ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Seattle Mariners quickly answered those critics who thought Robinson Cano wouldn’t have enough support in the lineup to make a difference.
James Paxton pitched seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball and Cano drove in his first run for the Mariners on Wednesday night in an 8-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels, completing a three-game sweep in the team’s first series under new manager Lloyd McClendon.
“The last couple of years, a lot of us guys were younger and going through battles and learning some things,” first baseman Justin Smoak said. “Now it’s time for guys who have been here the last couple of years to step up.”
Smoak, Mike Zunino and Corey Hart all homered for Seattle, which outscored the Angels 26-8 while sweeping a season-opening three-game set for only the second time in their 38-year history. The other time was in 1985, when they started out 6-0 at home against Oakland and Minnesota before losing 12 of their next 13.
“We had a lot of confidence coming in,” Smoak said. “We’ve got a great pitching staff. Paxton, Erasmo (Ramirez) and Felix (Hernandez) pitched their butts off and gave us a chance to win, and we were able to score some runs. Now we have to keep it going.”
It was the first time the Angels were swept in a three-game series to start a season since 1992, by the Chicago White Sox at Anaheim.
“That’s obviously not the way we wanted to come out and open this thing up,” said Angels third baseman David Freese. “They all count, but it’s a long season and we’ll bounce back. There’s a lot of guys in this clubhouse that understand what a baseball season consists of, and sometimes this happens.”
Paxton (1-0) threw 99 pitches in his fifth big league start and struck out nine, including Josh Hamilton all three times he faced him. Hamilton also struck out against Nector Noesi for the final out after Noesi game up Mike Trout’s RBI triple and Freese’s sacrifice fly.
Paxton stranded a runner at third base in the first with the help of center fielder Abraham Almonte, who raced in to make a sliding catch on Freese’s sinking liner for the third out. He escaped another jam in the fourth by fanning Hamilton and Howie Kendrick with two men on, then struck out the side in the fifth.
Paxton became the second pitcher in Mariners history to win four of his first five big league starts. The other was Michael Pineda, who did it in 2011. Paxton, a Canadian-born left-hander, was 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA four starts last September.
“I just got in a groove and felt really good,” Paxton said. “Probably around the third inning, I kind of found my rhythm and everything was coming together really well for me.”
Hector Santiago (0-1) was charged with four runs, four hits and three walks in five-plus innings. The 26-year-old left-hander, beginning his first full season as a starter, was acquired in December along with Tyler Skaggs from Arizona in a three-way trade with the Chicago White Sox that sent slugger Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks.
Seattle scored 18 of their runs in this series with two outs. Cano, who left the New York Yankees after nine seasons to sign a 10-year, $240 million free agent contract, finished his first series in a Seattle uniform 5 for 11 with two intentional walks.
“His presence definitely affects any lineup,” Freese said. “I mean, you look up and down that lineup and it’s a complete lineup.”
Brad Miller, who homered twice for the Mariners in Tuesday’s 8-3 win, legged out a double to right with two outs in the third and came home on Cano’s single. Miller drove in the second run with a two-out single in the fifth.
The Mariners broke it open with four runs in the sixth, as Stefan Romero greeted Fernando Salas with an RBI double and Zunino hit his sixth big league homer. Smoak and Hart both homered with two outs in the ninth against Ernesto Frieri.
NOTES: Santiago’s only other start at Angel Stadium came with the White Sox on May 18, 2013, when he allowed three runs and four hits over 3 1-2 innings in a no-decision. … The Angels begin a four-game series Friday night at Houston. The Astros won the season series 10-9 last year, despite finishing a major league-worst and franchise-worst 51-111 after switching over from the NL to the AL. … Angels pitchers gave up 17 extra-base hits and 15 walks in the series.
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