ARLINGTON, Texas – On nights like Tuesday, it’s possible to dig deep into your memory bank and have a flashback to March, when the Mariners were blasting the ball all over Arizona in spring training.
They convinced themselves – and many outside observers – that it was the precursor to a more potent offense, one that was going to lift the M’s to respectability.
It hasn’t happened, of course. Either part of it — the hitting, or the winning. But if the blueprint had been followed, it would have looked a lot like this dominating 9-2 Seattle victory over the Texas Rangers.
Kendrys Morales led the way with two homers and six runs batted in, while rampaging Raul Ibanez got them started in the first inning with his 20th homer. Every Mariners starter had at least one hit, and Joe Saunders cruised to his first regular-season victory at Rangers Ballpark in eight career starts.
“That’s what we did this spring,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of the Mariners’ 13-hit attack. “You get banged up, a couple of guys get off to bad starts, and you kind of lose your mojo there. This was really good to see.”
Morales, hampered recently by a sore back, had been among the mojo-impaired, hitting just .211 over his last 15 games with 16 strikeouts in 57 at-bats. But he followed Ibanez with a solo homer in the first, added a three-run shot in the fifth, then went the other way for a two-run single in the sixth.
“There is no more pain. I feel great,’’ Morales said through interpreter Jaime Navarro, the Mariners’ bullpen coach. “I’ll just keep playing and doing the things I need to do. I worked in the cage to make an adjustment and feel comfortable. Now I’m just going out there.”
Ibanez, with his 18th homer in his last 43 games, continues to rack up power stats at a pace rarely, if ever, seen at his age. He is the first player 40 or over, going back to 1916, to record 20 homers before the All-Star break. The 20 homers also exceeded by one his total last year with the Yankees.
“It is what it is,’’ shrugged Ibanez. “I try not to dwell on it a whole lot and just keep plugging away and doing my thing. The preparation, the work in the cage, continuing trying to have the right approach and hit the ball on the barrel, that’s pretty much all you can do.”
Texas starter Justin Grimm, a rookie who had beaten the Mariners twice previously this season, got two quick outs in the first before Ibanez sent one over the wall in right, with Morales following suit. It paced the Mariners’ first win in Arlington this season after being swept three games in April.
“Everybody knows what Raul means on this team,’’ said Morales, who also drove in six runs in a game in Arlington last year while with the Angels. “This is an indication of what he means to us inside and outside the field. We take that as something positive, and we just follow him and do the things we need to do.”
Wedge is hoping that the Mariners’ recent influx of young players can be the impetus for a new wave of offensive prowess. Nick Franklin had two hits, Dustin Ackley doubled home a run, and Mike Zunino added an RBI single.
“Guys were swinging the bats good today, young and old,’’ he said. “Obviously, Morales had a big day and Raul got us going, but there were some balls hit hard today. I liked our approach.”
“If we can get a couple of guys going at the same time, we’ll have more nights like this. Let those veterans lead the way, and the younger kids are developing confidence day in and day out. We have that second swing of younger guys in here now. We’re able to run out seven, eight guys a night that potentially can be part of this moving forward.”
Saunders bounced back from a poor outing last time out against the Pirates (six runs in 12 / 3 innings) with a strong effort into the seventh. He came out after getting clipped on his left leg by a Nelson Cruz liner, but Wedge said he was going to pull him anyway; Saunders limped around afterward but appears to be fine.
Joe Saunders had been 0-7 with a 9.91 ERA in seven previous start at Rangers Ballpark, though he did beat the Rangers last year in the wild-card playoff game while with the Orioles. On Tuesday, he gave up 10 hits in 62 / 3 innings but limited the damage to two runs, just one of them earned.
“Everybody knows they can hit the ball pretty well,’’ he said. “Tonight the game plan was work down in the zone and try to get ahead. It was obviously something I didn’t do in my last outing.
“The defense made some great plays behind me. And Kendrys had a pretty good night.”