King Felix was once again downright nasty, fanning 13 Padres hitters Sunday.
It’s starting to become a bit ridiculous now, isn’t it?
Talking about the Mariners pitching staff, of course.
After today’s lights-out performance by Felix Hernandez, the streak of M’s starting pitchers going at least seven innings while giving up no more than two runs now stands at nine games.
In fact, through the three games against San Diego, M’s pitching combined to allow only one earned run.
Although the rotation has been dependable since the start of the season, a new identity has been formed in this 2011 campaign—rock solid pitching.
It’s relieving to see the team emerge with a true strength after the back of the rotation was a mess last year. Recall the failed projects in Luke French, Ian Snell and Ryan Rowland-Smith, all of whom are not with the team anymore.
And lately, following this identity, a quasi-formula has been established for success in ballgames: Starter goes late into the game, resting the bullpen, while the offense musters up four or five runs.
On Sunday afternoon, it was the same story for the M’s as King Felix was not to be outdone by his fellow rotation-mates. Going eight innings, he tied a career high by striking out 13 batters while allowing just a lone run that was partly overshadowed by a fantastic throw by Franklin Gutierrez to gun down the runner at third base.
For the first time in the month of May, the M’s offense scored more than five runs. The middle of the order was responsible for much of the offensive output. In particular, Olivo was a star on offense Sunday, going three-for-five with three runs scored and even flashing his wheels with a stolen base.
Carlos Peguero was another offensive standout, smashing a double to the deepest part of Petco Park to score Olivo and Justin Smoak in the third inning.
Unfortunately, he would not finish the game as Gutierrez took over for him, presumably because of the fly ball he misplayed that resulted in a Brad Hawpe double.
Following this win and a loss by the A’s to the Giants, the Mariners have fought their way into third place in the AL.
And don’t look now, but at 22-24 they’re only 1.5 games back of Texas and two wins away from .500.
With the team on a confidence high following the sweep of San Diego, they head to Minnesota to play an even worse team. Against the Twins, who rank near dead last in multiple categories, the M’s have to capitalize and sweep this series as well.
And with the pitchers performing as well as they have, and the offense possibly beginning to figure itself out, the Twins series will be a pivotal series.
At the end, the M’s just might find themselves above .500 and neck and neck with the Rangers for command of the AL West.