Felix Hernandez was in fine form and received all the offense he needed from DH Nelson Cruz and LF Mark Trumbo as the Mariners beat Texas with a second consecutive shutout, this one 5-0 Thursday afternoon (box score) in front of 16,842 fans. Seattle has won seven of its past nine, while the Rangers fell 2½ games behind Houston in the AL West standings.
Cruz hobbling around the basepaths to score a run after a first-inning single was somewhat painful to watch. So it was a relief to see Cruz, in his first game back from a week-long quad injury, doing a home-run trot in the seventh. His two-run shot turned a 3-0 game into a laugher.
Hernandez made sure the Texas bats didn’t wake up after Vidal Nuno’s outstanding Tuesday performance. Seattle’s ace pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing just three hits, before Tom Wilhelmsen finished it off. Hernandez struck out eight and allowed one runner past first base – stranding leadoff hitter Mitch Moreland at third in the second. Over the final 18 innings of the series, the Rangers had just five hits.
Cruz’s homer capped a 2-for-4 performance. Trumbo went 2-for-3 with the two RBIs, finishing the Texas series with a .563 batting average (9-for-16). His two-RBI double in the first inning capped a string of five consecutive at-bats with a hit. Trumbo has hit safely in 12 consecutive games, longest streak of his career.
“Numbers are numbers. I’m just focused on games and what I’m able to do to help my
team win games.” –Cruz on reaching the 40-homer milestone for the second consecutive year.
Cruz was back Thursday after missing six games with a strained quad. Cruz hit third and served as DH . . . Seattle still hasn’t named a Sunday starter. LHP James Paxton is likely to go after throwing a successful bullpen session Wednesday, but RHP Taijuan Walker is ready just in case . . . The Mariners had not lost a series since Aug. 21-23, when the White Sox took two out of three at Safeco Field.
The Mariners open their final inter-league series Friday with a 7:10 p.m. game against Colorado. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (7-3, 4.03 ERA) is scheduled to face Rockies RHP Chad Bettis (6-5, 4.95 ERA).
Nice irrelevant win. As in, when it mattered, they didn’t.
Winning games when it doesn’t matter is a long-time Mariners tradition.
Then again, so is not winning games when it doesn’t matter.
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The Felix Formula succeeds again. As long as he doesn’t give up more than one run, he wins. He might even get 20 this year, but it won’t matter.
You know what else is a time-honored Mariners tradition? Fans decrying the fact that “it doesn’t matter.” Does this game matter in the playoff race? Not to us, this year, no. But they went out there and won a ballgame – shut out the Rangers, who have the talent and the incentive to win, because it “matters” to them. The M’s got two runs in the first and made them stand up. They had some base-running gaffes and left runners on base, but they came out on top. Taking the field in September and hustling to win a ballgame – that matters, even though “it doesn’t matter.”
[Statistical aside: We’ve won seven out of our last ten and 12 out of our last 20. Pretty good ball. If we win 13 of the remaining 21 games, we reach 81 victories and we avoid a “losing season.” Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t that be something that “matters?”]
Remember elementary school, when you may not have received the best grade, but you worked hard and were rewarded with phrases like “great improvement?” This team has a core of very good ballplayers. They could have packed it in months ago – they have not done so. The team has kept plugging away and the front office has made adjustments to improve. (Future generations will celebrate June 20th as “E-Day.”) Will that “matter” on October 4th? Probably not. But in the overall scheme of Mariners baseball, it counts on the positive side of the ledger.
mariners are 22-10 v. tex and oak and 46-63 v. everybody else. not a winning formula.