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30-38: Zunino, Mariners Edge Athletics 3-2

Joe Saunders pitches a quality outing, Mike Zunino hits his first major league home run, and the Mariners top the Athletics 3-2 on Friday.

Thearon W. Henderson

Inevitably, most things we do will become routine. Our route to work, where we go to lunch, what we listen to on the way home -- these events become part of our daily checklist. It's repetitive but essential and it all becomes part of who we are.

Turning "Mariners" into an adjective has become a part of our vernacular. Seattle defeated Oakland 3-2 on Friday, but they scored two of their three runs in the most Mariners way.

The first run scored when Mike Zunino grounded into a double play in the top of the second, scoring Michael Morse. Because, Mariners, right? This is how we've been conditioned to think the Mariners offense operates. It isn't so much the Mariners' offense, but the Mariners offense.

The third run scored on a "single" by Raul Ibanez to first baseman Nate Freiman. It was hit sharply, it bounced off of Freiman's leg and into foul territory. If Freiman makes that play, things would have been framed differently. It would've be a fine defensive play. But it didn't, the Mariners caught a break, and Seattle scored in typical Mariners fashion.

The Mariners even tried to pull the old Yuniesky-Betancourt-colliding-with-Endy-Chavez crash out of their bag of tricks, as Jason Bay and Nick Franklin got tangled up in the outfield. Franklin had the ball, but really, this shouldn't even have happened.


But despite some of the most Mariners moments, one player broke out of his routine.

Joe Saunders has been knocked around. He's earned a moniker that he deserves -- since May, Safeco Joe owned a 5.01 ERA, and opponents were batting .293/.337/.491 against him. Saunders came into Friday's game with a 9.00 ERA is six road starts.

There weren't high expectations of Saunders going into tonight's game against Oakland. Sure, two starts ago, he allowed only one run against the White Sox. But Chicago was in the middle of an eight game losing streak. The Athletics are the hottest team in baseball right now. Things could go bad very quickly.

Saunders was dealing tonight. Coming into the game, he had a swinging strike percentage of 5.3%, the least out of qualified Mariners pitchers. Tonight, he induced 14 swinging strikes. Felix Hernandez induced 12 swinging strikes in his last start.

It's not like the Athletics are a free-swinging team, either. They are in the lower third of teams in regards to swinging strike percentage, and they own the lowest swing percentage in the majors. It's a small sample size to be sure, but Zunino looked comfortable calling pitches and Saunders looked comfortable throwing them.

It's going to be tough to break the habit of qualifying offensive performances like this as Mariners-esque. But that's the thing about routine. Sure, it can be mundane and repetitive. Sometimes it can drive you batty. But every once in a while something will surprise you. And when something breaks the routine, it's best to enjoy it.

  • Seattle batters not being able to hit mistakes in the middle of the plate seems to be another common Mariners attribute. Everyone seems to be in a different place with Michael Morse, but it's nice to see the big guy go the other way for extra bases.
  • Remember when a particular Mariners catcher was as athletic as a rock? That is not the case with Mike Zunino. Mike Zunino knows what to do when a baseball is hurled at him from the outfield and a runner is charging at him from third.
  • Brendan Ryan hit his 100th career double. He has played in the bigs for seven years. Mike Trout has barely played two full seasons in the majors, and he's hit 53.
  • But Ryan, given his offensive ineptitude, is a pretty decent baserunner.

On the radio, Matt Pitman was comparing Mike Zunino's path to the majors to other star catchers from around the league, stating that Joe Mauer played in 284 minor league games before getting a starting gig in the majors. Buster Posey played 172 games -- Mike Zunino only played 91. No one can definitively say that Mike Zunino will stick at the major league level. But he sure has been damn fun to watch.