CINCINNATI – Before Friday’s game, Mariners rookie shortstop Brad Miller was joking about how when he really gets hellbent on the basepaths, his limbs start flailing to an extent that an old coach once gave him the moniker “Crazy Legs.”
And then Miller went out in his new role as the Mariners’ leadoff man, and put those crazy legs into action.
He started the game off with a triple into the right-field corner, added another triple for good measure, and sparked Seattle to a 4-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark.
“I like that style, hopefully stretching some singles into doubles and doubles into triples,’’ Miller said. “I’ve always been coached that way. And I like that, going all out until they stop you.”
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Of course, it helps when the No. 2 hitter steps up and hits the ball out of the ballpark. That’s what fellow rookie Nick Franklin did in the first inning, on the first pitch he saw from Reds starter Mike Leake after Miller’s triple, to stake Mariners starter Aaron Harang to an immediate 2-0 lead.
“Brad set the tone right,’’ Franklin said. “I was just looking for a pitch to drive. Usually, I want to see a pitcher for the first time, but at that point in time, I said, you know what, I’m going to try to jump on anything that looks good.”
That explosive start energized the Mariners, said Michael Saunders, who would add his own contribution to Seattle’s third victory in four games on this trip.
“To give our pitcher a lead like that, it kind of brings the momentum into our dugout and we kind of just kept going,’’ Saunders said.
The Mariners extended the lead to 4-0 through their half of the fourth on a homer and sacrifice fly by Saunders, then hung on for dear life.
Ultimately, it was their bullpen that did the dirty work after the Reds crept back in it with runs in the fifth and sixth off Harang. Yoervis Medina, Charlie Furbush and Oliver Perez held the Reds hitless over the final three innings, striking out six, to make a winner of Harang in his return to Cincinnati. Perez struck out the side in the ninth for his second save.
“Great job by all those guys, and we had Tommy (Tom Wilhelmsen) waiting,’’ Wedge said. “If Oliver didn’t get that guy, Tommy was going to be in the game. With the left-handers and the way it lined up late, we felt good going to Oliver, and he was really good. Charlie bridging that gap was huge as well, and Medina did a nice job.”
But Wedge gave special mention to Miller, who not only became the first player with two triples in one game in the 10-year history of Great American Ballpark, but also the first Mariner to do so since Carlos Guillen on May 9, 2003 against the White Sox.
Listing Miller’s attributes as a leadoff man in this win, Wedge said, “Energy, aggressiveness. He’s offensive. That’s the way he plays the game, whether it be at home plate, in the field or on the base paths. I love the way he comes out of the box. He’s thinking not doubles, he’s thinking triples out of the box. The ball comes off his bat well. It was a big boost for us tonight.”
Franklin also earned points for staying in the game after painfully bunting a ball foul off his kneecap in his next at-bat. He was noticeably uncomfortable the rest of the game and still stiff as he headed back to the hotel.
“He’s got a pretty good knot on his knee,’’ Wedge said. “I wanted him to stay in the game for obvious reasons. He needed to stay in the game, and he did. He toughed it out. I told him that’s the baseball gods getting him, because you hit a home run your first time and you try to bunt your second time. That’s what happens.”
Saunders, starting for the first time since June 26 because of a smashed middle finger, hopes he’s moving out of his extended slump. He jumped on a Leake pitch leading off the second and lined it over the wall in right.
“Obviously, it felt good,’’ he said. “Any time you hit a homer it feels good, especially coming off the first start I got in a while. I wasn’t trying to do too much. I got a couple at-bats in Texas and the ball felt like it was getting on me. But I saw the ball well and put a good swing on it.”
Harang, who made 112 starts for the Reds over eight seasons in Cincinnati, limited his former team to two runs in six innings. It was his first start at Great American Ballpark not wearing a Reds uniform.
“I finally get that first start here from the opposing side of the field,’’ he said. “It’s pretty exciting to get to come in here. The last couple of years I’ve been getting to come here but I get to be a fan and watch the rest of my team face (the Reds). It was nice to be able to come in and make a start here.”
Perez put a bow on Harang’s win, and says he’s pitching with more confidence than at any point in recent memory.
“I know I can control whatever I threw, if I throw sidearm, over the top, I know where I have to throw that ball,’’ he said.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.