Hitting 1-2 for the Mariners Sunday were oldster Endy Chavez and rookie James Jones. Seattle had three hitters in the lineup whose season averages were better than .238. The Mariners were up against the American League’s defending Cy Young Award winner, Max Scherzer.
The starting pitcher was Cuban refugee and rookie Roenis Elias in his 12th major league start.
They folded up the formidable Detroit Tigers like origami, 4-0.
The 31,407 on hand at Safeco Field weren’t quite sure what they were watching, but by the ninth inning, when Elias powered through the 2-3-4 hitters of Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, they were slamming hands and pumping arms as if it were a Seahawks game.
As they should, because they were present at something special — the first complete-game shutout by a Mariners rookie since Freddy Garcia in 1999.
To finish the homestand 6-5 and get back to .500 (28-28), the Mariners had to take two of three against manager Lloyd McClendon’s old team, which came into the series with the American League’s best record. Not only did the Mariners execute, they made McClendon’s goofy lineups look like wizardry.
It’s tempting to say Sunday’s was the most awkward lineup since Michael Jordan’s Tune Squad teammates in “Space Jam.” But at least the Tune Squad had Jordan. The Mariners’ Jordan, Robinson Cano, was on the bench for the fourth consecutive game with a hand injury.
But McClendon rolled out an even goofier lineup, leading off Saturday with Willie (Please Call Me Boom-Boom) Bloomquist at second, hitting .214, and including fellow backups John Buck, Stefan Romero, Cole Gillespie and Nick Franklin. The Twitterverse was certain it was the dumbest start outside of an unlimited hydroplane race, yet they beat the Tigers 3-2.
After Sunday, McClendon is entitled to say to Tigers management, which could have hired him to replace Jim Leyland, his mentor, “How you like me now?”
Instead, he stuck to his no-big-whoop persona, which is getting to seem more like Pete Carroll’s all the time.
“We just happened to take two of three from Detroit,” he said, tightly marshaling his head muscles into maintaining a straight face. “I was a little nervous, but I can’t let (the players) see that.”
One guy not nervous was Elias, who was dazzling with his fastball, curve and change-up. The booming Tigers offense was held to three singles and struck out eight times. Most remarkable was that the top five Detroit hitters, including Rajai Davis and Tori Hunter, went a combined 1-for-18 with a walk.
Able to throw a strike with any pitch (72 out of 111), Elias was in such command that McClendon didn’t blink when it came time to decide whether to relieve his pitcher.
“I’ve always told him if he pitches better, he can stay in,” McClendon said. “I thought he deserved the chance.
“I’ve said his stuff is as good as any lefty in the league. He just has to have command of it.”
The complete game was only the second of his career that had three minor league seasons before he surprised many by making the big club out of spring training despite having just 45 minor league starts.
“I just wanted to go back out there,” Elias, 25, said of the final inning, via translator Fernando Alcala.”I wanted to make my pitches and let them hit them.”
Kinsler flew out to center, Cabrera, the world’s leading hitter for what seems like most of the 21st century, grounded to second and Martinez flew to center. 1-2-3. No big.
“It was awesome,” said Brad Miller, who added the fourth-run exclamation point with his first homer since April 11. “Facing those guys for the fourth time . . .what a performance.”
First-inning doubles from Chavez — surprisingly called up Friday from AAA Tacoma to help deal with the injury absences of Cano and Corey Hart — and Michael Saunders showed that Scherzer was vulnerable. In his last two starts, he gave up 20 hits and 12 runs combined.
The Mariners added two in the fifth on singles from Dustin Ackley and James Jones and a double by Bloomquist, who drove in two runs Saturday, then Miller delivered in the sixth.
For the optimists in the Mariners’ hardy band of followers, the series win can be tacked upon the wall with the three-out-of-four against Oakland in May to suggest that there might be just a tad bit of reality to the Seattle competitiveness.
“As I said before, I like my team,” McClendon said. Apparently down to the last man on the bench. Cano needs to get healthy soon, or he may get Wally Pipped by Kitsap Willie.
Jones was replaced in the eighth inning when he experienced a tight groin muscle. The move was a precaution, and not considered serious . . . The Mariners were originally scheduled for a travel day Monday, but instead will fly to New York to play a makeup game against the Yankees. Felix Hernandez (7-1, 2.57) will throw for the Mariners, who had their April 30 contest against New York rained out. The Mariners play two interleague games in Atlanta, then travel Thursday for four in Tampa starting Friday . . . McClendon said no decision has been on Tuesday’s starter following the demotion of Brandon Maurer to Tacoma. The likeliest candidate is Erasmo Ramirez . . . The shutout was the Mariners’ second (May 8, Kansas City) . . . During the homestand, Michael Saunders hit .321 with nine RBIs in nine games . . . Detroit (31-22), shut out for the third time this season, has lost 10 of its last 14 after going 15-3 . . . The loss was Scherzer’s first since April 13 in San Diego . . . Combined with Chris Young’s start Saturday, Martinez, the AL’s batting average leader, was held hitless for two games in a row for just the second time this season.
