The Associated Press
SEATTLE — When Mike Zunino was shuttled off to the minors in the early days of May, the Seattle Mariners catcher was hitting .167, had yet to hit a home run and had just two RBIs in 24 games.
That background makes what Zunino (University of Florida) has done at the plate over the past month even more stunning, a surge that continued with two more home runs on Monday night in a 6-2 win over the Detroit Tigers.
Zunino went deep twice, both times two-run shots. They weren’t cheap either. The first snapped a 2-all tie in the sixth inning and carried over the bullpens in left field. The second came in the eighth inning, a shot to center field that provided Seattle a bit of cushion.
Since returning from the minors on May 23 with a retooled stance and approach at the plate, Zunino is hitting .338 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs. He’s already set a franchise record for the most RBIs in any month by a catcher.
“It’s just trust the routine and trusting the process,” Zunino said. “I’m in the cage trying to do the same routine, everything, every day. Trying to be as disciplined as I can in batting practicing, driving the ball the other way, and it’s paid off. It’s not an easy game. You take at-bats for what they are, and when you get some results, they’re nice.”
Guillermo Heredia lined a two-run homer in the fifth inning to pull Seattle even at 2-all, and Zunino’s shot an inning later gave Seattle the lead. Quickly behind in the count against Alex Wilson (1-4), Zunino worked it to 3-2 and drove a slider out to left field.
His homer in the eighth came on a 1-0 fastball from Francisco Rodriguez.
While the home runs grabbed the attention, Seattle manager Scott Servais was more pleased with how Zunino handled the pitching staff, especially during a tricky sixth inning. Detroit had the bases loaded with just one out, but James Pazos (2-1) got out of the bases-loaded jam with strikeouts of Mikie Mahtook and Andrew Romine.
Four Seattle relievers combined to hold Detroit to two hits over the final four innings.
“We love the home runs. Believe me, I love them as much as anybody,” Servais said. “But taking that next step as far as leading our pitching staff tonight was huge and really came through.”