June 23, 2014 in Sports

Mariners sweep Royals as Zunino hits clutch homer

Jayson Jenks Seattle Times
 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – If you believe in momentum and think teams take things forward from wins or losses, then the Mariners’ three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals over the weekend could serve as a launching point.

The Mariners showed up to town carrying a cold offense to face baseball’s hottest team. And they dispatched the Royals with an efficient, if not always visually appetizing, formula: keep it close until the final innings, then strike with the drama at its peak.

That’s exactly what the Mariners did Sunday in a 2-1 win against the Royals to complete their first three-game sweep since beating Oakland the first week of May. Catcher Mike Zunino ripped a solo home run to start the seventh inning off hard-throwing Royals rookie Yordano Ventura. That broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Mariners the timely hit they had banked on all series.

The only difference between this one and the previous two was that it didn’t come in the ninth inning.

“One thing I told our guys: Look, when you know you’re facing good pitchers, just battle,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Give it a good at-bat and make every pitch count, and in the end I promise you something good will happen. That’s what we did. It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done.”

Roenis Elias (7-5) guided the Mariners to that point with his second straight impressive start. Elias, the Cuban rookie, had all his pitches working in the Kansas City heat. “The sun here is the same as the sun in Cuba,” Elias explained.

He faced his only adversity in the second inning. He gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning, then allowed a run to score on a sacrifice fly. But he stranded two runners on base and, for the most part, cruised after that.

He lasted 6 2/3 innings and gave up five hits while striking out five.

Zunino also played a large hand in the Mariners’ first run. He led off the fifth inning with a double and Willie Bloomquist drove him in with one of his two doubles.


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