It’s an open question as to whether there are any easy ways to win games. But it’s hard to envision any way much tougher than protecting a one-run lead over the closing innings at Coors Field.
The Mariners pulled that off Monday afternoon in holding on for a 6-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies with a magnificent bullpen relay by six relievers.
“That was outstanding,” second baseman Robinson Cano said. “Especially in this field where anything you hit in the air can be a homer. Three innings, leading by just one run, that was pretty good by our bullpen.” The Mariners’ long-slumbering attack also shows renewed signs of life. One day after a 16-hit performance in a 5-0 victory at Boston, the Mariners built leads of 3-0 and 6-2 for rookie starter Sam Gaviglio.
It was a balanced attack with seven different players either scoring or driving in a run. Nearly all of the damage came against Colorado starter Tyler Chatwood, who gave up six runs in 4-1/3 innings.
Gaviglio (1-1) surrendered homers to Charlie Blackmon in the third inning and Trevor Story in the fifth but carried a 6-3 lead into the sixth inning.
But when Colorado opened the sixth with singles by D.J. LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado, the Mariners went to their bullpen for lefty James Pazos, who permitted both inherited runners to score before ending the inning.
It was 6-5 at the point.
That’s how it ended.
Pazos and Tony Zych pitched a scoreless seventh inning. Nick Vincent, Marc Rzepczynski and Dan Altavilla then combined for a scoreless eighth before Edwin Diaz blew through three hitters in the ninth.
Diaz got his ninth save and has now worked six scoreless innings in his last five outings.
“Eddie’s got his confidence back,” manager Scott Servais said. “You guys can see it. Command of the fastball is the big thing. When he does that, then the slider doesn’t have to be perfect.
“When you can work the game to have that anchor in the ninth inning, it’s so valuable. We have the pieces to do that, but you’ve got to have that guy at the back end.”
Gaviglio’s final line was worse than he probably deserved at five runs in five-plus innings, but it was good enough for his first big-league victory.
“The bullpen,” he said, “did a great job. That was big for us.”
The Mariners (23-29) have now won back-to-back games, and scored 11 runs in the process, after a 1-7 skid that saw them score just nine runs.
“About time,” Cano said. “It’s about time we’ve done that. Especially against a first-place team at their place. We’ve got a good team. We’ve just got to compete and keep grinding every single day.”
Gaviglio ignited a three-run third inning with a leadoff single to center. The Mariners loaded the bases with no outs when Chatwood (4-7) hit Jean Segura in the left hand and walked Ben Gamel.
A wild pitch scored Gaviglio and moved the other runners to second and third for Cano, whose grounder to second produced another run. Nelson Cruz followed with a run-scoring ground out for a 3-0 lead.
Blackmon’s homer later in the inning made it 3-1, and the Rockies pulled closer on Gerardo Parra’s two-out RBI single in the fourth before the Mariners struck back with a three-run fifth inning.
One-out singles by Gamel and Cano preceded a walk to Cruz before Seager punched a two-run double into center. Scott Oberg replaced Chatwood but yielded an RBI single to Danny Valencia.
The Mariners led 6-2.
Then it was hold-on time at Coors.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Catcher Mike Zunino turned what seemed an excellent bunt by Tony Wolters into the first out of the Colorado third inning.
PLUS: First baseman Danny Valencia went 3-for-5 and has hits in seven straight games. He also made a nice defensive play to get a foot back on the base after coming off to catch an errant throw from Pazos in the sixth inning. … Every starter in the Mariners’ lineup reached base at least once for the second straight game. … The Mariners drew six walks in addition to their 10 hits. … Rzepczynski retired the only batter he faced and has 19 scoreless outings in 20 appearances.
MINUS: Segura was hit in the left hand by a Chatwood pitch in the third inning. Initially it looked bad, but he played the entire game. … Pazos permitted two inherited runners to score. He has stranded just four of nine inherited runners. … The Mariners were 2-for-13 with the runners in scoring position and left the bases loaded in the fifth and eighth innings.
STAT PACK: Zunino snapped an 0-for-14 skid with a double in the second inning. He finished 2-for-4 with a walk. … Mariners pitchers are 2-for-15 at the plate this season after Gaviglio went 1-for-3. Yovani Gallardo had the other hit.
QUOTABLE: Gaviglio on pitching at Coors Field: “It’s like pitching in a PCL (Pacific Coast League) game. A lot of high-altitude parks.”
SHORT HOPS: Triple-A Tacoma manager Pat Listach served as the bench coach, and will do so again Tuesday. Regular bench coach Tim Bogar is attending to a family matter. … The Mariners won back-to-back games for the first time since May 17-18. The last time they scored more than five runs was May 16. … The Rockies have lost two straight one-run games after starting the season at 9-0.
ON DECK: The Mariners and Rockies complete the Denver portion of their four-game split series at 4:10 p.m. PDT Tuesday at Coors Field.
Seattle left-hander Ariel Miranda (4-2 with a 4.22 ERA) will oppose Colorado left-hander Tyler Anderson (3-4. 5.40).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710-AM and the Mariners Radio Network.
The teams play at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday and 12:40 p.m. Thursday at Safeco Field.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners