The game is the first of 13 in a row for the Mariners against teams with winning records, representing a chance for Seattle to counter what is one of the biggest arguments against the team’s legitimacy.
Nelson Cruz hit two baseballs really far Monday night, a pair of home runs to center field that measured a combined 852 feet.
Mike Trout hit two baseballs really far, as well, one a whopping 459 feet to a part of the batter’s eye in center field that has been rarely visited.
“They are special players,’’ said Mariners manager Scott Servais, stating an obvious point that needed stating again only because of the loud statements each had made with his bat.
L.A. Angels @ Mariners, 7:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
The difference was that Cruz got just a little bit more help from his friends than did Trout, allowing the Mariners to beat the Angels 5-3 in front of 20,116 spectators at Safeco Field and get what is considered a critical stretch of Seattle’s season off to a positive start.
Most Read Sports Stories
- UW set to face No. 1 North Carolina in Round of 32: Here's what you need to know about the Tar Heels
- Sports on TV & radio: Local listings for Seattle games and events
- 'He's crazy': How quirky is Huskies coach Mike Hopkins? Let his players tell you | Matt Calkins
- With Sweet 16 on the line, No. 1 North Carolina is Washington's biggest game in nearly a decade
- Huskies show poise from the top down to make successful return to NCAA tournament
The game was the first of 13 in a row for the Mariners against teams with winning records, representing a chance for Seattle to counter what is one of the biggest arguments against the team’s legitimacy.
Seattle has played just five games against teams with winning records since May 6, having gone 22-10 in those contests accounting for a healthy chunk of the 17 games above .500 Seattle carried into Monday night.
There’s a long way to go in this stretch — notably 10 in a row against the Red Sox and Yankees after the Angels leave town.
But after Seattle won to improve to 42-24 and a season-high 18 games over .500 — and move a half-game ahead of the Astros in the American League West — Servais made it clear he thinks the outcome Monday night could just be a sign of what is to come.
“Me personally, our coaching staff, we’re really looking forward to the next couple weeks of baseball,’’ Servais said. “We really believe in this team. Our guys believe in themselves and you know we are going to face some good clubs. We are looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.’’
For a brief moment Monday, the fun was all the Angels as Trout clubbed a 2-2 pitch from Wade LeBlanc 392 feet to left in the first followed by a 362-foot homer to left by Albert Pujols two batters later to make it 2-0 Angels on a night when the teams combined for six home runs to account for all eight runs scored.
“I made a couple of mistakes to a couple of Hall of Fame hitters and they made me pay for it,’’ said LeBlanc.
They would be the last mistakes of his night, however.
And Cruz quickly erased the damage with a towering 437-foot two-run homer to center to tie the game in the bottom of the first off Angels’ starter Andrew Heaney.
“Kind of getting us right back in the ballgame was huge,’’ Servais said.
Cruz then did it again to lead off the fourth, a 415-footer to center to make it 3-2, continuing a hot streak in which he has hit four homers in his past three games and has seen his average rise from .219 on May 27 to .260.
“He’s certainly in a really good groove right now,’’ Servais said. “So hopefully we can ride it for as long as we can.’’
Ryon Healy followed two batters later with his own two-run shot to left to make it 5-2 and the night quickly ended for Heaney, who had allowed just four home runs in 602/3 innings before giving up three to Seattle in three-plus innings Monday.
Seattle was shut down offensively the rest of the game.
But LeBlanc and four Seattle relievers got the outs they needed to make the lead stick.
LeBlanc’s last pitch was his most important.
A walk and a double put runners on second and third with one out in the top of the fifth. What Servais called a key moment came next as LeBlanc got Ian Kinsler to fly out to right. That allowed Seattle to walk Trout with first base open and load the bases for Justin Upton, who to that point was 3 for 24 lifetime against LeBlanc.
“All that history and everything else plays into your decision-making,’’ said Servais, who had Chasen Bradford warming in the bullpen but let LeBlanc finish what he started.
The count went to 3-2 when LeBlanc sneaked an 84 mph cutter past Upton, who went down swinging as LeBlanc let out a little yell, leaving the mound — and the game as it turned out — having thrown a season-high 92 pitches.
“I have a lot of at-bats against Upton and fortunately up to this point I’ve been able to execute some pitches against him so I appreciate the confidence that I could do it again,’’ said LeBlanc.
Trout created a few nervous moments with his mammoth blast off Ryan Cook to make it 5-3 leading off the eighth.
But Cook escaped further damage and Edwin Diaz then pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the ninth to get his 24th save of the season.
And doing it 1-2-3 was especially important with Trout in the on-deck circle as the game ended.
“It was a two-run win,’’ Servais said with a wry smile. “But it felt like one run because he was sitting there on deck.’’