THE FACTS: Top prospect Alex Jackson crushed a game-tying homer to right-center field in the eighth inning Friday after the Mariners blew a 3-2 lead in the seventh.
“It was awesome,” Jackson said. “It was a blast.”
He was likely commenting on the excitement and emotion of the moment…but it works either way. It was a no-doubt (OK, awesome) blast to the opposite field against Texas reliever Shawn Tolleson.
“Pretty impressive,” manager Lloyd McClendon agreed. “A lot of power to right-center.”
Jackson, 19, was the Mariners’ top pick in last year’s draft and ranks as the organization’s top prospect in the TNT Top 10.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Second baseman Shawn O’Malley flashed quick reflexes in handling Mitch Moreland’s sharp grounder while playing near the grass with a runner on third with one out in the first inning.
O’Malley turned the play into an out, which helped starter Roenis Elias work around a leadoff triple.
PLUS: Mike Zunino spent the day as the designated hitter and responded with a pair of homers. His solo shot in the fourth inning tied the game at 1-1, and his two-run drive in the sixth, which refused to hook foul, provided the Mariners with a 3-2 lead…catcher Jesus Sucre threw a dart to second that thwarted Nomar Mazara’s bid for a stolen base in the third inning…O’Malley had a pair of singles in addition to his defensive gem.
MINUS: The head-banger duo from the club’s ad campaign, Charlie Furbish and Tom Wilhelmsen, had tough days. Furbush fumbled an attempted sacrifice bunt and failed to get an out with two on and none out in the fifth. He later walked in a run. Wilhelmsen surrendered a one-run lead in the seventh by giving up a two-run homer to Moreland…The Mariners failed to cash a first-and-third chance with one out in the first inning when Nelson Cruz grounded into a double play…Cruz then swung through a 3-2 pitch in his next at-bat, which resulted in a double play when Justin Ruggiano was thrown out on an attempted steal of season.
JOB BATTLES: Elias turned in another solid outing of minimizing damage — one earned run in four innings — but he’s slipping behind Taijuan Walker in competition for the final rotation opening.
Elias has allowed five earned runs and 18 hits over 11 2/3 innings in four games; Walker has not allowed a run and just four hits in 12 innings in his four starts.
“The team knows what I did last year at the major-league level,” Elias said. “Taijuan has had a great spring, and I’m happy for him. But at the end of the day, we both want the same thing.”
QUOTABLE: “I’m continuing to just try to clean some stuff up,” Zunino said in summing up his two-homer day. “Clean up my direction a little bit. Stay aggressive. I’ve been able to work on that.
“It’s progressing. I’m feeling better at the plate. I’m hoping I can carry that on here.”
EXTRA INNINGS: Texas pitcher Alex Claudio was ejected for hitting Sucre in seventh inning by home-plate umpire Ben May. That came after the Mariners hit two Rangers: Elias got Robinson Chirinos in the fourth, and Wilhelmsen plunked Ryan Rua in the sixth.
UP NEXT: Felix Hernandez returns to Cactus League action when the Mariners travel Saturday to Mesa for a 1:05 p.m. game against the Chicago Cubs at Sloan Park.
It lined up as a marquee match-up until the Cubs scratched Jon Lester, their new ace, because of what they termed a dead arm. Lester is expected to miss one start. Lefty Eric Jokisch will start in Lester’s place.
Hernandez is working on an extra day of rest after pitching last Sunday against minor-league players in a simulated game rather than face the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Mariners and Dodgers play April 13-15 in Los Angeles.