Four relievers help Seattle escape with 4-3 victory over Athletics. Closer Steve Cishek overcomes wildness in ninth inning for his seventh save of the season.

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OAKLAND, Calif. — They are the easy targets of blame when things go wrong late in games, but credit must be given to the Mariners’ bullpen following the performance Monday, specifically Vidal Nuno, Nick Vincent, Joel Peralta and Steve Cishek.

Given the slimmest of margins to work with, the four relievers — unique in their own way and pitching style — combined to work three scoreless innings to preserve Seattle’s 4-3 victory over Oakland.

The Mariners improved to 14-11 and they are 12-5 in their past 17 games.


Perhaps no aspect of the their overhauled roster was more questioned or doubted this spring than the retooled bullpen that featured mostly new faces — many trying to come back after down seasons. The group lacked hard throwers and was beset with injuries in early March.

But the group pieced together by general manager Jerry Dipoto has a 2.41 ERA on the season with opponents hitting just .174 — the lowest in the American League.

“We are solidifying ourselves as one of the better bullpens in the league,” said Vincent. “It’s early, but so far so good.

It’s been mostly good except for a few random struggles.

“It’s been from the get-go,” manager Scott Servais said. “They’ve looked very comfortable.”

Cishek escaped his own self-made wild ride in the ninth inning to pick up his seventh save. A wild pitch on a swinging strike three with two outs allowed Stephen Vogt to reach first, representing the tying run. Cishek then put the winning run on base when he walked Chris Coghlan. But the veteran right-hander came back to strike out switch-hitting Jed Lowrie to end the game.

“He’s been very aggressive,” Servais said. “He has a game plan when he goes out there and how he’s going to attack left-handed hitters, and I think that’s been the difference for him this year from last year.”

The Mariners and starter Nathan Karns seemed headed for a relatively easy and drama-free victory. But a pair of homers from Khris Davis was an issue.

Karns’ outing began to crumble with a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh — when he didn’t register an out. He gave up a leadoff single to Josh Reddick and then misplaced a curveball to Davis for the second time. The result was similar to before but with much more impressive distance.

Davis hammered the pitch deep to center and high off the wall at 400 feet to cut the Seattle lead to 4-3. Karns then gave up a double to Vogt, ending his night.

With the tying run on second and no outs, the Mariners bullpen never allowed Vogt to advance. In a lefty-on-lefty matchup, Nuno got Coghlan to pop up on the infield for the first out.

“I was just not trying to let him bunt it,” Nuno said. “It was all breaking stuff. I made my pitch on that third pitch to get him out.”

Servais then called on right-hander Vincent to get the final two outs. Vincent struck out Mark Canha and got Yonder Alonso to ground out.

“I think Nick Vincent has been a nice pickup for us, no doubt,” Servais said. “He’s bridged a gap there for us.”

Karns improved to 3-1 after pitching six-plus innings.

He gave up the three runs on six hits with one walk and five strikeouts, but he knew where to deliver the recognition.

“The bullpen did a fantastic job to shut it down where it was,” Karns said. “That’s huge, tying run on second and no outs, that’s pretty tough. Those two guys came in and did their job and we got out of it. Peralta and Cishek after that. It shows what they are capable of.”

Karns gave up his first homer to Davis in the second inning — a leadoff shot to left off a curveball.

“It’s a good pitch for me, but I didn’t do a good job of executing,” Karns said. “Later in the game, I’ve really got to get that ball down.”

The Mariners tied the score in the fourth inning against A’s starter Kendall Graveman.

Robinson Cano led off with a double over the head of center fielder Billy Burns. He later scored on Adam Lind’s sharp single to left-center.

Seattle took the lead in the sixth inning. Cano led off with a single and later scored on Kyle Seager’s two-out double into the corner.

Chris Iannetta kept the inning going by dumping a single into shallow right-center to score Seager and make it 3-1.

Seattle pushed the lead to 4-1 in the seventh with some help from the A’s. Norichika Aoki doubled with one out to reach base for the third time.

With Seth Smith at the plate, Aoki attempted a steal of third.

Vogt’s throw skipped past third baseman Canha, allowing Aoki to hustle home to make it 4-1.