April 29, 2011 in Sports

Michael Pineda dominant in the Seattle Mariners’ victory over the Detroit Tigers

Geoff Baker Seattle Times

DETROIT – Seattle Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo seemed prouder of the young pitcher he’d 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 afternoon. 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 change-up 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, 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.

Smoak’s double extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

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 home run 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 after managing 78 in their 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.

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