Mike Morse went 3-for-3 with two home runs and Mike Zunino, one of Seattle’s top prospects, erased a 7-7 tie in the eighth inning with a solo shot as the Mariners rallied for an 8-7 Cactus League victory over the Cincinnati Reds Thursday at Peoria Stadium. Recovering from a recent offensive slump, the Mariners increased their Cactus League-leading homer total to 36 in 19 games.
Morse delivered his fourth and fifth home runs of the spring and contributed five RBIs as the Mariners overcame a 7-3 Cincinnati lead. Seattle scored four times off Clay Hensley in the fifth inning, the big blow Morse’s three-run blast. Morse’s first was a two-run shot off Homer Bailey.
Mariners lefty Joe Saunders did not have the kind of outing he wanted. Saunders gave up seven runs (five earned) on nine hits in his second start. The newly signed free agent was lifted after 3.2 innings when the Reds pushed across three runs with a walk and four hits, including a pair of doubles.
The Reds ripped four doubles off Saunders, including two by left fielder Denis Phipps, who went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Brandon Maurer, a 22-year-old right-hander, shut out the Reds for four innings in his longest appearance of the spring. Maurer allowed three hits with two walks and four strikeouts, putting his spring ERA at 0.90 with one run allowed in 10 innings.
First baseman Justin Smoak and designated hitter Kendrys Morales each went 2-for-3 with an RBI. Smoak is hitting .375 and Morales .355.
In a seven-inning B game Thursday, top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker allowed two runs in two innings in a 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Goodyear. Walker, combining a mid-90s fastball with effective curves, fanned two in his first inning and finished with four strikeouts while throwing 35 pitches.
James Paxton, the Mariners’ No. 5 prospect and No. 61 overall prospect, continued a rough stretch by giving up four runs and needing 47 pitches to get through his two innings. Paxton was knocked out of his last start after just two-thirds of an inning by the Athletics.
The Mariners have two games Friday, a contest against the Angels at 1:10 p.m. PT in Tempe and a World Baseball Classic exhibition against The Netherlands at 7:05 p.m. in Peoria.
Jeremy Bonderman will get the start and is expected to throw four innings, with Andrew Carraway to follow. Jon Garland will be on the hill first against The Netherlands, with Lucas Luetge, Stephen Pryor and Tom Wilhelmsen slated for relief work. Garland is penciled in for four innings.
NOTES: Following Thursday’s games, the Mariners optioned LHP Danny Hultzen and RHP Hector Noesi to AAA Tacoma, and re-assigned LHP James Paxton and RHPs Jhonny Nunez and Taijuan Walker to minor league camp. The roster moves left the Mariners with 51 players in their major league camp, including 36 roster players and 15 non-roster invitees.