The Mariners are no strangers to a letdown after an important series win, rookie southpaw Roenis Elias no stranger to a lack of run support. Seattle’s offense made sure both patterns ended Thursday night.
Fresh off taking two of three from the Athletics, the Mariners marched into Globe Life Park in Arlington and jumped Rangers starter Robbie Ross Jr. for a six-run second inning before cruising to a comfortable 10-2 win in the series opener against last-place Texas.
With 23 games left in the regular season, every win is important for a Mariners organization that hasn’t made the postseason since 2001. They haven’t finished with a winning record since 2009 and have yet to capture the full attention of a city rightfully enamored with the Super Bowl champion Seahawks, who opened the NFL season Thursday night at CenturyLink Field with a 36-16 beatdown of the Green Bay Packers.
For baseball diehards in the 206 tuned in to Root Sports, they saw the Mariners improve to 76-63 on a sweltering night — temperatures were in the mid-90′s — and 3-1 on the seven-game road trip. The win also helped them stay a half-game behind the Detroit Tigers for the second American League wild card spot and improve to 7-9 this year against Texas.
“I thought it was important that they came out with a lot of energy, a lot of focus and played up to their ability,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “They did a nice job tonight.”
Elias, a 26-year-old Cuban defector, labored through five innings but improved to 10-12 by holding the Rangers to a run despite allowing seven hits and a walk, plus a hit-by-pitch. Entering Thursday, Elias allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of his last seven starts, but the Mariners offense had combined for just two total runs in his last three outings, aiding his three-game skid.
Elias’ only blemish Thursday came when Rangers outfielder Alex Rios delivered an RBI single in the third inning. Double plays got him out of trouble the next two frames.
Elias became the first Mariners rookie pitcher to reach double-digit wins since Freddy Garcia (17) and John Halama (11) both accomplished the feat in 1999.
“He was a little shaky with his command at times but he made big pitches when he needed to and he got through five,” McClendon said.
The offense was never really an issue against a 53-87 Rangers team winding down a season lost to injuries.
The Mariners exploded for six runs in the second, all after Ross recorded two quick outs. Chris Denorfia and Chris Taylor began the rally with back-to-back walks, then light-hitting backup catcher Jesus Sucre followed with an RBI single. Austin Jackson followed with another single to make it 2-0.
“Those were big at-bats. One of the things we talked about is there’s a lot of different ways to win games,” McClendon said. “Getting on base with those two walks opened a big inning for us.”
After Dustin Ackley walked, Robinson Cano singled to center field to drive in two more, then Kendrys Morales added an RBI single to make it 5-0 before Texas manager Ron Washington finally lifted Ross and replaced him with reliever Jon Edwards. Kyle Seager added another RBI single — that’s 6-0, Mariners, if you lost count — before Edwards finally fanned Corey Hart to end the inning.
Sucre added another RBI single in the third to make it 7-0 before Cano knocked a two- out, two-RBI double to stake the Mariners a 9-0 advantage.
“It makes a little easier, obviously, when you have a 9-0 lead,” McClendon said. “Our guys were very focused and determined going into this game, particularly with the way Texas has handled us this year.”
Utility outfielder Chris Denorfia added a solo home run in the top of the seventh, which extended Seattle’s lead to 10-1. Trying to finish the win, reliever Danny Farquhar allowed a solo shot to Rougned Odor, but that was all that Texas could muster.
After watching right-hander Chris Young throw a bullpen Wednesday morning in Oakland, McClendon announced Thursday that Young will make at least one more start. Young has thrown a combined 4.1 innings and allowed eight earned runs in his last two outings, raising questions about his health and prompting McClendon to review the 35-year-old’s status as a starting pitcher. Young has thrown 151 innings this season, his most since 2007. He’ll start Saturday against the Rangers . . . Mariners No. 2 starter Hisashi Iwakuma will pitch Friday, while right-hander Scott Baker gets the nod for the Rangers. Baker was with the Mariners in spring training but opted to enter free agency when the club demoted him to the minor leagues. He was scheduled to pitch Thursday before a stiff neck pushed his start back a day.