Total team effort: Mariners exude confidence

Iannetta, Johnson the latest players to come through for first-place Seattle

May 12th, 2016

SEATTLE -- While Robinson Cano helped carry the Mariners early, a soaring Seattle club has pushed its way into the American League West lead because other players keep stepping up on a daily basis as well. And Wednesday it was catcher Chris Iannetta clubbing a walk-off homer and reliever Steve Johnson -- called up from Triple-A eight days earlier -- picking up his first Major League win since 2013 in Seattle's 6-5, 11-inning victory over the Rays.

"Honestly, that's the way it should be," said Iannetta, a 10-year veteran who has lent a steady hand behind the plate for a team that has won 19 of its last 26 games. "If you lean on a couple guys, you get one-dimensional. If we build a team where you know you can win with any guy in our lineup, it just builds confidence."

The Mariners are exuding confidence these days as they've gone 7-0-1 in their last eight series. They lead the Majors with nine game-winning RBIs coming in the seventh inning or later and they're 5-1 in extra-inning affairs.

"I keep saying we are enjoying it and it's a lot of fun and all that other stuff," said first-year skipper Scott Servais. "But the thing that's exciting for me is how our team has come together. They really believe in each other.

"We were up against it and I looked at Robby and said, 'Somebody's got to win this game, it might as well be us. We're here.' And Chris puts a good swing on the ball, and Robby looks over and said, 'Why not us?'"

Why not, indeed. The Mariners came back from an 8-4 deficit in Oakland with a pair of Dae-Ho Lee homers and then rode a pair of Cano bombs to a win in Houston as they went 5-2 on their last road trip. Now they've opened a homestand with a three-game sweep of the Rays, and the latest win came with a bullpen running on fumes with closer Steve Cishek unavailable after a four-out save in Tuesday's win.

With veteran Joaquin Benoit and hard-throwing rookie Tony Zych on the disabled list and 40-year-old Joel Peralta also down for the day due to heavy recent use, that left Johnson on the mound in the 10th and 11th, and he wound up recording his first win since May 29, 2013, while with the Orioles, a span of 1,078 days.

"Anytime you're in the big leagues, it's awesome," said Johnson, a 28-year-old who pitched 27 games for the Orioles in 2012-13 and '15. "But I've been a part of a couple teams that were in a playoff race. When I was with the Orioles in 2012, we were right up there, and it's a lot more fun pitching when the team is winning and everyone is loose and going out there expecting to win. Someone is coming up big every night. I'm glad to be here."

Johnson closed out a game where the bullpen had to dig deep after starter Taijuan Walker got in trouble in the sixth. Mike Montgomery pitched 2 1/3 hitless innings with three strikeouts, including a punchout of Kevin Kiermaier to strand two of Walker's inherited runners and keep the game tied at 4.

Nick Vincent gave up a solo shot to Kiermaier in the ninth to send the game into extras, but Vidal Nuno and Johnson held the line there to set up Iannetta's heroics.

"That was not an easy sport to farm out," Servais said of going to Johnson with the game on the line in the 10th after Nuno put two on with one out. "We knew going into the game that if it got tight late we were going to try and stay away from Cishek and Peralta. And those other guys were ready to pitch.

"Really, Montgomery, just an awesome job. Nuno threw the ball well. Everybody really contributed in this game. That's what we have special going on. Everybody is a part of it. Everybody contributes at some point every day."