3/20/2013 1:00 A.M. ET
Zito fans seven Mariners in longest spring outing
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Right-hander Brandon Maurer continued his impressive bid for a spot in the Mariners' rotation with five innings of one-run ball and Kendrys Morales homered in his third straight game on Tuesday night as Seattle topped the Giants, 6-3, at a sold-out Peoria Stadium.
Maurer, a 22-year-old who was the Southern League Pitcher of the Year last season for Double-A Jackson, allowed just one run on three hits with no walks and four strikeouts in five innings. The last of the Mariners' top pitching prospects still in camp owns a 1.20 ERA in Cactus League play, having surrendered just two runs in 15 innings.
Maurer said he's just trying to have fun with this unexpected opportunity. And part of his thrill Tuesday was matching up against Giants veteran Barry Zito.
"As soon as I was done, I got to sit there and watch him," Maurer said. "It felt like a video game, to be honest. I'd never seen him throw and I was like, 'Oh man, that's the Zito curveball right there.'"
Zito sharpened up for his 14th season in the Majors by limiting the Mariners to two runs and five hits in five innings. Zito, 34, struck out seven in his longest stint of the spring while lowering his ERA to 3.46.
"I wanted to get a feel for it in this game," said Zito, who had struck out six batters in his previous three starts. "My timing was definitely better than it's been, at least for the last couple of outings."
This outing also differed sharply from Zito's most recent appearance here, when he yielded five runs and seven hits in three innings to San Diego last March 31. Of the 69 pitches he threw in that game, just 34 were strikes. That concluded a spring in which Zito posted a 7.91 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .405 off him in six starts. "Certainly I'm much more confident now," said Zito, the Giants' No. 4 starter who will pitch the April 5 home opener against St. Louis.
Morales hit his fifth home run of the spring in the seventh off Shane Loux. It was the 45th long ball of the spring for Seattle, the most of any Major League team and just six shy of the club's Cactus League record.
Giants first baseman Brandon Belt went 2-for-3 with an RBI, raising his spring batting average to .420. Belt's sixth-inning double put the Giants into the lead as they scored twice off Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen for a 3-2 advantage.
Young Mariners second baseman Nick Franklin went 2-for-2 with a double, a run scored and two RBIs.
Zito, a three-time All-Star and former American League Cy Young Award winner, gave up a pair of singles to start the game, but then struck out Morales, Michael Morse and Kyle Seager in order.
Maurer, a 23rd-round Draft pick in 2008, hit a batter and gave up a single to Hunter Pence in the first, but got out of his jam with a double-play grounder by Belt.
The Giants crossed the plate in the fourth on a two-out RBI triple by shortstop Brandon Crawford, but right fielder Jason Bay got Maurer out of that inning by tracking down a deep drive to the warning track by Cole Gillespie.
The Mariners got to Zito for a run in the second when young shortstop Brad Miller was hit in the shoulder by a pitch, stole second and scored on Franklin's base hit to left. Franklin then doubled and scored in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Morales.
Seattle regained the lead in the sixth with a pair of runs off Minor League pitcher Daryl Maday, with Miller and Franklin hitting sacrifice flies after the Mariners loaded the bases with no outs.
Up next: The Giants host the Brewers in a matchup available via an exclusive free audio webcast on sfgiants.com on Wednesday, while a split squad will travel to Peoria to face the Padres. Both contests start at 1:05 p.m. PT. The club will intensify its effort to prepare for regular-season conditions, as manager Bruce Bochy said that Buster Posey will catch on back-to-back days. San Francisco's top relievers also will soon work on consecutive days.
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.