The Mariners catcher now has five home runs on the spring.
Mariners 7, Brewers 4 at Peoria Stadium
On a night when the Mariners welcomed Robinson Cano and Ichiro Suzuki back to the lineup following injuries that held each out the last week or so, catcher Mike Zunino stole the show, hitting home runs on each of his first three at-bats to power Seattle to a 7-4 win.
Zunino, playing the entire game as had been the plan as the team nears the regular season, then got a chance to hit a fourth in the eighth inning.
He worked the count to 3-2 against minor leaguer Nick Ramirez before lining a hard single to center.
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Zunino hit two-run homers in the second and fourth innings off starter Brent Suter, the first to left and the second an opposite field shot to right-center.
He then hit a third — a screaming line shot over the wall in left-center — off former Mariner Yovani Gallardo leading off the sixth.
Zunino said he had never hit three home runs in a game at any level and insisted later he wasn’t trying to hit a fourth.
“I promise you,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to do more. I’m just really trying to use every one of these at-bats and build for the season.”
Zunino said the homer to right-center and the single were his favorite at-bats of the night.
“Me using right-center is the biggest thing that I’m trying to do,’’ Zunino said. “But that single, if I had to pick an at-bat that I want to sort of bottle up, it’s that one. To be able to get to 3-2 and put a good swing on the ball and hit a ball on the line that way means things are in the right place.’’
As for Ichiro and Cano, results were mixed.
Ichiro, playing in his first game in a week due to calf tightness, had a rough night, striking out in his only two at-bats — each time swinging — and also appeared to misjudge a drive that went over his head in left field, then bobbling the ball before throwing it in.
Ichiro now has four strikeouts in seven spring at-bats and has yet to get a hit, though he does have one walk.
Cano, playing in his first game in 10 days due to a hamstring issue, fared better with a single and a walk in three plate appearances serving as the designated hitter.
“I thought Robbie swung the bat, felt good,’’ said manager Scott Servais. “Probably play second base tomorrow and we’ll try to get Ichiro back out there just to get some consistent at-bats. He’s had an abbreviated spring training and then with the leg issues, it’s going to take him a little while to get his timing down so hopefully we will get him back out there tomorrow.’’
Player of the game
There could hardly have been a more obvious choice than Zunino, who is giving every appearance of picking up where he left off in 2017 when he hit a career-best .251 with a career-high 25 home runs.
The three homers in three at-bats Wednesday were a far cry from a few weeks ago, when Zunino was mired in an 0-for-8 slump starting spring that included four strikeouts. That compelled Zunino to do a little extra work to get his timing down.
Since then, Zunino is 14 for 28 with five home runs — tied with Dan Vogelbach for the team lead and one off the Major League spring training lead.
Zunino, now hitting .389 for the spring, has hit two home runs in a Major League game six times but has never hit three. One Mariner has hit four in a regular-season game — Mike Cameron in 2002 — while 11 have hit three in a game, Jose Lopez the most recent in a 2010 game at Toronto. Cano is the last Mariner to hit three home runs in a spring training game, doing so on March 27, 2016.
Zunino also threw out Hernan Perez attempting to steal second in the sixth inning.
“He’s in a good spot right now. Outstanding at-bats and he’s done a great job behind the plate. He’s ready to go. He’s ready for opening day,” Servais on Zunino.
The Mariners will be back in Peoria for another 6:40 p.m. game against the Rangers. Marco Gonzales will get the start with Edwin Diaz also among those expected to pitch. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN 710 Seattle and telecast live on ROOT Sports.