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Unable to lay down bunt, Zunino hits RBI 2B

Game-winner caps off 5-for-12 series for struggling Mariners catcher

DETROIT -- Mike Zunino could have been kicking himself for not getting the sacrifice bunt down twice in the 12th inning of Thursday's battle with the Tigers, but instead the Mariners catcher wound up celebrating a game-winning RBI double in the Mariners' 3-2 victory.

"That's the way we planned it," manager Lloyd McClendon said with a wry smile after Zunino successfully swung away following his botched bunts.

In a season where luck often seems to have shined the other way, the Mariners were happy to have one fall their direction. And no one was happier than Zunino, who has struggled much of the year, but went 5-for-12 with three doubles and four RBIs over the last four games to raise his average from .158 to .169.

Zunino isn't quite proud of that number, but the progress is encouraging.

"He had a great series," McClendon said. "He's struggled to this point, but this series, Mike Zunino had real good at-bats. Even his outs were very good outs. He came up big today. This is encouraging. He's starting to swing the bat pretty good."

Zunino didn't start the series finale, his first day off of the second half, but he entered in the 10th after McClendon pinch-hit for Jesus Sucre. Zunino immediately made an excellent defensive stop and threw out speedy Anthony Gose trying to steal second, then delivered the game-winning double in the 12th as Chris Taylor raced around from first when the ball kicked away from left fielder Yoenis Cespedes.

"You know how he throws," Zunino said of Cespedes, "so I was hoping nothing crazy happened. I knew we'd at least have second and third and be able to go from there. It was nice [when Taylor scored], I'm not going to lie."

Zunino has stayed positive throughout his struggles and his teammates are happy to see some results finally going his way.

"I see behind the scenes all the work he puts in, all the effort," said third baseman Kyle Seager. "He's a guy that cares. As talented as he is, he's going to get it right. And this last little bit, he's looked really good."

Zunino has tinkered with some things at the plate and believes he's finally on track.

"Right now, it's just staying with the approach, staying simple," Zunino said. "To get the results is always rewarding. You just have to stick at it, and I'll keep trying to do that and hopefully build on this."

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