“Michael Jordan,” Hunter said, “in baseball? Griffey and Kirby Puckett.”
Hunter had three hits, three RBIs and keyed a decisive six-run sixth inning to lead surging Los Angeles to an 11-2 rout of Seattle on Saturday.
The Angels won for the ninth time in 11 games and improved to a season-high two games over .500. They are 5-1 on a 14-game trip, their longest trek in eight years.
Two days after Griffey called Hunter during the 40-year-old’s liberating drive home into retirement in Florida, Hunter described Griffey’s legacy and the inspiration he’s drawn from him.
“We went through that ‘Steroid Era,’ yet you never heard Griffey’s name in that. He was clean-cut, but you never wanted to face him when he was at the plate,” Hunter said of the man with 630 career homers, fifth overall.
Right now, the pitchers don’t have to be at their best. The Angels are 6-1 and averaging 6.3 runs per game since leading power hitter Kendry Morales(notes) broke his leg in a freak injury celebrating a win.
“Since Kendry went out, everyone’s been stepping it up to another level,” Hunter said. “It’s actually a lot of fun. A lot better than April. I never want to see that again.”
The Mariners wore aqua-green jerseys and the stadium blared the music of MC Hammer and others of his era to commemorate Seattle’s first playoff season of 1995.
But it felt more like the Mariners’ dreadful days of 1970s and ’80s.
It was the 23rd time in 55 games Seattle scored two or fewer runs. The only other American League team that has scored so little so often is Baltimore— which just fired its manager.
After Maicer Izturis’(notes) two-run single made it 5-1, Kelley imploded—and 31,548 fans booed him off the field. Kelley hit Howie Kendrick(notes) with a pitch, then walked Bobby Abreu(notes) to load the bases. Then came two more walks for two more runs—to Hunter and Hideki Matsui(notes).
Kelley departed after allowing three runs, one hit, four walks, and hitting a batter. He got just one out. Then he sat in the dugout with his head in his hands, looking down at his feet and squeezing his head.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced anything like that,” he said.
That made Suzuki the eighth-fastest active player—and third Mariner ever— to reach 1,000 career runs. The crowd stood and chanted “I-chi-ro!” until he emerged onto the top steps of the dugout to tip his cap.
“Well, that’s part of my job, to score runs as a leadoff hitter,” Suzuki said, through his interpreter.
NOTES: Suzuki has a major league-best 28 multi-hit games. He slapped his league-leading 18th infield hit. … Edgar Martinez(notes) scored 1,219 runs for Seattle. Griffey retired Wednesday with 1,113. … The Angels are 6-0 when bench coach Ron Roenicke serves as interim manager. “It’s pretty amazing to manage when it goes like that,” he said, smiling. Mike Scioscia flew home before the game to attend his daughter’s high school graduation. He will rejoin the team for Monday’s game in Oakland.