Kendrys Morales homered twice and tied a career high with six RBIs and Raul Ibanez socked his 20th homer to lead the Mariners to a 9-2 rout of the Texas Rangers Tuesday night in the first game of a three-game series in Arlington, TX. The Mariners snapped a two-game losing streak.
Morales ripped a solo home run in the first inning and a three-run blast in the sixth, both off rookie Justin Grimm, to help the Mariners win for the first time in Texas this season after four consecutive losses. Seattle improved to 36-47 and cut a full game off its deficit in the AL West. The Mariners trail the Rangers by 12.0 games.
Lefty Joe Saunders, who had lost his previous two starts and entered the game 0-7 with a 9.91 ERA in seven regular-season starts in Arlington, won for the first time in eight regular-season outings at Rangers Ballpark. He allowed one earned run and fanned five in 6.2 innings.
The Mariners swatted back-to-back home runs in the first inning, Ibanez cracking his 20th and Morales his 1oth. That marked the fifth time in 2013 that the Mariners had hit consecutive homers and the first since Ibanez and Justin Smoak did it June 18 in the second inning against the Angels.
Ibanez is nine home runs away from matching the major league record for most home runs in a season by a 41-year-old player, 29 by Ted Williams in 1960.
The Rangers got a run back in the third on an RBI-single by Elvis Andrus, but the Mariners countered in the fourth on Dustin Ackley’s run-scoring double to make it 3-1. Morales’ homer in the sixth, his 11th of the season, made it 6-1.
Morales drove in two more with a single in the eighth and Mike Zunino accounted for Seattle’s final run in the seventh with a single that scored Kyle Seager.
The Mariners and Rangers will play the second of three games Wednesday night. Felix Hernandez (8-4, 2.70 ERA) will face LHP Derek Holland (6-4, 3.14). Hernandez has already lost twice to Texas this year while Holland defeated Seattle in his only start, May 25. He had 10 strikeouts in that game, played at Safeco Field.
NOTES: Raul Ilbanez has hit six home runs in six of his past eight games. His 20th home run Tuesday surpassed the 19 total he hit all of last season. Ibanez became the first Mariner to hit 20 home runs prior to the All-Star break since Russell Branyan belted 22 in 2009 . . . Kendrys Morales, who hit two home runs and drove in six, lifted his batting average to .282 . . . Dustin Ackley returned to Seattle’s lineup after suffering a sprained thumb and went 1-for-5 . . . The Mariners had 13 hits . . . Mariners right-handed reliever Stephen Pryor threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session Sunday as he continues working back from a torn muscle behind his right shoulder.
Though I still think the Angels are the team to beat in the AL West once Hamilton and Pujols heat up the Rangers still have that swagger that has served them well the past three years. Good to see the M’s take it to them here, especially with Safeco Joe on the mound.
Saunders had a good second half of the season last year, hopefully he can replicate that this year. Ibanez should have some trade value given his hot first half of the season but I don’t think they will trade him, or Morales. Given their OF injuries they may even want to hang onto Bay. The second half of this season will primarily be about how the kids play. I’m starting to think they will even bring Raul back next year.