BY SPNW Staff 04:27PM 08/22/2012

Mariners Strike Late, Beat Tribe For 8th Straight

Eric Thames, who fanned in three previous at-bats (swinging, looking, looking) and was staring at a Golden Sombrero, ripped a double into the right-field corner with two outs in the eighth inning Monday, scoring Kyle Seager and John Jaso and providing the surging Mariners (61-64) with a 3-1 win over the reeling Cleveland Indians. The victory was Seattle’s eighth in a row, a season high.

The Mariners, who took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a solo homer by Michael Saunders, did not get a hit — and had only two base runners — from the second through the seventh innings. But after Cleveland reliever Vinnie Pestano retired Saunders on a pop fly to open the eighth, Seager doubled to right center off Pestano, only reaching the bag safely with a terrific head-first slide.

After Cleveland manager Manny Acta was tossed for arguing that Seager was out, Pestano intentionally walked Jaso, preferring to face Jesus Montero instead. He chose wisely. Pestano fanned Montero for the second out, bringing up Thames, who joined the club from Toronto July 30.

Thames laced a fastball from Pestano into the right-field corner, giving the Mariners a 3-1 edge. Tom Wilhelmsen came on and, despite a walk, notched his 19th save.

“I remember Pestano from last year and he beat me with a heater,” said Thames, who took a shaving-cream pie to the face during a post-game TV interview. “I just got the head of the bat out and good things happened.”

The Mariners concluded their nine-game home stand 8-1. Seattle went 2-1 against Tampa Bay and 3-0 against Minnesota and Cleveland. The Mariners’ eight-game winning streak is a season high and the club’s longest since a nine-gamer June 23-July 12, 2007. The sweep was Seattle’s fourth since the All-Star break, a major league high.

The Mariners, the worst home team in the majors earlier in the season, have won 14 of their last 15 games at Safeco Field, eight of their last 11 series, and 11 games in a row against the AL Central.

“This is the show and it’s never easy,” said Thames, who went 12-for-30 during the home stand. “But when you play with a bunch of guys who grind it out every day, it’s really special. Momentum is a huge thing in this game, and it’s on our side right now and we’ve got to keep it rrolling.”

Saunders’ homer was his 14th of the season and a career high.

Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma silenced the Indians until the top of the sixth when two runners reached scoring position, at which point manager Eric Wedge used the hook, bringing in Oliver Perez, not quite up to the task.

Perez got two strikes on former Mariner Casey Kotchman, who hit a nubber down the third-base line that Seager couldn’t handle. Kotchman’s single scored another former Mariner, Shin-Soo Choo, who had walked and stolen a base.¬†After Choo scored, the Indians loaded the bases, but Perez worked out of that jam.

Reliever Stephen Pryor (3-0) got just two outs, but received credit for the victory. Iwakuma went 5.2 innings and allowed one earned run on six hits with five strikeouts.

“We have a lot of of confidence right now,” said Seager, who had two of Seattle’s five hits. “As of late, we’ve been able to get the big hit in addition to our starting pitching, which has been outstanding. We’re just having fun, and that’s what it’s all about. If you are pressing or stressing, it’s not a lot of fun.”

The Mariners fly to Chicago Thursday for a weekend series Friday with the White Sox, leaders in the AL Central. Jason Vargas will start against Jake Peavy (9-9, 3.11). The Mariners will play four in Minnesota before returning to Safeco Field Aug. 31 for a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels.

NOTES: Mariners need just six more wins to match their victory total (67) in 2011 . . . The Mariners had three double plays through the first four innings . . . The Mariners lead the major leagues with a .990 fielding percentage . . . John Jaso, who went 1-for-2 Wednesday, has reached base in 25 consecutive starts . . . Iwakuma’s start was his second in a row of allowing just one earned run. In his past three outings, he is 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA.


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