After a competitive series against the Texas Rangers, the Seattle Mariners hit the road and were a walk-off home run away from a four-game sweep. Okay, so maybe there aren’t throwing parades yet in Seattle, and the series was against the slumping Kansas City Royals, but the Mariners are showing some life after the All-Star Break. Their 4-3 record move them out of last place in the American League leapfrogging over the Royals and the Minnesota Twins. 40-54 is still a long way over .500, but progress with a young team is good.
Good News: In winning 3 of 4 games, won their first series in over a month when they took 2 of 3 from San Francisco. They hadn’t won a road series since the beginning of June when they took 2 of 3 from the Angels. 3 wins was the most for Seattle in a series since their last sweep, at Colorado, in mid May. Progress is being made by the Mariners. The struggling offense jumped all over struggling Royal pitching putting up nine runs twice, seven runs, and six runs. Jesus Montero torched the Royals to pace the Seattle offense. He went 10-for-17 in the series with 1 HR and 8 RBI, rising his season average twenty points from .242 to .262. Felix Hernandez moved to 2-0 after the All-Star Break with a win yesterday to secure the series for Seattle. Following up a brilliant outing vs. Texas, Hernandez went eight innings allowing only one ER on eight hits. King Felix is now 8-5 on the season lowering his ERA to 2.82.
Bad News: It would be a lofty goal for this team to reach .500 by season’s end, and, to do that, they need to win every game. After rallying from down 7-3 Wednesday night to tie it at 7, Josh Kinney gave up a walk-off home run to Billy Butler to give Kansas City an 8-7 win. It was the first run Kinney had surrendered in four outings since being called up from Tacoma. Kevin Millwood, targeted in recent trade rumors for a team looking to add a veteran starter, got hammered giving up 7 ER on 10 hits in 5 IP. That was the most runs he’d given up since his second start of the season, April 17th vs. Cleveland. And, even though the rest of the Mariners’ offense sizzled this series, Justin Smoak continued to struggle with the bat. He went 3-for-16 in the series to drop his average to .198. Batting near the heart of the order most of his starts, the Mariners need a guy whose going to bat better than getting one hits every five plate appearances.
On The Horizon: Seattle will try to keep up their road warrior act as they travel into Tampa Bay. The Mariners are 0-4 in Tampa Bay this season, and they had four low scoring outings at Tropicana Field putting up 2, 1, 4, and 3, in the four losses. Tampa is in the thick of the race for one of the two A.L. Wild Card spots at 48-45. The Rays are 3-4 since the All-Star Break, coming off a four-game split with the Indians. It will be interesting to see how the Mariners rotation performs in this trip. Hisashi Iwakuma will be making his third start of the season in Friday’s opener. Jason Vargas, also a trade candidate going into the deadline, will go Saturday. Vargas missed Tampa in Seattle’s first trip to Florida. The finale will see Blake Beavan, back up after a short trip to Tacoma. Beavan won his first start back against Kansas City but gave up 5 ER on 7 hits in 6.0 IP, raising his ERA to 6.06 on the season.