Mariners want to keep bats going against Rangers

Seattle came to Texas for the three-game series with concerns about its offense, so much so that the Mariners promoted two key run producers, outfielder Ben Gamel and catcher Mike Zunino, from the minor leagues to provide some punch against the Rangers.

The rest of the team got the message as well, as Mitch Haniger ripped a game-tying home run in the eighth inning as part of his 3-for-4 performance, and Jean Segura added a two-run, game-winning double in the ninth to help propel the Mariners to a 6-2 win over Texas on Friday at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.

The Mariners will see whether they can keep the momentum going in the second game of the series on Saturday. They will send left-hander James Paxton (1-1, 4.57 ERA) to the mound to oppose Texas’ ageless right-hander Bartolo Colon (0-0, 1.45).

In all, Seattle ripped 14 hits, none by Gamel or Zunino (who struck out four times in five at-bats) and ended a three-game losing streak while beating the Rangers in the first meeting between the two teams this season.

Zunino, who is in his sixth big league season (all with Seattle), was set to be the Mariners’ primary catcher before he strained his left oblique on March 28 before the team broke camp. He hit a career-high 25 homers and set a career-best .840 OPS in 124 games with the Mariners last season.

“I’m still feeling good, getting my timing down and just in the cage (before Friday’s game),” Zunino said. “I’m looking forward to hopefully carrying that into these games. You prepare all offseason, all spring, for this, and for that day to finally be here, even though it’s a few weeks later, it’s nice.”

Texas, losers of three straight, is having its own struggles on offense, managing just six hits on Friday against six Seattle pitchers, including ace right-hander Felix Hernandez.

The Rangers made some crucial defensive plays in the middle innings to stay in the game, took the lead against Hernandez and reliever Marc Rzepczynski in the sixth but then failed to sustain that swagger into the eighth and ninth innings.

“Our defense was a positive for us, but there a lot more aspects to the game that we needed to do better to win this game,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “We have to continue to work on things to get better and to be complete in all aspects.”

Paxton will make his fifth start of the season after winning his most recent outing on April 16 against Houston. It will be his 11th career start versus the Rangers, against which he is 2-4 with a 4.62 ERA lifetime.

In three starts versus Texas in 2017, Paxton went 1-2 with a 5.28 ERA.

Colon, 44, flirted with a perfect game in his last outing on Sunday night in Houston, retiring the first 21 Astros he faced before issuing a leadoff walk in the eighth inning and a double to the next batter to break up his no-hit bid.

Colon is the oldest pitcher to take a no-hitter into the eighth inning since Kansas City’s Gaylord Perry at 44 years, 338 days on Aug. 18, 1983, at Baltimore.

Colon will make his fifth appearance and third start of the season. He has gone 20-12 with a 3.84 ERA in 37 career starts against the Mariners but has not faced Seattle in nearly three years since he won 3-2 with the Mets on July 23, 2014 at Safeco Field.