ANAHEIM, Calif. – It’s not just that the Mariners won their first three games of the 2014 season that’s surprising.
Well, actually that might be stunning.
But with Wednesday’s 8-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels, the Mariners swept a three-game series in Anaheim for the first time since 2006. It was the first time since 1995 that Seattle had won three straight games to start a season. It was also the first time since 1985 the team started the season with a three-game series sweep.
So the three wins have historical value to the franchise and fans.
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But it was how they won the three games that seemed so astonishing and so, well, un-Mariner-like.
Seattle dominated. The Mariners got runs early and continued to add on. In the three games, they scored 26 runs on 34 hits, including 17 extra-base hits. Mariner teams of the last few years couldn’t put up those types of numbers in two three-game series.
Is it a little soon to proclaim this team an offensive juggernaut? Of course. Even their manager, Lloyd McClendon, cautioned for practicality.
“It’s still early,” he said before the game. “We’ve swung the bat extremely well. At some point, we are going to have to win a game 2-1 or 1-0.”
It wasn’t going to be this game. Seattle banged out 13 hits, including three home runs.
“Things went well for us this series,” McClendon said. “One thing I try to tell my guys is, ‘Just unleash your talents.’ ”
They unleashed enough to show that this year’s version of the Mariners’ offense should be better not simply for the addition of Robinson Cano, but also for the improvement of the players around him. Of the all the runs scored in the series, Cano scored two and drove in just one. That first RBI came in the third inning. Brad Miller hustled out a two-out double to right field and Cano rewarded the effort with a ground ball up the middle to score him and give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
“He’s a rug rat,” McClendon said of Miller. “He goes at it pretty good. It’s why I like him batting in the two hole.”
The lead was pushed to 2-0 in the fifth inning when Miller dumped a single to left to score Willie Bloomquist.
And like in the first two games, the Mariners turned the game into a rout against the Angels’ bullpen.
Seattle scored four runs in the sixth inning, highlighted by a line-drive, RBI double down the left-field line from Stefen Romero and a towering three-run homer from Mike Zunino. Both hitters swung at the first pitch.
“I acted like I was going to show bunt and moved up in the box,” Romero said. “(McClendon) gave me swing away and I was looking first-pitch fastball, and that’s what I got. Luckily, I barreled it up.”
The Mariners got two more runs in the ninth when Justin Smoak crushed a solo homer to right field and Corey Hart yanked a homer to left field for back-to-back shots.
The eight runs were more than enough support for starter James Paxton. Paxton tossed seven shutout innings, giving up just two hits while striking out nine and walking two.
“That was pretty impressive,” McClendon said. “I don’t know what else to say. I don’t have many more adjectives. He was outstanding.”
The big left-hander dominated the Angels. Only Mike Trout, who doubled in the fourth inning, hit a ball hard off Paxton.
“It’s right up there with that Kansas City start from last year,” Paxton said of the performance. “I just got in a groove and felt really good.”
Following Trout’s double, Paxton retired 12 of the next 13 batters, striking out seven and retiring the last 11 in a row.
The Mariners celebrated the sweep by giving the customary beer shower to Romero postgame for his first big-league hit.
“It’s definitely something to build on,” Zunino said. “We’re excited about it. We’re playing good baseball now. Hopefully, we can carry it over.”
|The M’s have started a season 3-0 only twice before. The 1985 club swept both its opening series.|