MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Safeco proving no problem for Mariners' bats

Safeco proving no problem for Mariners' bats

SEATTLE -- What kind of season has it been so far?

Well, let's see, since the departure of Bill Geivett, who installed a no-curveball rule for Rockies' pitchers, the Rockies are throwing curveballs, at Coors Field of all places, and they are getting hitters out. So much so that Tyler Chatwood has actually pushed his slider aside and added the curveball, and Jon Gray has put the curveball into his arsenal.

Go figure.

The defending world champion Royals have a rotation with a losing record (27-32), but are still in the midst of things in the American League Central and are leading the AL Wild Card race. The Orioles' rotation has a 5.07 ERA, which ranks 21st in baseball, but are sitting atop the AL East, four games ahead of the Red Sox and 4 1/2 in front of the defending division champion Blue Jays.

Explain that.

And then came Saturday night at Safeco Field. The Mariners hit five home runs at Safeco Field in their 12-6 victory against the Orioles, equaling their fifth biggest home run total in the 1,384 games played in the ballpark, and along with a blast from Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, the two teams combined for six, raising the Safeco Field season total to 120 home runs in 41 games.

Cruz's monster three-run mash

So much for the absolutes of baseball.

Remember, Safeco is supposed to be the ballpark where home run hitters struggle. It was the bane of Adrian Beltre, of all people.

Now this.

The Mariners, alone, have hit 69 home runs at Safeco Field this year. That already equals the 10th highest single-season total in the history of the ballpark, and is just 23 shy of the franchise record set in 2000.

"It's exciting to see my teammates do this on a daily basis," said right fielder Nelson Cruz.

Of course, Cruz has done his share, too. He delivered a three-run shot off Orioles starter Tyler Wilson in the first inning to set the tone Saturday night, giving him nine Safeco home runs this season, a team-best that Adam Lind equaled with a two-run shot in the sixth.

"It's not one guy," said Cruz. "We have a good lineup. We have a whole lineup of guys who can let it go."

Guys like Cruz and Lind with nine apiece, Robinson Cano with eight, Dae-Ho Lee and Seth Smith with seven apiece, and Kyle Seager with six. Mike Zunino, back from a first-half refresher course at Triple-A Tacoma, made his 2016 big league debut memorable by hitting not one, but two home runs.

Zunino on his first game back

And then there is Smith, who has hit a home run in each of the first three games of the four-game series against the Orioles that concludes Sunday afternoon.

"We've got guys on this team who can hit home runs," said Smith.

No kidding. But this is Safeco, not Coors Field, where Smith broke into the big leagues as a member of the Rockies.

"I know that, trust me," he said.

So, explain this sudden emergence of power production at Safeco. The 120 home runs already hit this season by the Mariners and their visitors ranks as the 15th highest single-season total since the park opened on July 15, 1999. And there are 40 more games to play.

"It's just a testament to the guys on this team," he said.

More than that, it would seem to reinforce the hitting approach that general manager Jerry DiPoto and manager Scott Servais emphasized in their first spring training with the franchise back in March -- making contact.

They have struck out 618 times this year, ninth in the AL, 154 fewer times than the Major League leading Astros. That's a major adjustment from last year's season-ending 1,336, just 56 fewer than the AL-leading Astros.

"We have a lot of power guys, but it is a different feeling," said manager Scott Servais. "The thing that sticks out is the way left-handed hitters are driving the ball the other way. They are making good, hard contact."

And the reward has come with the way the Mariners have trotted around the bases.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.