John Boyle Herald Writer
SEATTLE — After a first half of the 2012 season that was largely defined by their inability to hit at home, the Seattle Mariners opened the second half of the season by, of all things, hitting at home.
Sure there was some solid pitching, particularly by the bullpen, but the Mariners beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-3 Monday night largely because they finally came up with some big hits, particularly a three-run double by Casper Wells that put them ahead in the seventh inning.
The Mariners six-run outburst — and yes, six runs at Safeco Field most definitely qualifies as an outburst for a team that came into the game batting .197 at home — came in the eighth game of a homestand in which they had failed to score more than three runs in any of the previous seven games. Prior to Monday’s win, Seattle scored a total of five runs in a four-game series against Boston, and had scored six or more runs at Safeco Field only once in its previous 22 home games.
“It’s huge coming off of such tight games with the Red Sox,” said Wells, who is hitting .313 with nine RBI in 15 games since being recalled from Class AAA Tacoma on June 13. “… Good all-around team effort. It was nice to come away with the win.”
After Wells put the Mariners ahead in the seventh, Miguel Olivo and Dustin Ackley hit back-to-back home runs in the eighth to give closer Tom Wilhemsen some breathing room, a luxury he has rarely been afforded of late.
The win was impressive not just because of the Mariners’ offensive output, but also because of the fact that they were able to come through with a makeshift lineup that hardly looked imposing coming into the game. Down two regular outfielders, Michael Saunders (illness) and Franklin Gutierrez (concussion), and resting two struggling starters, Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak, Wedge turned in a lineup card Monday that included a bottom three of Chone Figgins,
Munenori Kawasaki and Brendan Ryan, all of whom came into the game with batting averages of .186 or worse.
Oh, and Seattle’s starting pitcher was Hisashi Iwakuma, who was making his first major-league start in place of an injured Kevin Millwood. Iwakuma was solid in his debut as a starter, lasting five innings while giving up three hits and three runs, all of which came on a Chris Davis home run in fourth inning.
“It was good to see the club step up the way it did,” Wedge said. “… It starts with Iwakuma, he did a real nice job today. One bad pitch got him, but he settled down and kept pitching after that. A lot of people asked me what I was expecting from him, and I said just to give us a chance to win the ballgame, and that’s what he did.”
After Iwakuma came out of the game, the bullpen took over and was impressive once again. Over the final four innings Steve Delabar, Shawn Kelley and Tom Wilhelmsen did not allow a hit, and Wilhelmsen, pitching for a third consecutive day, earned his seventh save. Delabar picked up the win in his first game since being called up last week.
“(Wilhelmsen) was adamant that he was good to go and obviously he was,” Wedge said. “Shawn Kelley there in the eighth was big. Delabar’s first outing for us, two innings there, it was nice to see him contribute the way he did as well.”
The Mariners took an early lead in the bottom of the third when the bottom-of-the-lineup trio of Figgins, Kawasaki and Ryan proved to be the unlikely catalyst for the offense. Figgins, who came into the game with a .184 average, led off the inning with a bloop single down the left-field line, then moved to second when Kawasaki, who came into the game with a .186 average, bunted him over. Ryan, a .182 hitter coming into the evening, then drove in Figgins with a line-drive single to right field.
That lead was short-lived, however, thanks to Davis’ homer. The Mariners then had a chance to get back into the game in the sixth, but came up empty after getting runners on second and third with one out. But after coming up short in the sixth, the Mariners broke through in the seventh, then kept on scoring into the eighth inning for what, in this stadium anyway, qualified as an offensive explosion.
“A lot of positives there late in the ballgame,” Wedge said.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.