Cruz invigorates Mariners with 3-hit game

After early slump, DH's 2-run single keys home opener victory

Cruz invigorates Mariners with 3-hit game

SEATTLE -- The Mariners knew it was only a matter of time. On Sunday, Robinson Cano came alive. And Monday it was Nelson Cruz breaking out with three hits and a couple big RBIs in Seattle's 6-0 victory over the Astros as the much-anticipated offense finally began to materialize.

"It was a rough week, there was no doubt," manager Scott Servais said. "Everybody felt it. But the minute I walked in this morning I just wanted to treat it like Opening Day and just start over, and our guys really did take a new approach. It was also Opening Day for Nelson Cruz, too. He found his stroke today."

That breakthrough came none too soon for a Mariners club that carried a 1-6 record -- and the sting of Sunday's 10-9 loss after blowing a six-run lead in the ninth -- into Monday's home opener.

Cano had five RBIs and his first homer of the season in that game, but Cruz was still lugging an unseemly .080 batting average to the plate Monday when he ripped a two-run, bases-loaded single up the middle to break a scoreless tie in the fifth.

Cruz on effort at the plate

Two more sharp singles in his final two at-bats had the early average up to .172 and the team's confidence on the rise as well.

"That was big," pitcher James Paxton said of Cruz's two-run icebreaker. "You could feel the difference in our dugout. The guys, just the confidence level went through the roof once we got some hits and some runs.

"This offense is going to take off," said Paxton, who pitched seven scoreless innings to get the win. "I'm confident we're going to be scoring runs on a regular basis. [Sunday] we scored runs. We did a great job. I think that was the start of this offense starting to get hot. We're going to be just fine."

Indeed, Cruz said a well-struck sacrifice fly in Sunday's loss was his first signal that things were finally turning.

"Yeah, it's just one pitch. One pitch is what it takes to click," Cruz said. "I feel like that fly I hit against the Angels with a runner on third, I found something in that at-bat. Just something, you can't explain what it is. Just as a hitter, you find something with your timing."

Seager's sac fly

The Mariners third big weapon, Kyle Seager, also showed signs of life, as he went 2-for-3 with a double and a well-struck sacrifice fly to hike his own average from .130 to .192.

"The veteran guys, when they're struggling, you say it should never happen," Servais said. "But it happens. It's a hard game. They put a little pressure on themselves early and when you don't have your rhythm and timing, it can get a little challenging. But great job by them today."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.