ANAHEIM -- Don't blame Mike Zunino and Ben Gamel if they don't want to see June come to an end.Nothing against the summer months, or the approaching Fourth of July holiday or anything else. But Zunino was so hot in this just-ended month that many around the Mariners dubbed it
ANAHEIM -- Don't blame Mike Zunino and Ben Gamel if they don't want to see June come to an end.
Nothing against the summer months, or the approaching Fourth of July holiday or anything else. But Zunino was so hot in this just-ended month that many around the Mariners dubbed it Junino after the 26-year-old catcher turned his season -- and possibly his career -- around in the 30-day span.
Zunino ended June the way he started it with a monster home run off Angels rookie Parker Bridwell in the third inning of Seattle's 10-0 win, giving him 10 homers and an MLB-leading 31 RBIs for the month. And Gamel was scorching hot as well, going 4-for-5 to finish with an MLB-leading 42 hits and .393 average in 26 games.
"I may have to scratch every month off the top line and just put June," said Zunino. "It's a credit to all the guys in front of me, getting on base, working the counts and putting pressure on the pitchers. I was able to get some pitches this month and trust my process. I'm going to continue to do that."
Zunino's turnaround has been remarkable as he came into the month with one homer and four RBIs on the season.
The 31 RBIs ties for the second-most by an American League catcher in the month of June since 1920, trailing only the 32 by Rudy York of the Tigers in 1983 and tied with Bill Dickey of the Yankees in 1937.
Only four Mariners at any position have ever had more RBIs in any month -- Mike Blowers and Edgar Martinez had 33 in August of '95 and Martinez (June '95) and Jay Buhner (Sept. '95) each had 32 in one month.
Zunino has been prodigious as well as productive. Friday's blast was projected at 446 feet by Statcast™, marking the fifth time this month he's gone 435-feet plus, the most in the Majors. He's now in the top five among MLB sluggers this year (players with a minimum of 10 homers) in average home run distance at 421 feet.
Friday's homer was Zunino's third-longest since Statcast™ was introduced in 2015 and five of his seven longest blasts in that time came this month.
It's an amazing achievement for a guy who was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma on May 5 after hitting .167 with no home runs and two RBIs in his first 24 games. When backup Carlos Ruiz and fill-in Tuffy Gosewisch struggled in his absence, Zunino was recalled on May 23 and immediately homered in his first game against the Nationals.
And he hasn't slowed down since. But Zunino insisted Gamel had the better month, when it came down to it.
"Did he ever get out?" Zunino said.
Gamel's hit total was an eye opener for manager Scott Servais as well.
"Add that up and it's a heck of a year," Servais said. "Forty-two hits in a month is pretty special. He's been outstanding."
Gamel returned serve with Zunino, insisting 31 RBIs trumped his 42 hits. And he insisted he was just the benefactor of a loaded Mariners' offensive attack.
"Everywhere you turn in this lineup there's protection," Gamel said. "You can't pitch around people, so they're coming after me and I'm getting pitches to hit."
And on a night Robinson Cano ripped two homers and five RBIs, he tipped his cap as well to the guys hitting second and ninth in the order.
"When the bottom part of the lineup hits, it gets everybody going," Cano said. "It's easier for a pitcher to face Nelly [Nelson Cruz] or [Kyle] Seager or myself with nobody on base. That's how teams win games. It's always fun when you see everyone doing the little things. I love that energy in the dugout."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [