SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz launched his 20th home run of the season and Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager each had three hits as the Mariners topped the Pirates, 5-2, in Tuesday night's series opener at Safeco Field.Hisashi Iwakuma allowed six hits and two runs over 6 2/3 innings as he
SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz launched his 20th home run of the season and Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager each had three hits as the Mariners topped the Pirates, 5-2, in Tuesday night's series opener at Safeco Field.
Hisashi Iwakuma allowed six hits and two runs over 6 2/3 innings as he improved to 7-6 with a 4.34 ERA for the Mariners, who are now 9-2 in Interleague Play and 39-38 overall this season.
"He threw the ball amazing," Cruz said. "I think the bullpen needed it. We needed it."
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The Pirates finally got to Iwakuma with an RBI triple by Starling Marte and a run-scoring single by David Freese in the seventh, but that was all the offense they could muster while dropping the opener of a nine-game road trip. Jonathon Niese took the loss as he gave up five runs (four earned) on nine hits in 42 /3 innings.
"It's just one of those things right now," said Niese, who has given up 21 earned runs in his last 21 1/3 innings. "That's the way things are going right now. I just have to flush it, keep working hard in between outings and the process will pay off. The results will be there."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cruzing out of the park: Cruz belted a two-run shot into the left-field bleachers to put the Mariners up, 5-0, in the fifth inning. It traveled 424 feet, as projected by Statcast™, with an exit velocity of 114.5 mph. It was Cruz's hardest hit home run this season. His 20th homer landed him just two behind Major League leader Mark Trumbo of the Orioles. Cruz pulled ahead of Cano, who has 19, to lead the team. The designated hitter also knocked one out of the park Sunday, making this the fourth time this season that he has gone yard in back-to-back games. He has hit 20 or more home runs for eight straight seasons.
"I thought it might be out of the stadium from the angle I was sitting at," Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Cruz's moonshot.
Hurdle gets heated: Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and hitting coach Jeff Branson were ejected from the game by home-plate umpire Ben May with one out in the top of the fifth inning after a first-pitch strike from Iwakuma was called on Joyce. May ejected Branson while the hitting coach was in the dugout, prompting Hurdle to get on the field to argue. After a brief and heated conversation, May tossed Hurdle. It is Hurdle's third ejection of the season and eighth as Pirates manager.
"He threw Branson," Hurdle said. "I didn't think it was warranted, so once he threw him, I just went out and let him know that this was a little continuation of what we've been dealing with too much. Too many short at-bats for us. That was basically the gist of the conversation." More >
Defense backs Kuma: Iwakuma held the Pirates scoreless for six innings and only gave up two hits in that stretch. He got the backing of a tight defense that made plays like Leonys Martin's double play from center field in the fifth inning. The Pirates had Matt Joyce on first and Freese at bat with no outs, down 2-0. Joyce took off on Iwakuma's pitch, but Freese was unable to get on top of the ball. By the time Joyce realized Freese had put the ball in the air, he was just steps away from second. Martin made the catch coming in and fired the ball to Dae-Ho Lee at first to take advantage of the miscue.
• Kuma gives Pirates the hook
Bucs strike in seventh: The Pirates were getting shut out but put up a battle in the seventh inning, chasing Iwakuma from the game while putting together a two-run rally. Gregory Polanco started it with a double, moved to third on an Andrew McCutchen flyout and scored on Marte's triple to right-center field. Marte scored two batters later on a Freese single, and an Adam Frazier base hit knocked Iwakuma out of the game. Mariners reliever Edwin Diaz got Jordy Mercer on a flyout to end the threat.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the bottom of the seventh, Seager hit a double in the gap with Lee on first. The big righty, who is not known for his speed, rounded third base and headed home as McCutchen fielded the ball in center field. In a close play at the plate, Lee was out. Servais challenged whether catcher Chris Stewart illegally blocked the plate, but replay review confirmed the out call.
"I thought we were in great shape when he hit third," Servais said of Lee trying to score from first. "And then somebody jumped on his back between third and home."
Pirates: Rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon will get the ball on Wednesday night at Safeco Field in his fifth big league start. Taillon got a no-decision in his last outing, on Thursday against the Dodgers, after giving up four runs on eight hits in four innings. He has allowed eight runs in eight innings over his last two starts.
Mariners: Veteran lefty Wade Miley will come off the disabled list and start Wednesday's finale with the Pirates. It will be his first game back after missing two starts with a sore left shoulder.
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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [
@GregJohnsMLB]() and listen to his podcast.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.