Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
June 17, 2008 11:11 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
An eight-game losing streak at home was ended tonight as the Mariners racked up 13 team strikeouts to defeat the Florida Marlins, 5-4. Seattle had not won a home game since May 31 against the Detroit Tigers, so this was an accomplishment.
I've already had plenty to say about what Felix Hernandez did tonight, fanning nine batters and gutting his way through to the eighth. Brandon Morrow struck out a pair in a 1-2-3 ninth inning. The M's needed this one. Not to win anything this year. To avoid a season of 110 or even 120 losses the way it was going.
Here's what Morrow, pictured above, had to say about Hernandez's outing.
"Just the way he was throwing strikes today was unbelievable,'' Morrow said. "I've never seen anything like that before.''
Morrow said Hernandez's ability to work into the eighth changed the bullpen's night for the better. It allowed Sean Green to face right handed Jorge Cantu, then Arthur Rhodes to work to lefty Mike Jacobs. Morrow was set to come on in that eighth and work to Dan Uggla. But he didn't have to because Green and Rhodes notched strikeouts to end the inning.
That freed Morrow for a textbook ninth.
"That's the way it should be,'' Morrow said. "When the average starter goes a strong seven, or 7 1/3, it makes it easier on us (relievers). We can go match-ups and do what we want to do.''
Mariners manager John McLaren hasn't had that luxury all that often this year. He was full of praise for Hernandez afterwards and would have left him in longer if the pitcher's calf hadn't started acting up. McLaren can envision the day, later this season, when he'll routinely turn Hernandez loose for 120 pitches and more the way "Roger Clemens type guys'' like to go.
But on this night, the 107 pitches was enough to set the bullpen up perfectly.
"It's huge,'' McLaren said of Hernandez getting beyond seven innings. "When you've got to spread the game out and go with the bullpen from the middle of the fifth on, a lot of things have to go right and a lot of things can go wrong.''
Hernandez told me he wasn't all that taxed, despite the 34-pitch sixth.
"They got some good hits, scored some runs,'' he said, shrugging. "But I've got to stay focused on the game.''
Hernandez tied a record in the fourth by using a minimum nine pitches to strike out the side. It's only the 13th time in AL history that's happened.
Know what else was huge tonight? Yuniesky Betancourt getting that bunt down in the fourth. It moved two runners up to second and third and both wound up scoring. Believe me, after what happened last Saturday, Betancourt was under pressure to get the bunt down. He did the job this time.
More Mariners have to follow that lead. Seattle nearly blew this game despite out-hitting the Marlins 13-6. They are still not capitalizing on all chances. With anyone but Hernandez out there tonight, they might have blown this one, too.
But he was out there.