Maurer, Mariners get a big win — and a day off
SEATTLE -- Seattle manager Eric Wedge was reviewing Brandon Maurer's performance after the rookie right-hander earned his first career victory Sunday, a 4-3 decision over Texas at Safeco Field.
"He is going through a lot of firsts, like everybody does when he first gets to the big leagues, particularly a starting pitcher," Wedge said.
The skipper's dissertation was interrupted by what sounded like a primal scream in the adjacent clubhouse.
"He's going through another first right now," Wedge said with a smile.
Forgive the 22-year-old Maurer for his moment of exuberance. You only get your first major-league win once.
"The best thing about today is it's my dad's birthday," Maurer told the media throng assembled by his locker. "Pretty good timing, I'd say."
For more than one reason. The Costa Mesa, Calif., native had an 0-2 record with a 16.20 ERA in his first two starts. Another stinker and Maurer was probably ticketed for some seasoning at Triple-A Tacoma.
But Maurer was sharp Sunday, as he had been in running up a 3-1 spring-training mark with a 1.50 ERA, which earned him a surprise spot in the Mariners' rotation.
"He threw so well in spring training," said third baseman Kyle Seager, who had a pair of doubles. "Nobody lost confidence in him. His stuff is so good, nobody was doubting it.
"But this was good for him to get that first one out of the way. Now you can relax a little, breath a little better. It's a good all-around feeling for him, for sure."
Maurer allowed five hits and two earned runs in his six innings, walking one, striking out five and hitting 94 mph consistently on the radar gun.
"He threw a good ballgame," Wedge said. "He was much more under control today, looked more at ease, more comfortable out there."
Maurer said the object was to relax and not worry too much about the Rangers' hitting tendencies.
"The game plan was to just throw my game and not look too much into hot and cold zones for hitters," he said. "Being free with my arm and not being tight up top. Just going out and having fun."
Was there a feeling of relief mixed in with the excitement?
"Yeah," he nodded with a smile. "It's always good to get the first one under the belt."
The Mariners, who entered the game with an American League-low .220 batting average, backed Maurer with 10 hits, two apiece by Seager, Jesus Montero and Raul Ibanez. The latter stroked his second home run of the season, a solo shot in the fourth inning.
"He's just a consummate pro," Wedge said of Ibanez, who turns 41 on June 2. "The way he handles himself, the conversations he has with these kids and he still has it."
And second baseman Dustin Ackley -- hitting .108 entering the game -- stroked a single to center field in the sixth to knock in the winning run.
"I was trying to hit a ball up the middle," Ackley said. "I hadn't seen a fastball to that point. I was just trying to stay on anything (Texas starer Nick Tepesch) threw on there and fortunately I found a hole.
"You can see the hits we're capable of getting in bigger situations. All we've been away from winning is just that one or two hits. Today we showed we can do that."
The victory gave Seattle (6-8) a split of its four-game series with Texas (8-5).
"It's nice to see the younger guys do their thing," Wedge said. "There were some good things that happened for us today.
"It's tight baseball for us right now. Until the offense settles in and we get a couple of guys back, we have to find the way to win games."
NOTES: The Safeco crowd count was 16,981. Average attendance through seven home games: 20,331. The Mariners got to Tepesch, a 24-year-old right-hander making his second major-league start, for four runs and nine hits in six innings. Seattle reliever Stephen Pryor left the game in the eighth inning due to a strained lat muscle. "We'll reevaluate him (Monday), but he might miss some time," Wedge said Starting outfielders Michael Morse (finger), Michael Saunders (shoulder) and Franklin Gutierrez (groin) all missed the game for Seattle. "I'm hoping Gutierrez will be back on Tuesday," Wedge said. Morse will come in (Monday) and do some work, so we'll see how he feels." Saunders is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on April 24. After playing 14 straight days, the Mariners have Monday off. The break "is long overdue for the guys," Wedge said. "They've been troopers and have grinded through this. We're just scratching the surface of what we're capable of doing. This off day should help us." The M's play host to Detroit Tuesday, beginning a stretch of 16 games in 16 days.