Mariners blast Tampa Bay Rays, 8-2
Mariners rookie Carlos Peguero enjoyed the first two-home run game of his career in an 8-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Tampa Bay Rays @ Mariners,
7:10 p.m., ROOT
Carlos Peguero has spent too many hours honing his English skills to have not gotten the message put out by his manager only 24 hours earlier.
Before the Mariners rookie enjoyed the first two-home run game of his career in an 8-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, manager Eric Wedge had let it be known he wasn't thrilled with the production of his left fielders. Wedge wanted to see more adjustments made by Peguero and company; or else, it was strongly hinted, their next attempt to adapt would be to Class AAA baseball.
As if to underscore that, the Mariners announced after the game that Peguero's left-field counterpart, Michael Saunders, had been optioned to AAA. Greg Halman was promoted in his place, to serve both as a left fielder and to fill the backup center-field role to Franklin Gutierrez that Saunders had been handling.
"Every day, I try to learn more about this game," Peguero said after his blasts highlighted a four-homer onslaught by the Mariners that chased Rays ace James Shields only four innings in. "It's tough but I have to work hard every day and come to the field with my mind positive and be the player I have to be."
The calls for Peguero's replacement had been swirling for 24 hours by the time he unleashed his mighty swing — the first time in a five-run second inning that gave Felix Hernandez all the run support he'd need. Then, as if to show his extended batting practice session wasn't done, Peguero stepped up two innings later and belted his second homer of the game.
It was as if Mike Carp, the red-hot Class AAA slugger with 14 homers and a 18-game hitting streak, had indeed been called up. Only this version was 6-foot-5 and looking a lot more Dominican than the redheaded California product many Mariners fans had been hoping to see in left field.
Peguero going deep twice wasn't the only surprise the offensively challenged Mariners had in store. Jack Cust got the whole thing started in the second inning by hitting his first Safeco Field home run.
Even Chone Figgins got in on the act that frame, bouncing a run-scoring single through the right side to snap an 0-for-22 skid. It was the first run batted in for Figgins in three weeks.
That delighted the announced crowd of 16,376, which knew Hernandez doesn't exactly need a ton of support. Justin Smoak would add a solo home run in the fourth for the Mariners, just a couple of batters after Peguero's second shot.
The four homers allowed and a skyrocketing pitch count ensured that Shields was done once the inning ended, his earned-run average up from 2.15 to 2.77.
Hernandez would pitch seven innings, striking out 11 and allowing just a run in the sixth. Aaron Laffey gave up the other run on a solo homer by Matt Joyce in the eighth.
"It was good," Hernandez said. "It's been a while since we've scored that many runs in a game."
Hernandez was impressed by Peguero's power display, which began with a cannon blast to right-center with two aboard on a first-pitch changeup from Shields. The second came on a Shields curveball, driven high and deep to left-center by Peguero for a solo shot.
"He's pretty strong," Hernandez said. "He's got big power. He's making some adjustments and today, he got two homers."
Peguero had studied the tendencies of Shields and figured out what he might expect to see.
"I've seen that guy have a good changeup and throw a lot of changeups," Peguero said. "He threw me a changeup on the first pitch, and I thought he might throw it because we had runners in scoring position. I just sat on it and was waiting for it."
On the second homer, Peguero resisted the urge to get overly aggressive, as he'd done throughout his three-week stint with the club. Instead, he held back and tried to react to the pitch.
Peguero had already been thrown "three or four curves" in the at-bat by Shields and suspected another was coming. "It was just, sit on it and wait," he said. "Be patient and put a good swing on it."
That's part of the adjustment Wedge had talked about needing to see from a powerful-yet-strikeout-prone hitter. Pitchers know how Peguero feasted on fastballs in the minors, and thus had been going after him with more off-speed stuff.
His free-swinging ways cost him once that happened, dropping his batting average to just .169 with a .210 on-base percentage in 59 at-bats. Wedge expected to see more, especially with Carp doing so well in AAA and becoming more experienced in left field in Peguero's absence.
"He's strong," Wedge said of Peguero. "He has tremendous raw power. I felt that the previous game, his at-bats were better. I know he's been struggling a little bit, but his at-bats were better, he was under control and that's where he needs to be."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes
|Rays pitcher James Shields' 2011 numbers:|
|June 2 vs. M's||4||4*||15.75|
|*by Carlos Peguero (2), Jack Cust, Justin Smoak|
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