Cruz snaps dry spell, leads homer barrage
Trumbo, Smith also go deep off Houston starter Keuchel
SEATTLE -- Amazing how much better a baseball team can look when it scores some runs, as the Mariners proved again Saturday with a 6-3 win over the American League West-leading Astros.
Seattle took the first two games of the series by putting up five runs on Friday and six on Saturday. And while those numbers aren't off the charts, they're certainly welcome for a Mariners club that ranks last in the AL in scoring.
The six runs are the most scored by the Mariners at Safeco Field in their past 20 home games and they hadn't scored five-plus runs in back-to-back games anywhere since April 19-20.
"I think it's coming," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "I think there's a lot more to be had with this offense. The last two nights it was certainly very nice to see the way guys grinded their at-bats out, they took their walks, they got pitch counts up, they did a nice job."
And they did it Saturday against Houston ace Dallas Keuchel, helped by a trio of solo home runs from Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith and Mark Trumbo.
Cruz snapped a string of 20 games without a home run as he hit his 19th of the season in the third. Smith led off the fifth inning with his sixth blast of the year and Trumbo got on the board leading off the sixth with his first home run in 14 games since being acquired by trade from the D-backs.
"That was a nice feeling," Trumbo said after connecting on a full-count changeup for his 10th homer of the season, but first since May 31 with Arizona. "It seems like it's been a little while since I've hit one, so it felt pretty good."
After getting off to a slow start for the Mariners, Trumbo drove in three runs in Friday's 5-2 win and then joined in Saturday's long-ball show. The 29-year-old said he's starting to feel more comfortable in his new surroundings and it's helped to put together back-to-back contributions.
"That's the idea," Trumbo said. "You try to build on the good games and if you have a stinker, just try to forget about it. After yesterday, I felt pretty good today. And tomorrow hopefully we can just keep it going.
"It'll only get better as we go. It was really tough for me personally at the beginning. The game is still the game, but it's all the other stuff that can kind of affect what you're doing a little bit."
Cruz continued his clutch hitting for Seattle, with his homer in the third giving him his 18th go-ahead RBI this season, tied for Bryce Harper of the Nationals for the most in the Majors. And that, he said, was more important than getting his home run groove back.
"It's nice to get the lead," Cruz said. "That's the only thing that's important. [Taijuan] Walker threw amazing and we found a way to get it done today."
They got it done both with the long ball and some small ball, drawing four walks off the normally impeccable Keuchel in the fourth to force in their first two runs. Then Cruz & Co. began hitting balls over fences, a welcome sign for a team that has struggled during his dry spell.
"It's just a matter of one swing," Cruz said of the breakthrough. "Last night, my last at-bat was the swing I was looking for. Hopefully I can stay with that one for longer."