SEATTLE -- Mike Zunino was looking for a fastball. It was a pitch that had been plaguing him, a pitch that had him rushing and overthinking. But when A's reliever Liam Hendriks missed with two sliders, Zunino knew what was coming."He just threw a fastball that leaked over the plate
SEATTLE -- Mike Zunino was looking for a fastball. It was a pitch that had been plaguing him, a pitch that had him rushing and overthinking. But when A's reliever Liam Hendriks missed with two sliders, Zunino knew what was coming.
"He just threw a fastball that leaked over the plate enough," Zunino said, "and I was able to get the barrel to it and not foul it off."
The catcher drove the 2-2 fastball over the left field fence to give the Mariners a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning. It was his second hit of the night. Zunino went 2-for-3 with a walk in the Mariners' 3-2 win over the A's Thursday, keeping them alive in the chase for the AL Wild Card.
"It's nice to be in that spot, and it's nice to come through," Zunino said. "And it's nice when you go through struggles and work through it and get that opportunity and [have] it go in your favor."
Entering play Thursday, Zunino was batting just .139 in the 36 at-bats he'd had since the Mariners last played the A's on Sept. 11. That was also the last time Zunino had hit a home run.
"The strikeouts bug him as much as they bug anybody," manager Scott Servais said.
The issue was timing, Zunino said.
"If you're late, you're going to have to rush a little bit," he said. "And when you rush, everything sort of goes out of whack, and that's sort of what was happening. And that just comes from me thinking too much and trying to work on other things instead of just getting on time for the fastball and reacting."
He was working on it, taking early batting practice on the road, but it took a while for that to pay dividends.
"But when you go through that and finally get a pitch to hit on a pitch you've been struggling to hit for a while, its nice and sort of reassuring," he said.
Zunino's home run came at a crucial point for the Mariners. The A's had just tied it up in the top of the seventh with a homer from Chad Pinder. Then Zunino came up in the seventh and made it clear that his team wasn't done yet.
"He got all that one," Servais said. "He smoked it."
Maddie Lee is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle.