Largely smothered by Oakland’s pitching, the Mariners offense became healthy quickly Monday night in Arlington, TX., against the injury-riddled Texas Rangers, equaling their biggest inning of the season to back six shutout innings from Roenis Elias for a 7-1 triumph.
A 25-year-old rookie from Cuba, Elias had his third consecutive strong start and won his first major league game after making the leap from Class AA ball. He went 6.2 innings and gave up five hits and the lone run on two bleeder hits.
“I was being playful this spring, but I wasn’t kidding when I said he came off the boat,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters, referring to Elias’s 30-hour boat ride to escape his homeland as a refugee. “I don’t think Prince Fielder is going to scare him that much, when he was fighting for his life.
“I wanted to stretch him out and he gave us us exactly what we wanted. He made some quality pitches with his fastball, and change-up as well. That was important for him.”
He was in a scoreless duel with Colby Lewis through four innings on a chilly, breezy night at Rangers Ballpark until catcher Mike Zunino’s solo homer in the fifth put the Mariners up. The Mariners exploded in the sixth inning for six runs, aided by a replay reversal of a controversial call.
Robinson Cano began with an infield single off the glove of second baseman Josh Wilson. Cano came around to score on a triple by Michael Saunders, who wasn’t going to start until right fielder Logan Morrison came up with a sore hamstring before the game.
Kyle Seager, in a terrible slump, had his second single of the game to score Saunders. After Lewis, making his first start of the season for Texas, was relieved by Pedro Figueroa, Justin Smoak reached on an error by third baseman Kevin Kouszmanoff, playing in place of the injured Adrian Beltre.
Dustin Ackley singled home Seager, and an outfield error by Alex Rios allowed Saunders to third. Zunino singled to score Smoak. Abraham Almonte had an infield single that loaded the bases.
Brad Miller hit a comebacker that Figueroa threw home to attempt an inning-ending double play. But catcher J.P. Arencibia juggled the transfer, initiating a Mariners replay challenge that took nearly six minutes. After a review overturned the force play, allowing Ackley to score, Texas manager Ron Washington came roaring out of the dugout to protest the reversal, leading to an automatic ejection under the new replay rules.
Cano added to the carnage with a sacrifice fly for the sixth run before former Mariner Hector Noesi, traded to Texas last week, came into his first game as a Ranger to end the inning.
Saunders, Seager, Smoak and Zunino each had two of the Mariners’ 12-hit total. Fielder had two hits to raise his average in his first season in Texas to .176.
Elias appears to be a real find. I used to cover the Cuban National Series on an international baseball radio show and if you can pitch in that league, you’ve got some talent…they play the best baseball in the world outside MLB and Japan’s NPB (although the KBO in South Korea is catching up).
Anyway, McClendon is right: After what Roenis had to do to get here, what can he fear from a Prince Fielder who can only cause pain by getting hits off him? Of all the players on the M’s roster, I’m probably rooting the most for Elias because I have an idea of what he went through to come this far and I KNOW he worries about the family he left behind.
Well, that was a cool game. I’m watching the calendar closely. If the M’s finish anywhere close to .500 by the end of April they stand a decent chance of finishing with a winning record.