Cruz, Seager Back Sharp Iwakuma

Cruz, Seager back sharp IwakumaAsk the streaking Seattle Mariners what the primary catalyst for their success has been over the past few weeks, and they won’t say home runs or quality starting pitching.
They’ll say it’s fun.
Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager homered to lead the Mariners past the Los Angeles Angels 2-1 on Wednesday night, extending their longest winning streak of the season to eight games.

The surging Mariners moved within 1½ games of Toronto for the second AL wild card, with Detroit the only team in between.

“This environment is really special right now,” Seager said. “It starts with [manager Scott Servais]. He’s built this culture and it’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot of belief here.”

Hisashi Iwakuma pitched into the seventh inning and earned his 16th win for Seattle (78-68), which completed a three-game sweep.

It’s the first time the Mariners have won eight in a row since July 2013. They have the longest active streak in the majors.

“Guys are really confident, really happy and the energy is up,” Servais said. “We’re just focusing on one game, that’s the key. And then you get on the plane and you’re thinking, just win the series. And you win the first couple and you think, why not sweep it? That’s kind of been our attitude.”

Cruz hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh off Jose Alvarez (1-3), his 37th of the season and fourth in four games. It was the slugger’s 10th home run this year against Los Angeles, more than any other Mariners player has hit in one season against a single opponent.

Jay Buhner belted nine off Minnesota in 1995.

Seager hit his 29th of the year off Jhoulys Chacin in the fifth to tie the score at 1.

Edwin Diaz pitched a perfect ninth for his 16th save.

Iwakuma (16-11) won his second straight, allowing one run and five hits in 6⅓ innings. He exited after Cliff Pennington bunted for a leadoff single and advanced on Juan Graterol’s sacrifice.

“He dialed it up. You could see the look on his face,” Servais said. “He’s very good at slowing the game down. It’s almost to the point where it drives you crazy, like, let’s go! But that’s what he does; he slows it down, he executes pitches.”

Tom Wilhelmsen retired the next two batters.

“The bullpen was really solid tonight and they needed to be,” Servais said. “There’s not much room for error.”

Chacin came out of the Angels’ pen to make his first start since Aug. 21, in place of injured Tyler Skaggs. Chacin settled for a no-decision, limiting the Mariners to one run and three hits in six innings, while striking out five.

“I think he commanded the sinker, changed speeds very well,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “And for a guy who hadn’t started very well, he threw six strong innings against a team who has been hitting the ball well.”

Since losing five straight starts through June and July, Chacin is 1-0 with a 2.87 ERA as a starter.