Harang delivers 2-hit shutout

Aaron Harang strikes out 10 Astros, walks none in his 2nd complete-game gem in past 21/2 weeks

McClatchy news servicesJune 12, 2013 

SEATTLE — Aaron Harang pitched a two-hitter for his second shutout of the season, leading the Seattle Mariners to a 4-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

Harang (3-6) struck out a season-high 10 and did not walk a batter — the 12th time in his career he had 10 Ks with no walks. It was his 15th career complete game and eighth shutout. He pitched a four-hitter in a 9-0 win over San Diego on May 27.

Harang allowed a two-out infield single to deep short by J.D. Martinez in the second inning. He then retired 16 of the next 17 batters. The only Astros batter to reach base during that span was Brandon Barnes on a sixth-inning error.

Martinez also had the other hit off Harang, an inning-opening single to left in the eighth. He never advanced past first.

Seattle’s Raul Ibañez hit his team-leading 13th home run — his second in an many nights — in the

sixth inning.

It was his 74th career home run at Safeco Field, the most by any player.

Astros starter Bud Norris (5-6) went seven innings. He allowed three runs on five hits, walking one and striking out six.

The Mariners have eight shutouts this season, tied with Cleveland for the most in the American League. The Astros have been shut out a league-high seven times.

Spotty defense by the Astros played a role in the Mariners’ first two runs.

In the first, Endy Chavez opened with a double into the right-field corner and advanced to third when shortstop Ronny Cedeno missed the relay. After two outs, Chavez scored on a wild pitch by Norris.

Nick Franklin opened the second inning with a double to right, and right fielder Trevor Crowe’s throw to second was wide of Cedeno for another error. The Astros have committed a major-league-high 49 errors.

Franklin advanced to third on the error, then scored on Michael Saunders’ sacrifice fly to deep left.

The Mariners added a run in the eighth. Chavez opened with a double and scored on Kyle Seager’s one-out single to right.

ZUNINO GETS A CHANCE

Mike Zunino arrived at Safeco Field midway through the Mariners’ batting practice, quickly dressed and hurried onto the field to take BP.

The Mariners’ top position player prospect was the latest player to be called up in a slew of roster moves over the past few weeks.

Zunino, who was in Las Vegas with the Tacoma Rainiers, got the call Tuesday morning and caught the first flight to Seattle.

To make room on the roster for Zunino, fellow catcher Brandon Bantz, called up less than a week ago, was designated for assignment.

With catcher Jesus Sucre not eligible to return from the disabled list until June 20, the Mariners decided to call up Zunino, the third overall pick of last year’s draft.

It was viewed by some as a little premature considering Zunino’s lack of experience — just 346 minor league at-bats — and his inconsistency at the plate this season. He was hitting .238 (44-for-185) with 11 homers and 43 RBI, but he had struck out 59 times and walked 14 times in 47 games.

“We had a little bit of a later target date,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said, “but when you look at it, we had an injury right now. There’s no harm in bringing him up. Let’s see where we’re at.

“The move we made prior to this, we thought Sucre was going to be out for just a couple days, and we were looking for short-term coverage. And we had a day game after a night game. So now that I think Sucre is going to be out a little longer, that predicated us looking at Zunino right now.”

A year ago, Zunino was preparing to play for Florida in the College World Series. Since then, it has been a whirlwind through the Mariners’ minor league ranks.

“I don’t think I could have pictured this a year ago, that this is where I’d be,” he said. “It’s exceeded anything I ever dreamed of. I’m just going to embrace it and take it as it comes.”

Even with the offensive inconsistency, manager Eric Wedge believed it was a logical decision.

“You look at his path and what we saw all spring, what we know he’s doing in Triple A, we felt it was a good time to start his big league career,” Wedge said. “He’s so comfortable in his own skin. He handles everything very well. He’s a complete player, so we felt it was time for him to take the next challenge.”

Zunino is a natural on-field leader, a solid receiver with other above-average defensive skills.

“That’s part of who he is, part of his DNA,” Wedge said. “You saw it all spring. You’ve seen it every level he’s been at, last year and this year, too. That’s just part of his game.”

Zduriencik tried downplaying the hype and expectations usually generated when a top prospect is called up.

“I don’t think anybody here is expecting miracles,” Zduriencik said. “We’re not looking like he’s the answer. We’re just looking as we put this together and where we’re at right now, we know he’s going to be a guy that is counted on going forward, and it’s the right thing to do at this time for him. So we’ll bring him up here, give him a chance to play and see how it works out.”

There is some concern about what could happen to Zunino if he struggles with the Mariners and is sent back to the minors.

“The one thing you can never give someone in the minor leagues is the speed of the game,” Zduriencik said. “When they get here and experience that, some guys adapt immediately, and some guys have to go back and then come back. But they always gain from that experience, and that’s why, in this particular case, we felt it was the right thing to do based on all those things we talked about — the recommendations from the staff, what we’re looking for from this guy and what we think he’s going to be.”

SHORT HOPS

DJ Peterson — the Mariners’ top 2013 pick — was at Safeco Field watching batting practice along with several other Seattle draft picks. They will take physicals and are expected to sign contracts Wednesday. Peterson also likely will take batting practice. ... Third-round selection Tyler O’Neill and sixth-round pick Corey Simpson worked out with the Mariners. The muscular O’Neill, whose father is a bodybuilder, hit a few homers during batting practice. ... Among the draft picks in attendance was Justin Seager, the younger brother of third baseman Kyle Seager. Justin Seager, an infielder, was taken in the 12th round out of North Carolina-Charlotte. Kyle Seager took his younger brother around, introducing him to Wedge and other players. The brothers look strikingly similar, but Justin Seager is about three or four inches taller. ... Franklin Gutierrez (hamstring) had one of his best workouts since going on the disabled list in May. He will join Triple-A Tacoma for another rehab stint. ... First baseman Justin Smoak (abdominal strain) took batting practice and will have another session Wednesday. He likely will have a rehab assignment with Tacoma.

Staff writer Ryan Divish and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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