BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 04/24/2017

Mariners Week: 11-1 romp salvages some dignity

At 8-12, the Mariners are tied with the Angels for last, thanks largely to a 1-3 series loss to the A’s in Oakland, salved somewhat by an 11-1 walloping Sunday that included a Taylor Motter grand slam.

Ichiro homered Wednesday in what might have been his final at-bat at Safeco Field. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

The Mariners went 2-1 against Miami at Safeco Field to begin the third week of the season, and had an opportunity to move into second place in the AL West by winning Thursday in Oakland. Didn’t happen. The Mariners dropped three before routing the Athletics 11-1 Sunday (box) with their biggest inning of the season. But that couldn’t keep Seattle (8-12) out of a share of last place in the division (standings). How the week unfolded:

The Week

Monday (Mariners 6, Marlins 1): Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz had consecutive first-inning homers and Ariel Miranda pitched seven scoreless innings as the Mariners (6-9) extended their winning streak to four after starting the year 2-8. Taylor Motter added his third home run and Mitch Haniger stretched his hitting streak to 11 as Marlins reserve outfielder Ichiro made his first visit to Safeco Field as a member of the 3,000-hit club.

Tuesday (Marlins 5, Mariners 0): Wei-Yin Chen and two relievers came within two outs of Miami’s first combined no-hitter. Haniger spoiled it with a double to right-center off Kyle Barraclough. Haniger extended his hitting streak to 12.

Wednesday (Mariners 10, Marlins 5): Haniger collected three hits, reached base five times and knocked in four run as the Mariners (7-9) took the series. Ichiro knocked a solo home run on the first pitch of the ninth inning in possibly his final at-bat at Safeco Field.

Thursday (Athletics 9, Mariners 6): Trevor Plouffe ripped a three-run homer in the seventh and Ryan Dull (1-1) pitched 1.3 scoreless innings as the Mariners dropped to 7-10. Seattle starter James Paxton’s scoreless innings streak to begin the year ended at 23 when Oakland tallied three in the third. He struck out eight over 4.1 innings.

Friday (Athletics 3, Mariners 1): Plouffe and Yonder Alonso homered off Hisashi Iwakuma as the Athletics rallied from a 1-0 deficit. The Mariners went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, and dropped to 1-8 on the road. The Mariners fell into a tie for last.

Saturday (Athletics 4, Mariners 3): Adam Rosales and Ryon Healy homered in the first inning, Jharel Cotton pitched six innings of two-run ball and the Athletics beat the Mariners for their fifth straight win.

Sunday (Mariners 11, Athletics 1):  Motter highlighted a six-run third with a grand slam and the Mariners snapped a three-game losing streak. Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer.  Yovani Gallardo allowed one run over 6.1 innings for his first win of his Seattle tenure.

Takeaways

At 8-12, it’s the second-worst 20-game start since Seattle’s last playoff appearance in 2001. The Mariners opened 7-13 in 2004, 2006, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Last year, the Mariners were 11-9. Ominous note: The 2002 Mariners went 16-4 in their first 20 and didn’t reach the postseason.

Regarding Seattle’s 2-9 start on the road, begin with Kyle Seager, who sat Sunday (sore hip) and is 5-for-31 (.161) and without a home run away from Safeco. Cruz went 5-for-32 (.156) without a home run away from Safeco until his three-run shot Sunday in the seventh. Seattle is batting .204 on the road vs. .268 at Safeco.

The nine road losses are also tied for the most in the first 20 games of a season since 2011. The 2011 team also lost nine times (the 2002 Mariners didn’t lose a road contest among their first 20, winning 10).

Had Oakland swept the series, it would have been its first over Seattle at the Coliseum since Sept. 10-13, 1992, when Bill Plummer managed the club.

Essential moments

A Seattle icon from 2001-12, Ichiro received a standing ovation in his first appearance at Safeco Field since 2014. He collected another standing O Sunday when he homered.

Had not Haniger disrupted Miami’s no-hitter, the Mariners likely would have been no-hit for the fourth time in franchise history. They were also no-hit by Mark Langston and Mike Witt of the Angels April 11, 1990 in Anaheim, by Dwight Gooden of the Yankees May 14, 1996 in New York, and by Philip Humber’s 4-0 perfecto at Safeco Field April 21, 2012.

Innings of the week

Mariners 1st Monday: Cano and Cruz hit back-to-back homers, the second time they had done that as Seattle teammates (also Sept. 20, 2016 vs. Oakland).

Marlins 9th Wednesday: While it’s hard to upstage a three-hit, four-RBI performance (by Haniger), Ichiro managed the feat with one swing when he jumped on a first-pitch Evan Marshall fastball that had just enough to clear the fence in right. It was Ichiro’s first road home run since May 10, 2013.

Athletics 1st Saturday: Coming off seven scoreless innings, Ariel Miranda served up a home run to Adam Rosales on his third pitch of the game, and gave up another homer to Healy two batters later.

Mariners 3rd Sunday: The six runs, highlighted by Motter’s grand slam, marked the season’s single-inning high, topping five vs. Texas April 15.

Good week/bad week

Good: Haniger broke up a potential Miami no-hitter Monday, had three hits and four RBIs Tuesday, delivered an RBI triple to account for the only run Friday in Oakland, and had three hits and scored three times Sunday.

Bad: After opening the season batting .111 (6-for-54), Leonys Martin was benched during the Oakland series, then designated for assignment prior to Sunday’s game.

