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April 2, 2014 at 11:03 PM

Mariners 8, Angels 2 — A series sweep to start the season

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So the Mariners are now 3-0 and with a series sweep of Anaheim to start the season. It’s a stunning accomplishment if you look at past history.

  • It was the first three-game series sweep Anaheim since 2006.
  • It was the first time since 1995 that Seattle had won three straight games to start a season.
  • It was also the first time since 1985 the team started off the season with a three-game series sweep.

So the three wins have historical value to the franchise and fans.

But it was how they won the past three games that seemed so astonishing and so, well, un-Mariners-like.

Seattle dominated these games. The Mariners got runs early and continued to add on. In the three games, they scored 26 runs on 34 hits, including 17 extra base-hits. Mariner teams of the last few years couldn’t put up those types of numbers in two three-game series.

“Things went well for us this series,” McClendon said. “One thing I try to tell my guys is, ‘just unleash your talents.’”

They unleashed enough to show that this year’s version of the Mariners’ offense should be better not simply for the addition of Robinson Cano, but also for the improvement of the players around him. Of the all the runs scored in the series, Cano score two and drove in just one of them. That first RBI came in the third inning. Brad Miller hustled out a two-out double to right field and Cano rewarded the effort with ground ball up the middle into center to score him and give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.

“He’s rugrat,” McClendon said of Miller. “He goes at it pretty good. It’s why I like him batting in the two hole.”

The lead was pushed to 2-0 in the fifth inning when Miller dumped single to left to score Willie Bloomquist.

And like in the first two games, the Mariners turned the game into a rout against the Angels’ hapless bullpen. Wow, is it bad. Yes, Dane De La Rosa and Sean Burnett are on the DL, but not even their return makes this bullpen respectable.

Seattle scored four runs in the sixth inning, highlighted by a line-drive, RBI double down the left field line from Stefen Romero and a towering three-run homer from Mike Zunino. Both hitters swung at the first pitch they saw from reliever Fernando Salas.

“I acted like I was going to show bunt and moved up in the box,” Romero said. “(McClendon) gave me swing away and I was looking first pitch fastball and that’s what I got. Luckily, I barreled it up.

Zunino’s plan was simple.

“Looking at the guy’s pitch break down, he was 50-50 on fastball-slider with runners in scoring position,” Zunino said. “He just left a slider up. I was just honestly trying to hit a ball into the outfield so (Corey) Hart could tag on.”

The Mariners got two more runs in the ninth when Justin Smoak crushed a solo homer to right field and Corey Hart yanked a homer to left field for back-to-back homers off of Ernesto Frieri.

But don’t let all the offense overshadow the fact that James Paxton was brilliant on Wednesday night. He tossed seven shutout innings, giving up just two hits, while striking out nine and walking two.

“That was pretty impressive,” McClendon said. “I don’t know what else to say. I don’t have many more adjectives. He was outstanding. It was quite a performance.”

Dating back to last year, Paxton now has wins in each of first four big league decisions.

The big left-hander dominated the Angels. Only Mike Trout, who doubled in the fourth inning hit a ball hard off of him.

“It’s right up there with that Kansas City start from last year,” Paxton said of the peformance. “I just got in a groove and felt really good.”

Following Trout’s double, Paxton retired the 12 of the next 13 batters, striking out seven and retiring the last 11 in a row.

“It was probably the best he’s been,” said Zunino, who caught Paxton in Triple A last season as well. “I know September was great for him and it’s right back to where he was there, honestly I think he might even be better tonight.”

Perhaps the only negative of the game was reliever Hector Noesi, who was mediocre in ninth inning mop-up duty, giving up two runs, including a solo homer to Trout. But why should Noesi ruin the fun?

It’s only three games, but it was an entertaining three games. See you guys in Oakland tomorrow.



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