Michael Morse homered twice to back Hisashi Iwakuma's six strong innings as Seattle improved to 2-0 with another win over Oakland.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Folks may have wondered what all the preseason power fuss was about until Michael Morse decided to show them with one third-inning swing.
Up to that point, the Mariners’ vaunted middle-of-the-order additions of Morse and Kendrys Morales had failed to hit a ball beyond the infield in this very early 2013 season. But that changed in a hurry Tuesday night when Morse connected for his first of two home runs, a three-run, opposite-field shot to help send the Mariners to a 7-1 win over the Oakland Athletics.
Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma tossed six innings of two-hit ball, striking out seven, to cruise to one of his easier victories in the majors. But it was mainly about the offense in this one, with Morse putting the finishing touches on the night with a rocket blast over the center-field fence in the ninth off A’s closer Grant Balfour.
“I got two good pitches to hit, I didn’t try to do too much and I got the barrel on the ball,” said Morse, who hit a club-record nine home runs in spring training.
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The power surge by Morse was only part of the offensive story, because the Mariners also drew eight walks. Kyle Seager reached base five times and had a pair of doubles, one driving in an eighth-inning run.
All the pitch-taking by the Mariners in their second straight win here helped them burn through six Oakland pitchers, with two games still remaining in the series.
The Mariners, for their part, got three scoreless frames from Carter Capps and Oliver Perez in relief, largely sparing the bullpen from extended work once Iwakuma was pulled after 88 pitches.
But it was Morse’s third-inning shot off A’s starter Jarrod Parker, lined hard over the right-field wall, that changed the game’s complexion. A crowd of 15,315 at the Coliseum had seen Oakland take a 1-0 lead a half-inning earlier on a Yoenis Cespedes home run, but was stunned into silence as Morse circled the bases.
Morse had fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches from Parker before drilling the next offering over the fence. A’s right fielder Josh Reddick tried to scale the wall on the run in a bid to make the catch, but crashed into it and tumbled back to the ground in a heap.
“He threw some good pitches early and I was trying to do too much,” Morse said of the at-bat against Parker. “I just relaxed, got in my two-strike approach and let him provide the power and just tried to put the barrel on the ball.”
His teammates seemed to take the same approach as the game progressed. Seager and Michael Saunders had both drawn walks ahead of Morse’s three-run shot, and the Mariners kept working deep into counts in the innings that followed.
“I think guys were just playing their game,” Morse said. “I don’t think anybody was playing above their abilities. Guys are comfortable up there. We had a good spring, and I think it’s carrying over.”
The Morse three-run homer seemed to loosen the entire team up a bit. Up to then, he and Morales had gone a combined 1 for 11 with two strikeouts, two pop-outs and two ground-ball double plays, with their lone hit an infield single.
Morales came up in the fifth with Seager on second and then — after falling behind 0-2 in the count — battled back against Parker and drilled a run-scoring single up the middle to make it a 4-1 game.
Seager said having that game-changing power shown by Morse should be a difference-maker.
“Any time you can add a guy like him, it’s big,” Seager said. “I mean, you’ve seen what he can do tonight. He can completely take over a game with one swing of the bat.”
It made a difference for Iwakuma as well. He’d just served up his second homer to Cespedes in five career at-bats facing him, but Morse quickly gave the Mariners pitcher a 3-1 lead before he had to take the mound again.
“We were down by a run, so that three-run home run by our cleanup hitter helped me a lot,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “It made me think that I had to pitch well from then on. After that (Cespedes) home run, I needed to stay calm, I needed to stay patient. That got me back into the groove. Just being able to locate pitches carefully to each side of the zone helped me a lot.”
Iwakuma retired 15 of the final 16 batters he faced after the Cespedes homer. And after the Morse blast in the third, the hometown A’s never quite seemed to recover from the early gut shot.
“That’s a difference-maker in the ballgame right there,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “That changes the entire course of the ballgame, and everything changes right there. The way you manage, the whole mindset of the entire ballpark, of both clubs. And that was something that was really big for us early in the game.”
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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