How hot is Mike Zunino? Well, he’s strolling toward Edgar Martinez territory, which is about as good as it gets around here. In short, Zunino is raking.
On Monday, Zunino continued his torrid June by hitting a pair of two-run homers in propelling the Mariners to a 6-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers in the opener to a four-game series at Safeco Field.
"It’s just trusting the routine and trusting the process," he said. "I’m in the cage and trying to to do the same thing every day. Trying to be as disciplined as a I can in practice to drive the ball the other way, and it’s paid off."
He’s a different guy since returning May 22 from Triple-A Tacoma.
Zunino’s first homer was a 403-foot drive to left against Alex Wilson (1-4) in the sixth inning that broke a 2-2 tie. His second was a 411-foot rocket to center against Francisco Rodriguez for some extra padding in the eighth.
Both homers followed singles by Jarrod Dyson, who boasted, "I’ve been telling everybody, I don’t have to steal if Zee is going to keep doing that."
Zunino has 26 RBIs in June with 11 days still remaining in the month.
Some context: The franchise record for RBIs in a month is 33 and held jointly by Martinez and Mike Blowers. Both did it in August 1995.
Manager Scott Servais pointed to another plus.
"Everyone is excited with Zunino’s great night with the bat," he said. "The thing for me that stood out with Zunino was managing the game. Running the game. That’s the thing that winning catchers do.
"We love the home runs, believe me. But taking that next step as far as running our pitching staff was huge."
The Mariners bullpen protected the lead over the final four innings.
James Pazos (2-1) stranded three inherited runners in the sixth inning and got two outs in the seventh before hitting Alex Avila with a pitch. Nick Vincent replaced Pazos and retired Miguel Cabrera on a fly to right.
Vincent worked a scoreless eighth before Edwin Diaz, who was warming before Zunino’s second homer, got the final three outs in a non-save situation.
Not to be overlooked: Guillermo Heredia hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez that erased a 2-0 deficit.
Mariners rookie Sam Gaviglio, in what might be his final start for a while, gave up two runs in five innings. He allowed just three hits but walked four before handing a 2-2 tie to Steve Cishek to start the sixth.
"For me," Servais said, "it started with Gaviglio. He did what he’s been doing. He hangs in there and gives us a chance. He manages his way through trouble."
Even so, Gaviglio’s job is in jeopardy because Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are each expected to return later in the week from the disabled list.
The Tigers opened the scoring after loading the bases with no outs in the third inning by sandwiching two walks around a single.
Gaviglio limited the damage to one run, first by getting Avila to ground into a first-short-pitcher (3-6-1) double play and then retiring Cabrera on a fly to right.
"He’s got a great sinker," Zunino said. "That’s what saves the day. He gets some ground balls and some double plays. When you can trust that sinker, you can get out of a lot of problems."
Detroit made it 2-0 in the fifth inning when Jose Iglesias punched a two-out single to right and came all the way around on Ian Kinsler’s double into the left-field corner.
The Mariners got even later in the inning.
Motter lined a leadoff single off Sanchez’s leg, and Guillermo Heredia turned around a 91-mph fastball with one out for a two-run homer. Sanchez finished the inning before exiting.
After that, it was all Zunino.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Third baseman Kyle Seager made a tough short-hop pickup on a hot shot by Nick Castellanos in the second inning and turned it in the second out.
PLUS: Zunino has eight home runs in his last 14 games…Vincent has not allowed a run in 25 of his last 26 outings…Gaviglio yielded two or fewer earned runs in five of his seven starts…Dyson went 3-for-5 and raised his average to. 254. He is batting .348 (24-for-69) in his last 22 games.
MINUS: The middle of the order — Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager — were a combined 0-for-10…Ben Gamel ran himself into a double play by getting a poor read on Cano’s soft liner to second base…Motter booted a potential double-play grounder in the sixth inning.
STAT PACK: Gamel extended his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games when he beat out an infield single in the third inning. He had a 10-game streak earlier in the season.
QUOTABLE: Tigers manager Brad Ausmus on Gaviglio: "It was mainly the movement on the two-seam fastball, a little bit tough on right-handed hitters moving in and down on them."
SHORT HOPS: The Tigers were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners…Iglesias had two of the Tigers’ five hits…the Tigers have lost three in a row and eight of their last 11.
ON DECK: The Mariners and Tigers continue their four-game series at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Safeco Field. Left-hander Ariel Miranda (6-3 with a 4.17 ERA) will oppose Detroit right-hander Jordan Zimmerman (2-5, 5.35).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners