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Zunino homers for third straight game in Rainiers victory

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places." - Hemingway

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

For the most part, I've found that baseball fans refuse to give up on underperforming players until the very end, when their name has found itself stitched across the back of another team's uniform, when replicas of their old uniform hang upon the clearance racks of the nearest team store.

Even when we say we give up on players, we don't really give up on them. If they're sporting our team's colors, what else is there to do but hope for the best, and the turning of the long-awaited corner. I rooted for Dustin Ackley to the bitter, bearded end. I brimmed with admiration when Jesus Montero showed up looking like half of a Jesus Montero and claimed to be back in love with baseball. Every single time Justin Smoak got red-hot for a month, I believed.

None of those cases worked out for the Seattle Mariners, but I'll be damned if that's going to stop this success-hungry fan base from hoping. The Gambler's Fallacy states that the string of bad luck doesn't technically have to end, that there's nothing carved out in the echoes of the universe that says things will align in a balanced harmony. The Mariners don't have to eventually make the playoffs. The ball doesn't have to start bouncing their way. The busted prospects don't have to eventually start bouncing back.

The one thing it forgot to state was that someone needed to tell Mike Zunino.

Zunino, who was sent on a vision quest assigned to AAA-Tacoma to figure out how to love/hit a baseball again, has been tearing the cover off of the ball to start the 2016 season. After going a modest 6 for 16 with 3 RBIs and 2 strikeouts (and ZERO dingers) in his first four contests, Zunino has now homered in three consecutive games. Over the course of the three games, he's gone 6 for 12 with 6 RBIs and just 2 strikeouts.

In tonight's contest, a 5-3 victory over the Albuquerque Isotopes, Zunino provided the go-ahead home run in the 6th before tacking on an insurance run with a sac fly in the 7th. He also doubled. Check out his home run below:

Most importantly, the 3rd overall pick has shown a level-headedness and poise at the plate that he hasn't shown in a long while. He looks relaxed, like he's not trying to remember the hundreds of different tips he's received from the hundreds of different people who all need him to be a major league catcher at this very moment. It's rather amazing what one is capable of on the baseball field when they just, well, play.

Does this mean Zunino should be joining the team tomorrow? Of course not. Thirty-something at-bats are thirty-something at-bats, no more true or revealing than the "LOW-FAT!" stickers that riddle your favorite late night snack. Zunino could get out his next five at-bats. He could get out his next fifty. Decisions aren't made this soon.

And above all else, this was not a typical "go to AAA and adjust your mechanics" assignment. This is an overhaul, a pressing of a reset button, a chance at a new Zunino. Resets aren't achieved that quickly. Zunino shouldn't be up until he's sweated out all 339 strikeouts, until he's found whatever it was that made him such a force at the plate for so long before he arrived in Tacoma for the first time three years ago.

But holy crap do we miss that defense.

On to the notes!:

  • Ed Lucas made a really impressive bare-handed play in the ninth inning after a ball ricocheted off of Mayckol Guaipe. Lucas is not a prospect, but he is a cool dude and deserves a shoutout.
  • Speaking of Guaipe, he struck out two in a scoreless ninth to pick up the save. The righty has allowed just one hit in 5.0 IP and has put himself in a very favorable position should the Mariners need to bring someone up in the near future.
  • Tyler Smith went 2 for 4 to raise his season line to .263/.364/.316. Smith was fun in Spring Training and continues to hit decently no matter where the Mariners send him.
  • Steve Johnson tossed two shutout innings in relief. All I really know about Johnson is that I think I remember him having an annoyingly good start against the Mariners some time ago. But hey, he's on our side now.
  • Over in AA-Jackson, Tyler O'Neill has racked up a nine-game hitting streak to start the season. He's still striking out a lot, but he's doing more than holding his own against Southern League pitching. Not bad at all for a 20-year-old. He also hit his first Double-A home run on Thursday.
  • D.J. Peterson is currently running a line of .194/.256/.250, but he did rack up 3 RBIs and two hits in tonight's 9-5 victory over the Chattanooga Lookouts.
  • Brett Ash turned in a brilliant performance for the Generals, tossing six innings while allowing just one hit and one unearned run.
  • Class-A Clinton fell to Cedar Rapids, 7-0. Nick Wells–acquired from Toronto last year in the Mark Lowe trade–turned in his second rough outing. The lefty has surrendered 12 ER and 14 hits in 8.1 IP to start the season.
  • High-A Bakersfield picked up a 5-0 win over Visalia today. Eddie Campbell struck out seven in five innings before turning it over to the bullpen. Ryan Horstman, Kyle Hunter, and Kody Kerski combined to throw four no-hit innings to close it out.
  • Drew Jackson went 2 for 4 to raise his line to .268/.279/.317. It's been somewhat of a slow start for the 2015 Northwest League MVP, but that was expected after he vaulted up to High-A without a stop in Clinton.
The minors are looking good and the big club has won three in a row. C the Z, baby. Cure the Zunino.


UPDATE: Mike Zunino has now homered in four straight games. He took Eddie Butler deep in the Top of the 1st inning on Sunday afternoon.