Miller's two blasts help Erasmo erase Angels
Shortstop collects fourth career multihomer game; righty strikes out six
ANAHEIM -- Shortstop Brad Miller and first baseman Justin Smoak provided the offensive punch, and young right-hander Erasmo Ramirez delivered seven strong innings on the mound as the Mariners won their second straight game over the Angels with an 8-3 decision on Tuesday night.
Miller ripped a pair of home runs and had three RBIs to lead the way, with his two-run shot in the ninth giving new closer Fernando Rodney a comfortable cushion for his Mariners debut.
Miller has hit 10 home runs in 78 games since his midseason callup last season, with eight of those coming in four multihomer games.
"He's got a chance to be a big-time player," said Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon. "We really like what he brings to the table, and it was really good to see him come through."
Smoak also has been delivering early. He went 2-for-4 and his three-run double in the third helped propel Seattle to a quick 4-0 lead, giving Ramirez a nice cushion and assuring the Mariners a series win against a team that posted a 7-2 record against them a year ago at Angel Stadium.
The 27-year-old Smoak is 4-for-8 with six RBIs after two games, a welcome beginning for Seattle's switch-hitting cleanup hitter. Smoak drove in just five runs in all of April last season and didn't get his sixth RBI until May 10, finishing the season with just 50 RBIs despite a career-best 20 home runs in 131 games.
"It's good," he said of the initial success with runners in scoring position. "Any time you can do that, it gives your team a better chance. Erasmo pitched his butt off tonight, and I just had to go out there with guys in scoring position and try to have a good at-bat, not do too much and hopefully come up big. That's kind of the goal right now."
The Mariners need Smoak to provide protection behind new $240 million second baseman Robinson Cano, and the big man came through in a big way with his three-run double after C.J. Wilson intentionally walked Cano to load the bases with two outs in the third.
Smoak understood the strategy of walking Cano ahead of him.
"No doubt. Why wouldn't you?" Smoak said. "I don't care if it's lefty-on-lefty or what. There's a reason why they do that. I like facing C.J., and I was just up there trying to have a good at-bat and I was able to get the job done."
Wilson wasn't sold on the notion of walking the left-handed Cano, even though Cano has hit .355 (11-for-31) off him in his career. No matter the numbers, Wilson felt it was strange to put a lefty on and then face the switch-hitting Smoak from the right side.
"Yes," Wilson said. "No more questions on that one."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia wasn't about to second guess the move, however.
"Robinson Cano is the guy you want to try to minimize as much as you can," Scioscia said. "Justin Smoak, give him credit -- got some big hits last night, got some big hits tonight. If that continues, then Robinson Cano will get some pitches to hit. But right now, you're going to want Justin Smoak to swing the bat instead of Robinson."
Smoak, who on Monday became the first Mariner in franchise history to total three RBIs and three runs scored in an Opening Day game, now has a pair of three-RBI games right out of the gate. He had just two three-RBI games all of last season.
New Mariners leadoff man Abraham Almonte also continued to deliver early as the 24-year-old rookie stroked an RBI double in the third, while left fielder Dustin Ackley went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run-scoring double. Ackley is off to a .571 start (4-for-7) with four RBIs.
Ramirez, elevated to the No. 2 starter role in the wake of Hisashi Iwakuma's finger injury, outpitched Wilson, who was a 17-game winner for the Angels last year.
The 23-year-old, sporting a 6-6 record and 4.44 ERA in 21 previous career starts over the past two seasons, lived up to McClendon's faith by allowing just two runs on six hits with no walks and six strikeouts while throwing 93 pitches.
"I just knew he was ready," McClendon said. "He did a pretty darn good job of executing his pitches. He made a couple mistakes with strategy early, but other than that, I thought he did a fabulous job."
The Angels only got to Ramirez in the fourth with a two-run blast to center field by former Mariner Raul Ibanez. Howie Kendrick then reached on an error by Miller and Hank Conger blooped a broken-bat single into shallow right just between Cano and rookie right fielder Stefen Romero.
But with Hector Noesi warming quickly in the bullpen, Ramirez dug in and struck out Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun, pumping his fist after escaping that jam with a 4-2 lead.
The Angels scored an unearned run off Tom Wilhelmsen in the eighth on a throwing error by Cano to cut the margin to 6-3, but veteran lefty Joe Beimel came in and picked David Freese off first base for the final out without throwing a pitch in his initial Mariners appearance.
It's been 951 days since Beimel last pitched in a Major League game with the Pirates in 2011 ... and he still hasn't thrown a pitch, though he did get a huge out.
"I have no problems with getting the best result out of the least amount of work possible," Beimel said. "I think I was out just long enough for them to forget I have a pretty good move to first. I'll take it."