September 25, 2013 at 10:39 PM
Back in the first half of last season, it was tough to imagine Hisashi Iwakuma having a year like this one. But with Felix Hernandez pretty much down for the count this final month, Iwakuma stepped his game up a notch even from the stellar first five months of the season. As a result, he ends his year with a 23-inning scoreless stretch to go with a 14-6 record, 2.66 earned run average and 219 2/3 innings pitched.
That latter stat — the innings total — seems astounding given the quality that went along with it. Especially given all the early struggles he had with between-outings fatigue last year as he returned from shoulder troubles in 2011 and adjusted to a new life and game in the United States.
But Iwakuma committed himself to building up strength and endurance this past winter and it showed all year, cluminating with another eight scoreless innings tonight in a 6-0 win over the Kansas City Royals. Mike Zunino hit a pair of mammoth homers in addition to catching Iwakuma through his final stint of the season, while Michael Saunders also went deep.
“First and foremost, like I said in spring training, one of my goals was to stay healthy through the long course of the season and stay in the rotation for a long time during the season,” Iwakuma said, through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “I accomplished that goal with 200-plus innings, so I’m very happy with that.”
So are the Mariners. Some of the advanced value statistics like FanGraphs WAR (Wins Above Replacement) still have Hernandez ahead of Iwakuma when it comes to overall worth this season. But that’s largely due to that stat’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) component and its heavy reliance on strikeout totals.
Baseball Reference WAR has a runs-allowed component to its WAR measurement and lists Iwakuma as one of the top-three pitchers in baseball.
It’s tough to declare Hernandez as Seattle’s top pitcher of 2013 when he barely pitched the final month. Making it through an entire year carries huge weight with teams and the players who ply their trade on them, and in that regard, you’ll privately find little dissent among the Mariners as to who the team’s best pitcher was this time around.
Iwakuma says he doesn’t really know why he got stronger as September rolled along — piling up season high eight-inning outings in back-to-back starts. He does know that he found better upper-and-lower-body balance towards the latter part of the season and it caused less stress on his shoulder and elbow.
August 29, 2013 at 9:33 PM
We’re well past the point of caring too much about a one-run victory over the Houston Astros, other than the fact it halts a six-game Mariners losing streak. Beating the Astros, now 44-89 on the year, is hardly a big deal to most teams. Even the Mariners, who won their 60th tonight to jump to 60-73.
But the fact there was hardly anybody at the ballpark — the laughable 22,203 “paid” figure notwithstanding — shows just how little interest there is in the Astros right now, or in this series between teams with the two worst run differentials in the AL.
Still, we did see some other items that could rate as interesting if they are followed up with a degree of consistency.
August 23, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Felix Hernandez made only one pitch that really cost him and it wasn’t even all that terrible. Hernandez threw a changeup to Chris Nelson that was mostly low and on the outer part of home plate in the second inning. But not low enough .
Nelson drilled the ball over the left field wall for a two-run homer and the 21,616 fans at Safeco Field could have left early at that point because no more scoring would take place. The Mariners lose it 2-0 to the Los Angeles Angels on a night Eric Wedge made his managerial return from a stroke.
“It was a little disappointing,” Hernandez said. “I was trying to win this one for him.”
And though he didn’t do it, it wasn’t from a lack of trying. The Angels managed just three hits off Hernandez in his six innings and at 104 pitches, he was ready to go seven. If that happens, everybody is talking about what a dominant performance it was, because he had 10 strikeouts and really limited the damage enough to win with any kind of offense.
But Wedge didn’t want to push Hernandez that far, this late in the season.
“We thought about it briefly,” Wedge said. “But where we are in the season, if I send him out there, I’m going to want him to go out there and finish his own inning. Now, you’re talking about throwing 120, 120-plus pitches in seven innings. It’s a different story in seven innings than it is in nine innings. It’s a different story when you’re down 2-0 versus being up 2-0, too.”
Wedge said being back in the dugout took him a while to get used to.
“Early on, it did,” he said. “But as the game wore on, I felt more and more comfortable. And then, by the end of the game, I felt like I was right there. I wasn’t sure how my energy was going to be, but my energy was right there. The focus was good. We just didn’t have a hell of a lot of action tonight.”(more…)
August 20, 2013 at 11:29 PM
This was just the third win all season by the Mariners in a game they’ve trailed after seven innings. They’ve lost another 50 of those, so you kind of sense how the season has gone. Throw in the 10 walkoff losses and it’s usually the Mariners bullpen hanging its head after these types of games.
But not tonight.
That’s because tonight, the Mariners scored five runs in the eighth and won 7-4 in a game they’d trailed all night and had only managed two hits in before the frame began.
But one of those hits was a two-run homer by Nick Franklin off Sonny Gray and wow, did it matter. That’s because winning a game you trail 4-2 in the eighth seems a little more doable than one in which it’s 4-0. Puts more pressure on the opposing bullpen as well and pressure is all the Mariners kept sending the A’s relievers’ way.
Sean Doolittle simply could not get anyone out, including Franklin, who drilled a game-tying single off him to spoil Gray’s quest for his second career win.
“The pressure is on him,” Franklin said of Doolittle, who’d already given up three straight hits and a run to start the inning. “I was just looking for a good pitch to hit. More than anything, just fighting my way to just put the ball in-play somehow and some way. With the pressure that was on him, if they make a mistake, it’s a different ballgame.”
Ryan Cook came in after that and couldn’t stop the bleeding. He uncorked a wild pitch to bring in the go-ahead run, then saw Franklin score on a grounder to second baseman Alberto Callaspo, who tried to nab the runner at home on a bang-bang play.
Franklin jabbed his right foot in ahead of the tag, while his left leg got spiked by catcher Derek Norris on the knee. Trainers helped Franklin off the field and he was given five stitches to close the laceration. The injury should keep him out the next four to five days until the stitches can heal.
Norris was also hurt, having fractured his big left toe. He’ll probably need to go on the DL.
Despite the wound, it was still a great night for Franklin as he battles back from a terrible hitting slump that had seen him not go deep in more than three weeks. Franklin’s homer came on a high changeup by Gray, a big victory of sorts for Franklin, who has struggled with changeups throughout his slump.
“I wasn’t really expecting anything, I was just trying to go back with my same approach,’’ Franklin said. “I really worked hard on it today in BP and everything.’’
August 18, 2013 at 4:54 PM
This was one of those matchups that, on paper, really shouldn’t have been that close. You had Cy Young Award contender Yu Darvish, who has been striking out guys left and right of late, taking on “Mr. Five Innings” Erasmo Ramirez and a Mariners lineup not exactly stacked with big bat threats.
But the Mariners kept poking away at the Rangers, who also allowed Seattle to hang around by making some defensive gaffes as well as offensive ones on the bases. The result was, the Mariners were still alive and kicking by the eighth and ninth innings, scoring in each of those — including the decisive marker on a Kyle Seager double to right.
The Seager at-bat was typical of his team’s approach as a whole on this day. He was down 0-2 early on, but kept staying alive and eventually prevailed.
“When you get down 0-2 against a guy like him, you pretty much just have to calm down,’’ Seager said of Darvish. “You can’t let his good stuff and everything get you over-excited. That’s what he kind of feasts on. You’ve just got to stay calm, stay with you approach and look for a pitch you can hit.’’
August 16, 2013 at 8:06 PM
The Mariners had just two hits before the eighth inning, but made their next two count big-time as Kyle Seager hit a two-run homer in the eighth and then Justin Smoak added a solo shot in the ninth.
Danny Farquhar came on in the ninth and closed out a 3-1 win over the Texas Rangers.
Hisahi Iwakuma tossed seven innings of one-run, four-hit ball, striking out eight for the victory. A well-deserved one, too.
We spoke about the 0-for-21 slump that Seager had been in before the homer off Neal Cotts. The best part of that slump? Nobody really knew it was happening.
After all, Seager still had some of the team’s best offensive numbers in terms of OPS. His manager, Robby Thompson, had no idea the slump was that bad. Neither did Seager.
“I didn’t know until the postgame interview (on television) that it was 0-for-21, so that was good to hear,’’ Seager said. “It was one of those things where I kind of realized that I hadn’t gotten a hit in a while and it’s just one of those things that you go through. You go through the ups and downs and sometimes you can take bad swings and get hits and other times you’ll feel good and not get hits.
“For me, in this case, the past couple of days I’ve started to feel a little bit better.’’
August 4, 2013 at 2:56 PM
Joe Saunders is now 7-0 lifetime versus the Baltimore Orioles and 4-0 when facing his former team here at Camden Yards. Saunders had to work for it today, but he stranded eight runners the first five innings and then got a two-run homer from Henry Blanco in the seventh to record a 3-2 win.
Saunders had thrown his 115th and final pitch in the bottom of the sixth and was down 2-1 when Blanco hit one out to left field. It’s the first non grand slam for Blanco, 41, this season, but he’ll take it.
July 30, 2013 at 8:29 PM
We’ve been told the Mariners might not be doing much by tomorrow’s trade deadline. At this point, any players hoping to win a bunch of games had best hope the team doesn’t do anything major and start moving major pieces for future returns, judging by how things went tonight.
Right now, this offense has scored two runs or fewer in three of the past four games, four of the past six and five of the past eight. Oh yeah, and 10 games ago they scored four runs despite having only one hit. So, we’re detecting a bit of an offensive slowdown. Imagine what might happen if you pull a Kendrys Morales or Raul Ibanez from that equation via trade.
The Mariners tonight looked like teams of years past, booting the ball around early and then vanishing offensively the rest of the way. They wound up losing 8-2 to the Boston Red Sox and Joe Saunders wasn’t very happy afterwards.
