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Zunino stands out on big night for offense

Catcher knocks two homers as he starts to find groove at plate

SEATTLE -- Hitting home runs has never been Mike Zunino's issue and the Mariners catcher knocked two more in Tuesday's 11-4 victory over the Padres. But Seattle's young backstop has begun lifting his average -- as well as homers -- and a 3-for-4 day with three RBIs served further notice that he's coming around at the plate.

Zunino has lifted his average from .139 to .185 by going 7-for-20 over his last five games and he raised his home run total to five with Wednesday's two home runs, including one tracked at 444 feet by Statcast™ in the fourth.

Both his home runs came in two-strike counts, as did his single in the fourth, which was a good sign for a youngster who has struck out a team-leading 37 times in 92 at-bats.

Video: [email protected]: Zunino his big night, Mariners' win

"I was just trying to relax," said the 24-year-old. "I had a couple days off and was able to relax physically and mentally. It's been a work in progress. You try to get back to where you feel comfortable and it was one of those things where I had the day game off and then the built-in off-day and I was able to clear everything, come in today with a clear mind and focus back to that. It was nice."

Manager Lloyd McClendon said his young catcher is a better hitter than he's shown early in his career. He hit .199 with 22 homers last year, then saw his average plummet again to start this season even after an outstanding spring.

"We know he's not a polished .300 hitter, but he's not a .150 hitter either," McClendon said. "I think he has tremendous potential and he continues to learn on a daily basis. It was very, very tough for him for a two-week stretch, not to hit and not to take it out to the field. He really focused on his defense even more and my hat's off to him for that.

"But he's going to hit. To what extent, I don't know. But I don't think he's going to be a .170 hitter in his career. He'll be "OK."

Video: [email protected]: Mariners collect six home runs in win

Zunino's two homers led a huge night for the Mariners offense, which tied a club record for most homers in a game at Safeco Field and equaled the season high for most runs. The Mariners also hit six homers at Safeco on Aug. 27, 2004, against the Royals.

The Mariners' record for home runs in a game at any park is seven, done four times, the last in 2002. It was just the 13th time in club history they've hit six or more in a game.

Zunino equaled his career high with his two homers and Nelson Cruz tied a Major League record by homering in his fifth straight Interleague game with his MLB-leading 15th homer to cap the night. It was the ninth time a player has done that, with Paul Konerko being the last in 2011.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Seattle Mariners, Mike Zunino