MARINERS CAPSULE for FRIDAY
Lefty Wade LeBlanc limits Orioles to two runs and three hits in six innings
Mariners get homers from Smith, Seager and Lee
Diaz makes a case for duty as club’s primary set-up reliever
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Mariners 5, Orioles 2: LeBlanc strong again before bullpen secures victory
By BOB DUTTON
SEATTLE — Journeyman left-hander Wade LeBlanc is building a case to be more than a temporary replacement in the Mariners’ bullpen. And rookie Edwin Diaz is emerging as a dominant set-up reliever.
Throw in homers from Seth Smith, Kyle Seager and Dae-Ho Lee, and the result Friday was a 5-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field.
LeBlanc (1-0) delivered a second straight strong start when he held the Orioles to two runs and three hits in six innings. That followed six scoreless innings in his previous start after arriving in a June 22 deal from Toronto.
"All you can really ask for as a guy in my position is an opportunity," he said. "I’ve been fortunate enough to get in here with a good team, a catcher (Chris Iannetta) who is familiar with me, a GM (Jerry Dipoto) and a manager (Scott Servais) who are familiar with me.
"It’s a really comfortable situation. Hopefully, we can make it work for a little bit longer."
It was that familiarity, from their time with the Angels in 2014, that prompted interest from Dipoto and Servais when the Mariners went looking late last month for a temporary replacement in the rotation.
"He doesn’t get flustered," Servais said. "He’s been around. He’s not a young guy out there. He’s pitched a lot of baseball. He uses the change-up. He knows that’s his weapon.
"But he’s got enough fastball, and he locates it well, to keep them off the change-up."
Mike Montgomery inherited a 3-2 lead from LeBlanc and pitched around a single and an error in a scoreless seventh before the Mariners turned to Diaz in the eighth inning against the top of the Orioles’ lineup.
Diaz yielded a one-out single to Jonathan Schoop but struck out three All-Stars — Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Chris Davis — in protecting a one-run lead.
"You can tell why they like him so much," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, "because he’s done a great job for them. He’s got a good young arm."
Lee’s homer was a two-run blast in the eighth against reliever Chaz Roe, which provided closer Steve Cishek with a three-run cushion. Cishek responded by setting down the Orioles for his 20th save in 24 chances.
The Mariners have now won five of seven on their nine-game homestand in improved to 41-39. The last two victories came against the Orioles, who arrived Thursday with a seven-game winning streak.
Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman (1-6) carried a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning but yielded a leadoff double to Nelson Cruz into the right-center gap.
Seager then fouled off two 96-mph fastballs before crushing a third one for a 429-foot drive to right for a two-run homer. The Mariners led 3-2.
"I was late on the first two," he said. "You kind of know what he wants to do, and he knows what you want to do. I’m trying to get Nelson over. A fastball up and in is a good pitch there. It’s a tougher pitch to pull.
"You cheat a little bit in those situations and, thankfully, it worked."
Smith gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead with a booming one-out homer in the first inning that caromed off the scoreboard at the base of the second deck in right field.
The Orioles pulled even on Davis’ leadoff homer in the second inning on a fly with just enough carry to clear the center-field wall over a leaping Leonys Martin.
Joey Rickard’s one-out double past third in the third inning led to the go-ahead run for Baltimore when Schoop punched a two-out RBI single to left.
LeBlanc and the bullpen allowed nothing more.
"Our pitching has stabilized," Servais said. "That’s been the key to the homestand. We’ve gotten some good starts from ours, and that lines up our bullpen and gives our offense a chance to get going.
"We’re capable of playing this way for an extended period of time. We did it earlier in the year. We talked about it (Thursday) that it’s something that needs to happen now."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Right fielder Nelson Cruz ran down a deep two-out drive in the seventh inning by Joey Rickard with two runners on base. That brought an acknowledgement from reliever Mike Montgomery.
"That’s two birthday boys right there," Montgomery said. "I told him, `Hey, birthday boy, you’ve got my back."
Cruz turned 36 on Saturday, while Montgomery turned 27.
PLUS: Seth Smith had three hits and is 6-for-12 in his last three games…Edwin Diaz has 26 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings after striking out the side in the eighth inning. He also lowered his ERA to 1.88…Dae-Ho Lee went 3-for-4 and raised his average to .295. He has three multi-hit games in his last five starts…reliever Mike Montgomery has pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings in his last three appearances.
MINUS: Robinson Cano, Adam Lind and Ketel Marte were each hitless in four at-bats…catcher Chris Iannetta committed an error on a throw to first in the seventh inning after fielding Hyun Soo Kim’s squibber. First baseman Dae-Ho Lee had a chance to bail out Iannetta by digging the ball.
STAT PACK: Seth Smith’s homer in the first inning marked the 11th time in his career that he’s hit homers in consecutive games. He had a two-run drive in the fourth inning of Thursday’s 5-3 victory over the Orioles…the Mariners have hit 59 homers this season at Safeco Field. That’s a club record before the All-Star break. Their previous best since their 1999 move into Safeco was 56 in 2000.
QUOTABLE: Rookie reliever Edwin Diaz on the rapid improvement of his slider: "I started working with (Joaquin) Benoit and the pitching coach (Mel Stottlemyre Jr.).
"They showed me a new grip, and I started using it in the game. I’ve (had) good results with that new grip. I feel pretty comfortable with it.
"I threw with that same grip in the minor leagues my first and second year. Then I changed the grip. Now, I’m back with the old grip, and it’s working."
SHORT HOPS: Wade LeBlanc got his first major-league victory since Sept. 23, 2014, which came while pitching for the Angels at Oakland. That amounts to 646 days between between victories…Kyle Seager’s two-run homer was his 16th of the season, a personal best prior to the All-Star break. He had 15 in two previous seasons…Dae-Ho Lee pulled a one-out double past third base in the fourth inning and, before he reached second, the Safeco sound system was playing the theme to ‘Speed Racer."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners