There wasn’t much for the Mariners not to like Monday in their 14-3 pummeling of the Minnesota Twins in the start to a four-game series at Target Field.
A season high in runs. Matching a season high with 19 hits. At least one hit from everyone in the lineup. And an encouraging outing from veteran right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who recorded his fourth quality start in 13 outings.
The Mariners scored two runs in the first inning against Twins lefty Adalberto Mejia, but Joe Mauer answered immediately with a two-run double against Gallardo.
After that it was all Mariners.
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Four runs in the third inning before a three-run knockout in the fourth. Gallardo allowed just one run and five hits over his final five innings.
Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger fueled the assault from the top of the lineup. They combined to reach base nine times and score seven runs. Haniger went 4-for-6 in his second game back from 42-game absence due to a strained oblique muscle.
Nelson Cruz had four RBIs. Danny Valencia and Mike Zunino hit homers on consecutive pitches in the eighth inning. It was a blowout.
Three takeaways from Monday’s victory:
***Haniger’s impact: Gamel and Guillermo Heredia played so well in Haniger’s absence that it was easy to forget his potential impact on the lineup. Haniger was the Mariners’ best player before he got hurt on April 25 in Detroit.
With four hits Monday, Haniger raised his average to .348, which would lead the American League if he had sufficient plate appearances to quality for the leaderboard. He also has a .448 on-base percentage and a .596 slugging percentage.
***A Gallardo turnaround?: Sometimes you see what you want to believe but, sometimes, what you want to believe really is what you see. (Say that quickly three times.) Anyway, the Mariners want to believe Gallardo has turned a corner.
He had a quality start Monday and, after a rocky first inning, settled into an effective groove. Gallardo contends, and manager Scott Servais agrees, that the turnaround started in his previous start.
That was also against the Twins. Gallardo pitched seven innings but paid dearly for one four-batter hiccup with two outs in the fifth inning. A double, a walk, a single and a homer resulted in four runs.
Servais and other club officials contended all along that, despite the results, Gallardo’s stuff was his best in years. If that’s true, and this is a turnaround in progress, that represents a major boost to the rotation.
The jury is still out. Gallardo’s next start is Saturday at Texas.
***Zunino surges on: It shouldn’t get lost in the flood of runs and hits that Zunino went 3-for-5 with a massive 415-foot homer to center field.
Zunino is batting .311 (19-for-61) with five homers and 17 RBIs in 18 games since his May 22 recall from Triple-A Tacoma — and that includes an 0-for-14 skid in late May. It’s not enough to erase the doubts, but it’s enough to ease them.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners