Mariners Swept Reds, Maintain First Place

Friday’s game looked like a distressing start to the season.  Iwakuma was once again just okay, in giving up 3 runs over 6 innings.  The Reds were up 3-1 by the time we got to their bullpen, at which point everything changed.

Last year, the Mariners had a pretty awful bullpen.  But, this year’s Reds team might have the worst-ever!  Save the numbers for some Reds blogger, but I’ll say they really saved our bacon on this night.

In the final three innings on Friday, we managed to turn a 3-1 deficit into an 8-3 victory.  Dae-ho Lee was the big hero, with a pinch-hit 2-run single in the 7th to give us the lead; he’d follow that up with a solo homer in the 9th, as a little icing on that cake.  Cruz also had a homer, Seager had a double, and Martin had a nice day where he got on base all four times.

Saturday’s game was a 4-0 victory for Felix Hernandez, but wasn’t nearly as dominating as the score suggests.  Felix once again had awesome stuff, moving all around the plate, and was able to go 6 innings of 4-hit ball, but he did walk 3 batters, and had a couple of scary bases-loaded situations in the 3rd & 5th innings.  Fortunately, Joey Votto has been having just a horrific season, and was the final out both times.

Martin had another fantastic game, with a homer and a couple walks.  But, it was Guti who broke the game wide open with a 3-run blast in the 4th inning.  It was an upper deck shot (official distances vary) and easily the longest home run for the Mariners this season (and likely one of the top 5 in all of baseball).

Sunday’s game, once again, felt like a real cold fish.  I feel bad automatically assuming the worst out of every Wade Miley start, but to his credit he didn’t do a whole lot to elicit any confidence out of me.  In the first inning alone, he gave up three hard hits and hit a batter, en route to putting us in a 3-0 hole.  As is his way, he quickly settled down after that, ending up with a so-so line of 6 innings and 4 earned runs, with 6 strikeouts against 1 walk.

The Mariners managed to chip away against their starter, getting 2 back in the 3rd, and the other 3 in the 5th.  Martin had the series to end all series, finishing the weekend 4 of 5 on Sunday.  He’s lifted his average from .182 on May 2nd, to .252 today.  That’s big.  He’s shown vastly unusual power numbers – compared to the rest of his career – with 8 homers so far, while his career high in ANY season has been 8, (and with 20 homers TOTAL through his career before this season), but if he can get his regular hitting numbers up to snuff, he might be the greatest pickup in an offseason full of tremendous pickups.

Couple other notes from the weekend:

Ketel Marte sprained his thumb from sliding into 2nd base, which is going to cost him a 15-day DL stint.  Chris Taylor was brought up as insurance, with Shawn O’Malley taking over the everyday short stop role until his return.  It doesn’t sound like anything serious, but this team could ill afford to play with a 24-man roster (while Marte heals up), when literally no one else on the team is qualified to play short stop, so they HAD to make the move.

As a quick aside, I wondered what the Mariners might do with Marte out, if O’Malley got hurt and the team never called up anyone to fill in as insurance.  My best guess:  the team would have to make due with Kyle Seager at short stop (I THINK he has some experience, maybe in the low minors, or in his college days), and slide Dae-ho Lee over to third base, where he has experience from playing in Korea.  THAT … would be entertaining for about an inning, and then I think I’d have my fill (sort of like when you have a position player pitch in a blowout game to save your bullpen).

My final note is on that bullpen, specifically the Mariners’.  I don’t know if it was because we were playing in a National League park, or if it was just coincidence, but every starter this weekend went exactly 6 innings, leaving the remaining 3 innings – each game – for the bullpen.  On Friday, we had Montgomery, Vincent, and Peralta each pitch a scoreless inning (Peralta getting those garbage innings, what with his recent struggles).  On Saturday, we had Nuno, Montgomery, and Peralta each pitch a scoreless inning (Montgomery looks like he’s going to take over for Peralta and start getting some of those high-leverage situations, since he’s been so rock solid this year).  On Sunday, we had Vincent, Benoit, and Cishek each pitch a scoreless inning (Vincent appears to be the right-handed option behind Benoit – and sometimes in place of Benoit – since he’s been a monster against right-handed batters).

It’s interesting how quickly things have shaken out in the bullpen.  Peralta’s usage will, hopefully, continue to go down as guys like Vincent, Montgomery, and Nuno continue to show their value.  Steve Johnson – the last man in the ‘pen – appears to be reserved for blowouts and desperate, extra innings-type situations, at least until Furbush comes back, at which point – in spite of there being three lefties in the ‘pen – we will have some semblance of a FULL bullpen.  And, I know we’re a ways off, but when Zych comes back, we might have a difficult decision to make (not so difficult in my eyes – just dump Peralta – but it might be difficult for the team/management).

At least for now, it’s nice to know the team can take a long approach with Zych, making sure he’s at full strength, before thinking about bringing him back up.  Anyway, it might be another 3-4 weeks AT LEAST before a bullpen move is made, for either Furbush or Zych.

Don’t look now, but the Mariners are smack dab in the middle of a stretch of 26 games in 27 days.  They get another home off-day this Thursday, before 17 in a row.  It’s been a remarkably friendly schedule for the Mariners so far this season – with 7 off days through the first 7 weeks (including this Thursday).  While June is a bit of a bear with a 10-game East-Coast road trip, we still have 2 off days there, and another bunch of off-days in July with the All Star Break.  But, if you take a look at late July, all the way through August, the Mariners will play 33 games in 34 days.

So, you know, good to pad our record now, while the going is still good.

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