Not often you see a team so upbeat after a 3-6 road trip, but this stretch of games could have ended far, far worse for Seattle.
Today’s 4-1 win over Jered Weaver and the Los Angeles Angels not only gave the M’s a series clinch. But it also sent the Angels scampering behind closed doors for a team meeting that lasted several long minutes after this one was over.
What had to be concerning for the Angels — a team playing menaingful games in a playoff race right now — is the way the Mariners were allowed to take over the series in a 24-hour stretch. This time yesterday, the M’s were facing the prospect of getting swept their final two games with no Felix Hernandez to save them and of possibly going 1-8.
Wow, how a couple of games really can change perspectives. Now, we’ve seen this before from the Mariners. There’s a reason they are 10 games under .500 and it begins and ends with inconsistent play leaning more towards the negative than the positive.
Make no mistake, though. These last two wins were well-earned and will allow the M’s to contemplate what could have been with a few more breaks here and there.
“It was a great couple of wins,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “It was a tough road trip, a weird road trip. We had different types of games, different types of losses.”
Today, they were full value as Jason Vargas turned in 8 1/3 quality innings, while Jesus Montero got all of Jered Weaver with two homers.
Weaver had won his last nine starts, one shy of Chuck Finley’s team record in 1997. This was his first home loss since last season and his first defeat of any kind in three months.
But unlike his previous three starts against Seattle, in which he went nine innings each time, the Mariners ran his pitch count up enough to get him out after seven.
“We made him work, that was the key,” Wedge said. “We didn’t do much with regard to hits — except for Jesus — but we did make him work.”
Montero caught a break when Mike Trout, who’s made a habit of robbing guys of home runs — including Miguel Olivo last night — couldn’t make a leaping snare of his second inning blast to center.
“I was scared,” Montero said. “I was like, ‘Hey, don’t do that to me!’ ”
But on his second, game-changing blast in the sixth, he simply focused on the middle of the field and caught a Weaver change-up that hung a little too long.
“I just try to react to the ball,” Montero said. “I try to be quick and put a good swing on the ball. He’s not throwing as hard as last year, but he’s trying to take the middle all the time. He’s got good stuff. A slider, changeup and all that.
“On the second home run, I found the change-up over the middle, hanging and I got the home run.”
Jason Vargas handcuffed the Angels all day with a changeup he’d throw for early strikes. Vargas had given up 20 homers by June 20 in Arizona and since then has yielded only six — including just one in his last five outings. I asked him what the biggest difference is.
“I think it’s just being in the strike zone earlier and not letting them get into multiple counts where they can put big swings on the ball,” Vargas said. “So, for me, it’s just getting ahead of them early.”
Chone Figgins helped the cause with a triple in the ninth to bring in that fourth run. That was two hits today by Figgins coming off the bench.
I asked him whether it’s a challenge to do that given how little he’s played the past three months.
“I can hit man,” Figgins said. “I don’t care what nobody says. I can hit and I can play. That’s all I need to see. To keep proving that to myself. No matter how bad it’s going. Keep working hard and keep playing.”
Figgins also snared a screaming liner to start the bottom of the ninth.
“I barely even saw it,” he said.
Mike Carp will get his hip re-evaluated tomorrow. Carp said he “felt something pop” in the side of the hip when he stretched for that fifth inning throw. It’s still sore, so we’ll see what happens next. I’d suspect he’s out for at least a few days.
Now, we’ll see whether the Mariners can sustain this a little longer. Not necessarily the wins, but the level of play. They turned it up a decisive notch the final two games here.