By Scott Rinear
The Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland A’s in extra innings tonight down at the Oakland Coliseum to take the second game of this 3-game road series against the AL West cellar dwellers. I’ll admit it was difficult to stay inside and watch the Root Sports broadcast of the game with summer having arrived alive and well in the northwest, albeit a little late. Coming off a very fun and relaxing 4th of July weekend down at my family’s beach cabin in Normandy Park, I feel ready for a summertime pennant race in the AL West as the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers both won, again, and yet the Mariners are back to .500 and remain a mere 2.5 games out of first place.
Felix Hernandez brought his typical dominant A game, pitching 8 solid innings of 1-run ball. Felix gave up 4 hits on the night, and I was almost glad Oakland leadoff batter Jemile Weeks lead off the game with a hit, that way Dave Sims wasn’t able to jinx a potential no-hitter by mentioning a potential no-hitter with 2 outs in the 3rd inning. Felix also finished the game with 10 strikeouts, striking out 7 of the 9 A’s batters at least once each. It wasn’t until the 8th inning that Oakland mounted a threat off Felix, with a solo home run by Kurt Suzuki just out of reach of left fielder Carlos Peguero‘s leap.
The majority of the Mariners offense tonight had both a name and a steadily bearding face: Dustin Ackley. I get more and more excited about this kid with every at bat. Ackley singled, stole second, and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Peguero in the 2nd. Then, not to be outdone by himself, Ackley smashed a solo home run to dead center field in the 7th, pushing the Mariners lead to 2-0. Maybe if more than one Mariner could have provided some offense in the first nine innings of this game, Felix would have gotten the victory he deserved rather than the no decision he actually got, because All-Star closer Brandon League blew his 4th save of the season, allowing the game-tying run in the ninth.
The Mariners took the lead for good in the 10th when a potential inning ending double play relay throw missed first base by a good 10 feet, allowing Franklin Gutierrez to score easily after leading off the inning with single. Adam Kennedy followed up with an RBI double, putting the Mariners up 4-2. Jaimie Wright pitched the bottom of the 10th to pick up the save, and, as happens only in baseball, Brandon League’s blown save turned into his first win of the year, as he was the pitcher of record when the Mariners regained the lead.
It was nice to see at least two members of King’s Court at the Oakland Coliseum, although Oakland isn’t the most opportune stadium to wear yellow shirts, but A for effort guys. And although I really wish the King’s Court was an organic grass roots phenomenon, it is a much more productive promotional strategy than bobbleheads and rally fries, because at least it has more people paying attention to the game once every 5 games.
Following this series in Oakland the Mariners will enter a brutal 47 game stretch between now and the end of August against some top tier competition, including 10 games versus the Angels and 7 against the Rangers. Also included in that stretch are the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and Cleveland Indians. In fact, during July and August, Mariner opponents are a combined 42 games above .500. Needless to say the next month will be a big test for this 2011 Mariners team and will go a long way in determining whether they stay in the race as summer roles on.
Will the Mariners be buyers or sellers this year as the trade deadline approaches? Your guess is as good as mine. I still say they should make a move to improve the offense if possible, but I don’t have an answer for what move they should make. That’s what Eric Wedge and Jack Zduriencik and the Mariner scouts get paid to figure out. Let’s see what kind of deal they can get done. In the short term this team is at a tipping point, and the next couple of months hopefully will see this team keep pace in the West and challenge for a playoff spot, albeit a little earlier than planned. Go Mariners! http://jeffsmariners.com