Even now, more than three years later, the Kauffman Stadium crowd still jeers Robinson Cano in memory of the night he pulled an 0-fer in the Home Run Derby at the 2012 All-Star Game.
Finally, Cano offered an answer Tuesday when he took part in another Derby. This time, he hit two of the Mariners’ five home runs in a 11-2 carpet-bombing of the Kansas City Royals on the final night of summer.
“I get it,” Cano said. “I understand (why they boo). But it motivates me more to do something special so they can be silent.”
This was special enough. Cano’s two homers were crushed. The second one, a three-run shot in a seven-run third inning, tracked at 449 feet. Thereafter, the jeers, at least on this night, diminished significantly.
Kyle Seager, Brad Miller and Jesus Montero also went deep. None were cheapies. Most of the damage came against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, who gave up nine runs and nine hits in 2 1/3 innings.
The seven-run third was the Mariners’ biggest inning of the season. They didn’t score after Montero’s two-run boomer against reliever Miguel Almonte in the fourth but still matched a season high for runs.
The five homers were not a season high. The Mariners hit six on May 12 in an 11-4 victory over San Diego at Safeco Field.
But five homers were plenty for a dominant Hisashi Iwakuma, who improved to 9-4 by holding the Royals to three hits in seven shutout innings. He walked one and struck out 10.
“Eleven runs,” Iwakuma said. “That’s a lot. They supported me early, and that helped me a lot in being able to pitch with a good groove — being able to get ahead and knowing they’re not going to swing early.”
Tony Zych gave up an unearned run in the eighth inning before JC Ramirez gave up a two-out run in the ninth.
The Mariners won for the 13th time in 19 games and, at 74-77, were left three games short of .500 for the first time since they were 24-27 after a June 1 loss to the New York Yankees.
The victory also enabled the Mariners, with 11 games remaining, to climb to 5 1/2 games back of Houston for the American League’s final wild card berth. So … not dead yet.
The barrage started early. The Mariners opened the scoring on homers by Seager and Cano in the first inning.
Seager’s one-out drive to right was his 25th homer of the season, which matched a career high set a year ago. Cano’s two-out homer, his first of the game, boosted the lead to 2-0.
Kansas City had a chance for an immediate answer after putting runners at first and third with one out in the bottom of the inning. But Iwakuma retired Eric Hosmer on a soft liner to short and struck out Kendrys Morales.
“That was the game-changer,” Iwakuma said. “Obviously, you want to come back and put a zero on the board all of the time. But especially in that situation. When you score a run, you really want to shut them down.
“That way, you can get on a roll.”
The Mariners produced a seven-run roll in the third inning, which Ketel Marte started with a triple past first. Marte scored when a Seager grounder scooted through Hosmer, a Gold Glove first baseman, for an error.
Nelson Cruz followed with a single through second baseman Ben Zobrist before Cano unloaded that three-run bomb.
The Mariners led 6-0.
Franklin Gutierrez then drove a double off the right-field wall and went to third on Seth Smith’s single to right. The Royals finally got an out, a force at second, on Montero’s grounder to third. But Gutierrez scored.
Miller closed the barrage by crushing a first-pitch curve for a two-run homer. That made it 9-0 and finished Guthrie (8-8).
The Mariners’ previous best inning this season was six runs, achieved three times, including the fifth inning of last Sunday’s 9-2 victory at Texas.
They weren’t done. After Almonte issued a two-out walk to Smith in the fourth, Montero hit a 431-foot homer to center. That made it 11-0. Both clubs substituted liberally over the closing innings.
Afterward, Cano could laugh in recalling that rough Derby night when the Kauffman crowd, incensed that, as captain, he didn’t select then-Royals DH Billy Butler to participate, turned raucous as his struggles mounted.
“I didn’t hit one that time,” Cano said. “I was 0-for-10. Man, the whole stadium (was booing).”
He laughed further at the suggestion that, perhaps, he should have asked Guthrie to pitch instead of his father. “Yeah,” he recalled. “My dad threw me a lot of sinkers.”
WEDNESDAY: Seattle (LHP Roenix Elias: 5-8, 4.07 ERA) at Kansas City (RHP Yordano Ventura: 12-8, 4.40), 5:10 p.m., Root Sports, 710-AM