A year ago at this time, if you would have told me the 2009 Mariners were going to win 81 games, I’d have asked you to submit a urine sample for drug testing. Going into game 158, the 2008 Mariners were 58-99, and my record when covering the team was like 27-72. It just didn’t seem like there could be enough changes made to the roster, to the leadership, to the organization to turn it around that fast.
Well, I stand corrected. With the 6-4 win over the A’s, the Mariners assured themselves that they won’t finish with a losing record. And they have five games to win at least one to finish with a winning record.
“The biggest thing for us is that we went through a lot with injuries this year,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said, mentioning injuries to Russell Branyan, Sean White and Erik Bedard. “To be sitting here at 81 wins is a stepping stone, it’s nowhere near what we want to do here, but through the circumstances, I’m awfully proud of these guys.”
They became the 13th team in the modern era to play .500 or better baseball the season after losing 100 games
Felix Hernandez was stuck in last year’s stink fest and grinned at the difference this year.
“It means a lot,” Hernandez said. “We lost 101 games last year. To win 81 games this year, it’s pretty good for this team. It feels way different in the clubhouse and on the field.”
How did the Mariners do it? Well through a lot of different factors that have been discussed ad nauseum.
But Hernandez’s leap from phenom to ace is a major factor. We can now officially stop using the word “potential” and just call him superstar Felix Hernandez.
Felix worked 7 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on 7 hits, he walked 4, struck out 4, hit 2 batters, tossed 2 wild pitches and may or may not have hit the Moose during warm-ups — I know I didn’t see the Moose out roaming around.
He was all over the place in the first few innings, and at the rate he was throwing pitches, I thought he would be at 100 by the fourth inning. But it was according to Felix that he was too rested.
“It happens every time we have a day off before I pitch,” Hernandez said. “I feel too strong.”
Well, okay, then.
Yet, with his pitch count rising like a Miguel Batista relief appearance, Hernandez shook off sloppy innings in the second, third and fourth and came back with a 1-2-3 inning in the fifth. A little reprieve.
And his team rewarded him in the bottom half of the inning, putting up a five spot - with the big hit being a three-run homer from Ken Griffey Jr. He crushed the first pitch of the at-bat against Trevor Cahill – a 90 mph fastball – deep into the right field stands.
“It’s always majestic,” Wakamatsu said of Junior’s home run. “Cahill’s an awfully tough young kid. Junior steps in there and takes that swing. He doesn’t show age with that swing. It’s a beautiful swing.”
I mentioned this on the game post and on twitter, but I was thinking maybe the Mariners fans should have wanted the curtain call from Junior. Nobody really knows what he’s going to do next year and if this is his last week in a Mariners uniform, should the fans savor it every chance they get?
Staked to a lead, Felix worked solid innings in the sixth and seventh, but he got into trouble in the eighth allowing another run and eventually being forced to leave with the bases loaded. Mark Lowe came in and struck out Cliff Pennington to end the inning.
The two runs allowed actually lowered Felix’s ERA from 2.49 to 2.48.
Here’s a few other Felix notes from the Mariners …
- Felix Hernandez became just the 6th Mariner (9x) to record 18 wins in a season…is the most wins by a Mariners starter since Jamie Moyer won 21 in 2003…extended his club record for quality starts to 28 (Floyd Bannister, 2nd with 25) and has a quality start in 23 of last 24 starts…has lasted 7.0 innings or more in 7 consecutive starts and has not lost in over a month…since Aug. 28 is 6-0 with a 1.68 ERA (10 ER, 53.2 IP) with 16 walks and 38 strikeouts…during this stretch his ERA is the lowest in the Majors.
- Hernandez threw 120 pitches, tying his career-high for pitches thrown in a game (also: 7/27/07 vs. OAK)…has thrown at least 100 pitches in 26 consecutive starts and 29 of his 33 starts this season.
- Hernandez struck out 4 batters, surpassing Floyd Bannister (209) and tying Erik Hanson (211) for 10th on the Mariners all-time list for single season strikeouts.
BOX SCOREHow about a few more notes …
- Jose Lopez currently has an 8-game hitting streak (.333/11×33)…he has also hit safely in 19 of his 22 games (.312/29×93).
- Josh Wilson doubled and scored the go-ahead run in the 5th…recorded his 7th multi-hit game of the season and has hit safely in 4 of his last 6 games (.316/6×19).
- Adrian Beltre went 2×4 with a double and has hit safely in 6 of his last 8 games (.276/8×29)…after batting just .200 in first 40 G, has batted .297 (80×269) over his last 66 G (since 5/21).