Mariners' bullpen continues early stellar work

Zych earns first big league win; unit has been dominant on road

Mariners' bullpen continues early stellar work

CLEVELAND -- A bullpen projected by many as the Mariners' potential Achilles' heel this season instead has turned into an early strength, as evidenced again in Thursday's 10-7 series-clinching victory over the Indians at Progressive Field.

While the rotation has posted a 3-6 record and 3.92 ERA over Seattle's first 15 games, the bullpen crew is now 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA after putting in another 4 2/3 solid innings in relief of Nathan Karns. Though Joaquin Benoit gave up a game-tying two-run homer in the eighth, five Seattle relievers combined to allow just three hits and those two runs while putting the Mariners in position to win their third straight road series.

"Yeah, it was another really good day for the bullpen," manager Scott Servais said. "We'll keep rolling. Other than the one pitch, it was a solid day. "

Steve Cishek closed out a perfect 10th for his third save of the year and second in two days, while rookie Tony Zych picked up his first career win with a scoreless ninth.

"We're all pulling our own weight right now, and it's just really fun," Zych said. "We've got a great group down there, and with [bullpen coach Mike Hampton] going over hitters, I just think we've got a good handle on it right now, and I just hope it keeps going."

The Mariners' bullpen has allowed just three earned runs in 30 innings for a 0.90 ERA on the road this season, a big reason the club has won its first three road series for the first time since 2002.

They celebrated this one with a beer shower for Zych in the winning clubhouse, a tradition for anyone who records his first MLB win. Zych's eyes were still red afterward after he was pelted with hot sauce, catsup, cold beer and anything else his teammates could find.

"Yeah, once in a lifetime, obviously," Zych said of his first victory. "Not many words can describe it, to be honest. Then I just had a little ice bath, I guess. I don't even know what was in there. I just put my head down and got crushed."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.