Mariners Head Home After Strong Opening Road Trip
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Lloyd McClendon routinely speaks of a Mariners culture change, of “commitment, accountability and responsibility.”
In a small sample size the first week of April, Seattle is making a strong early impression on its new manager.
The Mariners jumped to an early three-run lead Sunday before losing 6-3 to the Oakland Athletics to wrap up a winning road trip to open the season. Now, the club heads to Seattle with a 4-2 record to play its home opener Tuesday against the Angels at Safeco Field.
“Any time you come back off a road trip with a winning record, regardless of how you got there, it’s successful,” McClendon said.
Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer, Yoenis Cespedes connected in the eighth and Josh Donaldson beat out an infield single in the fifth to drive in the go-ahead run off Erasmo Ramirez (1-1).
Ramirez struggled with his command after an impressive win in his season debut Tuesday at Los Angeles. He allowed seven hits and walked three in four innings.
Robinson Cano’s third-inning double gave him a 14-game hitting streak against the AL West, yet the Mariners managed little else in the late innings. Cano has a hit in each of his first six games after joining the Mariners on a $240 million, 10-year contract this offseason.
Right-hander Dominic Leone made his major league debut in the seventh for Seattle after being promoted Friday. The 2012 16th-round draft pick bypassed Triple-A. He immediately gave up Eric Sogard’s double, the No. 9 batter’s third hit of the day to match a career high.
“It was crazy. It was fun. I had a lot of emotions out there,” Leone said. “In a way, giving up the double helped settle me down. I realized it was still just baseball. At the end of the day I put up a zero and kept the team in the game.”
Sonny Gray (1-0) allowed one earned run and six hits, struck out three and walked two in six innings. In the ninth, manager Bob Melvin went back to closer Jim Johnson, who delivered his first save despite allowing two baserunners.
Johnson, who converted 50 of 59 save opportunities in 2013, was acquired from Baltimore to replace departed All-Star Grant Balfour but had been handed two surprising losses with his new team before closing one out.
“It’s what he’s done and what he does,” Melvin said, referring to Sunday’s success.
Moss tied the game at 3 on a three-run homer in the third. Donaldson’s third hit of the season snapped a career-worst 0-for-20 streak, and Jed Lowrie followed with a sacrifice fly.
Seattle missed a chance at another successful trip to Oakland, suffering its first loss in four series at the Coliseum since an A’s sweep to end the 2012 season.
“We had them on the ropes a little bit but they had us on the ropes, too,” McClendon said. “They had good at-bats, made good pitches and kept grinding.”
Melvin lost a replay challenge in the fourth inning. Sam Fuld singled and started toward second and was caught off the bag. The crew confirmed its call in 2 minutes, 1 second.
Gray allowed a pair of unearned runs in the second after Michael Saunders reached on first baseman Daric Barton’s fielding error. Abraham Almonte and Brad Miller each hit RBI singles, then Justin Smoak drove in another run on a base hit in the third.
“It was a good road trip,” Seattle catcher Mike Zunino said. “We played some good baseball. We’ll regroup and come out raring to go Tuesday.”
Notes: Seattle DH Corey Hart had the day off as he continues to be eased in after missing last year with Milwaukee following knee surgery. That gives him two days of rest before Seattle’s home opener Tuesday. … James Paxton starts for Seattle Tuesday against the Angels. … CF Almonte became the first Mariners player with two outfield assists in a game since Casper Wells on Aug. 29, 2011.
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