SEATTLE -- Denard Span has been with the Mariners less than three weeks. Rob Whalen just joined the club a day ago. But the new names kept producing the same results as an upstart Seattle club found another way to pull out a comeback Friday with a 7-6 victory over the Red Sox.
On a night their best pitcher got bounced early, the Mariners still managed to pull off their 21st come-from-behind victory and improve to a Major League-leading 22-10 in one-run games, with Span's two-run double in the bottom of the eighth sending a crowd of 44,459 into a frenzy at Safeco Field.
The Mariners have won 21 of their last 27 games and stayed one-half game back of Houston in the American League West at 45-22. This win came against a Boston club that has the second-best record in the AL at 48-23, as Seattle evened the four-game series at 1-1.
James Paxton lasted just 2 1/3 innings -- his shortest start of the season -- after giving up six runs in the third, with two errors not helping his cause. But the Mariners climbed back from that 6-3 deficit as Whalen stemmed the tide with four scoreless innings of relief with just one hit in his season debut.
"It just shows how tough our team is," Paxton said after his early dismissal. "We can have a bad inning and bounce back from something like that against a really good ballclub over there. To come back from something like that against those guys is impressive. This team has a lot of heart. We go out there and fight for each other."
The Mariners cut the lead to 6-5 with an RBI single by Mitch Haniger in the fifth and a solo homer by Mike Zunino in the seventh before Span's pinch-hit game-winner off reliever Matt Barnes.
"It's huge for me," said the veteran Span, playing in his 15th game since being acquired from the Rays in late May. "I'm the new guy around here and you just want to come in and try to help this ballclub as much as you can, so you can feel like you're one of them. It seems like every night it's been somebody different. I'm just thankful I was in that situation and able to come through."
Manager Scott Servais noted that the Mariners had to come "from the bottom of the barrel, the worst inning we've played all year" with a pair of errors opening the door for the Red Sox's six-run third.
But in the end, it turned into a thing of beauty.
"Great win," Servais said. "As ugly as that third inning was -- I don't think it gets much worse than that -- it says a lot about the character of the guys on this ballclub. We'll continue to roll. Those one-run games, that's the name of the game for us."
Edwin Diaz gave up a leadoff single to J.D. Martinez in the ninth and a one-out walk to Xander Bogaerts before closing out his Major League-leading 26th save.
But it was Whalen who truly saved the day for Seattle as the 23-year-old prevented Boston from building on its lead with his four scoreless innings in an impressive season debut in long relief.
"This team is unbelievable," Whalen said. "When I came up here, this is exactly what I wanted to do, to be a part of something like this. The fans' atmosphere was incredible. Just standing out there between pitches, taking my breaths and feeling that crowd and loving it. I've never been a part of anything like this. It felt like a World Series game almost and it's not even the end of the first half yet. It was really cool and I'm just glad I could be a part of it."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Whalen and Diaz weren't the only relievers to come up big as the Mariners' bullpen covered 6 2/3 innings without allowing a run. Ryan Cook replaced Whalen in the eighth and found himself in a bases-loaded jam, but retired Brock Holt on a flyout to left field to keep Boston's lead at 6-5 and set up the Mariners for their game-winning rally in the bottom of that frame. Cook wound up getting the win, his first in the Majors since Aug. 4, 2014, with the A's.
Span's hit was his first game-winner for the Mariners, but the veteran has shown a knack for coming through in the clutch throughout his 11-year career. He's now 15-for-36 (.416) with five doubles and six RBIs as a pinch-hitter.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Whalen nearly got undressed by a 108-mph line drive back up the middle by Bogaerts in the seventh, ducking out of the way and winding up on the seat of his pants on the mound. But second baseman Dee Gordon came diving out of nowhere to glove the ball behind the bag and flipped to Segura for a forceout at second to end the inning and leave two runners stranded for an appreciative Whalen.
"Honestly, I never saw it," Whalen said. "It grazed my hat and luckily I got out of the way. I don't even know if I got my glove up. That was scary. But Dee was there to have my back. I had the best view in the house because I was on my butt looking right at him. By the time I looked up, he was up in the air and flipped it. I've never had a play made like that behind me. It was just fun to be a part of. This was the ultimate team win."
HE SAID IT
"He's a huge addition to our ballclub. Everybody gets excited because we brought in Alex Colome. Denard Span is a really a big part of that deal in the fact he's got so much experience to be able to handle those situations. We're going to be in a bunch more of those situations as we go through the rest of the season and his ability to slow it down in those moments is good not just for him, but for everybody else to see." -- Servais, on the trade with the Rays that added Colome and Span
Two pitchers who rely more on deception than heat square off Saturday at Safeco Field as Mariners lefty Wade LeBlanc (2-0, 3.00 ERA) faces Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright (2-0, 1.21) at 5:15 p.m. PT. The game is a national FOX broadcast and will not be available on ROOT Sports. LeBlanc has one of the slowest average fastball velocities in MLB at 86 mph, but he's posted a 2.45 ERA in eight starts since moving into the rotation. Wright hasn't allowed a run over his last 22 2/3 innings, including two starts since replacing the injured Thomas Pomeranz.