Mariners Insider Blog

Takeaways: Zunino muscles Mariners past Tigers

Not just one. Mike Zunino hit two two-run homers Monday against Detroit.
Not just one. Mike Zunino hit two two-run homers Monday against Detroit. AP

When you look at Mike Zunino, do you see Matt Holliday?

The Mariners did.

Before Zunino began his two-week remedial tour in May at Triple-A Tacoma, the Mariners arranged some sessions with Mike Micucci, their minor-league field coordinator, and others in mapping out a plan to overhaul his approach.

"We looked at some hitters who were comparable," Zunino said. "What they do well. What they do at the plate. We looked at that and tried to make some changes from there."

One of main guys they looked at was Holliday, a 14-year veteran who now serves as the New York Yankees’ designated hitter.

"There were a few different guys," Zunino said, "and it was just with their swing. One of the bigger ones was Matt Holliday. When you look at the build and what he does. Obviously, what he's done in his career speaks for itself.

"When the goal is to try to hit the ball to right center, that’s a guy who does it really well."

Fast forward to Monday night.

Zunino continued a torrid June by hitting two two-run homers in a 6-2 victory over Detroit at Safeco Field. He is batting .333 in 23 games since his May 22 recall with nine homers and 28 RBIs.

"Obviously, what I was doing was not working," he said. "The last couple of years, I’ve been more patient. But I had to change the swing and give myself a chance."

Zunino is 26. When Holliday was 26, he batted .326 with 34 homers and 114 RBIs. That’s not a bad role model.

Three takeaways from Monday’s victory:

***Gaviglio’s pitch: Rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio got a no-decision Monday but might have pitched his way into keeping his job a little longer in the rotation after holding the Tigers to two runs in five innings.

Club officials face a decision after veteran right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma struggled Monday in a rehab start at Tacoma: four runs in two innings while throwing 49 pitches.

Do the Mariners look beyond the numbers and reinsert Iwakuma into the rotation Saturday against Houston? Or do the have him make a third rehab start — as they did with Felix Hernandez before returning him to the rotation?

If they delay Iwakuma’s return, then Saturday’s starter will be either Gaviglio or Christian Bergman. Gaviglio has the better numbers since the two entered the rotation in early May as replacement parts in an injury-depleted unit.

***The Dyson effect: Both of Zunino’s homers Monday came after singles by Jarrod Dyson, who is batting .348 over his last 22 games after going 3-for-4.

That might not be a coincidence.

"If you could see from my vantage point, the size of his lead," Zunino said, "you know they’re thinking about him. You know their attention is on him."

A distracted pitcher tends to make more mistakes — as Alex Wilson did in a 2-2 game in the sixth inning when he hung a breaking ball on a full-count pitch. Zunino drove it over the bullpens in left field.

***In attack mode: The Mariners, leading 4-2, summoned Nick Vincent to replace James Pazos to face Miguel Cabrera with a two outs and a runner on first base in the seventh inning.

Vincent jumped ahead 0-2 in the count before retiring Cabrera on a fly to right.

"He’s one of the best of all-time," Vincent said. "He's on the short list of guys who can really do damage. You just can’t let that affect how you pitch. You just go out there and attack. If he gets you, he gets you."

Vincent the worked a scoreless eighth inning. He has not allowed a run in 25 of his last 26 appearances. His ERA in down to 1.86 for 29 appearances.

"Everybody talks about the closer," manager Scott Servais said, "but it’s the guy who gets you to the closer. He’s really been consistent."

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners