Two more home runs into his unlikely season for the ages and aged, Raul Ibanez reflected on the man others helped him become.
He talked of former Mariners teammates Jamie Moyer, Edgar Martinez, Dan Wilson and Jay Buhner and how they shaped him from a young, unmarried up-and-comer into a more mature, focused and responsible professional. And of how he’d like to pass those traits to younger members of a Mariners squad that Friday night laid an 8-3 whipping on the Los Angeles Angels.
“I’ve always kept that in mind that I’d like to be a mentor to them,’’ Ibanez said after clubbing his 23rd and 24th homers of the season. “Guys like Jay and Edgar and Dan Wilson and Jamie Moyer, they taught me more about life. I didn’t have children, I wasn’t married yet. But they taught me more about being a good husband and a good father and I learned a lot of life lessons from them.
“Obviously, about hard work and all of that other stuff on the field, but I really looked up to them as men and as people.’’
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The Mariners buried the Angels under a four-homer barrage, with Kyle Seager and Kendrys Morales adding solo shots. That set a franchise record of 20 consecutive games with at least one home run and helped the Mariners to only their third home win in their last 10 games.
A crowd of 21,372 saw Ibanez open the scoring with a double in the first inning, then key a four-run barrage in the fourth with a 438-foot leadoff homer into the Hit it Here Café in the second deck in right field. Angels starter Jerome Williams failed to make it out of that inning and was charged with all six runs as Seattle took a 6-0 lead.
Mariners starter Joe Saunders gave his team some much-needed mound support. Seattle is averaging six runs per game this month — compared to 3.62 runs prior — and had scored 19 in its last three games, but lost all of them because the pitching wasn’t up to the task.
Leading 1-0 in the second, Saunders used a pair of strikeouts to escape a jam with runners at second and third. Seager would go deep in the bottom of the frame, and Ibanez and company put things away two innings later.
“It was definitely nice to obviously come up there and get some big strikeouts and kind of get us back in the dugout with a little momentum,’’ said Saunders, who tossed seven scoreless frames and left with an 8-0 lead. “We definitely kept the momentum on our side.’’
The Angels scored three runs off relief pitcher Danny Farquhar in the eighth, but Seattle’s lead was too big to overcome.
Ibanez is just five home runs behind Ted Williams for the most ever hit by a player in his age 41 season.
“He’s the same guy every day, both on and off the field,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He prepares as well as anybody, if not even more so than that.’’
Angels manager Mike Scioscia added: “I don’t care what number is next to his age right now, his bat speed is terrific.’’
While saying he doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Hall of Fame legend Williams, Ibanez did mention deriving inspiration from his 29-homer, age 41 season in 1960.
“I wanted to see if guys late in their career back then could still do it,’’ he said. “So, I did know that he had 29 home runs.’’
Ibanez never dreamed he’d have this shot at replicating it. He wasn’t supposed to play all that often here, but now is the team’s top offensive performer.
Not bad for a guy considered a late-bloomer.
Ibanez was asked whether this late-career surge has helped make up for all that time lost on the bench.
“Sometimes I think that because I didn’t play a lot those first three and a half years, it’s helped me play longer,’’ he said. “Because I didn’t have an extra 2,000 at-bats on me and on my body. So, I sometimes think it was maybe a blessing in disguise.’’
Now, it’s teammates who are blessed with a chance to watch and emulate.
• The Mariners optioned starting pitcher Erasmo Ramirez to Class A Everett on Friday so he could continue pitching throughout the All-Star break on regular rest. Blake Beavan was optioned to AAA, where he’ll join the Tacoma starting rotation.
Left-handed relief pitcher Bobby Lafromoise and right-hander Hector Noesi were called up from Class AAA as replacements.
• Ibanez was nominated for the Branch Rickey Award on Friday, recognizing a player, coach or executive for “contributions to the community or their status as a role model.’’ Ibanez was one of the co-chairs of this year’s Mariners Care Cystic Fibrosis Golf Tournament, which raised $220,000.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org