Morse code: Mariners start the season 2-0


OAKLAND, Calif. — Folks may have wondered what all the preseason power fuss was about until Michael Morse decided to show them with one third-inning swing.

Up to that point, the Mariners’ vaunted middle-of-the-order additions of Morse and Kendrys Morales had failed to hit a ball beyond the infield in this very early 2013 season.

But that changed in a hurry Tuesday night as Morse connected for his first of two home runs, a three-run, opposite-field shot to help send the Mariners to a 7-1 win over the Oakland Athletics.

Morales later delivered his first Mariners hit, a run-scoring single in the fifth, to give starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma all the run support he’d need. Iwakuma threw six innings of two-hit ball, striking out seven and allowing a solo home run to Yoenis Cespedes as the Mariners won for the second straight night.

And if Morse’s first homer wasn’t proof enough that his power-fueled spring training had some validity, he added another mammoth blast over the fence in straightaway center field in the ninth off relief pitcher Grant Balfour. With two homers and three doubles among their nine hits — not to mention eight walks and a hit batsman — the Mariners had more than enough offense to burn through six Oakland pitchers with two games left in this series.

A crowd of 15,315 at the Coliseum didn’t get to celebrate the 1-0 lead provided by Cespedes very long. Michael Saunders and Kyle Seager walked ahead of Morse in the third when he came up to face A’s starter Jarrod Parker with two out.

The Mariners had just seen Morales ground into a fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning. Up to then, he and Morse had gone a combined 1 for 11 with two strikeouts, two pop-outs and two ground-ball double plays, with their lone hit an infield single.

Parker wasn’t giving anything up easily to Morse in this key at-bat, either. The pair battled through six pitches, with the count at 2-2. The next offering was a 93 mph fastball and Morse lined it like a missile the other way, sending bearded right fielder Josh Reddick scampering to the wall.

The ball cleared the wall well beyond Reddick’s reach and he went crashing to the ground in a heap. The Mariners had their first extra-base hit of the year and their first glimpse at how pure power can turn a game around in a hurry.

The crowd was silenced as Morse rounded the bases, and the A’s never really recovered from the early gut punch. Instead, they saw the Mariners continue to drive up Parker’s pitch count in the innings that followed, with Seager — who reached base five times — lining a two-out double in the fifth to bring Morales to the plate again.

Morales quickly fell behind 0-2 in the count, but managed to stay alive for three more pitches before sending the next one screaming up the middle for a run-scoring single. That first Mariners hit by Morales gave Iwakuma a 4-1 lead and a comfort zone that Felix Hernandez never really had in Monday’s 2-0 season-opening victory.

Iwakuma gave up a single in the third inning, then retired his final 11 batters. He had a little help from the deep dimensions of the ballpark, watching at least three drives carry outfielders to the warning track before they made the catch.

The Mariners pulled Iwakuma after he struck out John Jaso to end the sixth. They scored again in a drawn-out seventh, courtesy of three walks and a hit batsman against A’s reliever Ryan Cook.