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So this seems to work — The hitters at the top of the lineup reaching base and the hitters in the middle of the order driving them in.
It hasn’t happened often for the Mariners this season, and certainly not since the All-Star break. But on Saturday night at Camden Yards it all came together in a 6-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
Newly acquired Austin Jackson, who was batting lead-off, and hot-hitting Dustin Ackley batting behind him, combined for five hits, scored four runs and reached base six times.
Robinson Cano and Kendrys Morales drove in five of the runs, and baseball, particularly scoring runs, seemed pretty easy for a night. The Mariners are now 41-10 when scoring four or more runs in a game.
“That’s a good recipe for winning,” manager Lloyd McClendon said.
The first example of that recipe came in the fifth inning with the game tied at 1-1.
Jackson picked up his first hit as a Mariner with a lead-off single. Ackley, who has been one of the team’s most productive hitters since the all-star break, doubled to right field to put runners in scoring position.
And unlike in games past, the Mariners didn’t squander the opportunity. Cano belted his eighth homer of the season, hammering a 1-1 changeup over the wall in right field off of Orioles’ starter Miguel Gonzalez to make it 4-1.
“Robby came through big time for us there,” McClendon said. “He loves hitting in this ball park, and tonight was indicative of that.”
All eight of Cano’s homers this season have come with runners on base. It was his 29th home run against the Orioles – the most of any opponent and 15th homer at Camden Yards in his career.
“It’s about time,” Cano joked. “Somebody asked me if I see the ball better here, but I think it’s just a ballpark I’ve been successful in. There’s nothing special.”
The recipe worked again in the top of the ninth inning. Jackson came up with a two-out single to right field. Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter called on his fifth pitcher of the night – lefty T.J. McFarland to face the lefty-hitting Ackley. But the move backfired. Ackley reached on infield single – his third hit of the game. McFarland hit Cano with a pitch to load the bases. Morales cashed in some big insurance runs, hammering a single into right field to make it 6-2 and sending most of the 36,508 in attendance for the exits.
“That was a big hit for us,” McClendon said. “It’s starting to come around for him.”
Besides the new look lineup, the Mariners welcomed back starter James Paxton from the disabled list. He wasn’t great, but showed hints of dominance, pitching 4 1/3 innings and giving up two runs on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
In the first inning, Paxton looked like a pitcher, who hadn’t thrown in a major league game since April 8. He walked Nick Markakis on five pitches to start the game and then served up a double to Manny Machado to put runners on second and third. Adam Jones scored Markakis with a ground ball to second to make it 1-0. Paxton made sure things didn’t get worse, striking out Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young to end the inning.
“We thought he’d be a little pumped up, a little over-amped and little rusty,” McClendon said. “Once the game got going, I thought he was extremely efficient.”
It looked like his return to the mound may end sooner than expected. In the second inning he took a line drive from Caleb Joseph off back of his right leg. He managed to get Joseph out at first, but was in clear pain. After meeting with McClendon and trainer Rick Griffin, Paxton threw four warm-up pitches and remained in the game.
“Like I said in spring training when I got hit, I wouldn’t be very Canadian if I came out of the game,” Paxton said.
He walked the next hitter he faced and was in trouble again. But Ackley helped him out with a nice sliding catch on Markakis’ soft liner to left field to end the inning.
Ackley then followed up his glove work with some yard work, tying the game in the top of the third inning with a solo homer to right field off of Orioles’ starter Miguel Gonzalez.
Paxton couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning with the 4-1 lead. He gave up a homer to Caleb Joseph and then issued a one-out walk to Markakis. With his pitch count at 83, he was lifted for Dominic Leone, who got the final two outs of the inning and pitched another scoreless inning and was credited with the win.
But you saw hints of the Paxton they expect him to be. He struck out five. He showed a nasty curveball and he hit 98 mph on three different occasions.