Mike Zunino's HRs power Seattle Mariners past Detroit Tigers

By Gene Warnick, The Sports Xchange
Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino returns to the dugout after hitting a home run. Zunino hit two home runs in Seattle's win. Photo courtesy of Seattle Mariners/Twitter
Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino returns to the dugout after hitting a home run. Zunino hit two home runs in Seattle's win. Photo courtesy of Seattle Mariners/Twitter

SEATTLE -- Like many managers, Scott Servais is a former major league catcher.

So forgive Servais if a pair of two-run homers wasn't what impressed him about Mike Zunino's performance Monday night as the Mariners defeated the Detroit Tigers 6-2 at Safeco Field.


"The thing with Zunino is how he managed the game, the way he got (reliever James) Pazos through (a bases-loaded jam)," Servais said. "We love the home runs. But taking the next step in leading the pitching staff was huge."

After the Mariners had tied the score at 2-2 in the fifth on Guillermo Heredia's two-run homer, the Tigers threatened in the next inning.

Pazos (2-1) entered with one out and the bases loaded. He immediately fell behind 2-1 in the count to pinch-hitter Mikie Mahtook.

That prompted a visit to the mound by Zunino.


"I just wanted to sit him down and explain what we wanted to do with those guys," Zunino said. "He made the pitches."

Pazos caught Mahtook looking at a called third strike, then fanned Andrew Romine on three straight pitches, including a 99 mph fastball, to end the inning.

"Mike was incredible back there," Pazos said. "He knows what we want to do."

Zunino's home run to left field on a 3-2 pitch from Tigers reliever Alex Wilson (1-4) in the bottom of the sixth inning gave the Mariners the lead.

"As I got deeper into the at-bat, I was able to see what he was throwing," Zunino said. "Any time you can fall behind and work my way back and get a hit like that ... it's huge."

The catcher added a two-run homer to straightaway center off Francisco Rodriguez with two outs in the bottom of the eighth for the final margin.

"The quality of his at-bats was outstanding," Servais said. "The last one off Rodriguez was pretty impressive."

Since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on May 22, Zunino is batting .338 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs.


"In the (batting) cage, it's just been the same routine every day," Zunino said.

When he was sent down, Zunino was batting .167 with no home runs and two RBIs.

"I've had a few chances in my career to hit the reset button," said Zunino, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft who has spent time in the minors in each of the past two seasons. "Obviously, what I was doing wasn't working."

Anibal Sanchez, making his first start of the season, pitched five innings for the Tigers, the only runs allowed coming on Heredia's homer.

The right-hander, a 12-year veteran, started the season in the bullpen and accepted a month-long assignment to Triple-A Toledo to stretch out his arm and allow him to return to the rotation.

"He threw pretty well," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "I thought he did a good job locating his fastball, change-up was good, mixing in the breaking balls."

The Mariners nearly knocked out Sanchez earlier in the fifth, as Taylor Motter led off with a liner that struck Sanchez in the left knee. Motter reached on an infield single, and after a visit from Ausmus and the Tigers' training staff, Sanchez stayed in the game.


An out later, Heredia lined a 2-1 pitch over the fence in left-center field. The home run, Heredia's fifth of the season, tied the score at 2-2.

Sanchez allowed two runs on five hits in five innings, with three walks and five strikeouts.

The Tigers opened the scoring in the third, as two walks and a single loaded the bases with no outs. Romine, who led off the inning with a walk, scored when Alex Avila grounded into a double play.

Detroit made it 2-0 in the fifth as Ian Kinsler lined a two-out double down the left-field line, scoring Jose Iglesias from first base.

Mariners rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio went five innings, allowing two runs on three hits. Gaviglio struggled with his control, with four walks and one strikeout. Of his 84 pitches, only 46 were strikes.

NOTES: Mariners RF Ben Gamel extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a third-inning single. The rookie has hits in 21 of his past 22 games. ... Tigers SS Jose Iglesias went 2-for-4, his 15th multi-hit game of the season. ... Seattle improved to 21-13 at home. ... Tigers RHP Jordan Zimmermann (5-5, 5.35 ERA) is scheduled to start Tuesday against Mariners LHP Ariel Miranda (6-3, 4.17).


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