CHICAGO -- Nelson Cruz's go-ahead, two-run homer off of Anthony Swarzak gave the Mariners the boost they needed to edge the Chicago White Sox, 4-3, on Saturday at Guaranteed Rate Field and claim both a series victory and the club's third consecutive win.
Leading 3-2 in the sixth inning with Robinson Cano on base, White Sox manager Rick Renteria elected to bring on Swarzak -- who had kept 19 of 26 inherited runners from scoring this season entering the game -- to face Cruz. Despite dealing with a lingering bruised right knee dating back to the beginning of the month, the American League RBI leader added to his total, taking a 95.7-mph fastball 425 feet to left-center field, as projected by Statcast™, to give Seattle a 4-3 lead.
"It's getting better. You saw me running," Cruz said of his knee, carrying on after a chuckle. "At least I'm running better. Or at least, like you say, walking better. I think I started feeling it a little bit getting to third base."
That was enough for Felix Hernandez, who twice worked around bases-loaded, no-out situations -- and some sloppy defense -- to pick up his fifth win of the season. He went five innings, allowing three runs (one earned) while walking none and striking out five. He made one mistake -- a leadoff homer to Melky Cabrera as part of his four-hit night -- but worked his way through trouble the rest of the way before giving way to the 'pen. Steve Cishek, Tony Zych, Nick Vincent and Edwin Diaz combined to shut the door with the second consecutive scoreless performance from the bullpen.
"Our bullpen was outstanding again tonight," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "Guys are in a good groove. ... Running four guys in a row out there, it's really hard to have all four on top of their game, but we needed it tonight and they did it."
Mike Pelfrey pitched effectively, allowing just two runs (one earned), but again struggled to get through the order multiple times. He faced just one batter the third time through the Mariners' lineup -- Jean Segura -- and allowed a single before being pulled. Pelfrey has now gone at least five innings just twice in the last month, and has just two quality starts all season. The loss dropped the White Sox to a season-low 13 games below .500, at 38-51.
"If anybody loves the game of baseball and anybody wants to be a part of the Chicago White Sox, that's what's going to be expected of them," Renteria said of his team's effort. "We filter ourselves out in this game with how we go out and do what we do. We are privileged to be playing professional baseball at the Major League level and if you don't find the energy and desire to want to put it all out there every single day, maybe this isn't the place for you."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Walking the tightrope: With a run already home in the third inning, Hernandez loaded the bases with no one out on a pair of singles and a hit batter. Hernandez worked his way out of the damage unscathed, however, getting Todd Frazier to ground out, catching Tyler Saladino's popout himself and getting Matt Davidson to swing just underneath a pitch for the inning-ending flyout. The ball was hard-hit with an exit velocity of 97.9 mph, but the launch angle of 43 degrees proved to be too high for Davidson's second career grand slam. The White Sox are now 2-for-12 this season with the bases loaded and nobody out with eight RBIs after failing to convert twice in such opportunities on Saturday.
"Felix did not have his best stuff tonight location wise, fell behind some hitters, but to his credit, he wriggled out of it and stayed away from the big inning," Servais said. "Bases loaded, nobody out, getting out of it in that inning was huge."
Melky Ca(nnon)brera: Servais said pregame that his club needs to avoid making mental errors on the basepaths, but the comments didn't stick, as Segura was thrown out trying to stretch a single to lead off the game. Segura thumped one off the wall off Pelfrey, but was thrown out by left fielder Cabrera, who took the Major League lead with his eighth outfield assist of the season by gunning the ball to second baseman Saladino, who applied the tag on Segura.
"I'm always trying to do good throws from the outfield," Cabrera said. "Sometimes when you are a runner and you see the connection, you see your coach sending you out to the next base or sometimes it's you who made that decision. For me from a defensive standpoint, I just try to do good throws."
"I'm tired of giving up leadoff home runs all the time. So I'll just -- I've got to do something about that." -- Hernandez, on allowing his third leadoff home run and fourth first-inning home run of the year
"Probably more than I've ever seen from any team I've ever been on. I don't know why it seemed to have a quick trigger from him for some reason but obviously as players you appreciate it and you know he has your back. He's definitely not scared of getting thrown out." -- Pelfrey, on Renteria's Major League-leading six ejections
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Jose Abreu was hit twice by Hernandez, both times to load the bases with no one out. Abreu became the first White Sox player to be hit twice in a game since, coincidentally, Jose Abreu against the Mariners on Aug. 28, 2016. On that day, Taijuan Walker hit Abreu with fastballs in the fourth and sixth innings.
"It was a battle. It was a battle the whole game," Hernandez said. "Couldn't find my rhythm. Couldn't find my balance for my mechanics. I was all over the place. I mean I don't remember the [last] time I hit the same guy twice in a game."
After Cishek's pickoff attempt of Tim Anderson went wide of first baseman Danny Valencia and Anderson advanced to second, Renteria went out to argue that Anderson should have been awarded third base since the ball went out of play and Cishek had stepped off the rubber, then becoming a fielder. Second-base umpire and crew chief Tom Hallion tossed Renteria a few steps away from the dugout, and Renteria continued to argue face-to-face with Hallion before ultimately departing. It was his Major League-leading sixth ejection of the season, matching his season-long total from his only other season as a manager, in 2014 with the Cubs.
"They always seem quick," Renteria said. "We were just debating whether he had stepped off to make the throw because you're actually supposed to step off as you pick. It kind of flows into that arena. Once you do that and the ball gets into the dugout it's two bases. I was just asking what they were looking at and I think we just disagreed."
ON THE MEND
Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger left during the sixth inning of Saturday's game after he was hit in the index finger of his throwing hand while attempting to bunt. He was replaced by Guillermo Heredia, who moved into left field as Ben Gamel took Haniger's spot in right.
"Mitch is going to be out a couple days I think," Servais said after the game. "I think he's going to be OK, but it's probably going to be a day-to-day thing.
"He's a little sore. Probably won't be available tomorrow, but we'll see how it goes."
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
With no one out in the fifth, Avisail Garcia hit a comebacker to Hernandez. Hernandez threw the ball out of the reach of first baseman Valencia, allowing Garcia to reach and advance all the way to second base. The Mariners challenged, saying Garcia never touched first base, but the call was confirmed after a one-minute, 24-second review and Garcia was ruled safe at second base.
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners: Right-hander Andrew Moore (1-1, 3.86 ERA) will get the ball for the first road start of his Major League career at 11:10 a.m. PT on Sunday. Moore will be making just his fourth start in the Majors, but he's been solid so far, posting quality starts in each of the first three.
White Sox:Derek Holland (5-9, 5.01 ERA) takes the mound in the finale of a three-game set against the Mariners at 1:10 p.m. CT at Guaranteed Rate Field. Holland led all White Sox starters with a 2.37 ERA at the end of May, but has a 10.16 ERA since.