SEATTLE — Mike Zunino wasn’t around to witness firsthand how his team’s season was largely derailed early on by its current opponent.
The Mariners dropped four straight to the Cleveland Indians back in May, setting off a prolonged losing skid the team still hasn’t completely recovered from. But Zunino and some other newcomers are trying to help, and his solo home run that was a difference in this 2-1 win Monday night went a ways toward doing just that.
Even without hospitalized manager Eric Wedge, the Mariners won their seventh in a row and have nearly offset what became an eight-game losing streak two months ago. And they did it with homers by Zunino and Kendrys Morales off the funky delivery of Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez, whose club had gone 88 consecutive innings without yielding a long ball.
“You just sort of have to try to find that window where that release point is coming and focus on that,’’ Zunino said of Jimenez and his odd, pausing delivery. “I tried not to get caught up in everything else.’’
The Mariners, as a team, tried not to get caught up in too much superfluous stuff on a day they saw manager Wedge helped from the field after suffering dizzy spells during batting practice. Wedge was held overnight at a hospital for a battery of tests, but the team was hopeful he’d be released Tuesday morning.
Zunino said the team was obviously concerned heading into the game. But they got a strong seven-inning outing by Aaron Harang, then held on in the ninth in front of 18,000 at Safeco Field.
“Some guys knew what happened and saw what happened and some guys had no clue,’’ Zunino said of Wedge. “I heard some guys talking about it. I didn’t get to see anything. But we got some reassurance afterward saying that everything was good and it was just sort of precautionary and that everything was fine. But it was one of those where, obviously, everybody wants to get going and show we could still play and do one for him.’’
Bench coach Robby Thompson took over managerial duties and saw Harang yield a solo homer to Nick Swisher in the second at-bat of the night. But Harang tightened up from there and escaped a pair of jams in the third and fourth where a runner had reached third base with only one out.
Morales then snapped the homerless streak by Indians pitchers with a solo blast to right field in the bottom of the fourth that tied it at 1-1. Then, in the fifth, Zunino launched one over the fence in left to give the Mariners their margin of victory.
Tom Wilhelmsen gave up a one-out double in the ninth and an ensuing walk to leave runners at the corners with two out.
But Wilhelmsen — whose dropped ball on a routine play at first base during that earlier Cleveland series prevented the losing streak from ending at three — got Lonnie Chisenhall to fly out to right field to end it.
Harang had given up a one-out double in the fourth to Carlos Santana.
But it would be the final hit allowed by Harang, who retired his final nine batters and improved to 5-8 on the season.
“We go out there and you kind of want to match what the guy did the night before,’’ Harang said of his fellow starting pitchers. “That’s how you get on good streaks. It’s just that competitiveness in the clubhouse. But we’re also going out there trying to help our team win.
“I mean, all around, guys have been swinging well, the defense has been playing well and the pitching has been there. That’s what it takes to get on streaks like this and hopefully we can keep this going.’’
Harang said he didn’t realize until after batting practice that Wedge had been sent to the hospital. Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik came in and told the team about it as a group.
“It kind of threw me back for a minute when I heard the news,’’ he said. “We’re just glad he’s feeling all right. It was good to keep the win streak going.’’
Thompson said the players were obviously concerned before the game, and that’s why the quick meeting was held. Thompson also said the team’s previous close losses during that Cleveland series in May were also addressed in group meetings with hitters and pitchers.
“They probably didn’t have to be told or have it mentioned to them,’’ Thompson said. “But we went through it. We lived it there in Cleveland. Another close ballgame, but good for us. We came out on the winning side of things.’’