Nelson Cruz’s 18th home run put Felix Hernandez in line for the win and the bullpen made the slim lead stand in a 4-3 victory.
CHICAGO — Much has been written about the value of wins for pitchers, specifically how it’s an inferior way to measure performance.
Saturday night provided another example for that argument.
Felix Hernandez was credited with the victory — his fifth of the season — in the Mariners’ 4-3 win over the White Sox.
But really the game was won by Seattle’s bullpen of right-handers Steve Cishek, Tony Zych, Nick Vincent and Edwin Diaz. The quartet of relievers worked four scoreless innings, preserving the one-run lead and helping the team overcome three errors to improve to 45-47.
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“Our bullpen was outstanding tonight,” M’s manager Scott Servais. “It was a little on the edge at the end.”
There has to be drama. Cishek and Diaz put the tying and go-ahead runs on in their respective innings. But they didn’t yield. In the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and runners on first and second, Diaz struck out Jose Abreu to end the game and notch his 15th save.
Diaz credited pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre’s visit to the mound to get him focused after he allowed a two-out single to Melky Cabrera and walked Avisail Garcia.
“I got a little too excited against Garcia,” Diaz admitted. “But he helped calm me down, and I made my pitches to Abreu.”
It gave the Mariners a rare series win at the stadium now named Guaranteed Rate Field.
How rare? The Mariners hadn’t won a series in the building since Aug. 10-12, 2007. They had gone 0-10-1 since. Seattle came into the game with an 8-28 record in the previous 36 games since that series win.
Seattle’s bullpen has been trending toward the positive. Since an 8-1 loss to the White Sox on May 21 at Safeco Field where they used six pitchers, the Mariners’ bullpen has posted a 2.67 ERA (1551/3 innings pitched, 46 earned runs) over the last 47 games. It’s the lowest of any bullpen in baseball in that period.
“Guys are in a groove,” Servais said. “Steve is healthy. You can see it. He’s thrown the ball really well the last 8-10 times out. The life is coming back to his fastball. Tony has been really consistent the last couple of weeks. And Vincent has been solid all year. Running four guys out there, it’s really hard to have all four on top of their game, but we needed it tonight. And they did it.”
Hernandez wasn’t efficient or completely effective, but he managed to make it through five innings, giving up three runs (one earned) on six hits with no walks and five strikeouts.
“It was a battle the whole game,” Hernandez said. “I couldn’t find my rhythm or balance in my mechanics. I was all over the place. I don’t remember the last time I hit the same guy (Abreu) twice in one game.”
It was impressive that he didn’t give up more considering in two different innings the White Sox loaded the bases with no outs. Having already allowed a run in the third inning aided by Jean Segura’s error at shortstop, Hernandez escaped the situation without allowing another run. In the fifth inning, Hernandez’s throwing error to first base on a comebacker started the problems.
“It’s my fault,” he said. “It was terrible. That was bad. That was really bad.”
A run scored on a 6-4-3 double play, but Hernandez struck out Tyler Saladino to end the inning.
“Felix did not have his best stuff tonight, location-wise, and he fell behind some hitters,” Servais said. “To his credit, he wiggled out of it and didn’t give up the big inning.”
The White Sox’s other run off Hernandez came on the fifth pitch of the game when leadoff hitter Melky Cabrera launched a ball into the right field seats for a 1-0 lead. It was the first of Cabrera’s three hits off Hernandez.
Nelson Cruz gave the Mariners a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning and put Hernandez in line for the win. After Robinson Cano drew a leadoff walk against lefty Dan Jennings, the White Sox brought in right-hander Anthony Swarzak to face Cruz. The move didn’t yield the expected results for Chicago. Cruz hammered a 96 mph fastball on a 3-2 count over the wall in center for his 18th homer.
“He had pretty good stuff,” Cruz said. “In that situation, you are just looking for something over the plate.”
Seattle tied the game 1-1 lin the second inning on Kyle Seager’s solo homer to right off Mike Pelfrey.
Mitch Haniger left the game with a jammed right index finger. He injured it on a drag-bunt attempt. X-rays on the finger came back negative, but Servais said Haniger will be out of the lineup for a few days.