On a perfect summer night when they weren’t particularly crisp in the field, committing three errors and looking shaky on a few more plays, the Seattle Mariners slugged their way to a victory.
That isn’t something that has been said too often in past seasons.
But this is the new version of the Mariners – a team that racks up hits and scores runs in bunches.
A day after their eight-game winning streak ended, the Mariners took their first step to starting another streak Thursday night, routing the Minnesota Twins, 8-2, at Safeco Field.
Seattle banged out 11 hits, including a season-high seven extra-base hits – six of them doubles – for their ninth win in 10 games while inching closer to .500 at 49-53.
The Mariners chased Twins starter Kevin Correia in the
second inning, hanging six runs on the scoreboard.
Mike Zunino and Dustin Ackley started the barrage with back-to-back RBI singles, Brad Miller snapped a 0-for-13 streak with an RBI double to center and Nick Franklin punctuated the inning with a three-run home to right field.
“Honestly, 0-2, I was just trying to make contact and put the ball in play,” Franklin said of his eighth homer of the season. “The infield was in and I was looking to get the ball in the air and get that run in somehow.”
The Mariners tacked on two more runs in the fifth as Henry Blanco, who replaced Zunino, doubled to center and Ackley followed with his third hit of a game – an RBI double to right-center. Ackley had doubles to both sides of the field on the night.
“When you’re feeling right and hunting the fastball, those types of things happen,” Ackley said. “There’s no surprise that when you’re aggressive at the plate and doing things like that, you’re getting good pitches to hit. Tonight I didn’t miss a couple.”
The Mariners didn’t need all that offense.
Hisashi Iwakuma gave them another solid outing against the Twins, which has become quite common.
Despite dealing with all the extra base runners from booted balls in the field, Iwakuma pitched six shutout innings, giving up four hits while striking out nine and walking one to improve to 10-4. He has not given up an earned run against the Twins in 262/3 innings over four starts dating to last season.
“I don’t know if I’m good against this team in general,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “I’m just able to pitch my game, keeping the ball down in the zone, getting ahead with my first pitch and just being aggressive with my fastball. That’s been very effective against this team.”
That’s very effective against any team.
Iwakuma got away from that for about a five-start stretch but he seems to have figured it out winning three consecutive starts and posting a 2.25 ERA with 23 strikeouts and four walks in that time.
“I think his ball was up during those times,” interim manager Robby Thompson said. “He’s human, and he went through a spurt most guys go through, whether it’s offensively, defensively or pitching.
“He went through that. I think he’s going to be fine. “
Iwakuma dealt with runners in every inning but one. And since his teammates were having trouble fielding the ground balls he coaxed from Twins batters, he struck them out instead.
“Well, you know, stuff like that happens in this game,” he said. “It’s the long course of a season. When stuff like that happens, you just have to go from there and see how much you can cover up as a pitcher. That’s what I had in mind.”
Thompson labeled it “damage control.”
“We put him in a situation they could have done damage, and he was the one that controlled that,” he said. “He kept his composure, which he always does, he stayed with his game plan and pitched like Iwakuma can pitch. He really picked us up tonight.”
But there were two negatives in the dominant win. Zunino left the game after taking a foul ball off the left wrist for the second time in three days.
He had X-rays that were negative for fractures.
“Nothing too bad,” Zunino said. “Everything came back all right. I’m looking forward to getting re-evaluated tomorrow.”
Thompson won’t know Zunino’s status until before game time but he’s hoping they won’t have to make a roster move.
“We’ll re-evaluate Mike and see what his availability is,” Thompson said. “We have Henry back there and we’ll go with the flow. Hopefully, Mike will be available. We won’t know until the afternoon.”
The other negative was the defense.
Thompson, who coaches the infielders and was an All-Star second baseman for the Giants, called the effort “lackadaisical.”
“Coming from an infield guy, I wasn’t too pleased with our infield play,” Thompson said. “Obviously, you guys are watching the same game.
“I’m a little bit disappointed with that. When you get situations where there’s three ground balls for double plays, and Iwakuma gets them, they should be turned. ”
Thompson made sure that the players understood his disappointment.
“I’ve already talked to them about it, but it is the game,” he said. “Sometimes that happens, and sometimes we don’t have an answer for it.
“We’ll tighten that up tomorrow.”Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish