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Sands, Marcum deliver as Tribe holds off Mariners

SEATTLE -- Shaun Marcum not only helped stymie the Mariners' goals of getting back to a winning record on Saturday night in Safeco Field. His strong outing in a tense 4-3 Cleveland victory might have solidified his place as the Indians' No. 5 starter moving forward.

"It would be huge, especially the way the other guys are throwing the ball," Marcum said, "to just go out there and put up a quality start in that five hole. I think that's definitely very important. Hopefully, I can go out and continue to do that."

Marcum, the veteran right-hander who doesn't even crack the 90s on the radar gun, was steady enough to grit out 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball, and the Indians bullpen did the rest as Cleveland moved to within three games of .500 at 23-26 while sending the Mariners back under that mark at 24-25.

Video: CLE@SEA: Marcum gets Ackley swinging to end the 4th

Cleveland got on the board first against Mariners lefty Roenis Elias, taking advantage of first-inning singles by Mike Aviles and Michael Brantley with a Nick Swisher RBI sacrifice fly. Then Jerry Sands made it a 3-0 lead in the second inning with a two-run home run.

Video: CLE@SEA: Swisher's sacrifice fly opens scoring

The Mariners closed the gap to 3-2 when Robinson Cano lined a two-run shot into the right-field seats off Marcum in the third inning, but the Indians scratched out an insurance run in the sixth on a pinch-hit RBI single by David Murphy, and that run proved to be pivotal because the Mariners cut the lead to 4-3 in the seventh on a Dustin Ackley RBI knock.

Video: CLE@SEA: Murphy scores Swisher to make it a 4-2 game

Indians relievers Marc Rzepczynski, Zach McAllister, Nick Hagadone and Cody Allen, who closed it out with a four-out save, combined for 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball to seal it for Cleveland.

"I think we're close," Mariners catcher Mike Zunino said. "We're playing some really good clubs, facing some great arms the last couple days. It's one of those things. You've got to grind through those days, and once you get through those and you get tested, that's when everything takes off."

Sands blast: Called up from Triple-A on Thursday to help out while Carlos Santana is on the paternity list, Sands delivered a big swing for the Tribe in the second inning on Saturday. Primarily used as a weapon against lefty pitching, Sands came through with a two-run homer to left field on a 1-2 pitch from Elias.

"That's the second time now [this year] he's made like an immediate impact," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That's a big, strong kid. … That's what we had him here this weekend for, was to try to help us win a game. And he sure did."

Cano comes back strong: After missing most of two games because of an inner ear infection, Cano drew a walk in his first at-bat and then lined a two-run home run into the right field seats in his second one. The long ball snapped a string of 171 plate appearances without a home run, tying his career high set April 21-June 8, 2006, as a New York Yankee. His last home run came April 14 in Dodger Stadium.

Smooth throw: After Kyle Seager led off the fourth inning with a walk, Seattle's third baseman attempted to sprint from first to third base on a single up the middle by Logan Morrison. Brantley scooped up the ball and fired a one-hop relay to third baseman Aviles, who applied a tag on Seager's foot just in time for a crucial out.

"We did some good things defensively," Francona said. "[Catcher Yan Gomes] throws a guy out stealing [in the first inning]. We got a guy going to third [in the fourth]. They pressured us the whole game. We kind of hung on, but we also did some things to hang on."

Video: CLE@SEA: Brantley's throw catches Seager at third

Escape act: Seattle struck for one run in the seventh and then loaded the bases with two outs for Seager, who already had a pair of doubles on the night. Cleveland turned to lefty Hagadone and the reliever quickly worked to an 0-2 count. Hagadone then fired an 82-mph breaking ball that tailed out of the zone as Seager swung and missed for a critical strikeout. More >

"He's a very good hitter," Hagadone said. " ... He's gotten a lot of hits [this series]. We know what he brings to the table, so I think the biggest thing is just to focus on executing pitches, and not worry really about who's up. Just worry about making pitches and go from there."

Cleveland's top four starters (Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar) have combined for a 3.57 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 4.65 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 8.1 hits allowed per nine innings this season. The other pitchers (McAllister, TJ House, Bruce Chen and Marcum) with at least one start for the Indians this year have combined for a 10.42 ERA, 2.21 WHIP, 1.65 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 15.2 hits per nine innings.

Indians: For the final game of this four-game series at Safeco Field, the Indians will send the hard-throwing Salazar (5-1, 3.65 ERA) to the hill at 4:10 p.m. ET Sunday. Salazar currently leads the Majors with a rate of 12.04 strikeouts per nine innings. Cleveland is also expected to activate first baseman Carlos Santana from MLB's paternity list prior to the game against the Mariners.

Mariners: Left-hander J.A. Happ has been a steady presence in a banged-up starting rotation, and he'll get the ball for Seattle in the series finale at 1:10 p.m. PT. Happ is 3-0 with a 4.05 ERA over his last seven starts. His lone loss came April 17 vs. Texas. Happ is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in three career games (two starts) vs. Cleveland.

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Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.
Read More: Roenis Elias, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Shaun Marcum, Jerry Sands