Elias has been great, taking advantage of the opportunity given to him. He and Young could very well keep Paxton and Walker in Tacoma and that might not be a bad thing since the M’s have a track record of calling players up too early in their careers. Also a plus to give the bullpen a day off as well.
The plus with Cano sitting is that Willie gets to play. He’d have a better BA if he’d get more playing time. Now that Lloyd sees that maybe he’ll use him more.
Elias and Young have saved the season. You’re right — the Mariners need to give Walker and Paxton all the time they need.
I would think that bringing up either Walker or Paxton could take the slot vacated by Mauer.
I think Ramirez has earned that spot. I’d like to think Beavan has but every time he comes up he struggles.
You may be right. The Mariners have a reputation for rushing young players, only to see them blossoming with another team. Patience is difficult when you are losing.
Now if we could just convince our gem from Japan to avoid the center area of the strike zone, we could get real well, real soon.
Kuma had no spring training. I think that’s caught up with him. I’m confidant he’ll get back on track and have a sub-2.00 ERA again.
yay ms. now just call up jesus (montero) to dh and it’s on to the playoffs.
off topic but top-posting b/c this blogs needs to take off. the whole sterling/ballmer/clippers extravaganza seems very fishy to me. dsterling is obviously a bigot but it almost seems like the nba decided it needed to get rid of sterling, set him up with v. stiviano (have you listened to her call with the donald–he’s being coaxed to say something bigoted and he certainly delivered), broke the taped call months later during the playoffs when the media actually covers the nba, and then boombangbizz the clips are sold in record time for 4 times their market value to a guy who could have bought his hometown team with kevin durant 5 years ago for a fifth of the price. this just seems too freaking unbelievable. so i say clippergate was an inside job.
I distrust the NBA almost as much as anyone, but they aren’t that clever. No way they wanted to go through the embarrassment of Sterllng.
someone at the nba recognized that making sterling a public fool was what it would take to exfiltrate his team and get it into “proper” hands even at the cost of league embarrassment.
Perhaps nobody is bothered that Sterling is being forced to give up his business because of something he said during a conversation that was surreptitiously recorded and later disseminated by TMZ along with every other media outlet in the country.
Being a racist is stupid but it’s not illegal…recording a private conversation without prior consent of both parties is. Yet it’s the legally stupid person who’s the villain while the people directly benefitting from an illegal act are depicted as heroes. Go figure.
Just look at Clay Bennett. A hero in OKC for bringing in the NBA. Look at Chris Hansen, soundly booed in Sac-Town for trying to bring the NBA to Seattle.
the linchpin to the sale of the clips to ball(m)er was a finding by doctors that donald sterling is incapable of managing the affairs of the sterling trust, which owns the clips, thus empowering rochelle rochelle to sell the team for a mere $2b. poor bastards. check out https://twitter.com/ramonashelburne
Too bad nobody stopped Sterling from going on CNN. He was goofy, but not demented. Not buying the medical excuse.
If you look too hard at the ironies in this, you’ll weep for the rest of your life.
Easy to say in hindsight, but there was no way to concoct a conspiracy. Back to the grassy knoll with you — and how ’bout some ball talk?
Durant and the #2 pick they scored in the lottery came way after Ballmer was offered, and declined, the opportunity by Schultz to buy the team from him. The team was already in Bennett’s hands by then.
true about chronology of durant drafting but still true that ball(m)er could have bought an nba team for a fraction of the price of the clippers and might have even ended up with durant. is he just a superrich bball fan who didn’t figure out his priorities until now? hard to believe.
jafabian is probably right in suggesting Paxton or Walker remain in Tacoma but they both showed last September they have MLB ability. Elias is older than either of them so sending him to AAA for seasoning isn’t necessarily helpful, especially given yesterday’s performance. Young has EARNED his slot despite a tendency to feed the gopher so you don’t bump him while both Felix and Kuma are untouchables. Too many quality starters is a great dilemma to have, but it’s still a dilemma.
Stlll don’t have a No. 5 guy for this trip.
roy oswalt’s still available.