Taylor Motter hit home runs against Miami (1) and Oakland (2) this past week, including a grand slam Sunday. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

Noteworthy

  • The AL Player of the Week that went to Paxton Monday was the first such award of his career and made Paxton the first Seattle lefty to earn that honor since Randy Johnson in June 1997.
  • Miranda threw seven innings without allowing a run Monday, longest scoreless outing of his career (previous: six vs. the Angels Sept. 12).
  • The three homers Monday gave the Mariners 402 in interleague play. They joined the Blue Jays (475 home runs), White Sox (448), Orioles (441), Rangers (440), Red Sox (436), Yankees (422) and Tigers (407) as the only clubs with 400 or more in mixed-league contests.
  • In Tuesday’s loss, the Mariners were limited to one hit for the 23rd time in club history (last: July 24 at Toronto).
  • Felix Hernandez allowed four singles on his first six pitches Wednesday, plus two long solo homers, including a 445-foot shot by Giancarlo Stanton, and 12 hits total, yet earned the win in a 10-5 Seattle victory. Hernandez tied former Mariner Freddy Garcia for most wins by a Venezuelan-born pitcher with 156.
  • Paxton’s streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings to start a season is a club mark and tied for the fifth-longest season-opening run over the past five years in MLB (A’s reliever Brad Ziegler had 39 consecutive shutout innings in 2008). Only two active starters opened with longer streaks, Jordan Zimmermann with 24.1 for the 2016 Tigers and Zack Greinke with 24 for the 2009 Royals.
  • Since taking over for the injured Jean Segura, Motter has had 12 hits, 10 for extra bases, including five home runs, one fewer than Cano (3), Cruz (3) and Seager (0) have combined. Motter’s two-run shot in Oakland Thursday traveled 411 feet, according to Statcast. His slam Sunday was the first by a Mariner since Sept. 7 by Adam Lind vs. Texas.
  • Motter’s five home runs in April are the most by a Seattle shortstop in the month since Alex Rodriguez had eight in 2000.

Not in the box score

  • Monday, Cano and Cruz hit back-to-back homers off Tom Koehler in the first inning. That marked the second time in three seasons as teammates that Cano and Cruz went back-to-back in the first inning, also doing it at Dodger Stadium in April 2015. Two other Mariners duos hit back-to-back homers in the first inning multiple times. Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. did so twice in 1999. In 2002 at Chicago, Bret Boone and Mike Cameron did it twice, in the first inning off White Sox starter Jon Rauch and later in the same frame against reliever Jim Parque. Cameron hit two more homers that day. His four tied an MLB record.
  • Miranda’s start Monday was the Mariners’ third of at least seven scoreless innings this season. It marked only the second time in franchise history that the Mariners recorded three starts of at least seven scoreless innings in the club’s first 14 games of a season (also 1992).
  • According to Elias, over the past 35 years, 96 no-hit bids have been broken up in the ninth inning or later. In only six of those did the player who broke up the no-hitter enter the contest with 41 or fewer career hits, Haniger’s total when he broke up Miami’s no-hitter.
  • Wei-Yin Chen, who threw seven no-hit innings against the Mariners, entered the game with a 7.00 ERA and 14 hits allowed over his first two starts.
  •  Ichiro’s homer at the age of 43 years, 179 days made him the oldest to homer since Julio Franco hit his final one at 48 for the Mets in 2007. He became the oldest to homer in major-league history.
  • Hernandez’s 12-hit game made him the sixth in franchise history to win despite allowing 12 or more. Tom House holds the mark of 13 hits allowed in a win, a 7-2 triumph at Minnesota in 1978, the second game of a doubleheader. Oddly, in the first game, Dick Pole allowed 12 hits and won 8-5. The others to give up 12 hits and win: Gaylord Perry, 1982 vs. California, Gene Nelson, 1982 vs. Boston and Freddy Garcia, 2002 vs. Kansas City.
  • Seager’s two-out, pinch-hit triple in the eighth Saturday was the first by a Mariner since Alex Liddi, batting for Tom Wilhelmsen, had one in the ninth at Coors Field May 20, 2012. Leon Roberts (both in 1979) is the only player in franchise history with two pinch-hit triples.
  • When Martin was designated for assignment Sunday, he became only the fourth Mariner in the past decade to get DFA’d in April. Quickest to get the boot: C Rob Brantley, April 3, 2016; RHP Hector Noesi, April 4, 2014; RHPs Kameron Loe and D.J. Mitchell, April 13, 2013.

Words

“Great outing by Ariel tonight. He pitched much different tonight than last time out. Last time out, he threw a lot of off-speed pitches. Tonight he was very aggressive with his fastball. Great to see him really in control of the game.” – Manager Scott Servais

“It’s a big deal we aren’t on the news tonight. We would be all over the place.” – Cano, after the Mariners avoided getting no-hit

“It was my last at bat, obviously, and the last chance. With the way the game was going, that’s what I wanted to hit, right there. Saw the ball go over the fence and I have to pinch myself to make sure that really happened. I feel grateful.” – Ichiro

“It was just simple. I wasn’t locating the fastball well and the off-speed stuff wasn’t getting over for strikes. I really wasn’t able to execute my game plan the way I wanted, which equaled them getting some hits and putting some runs on the board.” – Paxton, after the Athletics ended his streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings

Transactions/DL

April 21: Recalled RHP Chase De Jong from AAA Tacoma, optioned RHP Dan Altavilla to the Rainiers. April 23: Recalled 1B Dan Vogelbach and RHP Chris Heston from Tacoma, optioned De Jong to the Rainiers, designated OF Leonys Martin for assignment.

Next

The Mariners play three in Detroit (10-8) and three in Cleveland (10-8) before returning to Safeco Field May 2 to host the Angels. The Detroit series gets underway at 4:10 p.m., PT Tuesday. Hernandez throws for the Mariners opposite Jordan Zimmerman.


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