CLEVELAND — The Mariners not only reached that magic threshold of three runs on Tuesday night, but they were feeling a little frisky and went a couple past it.
Well, a win, of course.
Seattle scored four runs in the fourth inning — an overall total they reached just once in their previous six games — and tacked on another run as insurance to pick up a much-needed 5-2 win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
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The Mariners are now 50-19 on the season when scoring three runs or more in a game.
“We’ve been grinding out at-bats,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We’ve lost five one-run games. So when you don’t win them and you don’t look good, people are saying you are playing bad and that’s just not true. One hit in each of those five games and we’d have a really nice record coming out of the break. Hopefully this can jump-start us.”
Four runs in an inning seemed implausible after watching the Mariners flail away at Safeco Field on the recent homestand. But Seattle has been a better hitting team away from home (.235 batting average, .650 OPS at home vs. .254 batting average, .690 OPS on the road). That trend continued against Indians starter Trevor Bauer.
Kyle Seager beat the left-handed shift by dropping down a bunt for a base hit to start the fourth inning. Bauer then hit Mike Zunino in the shoulder with a pitch. After a pop out from Logan Morrison, Corey Hart had a rare extra-base hit, doubling down the left-field line to score Seager. It was Hart’s first extra-base hit in six games and 21 plate appearances.
With two outs in the inning, Dustin Ackley continued his torrid hot streak, doubling off the wall in right-center to score Zunino and Hart. Chris Taylor followed with a double off the left-field wall to score Ackley.
“It was a good time to get a big hit,” Ackley said. “Fortunately for me, I got it. The last couple days, I didn’t do it.”
The four-run inning was the most runs Seattle had scored in an inning since scoring four in the sixth inning of a July 2 win in Houston. Since then, they’ve scored fewer than four runs in 16 of 20 games.
“Today was a better feeling of getting ahead,” Ackley said. “Four or five runs is pretty much all we need with our starters and our bullpen.”
The fifth run came in the fifth inning.
Zunino jumped on the first pitch from Bauer — a 95 mph fastball — hammering a laser of a line drive that just got over the 18-foot wall in left field for a solo homer. It was his 16th homer of the season, which tied him for the team lead with Seager and is the third-most among major-league catchers.
“I got just enough,” Zunino said. “I knew I had a little topspin on it. But it was just enough to sneak over. I’m not complaining.”
The five runs were more than enough for Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma, who worked seven innings, giving up two runs on six hits with a walk and six strikeouts.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the start wasn’t the two runs allowed, but the walk. Iwakuma walked Michael Brantley in the first inning on four pitches. He hadn’t walked a batter in 361/3 innings to that point.
“A little disappointed he walked a batter,” McClendon joked. “But other than that … he’s pretty good. He did a nice job.”
Iwakuma’s catcher was stunned by the free pass.
“That’s what got me, it was four pitches,” Zunino said. “Those things happen, but it doesn’t happen very often.”
The two earned runs came in the bottom of the fifth with the Mariners up 5-0. Iwakuma gave up an RBI single to Yan Gomes and a ground ball RBI to Jason Kipnis. But he never let the damage get worse.
In the seventh, with David Murphy on second thanks to a one-out double, Iwakuma came back to get Gomes to fly out and then struck out Chris Dickerson.
“As a starting pitcher, you have the responsibility to go at least six innings,” he said through translator Antony Suzuki. “You at least want to have a quality start and then go from there. I’m happy I did my job.”
Iwakuma wasn’t dominant, but he was effective. He improved to 9-5 on the season. In his past 14 road starts, he’s 9-0 with a 2.17 ERA.
Charlie Furbush and Yoervis Medina combined for a scoreless eighth inning and Fernando Rodney worked a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts to notch his 29th save.
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