Each day of the Mariners five-game winning streak in Detroit and Boston Tuesday through Saturday had two things in common.
One was that the bullpen was bulletproof 13.1 innings, no runs allowed and, almost as important, no inherited runners allowed to score.
Between them they went 18for-44 (.409), scoring 10 runs and driving in seven. They also walked a combined five times, bringing their on-base percentage up to a lofty .469.
What that meant was that the middle of the lineup had plenty of chances to hit with men on base. While No. 3 man Milton Bradley struggled until a double on Saturday that brought home the winning run, new cleanup hitter Miguel Olivo and No. 5 man Justin Smoak capitalized in a huge way.
Olivo hit in all the wins, Smoak in four of five. Olivo drove in four runs while hitting two homers. Smoak drove in 10 and also went deep twice.
If there has been a game planin manager Eric Wedges office, that has to be it — finally. Ichiro and Figgins get on base and the middle of the lineup brings them around. And then the bullpen makes the most of the leads given.
The Mariners are 13-16 coming into Tuesdays series opener against American League West-leading Texas (16-12). In Seattles 13 wins, Ichiro and Figgins have been the fuel keeping the offensive engine going.
In those 13 wins, the Nos. 1 and 2 hitters have combined to hit .386 (39-for-101) with 23 runs scored and 16 RBIs. They have had multiple hits in the same game six times in April and combined to account for 32 percent of the Mariners hits during the teams wins.
Thats setting the table in a big way. Add the 12 walks they had in the 13 wins, and thats an on-base percentage of .451, putting in place plenty of offensive opportunities for a team that has struggled to even have chances to score runs.
“We’re definitely coming to the park expecting good things to happen, DH Jack Cust said. His average has been under .200 all year. He was moved to sixth in the batting order when Olivo was installed as the cleanup hitter April 24. In his last 13 trips to the plate, Cust has warmed up, going 4-for-7 with six walks, one with the bases loaded. “Wedge has preached that from the beginning. The guys are starting to come out of whatever funks they are in.
Meanwhile, the Seattle bullpen has been just as up-front, allowing one run in 15 innings on the road trip. The one run cost the Mariners a win Sunday, but that was due less to reliever Jamey Wright than Fenway’s sun-and-shadows that kept Ichiro from collecting an otherwise catchable fly ball.
Before that, it was nothing but zeroes for the relievers. Over the course of the trip, the bullpens ERA has gone from 5.25 to a more respectable 4.37.
Backup closer Brandon League has gone a perfect 7-for-7 in save situations. His overall ERA is 2.45, but it drops to 1.35 when only save situations are involved.
David Aardsma, the closer the last two years, is close to being ready to come off the disabled list. But hell be checked by the medics before the Rangers series starts. Based on the fact that his velocity isnt where hed like it to be and that the Mariners have done well the last week or so, Aardsma will probably get another couple of injury rehabilitation assignments at Triple-A Tacoma before hes activated.
NOTES: Disabled center fielder Franklin Gutierrez (irritable bowel syndrome) could go out on an injury rehabilitation assignment in the next day or two. He is getting stronger and is putting on weight and has been doing full sets of baseball workouts on the Mariners just-completed road trip. Ichiro is on a roll. Hes made 11 steal attempts, and hes been safe 10 times. Felix Hernandez struck out a season-best 10 batters Sunday in seven innings against the Red Sox. It was the 10th time in Hernandezs career in which hed fanned 10 or more, the first time since getting 11 Yankees in New York last Aug. 20.