CLEVELAND--Mike Zunino's first full season in the big leagues has been typical for any young talented player with limited professional experience. The peaks are breathtaking and inspiring for Seattle Mariners fans, while the valleys are longer than expected and a reminder of just how much he was rushed into his current situation.
His batting average has been flirting with the Mendoza line (.212) for much of the season. He's a free swinger with as many hit by pitches (11) as walks (11). He also strikes out at a rate of once every three at bats.
But when the powerful young catcher gets ahold of a pitch and hits it squarely, it's going somewhere--usually a long ways from home plate.
Cleveland reliever Bryan Cook saw it firsthand on Thursday and could only stare in frustrated disbelief.
With a runner on first in the top of the eighth, Zunino crushed a 2-0 cut fastball from Cook over the wall in left field at Progressive Field to provide the go-ahead runs in the Mariners' 6-5 win over the Indians.
It was the second time in three games that Zunino sent a line drive just over the 18-foot wall. This one gave him the team lead in homers with 17.
Brandon Maurer worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Fernando Rodney closed out the game with a scoreless ninth for his 30th save.
The normally unflappable Mariners' bullpen had been in line for the loss.
Charlie Furbush came on to start the bottom of the seventh. After getting a line-drive out from Jason Kipnis, he gave up a single to Jose Ramirez and then wild pitched him into scoring position. Furbush then walked Michael Brantley, ending his outing. McClendon called on Danny Farquhar to figure a way out of the jam. But he couldn't do it. Carlos Santana punched a 1-2 fastball up the middle to score Ramirez.
Things only got worse for the Mariners. Lonnie Chisenhall hit a line drive back toward the mound striking Farquhar in the bicep of his throwing arm. Farquhar shook off the initial shock of being hit and scrambled off the mound to pick up the ball and get Chisenhall out at first. But after meeting with the trainers, he left the game.
Joe Beimel came on and was able to get the Mariners out of the inning without any more runs scoring.
The Mariners were behind almost immediately. Kipnis led off the bottom of the first with a double off of Seattle starter Chris Young. He later scored on Brantley's single up the middle.
After getting shut out and dominated the night before by Corey Kluber, the Mariners offense came to life against Cleveland starter Zach McAllister. Kendrys Morales reached on a pop up double to left field and eventually scored on Logan Morrison's deep fly ball to right field to tie the score at 1-1.
Seattle took the lead in the third. Dustin Ackley continued his torrid July, belting a two-run homer to right-center. It was his first since May 11, a span of 234 plate appearances. Chris Taylor followed with a single and Robinson Cano plated him, blasting the 400th double of his career down the right-field line to make it 4-1.
But Young, who has been so solid for the Mariners all season, couldn't hold the lead and gave it back in the bottom of third. He gave up a two-run homer to Kipnis, followed by a triple to Brantley, who would score on sac fly to make it 4-4.
Young lasted just 51/3 innings, giving up the four runs on seven hits with two walks and a strikeout.
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