June 13, 2011 in Sports

Catcher’s two homers help M’s down Tigers

Geoff Baker Seattle Times
 
Associated Press photo

Miguel Olivo connects for his second homer of the game, a two-run shot in the fifth inning.
(Full-size photo)

DETROIT — Miguel Olivo took some shots while standing at the plate, then another while crouched behind it.

The blows delivered with his bat in his first two-homer game in two years Sunday afternoon didn’t feel nearly as fierce to the Mariners catcher as the one he caught square between the legs on a late foul tip while playing defense. But though he “felt like throwing up” the final two innings, Olivo emerged from this 7-3 win over the Detroit Tigers much like his team did on this trip.

“That game was more important than anything,” Olivo said. “We lost two games here and two in Chicago before that. So, winning today, we tied the series here. So, it was a big thing for us.”

Tied it the Mariners did against the first-place Tigers in front of a hostile crowd of 31,572 at Comerica Park in one of the grittier games Seattle has played all season.

The Mariners got the man-sized performance they needed out of Felix Hernandez after a tough start, watching him go eight innings on 126 pitches with Olivo coaxing him through it from behind the plate. Hernandez didn’t have his sinker early, falling behind 2-0, but found his heart in the nick of time to keep things close enough for Olivo to take over.

Olivo’s first homer, a solo shot in the fifth off Rick Porcello, gave the Mariners life. His second blast, a two-run job on a change-up from Joaquin Benoit in the eighth, gave Hernandez a 5-2 lead and needed breathing room.

And then, just as the Tigers were entertaining a comeback in the eighth – putting the first two runners on – Olivo fought off the pain of the foul tip and somehow blocked an 0-2 pitch in the dirt to secure a key strikeout on Andy Dirks. Justin Smoak then put it away with a two-run homer in the ninth.

“Behind the plate, he’s tough,” Hernandez said of Olivo. “With his bat, he helps a lot, too.”

Hernandez needed help at the plate on a day he walked five batters, couldn’t command his sinker and had thrown 57 pitches once the third inning was done. The Mariners seemed somewhat out of it before Olivo greeted Porcello with his homer on a hanging curve to start the fifth.

“It matters,” Brendan Ryan said of how the game turned on Olivo’s first homer. “Every at-bat, every out matters. I want to be in the hunt come September, because that’s fun baseball.”

On Olivo’s second homer, he called time out just as Benoit delivered a first-pitch fastball. At that point, Olivo figured Benoit wouldn’t show him the fastball again and sat back and waited for the change-up that followed.

“He’s a student of the game,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s a veteran guy that has shown me the ability to make adjustments whether at the plate or behind the plate. And with his strength and passion, that takes him a long way and helps us a great deal.”


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