CLEVELAND — Perhaps it was the warming power of the sun, which finally emerged after two days of gray and rainy weather that felt, well, a little bit like home in the Puget Sound area.
It certainly could have been the product of the Indians’ decision to call up Cody Anderson to make an emergency start and the bullpen suffering through the consequences of his immediate failure for 8 1/3 innings.
Maybe it was bound to happen considering how much the offense had been scuffling in comparison to what it had shown to be capable of earlier this season. A breakout game would come eventually, right?
For whatever reason — likely some combination of the last two — the Mariners’ slumbering offense awoke with a performance reminiscent of the good ol’ days of early April when it was pummeling opposing pitchers without reproach.
Seattle smashed three homers Sunday, including Jay Bruce’s first-inning grand slam, banged out 12 hits and rolled to an easy 10-0 rout of Cleveland to snap a six-game losing streak.
“It’s been a long week,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We’ve lost some close games and we haven’t played that well. It’s nice to get some runs up on the board early. Jay Bruce had the big homer.”
It was the seventh time this season the Mariners have scored double-digit runs, and the first time they had scored more than five runs since trouncing Texas 14-2 on April 25.
“We had good at-bats,” Servais said. “We knew it was a spot starter for them and knew he’d probably only go four or five innings. We wanted to make him work. We’ve had a few of those games. Early in the season, we were doing that regularly. We haven’t seen that for seven to 10 days. You heard guys saying, ‘We’re back.’ The quality of at-bats was much, much better today and that’s what it takes.”
And while the offense was providing him with an avalanche of run support, rookie right-hander Erik Swanson quietly put together his best start of the season. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before giving up a double to Jose Ramirez with two outs. After a brief conversation with pitching coach Paul Davis after giving up the hit, Swanson got Carlos Santana to pop out to end the inning on his 106th and final pitch of the game.
“Swanny was great,” Servais said. “Today he had a really good feel for his change-up. It’s a big confidence builder for him.”
With family and friends in the stands, he pitched six shutout innings, allowing the one hit with three walks and three strikeouts to get his first big-league victory.
“Warming up in the bullpen, my secondary stuff wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but I found it in the first inning warming up out there and kind of progressed with it,” he said. “I knew I hadn’t allowed a hit especially after a couple of good plays made behind me. I wasn’t thinking about it too much. I knew I was only in the sixth inning and had a lot of game left to go and I was at lot of pitches.”
If you wanted to nitpick Swanson’s outing, his efficiency of putting away hitters with two strikes was a little lacking at times. He doesn’t have the plus-level stuff of some other pitchers, including the wipeout breaking pitch. He worked ahead frequently, but several hitters spoiled two-strike pitches with foul balls, driving up the pitch count in a less than ideal fashion. But it was still six shutout innings and the Mariners will happily take that in any given start.
“I worked a lot of deep counts today and a couple of at-bats where guys worked a lot of pitches off me that got my pitch count up,” he said.
Swanson had a 4-0 lead before he even threw a pitch.
Anderson, who was added to the rotation with Corey Kluber going on the disabled list, never made it out of the first inning. He issued back-to-back, one-out walks to Mitch Haniger and Daniel Vogelbach and gave up a single to Edwin Encarnacion to load the bases.
Bruce cleared them with one violent swing, smashing a change-up over the wall in right-center. Bruce’s team-leading 11th homer was just his third hit in his past 26 plate appearances, but his second homer of the series.
“It was to swing the momentum in our favor early and it gave Swanny a chance to breathe a little bit,” Bruce said. “That’s our motto as a team, is pass the baton and take the good at-bat. Those guys in front of me did an unbelievable job of that.”
That team-wide approach had been missing at times during a stretch where the Mariners went 3-13.
“You are going to get less opportunity when you are facing those good pitchers,” he said. “I think we also need to continue to focus less on the name of the back of a pitcher’s jersey and focus more on what we need to do as a team and as individuals. We are going to face good pitching, we are going to face guys that are tougher than others, but we still have an opportunity to put runs on the board.”
Anderson faced two more batters, striking out Tim Beckham and walking Omar Narvaez before being lifted after throwing 38 pitches.
The Mariners continued to roll up runs against an Indians bullpen that was in scramble mode.
Haniger, who had been scuffling coming into the series, blasted a solo homer to deep right center to make it 5-0. He had a pair of hits in the defeat Saturday, showing signs he might have fixed some of the timing issues with his swing that have bothered him of late.
Former Mariner left-hander Tyler Olson couldn’t slow down the scoring. Vogelbach pulled a run-scoring single through the right side in the fourth inning and Encarnacion clubbed a two-run homer to make it 8-0.
After notching his first big-league hit off Olson in the fourth inning and later scoring a run, Braden Bishop picked up his first career RBI in the fifth. Facing Dan Otero, Bishop sliced a line drive into right center that scored Narvaez easily while Dylan Moore made a fantastic slide to avoid the tag at the plate to make it 10-0.
Three Mariners relievers — Brandon Brennan, Mike Wright and Zac Rosscup — preserved the shutout, combining to work the last three innings scoreless.