The St. Louis Cardinals had 17 hits. Thirteen of them went for extra bases.
Yet this was a back-and-forth game before they found the nail to hammer in the Mariners’ coffin with one final lead change.
It came after Seattle’s Franklin Gutierrez tied it with a three-run homer in the sixth inning.
The Cardinals hit six home runs from the sixth inning on — including back-to-back homers from Jedd Gyorko and Tommy Pham to lead off the seventh — as St. Louis avoided a three-game sweep at Safeco Field with an 11-6 win Sunday afternoon in front of 35,955 fans, maybe half of them in Cardinals red.
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“I think something that gets lost in this thing is we won the series,” Mariners catcher Chris Iannetta said. “We would love to sweep, obviously. That’s great. But we won two out of three, and that’s what we’re trying to do from here on out is just win series.”
But you could see why that might get lost.
Pham and Matt Carpenter each hit two home runs among all those extra-base knocks (five doubles, two triples and six home runs). ... The Mariners called on six pitchers ahead of Monday’s day off before a two-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. ... Some fans at one point were chanting “Let’s go Cardinals.” ... And Seattle manager Scott Servais was ejected for the first time since he was a player after arguing a called third strike against Shawn O’Malley in the sixth.
The Mariners (38-38) fell back to .500 after halting a six-game losing skid with two wins to start this interleague series.
“We saw some pitches up,” Servais said. “I had a really good view sitting in my office. I got to see a little more from there. Ball was up and was jumping pretty good in this ballpark today. We just didn’t locate it.
“There could be different reasons for that. The guys have been logging a lot of innings. We get a day off (Monday), and we’ll get right back at it.”
The Mariners have had one starting pitcher last more than six innings in their past nine games. That was Sunday starter James Paxton’s previous start, when he went 7 2/3 innings in a 4-2 loss to Detroit.
Seattle is 2-7 in that stretch, which includes Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Tigers in 10 innings — in which starter Adrian Sampson was pulled for what would be a season-ending injury before he could throw an official pitch.
“Over the course of the season we (the pitchers) have absorbed a lot of innings,” Iannetta said. “We’ve asked them to do a lot, and they’ve all rose to the challenge.
“Just days like this happen.”
The Cardinals were the first on the scoreboard, plating a run in the first inning thanks to back-to-back doubles from Carpenter and Aledmys Diaz, who finished with three doubles.
That should have been the first sign.
But Nelson Cruz tied it on an RBI groundout in the bottom half of the inning for his 50th RBI of the season. O’Malley doubled in a run in the second, and Cruz crushed a solo home run in the third.. The Mariners led, 3-1.
Then it was back to the Cardinals.
Paxton’s day was never easy aside from a one-two-three fourth inning.
But it looked like Paxton, a left-hander, had found a groove, retiring six consecutive batters. He locked in after Gutierrez’s stellar catch in the second inning, when the right fielder leapt to catch Carpenter’s fly off the top of the wall.
Instead, the wheels came off in the fifth.
Diaz, Matt Holliday and Stephen Piscotty hit back-to-back-to-back doubles, and Brandon Moss followed with a triple for three runs to put St. Louis up, 4-3. And all it took was seven Paxton pitches.
“I felt like I was battling all day,” Paxton said. “I didn’t have my ‘A’ stuff. The command really wasn’t there. But we were fighting. … They hit some good pitches that last inning.”
St. Louis added one more run on a Kyle Seager error on a backhand attempt at third base.
Paxton got out of the fifth, but that was the end of his day. He allowed eight hits and five runs (all earned), while striking out seven and laboring through 101 pitches.
It was his shortest outing since his season debut — when San Diego plated eight runs (three earned) in 3 2/3 innings. He followed that with 27 strikeouts in 26 innings over his next four outings with a 2.77 ERA.
“I was missing up in the zone a little bit,” Paxton said. “I wasn’t able to drive it into the bottom of the zone like I had my last few outings.”
St. Louis extended its lead to 6-3 on a Carpenter solo homer in the sixth, but the Mariners were still in it after Gutierrez’s three-run shot in the bottom of the inning … until the Cardinals got deeper into the bullpen.
St. Louis got back-to-back homers (Gyorko and Pham) off Nick Vincent in the seventh. Holliday tagged Edwin Diaz for a solo shot in the eighth.
Pham and Carpenter hit their second homers of the day in the ninth inning against Vidal Nuno, who three days ago had replaced Sampson for the start against the Tigers.
“You talk about streaks and getting your team rolling, it starts with starting pitching,” Servais said. “There’s no doubt. We’ve kind of gone the other way on our consistency with being able to get into the sixth or seventh inning, which saves your bullpen.”
Said Iannetta: “They’ve (the relievers) had to absorb a ton of innings. A ton of innings. Some days it’s going to happen. You pitch that much and you’re asked to do that much over a course of a season, you’re going to have days like this.”
PLAY OF THE GAME: Gutierrez, known once as “Death to Flying Things,” leapt to the top of the wall in right field to snag a long fly ball from Carpenter in the second. It didn’t appear that it would have been a home run, but most likely a double that could have driven in a run.
Instead, it was the second out of the inning and it got Paxton in a groove … at least for a while.
PLUS: More Gutierrez — his day included that fine catch as well as a game-tying three-run homer in the sixth inning. … Cruz recorded his 50th and 51st RBIs of the season with the RBI groundout and solo home run, and then led off the seventh with a double.
MINUS: The Mariners had clawed back to tie it at 6-6 before Vincent surrendered back-to-back home runs to Gyorko and Pham (Pham’s third hit of the season) to lead off the seventh. Pham’s fourth hit of the year was his homer in the ninth. … Seager’s error allowed the Cardinals to score one more run in what was already a runaway fifth.
STAT PACK: Cruz’s home run was his 19th of the season (tied for Robinson Cano for the most on the team), and he leads the major leagues with 24 home runs against left-handed hitters since 2015. He has an MLB-best 10 homers against lefties this season.
QUOTABLE: “We got everything, it’s just baseball,” Gutierrez said. “Sometimes you’re going to win, sometimes you’re going to lose. We got a pretty good team here.
“Hopefully, tomorrow is that day off where we can recover for a long stretch and come back for a few series and try to win a few series.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677