It was a game, and then the sixth inning happened. And then it wasn’t a game. It was a blowout.
By the end it was another trouncing of the Astros. This time, 13-2.
With the win, the Mariners improved to 46-38 on the season. They’ve won nine of their last 11 games.
Yes, it’s the same team that was last in almost every offensive category in the American League just a few weeks ago.
But the offense is slowly climbing to credibility. And performances like the past two games in Houston will only help. The 13 runs and 18 hits were both season highs. And over the past two games, Seattle hitters have battered the mediocre pitching of the Astros, scoring 23 runs and banging out 29 hits.
“This is just one of those nights where the bats came alive and we were swinging well,” McClendon said. “We haven’t had one of those all year. It was one of those nights where we came out on the good end of it.”
McClendon wasn’t going to look to the sixth as some turning point for the season.
“I don’t want to overanalyze it,” he said. “When you swing the bat good you look good. When you don’t swing the bat good you look like $%^& (the reason for no postgame video). It’s just one of those nights; I don’t want to make too much of it. This game is over with as far as I’m concerned. We need to get ready for tomorrow.”
It’s the mentality he wants from his team.
“We won a game,” he said. “I don’t care if we win it by one or two runs. It really doesn’t make a difference. The attitude that we have and what I try to get them to understand has not changed because we won a big game. This game is over with. We’ll get ready to go tomorrow.
So about that sixth inning?
Robinson Cano sparked the deluge with a two-out, two-run double off of Jarred Cosart, knocking him out of the game. With two strikes on him, Cano reached out and drove a 94 mph fastball above his belt and on the outside corner into the left field corner.
“You know what in that situation I say: ‘If it’s going to be inside, it’s going to be something really way in.'” Cano said. “Because first base is open and they’ve got a lefty in the pen and they’ve got a lefty behind me. I said I was going to look for something just middle away but be ready for the one inside. Thank God that I was able to hit that pitch down the third base line because I knew it was high and I was able to keep it fair.”
It was an impossible pitch to hit well and he did it.
“I don’t know,” said Kyle Seager, who was watching in the on-deck circle. “I wish I did. He’s special. That’s his swing. He stays on the ball, he keeps it down to left. That’s a really hard thing to do. It’s hard to get the ball out of the air to left field for a left-handed hitter, but he does it so well.”
With his first inning RBI single, Cano is now 6-for-14 with two homers, a double and eight RBI in his last three games.
“It was a big at-bat,” McClendon said. “He continues to be a clutch hitter for us. He’s driven in some big runs for us. That certainly opened up the floodgates.”
Astros manager Bo Porter turned to lefty reliever Darin Downs to keep those floodgates closed and the Mariners’ lead at a respectable 5-1.
Downs failed, miserably.
* Seager to doubled to right to score Cano.
* Logan Morrison doubled to right center to score Seager.
* Mike Zunino doubled down the left field line to score Morrison.
* Michael Saunders singled to center to score Zunino.
* Dustin Ackley doubled off the top of the wall in left – missing a homer by inches – to score Saunders.
It all added up to five runs on five hits and a 10-1 deficit.
“This is just one of those nights where the bats came alive and we were swinging well,” McClendon said. “We haven’t had one of those all year.”
According to Stats Inc., the Mariners had never before had six or more straight run-scoring hits with two outs in an inning in any game. The barrage of RBI hits had the bulk of the 17,504 fans in attendance heading for the exits before the inning came to an end.
Downs finally stopped the hemorrhaging by getting Brad Miller to fly out to the warning track in deep right-center for an out. How bad was it for Downs? He entered the inning with a 2.33 ERA and exited with a 4.12 ERA.
The five doubles in one inning tied a club record. The 1991 Mariners hit five doubles in a seven-run bottom of the seventh vs. the Orioles on July 29, 1991.
Starter Hisashi Iwakuma still didn’t look as dominant as he was a month ago. Lingering neck issues had clearly affected his weekly preparation and his overall command in his past two starts, but he is now feeling 100 percent. He worked through the six innings, giving up one run on seven hits with seven strikeouts and no walks.
“He was OK,” McClendon said. ” It wasn’t Kuma’s best outing by no stretch of the imagination but certainly an outing that he can build on.”
After two straight sub-par outings, Iwakuma was happy with the performance and the progress.
“The last two starts, I felt like I wasn’t contributing and doing my part,” he said through translator Antony Suzuki. “I’m very happy I was able to do my part today. It’s not easy when the team is in a good groove and has good momentum and you aren’t winning.”
Up 10-1 after six innings, the Mariners weren’t satisfied. James Jones, who singled twice to start the game and then had his streak of six straight hits stopped by a fly ball in the fourth, tripled to left-center to score Endy Chavez. Pinch hitter Willie Bloomquist scored Jones with a ground ball to second to make it 12-1.
Reliever Dominic Leone gave a run back in the seventh. But worked out of a bases loaded jam to keep it at 12-2.
Kyle Seager pushed the lead to 13-2, belting his team-high 13th homer of the season.
Here’s come more comments from Cano …
“It’s a great feeling. As a team you want everybody to contribute and as a team you want the rest of the guys to help. You don’t want only two, three guys. You want the whole team and that’s what we’re doing lately. We’re all contributing and doing the little things, move them over and do the job with men in scoring position and not try to do too much in the situation.
(on Seager) …. We all know he’s a guy that can hit, even before I came here. Sometimes you just tell him, that you know who’s pitching, what he got in that situation. He listens. He’s not a guy that you say do this, do that and not doing it. So he listens and I think that’s why he’s been so successful.
(on how good can he be) … He can be really good. Trust me. What is it 2014 now? You will see in the next three years how good he going to be.
(on James Jones) .. . Oh man, you know what, I was telling Howard the hitting coach: ‘We’ve been winning games and he’s not getting on base. Watch how many runs we’re going to score when he starts getting on base.’ And look what happened the last two days.