Aaron Harang, who won 75 games for Cincinnati between 2003-10, tossed six strong innings against his former team and received outstanding support from his bullpen as the Mariners burst to a 3-0 lead and cruised to a 4-2 victory over the Reds at the Great American Ballpark Friday. Reliever Oliver Perez, pitching like an All-Star candidate, put a dramatic cap on it, striking out the side in the ninth on 11 pitches.
The Mariners improved to 38-48 and made a winner out of Harang for the first time since June 11, when he blanked Houston 4-0 with a complete-game shutout. Harang allowed two earned runs on six hits, struck out four and walked one. Harang has walked only five batters in his past six starts.
Once Harang departed, having thrown 60 of his 91 pitches for strikes, Yoervis Medina and Charlie Furbush combined on two innings of scoreless relief, then gave way to Perez. He has not allowed a run in 31 of his 35 appearances, collecting his second save and first since June 14 vs. Oakland.
Perez, part of manager Eric Wedge’s current closer-by-committee, made a compelling case for taking the job as he lowered his ERA to 1.39. He made the three hitters he faced look clueless.
The Mariners scratched out six hits, but two were home runs, by second baseman Nick Franklin and outfielder Michael Saunders. Brad Miller, hitting leadoff for the first time, contributed a pair of triples and scored a run as the Mariners ran their all-time record against Cincinnati to 9-1. Miller became the first Seattle player to hit two triples in the same game since Carlos Guillen in 2003.
The Mariners jumped all over Cincinnati starter Mike Leake early, Franklin belting a two-run homer in the first inning and Saunders adding a solo shot in the second for a 3-0 lead. It was Franklin’s fifth homer of the season and Saunders’ first since May 14, returning to the starting lineup after a week dealing with a finger injury.
Saunders came back with a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning that scored Kyle Seager, who reached on a full-count walk, padding Seattle’s lead to 4-0.
The Reds got a run back in the fifth with two out when, after catcher Devin Mesoraco and former Mariner Jack Hannahan singled, another former Mariner, Shin-Soo Choo, doubled. But Harang escaped without further damage.
The Mariners had two on — both hit by pitches — with one out in the sixth, but Saunders hit into a double play, ending their scoring opportunity.
The Reds tallied their final run in the sixth when Joey Votto homered.
The Mariners and Reds continue their three-game series Saturday at 1:10 p.m. RHP Jeremy Bonderman (1-2, 4.05) will make his seventh start for Seattle while RHP Mat Latos (7-2, 3.03) will work for Cincinnati.
Following the Cincinnati series, the Mariners return to Safeco Field for seven games — four against the Boston Red Sox (Monday-Thursday) and three against the Los Angeles Angels (Friday-Sunday).
NOTES: Raul Ibanez, who went 1-for-4 Friday, extending his hitting streak to 11 games, is the only player 41 years or older in major league history with at least 20 home runs (21) and 40 RBIs at the All-Star break . . . MLB will announce All-Star rosters Saturday and three Mariners are in the running for spots, starters Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma and reliever Oliver Perez. The Mariners have not had a position player selected to the ASG since Ichiro in 2010. All-Star rosters will be announced on Fox at 3:30 p.m. PT . . . Michael Morse (strained quadriceps) ran the bases Friday prior to series opener with Cincinnati in preparation for beginning a rehab assignment. Morse was eligible to come off the DL Friday, but wasn’t quite ready, according to manager Eric Wedge.