BRENT STECKER

Mariners’ frigid bats showing signs of thawing after slow start

Apr 10, 2017, 9:03 PM | Updated: Apr 11, 2017, 1:24 pm
Robinson Cano doubled, walked twice and scored a run in the Mariners' 6-0 win Monday over the Astro...
Robinson Cano doubled, walked twice and scored a run in the Mariners' 6-0 win Monday over the Astros. (AP)
(AP)

The eighth game of a 162-game season is rarely, if ever, a make-or-break situation. But it sure felt like that was the case for the Mariners as they returned to Seattle for their home opener on Monday.

All it took was six losses in the span of a week to create panic for a team that has expectations of ending the major leagues’ longest playoff drought. Actually, it didn’t take the full week to cause concern. Losses in the first three games of Seattle’s four-game series in Houston did that, and three more in Anaheim – including a brutal collapse with a six-run lead in the ninth inning Sunday against the Angels – poured gas on the fire.

Well, at least for a day, the Mariners found an extinguisher at Safeco Field.

James Paxton was stellar in his second scoreless outing on the mound, but the Mariners have received strong starting pitching in nearly every game to this point. The big difference was the emergence of Seattle’s offense, something that actually started the day before, though the bullpen’s issues stole all the headlines.

A day after Mitch Haniger and Robinson Cano homered in a nine-run performance by the Mariners’ offense, Seattle followed up with six runs to defeat the Astros on Monday. And while the marine layer at home wasn’t kind to either team, Seattle was still able to tally 11 hits and take control in the middle innings – even with several missed opportunities earlier on.

Sure, the Mariners were still just 3 for 15 at the plate with runners in scoring position, but the important part is the 15. The Mariners are continuing to create opportunities for themselves, and their pitching has been good enough that only a few of those chances need to be converted to deliver a win.

Of course, after the first week of the season, it’s clear how that’s easier said than done.

There is a big reason to think the Mariners’ offensive woes are about to go by the wayside. In the home opener, Seattle had the benefit of each member of the middle of the order producing for the first time so far. Haniger and Cano again had nice games, and they were joined by Nelson Cruz (3 for 4, two RBIs) and Kyle Seager (2 for 3, one RBI), who were a combined 5 for 48 entering the game.

The temperature was fairly frigid for the Mariners’ home opener, but that doesn’t mean Seattle’s bats aren’t starting to thaw.

No starting pitcher.

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