What happened Friday in a 10-0 carpet bombing of the Los Angeles Angels was, from the Mariners’ view, an overdue course correction after four straight disappointing losses.
They got seven shutout innings from lefty Ariel Miranda, who was winless in four previous starts. They unleashed a balanced 17-hit attack that included two homers from Robinson Cano and one each from Mike Zunino and Kyle Seager.
Ben Gamel got four more hits in capping off a glorious June. So did Seager. And yet the night’s most eye-popping moment came at the end when Taylor Motter, a late-inning replacement for shortstop Jean Segura, turned in a stunning web gem.
The Angels, silent all night, had runners at second and third with two outs in the ninth inning against rookie right-hander Max Povse, who replaced Miranda to start the eighth inning.
Jefry Marte pulled a Povse pitch into the short-third hole that, initially, seemed a likely two-run single. When Motter corralled the ball with a backhand, it appeared Marte and the Angels would settle for a run that would break the shutout.
But Motter leaped into the air and spun as his momentum carried him away from first base and, somehow, unleashed a powerful and accurate throw to first that beat Marte for the final out.
It was a fitting end to, perhaps, the Mariners’ best all-around game of the year.
Three takeaways from Friday’s victory:
***Miranda warning: Miranda credited a heightened aggressiveness in gaining his first victory since June 4. He limited the Angels to two hits in seven innings while throwing 60 of 95 pitches for strikes.
"He was sharp," Seager said. "It was a lot of fun to play behind him tonight."
Zunino added: "He attacked the zone today. He had great command of his fastball. His split was great. He threw some great changeups. That team has been playing really well. So to come in and throw the ball like he did was great."
***Blooming in June: The Mariners went 15-11 in June for their first winning month of the season. Gamel and Zunino, in particular, must regret the calendar turning to July.
Gamel went 4-for-5 on Friday and finished June at 42-for-107 (.393), which raised his overall average to .348. No wonder he joked that, "I may have to scratched every month off the top line (of the calendar) and just put June."
Zunino’s homer in the second inning opened the scoring and boosted his RBI count for June to 31. That fell two RBIs shy of the club record for any single month; Edgar Martinez and Mike Blowers each had 33 RBIs in August 1995.
A resurgent Zunino is one of the big pluses from the season’s first half.
***Halfway home: The Mariners are 40-41 at the midpoint in their schedule. They’ve weathered numerous injuries to key personnel while displaying considerable resilience from a few crushing low points.
Fact is, their club is now in place. This is the group that will either pull mount a postseason run over the next three months…or not. It’s not quite the roster that club officials anticipated going into spring training, but it is, in some ways, better.
Gamel and Zunino are unexpected pluses. Guillermo Heredia is exceeding expectations. Mitch Haniger shows signs of becoming the impact bat the Mariners envision, while Segura, when healthy, has been even better than expected.
The question remains the rotation but, at least, it’s no longer in flux.
The Mariners now know Drew Smyly won’t be returning. He is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery on July 6, which means 12-to-15 months on the shelf. Odds are, he’ll never throw a pitch for the Mariners.
The situation surrounding Hisashi Iwakuma’s ailing shoulder isn’t quite as bleak, but the vibe coming from club officials is he’s not expected to return any time soon.
The rotation got a boost recently when Felix Hernandez returned to active duty after nearly two months. Even if he isn’t vintage Felix, he provides stability. Miranda has evolved from a five-and-diver into a reliable performer.
James Paxton flashed his potential early in the season. It’s in there. Sam Gaviglio and soon-to-be-recalled Andrew Moore complete the revamped five-man unit with veteran Yovani Gallardo still around if problems arise.
The second half starts Saturday. For everything that’s happened, the Mariners are 1 1/2 games back in the wild-card standings.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners