Fueled by rookie Nick Franklin’s first career grand slam, the Mariners erupted for seven runs in the second inning and continued to play pile-on for Felix Hernandez (11-4) in a 12-5 discombobulation of the hapless Houston Astros Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Improving to 46-52, the Mariners swept their second consecutive series and extended their win streak to a season-high six.
The Mariners have won 11 of 16 and are 19-15 over their last 34. This is this is the longest Seattle winning streak since an eight-gamer Aug. 14-22, 2012, which also coincides with the last time the Mariners had consecutive sweeps, Aug. 17-19 vs. Minnesota and Aug. 20-22 vs. Cleveland.
Held to one hit — but four runs — in a weird 4-2 win Friday, the Mariners bombarded five Houston pitchers for 13 hits, eight for extra bases, including a season-high three in four at-bats and two RBIs by Dustin Ackley. An RBI double from Michael Saunders extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Five batters produced multi-hit games, more than ample for Hernandez, as the Mariners went 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
During the series, the Mariners outscored the Astros, virtually assured of 100 losses, 26-14. The 12 runs Sunday matched the season high May 15 against New York at Yankee Stadium, a 12-2 victory. The seven second-inning runs also tied the season one-frame best, set in the May 15 game.
Seattle had a 12-1 lead entering the ninth inning, but relievers Hector Noesi, Bobby LaFromboise and Danny Farquhar combined for a farce, allowing nine Astros to come to the plate and collaborate for four runs.
Improving to 11-4, Hernandez allowed four hits in 6.0 innings with seven strikeouts and one walk in his easiest outing of the season. He left with an 11-0 lead after throwing 65 of his 99 pitches for strikes and lowering his ERA to an American League-best 2.43. Naturally, as soon as he departed, Noesi smeared graffiti on the masterpiece by allowing two hits and a run.
The Mariners blew it open for Hernandez in the second inning. Kendrys Morales started the onslaught with a single, scoring on Ackley’s single (1-0). Kyle Seager, safe on a fielder’s choice, scored on a wild pitch to Henry Blanco (2-0). Saunders, who walked, tallied on Brad Miller’s single (3-0).
Franklin then unloaded his slam to right on a 1-and-1 count off Houston starter and loser Jordan Lyles to make it 7-0. The slam was Seattle’s MLB-leading sixth of the season and the first for the Mariners since June 15 when Blanco ripped one at Oakland.
In the fifth, Raul Ibanez doubled, Morales brought him home with a single for an 8-0 lead. After Seager and Justin Smoak got aboard, the Astros yanked Lyles, inserting Lucas Harrell. Saunders hit into a fielder’s choice, plating Morales for a 9-0 lead. Ackley’s sacrifice fly made it 10-0 and Miller’s RBI single in the seventh expanded the lead to 11-0.
Houston got a run back in the seventh on Jose Altuve’s RBI single off Noesi, but Saunders’ run-scoring double pushed the Seattle lead to 12-1.
LaFromboise loaded the bases in the ninth, throwing 25 pitches before he recorded his first out. After he allowed one run, Eric Wedge yanked him in favor of Farquhar, who allowed a run-scoring sacrifice fly by Matt Dominguez and then uncorked a wild pitch that, coupled with an error, led to two more runs.
The Mariners begin a seven-game home stand Monday night with the first three against the Cleveland Indians. RHP Aaron Harang (4-8, 5.38) will start opposite RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (7-4, 4.56). Harang is pitching for the first time in 12 days coming off a bad start (seven earned runs against Boston). The Indians have won seven of the past nine Jimenez has started.
The Minnesota Twins will follow Cleveland for four starting Thursday.
NOTES: Eric Wedge told mariners.com that he is not anticipating any trades before the July 31 deadline. “Unless it’s something that raises the bar, I don’t think we’re going to do anything. We’re not going to move somebody just to move somebody,” Wedge said. The Mariners have several veterans on one-year deals, including Oliver Perez, Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales, Brendan Ryan and Joe Saunders . . . When the Mariners defeated Houston 4-2 Saturday while recording only one hit, it marked the fourth time in major league history that a team scored four or more runs in a game in which it had no more than one hit. It also happened Aug. 28, 1909, when the White Sox defeated the Senators, 6-4, on one hit; April 30, 1914, when the White Sox dropped a 5-4 decision at Detroit with one hit; and July 1, 1990, when the White Sox beat the Yankees 4-0 in a game in which they had no hits but scored four unearned runs in the bottom of the eighth off Andy Hawkins.
Wedge’s statement about trades is the type of comment that usually means the team is about to make trades, probably in some form of blockbuster deal. The M’s have too much history when it comes to trading away talent and getting nothing in return – and that’s one of the biggest reasons why fans distrust Mariner management.
Skepticism warranted, but this time I suspect it’s sincere. Manager and GM are in their walk years, and they need their judgments about this roster validated by W’s.
What’s up with Franklin. He goes up to the plate looing like a junior high school kid wearing his Dad’s batting helmut, then he hits home runs. Where is he getting the power from?
Henry Aaron was not a big man either. It’s mostly in the wrists, although Griffey always insisted his booty was the, ahem, biggest asset.
Would that be touché or tuche?