Mariners notebook: Zunino finds 4 hits cures what ails him

Staff writerApril 30, 2014 

Mariners Yankees Baseball

Seattle Mariners' Mike Zunino, left, celebrates with Robinson Cano (22), Justin Smoak (17), Willie Bloomquist (8) and Kyle Seager (15) after a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Tuesday, April 29, 2014, in New York. The Mariners won the game 6-3.

AP

There’s no better remedy for that under-the-weather feeling, as Mike Zunino can attest, than a bucketful of hits and a victory.

Zunino shook off a recent bout of flu-like symptoms Tuesday by going 4-for-5 in his first career appearance at Yankee Stadium and helping the Mariners to a 6-3 victory over New York in the series opener.

“I didn’t try to do too much,” he said. “That’s the thing. Sometimes, when you’re not feeling 100 percent, you don’t try to do too much. Sometimes, that’s the key to this game.

“I was feeling better today, and I told Skip (manager Lloyd McClendon) I was ready to go. Luckily, I was able to barrel some balls up, and not barrel some balls up that still found holes.”

Zunino became the 15th player in history to get four or more hits in his first game at Yankee Stadium since the original facility opened in 1923.

Only one of the previous 14 was younger than Zunino, who was 23 years and 35 days on Tuesday.

That was shortstop Wayne Ambler of the Philadelphia A’s, who was 22 years and 186 days when he went 5-for-5 on May 13, 1938, in an 8-6 victory at the original Yankee Stadium.

The Mariners trailed 2-0 when Zunino started a four-run rally in the fifth inning against Yankees ace CC Sabathia by beating out an infield single.

The original call was an out by crew chief Bill Miller, but McClendon challenged — and the replay confirmed Zunino beat the throw from second baseman Brian Roberts.

“I felt like I beat it,” Zunino said, “just because the play happened in my peripheral vision. I peeked in the dugout and saw them answering the phone, so I just hung out (at first).”

Willie Bloomquist followed with a double past first, and the rally blossomed. The Mariners went on to win for the fourth time in five games since ending an eight-game skid.

“I felt like the team stayed pretty even-keeled through that little bad stretch,” Zunino said. “Like everyone kept saying, it’s a long season. We’ve got to stay patient and stick to our work. Luckily, it’s turned around.

“Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going.”

Zunino has been one of the club’s steadiest contributors. His .274 average trails only Robinson Cano among the club’s regulars, and his 120 on-base plus slugging plus (OPS+) ranks third to Corey Hart and Kyle Seager. The league average of OPS+ is 100.

“I just think things are starting to slow down for him a little bit,” McClendon said. “He was really thrown into the fire, so to speak. I think he’s starting to get his feet on solid ground; believing that he can play here.”

Offense is only part of the package.

“Mike Zunino did an unbelievable job,” said veteran right-hander Chris Young, who got the victory Tuesday after limiting the Yankees to two runs in 5† innings.

“Not only swinging it. The game he called was phenomenal. I continue to be just blown away that he’s a rookie back there. He’s doing a great job.”

Just wait until he gets healthy.

GAME POSTPONED

Relentless storms in the New York area forced a postponement of Wednesday night’s game at Yankee Stadium. The forecast projected no halt to the rain throughout the night.

The Yankees made the announcement just before 2:30 p.m. EDT, or roughly 4ß hours before the scheduled 7:05 p.m. start.

The rainout was rescheduled for June 2.

The Mariners are shifting rookie left-hander Roenis Elias to Thursday’s series finale, but the Yankees plan to skip David Phelps and use Hiroki Kuroda, who had been scheduled to pitch Thursday.

Phelps is normally a reliever but had been slotted for a spot start following a suspension levied to Michael Pineda, an ex-Mariner, for applying pine tar to the ball in his last start.

With Elias starting Thursday, Felix Hernandez will now pitch the series opener Friday in Houston. That makes it likely Hisashi Iwakuma will be activated from the disabled list in time to start Saturday against the Astros.

Iwakuma worked four innings last Sunday in a rehab start for Triple-A Tacoma at Las Vegas (Mets) that marked his first game action since being diagnosed in February with a strained ligament in his middle finger.

MINOR DETAILS

Third baseman D.J. Peterson returned to the lineup Tuesday, as a designated hitter, for the first time since April 21 and went 1-for-5 with a homer in Advanced-A High Desert’s 5-3 loss at Lancaster (Astros).

A hamstring injury sidelined Peterson, who was the Mariners’ first-round pick in 2013 and is generally regarded as the top nonpitching prospect. He is batting .284 overall with two homers and 12 RBIs in 18 games.

LOOKING BACK

It was 30 years ago Thursday — May 1, 1984 — that the Mariners rapped out 18 hits in rallying to an 11-8 victory over Minnesota.

Spike Owen’s two-run triple highlighted a five-run sixth inning, which began with the Twins leading 8-3. The Mariners took the lead on Jack Perconte’s RBI double in the seventh and scored two more in the eighth.

SHORT HOPS

Reliever Danny Farquhar had two strikeouts Tuesday in his only inning, which gives him 13 in 13 innings over his 12 outings. He is averaging 11.84 strikeouts per nine innings over 70† innings in his career. … Dustin Ackley’s RBI pinch-hit single Tuesday marked the third straight hit by a Mariners’ pinch-hitter after they started the season 1-for-9. … Corey Hart has reached base in 12 straight games. … Eight Mariners have been hit by pitches over the past four games.

ON TAP

The Mariners conclude their rain-interrupted stay in New York with another 4:05 p.m. PDT game Thursday at Yankee Stadium. Lefty Roenis Elias (1-2, 3.54 ERA) will start against Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (2-2, 5.28). Root Sports will carry the game.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com
blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners
@TNT_Mariners

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