After an exasperating streak of five games in which they scored a single run in each, all losses, Nelson Cruz’s 3-run homer made things right in Washington, D.C. No small feat these days.
The Mariners need to try nooners more often — for the first time in nearly a week, they are smiling. Quality work against a premier Washington offense from a starter and four relievers, including Edwin Diaz in the closer role, plus a whopping four runs from the offense ended Seattle’s losing streak at five Thursday. The 4-2 triumph (box) was also their first in nine games in the nation’s capital.
Nelson Cruz’s three-run homer in the sixth after starter Ariel Miranda, temporarily the staff ace, surrendered two in the fifth, gave the Mariners a 3-2 lead and ended the futility of five consecutive games with a single run in each.
The game’s start was moved up four hours to noon ET to avoid impending bad weather, and was preceded by a bit of a verbal storm after the 5-1 loss Wednesday from normally mild-mannered Scott Servais. The Mariners manager calmly but directly called out his team that had been outscored 41-5.
“We’ve got to pick up our intensity,” he said. “We are better than this. I’ve about had enough of this. We need to dial it up a little.”
Servais himself was amped Thursday, getting tossed for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout.
“You saw the adrenaline spike on everybody today — myself included,” Servais said, smiling. “I knew I was the one. I was yelling the loudest. The 50-50 pitches, I thought (home plate umpire Adam Hamari) was very inconsistent on those.
“Guys joked about it — we’re 2-0 in games I was ejected. Guys probably like to see it more.”
Indeed the Mariners, a fairly clinical outfit, could use a little more passion. There’s nothing to be done about the injuries to pitchers — “nobody cares,” Servais said Wednesday — but the offense had few excuses for hitting .170 with 33 strikeouts over the losing streak.
Cruz, playing right field for the second time in three games in the National League park, fired things up after the Mariners forced out starter Gio Gonzalez and reached the Nationals’ weak bullpen. Jacob Turner was the victim in the sixth, and again in the seventh when Robinson Cano had an RBI single, his fifth hit in two games.
“That’s what you need — veteran players driving the train,” Servais said. “These guys know even in May when you’re struggling, you got to keep hanging in there. We played how the Mariners play today.”
That included Miranda, who gave up two runs on three hit three walks, but kept the game within range, a change from the struggles of the newbie callups. In his last 14 starts since since Sept. 7 before Thursday, Miranda was 6-3 with a 3.40 ERA with 68 strikeouts. Among pitchers with 75+ innings in that span, his 3.40 ERA is the 10th-best in the AL and second-best by a left-hander behind Boston’s Chris Sale (3.14).
“Miranda really went right after them today,” Servais said. “He was in attack mode. Our guys really responded to a disappointing effort.”
After he left, Tony Zych, James Pazos, Nick Vincent, Marc Rzepczynski and Diaz stymied the majors’ most productive offense. After scoring his first save since May 9, Diaz appears to have mended the mechanical flaws that forced Servais to pull him from the closer’s job.
“We did have a lead in the ninth to work him in,” Servais said. “We went to the bullpen early — Zych was outstanding, Pazos really good, Vinny and Zep kept them right there. Eddie just happened to be the guy at the end. We like him in that spot.”
The win was the fourth in 14 games for the Mariners (21-27), who have the second-worst record in the AL. They move to Boston’s Fenway Park for three games starting at 4:10 p.m. Friday when RHP Yovani Gallardo opposes the Red Sox’s Eduardo Rodriguez.