Those unstoppable Mariners just keep dominating Cactus League play this spring. What does it mean toward the regular season? Absolutely nothing. But still the team won its eighth straight game - a club record. Once again, the offense prevailed as Seattle scored nine runs on 12 hits. With Franklin Gutierrez’s third homer of the spring and Mike Zunino’s first homer, the Mariners now have 20 dingers in eight games – the most in the Cactus League.
Play of the game
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Perhaps there were bigger plays in the game but for the Mariners organization, seeing Zunino club a hanging sinker from Chris Capuano well over the fence in left-center was huge. Zunino is the club’s top position player prospect and expected to be the every day catcher in the near future. After going hitless in his first nine plate appearances, Zunino hit the homer and also added a sharp single to left field.
Who was hot
Gutierrez provided both of them. The oft-injured center fielder is full healthy this spring and looking like the player that the Mariners signed to a three-year contract extension after the 2009 season. Gutierrez crushed a fastball off of Chris Capuano to left-center to tie the game at 3-3 in the third inning. An inning later, he sent another ball to the left-center gap for a two-run double.
“I’m not looking for homers,” he said. “I’m just seeing the ball well right now.”
Who was not
Reliever Chance Ruffin had a tough outing. Given a six-run lead, Ruffin struggled in his one inning of work, giving up two runs on four hits and a walk. He was able to end the inning before further damage by getting Alex Castellanos to ground into a game-ending double play.
“There is something going on at this spring training. Everybody is hitting homers. It’s something contagious when everybody is hitting. It’s just fun.” – Gutierrez.
Felix Hernandez will throw another live batting practice session on Sunday, and then make his Cactus League debut on Thursday. The Mariners are a split squad with road games at Kansas City and Oakland. Expect Hernandez to face Kansas City since he will face the A’s on opening day. … Alex Liddi (Italy), Michael Saunders (Canada) and Oliver Perez (Mexico) will report to their respective country’s teams for the World Baseball Classic on Sunday. All three teams are practicing in the Phoenix area. … Carlos Triunfel went 2-for-3 on the day and executed a nice hit and run in the sixth inning. … Catcher John Hicks continues to impress. He ripped a beautiful double (above) to the right-center gap off of former Mariners closer Brandon League to score a pair of runs.
The Mariners will travel to Surprise to face the Texas Rangers. Left-hander Joe Saunders will make his second appearance and first start of the spring. Also scheduled to pitch are Josh Kinney, Carson Smith and Bobby LaFromboise. Texas will start right-hander Justin Grimm. First pitch is set for 12:05 p.m. The game will be broadcast locally on 710-AM.
And since I'm in a video mood ... here's Justin Smoak's hard single from the right side.