This is pretty much the way the Mariners drew it up in spring training — but then they threw away the blueprint for most of the past three months as they sank back to the bottom in offensive production. In this 9-2 win over the Rangers, they banged out 13 hits, with each starter getting at least one. And it was Raul Ibanez who got them started in the first inning with his 20th homer, and Kendrys Morales who took it from there with two homers and six RBIs.
“That’s what we did this spring,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “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.”
One good night against a rookie pitcher in a ballpark made for hitting is hardly enough to declare the end of bad mojo. But maybe the Mariners can ride Ibanez’s hot streak, plus an awakening Morales (he had been in a .215 skid over his last 15 games, with 16 strikeouts in 57 at-bats) to some better offense. That will largely depend on how the rookie-oriented end of the lineup performs. Nick Franklin had two hits tonight, and Mike Zunino singled home a run. Brad Miller had one hit in four at-bats, and Dustin Ackley doubled home a run.
“Guys were swinging the bats good today, young and old,’’ he said. “Obviously, Morales had a big day and Raul got us going, but there were some balls hit hard today. I liked our approach.
“If we can get a couple of guys going at the same time, we’ll have more nights like this. Let those veterans lead the way, and the younger kids are developing confidence day in and day out. We have that second swing of younger guys in here now. We’re able to run out seven, eight guys a night that potentially can be part of this moving forward.”
Morales had been hampered by a back injury, probably exacerbated by having to play first base for an extended stretch while Justin Smoak was out. But now he’s back at DH and says he feels fine.
“There is no more pain. I feel great,’’ Morales said through interpreter Jaime Navarro, the Mariners’ bullpen coach. “I’ll just keep playing and doing the things I need to do. I worked in the cage to make an adjustment and feel comfortable. Now I’m just going out there.”
Ibanez, with his 18th homer in his last 43 games, continues to rack up power stats at a pace rarely, if ever, seen at his age. He is the first player 40 or over, going back to 1916, to record 20 homers before the All-Star break. The 20 homers also exceeded by one his total last year with the Yankees.
“It is what it is,’’ shrugged Ibanez. “I try not to dwell on it a whole lot and just keep plugging away and doing my thing. 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.”
Now let’s see if the Mariners can do what they did today on more than just random, isolated nights.