By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
ARLINGTON, Texas — Who is this offensive juggernaut and what have they done with the Seattle Mariners?
Joking aside, the Mariners’ offense resembled something beyond competent and a little like what manager Eric Wedge envisioned in spring training.
It’s not something that has been seen often this season.
But on Tuesday night at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, it was there in a 9-2 win, tantalizing Wedge and Mariners’ fans of what it could still be. Seattle banged out 13 hits, with every position player recording a hit, including three doubles and three home runs.
“That’s what we did this spring,” Wedge said. “But you get banged up, a couple of guys get off to bad starts, and you kind of lose your mojo there. This was really good to see.”
More importantly, will the Mariners see it more in the second half of the season?
“If we can get a couple of guys going at the same time, we’ll have nights like this, more nights like this,” Wedge said.
It seems as though one of those guys is going again.
Designated hitter Kendrys Morales had a monster night, going 3-for-5 with two home runs and six RBI.
Early in the season, he was the Mariners’ top offensive threat. But a back injury from overuse in the field had slowed his production. In his last 15 games, Morales hit just .211 (12-for-57) with two doubles and a homer and 16 strikeouts.
But the back has slowly been getting better.
“There is no more pain,” Morales said through translator Jaime Navarro. “I feel great. Right now the pain is not there and I’ll just keep playing and doing the things I need to do.”
Wedge could see it in the past few games.
“I think he’s been freed up a little bit more,” Wedge said. “He lost his stroke there a little bit. He was chasing quite a bit, trying to do too much. That’s what happens, especially with a guy like him, who knows he’s a good hitter. He can do a lot of damage for your ballclub. Obviously, he did tonight.”
The offense started with the ageless Raul Ibanez. The 41-year-old blasted his 20th homer of the season, ripping a ball to right-center off of Rangers’ starter Justin Grimm in the first inning.
The 20 homers before the all-star break is a good number for any player. But at age 41? Since 1916, no player over the age of 40 had ever hit 20 homers before the all-star break. A year ago, Ibanez hit 19 homers in the entire season.
“It is what it is, kind of thing,” Ibanez said of the accomplishment. “I try not to dwell on it a whole lot and just keep plugging away and doing my thing. The preparation, the work in the cage, continuing trying to have the right approach and hit the ball on the barrel, that’s pretty much all you can do.”
Morales followed immediately with a solo homer to right for back-to-back long balls.
Texas answered with a run in the third off of Mariners starter Joe Saunders to cut the lead to 2-1.
But unlike much of this season, the Mariners continued to add to their early lead. They tacked on another run in the third on Dustin Ackley’s RBI double
Morales broke the game open in the fifth with his second homer of the game, a three-run shot to right-center, knocking Grimm out of the game.
Up 6-1, Morales wasn’t done. He hit a two-run single to left-center in the sixth.
“Kendrys had a pretty good night,” Saunders deadpanned.
This isn’t the first time he’s had a pretty good night in this park. On July 30 of last season when he was with the Angels, Morales hit a two-run homer and a grand slam in Arlington for six RBI.
He’s hit 10 homers in 121 at-bats in Arlington, but really has no great affection for the hitter friendly park.
“It’s not one of my best parks, but I feel comfortable hitting the ball here,” he said.
Saunders has no great love of Rangers Ballpark either. Coming into Tuesday, he’d made seven regular season starts here and was 0-7 and with a 9.91 earned run average.
“This place has torn me up a few times,” he said.
But all that run support allowed him to get his first ever regular season win in Arlington. He worked 62⁄3 innings giving up two runs (one earned) on 10 hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
“It’s nice as a starting pitcher when you get a little bit of a cushion for sure,” Wedge said. “That helps us relax and kind of settle in a little bit. It takes a little bit pressure off you. But you still have to go out and throw up zeroes against this offense because they can throw up a crooked number in a hurry.”
Against a potent and right-handed heavy line-up, Saunders found himself in trouble often. He allowed a baserunner to reach in every inning but the first, but a few timely double plays and a nice grab of hard shot up the middle from Elvis Andrus with two outs and bases loaded in fourth inning helped him limit the damage.
“He’s had some troubles in this park in the past, but obviously against that lineup in this ballpark he pitched a good ballgame,” Wedge said.