Nathan Karns picked up his first victory in nearly a month with five innings of four-run ball on Saturday, but it was his bullpen that did the yeoman's work as the Mariners held on for a 5-4 victory over the Cardinals at Safeco Field.
The Mariners jumped out to a 5-0 lead after two innings, but St. Louis closed the gap to 5-4 with a three-run homer by Aledmys Diaz off Karns in the fifth. Karns (6-2, 4.56 ERA) failed to get beyond five innings for his fifth straight start but relievers Mike Montgomery, Edwin Diazand Steve Cishek shut out the Cardinals on three hits with six strikeouts over the final four frames.
"That was big," said Montgomery, who threw 2 1/3 innings with one hit and four strikeouts. "We've had a couple situations recently where we were unable to get it done and today we did."
Cardinals right-hander Mike Leake gave up nine hits and five runs (four earned) in 3 1/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season, as his record evened at 5-5 with a 4.25 ERA.
"I wasn't locating it well all night," said Leake. "They had a pretty good approach, I felt like. They came out and attacked early. I couldn't get in a groove to counteract it. They did a good job."
St. Louis came into the Interleague series riding an eight-game road win streak, but has lost the first two games of the series to fall to 38-35. The Mariners nudged back above .500 at 38-37.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Dae-Ho keeps doing it: The Mariners jumped on Leake for five runs in the first two innings, with first baseman Dae-Ho Lee delivering the big hit with a two-run, bases-loaded single in the first. The 33-year-old Korean is tied with Rangers right fielder Nomar Mazara for the most RBIs by an American League rookie with 30 despite only playing in a platoon role for much of the year.
"I was just trying to make contact and get the runner home," said Lee, who went 1-for-3 with a walk and is hitting .277 with 10 homers in 137 at-bats.
Launching pad: A night after turning an eight-pitch at-bat into a game-tying, bases-loaded walk, Diaz turned on the eighth pitch he saw in his fifth-inning at-bat against Karns on Saturday for his 10th home run of the season. The homer, which had a Statcast™ exit velocity of 103 mph, was the rookie shortstop's second in three games. It also came just after play was briefly delayed by a fan, who hurdled the left-center field fence just before a fly ball was hit that direction.
"In tough situations, he just seems to stay in the course with what his approach is and not try to do too much," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Diaz. "He continues to just trust his hands until he can get something that he can drive. That ball was a laser that got out of here. Great timing for us."
It could have been worse: Karns retired the first eight Cardinals he faced, but then allowed four straight base runners -- and a run on two singles and two walks with two out in the third -- as St. Louis cut the lead to 5-1. But after falling behind Stephen Piscotty 3-0 with the bases still loaded, Karns got a quick visit from second baseman Robinson Cano. He then threw a 95-mph fastball down the middle for a strike before getting Piscotty to line out -- right at Cano -- to escape that jam with the needed four-run cushion still intact.
Hear me roar:Tyler Lyons settled the game behind Leake by twirling 4 2/3 scoreless innings in what was just his second relief appearance since June 14. Lyons, who allowed one hit and two walks, did not allow the Mariners to advance a runner past second in the 58-pitch appearance. His lengthy outing kept the Cardinals from having to work anyone else in their 'pen.
"You have a situation like that, you try to run with it as long as you can," Lyons said after his longest appearance of the year. "Obviously, we didn't win the game, but we'll have fresh arms for tomorrow and going forward."
QUOTABLE "If anything, I was a little more amped up knowing those hitters and what I've seen them do in the past. They're dangerous late in ballgames. That was their MO last year, coming back in the eighth and ninth innings and I watched it for a couple months. I knew I had to be careful and attack with whatever I had and it paid off." -- Cishek on getting the save against his former teammates.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS After losing nine straight one-run decisions, the Mariners have now beaten the Cardinals twice in a row by one run and are 11-15 in one-run decisions. Seven of the Cardinals' last eight games have been decided by one run. The Cardinals have won just two of them.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: The Cardinals will close out their first visit to Safeco Field since 2002 on Sunday, when lefty Jaime Garcia (5-6, 3.83) takes the mound to try and help St. Louis avoid being swept for the fifth time this season. Garcia's only previous appearance against the Mariners came back in 2010.
Mariners:James Paxton (1-3, 3.34) makes his sixth start in place of Felix Hernandez in the 1:10 p.m. PT series finale. He's been outstanding in his last five outings, posting a 2.77 ERA with 27 strikeouts and eight walks in 26 innings. Paxton held the Cardinals to two hits in six scoreless innings in St. Louis in the second start of his MLB career in 2013.