This was one hit the the Mariners needed: Oh-for-the-past 17 and trailing 2-0 in the fifth inning, Mike Zunino smashed a double over the head of centerfielder Mike Trout to tie the game and break the dam for a 13-2 romp in Anaheim Tuesday night that ended a three-game losing streak.
Seattle (81-69) had more hits with RISP (eight) than it had over the last week and a half. The win brought the Mariners within a game of the Royals in the chase for the final American League wild card spot. Kansas City and Oakland, the holder of the first wild card spot, both lost.
Another poor start against the best team in baseball had Angels fans counting down until a AL West Division title celebration. Roenis Elias gave up two runs in the first inning as the first three batters reached, including Albert Pujols, who for the second consecutive night came through with a clutch hit to put Los Angeles ahead 1-0.
David Freese made it 2-0 with a one-out RBI single before Elias escaped. The score stayed that way until the Mariners opened the fifth inning facing Jason Grilli in relief of Angels starter Cory Rasmus.
Rasmus (3-1, 2.57 ERA), starting his fourth game, gave up one hit before being pulled for rest. He struck out four on 43 pitches. Grilli breathed life into a dormant Seattle lineup. Chris Taylor followed Zunino with his own double to give the M’s the lead for good, 3-2.
The Mariners sent nine men to the plate for a 4-2 lead. That was plenty for rookie Carson Smith, who replaced Elias in the fourth inning after the rookie came down with an elbow injury. Manager Lloyd McClendon after the game described the injury as stiffness, and that Elias was “highly unlikely” to make next start.
After Smith pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning, the Mariners sent another 11 men to the plate, scoring six runs on seven hits for 10-2 lead.
The inning started with a Kendrys Morales single off reliever Fernando Salas. A Logan Morrison double, followed by singles from Endy Chavez and Austin Jackson, then a Dustin Ackley sacrifice fly and a two-run throwing error on an infield single by Robinson Cano increased the lead to 9-2. Kyle Seager’s RBI single to center concluded the inning’s scoring.
Filling in for Elias, the pen pitched six shutout innings allowing two baserunners (one hit and one walk). Smith picked up the first win of his career.
Taylor finished with three RBIs. Morales reached base three times with two hits and a walk. Jackson, also struggling, provided two RBI.
The Mariners continue the four-game series Wednesday with James Paxton set to face C.J. Wilson.