James Paxton and three relievers extricated the Mariners from their dither, Dae-Ho Lee drove in three runs, and Seattle ended a four-game losing streak with a 6-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday at Tropicana Field (box). The Mariners (35-31), who scored all of their runs with two outs and held the Rays to 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position, survived two late scares, avoided getting swept and remain 6.5 games behind Texas in the AL West.
Paxton threw six effective innings and recorded his first victory of the season, and closer Steve Cishek notched his 15th save. But the majority of the drama occurred during Tampa at-bats in the seventh and eighth innings.
With the Mariners leading 5-3, rookie Edwin Diaz relieved Paxton in the seventh and, with one out, allowed singles to Logan Forsythe and Steve Pearce. But Diaz fanned ex-Mariner Logan Morrison and Desmond Jennings with wicked fastballs.
Replacing Diaz, Joaquin Benoit had a more adventuresome eighth with a season-high 36 pitches. After allowing two singles with two outs, Benoit walked the bases full on four pitches and yielded a run-scoring single to former Mariner Brad Miller. Benoit went to 3-and-2 on Pearce, the best hitter in the Tampa lineup, before firing the game-saving pitch right by him.
The Mariners collected 13 hits and received multi-hit games from RF Franklin Gutierrez (2-for-5), 2B Robinson Cano (2-for-4), 1B Lee (2-for-3, walk) and C Chris Iannetta (3-for-5). Iannetta caught 13 innings Wednesday night and nine Thursday. Iannetta hit .455 in the three-game series . . . Lee produced an RBI single in the first and an RBI double in the fourth. He has 27 RBIs and is batting .298 . . . 3B Kyle Seager’s ninth-inning home run was his 13th and the 97th for the Mariners . . . The Mariners went 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position . . . Morrison went 0-for-5 Thursday and 0-for-14 in the three-game series . . . Pearce went 3-for-5 for the Rays.
Paxton allowed three runs on seven hits in six innings, striking out five with two walks among his 105 pitches. His ERA: 2.86 . . . Diaz threw a scoreless seventh with two strikeouts and no walks and lowered his ERA to 1.42 . . . Cishek needed 16 pitches to record his 15th save and lower his ERA to 2.61 . . . The four Seattle pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts and have fanned 10 or more in five consecutive contests . . . Shorewood High School grad Blake Snell received the start for the Rays, but lasted only 3.1 innings as the Mariners nailed him for five runs on eight hits. Snell (0-1) struck out three and walked three and took the loss.
“This is a very close-knit team. We believe in each other. You are going to have ups and downs and we just went through a down stretch. (James) Paxton had a gutsy performance. He knew he had to go as hard as he could for as long as he could, and he did that.” – Iannetta
“Thank God we got through it. We had a little losing streak and it’s been tough to get over the hump, but we got over it. I can’t say enough about our catcher, to catch that game last night and come out and have the kind of game he did today. This was a tough series for us, and we were lucky to get out of here with a win. Diaz was electric, awesome, but we had no easy innings.” — Mariners manager Scott Servais
Had the Mariners lost, they would have matched a season-high five-game losing streak (April 8-12) . . . Mariners improved to 20-12 on the road . . . Seattle is 12-7-3 in overall series and 7-2-2 on the road . . . Mariners completed their season series with the Rays with a 4-2 record and are 8-4 against the AL East . . . Taijuan Walker, who left Tuesday’s game with tendinitis in the arch of his right foot, said Thursday that he’s a full go for his start Sunday at Fenway Park opposite Boston’s David Price. Walker is 3-6 with a 3.69 ERA in 13 starts . . . First-round draft pick Kyle Lewis has officially joined the Everett AquaSox and will play Friday in the Tri-Cities . . . The walk-off walk that Mike Montgomery issued to end Wednesday’s 3-2 loss at Tampa Bay was the first such walk-off since Aug. 17, 2015, when Fernando Rodney walked in the winning run in a 4-3 loss at Texas.
The Mariners begin a three-game series at Fenway Park in Boston Friday at 4:10 p.m. PT. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (5-5, 4.10) will throw for Seattle against former Mariner LHP Roenis Elias (0-0, 16.20), just called up by the Red Sox from AAA. After three in Boston, the Mariners play four in Detroit before returning to Safeco Field June 24 to face the St. Louis Cardinals.