Felix Hernandez pitches seven strong innings and Nelson Cruz’s home run breaks an eighth-inning tie in a 3-1 victory over Detroit.
They didn’t need to be told what their team needed from them.
For veterans like Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander — both former Cy Young Award winners with more than 4,515 combined innings pitched between them — they know what’s expected each time they step on the mound.
And both knew the circumstances going into Wednesday night’s game, having watched their respective bullpens absorb far too many innings of work in the 15-inning marathon on Tuesday night. They needed to do a little more.
M’s @ Oakland,
7:05 p.m., ROOT
As expected, both right-handers did their jobs, producing seven-inning starts and giving their battered bullpens a slight break. But it was those overworked relief arms that would ultimately decide the outcome in the Mariners’ 3-1 win over the Tigers.
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With Verlander finally out of the game, the Mariners scored two runs against left-hander Justin Wilson in the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie and provide the margin of victory. Nelson Cruz provided the go-ahead run as only he can. The Mariners’ slugger crushed a 1-1 fastball from Wilson over the wall in center field for a solo homer. Cruz’s 28th homer of the season put Seattle up 2-1.
“It was good to see (Verlander) out,” Cruz said. “(Wilson) is always aggressive with his fastball, but I was looking for something I could hit.”
Seattle tacked on another run when Leonys Martin dumped a single to left field to score Kyle Seager for a big insurance run.
With Edwin Diaz unavailable to close it out because of excessive usage in the past few games, right-hander Nick Vincent got the call in the ninth and worked around a one-out single from Victor Martinez for a scoreless frame and his second save of the season.
“My levels of anxiety got up a little bit at the end, but that’s what happens when you close,” Vincent said.
Arquimedes Caminero (1-0) got the win, pitching for a third straight day and coming up with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
The Mariners won their sixth game in a row and completed a three-game sweep of the Tigers at home to cap the homestand. At 60-53, they are a half-game behind Detroit (61-53) in the wild-card standings and 1½ games back from the second spot. It was the Mariners’ first three-game sweep of the Tigers since April 24-26, 2012 and first at Safeco since July 29-31, 2003.
“A lot of things are starting to come together,” manager Scott Servais said. “It’s just the belief in our team.”
Hernandez delivered probably his best outing since late April and certainly his best since returning from the disabled list, he pitched seven innings, giving up one run on three hits with four walks and eight strikeouts.
“It may have been one of the better outings he’s had all year,” Servais said. “He located and kept the ball down. He does not give in late in the game. He’s not going to beat himself and he’s going to continue to make pitches. That’s why he’s Felix.”
“I knew I had to step up a little bit more,” Hernandez said. “I know I had more than 100 pitches tonight. He asked me how I was feeling after the sixth, and I said I’m going go back out there. I felt fine.”
Verlander was just as good, working seven innings, giving up one run on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts while throwing 121 pitches.
“That’s each team’s horse, and they know what they need to do,” Servais said.
The Mariners got their first run against Verlander in the first inning. After fouling off a pair of mid-90s fastballs, Verlander made the mistake of leaving a changeup over the plate. Robinson Cano stayed on the pitch on the outer half, driving it over the wall in left field.