SEATTLE -- The Mariners had one of their worst defensive innings of the season Wednesday night, committing three errors in a frame for the first time in 2018 to give away a one-run lead in the fifth.
But Nelson Cruz and Denard Span bailed out the Mariners' shoddy defense with back-to-back homers in the bottom of the frame to send Seattle on its way to a 5-2 victory over the Orioles at Safeco Field.
"It was only a one-run lead that they had, but it felt like we were down by three or four because we had made some mental mistakes," Span said. "So when Nelson came up and hit the homer, it definitely sparked us a little bit and gave us a little bit more momentum."
Edwin Diaz pitched a perfect ninth to record his 53rd save as Seattle remained 5 1/2 games behind Oakland in the race for the second American League Wild Card berth. The A's maintained their lead with an 8-2 win over the Yankees.
Cruz squared up a 1-2 fastball that Orioles starter Andrew Cashner left up in the zone, sending the ball out of the ballpark at 105.7 mph, per Statcast™, to tie the game at 2. Cruz ranks third in the Majors with an average exit velocity of 94.1 mph -- Aaron Judge is the leader and Giancarlo Stanton is second.
Span followed by sending a 2-0 changeup over the left-field fence for a 3-2 lead. It was the Mariners' third home run of the night as Mitch Haniger also hit a solo homer in the third, extending his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest active streak in the Majors.
"We haven't had a lot of those games: three home runs," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I like homers. It's good to see guys driving the ball."
The Orioles scored both of their runs on errors by Mariners infielders as part of Seattle's troublesome fifth. Cedric Mullins came home when first baseman Robinson Cano couldn't secure a slightly wide throw from shortstop Jean Segura on a chopper by Jonathan Villar. Villar scored when an Adam Jones one-hopper went off Segura's glove and into left field, giving Baltimore a 2-1 lead.
Dee Gordon also made a throwing error on a grounder from Chris Davis to extend the inning, though that miscue did not result in a run for the Orioles.
"We need to play better defense behind Mike Leake," Servais said. "He deserved better in that inning."
Leake allowed no earned runs, working around seven hits, walking none and striking out four. The right-hander earned his first win since June 23.
After losing a one-run lead in the seventh inning on Tuesday, Servais spoke at length about giving different relievers a chance to pitch the seventh prior to Wednesday's game. He went with recent callup Shawn Armstrong with his team clinging to a 3-2 lead, and the righty faced four batters in a scoreless frame.
"I think that's the best outing he's had since he's been with us," Servais said. "He's got a good cutter, the curve ball, but that last fastball he threw to strike [Renato Nunez] out was explosive. It just took off. If he's got that kind of stuff -- it's exciting to see -- he'll continue to get plenty of shots in that role."
Seattle added two insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh, easing the burden on setup man Alex Colome and Diaz. The pair of relievers combined to retire the last six Orioles batters.
"You're sitting there, watching the game saying, 'Here we go again, it's gonna be another one-run type deal with the back end of our bullpen,'" Servais said. "But it was nice to add on a couple runs."
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Small ball pads lead: The Mariners pushed their lead to 5-2 on a squeeze play in the seventh. Guillermo Heredia, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the top of the inning, laid down a bunt to score Span.
"Heredia's got those things in his game, and he needs to," Servais said. "That's the type of player he needs to be. He hadn't been up there much at all recently, but he's in tune. He got the sign, we executed the play. It's nice to pick up a run there. We just haven't scored a lot lately, so every additional run late in the ballgame is nice."
Diaz's 53rd save moved him into a four-way tie for fifth most in a season in MLB history, along with Mariano Rivera (2004), Trevor Hoffman (1998) and Randy Myers (1993).
Next on the list: John Smoltz and Eric Gagne, who earned 55 saves in 2002 and '03, respectively. Francisco Rodriguez set the record in 2008 with 62 saves.
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Cruz showed great hustle twice in the seventh -- once to leg out a double and again to score from second on a bloop single by Span.
"He made a good read, had a good jump," Span said. "Cruz will surprise you at times. He'll cut a switch on every now and then and beat out an infield hit and do things like that. People forget that he used to be a really good right fielder."
The Mariners get a day off on Thursday before welcoming the Yankees to Safeco Field for a three-game series starting Friday at 7:10 p.m. PT. Ace James Paxton (11-5, 3.74 ERA) will take the ball for the Mariners coming off a five-inning, 10-strikeout victory over the A's in his return from the disabled list last time out. Masahiro Tanaka (10-5, 3.83) will get the start for New York.