ARLINGTON, Texas — The last time the Mariners faced Robbie Ross in a start at Globe Life Park, it didn’t go so well. It’s not something Lloyd McClendon wants to relive.
On April 15, Ross, an average left-handed pitcher with less-than-average stuff and fair velocity, shut down Seattle hitters, tossing 72/3 shutout innings, allowing just five hits with no walks and no strikeouts in a 5-0 win.
It left McClendon seething postgame, furious with his players’ approach at the plate. Even worse, it was the first of eight straight losses — the team’s longest losing streak of the season.
But on Thursday, a different and better Mariners team took the field in Arlington to face Ross, and the results were predictably improved.
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The Mariners rocked Ross and the Rangers’ relievers, scoring nine runs in the first three innings and coasting to a 10-2 rout. Seattle (76-63) remained a half-game behind for the second wild card as the Tigers rallied for an extra-inning win over the Indians.
After an emotional series with the Oakland Athletics, the Mariners came out and dominated a bad team they had struggled against this season.
“I thought it was important that they come out with a lot of energy and a lot of focus and play up to their ability,” McClendon said.
The Mariners improved to 7-9 against a lowly Rangers team that is on pace to lose at least 95 games at 53-87.
“This is a game that really matters for us,” said second baseman Robinson Cano, who drove in a season-high four runs. “When you look at those kinds of teams, they are the ones that can do damage to teams in the race. If you want to stay in there, we have to start early and take advantage. You don’t want to play at their level.”
Ross couldn’t revive the magic of that one solid start because this version of the Mariners didn’t allow it.
“It’s now five months later,” Cano said of Ross. “He’s not the same guy. He was in the rotation, moved to the bullpen, sent down.”
With two outs in the second inning, Chris Denorfia and Chris Taylor worked back-to-back walks to put Ross in a jam. Light-hitting backup catcher Jesus Sucre singled to left field to score Denorfia for the first run of the game.
“Those were big at-bats,” McClendon said. “There’s a lot of ways to win games, and getting on base with those two walks opened up a big inning.”
From there, it would snowball.
Manager Ron Washington finally ended Ross’ miserable outing in the second inning, pulling him for right-hander John Edwards.
Kyle Seager greeted Edwards with a sharp single up the middle to score one more run to make it 6-0. On the night when the NFL opened its regular season, the Mariners scored a touchdown in one inning.
The Mariners picked up right where they left off in the top of the fourth. Again, Denorfia and Taylor drew back-to-back walks — this time to start the inning. Sucre singled home a run on a ball past Adrian Beltre at third to make it 7-0.
“I’m just trying to look for something good, look for a fastball,” Sucre said of his two hits. “They know I don’t play every day and may try to get me with the fastball.”
Cano later slammed a double into the right-center gap to score two more runs to make it 9-0.
“We weren’t chasing pitches,” Cano said. “And when we don’t chase pitches, we can do a lot of damage.”
Given a 9-0 lead, Mariners starter Roenis Elias (10-12) didn’t exactly cruise to victory. Not even his control issues would derail the win.
Elias’ inconsistent command elevated his pitch count quickly. He worked just five innings, giving up a run on seven hits with a walk and a strikeout.
“You have to go out there and make your pitches and get those outs,” Elias said through interpreter Fernando Alcala.