Nelson Cruz hammered a three-run home run in the sixth inning to put the Mariners ahead for good, and Seattle snapped a five-game losing streak by beating the Nationals 4-2 on Thursday afternoon.

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WASHINGTON D.C. — It wasn’t the emotional and deserved criticism from their manager less than 24 hours before, questioning their intensity and effort. It wasn’t seeing Scott Servais getting ejected midgame for having issues with the typically meandering and unpredictable strike zone of home-plate umpire Adam Hamari.

No, the key to the Mariners’ 4-2 win over the Nationals on Thursday was not being beaten before their hitters got to their second at-bat of the game. It’s funny how something less than a five-run deficit after the third or fourth inning can change a team’s prospects for victory.

“I thought our guys really responded to a disappointing effort last night, and it says a lot about our team,” Servais said. “They rallied together. We got after it. Everybody contributed today. It’s so important.”

Friday

M’s @ Boston, 4:10 p.m.,ROOT Sports

The adrenaline of playing in a close, competitive game — something that hasn’t happened often enough — helped the Mariners respond.

“We want to play better than we have been,” Servais said. “Hopefully we can build on that.”

With the win, the Mariners snapped their current five-game losing streak while notching their first road win in Washington D.C. in nine tries. And while this brutal trip heads to Fenway Park for three games, Seattle at least won’t go winless during the eight-game stretch.

“Everything starts with one game, one win,” said Nelson Cruz.

Starter Ariel Miranda gave Seattle its best outing since, well, Ariel Miranda’s last outing. The lanky lefty pitched five innings, giving up two runs on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts. It’s a mediocre starting line to most, but to the Mariners it was hope for something more than a blowout.

“Outstanding job by Miranda,” Servais said. “He really went right after them. He was in attack mode.”

Miranda carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and became the first Mariners starter since himself to not allow runs in the first four innings of a start. In his previous start on May 19 against the White Sox, he worked seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. He wasn’t quite as sharp against a better-hitting Nationals club. But he gave the Mariners’ sputtering and misfiring offense a chance to find more than one run in the game.

The Nationals’ first hit off Miranda was a stinging solo homer to left field off the bat of Anthony Rendon. Yes, the same Rendon, who had already hit three homers in the first two games of the series. The Nats tacked on another run in the inning on a two-out single by Jayson Werth.

“I made some mistakes with some pitches and they got some good hits,” Miranda said through interpreter Nasuel Cabrera.

Still a 2-0 deficit was preferable and workable compared to the five-, six- and nine-run deficits the Mariners had found themselves in over the prior four games. But they also hadn’t scored more than one run in a game since May 18, so a rally wasn’t a given.

“Everything started with Miranda, he gave us a chance,” Cruz said.

They capitalized on that chance in a busy sixth inning that saw Jean Segura lead off with a single, and Servais get tossed by Hamari for arguing balls and strikes. The Mariners’ dugout seemed genuinely perplexed by the quick hook from Hamari and Servais went out to get a few quality words in about it.

“There were some pitches, the borderline, 50-50 pitches were just very inconsistent,” Servais said. “There were a few earlier in the game that we barked about and he certainly thought I was barking the loudest, which I probably was.”

From inside the visitor’s clubhouse, Servais watched Robinson Cano single to put runners on the corners. Washington manager Dusty Baker then called on right-hander Jacob Turner to replace Gio Gonzalez and face Cruz. The beleaguered and maligned Nationals bullpen coughed up the lead. Turner left a 2-1 slider over the inside half of the plate that Cruz hammered over the wall in deep left-center for his 12th homer.

“It was nice to get it going,” Cruz said. “It was nice to have a lead late. We haven’t had that in a while.”

The three-run blast provided the most runs the Mariners scored in a frame or game since the fifth inning of their last win on May 18, which was also on a three-run homer, by Jean Segura.

Seattle tacked on another run in the seventh on a Cano RBI single to right to make it 4-2.

“We certainly need him,” Servais said. “We are different club when he’s out there.”

The Mariners bullpen, which has been used to mop up innings of blowout losses, finally got to pitch with a lead and responded. Tony Zych, James Pazos, Nick Vincent, Marc Rzepczynski and Edwin Diaz combined to work the final four scoreless innings to secure the victory.