ANAHEIM, Calif. – The move was so logical, nearly every manager in baseball would have done the same.
Trailing 1-0 in the third inning with two outs and runners on second and third, Angels manager Mike Scioscia opted to have pitcher C.J. Wilson intentionally walk Robinson Cano to load the bases and take his chances with Justin Smoak.
The move gave the Angels a force out at every bag. They also avoided pitching to Cano, who came into the game hitting .389 (14 for 36) with two doubles and two homers against Wilson in his career. Would you rather face - the guy who hit .314 last season or the guy who hit .223? It wasn’t a tough decision.
Everything about the move made sense. That is until Smoak ripped a 1-1 fastball into the left-center gap for a bases-clearing double. The Mariners never looked back, later getting a pair of home runs from Brad Miller and rolling to an 8-3 win over the Angels on Tuesday night at Angels Stadium.
For the second straight night, Smoak tallied three RBIs. By comparison, he had just two three-RBI games all of last season.
The 4-0 lead would be enough for Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez. The diminutive right-hander gave the Mariners seven good innings, giving up two runs on six hits with six strikeouts, no walks and one hit batter.
Ramirez found himself in minor trouble in a handful of innings, but found ways to wiggle out without giving up a run. The only damage came in the fourth inning. He gave up a leadoff double to Josh Hamilton. Two batters later, he left a first-pitch 89 mph fastball out over the plate to former teammate Raul Ibanez. Even at the ripe old age of 40, Ibanez won’t miss a cookie of a pitch like that. He pounded it over the wall in center field to cut the lead to 4-2.
Things got worse for Ramirez as Miller misplayed a sure ground-ball out at shortstop and Hank Conger dumped a bloop single into right field among three converging Mariners players. But Ramirez put an end to the unraveling. He came back to strike out Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun to end the inning and strand the runners.
Unlike past seasons, the Mariners added to the lead to provide a cushion.
Miller atoned for his earlier mistake in the fifth inning, crushing a solo homer to right field off of Wilson to push the lead to 5-2 and completed the scoring with a two-run shot in the ninth.
Dustin Ackley continued to swing the bat well, adding another run in the sixth with a run-scoring double off the wall in right-center. It knocked Wilson out of the game. The Mariners roughed him up for six runs on eight hits with a pair of walks.
After the rough fourth inning, Ramirez retired nine straight hitters before giving way to the bullpen.
Tom Wilhelmsen gave up an unearned run in the seventh inning, after Robinson Cano’s throw for an inning-ending double play bounced away to allow a run to score. Joe Beimel replaced Wilhelmsen and didn’t even need to throw a pitch to end the inning, picking off David Freese at first base.
Smoak and Ackley have combined for eight hits in the first two games and have driven in 10 total runs.
The Mariners’ first run of that four-run fourth inning came on an Abraham Almonte RBI double to left.