The Mariners accomplished something Thursday night that had escaped them for virtually all of their misbegotten six-game road trip in Texas...
The Mariners accomplished something Thursday night that had escaped them for virtually all of their misbegotten six-game road trip in Texas over the past week: They looked like a major-league baseball team.
They got a well-pitched game from rookie right-hander Brandon Maurer; a couple of home runs, including a mammoth shot from Carlos Peguero; and some of their best defense of the 2013 season in shutting down the Los Angeles Angels, 6-0 in front of exactly 13,000.
Asked what the flight home was like from Houston after the M’s dropped a second series in April to the lowly Astros — and got a tongue-lashing afterward from manager Eric Wedge — Maurer said simply, “I think we were excited to come out here and play in front of the home crowd and try to get a win.”
That they did, led by the effort from Maurer, who put forth a third-straight quality start after two miserable ones to open his major-league career earlier this month.
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“I think he learned a great deal from those first two starts,” said Wedge. “It’s typical of a young starting pitcher with ability. You still have to get up here and see things for yourself, and learn a great deal early on. He’s done a great job of settling in.”
Maurer lasted into the seventh inning, pitching against the franchise he saw first hand growing up in Orange County. He allowed seven hits and got flawless defense from the Mariners, who turned three-straight double plays from the fifth through the seventh innings, and also benefited when catcher Kelly Shoppach gunned down Mike Trout trying to steal in the sixth — just the sixth time that’s happened to Trout in 58 tries over two seasons.
With the sweep by Texas last weekend and the series loss to Houston, dropping their record to 8-15, there was mounting speculation that the M’s might be starting to bury themselves before Cinco de Mayo. But if there were any such ominous thoughts in the clubhouse, they weren’t evident on the field, as just about everything clicked for Seattle.
Kyle Seager had three hits, including a two-run, eighth-inning homer to right, to raise his average to .306 and extend his hitting streak to 14 games.
“Overall, he had a really solid year last year,” Wedge said. “He’s just continued to build off that. For a young player, he’s very heady. He knows himself well. He’s always been a little bit ahead in that regard, understanding his swing, seeing things for what they are in regards to whom he’s competing against.”
But the evening’s showstopper was the 451-foot home run by Peguero in his first at-bat of the season since he was recalled Tuesday when Franklin Gutierrez went on the disabled list.
Leading off the third inning, Peguero first broke a bat, and the splintered barrel went sailing 20 rows deep between home and first. Then he fought back against Angels starter Garrett Richards, and on the eighth pitch with a 3-2 count, smashed a low pitch out of the strike zone into the batter’s eye in center field.
It was the third-longest estimated homer in the 14-season existence of Safeco Field.
“That was pretty impressive,” admired Seager. “That’s pretty tough to top. Man, I haven’t even gotten out to center field in batting practice.”
“Everyone knows what kind of talent this young man has,” Wedge said of Peguero. “He just has to tighten it up and reel it all in, and that’s what he’s been working on.”
Until Jason Bay’s two-run single in the seventh and Seager’s eighth-inning poke, it was a pitcher’s duel, and Maurer was up to his share of it.
“First inning, he showed he had 95 (miles an hour), and then he went back to sinker balls,” said Angels slugger Josh Hamilton. “If he needed to come in with a little run, he would, at 93-94.
“The name of the game is keeping hitters off-balance. He did a good job.”
His teammates followed, on a night when the Mariners needed it.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com