The Seattle Mariners touched down in New York City on May 13 with Raul Ibañez in a funk.
He already was playing more than he or the Mariners had planned after he signed a one-year deal in the offseason. A night later, Ibañez went 2-for-4 with a homer at Yankee Stadium. It was the start of a two-month rampage.
Ibañez homered twice Friday night in the Mariners’ 8-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field, helping Seattle snap a three-game losing streak.
His average was just .194 when he hit the bright lights of New York. He had just three home runs.
Now, the 41-year-old is hitting .264 with 24 home runs after a 3-for-4 night again made him the load-bearer in Seattle’s recently vivacious offense.
“Who would have thought?” Ibañez said. “Just kind of go day by day.”
Ibañez’s thunderous first-half run continued in the fourth inning Friday night when he hit a Jerome Williams fastball 438 feet into the second deck of right field. He was the first to launch a baseball into that part of Safeco Field since Mike Carp did so Aug. 29, 2011.
That home run — his 23rd — blew the cork out of the champagne bottle for Seattle’s offense.
Kendrys Morales followed with a single, and Kyle Seager walked. After Justin Smoak flied out to the warning track in center field, Mike Zunino
and Dustin Ackley hit RBI singles.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia pulled Williams (5-5), and Zunino scored on a wild pitch by Garrett Richards to push the Mariners up, 6-0.
Ibañez started the scoring in the first with a sizzling double to right-center.
Seager whacked a home run to right — his 15th of the season — in the second to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. He’s one of three major league players this season to have at least three hitting streaks of 10-plus games, joining Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera.
Seager has hit safely in every game since being moved to fifth in the order June 30. He says being able to watch how Ibañez is pitched to has helped him.
“Watching him in general is going to help you out, the way he goes about everything,” Seager said of Ibañez. “Obviously, he’s doing an amazing job for us. His influence in the clubhouse is just as big, if not bigger.”
Seager’s homer gave the Mariners at least one home run in a club-record 20 consecutive games. Ibañez homered again in the seventh, and Morales followed on the next pitch with his home run to center.
The brisk early offense required Joe Saunders (8-8) to do what two Mariners starters could not during the three consecutive losses to Boston: hold an expansive lead.
Saunders used a blend of well-spotted fastballs, dipping changeups and sliders to stifle Los Angeles. In seven innings, he gave up no runs and a mere five hits.
“We really needed him to step up for us tonight,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “I thought he did a great job of being aggressive, especially early in the count.”
The Mariners have two games left before the All-Star break. Felix Hernandez takes the mound Saturday, and Hisashi Iwakuma will try to shake his recent doldrums Sunday before the pair head to New York for Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
They’ll be backed by what has been a spirited offense during the last five home games. The Mariners have scored 38 runs since Monday.
“We’ve shown signs of it, but nothing as consistent as what you’re seeing right now,” Wedge email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners