The Mariners won their third game in a row tonight 2-0 as Felix Hernandez struck out 13 Athletics in front of 21,377 fans at Safeco Field.
Hernandez looked like he might have a rough outing from the onset of this one when he loaded the sacks with A’s in the first with nobody out. But King Felix got the first of his 13 strikeouts against A’s cleanup hitter Jack Cust, then coaxed a groundball out of Kevin Kouzmanoff that turned into an inning ending double-play to get out of the jam.
In the post-game interview Mariners new skipper Daren Brown stated that when Felix got out of the first without allowing a run: “That was probably the game.” Indeed it was the defining moment of this contest, as after the first inning Felix had command of all of his pitches, especially his changeup which he used to get 10 of his 13 strikeouts.
The Oakland A’s starter, 22 year-old Brett Anderson, pitched a nice game as well holding the Mariners scoreless till the sixth inning. Ichiro started the sixth off with an infield single to short and then moved to second on a nice bunt by Figgins. Lopez, who was hitting in the DH spot, then grounded out to third leaving it up to Franklin Gutierrez who managed to coax a walkoff of Anderson. Daren Brown had wisely dropped Casey Kotchman in the order to fifth tonight, and Casey delivered from this spot with a clutch-single to right, which scored Ichiro to give Felix all he would need tonight with the one run. For the rest of the game it was all about Hernandez who picked-up his eighth win tonight, and showed the confidence of a mature big-league ace.
On most teams, Felix would have 15 wins by now to compliment his 2.71 ERA. But Felix is a champion with a long bright future ahead of him and he showed a lot of composure tonight to go along with his emotional displays after getting big outs this evening.
After leaving his ace on the mound for eight innings and 110 pitchers, “Downtown Daren Brown” made the decision to go with his closer David Aardsma in the ninth, and he was warming up as the Mariners came to bat in the bottom of the eighth. Felix was able to relax a bit when his team put together a little rally in the eighth, which resulted in another insurance run thanks to an RBI by Gutierrez to bring Chone Figgins home making it 2-0. In the top of the ninth David Aardsma picked-up his sixth save in a row by mixing up his pitches as he has done recently to put down the A’s in order.
I cannot remember the last time the Mariners won three games in a row, but it could not come at a better time for this team and its fans considering all that has gone on recently.
New manager Daren Brown seems to be willing to make changes like moving Casey Kotchman down to fifth in the batting order like he did tonight. He also did not hesitate to bring his closer in to finish this game like any other manager would do in a similar situation. Though it is certainly too early to tell, my gut feeling is the players are showing respect for their new manager already, and hopefully we could see a change in the way things have been transpiring on the field for the rest of the campaign.
Believe it or not, we actually have a chance to sweep a series tomorrow before heading out on the road. I plan on being down there with my whisk broom which has been gathering dust this year to watch our boys attempt to win for the fourth time in a row at 12:40 p.m., see ya there! Http://jeffsmariners.com