Haniger shows off super skills vs. Rangers

Haniger shows off super skills vs. Rangers

SEATTLE -- He hit a three-run homer Sunday to get the Mariners back in the game early. He made a home run saving catch to rob the Rangers of a go-ahead blast late. And in the end, Mariners rookie right fielder Mitch Haniger drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game and set up Nelson Cruz's walk-off infield single in an 8-7 win.

In short, Haniger did everything except wear an Easter bunny outfit to entertain the kids after Sunday's victory at Safeco Field. Apparently playing Superman during the game was enough.

"Mitch Haniger had quite a game," said manager Scott Servais, who watched the final three frames on the television in his office after being ejected in the bottom of the sixth.

Haniger discusses Mariners' win

Indeed, Haniger is rapidly proving to be the Mariners early season success story as he hiked his batting average to .294 with his 1-for-3 day with two walks and a career-best four RBIs.

Haniger leads the Mariners in homers (four), RBIs (11) and runs (12), and his .410 on-base and .588 slugging percentages are the tops of any regular.

Toss in his game-saving catch as he robbed Joey Gallo of a two-run homer in the eighth, and teammates are singing his praises as well as promising him steak dinners, as was the case with reliever Marc Rzepczynski after Haniger brought back Gallo's deep drive.

Haniger's amazing catch

"I hugged him twice," said Rzepczynski, who had dropped his head in disgust when the ball left Gallo's bat. "I'll take him anywhere he wants for dinner. He's been playing great for us."

The 26-year-old right fielder hit .229 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 34 games for Arizona last year, but Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has sung his praises since acquiring Haniger along with shortstop Jean Segura in the Taijuan Walker trade.

"We've liked everything we've seen from Mitch since the first day we got him to Spring Training," Servais said. "How he's gone about his business, and obviously he's been very productive for us. He does his homework, he's as prepared as anybody we have, and he's got a lot of confidence."

"I know what I'm capable of," Haniger said. "I'm not a very cocky guy, but I believe in myself, so I know I can play."

And he's quickly proving to be a catalyst for a Mariners team that has won three in a row to hike its record to 5-8 after a slow start on the road.

"This is a great group of guys," Haniger said. "They're a bunch of fighters. That's how you win games late, keep battling and have good at-bats. Trust the guy behind you."

Which is exactly what Haniger did to push home the tying run when he took a 3-1 pitch from Sam Dyson instead of trying to be the hero in the bottom of the ninth.

Haniger's game-tying walk

"That's very difficult," Servais said of the patient at-bat with a game on the line. "We've talked a lot about our ability to control the strike zone and within that, you have to trust the guy behind you. That's exactly what we're talking about.

"It says a lot about the maturity of the player that he is right now, and he's got a chance to get even better. It was an exciting day for him and an unbelievable catch over the fence. That was pretty awesome."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.