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Mariners battle back in support of Felix

July 26, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- Félix Hernández dug Seattle into an early hole, but the Mariners climbed out of it with a pair of big innings and some gritty relief work, holding on to beat the Pirates, 7-4, on Tuesday night at PNC Park."We're certainly looking for crisper, sharper stuff than Felix showed

PITTSBURGH -- Félix Hernández dug Seattle into an early hole, but the Mariners climbed out of it with a pair of big innings and some gritty relief work, holding on to beat the Pirates, 7-4, on Tuesday night at PNC Park.
"We're certainly looking for crisper, sharper stuff than Felix showed tonight early in the game," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "But to his credit, he hung in there. He gave us a chance, kept it right there and our offense was really the story of the game tonight. That and some really good relief pitching late."
Felix not yet at top form following long layoff
Making his second start since coming off the disabled list, Hernandez allowed four runs -- all in the first two innings -- on nine hits and a walk over six innings to pick up his fifth win. Down by three runs entering the third, Seattle pummeled Pittsburgh left-hander Francisco Liriano for six runs over the following two innings. Franklin Gutierrez and Kyle Seager each homered in the third, then Shawn O'Malley, Robinson Canó and Nelson Cruz tacked on three more runs in the fourth.

By the time it was over, Liriano -- out of rhythm, unable to find the zone and leaving balls up over the plate when he did -- had been charged with seven runs on eight hits and four walks in only 3 1/3 innings, unable to follow up on a 13-strikeout, no-walk start his last time out. The lone bright spot may have been Liriano's work at the plate, as he homered off Hernandez in the second inning.
Pittsburgh had several chances to cut into Seattle's lead, putting runners on the corners with no outs in the seventh and two men in scoring position with nobody out in the eighth, but came up empty each time.
"Nobody likes to go up there and not get the job done," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That compounds the challenge of tonight."
The outcome evened the Mariners' and Pirates' records at 51-48 as each club continues pushing for a Wild Card spot. Seattle has won five of its last seven games, while Pittsburgh lost for just the seventh time in its last 21 games.
Royal feat: Batting with two outs in the second inning, Liriano crushed a 91-mph sinker from Hernandez into the bushes beyond the center-field wall. It was Liriano's second career homer, the first by a pitcher off King Felix and the first by a Pirates pitcher in Interleague Play, which began in 1997. More >
"He gave me a good pitch to hit and I got a pretty good swing on it," Liriano said.

Gregory Polanco, who finished with four hits, homered off Hernandez in the first inning, his 13th of the season and his first since going deep twice on July 4 in St. Louis.

Pretty good company: Seager ripped his 20th homer of the season with a line shot to right in the third off Liriano, the two-run blast tying the game at 4 after Gutierrez led off the frame with a solo shot. Seager became the sixth Mariner with five or more seasons of 20 homers or more, joining Ken Griffey Jr. (nine times), Edgar Martinez (eight), Jay Buhner (eight), Raul Ibanez (five) and Alex Rodriguez (five). Seager went 3-for-4 with a double as well and is hitting .368 (28-for-76) with nine doubles, five homers and 17 RBIs in 20 games this month.
"That's definitely an accomplishment for me," Seager said of the string of five straight 20-homer seasons. "It's something I didn't think I'd be able to do. It's a positive and something I don't take for granted. I'm definitely proud of that."

Bullpen shuts it down: Tom Wilhelmsen provided terrific relief for Seattle to preserve a 7-4 lead after Vidal Nuño opened the seventh by walking David Freese and giving up a single to Polanco to put runners at the corners. Enter Wilhelmsen, who struck out Andrew McCutchen with a nasty curve, blew away Starling Marte with a 95-mph fastball and got the final out when shortstop O'Malley gloved a sharp grounder by Jung Ho Kang. Rookie Edwin Díaz then allowed a single and double to open the eighth, but stranded those runners to hold the three-run cushion.
"Tom came in in a tough spot and really slammed the door," Servais said. "His stuff was really good, probably the best it's been since he's been here. The fastball had life, good curveball and he made some really big pitches."

Locke-down reliever: Left-hander Jeff Locke will remain in the Pirates' bullpen through the weekend, if not longer, so his performance Tuesday night was an encouraging sign. Locke allowed one hit -- a double by catcher Mike Zunino -- and struck out two in two scoreless innings. He threw 23 pitches, 17 for strikes. Overall, five Pirates relievers combined to throw 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits while striking out six. More >

"He got me pretty good. I've known him for a while. He's a great friend of mine. I threw a fastball and he can hit. He's a great hitter. We talked yesterday. He told me he was going to hit a homer, then he hit a homer." -- Hernandez, on Liriano's long ball
"It's one of those days you don't have anything going." -- Liriano
Wilhelmsen allowed 38 hits and 25 runs in 21 1/3 innings for Texas to start the year for a 10.55 ERA. Since re-signing with Seattle, he's given up five hits and one run in 8 1/3 innings for a 1.08 ERA.
Servais successfully challenged a safe call on Adam Frazier when the Pirates' second baseman came up off the base after sliding into second in the sixth inning, helping Hernandez escape that frame without damage despite allowing a double, a single and a hit batter. Frazier singled with one out, but raced to second when left fielder Gutierrez lobbed the ball into third baseman Seager as Kang held at third. But Frazier popped off the base momentarily while Cano applied the tag, and the safe ruling was overturned for the second out of the inning.

Mariners:James Paxton (3-4, 4.18 ERA) starts the 4:05 p.m. PT finale of the two-game set at PNC Park on Wednesday. The 27-year-old lefty is coming off a 2-1 win in Toronto where he allowed just three hits and one run with nine strikeouts in seven innings. This will be his first time facing the Pirates.
Pirates: Right-hander Gerrit Cole (5-6, 2.99 ERA) will try to build off of a solid start when he pitches the finale of the Pirates' two-game set against the Mariners at 7:05 p.m. ET at PNC Park on Wednesday. Cole allowed one run over six innings against the Phillies on Friday but lost, 4-0, as Philadelphia rookie Zach Eflin threw a shutout. Cole has never faced the Mariners, but he is 7-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 13 career Interleague starts.
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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [

@GregJohnsMLB]() and listen to his podcast.