The Cincinnati Reds came to Seattle for a three game series over the weekend bringing an offense ranked first in the National League in runs scored and home runs as well as holding down first place in the NL Central division. The Mariners rank near the bottom in just about any stat you care to name and they have a firm grasp on 4th place in the AL West. It looked like a setup for three days of pain.
The somnolent Mariner bats showed a little life: the team put seven runners across the plate over the course of three games, and all of the starters save for Kotchman have finally made it over the Mendoza line. Those seven runs turned out to be three more than was necessary, as a couple of buzzsaws named Lee and Hernandez mowed down the Cincinnati lumber. Both Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez threw back-to-back complete games as they mystified and mortified one of the most powerful lineups in the majors, a lineup that scored a grand total of one run in three games.
As satisfying as the performances of Messrs. Lee and Hernandez were, the pitching performance Sunday was a more so, as it was a team effort. Starter Ryan Rowland-Smith threw six innings of shut-out ball, and reliever Brandon League followed with two innings of very nice work, including pitching out of a couple of jams where the Reds had runners in scoring position with one out. Closer David Aardsma, who has really had some problems this year, slammed the door shut in the ninth. The bullpen has gotten noticeably better in the last week or so and I can’t help but wonder if that has come from watching several pitchers, most recently Ian Snell, follow the reverse career arc of starter to reliever to designated for assignment. I suspect that Don Wakamatsu’s willingness to let his starters go the distance is at least partly motivated from fear of going to his bullpen. No worrys against Cincinnati, as the Mariner pitching staff combined for a 0.38 ERA.
The Mariners entertained a couple of celebrities over the weekend, with Axl Rose taking in Saturday’s game and Neil Armstrong was a guest of the Reds owner on Sunday. ‘Entertain’ is perhaps not the right word for Mr. Armstrong’s experience, as he was no doubt rooting for Cincinnati. Sorry about that.
It’s worth noting that at game time Sunday, the day before the summer solstice when we expect to have 17 hours of daylight, the temperature was 58F under cloudy skies. This is not unusual for Seattle, but in Portland we expect a little more sun, and it hasn’t happened this year. When I lived in Seattle my Mom once asked me how long winter lasted. I told her it lasted until you couldn’t stand it anymore and then went another month. It’s starting to feel like that around here, but after having lived in several places that got very warm very early in the year I don’t complain.