After a six-game losing streak, the Mariners have won six of eight, finishing the first half of the season in impressive fashion by handing the AL East-leading Orioles their third consecutive loss, 12-6 (box). Seattle (42-39) walloped five home runs – including two by C Mike Zunino in his first game back from the minors. Three of the homers came in the first four innings, building an 8-1 lead. A bit of drama filtered in when starter James Paxton faltered in the sixth.
In his first action with the Mariners since August, Zunino delivered with a two-run homer in the second. His first at-bat of the MLB season put the Mariners ahead 5-0, and came after RF Nelson Cruz crushed a 459-foot moon shot that hit the front of the upper deck in left.
Paxton turned in another head-scratching start — literally. The broadcast on Root Sports caught pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre scratching his head as he sat next to Paxton discussing the 5.2-inning, nine-hit, four-run performance. Paxton had his dominant moments, but for most of the night he looked intent on allowing the Orioles to stay within arm’s reach.
Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen’s only batter of the game was perhaps the biggest out. Wilhelmsen, originally called to warm up for mop-up duty, came in for Paxton in the sixth with the bases loaded and Seattle leading 9-4. He got Adam Jones to pop out to shortstop. Nate Karns made his second relief appearance, giving up a two-run homer in the seventh before he closed out to give the bullpen a rest.
Seattle’s 16 hits were one short of the season high. Each of the nine batters in the lineup either scored or drove in a run. Zunino’s two-homer night was the story, but had plenty of help.
LF Steve Smith homered for the third night in a row, a career first. He added his fourth RBI with fifth-inning single. DH Adam Lind chipped in with a solo shot, his 12th homer. 3B Kyle Seager had two doubles, and 1B Dae-Ho Lee appeared to add an RBI double of his own in the sixth – only to get tagged out at second base when his foot came off the bag.
“We need to win some games and get back into this, and I just wanted to help any way I
could.” – Zunino
Seattle is over .500 at home, 21-20, for the first time since being 8-7 through May 11. . . . Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to face the Orioles Sunday for the first time since throwing a no-hitter against Baltimore in August. Iwakuma’s first career no-hitter was a 3-0 win . . . LHP Charlie Furbush pitched a simulated game Saturday afternoon, but his return from the disabled list is still a ways off. Furbush has been sidelined by shoulder tendonitis for nearly a full year . . . The Mariners gave relievers Edwin Diaz and Steve Cishek the night off after both worked in consecutive games. . . . Zunino and SS Shawn O’Malley were in the lineup as regular starters as Chris Iannetta and Ketel Marte, respectively, had a night off. O’Malley fouled a pitch off his right foot in the fourth inning but stayed in the game . . . Funniest moment of the laugher came in the top of the seventh, when 2B Robinson Cano pretended to replicate the “shove” by Baltimore’s Jonathan Schoop that thwarted Lee’s double. Schoop tagged out Lee at second an inning earlier. Both Lee and manager Scott Servais futilely argued that Schoop pushed Lee’s leg off the bag.
The Mariners look for the sweep to end a nine-game homestand starting at 1 p.m. Sunday. Seattle is 6-2 and turning to Iwakuma (7-6, 4.34 ERA). Struggling Baltimore starter Ubaldo Jimenez (5-7, 6.63 ERA) is scheduled for the Orioles. Seattle will make a seven-day road trip to Houston and Kansas City heading into the All-Star break.