Miranda always believed he was starter and Monday night he showed why, delivering one of his best outings of his career, pitching seven shutout innings in the Mariners’ 6-1 win over the Marlins at Safeco Field.
It was a debate the Mariners held during spring training and there were proponents of both sides. Was Ariel Miranda most useful to the organization as the second left-hander in the Mariners’ bullpen, or as the No. 6 starter in the organization — pitching in the rotation in Class AAA Tacoma?
It was easy to see the benefit of both, who ended up starting the season as a starter in with the Mariners after Drew Smyly was injured late in spring training.
Miranda always believed he was a starter and Monday night he showed why, delivering one of his best outings of his career, pitching seven shutout innings in the Mariners’ 6-1 win over the Marlins at Safeco Field.
Mariners vs. Marlins, 7:10 p.m., ROOT
It was the sixth time this season a Seattle starter has thrown seven shutout innings.
The lithe lefty yielded just four hits and allowed only one runner to reach second base while striking out five and walking none to pick up his first win of the season. With a lively fastball that sat around 94 mph, Miranda pounded the inside corner to right-handers and used his split/changeup to keep them off balance. He threw 97 pitches in the outing, but needed just 66 to get through the first five innings.
“Great, great outing by Ariel,” manager Scott Servais said. “He really pitched much different tonight than he did last time. I think last time out he threw a bunch of offspeed pitches. Tonight he was very aggressive with his fastball.”
With a slider that’s a work in progress and can often trend between mediocre and below average, Miranda relies on the fastball and changeup extensively. But establishing the fastball is paramount.
“It’s huge,” Servais said. “That’s what he lives off of and he should.”
Miranda didn’t mess around, flooding the strike zone early and often.
“I came out more aggressive tonight,” he said through interpreter Fernando Alcala. “I had a lot of early strikes so that helped out a lot.”
The usage of the fastball was intentional. He threw it 63 times (on 97 pitches) per Brooks Baseball’s tracking of MLB pitches.
“That was the game plan from the start,” he said. “We wanted to focus on attacking the hitters and fortunately it worked out.”
The Mariners provided him plenty of run support. It started with the most important hitter in the lineup breaking out of a mini-slump.
Robinson Cano came into the game, hitting just .212 (11 for 52) with a .608 on-base plus slugging percentage on the season. Over his past six games, he was hitting .174 (4 for 23) with just one extra-base hit. He was expanding the strike zone and swinging at pitches he normally takes, rolling them for easy ground balls with off-balance swings.
“Of all the guys, he probably gets a little anxious at times,” Servais said. “He wants to do it too bad instead of letting the pitcher come to him and getting his pitch to hit.”
Cano put in early extra work over the weekend to re-find his approach and swing.
“I’ve been feeling good the whole year,” Cano said. “I always go through that during the season where you have some tough at-bats and stuff. But today was good and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
In the first inning, facing Marlins starter Tom Koehler, Cano blistered a 1-2 changeup that Koehler left over the middle of the plate, sending a screaming line drive into the stands in deep right center. It was a prodigious homer that MLB Statcast measured at 441 feet.
Cano hadn’t even finished his elaborate celebratory handshakes with his teammates in the Mariners dugout when the familiar, yet frightening sound of Nelson Cruz making solid contact with a baseball interrupted the party.
Cruz followed with a blast of his own, a shot deep over the wall in dead center that Statcast measured at 410 feet — thought it seemed farther.
“Robbie crushed that ball and Cruzie said he didn’t get it all, but that’s Nelson Cruz,” Servais said. “Obviously, it’s great to see those guys pick it up and get it going. That’s what drives the train is the middle of our lineup. Hopefully we can get them in a nice consistent rhythm. That would be great for us.”