That title came off snarkier than I intended. Love you, Felix! Glad to have you back!
No, it wasn’t the greatest return for our ace. 10 hits, 5 runs, only 2 strikeouts. But, he made it a couple outs into the 7th inning and kept the team SORT OF in the game. The M’s were down 5-2 at the time, and the offense has certainly been scuffling lately, but I still like what we’ve got, and I figured we’d bust out of the slump at some point!
As it turned out, the return of Mike Zunino paid immediate dividends, as he hit a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 7th to get the game back to within a single run. Zunino has been an absolute revelation so far in 2016! Obviously – OBVIOUSLY – we’re talking about a sample size of three games. The embattled catcher has always had power for days, so it’s too soon to tell if his approach has really changed from years past. But, you know, it beats the alternative of him returning to the Bigs and posting nothing but goose eggs like he was doing for most of last year. At the very least, it’s encouraging.
It’s also encouraging to see he’s going to get more of a time-share with Chris Iannetta the rest of the way (assuming, of course, he rises to the challenge). Iannetta is still under contract through next year, so we could be seeing a lot of this pairing the next year and a half, but as I’ve said all along, we’re going to learn a lot about Zunino’s future in this organization in the final two months of this season. At the very least, spelling Iannetta from playing every single day should work wonders for everyone involved.
As the game headed into the 8th inning, word was coming down on Twitter of the Mike Montgomery trade to the Cubs. I’ll have my thoughts on that in a separate post, but as it turned out, the Mariners received a left-handed (batting) first baseman/designated hitter from the Cubs’ AAA squad by the name of Dan Vogelbach. The kid looks poised to break into the Majors (he was blocked by a quality first baseman on the Cubs, and the NL obviously doesn’t have the DH), so it’s not TOTALLY a story of the Mariners giving up on 2016. It looks more like a move you have to look at in the Bigger Picture sense.
For instance: don’t the Mariners already HAVE a left-handed (batting) first baseman/designated hitter on the 25-man roster in Adam Lind? Sure seems like his days with the organization are numbered. He’s already on a deal that will expire after this year, and you’re not going to keep him and trade Dae-ho Lee, who’s right-handed. Ergo, one would think Lind is on the trading block as we speak …
AND WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT! Just as the trade was going down and people like me were putting 2 and 2 together, Adam Lind was at it again with the late-game heroics! A solo, opposite-field 8th inning blast to tie the game at 5-5!
He may be a goner, but he’s going to go down blasting. If and when the Mariners send him packing, I don’t know how I’ll feel, but I’ll say it yet again: I think Lind is going to have a monster second half to this season. For what lucky team? That’s to be determined.
Behind some awesome bullpen work – Wilhelmsen finished off the 7th for Felix, Diaz struck out the side AGAIN in the 8th, Cishek made it through a couple of scoreless innings against all odds, Nuno worked a perfect 11th – the Mariners kept themselves in a position to steal a second victory in this series in the final at bat. In this case, it was the guy who started it all off.
Leonys Martin chipped away at an early 4-run deficit with a 2-run bomb in the 2nd inning. To prove his power surge this year is no fluke, Martin was able to get ahold of another one, a solo shot in the bottom of the 11th to win it.
The 6th walk-off home run this season to tie a franchise record, the 2nd walk-off home run from Martin to pull even with Lind, who also has two. That’ll get the ol’ juices flowing!
I would like to point out that Aoki got the start today, and led off the game. He didn’t do a ton, but he got a hit and a walk and saw 27 pitches in his plate appearances. When you compare that kind of veteran presence to the O’Malleys and Robertsons of the world, it’s nice to have that stability. He figures to get a lot of play, mostly against righties, and I’m okay with that.
After a lot of turmoil on this roster the last couple months – and not just in the pitching staff – with Aoki back, and when Marte returns from this illness he’s suffering from, with Martin’s injury seemingly in the rearview as he gets his timing back at the plate, I think we’re going to see a real return to form out of our hitters going forward. Now, whether or not the pitching staff will return to form with Felix back, is another matter entirely.
At this point, we might have to hope for the hitters to start mashing and averaging 6-7 runs per game if we want to get back into contention. That, and see what sort of pitching help we can get with a Lind trade.