Mariners Insider

Mariners 4, Angels 3 — first sweep of season completed just before break

Post by Todd Dybas / The News Tribune on July 14, 2013 at 6:27 pm with 12 Comments »
July 14, 2013 6:27 pm
Tom Wilhelmsen, right, picked up his 19th save Sunday. / AP photo, Elaine Thompson
Tom Wilhelmsen, right, picked up his 19th save Sunday. / AP photo, Elaine Thompson

Hair disheveled, side and knee wrapped in ice, Justin Smoak was sure of his answer when asked if the All-Star break was coming at a bad time for the Mariners.

“Not at all,” Smoak said.

It’s a fair question since the Mariners completed their first sweep of the season by beating the Anaheim Angels 4-3 on Sunday.

This recent homestand was a boon for Seattle bats. Seattle averaged 6.9 runs per game, a burgeoning figure for a franchise that has strained to find offense the last three years.

“A big win for us, especially going into the break,” manager Eric Wedge said. “It’s hard to win a series, it’s real hard to sweep. A lot of good things have happened here. Not just the last three days, the last two or three weeks. You can see where these guys are heading.”

Much of the first-half trouble for the Mariners has been a result of partial successes. The starting pitching would be good, but the offense struggled. The offense worked, then the bullpen flopped. Always a step forward, then a crowbar across the knees.

The sweep of Anaheim pieced together all facets. Rookies Brad Miller and Nick Franklin have added chutzpa to the top of the order. Raul Ibanez continues to clobber the baseball — he had an RBI double Sunday — and Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders have discovered grooves.

Kyle Seager has remained consistent, as represented by a fourth-inning single to left which pushed his hitting streak to 15 games.

Anaheim scored just six runs in the series. Hisashi Iwakuma (8-4) rebounded from five consecutive rocky starts to throw seven innings Sunday and allow three runs. He did, however, give up his 21st homer of the season. It’s a staggering number considering Iwakuma has allowed just 44 earned runs this year.

“(Sunday) overall I thought I had a better fastball, I had more life with my fastball,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “That said, I was able to make an adjustment. I know I gave up one home run but overall I think I had better command than I’ve had the last couple of starts.”

Iwakuma’s strong outing backed those by Joe Saunders and Felix Hernandez to start the series.

The bullpen was also better. Tom Wilhelmsen picked up save 19 with a 1-2-3 ninth Sunday. He appears to pushing his June demons, when he had a 10.97 ERA, back into the closet.

Michael Saunders’ two-run homer in the second pushed the club’s record streak of homering in consecutive games to 22. They wasted a chance in the fifth with runners on second and third and none out when they failed to score, but Ibanez’s double had pushed home a fourth run on the day, which was narrowly enough.

“One through nine, we’re doing our job,” Michael Saunders said. “Getting runners in from third base, getting runners over. The biggest thing that was lacking, I felt like, in the first half, we were taking our walks, getting in scoring position, but we were missing the two-out hits.”

He and Smoak are examples of that. Saunders hit .297 in July after a dismal first three months. Smoak was on base three times Sunday with a double, single and a walk. The single may have been his most impressive hit of the day. The switch-hitter stood in on the left side and flipped a single to left field after fighting back from a 1-2 count. He hit .386 in July.

Though, the reality is even a sweep only pushed the Mariners to nine games under .500 at 43-52. They have a long road to undo the expansive damage of a middling first half.

“We continue to play like this in the second half, we’re a team to watch out for,” Michael Saunders said.

Leave a comment Comments → 12
  1. wabubba67 says:

    21 home runs given up by Iwakuma and only 44 earned runs so far this season?? He’s a far cry from Jack Morris, but I remember Morris having similar numbers and a surprisingly high ERA throughout his career.

    Morris would conserve his number of pitches throughout the game by challenging hitters (especially when given a lead to work with) with “fat” fastballs. Is this also Iwakuma’s MO, too?

  2. Quinault says:

    We saw GMZ’s infield with a patchwork outfield. This is the future, with maybe a promotion / trade to be happening soon. I figure our best trading chip(s)is some of our pitching, but we will see.

    We need to get healthy, so the break is at the right time. Let the race to the wire begin!

  3. wabubba67 says:

    I still believe that we are sellers this year. We will likely not get much in return, but I would like to see the Mariners acquire young prospects (real prospects with promise) with power in the outfield. We are most definitely in the market for a CF and RF (assuming Ackley can begin to hit again and play LF).

    Ibanez has value, as do Perez (would not like to see him traded), Morales (if Z is convinced that Smoak is for real this time or if he will not be able to re-sign a Boras client), and to a lesser extent Ryan (a late game defensive replacement for a playoff team with a poor defensive SS…think Tigers).

    Would like to see us hold on to all of our young pitchers, with the possible exception of Paxton or Iwakuma (only if the offer is too good to resist).

  4. bbnate420 says:

    Don’t trade Morales. That tard Z won’t get better than the qualifying offer comp. He has yet to make a good trade. Maybe an even one. The Montero trade doesn’t look horrible right now because Pineda’s shoulder blew up.

  5. bbnate420 says:

    Sign Ellsbury. determine what you have from Ackley and Saunders the rest of 2013. Saunders is getting it together. I hope Ackley can work out in LF.

  6. Sign Jacoby Ellsbury? No one knows whether he’ll be getable as a free agent yet. The question for now is what to do before the trade deadline.

    Oliver Perez should have a lot of value in trade right now, and I can’t see him being part of the future plan. Trade him for an outfield or pitching prospect.

    Raul could have great value to some team. We love him, but if the value is right we need to say goodbye while his value is high.

    I’d love to trade Ackley for a bucket of gatorade but I don’t think anyone would make that trade.

    Those are the only high-profile trades I’d want to see. The Ms have plenty of $ to sign Morales long term next offseason, and I hope they don’t squander that opportunity by trading him now.

  7. wabubba67 says:

    Compensation for not trading Morales would be, I believe, I supplemental 1st round pick…I’m not thrilled with that option. Z has made a few good deal (the Putz trade, and then flipping three unwanted prospects that have yet to reach the majors for Lee, and then Lee for Smoak). Remember that Lee was not happy with being traded to the Mariners initially and would have been extremely unlikely to re-sign with the team.

    Z’s drafting and free agent salvages (Wilhemsen and Perez) have been well above average.

  8. Quinault says:

    Guti? Is he coming back? Or do we want him back? I doubt that his trade value is anything, but it would be nice to get some value out of his last playing days in Seattle. I seriously doubt that we would even venture to pick up next year’s option. Cruel assessment, but accurate.

    Morse? Boras client that hit well here, then dropped off the planet.

    Morales? Boras client worth more as a supplemental draft pick (seriously) in my book. Professional hitter but may be overvalued.

    Furbush is our only blue trading chip as a situational left hander out of the bullpen. Value high, sell.

    Oops, Perez maybe a blue trading chip as well. Bullpen guy with value.

    We have a lot of contracts up this year. I almost want to hear of extensions rather than trades at this point, but Ryan has got to go. We need to lock down Kyle Seager.

  9. Don’t look now, but while folks have been criticizing Jack Z, he built a starting infield for the future.

    Over the last 30 games, Seager (.324), Miller (.246), Franklin (.247), and Smoak (.333) together are batting:
    .285 avg
    16 HR
    50 RBI
    average age 24

    compare to As starting infield:
    .273 avg
    17 HR
    49 RBI
    average age 27.5

    compare to Rangers starting infield:
    .265 avg
    10 HR
    50 RBI
    average age 29.5

    So, its only the last 30 games, but these four players are really getting my spirits up about the future of this team.

  10. Quinault says:

    Add in Mike Zunino at age 22 [3/25/91] and that is the infield of the rest of the season.

  11. bbnate420 says:

    I exaggerated by saying that Z has made no good trades. The trade to get Lee was a good one. Far more bad than good IMO. I think he’s done a good job rebuilding the farm, but he’s had 5 years. They still suck. I think it’s time to move on barring a major turnaround in the last 67 games. It’s true that he’s hardly the biggest problem with the organization.

    I believe the compensation is more than a supplemental 1st rounder. They get the team’s 1st round pick that signs him, unless it’s in the top 10. Then it’s a supplemental 1st or 2nd I believe. More importantly, it hurts Morales’ value in the FA market. Teams are less likely to sign him. Look at LaRoche and Bourn from last off-season. The M’s have some leverage to get him to sign a reasonable long term deal. If not, you can bring Morse back top DH and play some 1st. And I still think Montero will be a hitter in the future.

    Stevos, it seems clear that Ellsbury is going to test FA. Do I know if he’ll be willing to sign here? No. I think they have to make a major play for him though. He’s from Oregon, so he may be more willing than the average UFA to sign here. I think they need to overpay a little if they have to to get it done. They need a CF and lead-off hitter with speed. He’s one of the best.

    The infield has a lot of promise, but they are still really young. Miller and Franklin have 58 combined games. Ackley looked good at first too. It’s way too early to be making any pronouncements about them. Smoak seems to be coming around. Seager is the only one I am confident about though.

    Guti is definitely gone, unless he wants to come back for a minimum contract maybe. The team has a 7.5 mil option on him in 2014 with a 500 K buyout. It seems obvious that they will buy it out.

  12. wabubba67 says:

    Watching the All-Star game…loved the dead-eyed, gunslinger look that Cliff Lee gave during introductions knowing that he was going to be booed by the NY Mets crowd. It was hilarious!

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