Robinson Cano brought along his All-Star swing Friday night by hitting a three-run homer that provided the Mariners with a successful launch to their hopes for a second-half surge.
James Paxton also delivered six strong inning before the bullpen closed out a 4-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Cano’s homer came against White Sox veteran James Shields in the third inning on his first swing since hitting a game-winning homer Tuesday for the American League at the All-Star Game in Miami.
“It was really important,” Cano said. “This is the second half when every game means more. We’ve got to win games so we can keep ourselves in the race.”
The Mariners (44-47) limped into the All-Star break on a 4-10 skid, which means any postseason push needs to start now.
“We’ve got to continue to be consistent,” manager Scott Servais agreed. “That’s been our issue. We’ve got to come out (Saturday) and do it again.”
Lockdown pitching helps — and the Mariners got it Friday from Paxton and the bullpen.
Paxton (8-3) gave up two runs in six innings while striking out nine and walking none in a 103-pitch performance. He retired the final eight in a row.
“That’ll work,” he assessed. “I was getting my legs under me a little bit. I started to feel better in the fifth and sixth innings. An uptick in intensity.
“I need to find a way to get to that earlier in the game, so that I can ride that out longer.”
Tony Zych, Nick Vincent and Edwin Diaz each pitched a one-two-three inning with two strikeouts. Diaz got his 14th save in 17 chances.
“Good start to the second half for us,” Diaz said. “We need to keep rolling.”
Shields (2-2) surrendered Cano’s homer but, by escaping a series of jams, allowed only one other run in six innings.
That was enough for Paxton and the bullpen.
“We kept pressure on the whole game,” Servais said. “We didn’t get the big hit to blow it open, but it was a good, complete game.”
The White Sox opened the scoring after Avisail Garcia’s one-out single in the second inning. He stole second with two outs and went to third on a throwing error by catcher Mike Zunino.
Tyler Saladino then sliced a deep drive into the right-field corner that Mitch Haniger couldn’t reach. The ball hopped the wall for an RBI double and a 1-0 lead.
The Mariners answered immediately in the third inning. Zunino led off with a walk and went to second on Jean Segura’s single. After Ben Gamel flied out, Cano cranked a 391-foot drive to right.
It was Cano’s club-leading 18th homer of the season and his sixth in 92 career at-bats against Shields.
Another one-out single by Garcia in the fourth led to Chicago’s final run. He again stole second, this time with one out, and scored easily on Matt Davidson’s double into the left-center gap.
Paxton held the lead by retiring the next two batters, which started a run of the final 17 Chicago hitters being set down in order.
Segura’s leadoff double in the fifth inning helped the Mariners restore their two-run lead. Shields had a chance to escape when he retired Gamel and Cano on grounders but then threw a run-scoring wild pitch.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Chicago shortstop Tim Anderson took a base-hit away from Gamel with a leaping catch to his left for the second out of the seventh inning.
PLUS: Cano has seven homers over his past 17 games (not counting the All-Star Game). … Segura went 2-for-5 for his fifth multi-hit performance in his last seven games. He raised his average to .350. …Diaz has a 2.11 ERA over his last 20 appearances.
MINUS: The Mariners were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. … Jarrod Dyson was hitless in four at-bats, although he reached once on a fielder’s choice and stole his club-leading 21st base. …Haniger was 0-for-3 with a walk but made a web-gem catch on Jose Abreu’s leadoff drive to right field in the ninth inning.
STAT PACK: The Mariners won for just the ninth time in 37 games at Guaranteed Rate Field since 2008.
QUOTABLE: Cano is 38-for-92 (.413) in his career against Shields.
“The only difference is you can see the velocity is not the same,” Cano said. “He was a guy who threw 93-94 (mph). When he was in Tampa, he was James Shields. He was a guy who put the ball wherever he wanted it.
“It’s not the same when you (lose) 4 or 5 miles on the gun.”
SHORT HOPS: Two Mariners’ prospects were cited by Baseball America in its weekly Prospect Hot Sheet, which identifies 20 minor-league players who are performing particularly well: Short-A Everett first baseman Evan White at No. 9, and Hi-A Modesto right-handed pitcher Nick Neidert at No. 19. … Garcia went 2-for-4 and is 8-for-20 with five extra-base hits this season against the Mariners. … The White Sox have outscored the Mariners 32-12 in five games but are just 3-2 in the season series. … Chicago’s rotation has only 10 quality starts in its last 46 games while compiling a 5.82 ERA in that span.
ON DECK: The Mariners and White Sox continue their three-game series at 4:10 p.m. PDT Saturday with a matchup of right-handers at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Felix Hernandez (4-3 with a 4.44 ERA) will face Chicago’s Mike Pelfrey (3-7, 4.83). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710-AM and the Mariners Radio Network.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners