Blowout victories this season have been rare for the Mariners. So Thursday’s 11-3 romp over the Los Angeles Angels was one to be enjoyed. It was only the third time this season that they won a game by more than six runs.
The more-than-six benchmark is appropriate because of what happened April 9 when, against these same Angels, the Mariners weren’t able to protect a six-run lead in the ninth inning.
That seemed a long way away Thursday when the Mariners matched season highs with 11 runs and 16 hits while getting a shutdown seven-inning performance from Ariel Miranda after a shaky start.
The Mariners are now 13-16 as they head into a three-game weekend series against Texas at Safeco Field.
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Three takeaways from Thursday’s victory:
***Valencia comes alive: First baseman Danny Valencia went 4-for-5 with a booming upper-deck homer and three RBIs in leading the Mariners’ balanced attack. It was the biggest plus in a night filled with pluses.
The Mariners have been waiting for Valencia to begin playing to his career norms and, just maybe, Thursday marked the start of a corrective turn. If so, his bat will be a major addition to a lineup that is surging.
Valencia hit so poorly over the opening weeks that the Mariners briefly recalled Dan Vogelbach. The decision earlier this week to option Vogelbach back to Triple-A Tacoma indicated Valencia was in line for another extended look.
The Mariners don’t need Valencia to carry their attack. They just need him to be a reliable bat in the No. 6 spot in the lineup. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to do that.
***Miranda warning: Generalizations are risky, but it’s a near-universal view in baseball that Cuban-born players rarely rattle when things get tough. (They might not play well, but they typically remain calm. Even stoic.)
That view no doubt stems from the real-world dangers each faced in defecting from their homeland. Perhaps Miranda was born with that no-panic quality but, fact is, he doesn’t rattle when things start going south.
On Thursday, for his second straight start, Miranda steadied after some early struggles, pitching deep into the game, and handed a lead to the bullpen.
Miranda was ticketed to start the season at Tacoma until a late-March injury to Drew Smyly created an opening in the big-league rotation. The way he’s pitched, Miranda is going to be hard to displace even when everybody gets healthy.
***More than a fill-in: It’s easy to forget that, until the Mariners acquired veteran Jarrod Dyson in a January trade, they were comfortable with the idea of Ben Gamel drawing regular outfield duty.
While a spring roster squeeze forced Gamel to Tacoma, he gained an opportunity in late April because of an injury to right fielder Mitch Haniger and a dreadful start by center fielder Leonys Martin.
Gamel went 3-for-3 with two walks in Thursday’s victory, which raised his average to .333 and his on-base percentage to .444 in eight games since arriving from the Rainiers.
It’s a small sample size, but it’s not hard to envision the Mariners running out an outfield over the next few years that has Gamel in left, Guillermo Heredia in center and Haniger in right.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners