In one of the most unexpected wins in recent Mariners history, the Mariners stormed back from a 7 run deficit with 9 outs to work with, winning 8-7 on a Luis Rodriguez two run, two out double. He actually entered as an injury replacement for Chone Figgins in the fourth inning. That was unexpected, but then again, nothing happened that was expected.
Felix Hernandez was off all night, his fastball didn’t have the same velocity and all his pitches were flat. He was hammered early and often by the Blue Jays. Felix went 6 innings and gave up 7 runs and 12 hits. It is always strange seeing Felix struggle, mostly because it only happens 3 or 4 times a year out of about 35. Due to his struggles next time out I’m betting he will throw a complete game.
When Felix was pulled down 7-0 heading out for the top of the 7th, I would say 85-88% of the crowd and left and there was only about 2,000 people left. It is always strange watching a MLB game and seeing virtually all the outfield seats empty, that’s just the state of the franchise at this point.
Fortunately, for the M’s at least, baseball is a game that isn’t over till it’s over. Anything can happen. Even with that thought, anyone who said the M’s had a shot to come back with 9 outs remaining and down 7 runs, is either lying or hasn’t watched the Mariners much. They needed 7 runs to tie and had only gotten over 5 once, that was cause of the Oakland Athletics’ error prone defense. The Mariners are a team that struggles at the plate and didn’t seem capable of making a comeback.
The Mariners had blown numerous chances early on, but got a ton of breaks from Toronto Blue Jays and took those breaks and ran with them. Scoring 8 runs in the final three innings, Luis Rodriguez completed the unlikely comeback by lining a 2-2 changeup off the warning track, driving in Michael Saunders and Ichiro and finally giving Seattle a win. It ended a 7 game losing streak and made everyone feel good, if only for a night.
In the top of the first Felix Hernandez came out and had issues from the start. He didn’t have good control of his pitches and gave up a walk and a hit. He got out of the inning on two straight strikeouts, mostly just due to his talent. His fastball didn’t have its usual zip to it and you could almost see a bad outing coming. He would either find it or get torched.
The Mariners in the bottom half of the inning had an excellent shot to jump on top early. The first two batters, Ichiro and Chone Figgins, each got hits, but like last year and this year, the Mariners couldn’t move them up and get them in. Milton Bradley and Jack Cust struck out, Justin Smoak walked and Miguel Olivo weakly grounded out. From the start it just looked like the same old Seattle Mariners. They couldn’t buy a hit with runners in scoring position.
In the top of the second is when Felix was beginning to be hit hard. After a 1 out walk to Travis Snider, Felix gave up a double to Edwin Encarnacion and Jayson Nix got the Jays on the board with an infield single. Felix limited the damage, but it was looking like a long night for him.
In the top the third it looked like Felix and the M’s would have 2 outs and nobody on after Jose Bautista was surely to be caught stealing. Apparently someone to tell the Mariners that. Jose Bautista started late and the Mariners got him in a rundown but did such an awful job in that rundown. Justin Smoak held onto the ball too long and then Brendan Ryan dropped the ball, allowing Bautista to get to second base. It was a very, very awful job of executing a basic fundamental play. For that to happen to a big league team is simply inexcusable. The Mariners aren’t good enough to win on just talent, they need to execute the fundamentals or they will lose. They haven’t done that and had lost 7 of their first 9 games.
That botched rundown came back to hurt King Felix. Aaron Hill then doubled to score Bautista from second. No run should have scored there if the rundown was ran properly. Two batters later Travis Snider grounded into a fielder’s choice, that would have been the third out and no runs would have scored in the inning. That is how important fundamentals are in the game of baseball. If you botch one play because of poor fundamentals, it can end causing an inning to go very badly.
In the bottom of the third the Mariners had another chance to get right back into the game. With 1 out in the inning, Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, and Jack Cust all reached base to load the bases for Justin Smoak. Unfortunately, once again the Mariners couldn’t do anything with the bases loaded. With each failure, Felix Hernandez could only get more frustrated.
The Blue Jays hit him hard in the fourth. Edwin Encarnacion led off with a single and Jayson Nix moved him up to third on a double. Felix was in a ton of trouble. He then spiked a pitch to his next batter and that allowed a run to score. Yunel Escobar hit a sac fly to score Jayson Nix and it appeared Toronto had all it needed to beat Seattle, leading 5-0 after the top of the 4th.
The Mariners again with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, had a chance to get a big two out RBI. They had runners on first and third but Luis Rodriguez flew out to center. They blew another chance to just get on the board.
In the bottom of the 5th, after a near home run by Justin Smoak, Miguel Olivo had a chance to finally get a two out RBI, he struck out. This team needed a two out RBI in the worst possible way, it just wasn’t happening. What made it worse was, Toronto’s starter wasn’t pitching well, the Mariners just couldn’t hit.
In the top of the 6th, Toronto added two runs to their total when Corey Patterson hit a bomb of a home run for the Blue Jays. That made it 7-0 and the game looked just about over. Most the fans were leaving and nothing was going right. Felix left after the sixth and his night was brutal. Giving up 12 hits and 7 runs in 6 innings is very unlike him. If he doesn’t pitch well it is hard to see the Mariners win a game.
In the bottom of the 7th it appeared the Mariners finally had some semblance of life, was mostly minor though. Milton Bradley hit a home run to right and put the Mariners on the board. That’s all they would get in the 7th, however.
The bottom of the 8th for the Mariners started off with a Michael Saunders single but they had a long way to go. Brendan Ryan then walked. after a flyout, Ichiro had a single to load the bases. You thought to yourself “Well maybe if Rodriguez shoots this in the gap maybe, just maybe the Mariners have a prayer”. The unthinkable began to unfold. Octavio Dotel came into the game for the Blue Jays and the first two batters he faced both walked to force in two runs. It gave the Mariners life. Marc Rzepczynski came in to relieve him and the first batter he faced, Jack Cust walked to score another run. Justin Smoak then hit a two run single to left to make it 7-6 and the Mariners had a real shot to win it. They were a single through the infield away from tying the game up at 7. However, much like the case has been for the last year, Miguel Olivo hit into a inning-ending double play, that was the worst scenario possible at that moment. The Mariners all season long so far, needed just that 1 big hit to get them going and they repeatedly hadn’t got it. Miguel Olivo didn’t change that.
After a deflating ending of the 8th inning, the Mariners found renewed life to start the 9th inning. Michael Saunders lined a ball down the right field line for a lead-off double. If the Mariners executed, they would score a run without having to get another hit. Brendan Ryan stepped up and got his job done. He laid down a perfect bunt to move Saunders over to third with 1 out. Adam Kennedy then pinch hit for Jack Wilson and just needed to a fly ball to the outfield to get the Mariners a run they were desperate for. Just like it has been for most of the season, Kennedy didn’t get it done. He hit a weak ground ball to short stop, which didn’t allow Saunders to score and it looked like groundhog day all over again. Ichiro was then intentionally walked to put runners on first and third with 2 outs. That set the stage for Luis Rodriguez who came in hitting a dismal .091 on the season, possibly being the last guy you might want up there, He battled Shawn Camp, fouling off pitch after pitch, trying to stay alive. On a 1-2 pitch to him that ended up being a ball, Ichiro stole second base, that turned out to be a huge play. A few pitches later, Luis Rodriguez finally got a pitch he could do something with, crushing a 2-2 changeup off the warning track in right center field, scoring Saunders and Ichiro to give the Mariners an 8-7 walk-off win. It was a huge hit, considering how bad they’ve been with runners in scoring position. Ichiro stealing second was huge, because if he stays at first, there could have been a play at the plate, instead he scored easily.
Luis Rodriguez is probably looking at getting more playing time. He is better than their options at second base and shortstop and really has been hitting the ball well this year. It hasn’t translated to a lot of hits but he’s hit the ball hard. At some point a ball has to fall in. If he can give the Mariners some offense on top of good defense, it would be a huge boost. He should probably take over at second base full time and see what happens. This year is all about seeing what you have and developing young talent, might as well give him a shot as a starter for a while.
The win also was good to get Felix Hernandez off the hook. Too many times last season he would have a bad game and it would be a sure loss. Next step is making sure that nearly every time he has a good game the Mariners give him run support.
Josh Lueke got the win for the Mariners. It was his first win as a major leaguer.
The Mariners moved to 3-7 with the win, hopefully this game gets things turned around and they can start winning ballgames.