M’s sweep A’s, head for Houston with a thinner bullpen

The M’s head to Houston for a four game series against the Astros. Seattle’s sweep of Oakland, with today’s 9-8 weird win, gives the Mariners six straight series wins. It will be interesting to see what they can do at Minutemaid Park with a four game set.

King Felix was less than superlative today, allowing eight runs, four earned, over four innings.  That’s nine hits and one strikeout over 22 batters faced.  For those of us used to dominance by the King, this adds to concerns regarding the his health and his ability to continue performing at the elite level the Mariners need from him.

 

nelson-cruz-home-run
Cruz and Cano celebrate the Boomstick’s titanic blast into the second deck of the center-field bleachers at O.com stadium.

But the Mariners did blast sixteen hits off A’s pitching, including a mammoth home run from Nelson Cruz that traveled 446 ft into the second deck of the center field bleachers.  With three hits today,  Cruz continues to raise his batting average to a tidy .293, with five homers, and he seems ready to break out into a one man thunder and lightning storm in Houston. First baseman Dae-ho Lee put on his own light show in Oakland, with a pair of home runs, including the two-run game winner in the 7th inning. Honestly, Cruz, Lee and the rest of the Mariners marched through four innings of the Athletics bullpen like Sherman through Georgia, scoring five runs on nine hits and two walks.

The Mariners bullpen, with five innings to cover, allowed zero runs on two hits and a single walk.  Vidal Nuno, Mike Montgomery, Joel Peralta and Steve Cishek were excellent enough to hang on to the one run victory, after the team found itself in a pretty serious hole for most of the game. The bullpen continues to perform at a much higher level than I believed was possible as this team broke camp.

But yesterday’s news that right-hander Tony Zych was added to the 15-day disabled list is another in a long list of bad news that has followed the Mariners relief staff since spring training began.  Charlie Furbush, Ryan Cook and Evan Scribner began spring unavailable, and of those, only Furbush seems to be improving. Joaquin Benoit went down with shoulder inflammation and was eligible to come off the DL last week.  But he’s still there, despite suggestions he is improving. The Mariners called up Mayckol Guaipe to replace Benoit and Steve Johnson to replace Zych.  They’ve appeared in low leverage situations and performed fine.

As the Mariners rotation continues to perform well-6, 7, 8, 9 inning performances-it protects the bullpen, preventing exposure to repeated lengthy outings.  Hopefully today’s Felix fiasco is a one-off performance.  Every bullpen, no matter how good, is subject to occasional failure.  Despite its continued excellent performance in the deep end of the pool, bullpen health is a must for this group.  It would be nice to start seeing Benoit, Furbush, Zych and others returning to the bullpen with lunch buckets firmly in hand.

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