BALTIMORE — It’s been a while coming for Adam Lind, who has shown little of his reputed left-handed power, and, fact is, this wasn’t anything approaching a bazooka shot.
In fact, Lind was late on a full-count fastball, an 88-mph fastball, from Baltimore starter Tyler Wilson with two runners on base Thursday afternoon in the sixth inning.
But Lind got enough into the swing to loft the ball over the left-field wall for a three-run homer that propelled the Mariners to a 7-2 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards.
"I wanted to at least get the ball in the air (for a sacrifice fly) to score a run," said Lind, who entered the game with a .223 average and just two homers in 31 games.
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"I put a pretty good swing on it, and hit it good enough to go over the wall. I just thought it was going to be a sac fly at first. But I think it cleared (the wall). I don’t think it was robbable."
True enough. A fan in the front row caught the ball beyond a leaping effort from left fielder Joey Rickard.
"(Lind) was kind of the story of the game," manager Scott Servais said. "We needed a big knock, and he hit it to a good spot in the ballpark."
The Mariners improved to 23-17 at what is roughly the one-quarter mark in the season, which puts them on pace for 93 victories. They also boosted their lead atop the American League West Division to 1 1/2 games.
So, sure, it’s early. But it’s been a pretty good early.
And if Lind gets going, as the Mariners keep predicting, that good early has a chance to turn into something more.
"I think the past week has been (better)," he said. "I haven’t got as many hits as (I’d like), but my at-bats have improved a lot. I’m seeing a lot more pitches in at-bats. I’m making the pitcher work.
"I feel I’m making progress and are headed in the right direction."
Lind’s homer turned a one-run lead into a four-run cushion and, while Nathan Karns (4-1) had allowed just four hits through five innings, Servais chose to turn to his bullpen.
"I just felt a little out of rhythm for the most part," he said. "It’s one of those games where you just don’t feel as comfortable as you normally do. But you just battle through it."
Nick Vincent and Vidal Nuno nursed the lead through the seventh inning with no problems, but Joaquin Benoit labored through the eighth in his first appearance since April 21.
Two one-out walks sandwiched around a single pushed him into the heart of the Orioles’ lineup with the tying run at the plate.
But Benoit steadied. Adam Jones’ grounder to short traded one run for an out, before Benoit stranded runners at second and third by retiring Chris Davis on a fly to center.
"I walked two guys," said Benoit, who threw 29 pitches. "I understand. They told me that it was the first time back, but my expectations were different. Maybe next time I’ll do better."
The Mariners answered by scoring twice in the ninth. Ketel Marte drove a two-out double into the left-center gap against reliever Dylan Bundy, and Leonys Martin followed with a two-run homer to right.
Like Lind’s homer, Martin’s drive barely cleared the wall.
"I didn’t know (it was gone)," Martin admitted. "It was, a little bit, off the end of my bat. But it’s a small ballpark."
Steve Cishek worked a scoreless ninth, in a non-save situation, in his first outing since blowing two weekend saves in losses to the Angels.
"Benoit was a little rusty," Servais said. "We expected that. It was great that we had the lead that we did when we fired him out there. But it’s great to see him out there.
"It really allows us to do some other things in the sixth and seventh inning, knowing that you have him and Cishek rested behind those games."
PLAY OF THE GAME: The Mariners opened the scoring by by taking advantage of a Baltimore misplay in the first inning.
Robinson Cano’s sharp grounder to first should have been an inning-ending double play, but first baseman Chris Davis bobbled the ball and settled for one out at first. That allowed Nori Aoki to reach second.
Nelson Cruz followed with an RBI single.
The Mariners have outscored opponents 25-9 in the first inning.
PLUS: Leonys Martin had a single and a walk in three plate appearances prior to his two-run homer in the ninth inning…Shortstop Ketel Marte got the key out in the Baltimore eighth inning with a sure-handed pickup on Adam Jones’ one-out grounder with the bases loaded. Marte then got a two-out double in the ninth, which preceded Martin’s two-run homer…the Mariners were 4-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
MINUS: Ketel Marte and Leonys Martin were each thrown out on attempted steals by Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph…Seth Smith was thrown out at second when he tried to stretch a two-out single in the fourth inning.
STAT PACK: Nelson Cruz has reached base safely at least once in his last 24 games at Camden Yards…Robinson Cano has a 12-game hitting streak against the Orioles and has reached base safely overall at least once in his last 18 games…Baltimore’s two-three-four hitters (Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Chris Davis) were a combined 2-for-32 in the series.
QUOTABLE: After missing nearly four weeks because of inflammation in his shoulder, reliever Joaquin Benoit offered this assessment after a 29-pitch inning:
"A little sore. It’s been a while since I’ve pitched. It’s like baby steps from now on. It feels all right."
Manager Scott Servais previously indicated that, as a precaution, Benoit is not likely to pitch on consecutive days for the foreseeable future.
SHORT HOPS: Nathan Karns is 4-0 with a 2.79 ERA in his last 10 outings (nine starts) in road games…the Mariners improved to 15-7 on the road and to 6-0-1 in road series…the Mariners are also the first opponent this season to win a series at Camden Yards. The Orioles were 6-0-1 at home before losing two of three to the Mariners.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners