Wake up Mariners fans, and look at the standing in your morning paper, or on ESPN MLB as I’m doing, and you will find your Seattle Mariners in second place in AL West. The also hold on to that all important second AL Wild Card spot. Given the travails of the last week, it seems miraculous.
But as many travails as the Mariners are having, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are having even more. They’ve won four of their last eleven games, and have suffered a raft of pitching injuries. The Angels bitten by the injury bug include starter Matt Shoemaker on the DL, and starter J.C. Ramirez and closer Kenyan Middleton have had or are having Tommy John surgery. This may be the daylight the M’s need to surge past the Halos.
Felix Hernandez started Friday night’s game against the Tigers at Safeco Field. The Tiggers ran out Michael Fulmer, their best starter, though the M’s more or less mugged him on May 12th. It didn’t start out well as the King bequeathed the visitors three runs in fairly ugly fashion in the first inning. In a team effort, the M’s gifted Detroit a fourth run, unearned in the fifth inning. Felix lasted through six, and if his performance wasn’t inspiring, it is the six inning three run performance we’ve come to expect.
Meanwhile the M’s offense flailed haplessly away at Fulmer’s stuff. They managed only two hits and a hit batter heading into the 7th inning. But after Fulmer walked Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager to begin the inning, the M’s found a little spark. A Ryon Healy groundout, followed by a Ben Gamel single scored two. Walks to Mike Zunino and Guillermo Heredia loaded the bases in time for a Dee Gordon sacrifice fly. A Jean Segura single and a Mitch Haniger double later, and bingo M’s lead 5-4.
Whattaya waiting for?
To start the eighth manager Scott Servais wheeled out the much bunged up Juan Nicasio, who has looked anything but the set-up guy he was paid a great deal of money to be. Though he didn’t strike any Tigers out, he did retire the side on a somewhat improved slider and a fastball that reached 96. He was followed by Edwin Diaz in the ninth and he promptly allowed a single to James McCann. To keep it short, Diaz struck out the Mikie Mahtook (what a great baseball name) to end the game.
A Few Quick Observations
It’s hard to know if this was the most important game of the year. Is that possible in May? But the past few days, despite the comeback win on Tuesday, this team seemed adrift. Dee Gordon, in his interview with Jen Mueller post-game, suggested they were in the dumps. But believe it or not, your Seattle Mariners are in this thing, and they have to just win baby.
A corollary to just winning is just scoring. They were doing nothing against Fulmer and somehow ground things out until they could handle him in the seventh as well as the legion of bad relievers that followed him. There is energy and excitement on this team I haven’t seen before, maybe ever. Toss out the quiet professional model, and let Guillermo Heredia run through the crowd like Rick Flair. Let Edwin Diaz pump his arms on a punch-out. It’s good for baseball and it’s good for this team and this town.
The Felix Hernandez boo birds were out in force last night. His final line was: 6.0 IP; 6 H; 4 R; 3 ER; 3 BB; 4K His cumulative stats aren’t pretty either with a 5.53 ERA, 5.35 FIP and 1.428 WHIP, the worst of his career. He is not the $28 million dollar man the M’s thought they were getting when they signed him to his current contract. But here is what he is today. He’s tied for the league lead in starts with 10. Of those starts, the Mariners won seven. Felix has thrown 55.1 innings through mid-May. Last year he threw a total of 86.2 innings. This is the Felix we have. He’s taking the ball every fifth day and giving you about six innings. If three runs in six innings is the price of his start, it’s up to the offense to pay it. If you were expecting him to be Justin Verlander or Chris Sale, I’m terribly sorry. Will he be better, probably not, but he’s not nothin’. Check out Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb or Yu Darvish if you need some consolation. You remember them. They got the big free agent contracts heading in to spring training. They suck.
The final codicil to scoring is holding on to a lead and the M’s did that last night. Whatever adjustments Nicasio made really worked. His velocity was up and even though balls were hit hard, they were outs. A great step going forward. The M’s need an effective Juan Nicasio to hang on to their spot.
Tee it up again tonight boys. Go M’s