KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It wasn’t only a two-run wild pitch that enabled the Mariners to break their 10-game road losing streak Friday night in a 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
Hisashi Iwakuma pitched into the seventh inning, and a bullpen relay first stranded the tying run in scoring position and, second, recorded the final seven outs with minimal fuss.
But that two-run wild pitch sure helped.
It was 1-1 with two outs in the sixth inning when Seth Smith lined a two-out single to center against Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura. Smith went to third when Robinson Cano pulled a double into the right-field corner.
Nelson Cruz briefly gave the Mariners a 4-1 lead when his foul ball to deep right was called a homer by first-base umpire C.B. Bucknor.
The call was clearly wrong and the umpires, after conferring, quickly corrected it to a foul ball. That brought a request from manager Scott Servais for a review — not a challenge — but the corrected call stood.
Then the game turned.
Ventura bounced a wild pitch past catcher Salvy Perez that scored Smith. When Perez’s throw got past Ventura at the plate on Smith’s slide, Cano came around for a 3-1 lead.
"I made a hard turn (at third)," Cano said, "and saw I could score when I saw the ball going away from Ventura. I knew he was going to have to make a perfect throw to get me out.
"I thought, `I’m going.’ And I’m the fastest guy in the league…I’m just kidding."
He was fast enough and, for the first time since June 17, smiles and jokes permeated the Mariners’ clubhouse after a road game.
As what he saw at the plate on the wild pitch, Cruz offered: "Just balls flying all over the plate." And Cano’s effort? "He was really fast…I guess."
Servais said the Mariners anticipated a wild pitch from Ventura with two runners in scoring position and Cruz at the plate.
"We talked about it, actually, before it happened," he said. "To be alive. We knew we were going to get a lot of breaking balls to Nelson Cruz in that situation. Smitty was aware. He was on top of it. Both guys were heads up."
Iwakuma lasted until two outs in the seventh before exiting with two runners on base. Edwin Diaz stranded both runners by retiring Jarrod Dyson on a grounder to second.
Vidal Nuno replace Diaz to start the eighth but, after retiring Alex Gordon, gave way to Joaquin Benoit, who retired the next two batters.
Steve Cishek gave up a one-out homer in the ninth inning to Salvy Perez, who had a two-run double Thursday against Cishek that gave the Royals a 4-3 walk-off victory. But Cishek retired the next two hitters for his 21st save.
"It hurt me personally (Thursday) because I know we’re trying to make a push,’ Cishek said. "We’ve been close in the majority of our ballgames this year. It’s all a matter finishing them.
"That’s why I was so glad today to get another opportunity to get back out there and make up for what happened (Thursday)."
Iwakuma (9-6) won for the eighth time in his last 10 starts by limiting the Royals to one run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.
"I was able to make good pitches, location-wise, when I needed to," he said. "I could change speeds and go back and forth. With the breaking ball, they were chasing those pitches, which made it very helpful."
Ventura (6-7) allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings.
The victory boosted the Mariners back over .500 at 44-43 with two more games remaining against the Royals before the four-day break for the All-Star Game.
Iwakuma retired the first eight Royals before two-out singles by Jarrod Dyson and Alex Gordon put runners at first and third in the third inning. Iwakuma escaped when Whit Merrifield grounded out to second.
Cano held the ball a beat longer than what appeared necessary, which made for a close play at first base.
Kansas City mounted another two-out threat in the fourth inning when Perez, a noted free-swinger, drew a four-pitch walk and moved to second on Paulo Orlando’s single into center.
This time, Iwakuma didn’t escape. When Cheslor Cuthbert pulled a single into left, the Royals sent Perez from second against Smith.
Perez scored when third baseman Kyle Seager cut the throw and threw out Orlando before he could scramble back to second. The run counted.
The Mariners answered after Seager opened the fifth with a double to right and came around on deep fly-outs by Adam Lind and Ketel Marte.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Nelson Cruz believes first-base umpire C.B. Bucknor lost track of Cruz’s fly ball to deep right field in the sixth inning against the sea of light-colored shirts.
Bucknor initially signaled a three-run homer, which other members of the umpiring crew, after conferencing, quickly reversed. Replays showed the ball was clearly foul.
"I lost it," Cruz said. "I think that’s the same thing that happened to C.B. He lost it, too. I asked the guys in the dugout, and they all said it was foul. But I had no clue where it went."
PLUS: Kyle Seager extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a double in the fifth inning…Robinson Cano went 2-for-4 for his third straight multi-hit game. He leads the club with 33 overall…reliever Joaquin Benoit recorded two quick outs after replacing Vidal Nuno with one out in the eighth inning. It was the first time in five outings that Benoit did not allow a batter to reach base…
MINUS: Leonys Martin was hitless in four at-bats and has only five hits in his last 42 at-bats. His average is down to .242…Adam Lind was also hitless in four at-bats, although his fly to deep right in the fifth inning moved Kyle Seager to third and led to the Mariners’ first run.
STAT PACK: Hisashi Iwakuma is 49-7 in 69 career starts when the Mariners score at least three runs. He is 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five career starts against Kansas City, and 13-2 with a 2.13 ERA on 28 career starts against American League Central Division opponents.
QUOTABLE: Closer Steve Cishek gave up a homer in the ninth inning to Salvy Perez one night after surrendering a two-run, walk-off double to Perez.
"I might come up with a knuckleball to throw in there tomorrow," Cishek said. "I don’t know what pitch to throw that guy."
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners won while scoring fewer than four runs for the first time since May 17. They had lost 19 straight games when scoring three or fewer runs…They won when recording just one RBI for the first time since Aug. 11, 2013 in a 2-0 victory over Milwaukee behind Felix Hernandez at Safeco Field…And they won without getting a hit with runners in scoring position for the first time since April 29, when they beat the Royals 1-0 behind Hernandez at Safeco…
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners