Score one more for the Control the Zone philosophy.
For the second straight day, the Mariners rallied for a victory in their last at-bat because a collection of their minor-league players refused to expand their strike zone with the game on the line.
Three walks in the eighth inning, including two with the bases loaded, preceded Mike Freeman’s sacrifice fly in a three-run burst that produced a 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants at Peoria Stadium.
"The kids that we’ve brought up are very comfortable," manager Scott Servais said, "and they’re handling themselves great. Through the course of their at-bats, they’re laying off tough pitches.
"Then we get a big hit or something good happens. It’s a testament to the program that’s in place down there."
The Mariners (15-8) overcame a three-run deficit Friday in the ninth inning by scoring seven runs against Arizona for a 9-5 victory. That rally started with three straight walks before Ryan Casteel hit a grand slam.
Against the Giants, the Mariners loaded the bases with one out on two singles and walk against Jose Dominguez. A walk to Tyler O’Neill forced in one run.
Lefty Kraig Sitton, who pitched last year at Triple-A Tacoma, replaced Dominguez and issued a game-tying walk to the Chantz Mack before Freeman lofted a sacrifice fly to center.
Christian Bergman closed out the victory with a one-two-three ninth for his third save.
It didn’t start well.
Hisashi Iwakuma was better than in his previous start but still far from effective. He gave up three runs and six hits over 3 2/3 innings. He was rocked for seven runs in 2 2/3 innings last time out against Milwaukee.
The Mariners fell into a 4-0 hole and didn’t get their first baserunner against Giants starter Matt Moore until Kyle Seager’s two-out walk in the fourth inning.
Moore didn’t allow a hit until Guillermo Heredia grounded a one-out single to left in the fifth. But when Moore didn’t return for the sixth inning, and the Mariners immediately came to life against David Hernandez.
Taylor Motter drew a one-out walk, and pinch-runner Jay Baum scored on Seager’s triple to center. Danny Valencia followed with an RBI double. Heredia’s two-out RBI double closed the gap to 4-3.
San Francisco got one run back on Chris Marrero’s one-out home in the seventh against Jonathan Aro.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Right fielder Ben Gamel prevented Iwakuma’s tough first inning from being even worse by catching Chris Marrero’s deep fly and holding onto the ball after slamming into the wall.
PLUS: Reliever Nick Vincent inherited a two-on, two-out jam in the fifth inning and stranded both runners by inducing a grounder to third from ex-Mariner Justin Ruggiano…right-hander Darin Gillies, a call-up from minor-league camp, pitched a one-two-three eighth inning and got the victory. Gilles pitched last season at Lo-A Clinton and Hi-A Bakersfield.
MINUS: First baseman Dan Vogelbach was hitless in three at-bats with two strikeouts. He has just two hits in his last 21 at-bats, and his average is down to .240 (12-for-50)…center fielder Leonys Martin had been on a recent roll after a rough spring start but went hitless in three at-bats.
STAT PACK: The crowd of 12,358 was a sellout at Peoria Stadium. It was also the Mariners’ largest home crowd of the spring, topping the 12,201 they drew March 10 for an 11-10 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
SPRING BATTLES: Lefty James Pazos replaced Iwakuma in the fourth inning in order to face the Giants before they began substituting. He retired four straight batters before yielding singles on a bloop to center and a soft grounder to second…Heredia went 2-for-3 and boosted his average to .459 (17-for-37).
QUOTABLE: "I don’t think too much about the end result," Iwakuma said, "as long as I get my job done for the day. I needed to work on a few things. I need to fine-tune a couple of pitches. Overall, it’s more (a matter) of getting something out of your start. I felt I got something out of today’s start."
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners’ next round of roster cuts could come as soon as Sunday morning. The camp roster currently contains 51 players, including those still participating in the World Baseball Classic.
UP NEXT: The Mariners make the short trip down Bell Road for a 1:05 p.m. game Sunday against Texas in Surprise.
With the regular season barely two weeks away, the Mariners are opting not to start James Paxton against a division opponent. Instead, lefty Dillon Overton will draw the start. Paxton will start in a minor-league game.
The Rangers will start right-hander Eddie Gamboa, whom they acquired last month from Tampa Bay.
DAYS LEFT UNTIL OPENING DAY: 15
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners