By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
SEATTLE — After Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge was helped off the field and down the dugout steps by multiple players during batting practice, Monday night’s game took on a win-one-for-the-skipper vibe.
Two solo home runs and a crisp seven innings from Aaron Harang were sufficient for the cause.
The Mariners are winners of a season-high seven consecutive games after a tight 2-1 win over the Cleveland Indians on Monday night at Safeco Field.
As for Wedge, the Mariners manager is staying overnight in a hospital for further testing after experiencing “dizzy spells” on the field during batting practice. Bench coach Robby Thompson took his place.
“I’m sure the ‘W’ should help him out a little bit,” Thompson said. “I’m sure when (Charlie) Furbush hit (Michael) Bourn, it rustled him around a little bit in his bed.”
Furbush hit the Indians’ lead-off hitter to start the eighth inning, a hit batter that is plenty to cause palpitations because of Bourn’s speed and the Mariners’ one-run lead. But, Furbush struck out Nick Swisher, picked off Bourn and forced a groundout from Jason Kipnis.
The Mariners had that slight lead thanks to catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino hit a two-strike fastball into the bullpen to put the Mariners up 2-1 in the fifth. It was the rookie’s second homer of the year and first since June 14, which was his second game in the big leagues.
The homer was also Zunino’s first in his home park. He had doubled on a fastball in the third inning.
Both hits came off Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez and his lurching delivery.
“You have to find that window where the release point is coming through and not get caught up in everything else,” Zunino said.
Harang (5-8) pitched past the sixth inning for the first time since June 29. Harang came into the game with a 5.38 earned run average, indicative of his struggles this season.
Shutouts of Houston and San Diego stand as Harang’s high-end outings this year. Otherwise, he’s often been boxed around.
Not Monday. Swisher hit a home run in the first inning for the only run off Harang. The Indians had runners on first and third with one out in the third before Harang struck out Cleveland’s best hitter, Kipnis, and worked a grounder to first from Asdrubal Cabrera.
The Indians also appeared to have postgame plans, as they spent the later innings expediting the game with aggressive at-bats. Harang threw five pitches to complete the sixth and six to zip through the seventh. He finished the night by getting eight consecutive outs.
“The guys have been swinging well, the defense has been playing well and the pitching’s been there,” Harang said. “That’s what it takes to get on streaks like this.”
As much as the resuscitation of the offense has been discussed — the Mariners lead the league in runs scored and homers in July — the starting pitching has been overlooked. Mariners starters are 7-0 with a 1.71 ERA during the seven-game winning streak.
The Mariners’ Kendrys Morales hit his 15th homer of the season in the fourth to tie the score at 1-1.
Tom Wilhelmsen allowed a double and walk before getting the third out in the ninth for his 22nd save.
That’s enough to help Wedge rest easy.