Morales, Smoak Homer, M’s Beat Rockies 4-3
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – If spring training is any indication, the Seattle Mariners appear to have been successful in upgrading their offense.
Raul Ibanez hit a sacrifice fly and Brad Miller added an RBI double off Matt Belisle in the eighth inning to help the Mariners beat the Colorado Rockies in their final spring tuneup, 4-3 Saturday.
The Mariners, who had the AL’s worst offense the past couple of years, hit two more homers to run their franchise spring training record to 58 in 33 games. The 58 homers is most in spring training since the Cubs hit 62 in 1999.
“We’ve got some good young hitters that are getting better and we have some veterans that are proven,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “It’s a good mix. You saw that out on the field today.”
During the offseason, the Mariners added Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Jason Bay and Ibanez in search of a new offensive identity.
Morales, who played for three years (2006-08) with the Triple-A Salt Lake affiliate, ripped a fastball over the left-center fence in the top of the fourth inning and Justin Smoak homered in the fifth to help the Mariners post their best spring training record ever at 22-11.
“We are all excited to get the season started. We had a great spring and now one through nine you don’t know who will get you a double or a homer,” said Smoak, who finished the spring hitting .407.
For Colorado, Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton both hit solo home runs onto the berm in left field in the fourth inning to chase Brandon Maurer, who is slated to be Seattle’s fourth starter.
“I was a little uncomfortable and only my slider was working out there today,” said Maurer, who had a stellar spring (3-1, 1.50 ERA). “But you saw how we could hit the ball today.”
The Rockies (16-15) had the bases loaded in the eighth after Jordan Robera’s single scored David Kandilas and trimmed the lead to 4-3. The rally was stopped when Ibanez caught Jonathan Herrera’s line drive on a full sprint toward the infield.
“Spring training was real long this year. It will be good to go out there and play for real. I only have so many swings in me, so I’m looking forward to making them count,” Helton said after hitting .448 in limited action.
With Helton nearing 40, the Rockies are counting on Tulowitzki, whose 2012 season was shortened because of groin surgery, to help them bounce back from their franchise-worst 64-98 record a year ago.
Rockies second baseman Josh Rutledge left the game after colliding with right fielder Michael Cuddyer in pursuit of Jesus Montero’s blooper down the right field line. After lying on the ground for a couple minutes, Rutledge walked slowly to the dugout under his own power and is expected to fill his No. 2 batting spot in the opening day lineup Monday.
“Rut’s OK. He got the wind knocked out of him when he took a good shot from Cuddy, who is a big boy. I told Cuddy that if this was the NFL, they would have fined him. But they’re both OK,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.
Stephen Pryor got the win and Bryan Sweeney earned his first save of the spring. Rex Brothers was the losing pitcher.
It was the first major league game in Salt Lake City since Reggie Jackson and the Oakland Athletics played the San Diego Padres in 1970. More than 15,400 fans attended the exhibition, which sold out within an hour of the ticket availability announcement. After the game, the Mariners celebrated on the field with unexpected gusto for an exhibition game.
“I think it was a combination of (both the win and the end of spring training),” Wedge said. “I’m proud the guys. They’ve worked hard all spring and they’re getting better. Now it’s time to really get things started.”
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