Explosive 6th inning awakens M’s

A 21-inning scoring slump ends with Zunino’s home run in the fifth inning, followed by a 6-run sixth

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.comApril 15, 2014 

Arlington, Texas — Just when it seemed the Seattle Mariners might never score again, Mike Zunino ended a 21-inning drought Monday night with a one-out homer in the fifth inning against Texas starter Colby Lewis.

“I know we didn’t score a lot of runs (over the weekend against Oakland),” Zunino said. “We just came into this road trip wanting to relax and swing the bat like we knew how to.”

Maybe that one swing was all it took.

The Mariners followed an inning later with a six-run flood and rolled to a 7-1 victory over the Rangers on a chilly night at what is now known as Globe Life Park.

“Eventually,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “the odds are in our favor.”

OK, it wasn’t exactly an offensive explosion.

Texas committed three errors in the inning, and the Mariners benefited again from the increasingly common no-catch rule.

Whatever.

It was just what the Mariners needed after scoring just one run over the two previous days in losses to Oakland at Safeco Field.

“We had some good at-bats,” Zunino said. “And usually when you don’t take any pitches off, stuff starts going your way.”

The breakthrough rewarded rookie lefty Roenis Elias with his first career victory after limiting the Rangers to one run and five hits in 62/3 innings before Yoervis Medina and Danny Farquhar closed out the victory.

“I came here to make it to the big leagues and to play in the big leagues,” said Elias, who signed with the Mariners after defecting from Cuba in 2010. “I knew I could pitch in the big leagues.”

Elias (1-1) spent last season at Double-A Jackson but pitched his way onto the club in spring training. He allowed three runs over 10 innings in two previous starts, but the Mariners scored just two runs in those games.

“I’m dedicating this to my wife and child,” Elias said. “I saw (my) child today. My wife’s not here, but I saw my child. It encouraged me the whole day.”

Zunino’s homer was a no-doubter estimated at 422 feet to dead center field. The scoreless streak dated to the first inning of Saturday’s loss to the A’s.

The club record is 30 innings in 2011.

The Mariners knocked out Lewis (0-1) in a sixth inning that started when Robinson Cano grounded a single off the glove of second baseman Josh Wilson.

Lewis retired Corey Hart on a pop before Michael Saunders, who entered the game in the first inning for an injured Logan Morrison, drove an RBI triple into the left-center gap.

“Fastball up and away,” Saunders said. “He caught me up and away (for a strikeout in the second inning), and I figured he was going to try to go back there.”

Center fielder Leonys Martin might have held Saunders to a double with a clean pick-up, and his inability to do so prompted the Rangers to shorten their infield for Kyle Seager.

The Mariners took advantage when Seager’s soft grounder up the middle split the infielders for an RBI single that finished Lewis.

In came lefty Pedro Figueroa, who induced a possible double-play grounder from Justin Smoak, but third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff booted the ball for the first of the Rangers’ three errors.

It put runners at first and second with still just one out.

The Mariners caught another break when catcher J.P. Arencibia slammed into a rail just as he appeared to catch Dustin Ackley’s foul pop. The ball fell for no play.

Ackley then yanked an RBI single to right, and Smoak went to third when Alex Rios bobbled the ball for another error. Smoak scored easily when Zunino punched a single into left.

Abraham Almonte’s grounder hopped over Kouzmanoff’s glove for a single that loaded the bases before Brad Miller hit a tapper back to the mound. That, too, should have been a double play.

Figueroa threw to the plate for an apparent force, but Arencibia bobbled the ball on the exchange and then chose not to throw to first. Out came McClendon to challenge the out call at the plate.

The review lasted 3 minutes, 30 seconds and determined Arencibia didn’t control the ball. The Mariners had another run, and Texas manager Ron Washington came out to argue — and he was ejected.

“I think it was a clear violation of the rules,” McClendon said, “and it was an impactful play. We thought we should go out and challenge it.”

That brought the inning back to Cano, whose sacrifice fly made it 7-0. The six-run inning matched the Mariners’ season-best. They also had six in the ninth inning on opening day in a 10-3 victory over the Angels in Anaheim.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners

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