the Angels. It is the most ever hit by a Mariner in a single season against any opponent.

Only two players have hit more than 10 homer against the Angels in a single season. Both were players with Mariners connections, although they did it for other teams. Willie Horton hit 11 while playing for Detroit in 1968, and Alex Rodriguez hit 11 while playing for Texas in 2003.

QUOTABLE: "We’re so close right now," closer Edwin Diaz said, "and we’ve got two big series coming up at home."

SHORT HOPS: The Mariners have hit homers in 14 straight games, which matches a season best…the Mariners’ last eight-game winning streak was July 12-23, 2013…former Mariners reliever J.C. Ramirez (briefly last year) hit Dae-Ho Lee with a pickoff throw to first base in the seventh inning. Lee wasn’t hurt. The Mariners’ dugout erupted in laughter…the Mariners are now .500 against AL West opponents at 33-33…the Mariners now have a winning record in one-run games at 26-25.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners