Relievers have yielded one run in last 27 1/3 innings
By Mark Chiarelli
OAKLAND -- Robinson Cano is thankful that, at the very least, the Mariners bullpen is on his side.
Seattle has won seven of its last eight games, and its bullpen has been a major force in that run, allowing just one run in its last 27 1/3 innings. Mariners relievers were lights-out again in Saturday's 4-3 win over the A's, firing 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
"If I was playing on the other side, I would try to get my hits before the eighth or ninth inning," Cano said. "Even the seventh inning, because Tom Wilhelmsen, he can pitch really good too ...
"We just have to try to stay ahead until we get late in the game."
As manager Scott Servais pointed out, Seattle's bullpen operated without much margin for error. Leading 4-3, Seattle put four baserunners on over the final four innings but couldn't add an insurance run.
"Bullpen was outstanding," he said. "That was the story of the game. They shut them down and were very, very good. And they needed to be tonight."
Cano was the catalyst of a three-run Seattle fifth, belting a two-run homer to center field. Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma, who pitched with neck stiffness significant enough to put his start in jeopardy, labored in the sixth inning, allowing a leadoff homer to Khris Davis and a double to Billy Butler. Nick Vincent relieved him and surrendered an RBI single to Jake Smolinski, as the A's drew within a run.
An inning later, they were 90 feet away from tying it.
But Arquimedes Caminero blew a 100.3 mph fastball by Davis to end the seventh inning, stranding Coco Crisp at third base. He's thrown four scoreless appearances since being acquired from the Pirates on Aug. 6.
"He's getting some confidence," Servais said. "I think the change of scenery, sometimes you get some lightning in a bottle. He's got a lot of lightning no doubt."
Wilhelmsen pitched a scoreless 1-2-3 eighth, punctuating the inning with a strikeout of Smolinski, who struck out on a half-hearted chop. Wilhelmsen's posted a 1.80 ERA since signing with the Mariners on June 22.
And then, of course, there's Edwin Diaz, the golden-armed rookie with a record 58 strikeouts in his first 31 innings, who also pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. He got some help on a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch from Adam Lind in foul territory.
"Pprobably the best catch of Adam Lind's life," Servais quipped. Diaz ended the game with a strikeout of Crisp.
Diaz is now 6-for-6 in save opportunities since taking over for Steve Cishek Aug. 2, and finished off the A's in just nine pitches.
Not bad for three guys thrust into new roles amid a playoff push.
"We're winning," Wilhemsen said. "We always have confidence. You can't let that escape you."
The Mariners are 15-8 over their last 23 games and are two games back of the final Wild Card spot in the American League. If they're to continue this surge, they'll continue to rely on their bullpen like they did Saturday.
"You feed off the whole team's energy as well," Wilhelmsen said. "It's not just a handful of guys. The bullpen is definitely its own little entity, but it's a whole team effort and you see that."
Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.