Its less than a month into the season, and the Seattle Mariners are far from a finished product.
But if there is one lesson to be taken from the first 21 games of the season. Second baseman Jack Wilson says he knows what it is.
“If youve got to face Felix and Pineda back to back, that’s a tough draw, Wilson said.
Felix Hernandez guided Seattle to a 1-0 win over Oakland Thursday with 7.2 shutout innings. Rookie Michael Pineda came back Friday and threw six shutout innings in a 4-0 Mariner victory over the As, the first back-to-back shutouts for Seattle pitching since last June.
Pitches of that quality are not just tough on the hitters. Theyre also a little tough on the Seattle defense.
“When you have Pineda coming out there throwing 97, 98 mph, you can throw the scouting report out the window, Wilson said. “Will guys be swinging early or will they be swinging late? You have to guess a little.
The fact is, after a rough first three weeks of the season, Pineda has emerged as a second pitcher in the Seattle rotation whose pure stuff is such that opponents need to gear up to face it.
He clearly didnt have his “A Game Friday, but the As couldnt take advantage. He threw 45 pitches in the first two innings, but after back-to-back walks to open the second inning, Pineda came back to get a couple of strikeouts and an easy grounder to get out of the jam.
“In the second inning, I threw too many pitches, Pineda said. “I was too quick. In the third inning, I made an adjustment, staying back and I was able to keep the ball down.
Once that happened, he started needing fewer pitches per inning and the A’s got only four more base runners off him.
The most potentially damaging of those was a leadoff single by Kevin Kouzmanoff in the fifth. A wild pitch and a grounder got him to third with one out and the Mariners clinging to a 1-0 lead. Manager Eric Wedge singled for his infielders to come to the plate for an out if possible.
“We didnt want to give up a run there, the manager said.
The As Coco Crisp hit the ball to first baseman Adam Kennedy, who never blinked. He gunned the ball to the plate, and catcher Miguel Olivo had plenty of time in which to slap on the tag. It was the closest the As would come to scoring a run all night.
“We expected them to go on contact, Kennedy said of the As. “So it worked out well for us.
The Mariners then took advantage of largess on the part of the Oakland pitching staff to score three times in the bottom of the fifth to put the game away.
Wilson started things with a single, took second on a passed ball and third on a grounder before back-to-back walks loaded the bases. Jack Cust then worked another walk, forcing in a run the Major League-leading seventh time the Mariners have come up with a bases-loaded walk this season.
After that it was up to Kennedy, whose homer in Thursdays game was the difference in a 1-0 game. This time he slapped a single up the middle.
Asked if the defensive work of saving a run compared at all to producing a couple of runs with a hit, Kennedy said hed take the hit, every time.
“The hitting is harder, he said. “That (defensive) play has to be made, and Im not saying the tag at the plate is easy, but you expect it. But getting the big hit like that, thats hard.
Seattle, which has thrown 22 consecutive scoreless innings, has a chance to stretch its winnings streak to a season-best three games against the As Saturday night.