Seattle Mariners

Zunino surging again for Mariners

Mike Zunino has 11 hits in his last 28 at-bats.
Mike Zunino has 11 hits in his last 28 at-bats. AP

The Mike Zunino roller-coaster is heading back up again.

Zunino had a homer and a single in three at-bats Friday when the Mariners ended a five-game skid with a 3-2 victory over Oakland in the start to a three-game weekend series at Safeco Field.

Notably, both hits went to right field, which is typically a signal that Zunino is locked in at the plate. He is 11-for-28 (.393) with three doubles and two homers in his last eight games.

Zunino even joked about wishing he had retrieved the ball after the second hit, the single, because, "I don’t think I’ve had two hits to right (in the same game) in my career."

It’s been a wild ride.

Zunino began the season in a bad slide that resulted in a two-week demotion in May to Triple-A Tacoma. A revised approached resulted in a monster June when he returned: 10 homers, 31 RBIs and a .304 average in 24 games.

Then regression for roughly six weeks: a .188 average over his next 35 games before his current rebound.

"To overhaul your swing in the middle of the year is very difficult to do," manager Scott Servais said. "He’s done it. He had an unbelievable month in June. He kind of fell off the boat for a while, but he got back on.

"He’s made some really good adjustments. He’s got that feel back."

Zunino’s homer on Friday was his 20th of the season. He had 22 in 2014 but minimized that power impact by batting just .199 with a .254 on-base percentage. His current numbers are far more acceptable at .235 and .314.

The two hits Friday to right field underscore his growth.

"I’ve really just put my focus on at-bats," he said. "Just having quality at-bats. What I’ve done in making changes has let me be in the zone a little bit longer and be able to drive balls to that side of the field.

"That’s what I want. I want to be able to drive that ball to right-center and stay on it."

OTHER WATCHPOINTS

***Veteran right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who starts Saturday, has had a tough year at 5-10 with a 5.78 ERA, but he is 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA this season in four appearances against the Athletics.

***The Mariners enter Saturday’s game, which starts at 6:10 p.m., at 67-68 and trailing Minnesota by 3 1/2 games in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.

***Oakland is starting right-hander Jharel Cotton (7-10, 5.40). He is 1-1 with a 6.06 ERA in three career starts against the Mariners, but he produced quality starts in his last two outings in victories against Houston and Texas.

***Khris Davis is 2-for-8 with two homers in his career against Gallardo. Generally, though, Gallardo has handled the Athletics: Jed Lowrie is 4-for-21, Marcus Semien is 5-for-19, Matt Joyce in 2-for-12 and Ryon Healy is 2-for-11.

***Robinson Cano is 5-for-9 with two homers in his career against Cotton. Nelson Cruz is 3-for-6 with two homers, and Kyle Seager is 2-for-5 with a homer.

***On Friday, Mike Leake became the 17th different pitcher to start a game for the Mariners, which matches a franchise record set by the 1977 expansion club. It is also the most this season in the majors.

***Leake was also the 38th different pitcher used this season by the Mariners, which is the second-highest number in MLB history behind the 40 pitchers used by Texas in 2014. The Mariners should at least match that number in coming days because relievers Shae Simmons and Ryan Garton joined the roster on Friday.

***Worth noting: Triple-A Tacoma has used 53 different pitchers with three games remaining in its season.

***The Athletics have lost four in a row and are a season-worst 18 games under .500 at 58-76.

***The Mariners hold an 8-6 lead in the season series with two games remaining this weekend at Safeco Field and a three-game series from Sept. 25-27 at Oakland.

TIME CAPSULE

It was 30 years ago Saturday — Sept. 2, 1987 — that Mark Langston became the second player in franchise history selected as the American League pitcher of the month.

Langston won the award after going 4-1 in August with a 2.14 ERA in six starts.

The only previous Mariner to win the award was Jim Beattie for July 1982. Langston would win the award again in September 1988.

The most-recent Mariners recipient was Felix Hernandez, who won the award for a fourth time in June 2014.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

 
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