Just when it appeared they might, like so many others, get nothing accomplished in the nation’s capital, the Mariners found a winning formula Thursday in a 4-2 victory over Washington at Nationals Park.
Start with a solid start from lefty Ariel Miranda who, for one day at least stopped the hemorrhaging in the rotation. Add a three-run homer by Nelson Cruz that awakened a silent attack, and top it off with a strong bullpen relay.
The victory enabled the Mariners to halt a five-game skid in which they had scored just one run in each game. It also marked the franchise’s first victory in D.C., after eight losses in three series over 13 years.
"Everything started with Miranda," Cruz said. "He gave us the support that we need, and the bullpen did the job. When you have that kind of pitching, it makes it easy for the offense."
Three takeaways from Thursday’s victory:
***A competitive start: While Miranda didn’t allow a hit through the first four innings, his overall performance was no special: two runs while throwing 96 pitches in five innings.
But it still represents a sea change from the previous four games, when the Mariners trailed by a combined 33-1 after five innings.
The Mariners aren’t asking their patchwork rotation to deliver dominant starts. Just keep the game competitive. Miranda did that. The Mariners will take three more such efforts this weekend against Boston at Fenway Park.
***A timely hit: When the Mariners entered the sixth inning, they trailed 2-0 and had scored just six runs over their previous 55 innings. Further, they had not scored more than a single run in any inning over that span.
Cruz changed that with one swing. His three-run homer came against National reliever Jacob Turner, who had just replaced starter Gio Gonzalez with two on and one out.
"That’s what Nelson Cruz does," manager Scott Servais said.
True enough. Cruz leads the Mariners with 12 homers and leads the American League with 40 RBIs. He just hadn’t done it lately.
***Warning bells: The latest relaunch on catcher Mike Zunino isn’t going well. He went hitless in four at-bats Thursday with three strikeouts. Zunino is 1-for-11 with seven strikeouts in three games since returning from Triple-A Tacoma.
That one hit was a home run.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners