RF Nelson Cruz rocked Safeco Field with a crushing homer, his 20th, as the Mariners improved to 9-2 in interleague play with a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday night (box). Seattle (39-38) pounded out 12 hits and had a solid start from veteran Hisashi Iwakuma to win the opener of the two-game series.
The Mariners had a 2-0 lead in the fifth as Pittsburgh starter Jonathon Niese got the first two outs easily. RF Franklin Gutierrez drew a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch, then scored on a single by 2B Robinson Cano. Cruz followed with his homer, a 424-foot shot into the upper deck in left that left the bat at 114 mph. All runs scored with two outs and chased Niese from the game.
Iwakuma had a strong outing, although he tired in the seventh. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning – on a bunt single – and he took a 5-0 lead into the seventh before allowing four hits and two runs. Iwakuma (7-6) allowed six hits over 6.2 innings. Rookie Edwin Diaz, using a fastball that touched 101 miles per hour, got four consecutive outs to get the game into the ninth. Closer Steve Cishek gave up a leadoff hit but recovered to earn his 18th save.
Cano had three singles. 3B Kyle Seager also had three hits, and his seventh-inning double nearly brought in a run – but 1B Dae-Ho Lee, chugging to score from first, was thrown out at home plate. Lee had a pair of singles.
“We have a good team. We can do a lot of things, not just the long ball.” — Cruz
“He threw Branson, I didn’t think it was warranted. So once he threw him, I just went out and let him know that this has been a little continuation of what we’ve been dealing with too much — too many short at-bats for us. That was basically the gist of the conversation.” — Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on his ejection for arguing ball and strikes, following the ejection of hitting coach Jeff Branson for the same thing
Felix Hernandez threw off a mound Tuesday for the first time since going on the DL on June 1. Hernandez had a 25-pitch bullpen session. “His arm looks great,” manager Scott Servais told reporters. “Obviously, it’s fresh.” . . . With LHP Wade Miley scheduled to come off the disabled list Wednesday, RHP Taijuan Walker ready to return Thursday from a foot injury and LHP Wade LeBlanc earning another start Friday, the Mariners shuffled the starting rotation. RHP Nathan Karns, the team’s most consistent starter in April and May with a team-best record of 6-2, was moved to the bullpen because of a rough patch in June — 17 walks in 23 innings . . . Cruz has eight consecutive 20-homer seasons. The only other active players who have hit at least 20 home runs in each of the previous seven seasons are Boston DH David Ortiz and Yankees C Brian McCann.
Miley (6-3, 5.28 ERA) will make his first start since June 13 at 7 p.m. Wednesday. He goes against Pittsburgh RHP Jameson Taillon (1-1, 4.50 ERA) in his fifth career start. The Baltimore Orioles come to town Thursday.