By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — That other guy the Seattle Mariners signed in the off-season to boost their attack put down a big-time marker Tuesday night in 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
Corey Hart clocked two no-doubt homers that helped the Mariners to a successful home opener on a night when Robinson Cano had only a walk to show for four plate appearances and James Paxton exited with an injury.
“So many guys on this team have been chipping in,” Hart said, “and I haven’t been one of them. So it was nice to find that contact tonight and be able to help out.”
Paxton, 2-0, suffered a strained back muscle that forced him from the game in the sixth inning but got the victory when a four-reliever relay combined for four scoreless innings.
“I just felt a little tweak,” said Paxton, who is scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam today.
“I want to be careful with it. It’s just a little lat strain. … It feels fine just standing here (after the game), but we’ll find out (today) exactly what’s going on.”
Hart’s first homer was a three-run shot in a four-run fourth against Angels starter Hector Santiago and turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead.
“Last week in California,” L.A. manager Mike Scioscia said, “they were hot with two out and guys in scoring position. They carried it through to that inning.”
It was still 4-3 when Hart went deep with a two-out solo shot in the seventh against Fernando Salas. It was Hart’s 15th career multi-homer game.
Paxton’s night started poorly and ended with an injury — a strained lat (back) muscle. In-between, he was dominant … retiring 14 in a row after yielding three runs in the first inning on back-to-back homers.
The Mariners characterized Paxton’s injury as a “slight” strain pending the MRI results.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal,” he said. “It’s not like it’s a real pain. It’s just a little soreness.”
Yoervis Medina, Danny Farquhar, Tom Wilhelmen and Fernando Rodney stifled the Angels after Paxton departed. Rodney worked around two walks to start the ninth inning for his second save.
“He’s been that way throughout his career,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “One thing you know about him, though, is he’s been through the fires. He knows what’s going on. He’s not going to be rattled in any way.”
Paxton’s tough first inning started with a one-out single by Mike Trout. And then … Albert Pujols crushed a 1-0 fastball to left for a two-run homer. Two pitches later, David Freese rocked an 0-1 change-up to center.
And it was 3-0.
“I was a little excited with what’s going on here,” Paxton said. “I just left some pitches up. When you make mistakes to hitters that good, they’re going to make it hurt. Then I calmed myself.”
The Mariners got it all back and more in the third inning by cashing a mistake — Brad Miller reached on a two-out swinging third strike when the ball got away from catcher Chris Iannetta for a wild pitch.
Santiago seemed to pitch around Cano in a four-pitch walk, but Justin Smoak spoiled the strategy with a hard grounder up the middle for an RBI single.
Hart then fell into an 0-2 hole before driving a 95-mph fastball over the left-field wall for a three-run homer.
“I haven’t had a whole lot of good baseball moments lately,” said Hart, who missed all of last season while recovering from surgeries on both knees.
“I’ve just been trying to find a rhythm and get something going. It was nice to do that on opening night (at home) for the crowd. At least they know when it’s going good, it’s going good for me.”