Michael Pineda, hot Mariners hitters finish sweep of Tigers
Michael Pineda won his club-record fourth April game as the Mariners pounded Detroit, 7-2, to complete a three-game sweep of the Tigers.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mariners @ Boston Red Sox,
4:10 p.m., ROOT
DETROIT — Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo seemed prouder of the young pitcher he had just handled than his own contributions to an offense that suddenly can't miss with its bats.
Olivo was beaming about Michael Pineda after the rookie struck out nine batters in a 7-2 win over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday. Pineda set a club rookie record for April with his fourth victory, while Olivo and teammate Luis Rodriguez paced the offense with home runs.
It all added up to the first series sweep by the Mariners at Comerica Park since the 2003 season.
"He's unbelievable," Olivo said of Pineda. "He's one of the top pitchers in the league right now. He's unbelievable."
Pineda didn't always look that way in front of 21,176 fans on a cool, windy afternoon. The Tigers got to him for a pair of second-inning runs. Their left-handed batters began teeing off on a changeup Pineda kept leaving too high in the strike zone.
But Pineda made a mechanical adjustment between innings to keep his left shoulder from flying open on pitches. Olivo also had him use his mid-90s fastball more often against southpaw hitters.
"Right now, he's learning," Olivo said. "He's following me. He listens to Felix (Hernandez) and all those guys. He's going to learn. And the minute he gets everything together, he's going to be very, very dangerous. He just faced one of the top lineups, and he's not afraid to go get them."
The Mariners didn't take long to tie the game up, scoring twice off Tigers starter Brad Penny in the top of the third. Michael Saunders and Jack Wilson led off with singles, then scored on a double by Ichiro and a grounder by Chone Figgins.
Seattle took the lead in the fourth when Olivo — who had seven hits this series after coming in with just 10 on the season — singled and scored on a Justin Smoak double. It was still a 3-2 game in the sixth when Olivo lined a Penny pitch off the top of the left-field fence and into the bullpen for his second homer in three days.
Rodriguez put the game away in the eighth inning with a three-run blast to right off reliever Ryan Perry. It was Rodriguez's first home run since July 2009.
The Mariners scored 24 runs in three games here after managing 78 in the first 23 contests this season. Seattle has scored 41 percent of its season run total against the Tigers in the six games they've played.
"I think we're just not thinking about it," Olivo said of the team breaking out of its offensive slump. "We've improved so many things and right now we're not thinking about it."
Pineda allowed just four hits over six innings, improving to 4-1 with a 2.01 earned-run average, thanks to his early adjustment.
"It was the same as last week," Pineda said of his early struggles. "I don't know what happened, but I was leaving my left shoulder open. I was working at keeping my shoulder closed. But it was the same as before. I made an adjustment in the third inning and then I kept my pitches down."
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said the in-game adjustments being made by Pineda are a sign of progress for the young pitcher.
"I felt like he did a good job mixing it back and forth," Wedge said. "They were aggressive with him early, especially the left-handers. He did a better job as the game wore on, working it in and out."
Wedge said the in-season adjustment by Mariners hitters has also been something to behold and didn't just start this series.
"They're moving in the right direction," he said. "It doesn't just doesn't happen overnight. There's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes with these guys, and you baby-step in the right direction. Ultimately, you put up better ABs, make more productive outs, and then you start to see some better results."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com
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