Seattle Mariners: Dominating, Record-Setting Stretch for Starting Rotation
The Seattle Mariners starting rotation has dominated its opponents in the past nine games, propelling the team to within two games of .500 and 1.5 games of the AL West division lead.
The rotation of Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister and Erik Bedard have thoroughly baffled the likes of the Twins, Angels and Padres in the past week, and they show no signs of slowing down.
For the first time since the 1988 San Francisco Giants, the Mariners rotation has thrown seven-plus innings and allowed two ER or less for nine consecutive games and counting. Each with their own unique skill sets, the starters have all caught fire at once.
Granted, the opposing offenses they have faced over this nine-game span are not world-beaters, but nevertheless, accomplishing this feat nine times in a row against major league hitters is impressive.
Let's look in depth now at each starter's performance over this span.
Although he doesn't have the greatest "stuff" in the rotation, Jason Vargas has been arguably the best pitcher in this amazing pitching streak the M's have going.
In the first game of this nine-game stretch of dominant pitching, Vargas pitched a complete game in Baltimore but ended up with the no-decision as the Orioles' Zach Britton matched him pitch-for-pitch and the O's then won it in extra innings when Brandon League blew the save.
Yet, this performance jump-started the Mariners pitching staff and they haven't let up since.
In his next outing, against the Angels, he went seven innings and gave up no earned runs while striking out nine. This performance, coupled with the Baltimore game, gives Vargas a 16-inning scoreless streak going into his next start.
In these past two starts, Vargas has done exactly what he needs to do to be successful, and that is to paint the corners with his fastball and put hitters away with his changeup.
This sensational rookie has continued his season-long dominance during this nine-game stretch, and he's done it with basically two pitches: a fastball and slider.
Then, against the Padres, another team that is struggling on offense, he did what a great pitcher should do: dominate. He extended his scoreless-innings streak during this span to 14 with another seven-scoreless-inning performance, striking out nine along the way and only allowing three baserunners.
Pineda has relied on two pitches during his rookie season, and he has made it work, currently sitting with a 2.16 ERA. During this span, he has been extra impressive.
The reigning Cy Young Award winner has arguably not even been the best starter over this nine-game period, yet his performances have still been filthy.
Against Minnesota, he took the loss because the Mariners offense was putrid, but aside from two first-inning runs, the Twins had no chance against Hernandez, as "King Felix" went eight innings.
This was just another typical Felix outing.
Sunday, against the Padres, Hernandez matched his career-best in strikeouts with 13 as he gave up one run in eight innings of work in a 6-1 Mariners win.
These two performances have been what Mariners fans have come to expect out of The King.
The unsung starter in the Mariners rotation is Doug Fister, and in his two starts over this nine-game, record-setting performance by the Mariner staff, Fister has been the prototypical back-of-the-rotation starter.
Arguably his best outing of the year came against the Angels on Thursday. His eight innings of one-run ball gave the Mariners a 2-1 victory, with the winning hit coming when Angels CF Torii Hunter lost the ball in the sun.
Just like the other starters, Doug Fister has been on fire his past two times out, and he hopes to continue that against Minnesota in the coming days.
Coming off a season in which he did not throw a single pitch, Erik Bedard is slowly regaining the form he once exhibited with the Baltimore Orioles.
In past seasons with the M's, Bedard had spent more time in the doctor's office than on the mound, making fans gripe about his acquisition.
But this year, Bedard is on pace for his best season with the Mariners.
After being skipped in the rotation due to a rainout in Cleveland, Bedard made his only start during this nine-game period in San Diego on Friday night, and it was his best outing as a Mariner.
He went eight innings, allowing no runs and striking out nine on only 92 pitches. He was able to effectively mix his fastball and curveball all night, baffling the Padre hitters.
If Bedard can stay healthy, he will continue to bolster this already loaded Mariners rotation.
Thanks to their rotation, the Mariners have won five in a row and six of their last seven, moving them to a 22-24 record with a favorable stretch of games upcoming.
In the past nine games, the rotation has accomplished something no team has done since 1988, and they hope to improve on that record mark on Monday when Jason Vargas looks to extend his 16-inning scoreless streak.
If he goes seven innings or more and allows two ER or less, that will be 10 games in a row in which the M's rotation has accomplished that feat.
This past week, this rotation has been the best in the American League, and if they can continue this success, the Mariners will stick around in the tight AL West race.