DETROIT - By luck and by pluck - and shockingly by extra-base hits - the Seattle Mariners scored runs in Tuesday night's 7-3 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
And after managing just 10 runs in their previous five games, it didn’t matter if it was a combination of all three things or any one of three.
Will it happen again? Past results say probably not. But for a night, the Mariners looked like a legitimate American League offense, pounding out 10 hits, including six for extra bases.
“We just have to stick with it, we can’t change,” said third baseman Chone Figgins, who had a key two-run triple in the fifth inning. “We have to stick with it and battle, and we’ll go through a stretch where we’ll maybe get 10 hits a game. We just have to stick with it till it comes.”
It may come again sooner than later if the Mariners get a chance to face Phil Coke one more time. The Tigers’ starter was roughed up by Seattle for seven runs on eight hits. Just five days earlier at Safeco Field, Coke was shelled for six runs (only two were earned) on six hits, while walking four and lasting just 32/3 innings.
The luck aspect came early. Trailing 1-0 in the top of the second, Miguel Olivo, the team’s new cleanup hitter by process of elimination, ripped a fastball to left off Coke. The hard liner had plenty of topspin, and seemed catchable. Detroit left fielder Ryan Raburn made an awkward leaping/falling effort to catch the ball he had misplayed. The ball hit off Raburn’s glove as he fell to the warning track and ricocheted up in the air carrying some 15 feet over the fence for a home run.
“I saw when the ball hit his glove and I thought he caught it,” Olivo said of his first homer of the season. “ ... Then I saw the second base umpire giving the home run sign and I said, ‘Thank God, my luck has come back.’ See, I just need to keep hitting the ball and see what happens.”
Of course, hitting the ball and having that happen is pretty rare.
“This is the first time I’ve seen that. Well, I’ve seen the Canseco play,” Olivo said, referring to then-Texas Rangers outfielder Jose Canseco having a ball bounce off his head and over the fence for a home run in 1993.
While Olivo’s homer will get plenty of laughs, Justin Smoak’s two-run homer in the fourth inning created goose bumps. The slugging first baseman was playing his first game since having to bury his father, Keith, who lost a long battle with lung cancer last week.
Smoak may have been playing with a heavy heart, but there was no rust on his bat after missing six games.
He sat on a changeup from Coke and crushed a 395-foot home run to left to score Olivo, who had doubled.
“When he hit it, I got chills,” Olivo said. “ ... I went to him at home plate, I said ‘Hey, that’s for papa.’ I’m just so happy for him.”
Smoak was happy to be focused on something other than mourning.
“It felt good,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot in the past week. It felt good, getting back and getting in the swing of things again. It’s hard not to think about it, but things happen for a reason. I’m excited to be back and with the guys here. I’m going to try to keep my mind off everything and take care of business here.”
Smoak’s homer gave Seattle a 3-1 lead, which should have been more than enough with Felix Hernandez on the mound. But the Mariners ace wasn’t especially sharp. After giving up an unearned run in the first, he allowed a leadoff double to Brennan Boesch in the fourth and later walked Jhonny Peralta to set up Brandon Inge for a two-run double down the left-field line, tying the game at 3-3.
“I didn’t have a good feel for my breaking ball,” Hernandez said. “I had a good sinker. But my breaking ball wasn’t there.”
After being let down by his teammates’ lack of run support so many times in the past, the Mariners repaid the reigning Cy Young Award winner, scoring four runs in the fifth inning.
Ichiro Suzuki had an RBI single and Figgins drove in a pair of runs, smashing a ball over center fielder Austin Jackson’s head for a triple.
It was Figgins’ first triple of the season.
Given a 7-3 lead, Hernandez just tried to gut it out as long as he could. He held the Tigers scoreless over the next two innings, exiting after six innings and 102 pitches, allowing two earned runs with four strikeouts and two walks.
David Pauley and Brandon League came in to finish the game, allowing just one hit in the final three innings.
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners/