DETROIT — Perhaps every series should be labeled as the “biggest” or “most important” of the season. Because the Mariners seem to be thriving as the pressure of the push for a postseason berth grows with each passing day.
On Friday, Seattle kicked off a key three-game showdown with the Detroit Tigers, who came in half a game ahead of them in the race for the second wild-card position.
And like the series before against the Blue Jays, the Mariners heightened their play with the higher stakes, performing like a postseason-caliber club.
Seattle hit its magic winning threshold of four runs in the first four innings and played add-on while cruising to a 7-2 win over Detroit in front of a sellout crowd of 42,385 fans at Comerica Park.
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It was the Mariners’ fifth straight win and the 11th in their past 14 games. At 66-55, they are 11 games over .500. That hasn’t happened since the 2007 season when they finished 88-74.
Seattle scored three runs off Detroit starter Rick Porcello in the second inning with Logan Morrison and Endy Chavez delivering key run-scoring singles.
Robinson Cano pushed the lead to 4-0 when he led off the third inning with a solo homer deep to right field on the first pitch — a hanging curveball — he saw from Porcello. It was his 11th homer of the season and made it 4-0.
The Mariners are 49-10 this season when scoring four runs or more.
“We know what our record is when we score four or more,” Morrison said. “And that’s what we are trying to do every night — four or more.”
But they were focused on the “more” in this game.
The Tigers got a run back in the bottom of the third off Seattle starter James Paxton on a fielder’s choice. But his teammates answered against Porcello with a run in the fourth on a run-scoring single from Chris Taylor and another in the fifth on a run-scoring single from Kyle Seager. Porcello’s string of five straight quality starts ended. He pitched six innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on 10 hits.
The six runs were more than enough for Paxton, who battled through command and efficiency issues, but still gave the Mariners six solid innings on 99 pitches. He allowed one run on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts to improve to 3-0 this season. He’s now 6-0 in nine career starts.
“It was definitely a battle tonight,” he said. “I didn’t have good feel for my release point on my offspeed stuff. Fastball was good and I’m lucky it was.”
But there is no luck when it comes Paxton’s fastball, which ranges from 94 to 98 mph. It’s an exceptional pitch. It’s what allowed him to maneuver through a dangerous Tigers lineup featuring Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez without being able to spot his curveball or changeup and still limit the damage.
“He’s always around the zone with the fastball and everything is based off that,” said catcher Mike Zunino. “His curveball was sharp but he couldn’t find it for a strike, but they both play off each other. He threw the changeup just enough for a strike when he needed to. He’s got such a good fastball. It was enough to get some outs and keep them off balance.”
The Mariners have gone 13 straight games not allowing more than three runs. It tied them for the longest streak in the American League since 2000. Last season, the Royals also had 13 straight starts. Seattle will go for 14 straight Saturday with Felix Hernandez on the mound.