SEATTLE (AP) — Corey Hart saw everyone around him contributing something to the Seattle Mariners’ strong start. After a lackluster spring and sluggish first week, he desperately wanted to be a part of it.
His response: a three-run homer and a solo shot that sent the Mariners to a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in their home opener Tuesday night.
“So many guys on this team have been chipping in and I haven’t been one of them,” Hart said. “It was nice to find contact tonight and be able to help out. I was getting kind of tired watching everyone else help out.”
Seattle became the final major league team to open at home and improved to 4-0 this season against the Angels, who got consecutive home runs from Albert Pujols and David Freese in the first inning. After fans at Safeco Field gave Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll and other members of the Super Bowl champion Seahawks a raucous ovation, the Mariners gave the sold-out crowd some winning baseball to cheer for.
“I’m not a hoopla person. I’d rather just go about my business,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “But it was a good night in a lot of respects. I thought it was a good night for our fans on a lot of different avenues. I was very pleased with how our guys responded.”
Seattle scored four times with two outs in the third inning, capped by Hart’s three-run homer off starter Hector Santiago (0-2). Hart added his solo drive in the seventh.
Robinson Cano’s home debut in Seattle was mostly uneventful. Cano went 0 for 3 and scored a run, getting a massive ovation when he was introduced before the game that was topped only by Felix Hernandez’s reception.
Hart, another offseason acquisition, made plenty of noise.
Hart had the 15th multihomer game of his career and first since Sept. 29, 2012, before knee surgery sidelined him for the 2013 season with Milwaukee.
Seattle’s rally in the third started when Santiago struck out Brad Miller but the ball bounced away from catcher Chris Iannetta. Miller reached first and Santiago pitched around Cano, walking him on four pitches.
Justin Smoak lined a two-strike single to score Miller, and Hart made Santiago pay for missing with an 0-2 pitch. It was the third time in his career Hart has homered on an 0-2 pitch.
His homer in the seventh was a line drive to center off reliever Fernando Salas.
Seattle starter James Paxton (2-0) gave up two first-inning homers, then retired 14 straight. He left in the sixth inning after straining a muscle on the left side of his back.
Paxton did not believe his injury was serious, but is taking the precaution of having an MRI on Wednesday. He initially felt a twinge in the fifth inning, but returned in the sixth. If he is sidelined, Paxton would join Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker as expected starters in the Mariners’ rotation dealing with early injuries.
“I just want to be careful right now,” Paxton said. “They say my strength is still good. I just want to get it checked out.”
Paxton was amped up early and it cost him when he gave up a two-run homer to Pujols and a solo shot to Freese. But Paxton quickly settled down and kept the Angels silent from there. Kole Calhoun’s single leading off the sixth was the Angels’ only hit after the first inning.
“Early on we had some strong looks at Paxton but he settled down and pitched a strong game,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Yoervis Medina replaced Paxton and got out of the sixth. Danny Farquhar and Tom Wilhelmsen worked the seventh and eighth, and Fernando Rodney earned his second save despite walking his first two batters in the ninth.
“He was probably a little ticked at himself and turned it up a little bit,” McClendon said.
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