It was a dramatic night for the Mariners’ bullpen in a hold-your-breath, 6-5 victory.
The perfect recipe for relief, this was not.
Down to the final pitch, the Mariners bullpen extracted every ounce of drama possible out of a hold-your-breath, 6-5 victory over the Oakland Athletics on a cold Monday night at Safeco Field.
It ended with right-hander Tony Zych picking up his first career save when umpire Carlos Torres rung up pinch-hitter Adam Rosales looking at a 3-2 fastball on the outside corner.
Mariners vs. Athletics,7:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
“That,” Zych said, “was special.”
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Following a strong start from Yovani Gallardo — the last veteran standing in the Mariners’ tattered starting rotation — the Mariners turned to six relievers to end a four-game losing skid.
Kyle Seager’s two-run home run in the eighth pushed the Mariners’ lead to 6-3, which seemed to set up a relatively relaxed save situation for Edwin Diaz. It was anything but.
One day after allowing a walkoff homer in a loss at Toronto, Diaz walked four consecutive batters with one out in the top of the ninth, cutting the Mariners’ lead to 6-4. Diaz’s throwing mechanics, manager Scott Servais said, have gotten “out of whack” in recent appearances.
“Luckily,” Servais said, “we were able to bail him out tonight.”
Zych wasn’t supposed to throw Monday after appearing in each of the previous two games. The Mariners didn’t have any other choice. He relieved Diaz and got Oakland slugger Khris Davis to ground out for the second out, but not before another run scored to get the A’s to 6-5.
Rosales then worked the count full before Zych’s 95-mph fastball caught the corner for the final out.
“We were on the edge there a few times,” Servais said, adding: “We’ve used our bullpen a lot, obviously, with the status of our starting pitching. … The bullpen has done a good job. We’ve taxed those guys.”
The bullpen dramatics started in the seventh inning when Mariners right-hander Dan Altavilla — one day after being recalled from Class AAA Tacoma — relieved Gallardo with one out in the top of the seventh inning. The Mariners were clinging to a one-run lead with two runners in scoring position.
Altavilla promptly threw four consecutive balls to Oakland’s No. 9 hitter, loading the bases and igniting a round of here-we-go-again grumbles from the 15,431 fans in attendance.
Altavilla threw two more balls — grumble, grumble — to start an at-bat against Oakland’s Matt Joyce. Then a funny thing happened. Altavilla ditched his slider after a mound visit from pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre and found the strike zone — striking out Joyce on consecutive fastballs of 97, 97 and 98 mph.
Three pitches later, Altavilla got Jed Lowrie to ground out to second base to leave the bases loaded.
“It was a pressure situation, and it was big for me to go out there and get that under my belt and get things rolling again,” Altavilla said. “I just went right after him with the fastball. It was big for the team tonight.”
After Altavilla’s dramatics in the seventh, the Mariners continued their unconventional relief recipe in the eighth, using three relievers to get three outs.
Steve Cishek, on the same day he was activated from the disabled list, made his season debut and got Davis to ground out for the first out of the inning.
Marc Rzepczynski came on and struck out Yonder Alonso for the second out. Nick Vincent allowed a bloop double to Ryon Healy before striking out Trevor Plouffe on three pitches to end the eighth.
In a starting rotation torn apart by one injury after another, Gallardo gave the Mariners the kind of effort they need from their last veteran still standing. The 31-year-old right-hander pitched into the seventh inning, allowing three runs on four hits with five strikeouts and two walks. It’s his third start in May in which he’s allowed three runs or less.
“It’s been a weird year,” Gallardo said. “Myself and the other guys we have in the rotation now, we understand we’ve got to step up and show what we’re capable of doing.”
After a long flight back from Toronto on Sunday night, which followed a disastrous four-game sweep against the Blue Jays, the Mariners got a bit of a gift from Oakland left-hander Sean Manaea early Monday.
Manaea walked five of the first 10 batters he faced, including two in the first inning with the bases loaded, staking the Mariners to a 2-0 lead.
Nelson Cruz belted a 433-foot home run in the second inning, a two-run shot to dead center, to give the Mariners a 4-0 lead.
Gallardo didn’t allow his first hit until the fourth inning, when Davis capped a 12-pitch battle with a long solo homer to center. That cut the Mariners’ lead to 4-1.
In the fifth, A’s catcher Stephen Vogt pulled Gallardo’s 0-2 curveball into the seats in right field to make it 4-3.