Thursday, May 2, 2013
SEATTLE — A homestand that began with the Mariners in seeming disarray ended Wednesday night with considerable optimism that they have turned their season in a positive direction.
The Mariners defeated the Orioles, 8-3, at Safeco Field to give them their second straight series win, after not having any previously. They won five out of seven games on the homestand after enduring a trip in which they were swept by Texas and lost two of three to lowly Houston.
The last loss to the Astros caused manager Eric Wedge to close the clubhouse for a few fiery words, and he seems to have gotten his message across. A Mariner offense that was flailing — and largely failing — has been highly productive.
“It was a tough road trip,” said Kendrys Morales in remarks translated by bullpen coach Jaime Navarro. “The offense wasn’t doing our job. We knew we had to get where we needed to be.”
The Mariners had 11 hits in this one, the sixth time in seven games on this homestand they’ve reached double digits. The Mariners are hitting .299 over their last nine games to raise their team average from .218 to .245.
“I think we started to head in the right direction offensively in Houston a little bit,” Wedge said. “It wasn’t translating at that point in time; it takes a little time. I feel like our guys have taken significant steps. What you’re seeing now is more the norm with regard to what our guys are capable of.”
The catalysts on Wednesday included Morales, who had three hits and drove in three runs, two on a sixth-inning double that short-hopped the center-field wall; Michael Morse, who blasted his ninth homer with a man aboard in the fourth; Michael Saunders, who had three hits and scored three runs; and Jason Bay, who doubled and drove in two.
The return of Saunders from the disabled list has been a huge spark for the Mariners.
“He creates a lot of energy for us,” Wedge said. “He’s a fighter; whether there’s a right-hander or left-hander on the mound, he’s going to give you a spirited at-bat. What he means on the basepaths, the outfield — he means a great deal to us.”
Mariners starter Aaron Harang worked six strong innings to record his first victory in four starts since being acquired by Seattle. Coming in with an 11.37 earned-run average, Harang may have been pitching to retain his spot in the rotation, perhaps even on the roster, though he didn’t see it that way.
“We talked this week,” he said, referring to Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis. “I don’t think they were really worrying, or at least they weren’t letting on. They’ve reiterated after every game, they knew I had a couple weeks off before I came here, and there were going to be some little bumps in the road.”
Harang, who said he ironed out some mechanical issues with Willis, blanked the Orioles on one hit over the first five innings before getting touched for three hits and two runs in the sixth. Carter Capps and Tom Wilhelmsen finished out the victory.
The Mariners had gotten off to a quick start with a two-out rally in the first off Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen. Bay drove it in with a double into the left-field corner.
The Mariners got another run in the second, a rally that began with the rarest of occurrences — a Jesus Montero triple. It was his first in 691 plate appearances in the major leagues, though he did have six in the minors (and two this year in spring training).
The slow-footed Montero hit a drive to center that tipped off the glove of Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones just before he crashed into the wall, as the ball careened away from him. An exuberant Montero clapped his hands and raised his arms in triumph as he pulled into third.
Saunders brought home Montero with a single, stole second, and came home himself on a two-out single by Morales.
Morse plated two more with a two-out opposite-field homer off Chen in the fourth, bringing in Saunders, who had reached on a bunt single. Morse became the first Mariners player with nine homers in the team’s first 30 games since Mike Cameron in 2002. Cameron had four of those in one game in Chicago.
The Mariners played those 30 games with just one day off, a brutal stretch that now eases with four idle days out of the next 12. The team takes off Thursday for Toronto in a much better state of mind.
“When we came home, we knew we were going to head in a better direction,” Wedge said. “We talked about that a little bit before we did come home. These guys know how to win. They’re big-leaguers. The young kids have played long enough, and the veterans completely understand what it takes. Our guys are going about it the right way.”