ANAHEIM, Calif. — The move was so logical, nearly every manager in baseball would have done the same.
Trailing 1-0 in the third inning with two outs and runners on second and third, Angels manager Mike Scioscia opted to have starting pitcher C.J. Wilson intentionally walk Robinson Cano to load the bases and take his chances with Justin Smoak.
Besides giving the Angels a force out at every bag, it also avoided pitching to Cano, who came into the game hitting .389 (14 for 36) with two doubles and two homers against Wilson in his career. And really, would you rather face the guy who hit .314 last season or the guy who hit .223?
It wasn’t a tough decision.
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“Why wouldn’t you?” Smoak said, chuckling. “I don’t care if it’s lefty-on-lefty or not. There’s a reason why they do it.”
Everything about the move made sense. That is, until Smoak ripped a 1-1 fastball into the left-center gap for a bases-clearing double. The Mariners took that 4-0 lead and never looked back, adding four more runs over the next five innings and rolling to an 8-3 win over the Angels Tuesday night at Angels Stadium.
But it was the Smoak double that changed the course of the game.
“Right now if you are looking at their lineup, Robinson Cano is the guy you want to try to minimize as much as you can,” Scioscia said. “Give Justin Smoak credit. He got some big hits last night and got some big hits tonight. If he continues it, Robinson Cano will get some pitches to hit. But right now, you’re going to want to make Justin Smoak swing the bat instead of Robinson.”
For the second straight night, Smoak tallied three RBI in a game. By comparison, he had just a pair of three-RBI games all of last season.
“I was just trying not to do too much,” he said. “There’s a reason why they do that. I like facing C.J. And I was just going up there trying to have a good at-bat.”
The Mariners (2-0) have had plenty of good at-bats in the season’s first two games. They have racked up 18 runs on 21 hits against the Angels. And they haven’t been a bunch of singles. They have 12 extra-base hits, including two home runs from Brad Miller, who seems to hit them in pairs.
After striking out twice against Wilson in his first two at-bats, Miller hammered a solo home run into the right-field seats in the fifth inning. In the ninth inning, he crushed a laser of a two-run homer to deep right-center off Michael Kohn. Miller has 10 career home runs — with eight coming in four two-homer games.
“I will take them any way I can,” Miller said. “I’m just trying to drive the ball. My first two at-bats I felt pretty tentative and in-between. C.J. made me look pretty stupid.”
The 4-0 lead was more than enough for Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez. The diminutive right-hander gave the Mariners seven good innings, giving up two runs on six hits with six strikeouts, no walks and one hit batter.
Before the game, manager Lloyd McClendon said he felt like Ramirez would pitch well for the Mariners. He was right.
“I just knew he was ready and knew he was ready to execute,” McClendon said. “He did a pretty darn good job.”
The only damage Ramirez allowed came in the fourth inning. He gave up a leadoff double to Josh Hamilton. Two batters later, he left a first-pitch, 89 mph fastball over the plate to former teammate Raul Ibanez. Even at the ripe old age of 40, Ibanez won’t miss a cookie of a pitch like that. He pounded it over the wall in center field to cut the lead to 4-2.
But the Mariners added to the lead.
Miller hit his first homer in the fifth. Dustin Ackley continued to swing the bat well, adding another run in the sixth with a run-scoring double off the wall in right-center. It knocked Wilson out of the game. The Mariners roughed Wilson up for six runs on eight hits with a pair of walks.
“I thought we had great at-bats, and we got his pitch count up early,” McClendon said.
After the rough fourth inning, Ramirez didn’t allow a runner over the next three innings.
“I just tried to continue to make quality pitches,” Ramirez said.
Miller provided the final cushion in the ninth inning with the two-run homer. It negated a save situation for Fernando Rodney, who had been preparing for it in the bullpen. Regardless, Rodney still made his Mariners debut, pitching a scoreless ninth.
|Rest of the rotation|
|The Mariners won their eighth straight season opener Monday. Seven of those have been started by Felix Hernandez. Following Felix in the rotation, for now, will be 23-year-old Erasmo Ramirez, rookies James Paxton and Roenis Elias, and journeyman Chris Young, who has won 11 games the past five seasons. A look at the career major-league numbers of Hernandez, compared to the other four:|
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @RyanDivish