Thanks in part to big months by Mike Zunino and Ben Gamel, the Mariners finished June 15-12 and started July winning two of three in Anaheim.
After getting swept by baseball’s worst team, Philadelphia, at Safeco Field, the Mariners took two out of three over the weekend against the Angels in Anaheim, including Sunday’s 5-3 triumph (box) to close within a game of .500 (41-42). The 2-3 week, interrupted by rare days off Monday and Thursday, did nothing to improve Seattle’s status in the AL West (15 games behind Houston), but it kept the Mariners squarely in the wild card conversation, only 1½ games out.
Tuesday (Phillies 8, Mariners 2): Maikel Franco and Arron Altherr homered, Aaron Nola pitched seven effective innings and the Phillies overcame a 2-0 deficit as James Paxton (5-3) dropped his third consecutive decision. The Mariners lost their third in a row following a season-high six-game winning streak.
Wednesday (Phillies 5, Mariners 4): Tommy Joseph hit his 13th homer of the season leading off the ninth off closer Edwin Diaz, then Andrew Knapp followed with a two-out RBI single as the Phillies, MLB’s worst team at 26-51, paid Seattle back for two defeats in Philly.
Friday (Mariners 10, Angels 0): Robinson Cano hit two home runs and Ariel Miranda held the Angels to two hits over seven innings. Miranda (7-4) enjoyed his best outing of the season, striking out four while walking two. Ben Gamel and Kyle Seager produced four hits.
Saturday (Angels 4, Mariners 0): Ricky Nolasco, a loser of seven consecutive games until his previous start and the American League leader in home runs allowed, fired a three-hitter with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Sunday (Mariners 5, Angels 3): Cano had a three-run homer in the eighth and the Mariners withstood a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the frame to take the series. Paxton (6-3) rebounded from three consecutive losses by allowing a run on two hits over 6.1 innings.
Who had the better June: Ben Gamel or Mike Zunino?
Nearly a year ago, on Aug. 31, the Mariners and Yankees completed a trade that barely qualified for baseball’s list of daily transactions. Seattle sent minor league RHPs Juan De Paula and Jio Orozco, both teenagers, to New York for Gamel, the 24-year-old, 24th-ranked Yankee prospect whose MLB experience consisted of 10 plate appearances.
Nothing is under the radar about Gamel now. He has a .336 batting average after completing one of the more remarkable Junes in franchise history.
Gamel had 42 hits, the 13th player in franchise history and only the second rookie to exceed the 40-hit mark, following Ichiro (2001). Gamel also hit .393. Only five other Mariners – Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez (three times), Ichiro (seven times), Joey Cora and Raul Ibanez — hit .390 or higher in a month. The only other rookie to do it was Ichiro, twice in 2001.
Gamel’s 42 hits in June followed Jean Segura’s 43 in May. This marks the first year since 2008 that two Mariners produced 40-hit months. That year, Ibanez (44) and Ichiro (43) had 40-hit months in August.
Zunino recorded 31 RBIs in June, tied for the most in that month by an American League catcher since 1920, when RBIs were first tracked. New York’s Bill Dickey had 31 in June 1937 and Detroit’s Rudy York 31 in June 1938.
Zunino had 10 homers, a .304 batting average and a .722 slugging percentage during the month.
He became the fifth player in club history to amass 10 or more homers and 30 or more RBIs in one month, joining Ken Griffey Jr. (three times), Martinez (twice), Rodriguez and Jay Buhner.
Innings of the week
Phillies 9th Tuesday: Seattle held a 4-3 lead into the ninth and had not allowed a hit since the third inning. Joseph changed that by knocking a 98 mph fastball from Diaz over left field, tying at 4. Diaz struck out the next two, but walked Cameron Perkins.
A balk moved Perkins into scoring position. Knapp lined a 1-2 pitch into right field for the decider.
Mariners 5th Friday: The Mariners parlayed a single (Gamel), three doubles (Jarrod Dyson, Seager, Nelson Cruz) and a home run (Cano) into a four-run outburst.
Angels 8th Sunday: The Mariners had a 5-1 lead and gave up two runs before Albert Pujols came to bat against closer Diaz. He induced Pujols to ground out to Segura at short. Key defensive play: Angels had the bases loaded and Guillermo Heredia made a leaping catch in center to prevent a bases-clearing hit by Cameron Maybin.
Good week / bad week
Good: Segura hit a home run Tuesday, had three hits Wednesday, delivered a run-scoring double Friday and two RBIs Sunday on a 4-for-5 day. Bad: Diaz blew two save opportunities in 24 hours. Tuesday, he allowed four runs, none earned. A day later, he allowed the tying and winning runs.
Not in the box score
“Not a good ballgame for us tonight. Obviously, Aaron Nola threw the ball really well and had a good curve ball going. We had a couple chances in the sixth and seventh to put some numbers up against him. We just didn’t get it done in those key at-bats.” – Manager Scott Servais Tuesday
“Baseball is a great game, but many days it can be cruel.” – Servais Wednesday
“Just a complete group win, but it starts with Miranda. He was just awesome tonight.”– Servais Friday
“For me it’s not really about the home runs. You just want to get the wins and see everyone contribute.” — Cano after two home runs Friday
“I haven’t had a stretch this long in my career. Obviously, you’re going to have a week or two, but to sustain it for a month . . . I hope I can keep that going.” – Zunino to mariners.com, after finishing June with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs
“Thirty-one in one month. That’s hard to do. First you have to have someone on base.” — Cano on Zunino’s 31 RBIs in June
“You want to hit the ball up the middle.” — Segura after going 4-for-5 Sunday
Wednesday: LHP Drew Smyly, on the disabled list since Opening Day, was lost for the season and will undergo Tommy John surgery July 6; outrighted RHP Pat Light to AAA Tacoma.
Sunday: Recalled RHP Andrew Moore and OF Boog Powell from AAA Tacoma, optioned RHP Max Povse to Tacoma. Agreed to a $1.75 million deal with Dominican Republic OF Julio Rodriguez, ranked No. 9 on MLBPipeline.com’s Top 30 international prospects list, and to a $1.225 million deal with Venezuela SS Juan Querecuto, ranked No. 26.
The Mariners close out the first half with a seven-game home stand – three against Kansas City and four against Oakland. RHP Andrew Moore (1-0, 3.86) will pitch Monday opposite RHP Ian Kennedy (2-6, 4.72). After the All-Star break, the Mariners begin the second half with a six-game swing through Chicago and Houston.