At Minnesota, Mitch Haniger and Mike Zunino homered for Seattle (33-34) and Edwin Diaz picked up his 11th save of the season.
MINNEAPOLIS — In the aftermath of Tuesday’s trouncing by the Twins, the Mariners promised they would flush the horrid results, which included 20 runs allowed on 28 hits, and move on immediately.
That process is significantly aided when you score five runs in the first three innings against your opponent’s ace the very next game.
Mitch Haniger blasted a two-run homer in the first inning and Mike Zunino crushed a three-run homer in the third inning off Twins starter Ervin Santana and the Mariners’ bullpen was able to close out a 6-4 win on Wednesday night at Target Field that didn’t lack for late-inning drama.
It was an important bounce-back performance after a poorly played showing the game before.
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“That’s what good teams do,” Haniger said. “It’s a new day, and you have to put it behind you.”
Despite the early offense, the Mariners weren’t able to coast to the end. Manager Scott Servais called on closer Edwin Diaz to put in extra work with a four-out save.
Brought in with runners on first and second and two outs in the eighth, Diaz needed just three pitches to strike out Kennys Vargas, including a savage 100 mph fastball for a swinging strike three.
“I saw he was late on the fastball,” Diaz said. “There was no reason to throw anything else.”
The ninth wasn’t as simple. Diaz issued a one-out walk to veteran catcher Jason Castro, who had faced the Mariners’ closer a few times last season with the Astros.
“He’s seen Eddie a lot, so I knew it was going to be a tough at-bat,” Servais said. “Looking at how the inning was laying out, I said the Castro at-bat was going to be big.”
Byron Buxton then hit a slow roller off the end of the bat that Kyle Seager couldn’t field cleanly. Given Buxton’s speed — he’s one of the fastest players in baseball — it would’ve taken a near-perfect play to get Buxton. Instead, it was ruled a single.
“You are thinking, ‘Oh, here we go,’ ” Servais said.
It brought the go-ahead run to the plate with one out in Eddie Rosario, who hit three homers on Tuesday in the romp.
But the revamped Diaz didn’t panic or overthrow. He used his slider to take advantage of the over-aggressive Diaz, who he played with on Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
“I think he’s getting a grasp on his mechanics and especially his emotions,” Zunino said. “Before he would just try to throw harder and harder, and now he’s sort of found a rhythm of what he needs to do.”
With two outs, Diaz was able to get Brian Dozier, another dangerous hitter, to fly out to center to end the game and complete his 11th save.
“He regrouped,” Servais said of his young closer. “He got the slider going, and it was really key to get both pitches working.”
With the win, Seattle improves to 33-34 on the season.
Santana came into the game with an 8-3 record and a 2.20 ERA, which was third-lowest in the American League. But in looking at his 13 previous starts individually, Santana showed that he could be really good — 10 starts of two runs allowed or less, including six where he didn’t allow a run. Or he really struggled, giving up a combined 18 runs in three starts.
His outing against the Mariners was the latter. Santana pitched five innings — his second-shortest outing of the season — allowing five runs on a season-high nine hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
“Santana is one of the hottest pitchers in the league,” Servais said. “We really grinded at-bats and got his pitch count up. He was at like 50 pitches in two innings. Guys just didn’t let up. We didn’t get all that many hits with runners in scoring position, but we made him work.”
Seattle got to Santana immediately. Gamel led off the game with an infield single and Haniger followed with his fifth homer of the season, sending a line drive over the wall for a 2-0 lead.
“I was looking for a fastball, and he left a slider up,” Haniger said. “I hit it well and it felt good.”
The Mariners continued to apply pressure on Santana. They loaded the bases with two outs in the second inning, but didn’t score. Zunino made sure an opportunity wasn’t squandered in the third inning. After striking out in his first at-bat against Santana, Zunino didn’t repeat his same mistakes. With runners on first and second and two outs, he crushed a first-pitch slider from Santana off the facing of the upper deck in deep left center for his sixth homer of the season and a 5-0 lead.
“I saw what he had in the first at-bat, and I had in the back of my mind that he was going to throw a slider with a runner in scoring position,” Zunino said. “I was looking for something thigh-high.”
Given a 5-0 lead, Seattle starter Sam Gaviglio cruised through four innings, allowing just one hit.
But he fell victim to the home-run ball. In the fifth inning, he surrendered a pair of solo homers to Eduardo Escobar and Byron Buxton. His outing ending in the sixth on a misplaced curveball to hulking Twins slugger Miguel Sano, who crushed a two-run homer to left to cut Seattle’s lead to 6-4.
Gaviglio still picked up the win.
Gamel, who had three hits on the night, also made the play of the game with a leaping, wall-crashing catch in foul territory in the eighth inning off Joe Mauer’s bat.
“I had it pretty good in my glove,” Gamel said. “It didn’t feel good. I had a pretty good idea where the wall was, and I knew I had to jump.”