SEATTLE (AP) – After expecting the night off, Tony Zych made the most of a surprise call in the ninth inning.
Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager each hit a two-run homer, and Zych bailed out struggling closer Edwin Diaz with a game-ending strikeout with the bases loaded to preserve Seattle’s 6-5 victory over the Oakland Athletics as the Mariners made the most of four hits on Monday.
Oakland scored twice in the ninth, when Diaz walked four of the five batters he faced to force in a run. Zych relieved, and the second run scored on Khris Davis’ groundout. After an intentional walk to Yonder Alonso loaded the bases again, Zych struck out Adam Rosales looking on a 3-2 pitch for his first major league save.
“I knew it was close, and got excited when he called it,” said Zych, who had 20 saves in the minors. “I’ve been a closer forever. You don’t close here. We’ve got an unbelievable guy, Eddie, and obviously he was a little shaky tonight, but with his stuff, he’ll be fine. It was special for me.”
Diaz, who had 18 saves last season as a rookie after moving into the closer’s role on Aug. 1, gave up the game-winning home run Sunday in a 3-2 loss at Toronto, where the Mariners were swept four straight.
“Tony Zych, great job tonight,” manager Scott Servais said. “He was actually supposed to be down tonight. We got to the point where we just had to go for it. Obviously, it didn’t look like Eddie was going to work his way out of it.”
Cruz’s home run, his ninth, put Seattle up 4-0 in the second as the Mariners capitalized on five walks by Sean Manaea (1-3), activated off the disabled list earlier in the day.
Oakland pulled to 4-3 on a solo homer by Davis in the fourth and a two-run shot by Stephen Vogt in the fifth. Both came off starter Yovanni Gallardo (2-3), who allowed three runs and four hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Seager made it 6-3 in the eighth with his third home run. Guillermo Heredia, who reached on a two-base throwing error by shortstop Chad Pinder, scored ahead of Seager.
Manaea’s four walks after a leadoff single by Jean Segura led to a pair of Seattle runs in a 38-pitch first inning. Manaea escaped further damage by striking out Tuffy Gosewisch with the bases loaded to end the inning.
After Cruz’s homer, Manaea retired his final 10 batters. He allowed four runs and two hits in five innings with seven strikeouts in his first start since April 26.
“He was really rusty at the beginning and I’m surprised we got five innings out of him, because 90 pitches was as far as he was going to go,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “And he gave us pretty much exactly that. In the first inning he was one more hitter away from coming out in the first inning, so he looked a little rusty early on but got it together.”
OUT OF TROUBLE
Seattle escaped in the seventh after Vogt walked with one out and Pinder doubled, chasing Gallardo. Dan Altaville relieved and walked Rajai Davis on four pitches to load the bases, but Matt Joyce struck out and Jed Lowrie bounced to second. “It’s easy to look back and see the last inning play out, but there was some opportunities earlier, too,” Melvin said.
Athletics: RHP John Axford (strained right shoulder) is likely to make his second rehab appearance with Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday. … C Bruce Maxwell was optioned to Nashville to make room for Manaea, who had been sidelined with a strained left shoulder. Manaea made one rehab start at Nashville.
Mariners: 2B Robinson Cano (sore quadriceps) sat out again. He originally was in the lineup, but was scratched. … RHP Steve Cishek was activated off the 10-day DL after recovering from hip surgery, and LHP Zac Curtis was optioned to Double-A Arkansas. Cishek entered in the eighth and retired his only batter. … OF Mitch Haniger, on the 10-day DL with a strained right oblique, hit off a tee in the batting cage. “Really positive and moving in the right direction,” Servais said. … LHP James Paxton (left forearm strain) recently played light catch and is projected to throw a bullpen Wednesday or Thursday.
Athletics: RHP Andrew Triggs (5-2, 2.21 ERA) has given up just one home run in 40 2/3 innings over seven starts. In four of his starts, he did not allow an earned run. One of his two losses, however, was at home against Seattle, when he was tagged for a season-high six runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Mariners: Rookie RHP Chase De Jong (0-3, 7.85), acquired from the Dodgers in early March, makes his third major league start. He’s had one solid start – one run on four hits in six innings – between a pair of rocky outings.
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