I was out of town for five days and missed most of the Mariners trade deadline shenannigans and was only able to follow the M’s-Twins series by mlb.com push notices. Even so it was great to see the M’s playing even steven with a team fighting for a Wild Card spot on the road.
They cruised in to Denver Monday night to take on the hapless Rockies. Monday’s 8-7 win was a bit of a struggle as Felix Hernandez and the bullpen gave up 18 hits, demonstrating the Colorado crew can definitely hit the ball and score some runs. There was also a thwarted bullpen coup as Tom Wilhelmsen, Rob Rasmussen and Carson Smith conspired to allow seven hits and three runs over the final two innings to put a game that should have been over easy peasy in jeopardy.
That makes last night’s 10-4 demolition of various Rocky pitchers all that more impressive. Vidal Nuno made his first start for the Mariners. Coors Field is a place where pitchers have to check their ego, and Tuesday was no exception. Though Nuno seemed to have the situation in hand for his limited outing, the reliever cum starter gave up five hits and three runs over 3.2 innings. Hopefully he’ll have the chance to try again in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.
Ultimately it was the hitters, as usual, who controlled the show in Denver’s mile-high air. From Charlie Blackmon’s lead off homer in the bottom of the first to Robinson Cano’s two run single in the top of the eighth, the two teams combined for 23 hits, seven walks and a couple of Rockies errors. Add a Nelson Cruz solo homer in the 7th inning and it was a pretty entertaining game if you like offense.
But the Mariners bullpen put in one of those rare moments of yeoman service. Rassmussen, picked up Friday in the Mark Lowe trade with Toronto, redeemed his Monday struggles, throwing 1.1 perfect innings to pick up his first major league win. He was followed by Mayckol Guaipe, Joe Beimel and a resurgent Fernando Rodney to close things out. Only Guaipe struggled to allow four hits and a run in his 1.1 innings of work.
This makes three wins in a row for the Mariners for the first time since May 25-27th. Are the M’s streaking toward contention? Hardly, they’re still eight games below .500. They are only six games back in the Wild Card race, but there are still seven teams ahead of them in the pile for the last playoff spot, and they are virtually tied with Cleveland.
Does Nelson Cruz see Griffey in his headlights?
Nelson Cruz demonstrated his ability to get hot early in the season and virtually carry a team. He’s riding a 15-game hit streak and is batting .323 with 31 home runs. He’s also homered in his last five consecutive games. With Ken Griffey, Jr.’s major league record eight consecutive games in 1993 (Junior shares this record with Yankees slugger Don Mattingly, and Pirates first baseman Dale Long.) Is Nelson Cruz thinking about it? Who knows. Is he capable of breaking it? When the man gets hot . . .
Fernando Rodney’s return to closer?
I have personally witnessed several of Fernando Rodney’s meltdowns and don’t find them at all amusing. Still it’s hard to argue with results. Since Toronto left a note on the front desk simply stating “Rodney’s tipping his pitches” on the front desk when they left Seattle on July 26th, the reliever has tinkered with his delivery and is nearly perfect in his last five appearances. Rodney allowed 0 hits and one walk over 5.1 innings and struck out seven. With Carson Smith struggling, allowing six runs in his last five appearances, it may be time for the Fernando Rodney Traveling Circus and Archery Fest to take another turn in the closer’s role.