The Mariners are 13-16 on the season and 8-4 at Safeco Field — they’ve won their past three series at home.
Ariel Miranda’s limitations as a starting pitcher have been well documented: the lack of a consistent and viable breaking ball and his struggles to shut down hitters in their third plate appearance of a game.
But the Mariners are finding optimistic signs of improved development with each of his starts, including Thursday night’s 11-3 victory over the Angels.
Miranda shook off early command issues in the first two innings and also a line drive off his leg, settling into a rhythm of early strikes and pitcher’s counts to reel in a start that was trending toward trouble. That ability to regroup allowed his teammates to provide ample run support, banging out 16 hits and tying a season high in runs scored.
Texas @ Mariners, 7:10 p.m., ROOT
Seattle improved to 13-16 on the season and 8-4 at Safeco Field. The Mariners have won their past three series at home.
“Great job by Ariel Miranda,” manager Scott Servais said. “I can’t say enough. He took the shot off the calf early in the game and he hung in there. To get through seven innings after his pitch count was up after the first two was really nice to see. Our bullpen needed it.”
Miranda seemed destined for a three- or four-inning start filled with runs, base runners and hard contact. Instead he pitched seven innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
Given a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Nelson Cruz’s RBI double to right-center, Miranda handed it right back in a top of the second inning that saw him throw 31 pitches thanks to spotty fastball command and off-speed pitches that were nowhere near the intended location.
With two outs and runners on second and third, Miranda left a slider over the middle of the plate on a 1-2 count that the Angels’ No. 9 hitter and backup catcher Juan Graterol lined to left for a two-run double. The next hitter — Yunel Escobar — hit a rocket up the middle that hit off Miranda’s calf. Stunned for a second, Miranda grabbed the ball and fired it awkwardly over the head of Danny Valencia for an error.
After meeting with Servais and the training staff and tossing a couple of test pitches, he remained in the game. The shot off the leg provided an irritating awakening. He got Kole Calhoun to ground out to end the inning.
“It just worked me up a little more,” Miranda said through interpreter Fernando Alcala.
Like he’s done in previous outings, Miranda didn’t panic with his struggles. He just kept throwing his pitches, making small tweaks and getting a little crisper in each inning.
“At the start of the (second) inning, I wasn’t very aggressive,” he said. “After that, I made some adjustments. It was a matter of being aggressive and throwing a lot of strikes.”
He wouldn’t allow another run over the next five innings and just three base runners. With his pitch count at 47 after two innings, that seemed impossible.
“He hung in there,” Servais said. “I really like where he’s at with the constant improvement that he’s making. He’s continuing to get better.”
In a big sign of that improvement, he worked through an Angels lineup that was missing Mike Trout for a third time.
“He likes being out there,” Servais said of Miranda’s composure. “He looks forward to his day to pitch. If he gets off to a rocky start, he doesn’t panic. Some guys will panic, but he doesn’t.”
It also helped Miranda that his team gave him a healthy amount of run support.
The Mariners took the lead for good in the third inning, scoring three runs, highlighted by Guillermo Heredia’s bloop two-run double into right field.
From there, the Mariners played add-on against erratic rookie starter Alex Meyer, who was called up from Class AAA Salt Lake City to make the start, and the Angels bullpen, scoring runs in four of the five remaining frames.
Outfielder Ben Gamel reached base a career-high five times in five plate appearances. Gamel walked his first two times and then had a double and two singles, scoring three runs and driving in two runs.
“It was just good at-bat after good at-bat after good at-bat,” Gamel said. “I’m definitely comfortable.”
First baseman Valencia also had a monster game, going 4 for 5 with an RBI single and a mammoth solo homer into the upper deck of left field. The four hits in a game tied a career high for Valencia.
After struggling to start the season as the everyday first baseman and briefly losing his job to Daniel Vogelbach for about a week, Valencia returned to the job and has hit well. Over his past seven games, he’s hitting .316 with a double and three homers.
“It always feels nice when you contribute to the team winning games,” Valencia said. “I guess today was my turn to contribute. It felt really nice.”