SEATTLE (AP) — Nelson Cruz reached another home run milestone, this time with a shot that left no doubt where it was going to land.
“I thought it might be out of the stadium from the angle I was sitting,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
Cruz hit his 20th home run of the season, Robinson Cano had three hits including an RBI single and the Mariners beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Tuesday night.
Seattle won for the third time in four games thanks to an offense that finished with 12 hits and a key walk in the fifth inning that started the Mariners three-run rally.
While Cruz’s home run was the big blow of the fifth inning, the biggest at-bat came from Franklin Gutierrez. With two outs, Gutierrez was able to work a 10-pitch walk off Pittsburgh starter Jonathon Niese (6-6). Gutierrez advanced to second on a wild pitch then came around to score on Cano’s third hit.
“It really started it all. Two out, nobody on and a walk. Amazing how that works,” Servais said. “We talk about it, it’s really what we did a lot earlier in the season and I think this whole homestand has been better.”
Cruz then followed with a line shot just fair down the line. It was his 11th homer this season off a left-hander, and Cruz became the only current player with at least 20 home runs in every season since 2009. David Ortiz and Brian McCann can also reach that mark this season.
“It’s just being able to play a lot of games,” Cruz said. “It’s how you put the numbers (up). You don’t just throw it out there. You have to play games to be able to put up numbers. You’re thinking as a player how to stay healthy and play as many games.”
Niese didn’t make it out of the fifth for his shortest outing of the season.
“I thought I had some pretty good stuff early, just at the end everything went flat,” Niese said.
Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma (7-6) took a shutout into the seventh inning before giving up a pair of runs. Iwakuma has pitched into the seventh in six of his past seven starts. Without his normally sharp splitter, the veteran relied heavily on a slow curveball that kept Pittsburgh off-balance.
“Chris (Iannetta) had a lot of confidence in it in the bullpen. He called it a lot, I didn’t shake and it worked out well,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter.
Iwakuma was nearly perfect through the sixth, facing just one batter over the minimum and allowing two hits. He ran into trouble in the seventh, beginning with Gregory Polanco’s leadoff double. Polanco scored on Starling Marte’s triple to deep right-center field, and Marte scored on David Freese’s two-out single. Iwakuma was lifted after giving up a base hit to Adam Frazier, the fourth hit of the inning.
Edwin Diaz got out of the jam in the seventh and pitched a perfect eighth. Steve Cishek pitched the ninth for his 18th save.
Pittsburgh hitting coach Jeff Branson was ejected by home plate umpire Ben May arguing a strike call on the first pitch of the fifth inning. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle soon followed, getting ejected after a brief argument with May after Branson had been tossed.
“I didn’t think it was warranted, so once he threw (Branson) I went out and let him know that this was a little continuation of what we’ve been dealing with too much,” Hurdle said.
Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (triceps strain) threw a 35-pitch bullpen on Tuesday and threw fastballs and off-speed pitches. Cole threw just 15 pitches in his last bullpen session, all fastballs.
Mariners: RHP Felix Hernandez threw 25 pitches off a mound for the first time since going on the disabled list with a strained calf. Manager Scott Servais said Hernandez didn’t feel any discomfort but there is no timeline yet on a possible return. … LHP Charlie Furbush threw a 35-pitch bullpen session and is scheduled to throw to hitters on Saturday.
Pirates: Jameson Taillon (1-1) makes his fifth career start on Wednesday. He’s allowed eight earned runs in eight innings over his past two starts.
Mariners: Wade Miley (6-3) returns after missing two weeks. Miley’s last start came on June 12 when he lost against Texas. Miley was placed on the disabled list with an impingement in his left shoulder.
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