By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
BALTIMORE — Here in the land of the man who loved three-run homers, Robinson Cano hit one Saturday night that carried the Seattle Mariners to a 6-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Cano crushed a 1-1 meatball changeup from starter Miguel Gonzalez in the fifth inning after Baltimore manager Buck Showalter opted against an intentional walk with runners at second and third bases with one out.
“There was only one out,” Cano said. “I guess that was the reason. With one out, if you put another guy on base … (Kendrys) Morales is in a little slump right now, but we know he can hit.”
“If I hit a fly ball, it’s a sac fly, and it’s only going to be one run. And there would be two outs.”
But Cano hit it over the 21-foot scoreboard in right field, and the Mariners jumped to a 4-1 lead.
“It was a little early,” Showalter said. “Miggy (Gonzalez) hasn’t had an extra-base hit. But there’s a lot that figures into it. I have a lot of confidence in Miggy that he won’t give in to it there, and we do have a base open.”
They Mariners also got a home run from hot-hitting Dustin Ackley, who also had a single and a double. Austin Jackson, in his second game since arriving from Detroit, had two hits and a walk in five plate appearances.
Encouragingly, Morales contributed two singles to an 11-hit attack, including a two-run single with two outs in the ninth inning that meant Fernando Rodney didn’t get a save when he closed out the victory.
“That’s how you draw it up,” Ackley said. “It was a good day all around for everybody. We got some runs early, and then Kendrys had a big hit late.”
Lefty James Paxton, in his first start since April 8, lasted 41⁄3 innings before exiting after 83 pitches. He gave up two runs and four hits while walking three and striking out five.
“I don’t think he was fatigued at all,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “But he had three stressful innings. I just believe when a guy has three stressful innings, it’s time to go get him.”
The bullpen took it from there. Dominic Leone (4-2) got the victory by following Paxton with 12⁄3 innings.
Brandon Maurer, Yoervis Medina and Charlie Furbush then held the Orioles in check before Rodney yielded a two-out run in the ninth.
Gonzalez (5-6) was the loser.
The victory boosted the Mariners to 57-53, and they closed to within two games of Toronto in the race for the AL’s final wild-card spot.
A little about three-run homers …
Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver’s No. 4 is displayed in the upper deck in left field along alongside the Orioles’ other retired numbers. His famous quote is often truncated into a philosophy based simply on three-run homers.
What Weaver actually said was: “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three-run homers.”
The Mariners have been fine all year with the first two, but Cano’s blast was just their 13th three-run homer of the year.
“About time,” he joked.
Paxton got off to a rough start in the first inning by walking Nick Markakis, who went to third when Manny Machado painted the left-field line for a double. Adam Jones’ grounder to second scored Markakis.
J.J. Hardy opened the Orioles second with an infield single and went to second when Paxton threw wildly on a pickoff attempt. Hardy held when Steve Pearce grounded to third.
Caleb Joseph then sent a sharp hopper back to the mound that struck Paxton on the inside of his upper right leg. After a check from trainer Rick Griffin, and a few trial pitches, Paxton continued.
“It definitely did sting,” he said. “But like I said in spring training when I got hit, I wouldn’t be very Canadian if I came out of the game after that.”
A walk to Jonathan Schoop loaded the bases, but Markakis flied out to left.
The Mariners pulled even on Ackley’s one-out homer in the third inning. He drove a 2-2 fastball over that right-field scoreboard.
Ackley’s double in the fifth followed Jackson’s one-out single and put runners at second and third for Cano. Boom. And it was 4-1.
“I’ve had really good success against him,” Gonzalez said. “You just tip your hat. I left the ball up, and he was able to get a piece of it.”
A big piece.
Paxton gave up a homer to Joseph in the bottom of the fifth and departed after a one-out walk to Markakis.
“When you go to your bullpen before the sixth inning,” McClendon said, “it’s awfully hard to win ballgames. But when you’ve got a bullpen as good as ours, you feel pretty confident with a lead.”
Three-run homers, they help that confidence, too.