Morales leads Seattle hit parade

DH who’s been bothered by a bad back homers twice, singles, drives in 6

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comJuly 3, 2013 

ARLINGTON, Texas — Who is this offensive juggernaut, and what have they done with the Seattle Mariners?

Joking aside, the Mariners’ offense resembled something beyond competent and a little like what manager Eric Wedge envisioned in spring training.

It’s not something that has been seen often this season.

But Tuesday night at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, it was there in a 9-2 win, tantalizing Wedge and Mariners fans. Seattle banged out 13 hits — every position player had at least one — with three doubles and three homers.

“That’s what we did this spring,” Wedge said. “But you get banged up, a couple of guys get off to bad starts, and you kind of lose your mojo there. This was really good to see.”

More important, will the Mariners see it more in the second half of the season?

“If we can get a couple of guys

going at the same time, we’ll have nights like this, more nights like this,” Wedge said.

It seems as though one of those guys is going again.

Designated hitter Kendrys Morales had a monster night, going 3-for-5 with two homers and six RBI.

Early in the season, he was the Mariners’ top offensive threat. But a back injury from overuse in the field had slowed his production.

In his previous 15 games, he hit .211 (12-for-57) with two doubles, a homer and 16 strikeouts.

But the back has slowly been getting better.

“There is no more pain,” Morales said through translator Jaime Navarro. “I feel great. Right now the pain is not there, and I’ll just keep playing and doing the things I need to do.”

Wedge could see it the past few games.

“I think he’s been freed up a little bit more,” Wedge said. “He lost his stroke there a little bit. He was chasing quite a bit, trying to do too much. That’s what happens, especially with a guy like him who knows he’s a good hitter. He can do a lot of damage for your ballclub.”

The offense started with the ageless Raul Ibañez. The 41-year-old blasted his 20th homer of the season, ripping a ball to right-center off Rangers starter Justin Grimm in the first inning.

The 20 homers before the All-Star break is a good number for any player. But at age 41? Since 1916, no player over the age of 40 had hit 20 homers before the All-Star break. A year ago, Ibañez hit 19 homers the entire season.

“I try not to dwell on it a whole lot and just keep plugging away and doing my thing,” Ibañez said. “The preparation, the work in the cage, continuing trying to have the right approach and hit the ball on the barrel, that’s pretty much all you can do.”

Morales followed with a solo homer to right for back-to-back long balls.

Texas answered with a run in the third off Mariners starter Joe Saunders to cut the lead to 2-1.

But unlike much of this season, the Mariners continued to add to their early lead. They tacked on a run in the fourth on Dustin Ackley’s RBI double

Morales broke the game open in the fifth, ripping his second homer of the game, crushing a three-run shot to right-center and knocking Grimm out of the game.

With the Mariners up 6-1, Morales wasn’t done. He smacked a two-run single to left-center in the sixth.

“Kendrys had a pretty good night,” deadpanned Saunders, who improved to 6-8.

This isn’t the first time Morales has had a pretty good night in this park. On July 30 of last season, when he was with the Angels, Morales ripped a two-run homer and a grand slam for six RBI.

He’s hit 10 homers in 121 at-bats in Arlington, but really has no great affection for the hitter-friendly park.

“It’s not one of my best parks, but I feel comfortable hitting the ball here,” he said.

Saunders has no great love of Rangers Ballpark, either. Coming into Tuesday, he’d made seven regular season starts in Arlington and was 0-7 and with a 9.91 earned-run average.

“This place has torn me up a few times,” he said.

But all that run support allowed him to get his first regular season win in Arlington. He worked 62/3 innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on 10 hits with a walk and five strikeouts.

“It’s nice as a starting pitcher when you get a little bit of a cushion, for sure,” Wedge said. “That helps us relax and kind of settle in a little bit. It takes a little bit of pressure off you. But you still have to go out and throw up zeroes against this offense, because they can throw up a crooked number in a hurry.”

Saunders found himself in trouble often. He allowed a baserunner in every inning but the first. But a few timely double plays and a nice grab of Elvis Andrus’ hard shot up the middle with two outs and the bases loaded in fourth inning helped him limit the damage.

“He’s had some troubles in this park in the past, but obviously against that lineup in this ballpark he pitched a good ballgame,” Wedge said.

ACKLEY BACK

It was a scary-looking injury at the time. In Saturday’s loss to the Chicago Cubs, Dustin Ackley dived for a low liner and his glove got caught on the Safeco Field turf in center field. The force of his body rolled over on the glove and hand, badly spraining his thumb.

It looked as though Ackley could be sidelined for some time.

Instead, he was back in center field Tuesday against the Texas Rangers.

Ackley had his left thumb heavily taped during pregame and in the game as a precaution.

“It feels good,” he said. “I went and hit in the cage and everything felt pretty good. If it was hindering me in any way, I think it would affect my performance and they would shut me down. It felt fine.”

Ackley didn’t play Sunday. With the off day Monday, he got two full days of rest and treatment.

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com

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