“I was throwing good pitches,’’ Saunders said. “I wasn’t getting much help. It was just a tough night.’’
Saunders was asked whether by “help” he meant the umpire. He said it wasn’t the ump.
“Just in general,’’ he said.
Saunders later added that he didn’t want to elaborate further.
“I’ll just get myself in trouble,’’ he said. “It was just a tough night for us. We didn’t get the breaks. They got some breaks. It was just one of those nights.’’
He didn’t mention names, but the big breaks that went against the Mariners in a 29-pitch first inning by Saunders were two misplayed grounders by shortstop Brad Miller. The first was simply a flub of a routine grounder. The second was a slow roller with the equally slow Jarrod Saltalamacchia running up the line that Miller tried to barehand. The ball bounced away.
Throw in a passed ball by catcher Henry Blanco and it wasn’t a stellar defensive inning by the Mariners and a big reason Saunders was done after throwing 99 pitches in five innings.
Mariners interim manager Robby Thompson said Miller did not need to barehand the ball. Miller agreed he should have used his glove.
“I should have gloved it for sure,’’ Miller said. “With Saltalamacchia running, I was playing pretty deep. It was a bad decision. I should have gloved it. If he beats it out, he beats it out.’’
July 26, 2013 at 11:55 PM
This was a tough one to lose for a Mariners team that, with all of its strong play of late, remains five games under .500 with a tough road trip looming next week to Boston and Baltimore. In other words, it can’t afford to blow games to teams like the Minnesota Twins when they have a one-run lead and Felix Hernandez on the mound with one out to go.
Hernandez was exceptional tonight, but his hitters, unfortunately, were not. They gave him just a lone run of support for the 92nd time in his career. And it was nearly enough until that tying single in the ninth by Trevor Plouffe on a changeup that Hernandez said he left “just a little bit up.”
After that, the non-hits continued in the clutch for the Mariners and Chris Colabello finally snapped a 1-1 tie in the top of the 13th with his first career homer, a two-run blast off Yoervis Medina. It was the first home run Medina has given up in the big leagues and wound up the difference in this 3-2 loss.
The Mariners made it interesting with the Kendrys Morales homer in the bottom of the 13th and a Kyle Seager single with nobody out still. But then Justin Smoak hit into a doule play — again, the lack of clutch hitting — and the game ended soon after.
For all the good the Mariners have done hitting-wise this month, this was the third time in five games they’ve scored two runs or fewer. They also had that crazy win in Houston where they scored four runs with help from just one hit all night. So, that’s four games in a week that have seen the offense really struggle and many of those contests featured lefthand pitchers holding them in-check.
July 23, 2013 at 11:23 PM
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Win or lose tomorrow, the good folks at Sports Radio KJR want to have another edition of The Geoff Baker Show after the game so we can discuss the important weekend series ahead as the Mariners try to close in on the .500 mark. The fun starts at 6:30 p.m. PT and runs for 90 minutes, with me taking you calls. Hope you can join us.
Not often will you see a double-play like the one the Mariners turned tonight get pulled off in such a key situation. The Cleveland Indians had runners at the corners with noody out in the ninth and looked primed to make Tom Wilhelmsen the goat once again.
But then, Yan Gomes hit a slow chopper that Kyle Seager fielded to begin a 5-4-2-6 double-play. Yep, you got that right.
The twin-killing left a lone runner at first base and Wilhelmsen struck out Michael Bourn to end a 4-3 thriller in the Mariners’ favor. I spelled it all out for you in earlier blog posts today: by getting through this Erasmo Ramirez start, the Mariners have positioned themselves to go on one of those season-changing runs.
They will try for a sweep with Joe Saunders pitching tomorrow, then have Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez starting off the first two of four games against the Minnesota Twins — a team that is 20-30 on the road. Could the Mariners go 5-0 and run this streak to 13 games? Sure, but they don’t have to. They could very easily go 4-1 or even 3-2.
That would put them on a stretch of having gone 12-1 or 11-2 over the same 13-game stretch since this streak began. It would leave them anywhere from one-to-three-games under .500 heading off to Boston two days before the July 31 trade deadline. That is the kind of run that can change a season. Right now, the Mariners are playing with confidence and it showed on that doule-play in the ninth.
Sure, they got lucky tonight. Three Cleveland errors and a timely wild-pitch uncorked by Zach McAllister really helped the Mariners’ offense. But every streak needs some luck. That double-play needed some luck given Seattle by pinch-runner Drew Stubbs, who never should have strayed that far off third base. But do you know what? When teams get hot, they catch breaks as well.
“Things like that happened with Cleveland and for Cleveland in Cleveland,’’ Mariners interim manager Robby Thompson said of that May series in which Seattle lost four straight en route to an eight-game losing streak only now offset y this winning jaunt. “They seem to be kind of going our way now. If you remember, Cleveland had a nice little winning streak going at the time and…things just kind of snowball and go your way. And they seem to be going our way a little bit.”