SEATTLE — Don’t bury the Mariners quite yet.
After seven futile innings against Boston lefty David Price, the Mariners erupted for five runs in the eighth for an improbable 5-4 victory over the Red Sox at Safeco Field.
Robinson Cano capped the rally with a three-run homer, a no-doubt bomb to right field against Fernando Abad that permitted Cano to stand and admire it for a few heartbeats.
"I didn’t have any approach," Cano said. "I was just looking for something over the plate. He’s one of the toughest lefty relievers in the game right now. He’s gotten me out a lot of times. I was just trying to put the ball in play."
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Instead he put it out of play.
"That’s as fun as it gets right there," said catcher Mike Zunino, who started the comeback with a leadoff homer against Price in the eighth inning. "We pieced some stuff together.
"Leonys (Martin), (Luis) Sardinas and (Guillermo) Heredia had some great at-bats (that resulted in singles against Price). When you can turn it over to Robby, it’s pretty fun to watch."
Then it was on to the ninth inning and rookie Edwin Diaz’s debut as the Mariners’ closer. Diaz worked around a one-out walk by striking out the side.
Asked whether the experience, with the crowd roaring on every pitch, was that he expected, Diaz smiled and said: "Yeah, I expected to get those three outs."
It was a remarkable comeback, and it lifted the Mariners back over .500 at 53-52.
"Greatest game in the world, right?" manager Scott Servais asked. "You can’t explain it. You really can’t. As tough as the last couple of days have been, with the late-inning losses, to come back tonight…"
The Mariners suffered losses Sunday to the Cubs in Chicago and Monday to the Red Sox when Steve Cishek surrendered runs in the ninth inning. Those breakdowns resulted in Diaz getting an audition at the back end.
"We all know how good he is," Cano said. "But the first time as a closer, it’s tough for everyone. But he was the same guy."
Diaz has 52 strikeouts in 26 innings, a 1.73 ERA in 25 games and, now, one career save.
"We had to settle him down," Zunino said, "but I think he would have done it himself. He’s mature beyond his years. He was in some big spots in Pittsburgh and Chicago. Nothing seems to get to him.
"He trusts his stuff, but I think anyone would."
The Mariners had just three hits against Price through seven innings, and trailed 4-0, before Zunino rocked a leadoff homer in the eighth inning.
Price then allowed three straight singles, including Heredia’s first major-league hit, which prompted Boston manager John Farrell to go to his bullpen for Matt Barnes, who struck out Seth Smith.
Another switch replaced Barnes with Abad for a left-on-left match-up against Cano. The result was a 398-foot homer to right. Donn Roach (2-0) got the victory when Diaz closed out the game.
Abad (1-5) was the loser.
The Mariners got a quality start from lefty Wade LeBlanc — three runs in six innings — in his return to the rotation after a two-week absence. It was probably as good as they could hope for from the finesse lefty.
"Goal No. 1 is to give up no runs, obviously," LeBlanc said. "Especially when your team is facing a guy like Price. But once you give up runs, the goal is to keep it as close as you can.
"With an offense like we have, if you’re in slam range, you’re always in the game."
Actually, LeBlanc probably deserved better. The Red Sox scored two of their three runs on off-line throws to the plate. The other run against LeBlanc was a howitzer shell by Hanley Ramirez.
Boston scored its final run on Ortiz’s sacrifice fly in the eighth inning against Roach. That made it 4-0…before everything turned around.
"That’s what makes baseball great," Servais said. "As much as the fans ride the roller-coaster with us. There are times when we are tough to watch. I get it. But you’ve got to keep watching because our guys don’t quit.
"They believe in each other. And believe something good is going to happen. Tonight it did."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Luis Sardinas opened the sixth inning by lining a drive off left leg of Boston starter David Price just above the knee. It no doubt hurt, but it was just a few inches from being considerably worse.
Price even got an out on the play when the ball caromed to third baseman Aaron Hill, who easily threw out Sardinas at first base.
PLUS: Guillermo Heredia’s RBI single in the eighth inning was his first career hit after an 0-for-8 start…Edwin Diaz has struck out at least one batter in 22 of his 25 career appearances and at least two batters in 18 of those games…Franklin Gutierrez had a single in the sixth inning and has reached base at least once in 14 straight games against the Red Sox.
MINUS: The Mariners had a chance to throw out two runners at the plate but made off-line throws; third baseman Kyle Seager in the first inning, and left fielder Guillermo Heredia in the fourth.
STAT PACK: Robinson Cano’s homer was his 50th extra-base hit of the season (25 doubles, one triple and 24 homers). He is just the fourth player in history to reach 50 in each of his first 12 seasons. The others were Carlos Lee, Albert Pujols and Eddie Mathews.
QUOTABLE: Manager Scott Servais pointed to the energy provided by two rookies, closer Edwin Diaz and left fielder Guillermo Heredia, as a key element in the game.
"Since (Diaz) got here," Servais said, "he’s been electric. Just keep the emotions in check. That what he did. The energy. The young players drive the game. I’m huge believer in that.
"The veterans need that to kind of push them a little bit."
SHORT HOPS: Robinson Cano was 1-for-11 in his career against lefty reliever Fernando Abad before hitting a three-run homer in the eighth inning…David Ortiz’s double in the first inning was his 36th of the season. That’s a record for a player who is 40 or older…the Mariners have won 12 games in their last at-bat. They are 18-20 in one-run games.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners