Seattle Mariners Flourish At Home; Lose Heartbreakers To White Sox

Seattle MarinersThis week the Mariners faced the Indians and the White Sox. The Indians were cleanly swept by the Mariners, and the series featured the return of Felix after his Perfect Game 2 weeks ago against the Rays. Safeco was decked out from head to toe in yellow, wearing “King of Perfection” Felix t-shirts and holding up “K” cards to make the entire stadium the King’s “Supreme Court.” Traveling to Chicago, it was a different, more southern experience, as Chicago’s South Side and their riotous fans, backed their staunch, well-hitting team to a 3-game sweep against our home-town M’s. The Mariners still continue to have one of the best records since the All-Star break, and are now 33-30 at home, which includes a 15-16 record home stand, the best in the M’s 36-year history. On the home stretch, the Mariners outscored their opponents 68-34—bye-bye Safeco Field rumors, hello Seattle Mariners.

Game 1 against the Indians was won, 5-3, with all of the runs being scored on home runs. Center fielder Michael Saunders had 2, 2-run homers, and Eric Thames, along with a triple in the game, hit a solo shot to account for the 5th run. “We’re obviously playing good baseball right now,” said Saunders, who went 3-for-4 in the game. “1-through-9 and our 5 starting pitchers and our bullpen is coming in and doing a great job.”

Of his center fielder’s peeking performance, manager Eric Wedge couldn’t be more impressed: “He’s a very talented young man,” said Wedge. “He just keeps getting better. He had a tough stretch there prior to the last 4 or 5 days, but he handled it like a pro, like a man, like he should. Now you’re seeing him go up there and do some damage for us. Like I’ve said, he’s a complete player and he continues to step up for us.”

As far as defense goes, Saunders grass-mate, left fielder Trayvon Robinson, has been on a phenomenal stretch in the outfield, making spectacular play after spectacular play. He’s leapt up against the wall, and dove in the grass, impressing his teammates, and setting club records for the number of put-outs he’s made. Robinson recorded 10 putouts in Game 1 against the Indians, which is a Mariners single-game record for a left fielder.

On Trayvon’s play of the game—a catch high on the left field wall—Saunders, who had a good view from his position, commented: “That’s one of the better catches I’ve seen. He timed it perfectly. He’s a phenomenal athlete, obviously. He’s made plenty of nice catches since he got back up here. He’s a heck of an outfielder.”

Dustin Ackley also leads AL second basemen in fielding percentage.

It would be another no-decision for starter Kevin Millwood, but the veteran would hand it over to Charlie Furbush, who is up from the DL, and he would walk away with the win.

Game 2 was “the best game I’ve ever pitched in at Safeco Field,” said starter Felix Hernandez. He continued, “…the crowd was unbelievable and they’re yelling ‘Felix, Felix.’ That’s something special.”
39,204 fans, including myself, came out to celebrate with the King after his Perfect Game and show our appreciation for his spectacular performance and what it means to Seattle. In the game, the King went 7 2/3 innings, fanned 5 and only allowed 1 run. The King is 8-0 over his last 13 starts—12-5 on the season—with a 2.54 ERA.

The M’s first got on the board when right fielder Eric Thames hit another solo home run. Then, after the Indians tied it up, Saunders, the hero from the previous night, led off the 7th with a walk, which was followed by a single by third baseman Kyle Seager. Saunders advanced to 3rd, and then John Jaso, with a ground-rule double that bounced over the wall, hit him in. Jaso would advance to 3rd, and Jesus Montero, after an Indians pitching change, homered to bring in 3 more runs. The Mariners would keep the 4-run lead, and win 5-1.

On the winning, shortstop Brendan Ryan attested, “It’s fun baseball right now and we’re starting to get that feeling that Wedge was looking for out of us the last couple years, coming to the field expecting to win. That’s the vibe in the clubhouse and everybody is having fun and feeding off each other. It’s just a real good feeling we’ve got going right now.”

For the 3rd night in a row against the Indians, Eric Thames would make his Mariners presence known. This time he would break a 1-1 tie, by hitting a 2-run, 2-out double in the 8th inning. Last week Thames also had a walk-off-win single, the first of his career, so the cup of heroics he is drinking from must taste pretty good. In both at-bats he walked to the plate having an 0-3 night, with 3 strikeouts, which goes to show how it only takes 1 pitch to win a game, and each at-bat is a fresh start.

In the 8th, the rally started with a 1-out double by Seager. He made a unique slide into 2nd base to maneuver his hand around the player, and the tag ended up high at his chest and late, putting a runner in scoring position for the Mariners. Thank God the umpire made a good call—Seager’s hands got in there just a split second before the high tag. The score was tied 1-1 at this point, and the Mariners were really itching to score a run, break it open, and come away with their 4th series sweep. They hadn’t scored a run since the 1st inning, as Michael Saunders homered for the M’s in his 4th straight game.

M’s manager Eric Wedge was so impressed with Kyle’s hustle. He said, “He was thinking double out of the box. He busted his tail out of the box. When you get your doubles, it’s not when you round 1st, it’s those first 2 or 3 steps right out of the box. That’s when you get it done. Just great hustle on Kyle’s part.”

The call was so close that Indians manager Manny Acta was ejected from the game for arguing the call. The next move by the Indians was to walk hot-hitting John Jaso, putting runners on 1st and 2nd for the M’s with no outs.

Montero then struck out, but Eric Thames stepped up to the plate and on his 2nd, 92 MPH, 4-seam fastball, he ripped a shot down the right field line, scoring both Seager and Jaso.
In the game there were 5 hits, 2 of which were off the bat of Seager, and 1-a-piece from Saunders, Jaso and Thames.

Thames summed his heroics up cleanly by explaining, “After those 3 at-bats, I was on fire. I was pretty hot. It’s just, you get lost in the minute. It was a big situation, and like I said, I was trying to have my approach, just get the head on the fastball. I did and the ball landed where nobody was standing. We scored and we won.”

Hisashi Iwakuma pitched 5 2/3 innings of 1 run ball for the M’s, not allowing a runner to advance past 2nd base until the 6th. In the first 4 innings, Iwakuma, true-to-form, induced 3 double play grounders.

The Mariners hadn’t had an 8-win streak since 2007, and took their unprecedented streak with them on the road. Unfortunately they ran into the hard-hitting White Sox of Chicago, and lost 3 straight heart-breakers to the club. All of the games were close, as the Mariners lost each by only 1 run. The first of the batch was the worst, and it might have been one of the most frustrating games to play in, and watch, all year.

Down 7-2 going into the 9th inning, seemingly the M’s were out of the running for their 9th straight win. But somehow they managed to string together a few hits, which included a Montero home run and a Dustin Ackley single, a couple walks, and suddenly they had runners in scoring position and were poised to take the lead away from the Sox. With a 2-run, 2-out single by John Jaso, they did, and going into the bottom of the 9th inning with their dependable closer Tom Wilhelmson, the M’s were up 8-7. All looked bright and cheerful from the perspective of M’s fans.

Unfortunatley, “Tom didn’t have his stuff,” said Skipper Wedge, and all went downhill from there. The White Sox quickly caught up and easily won the ball game in front of their home crowd. I think every one watching from the Northwest had a pinch in their heart for the remainder of the night—it was a hard one to lose, especially when spirits had been lifted so high a half-inning before. And still, the M’s had 2 more games against these guys, and all would end in a similar fashion.

Game 2 started off hot as Kyle Seager launched a 3-run homer in the 1st. The Mariners then continued to do nothing but strand runners for the rest of the game—11 stranded runners in fact. “The Mariners went 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base, leaving the bases full in the 1st and 7th innings,” in a summation from the Seattle Times.

“I love the way we came out today. We were aggressive. We took the lead,” said Manager Wedge, of the 3-run spot in the first. “That was just a matter of missed opportunities. We had multiple opportunities to score runs, we had multiple opportunities to execute, and we just didn’t get it done.”

Seager accounted for all 4 RBIs of the game, launching his second homer of the night in the 9th inning (which also added to his tally of 2-out RBIs). Aside from that, the Mariners couldn’t do much, but it was their 8th consecutive game with a home run.

For the Mariners Blake Beavan pitched 5-plus innings, and allowed 4 earned runs. He walked a season high 3 batters, and pegged 1. On the game, Beavan said, “I didn’t really have a good feel for anything tonight. I just tried to battle as much as I could and make pitches when they counted.”

As far as Game 3 went, it was also a hard one to watch. The Mariners scored early, tacking on a run in the 1st. But the White Sox were right there with them, and scored a total of 2 in the 2nd and 3rd. The Mariners would regain the lead in the 5th, but in the 7th, the final inning of play due to heavy rain in Chicago’s South Side, a homer off pitcher Kevin Millwood’s 2nd pitch after stoppage time would be the final note in play, giving the White Sox a clean sweep of the Mariners. The Mariners have now lost 19 of their last 22 games at U.S. Cellular Field.

It total, there were 3 hours and 56 minutes of delays due to rain in the game. Some people on the Mariners side of things felt the umpires should have called the game earlier. The stoppage time for spreading Diamond Dry on the infield could have been to put the tarp on instead.

Summing up the Mariners feelings on the game is Eric Thames, who says, “That last inning, it was tough sitting around. I felt like my uniform weighed 15-20 pounds with all the water and dirt. The umpires didn’t call it, then there was the home run. We were all pretty upset about that, but that’s just the way it goes.”

Manager Wedge explained that he knew the umpires were doing the best they could gathering the best weather information available, but unfortunately the information cost his ball club. Still on the whole, he was impressed with his young team’s play: “But hey, we’ve still got to play baseball,” he said. “I wish we could have finished it off. Our kids are playing so hard right now, they’re fighting. We could have won all 3 of these games here, too, but unfortunately we finished on the south side of it.”

One bright spot in the game saw Casper Wells, who hasn’t had much playing time as of late, hit a 2-run homer in the 5th to put the Mariners in the lead. He was coming off an 0-16 slump, and drove a 3-2 changeup over the wall. Justin Smoak also finished the game with 2 hits and a run scored.

.Kevin Millwood’s record fell to 4-11 on the year, and his ERA is now 4.28. In the game he gave up 4 runs, 3 of them earned.

The Mariners are next in action against the Minnesota Twins for a 4-game series in Minneapolis. They will then come home to face the Angels, Red Sox, and Athletics.

About Arran Gimba