SEATTLE (AP) — Nelson Cruz showed power early on Sunday with two home runs, and patience and resiliency late coming through with the winning hit in the ninth inning after three strikeouts.
It was a display by Cruz of the many reasons why Seattle paid last offseason to add him to its lineup.
“Even when you hit homers you have to forget about what you do the (last) at-bat. I strike out three times and I have to forget about what happened the previous at-bats,” Cruz said. “That’s the beauty about baseball. You have a chance to do damage every time you go up there.”
Austin Jackson singled in the tying run in the ninth inning, Cruz followed with a two-out single for his fifth RBI of the game, and the Mariners overcame a pair of five-run deficits to beat the Texas Rangers 11-10.
Cruz homered twice in the first three innings, raising his major league-leading total to eight, and Jackson hit the 11th leadoff homer of his career.
That was just the start. The big drama came late as Seattle rallied from deficits of 7-2 and 10-5, scoring six runs in the final three innings.
“This team is a very gritty bunch. They’re built for this. They’re tough. Character-wise they’re tough,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We have a nice mix of veterans and young players. This team is built for greatness. I don’t know what’s going to happen but I like where we are.”
Brad Miller led off the ninth with a single off Neftali Felix (0-1) and advanced on Seth Smith’s one-out walk. Jackson lined a single to right that fell in front of Shin-Soo Choo and allowed Miller to score.
After Rickie Weeks’ popout and an intentional walk to Robinson Cano, Cruz lined a 96 mph pitch into left field to score Smith. It was a bit of redemption for Cruz after he struck out against Feliz in the eighth inning.
Feliz had not blown a save chance since Aug. 3 at Cleveland and allowed earned runs to Seattle for the first time in 23 career appearances against the Mariners.
“I was trying to keep the ball low and (Cruz) is a good hitter,” Feliz said through a translator. “The ball he hit at the end was a low ball and he made good contact on it.”
Cruz hit a solo homer in the first and a three-run drive in the third, his first two homers this season at home. Cruz is the first player with eight home runs in a team’s first 12 games since Alex Rodriguez in 2007. Cruz struck out in his next three at-bats, then got the seventh game-winning RBI of his career and first since 2012.
Over the past eight games, Cruz is hitting .485 with 14 RBIs.
“I’ve played against him quite a bit. This is no surprise to me,” Jackson said of Cruz. “I’ve been on the other side of that and it’s impressive to watch. I’m just glad he’s on my side now.”
Yoervis Medina (1-0) pitched the ninth to get the victory. Seattle starter James Paxton and Texas’ Ross Detwiler failed to make it out of the third inning.
Texas scored seven runs in the third inning off Paxton, sending 11 batters to the plate. Jake Smolinski’s two-run homer was the big blow of the inning. The Rangers added three more in the sixth inning, including RBI singles by Choo and Mitch Moreland.
“We were lucky to win that game today. We have to pitch better and I think our guys understand that,” McClendon said.
Rangers: Moreland, who missed the previous two games with a sore elbow, came on as a pinch hitter in the sixth and remained in the game at first base. Moreland flied out to the wall in left-center in the eighth.
Mariners: Catcher Mike Zunino came close to getting his first full day off of the season but caught the ninth inning after Jesus Sucre was pulled for a pinch hitter.
Rangers: Texas has an off day on Monday before opening interleague play with a two-game series against Arizona on Tuesday. Nick Martinez will start the opener.
Mariners: Hisashi Iwakuma will get the start on Monday night when Seattle opens a three-game series against Houston.