And suddenly, at the start of a tepid June, the Mariners’ bats have kindly heated up.
To scorching measurements.
This three-game display of run scoring, capped by Seattle’s 7-1 series-sweeping victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday, wasn’t aided by the dry heat of Texas, or against Houston’s porous pitching staff of a few years ago.
The Mariners scored 28 runs against one of the best pitching staffs in the American League in the Rays.
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And they came about in every way possible — grand slam home runs, multiple run-scoring doubles and singles, even a wild pitch Sunday at Safeco Field.
Seattle starting pitcher Ariel Miranda took care of the rest, giving up just one earned run to win his career-best fifth game in a row — in his first complete-game effort.
“We’re coming together as a team,” M’s shortstop Taylor Motter said. “These last 7-8 games have been awesome.”
And the scoring has been awe-striking.
Seattle’s 28 runs from this weekend’s series was the most it had scored in nearly three years. The M’s also netted 28 runs in a three-game series against the Astros in Houston from June 30-July 2, 2014.
And the last time Seattle scored more in three games? It came in May of 2012 – 33 runs at Globe Life Park in Arlington against the Rangers (highlighted by a 21-8 win).
Manager Scott Servais can pit the heart of his lineup — Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager — against anybody in the AL.
But what the bottom part of the order accomplished in these three games makes the offense even more dangerous.
Of the 28 runs against Tampa Bay, the 6-through-9 hitters — Danny Valencia, Motter, Jarrod Dyson and Mike Zunino — accounted for 24 RBI. That quartet also batted .488 for the series.
Zunino drove in two more runs Sunday with his single to right field in the fourth inning.
“Obviously with what I’ve been working on, that cleans the (swing) path to go that way,” said Zunino, who has nine RBI in his past two games. “With two strikes, it’s nice to be able to have the swing now I can put that ball over to that direction.”
And Dyson put the game out of reach — 6-0 — with his two-run single just inside the first-base bag in the sixth.
“The guys on the bottom, we all know the potential that they have,” Servais said. “When they put consistent at-bats together, and literally keep the line moving, it is fun to watch. It (puts) constant pressure on the other team, and the other pitcher. He doesn’t have easy outs.”
With two more singles to start out Sunday, Valencia tied the team mark with hits in nine consecutive at-bats, tying Raul Ibanez’s record from 2004.
Valencia’s record-tying hit came on an infield grounder that third baseman Daniel Robertson could not field cleanly.
The streak ended on his pop-up to Rickie Weeks, Jr. at first base in the sixth inning.
“Somebody asked Edgar (Martinez) in the dugout, ‘You were pretty good, did you ever do that?’ Edgar couldn’t say he’d done it,” Servais said. “When you get nine straight hits … when it is going good, you have to ride it as long as you can.”
Seattle took a 2-0 lead on Nelson Cruz’s two-run home off former M’s pitcher Erasmo Ramirez to straightaway center field in the first inning. It was the 47th time Cruz has homered in at least back-to-back games for his career.
PLAY OF THE GAME: It was when Ariel Miranda showed up Sunday morning to the ballpark. As good as the offense was, Miranda stole the show with his first complete-game victory (9.0 IP, 1 ER, 105 pitches) in 24 career appearances. He now has a career-best five-game winning streak.
PLUS: Outfielder Nelson Cruz’s two-run home run in the first inning was his 14th blast of the season. It also marked the 47th time in his career he has homered in back-to-back games. … First baseman Danny Valencia tied Raul Ibanez’s 2004 record by getting a hit in nine consecutive at-bats. It came on an infield single in the fourth inning.
MINUS: The only run Miranda gave up Sunday came on Daniel Robertson’s fly ball to center field that Dyson lost in the sun in the eighth inning. It was ruled a triple.
STAT PACK: Seattle swept the Rays in a series for a third consecutive season. It was the M’s fourth career sweep at Safeco Field. ... The M’s starting staff is 7-1 in its past eight games, posting a 3.18 ERA.
QUOTABLE: “Everyone is excited for this one (off day Monday). But we are going hot right now. So I hope we can show up Tuesday and keep it rolling.” – Taylor Motter
SHORT HOPS: After a one-game absence due to a family graduation ceremony, M’s pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, Jr. was back in the dugout Sunday. … Servais said a few of his staff members were slated to play Chambers Bay, site of the 2015 U.S. Open, during the off-day Monday.
ON DECK: The M’s welcome that rare off-day in the middle of a homestand Monday, then return to Safeco Field on Tuesday to start a three-game series against Minnesota. Left-hander James Paxton (4-0, 1.26 ERA) squares off against Twins’ veteran Hector Santiago (4-5, 4.76). First pitch is 7:10 p.m. PDT
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest, and heard on 710-AM ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network.