By Shannon Drayer
This is not quite what I expected in my first game back from a short vacation. While in Hawaii for my brother’s wedding, I did glance at a tweet or a score here and there and quite frankly was a bit alarmed at what I was seeing. To say the offense took a tumble would be putting it mildly.
So Monday was a pleasant surprise, needless to say. In just five innings I saw as many runs as I missed in the five games I did not attend. Problem solved? Well, one good game doesn’t cure everything, of course, but hopefully this is a step in the right direction.
Felix Herhandez struck out nine over six scoreless innings en route to his 100th career win. (AP)
But the 7-1 win will not be remembered for the offensive explosion. No, this game was ultimately about Felix Hernandez, who reached 100 wins in very Felix-like fashion: throwing six scoreless innings and striking out nine.
“Finally, finally,” he said at his locker after the game. “I feel great. One hundred wins in the big leagues. I hopefully can get more and more.”
His teammates were happy for him and happy to get the chance to get him back. Felix is one of the more ruthless participants in the traditional (for the Mariners) celebratory beer shower, which is executed after milestones. It takes place in the shower with the whole team loudly taking part. The honoree is usually wheeled in on a laundry cart and subjected to a dousing of ice-cold anything-they-can-get-their-hands-on, including beer, milk and ketchup.
Jesus Montero, who had been looking forward to this day since spring training, apparently took charge.
“I say ‘congratulations’ when he came out in the seventh inning,” Montero said. “Don’t worry, wait for us over there. We are going to have some fun inside.”
“The beer shower … I was the one who threw all the ketchup,” he continued. “He’s the worst, that’s why we did that because all the time he get powder and everything? He’s crazy.”
It wasn’t just about the fun for Montero. Felix could only do so much. After doing his part and coming up empty handed the last two weeks, Montero was relieved that his teammate finally reached the milestone.
“I feel happy because I helped Felix get the win,” he said. “I feel good because he got that 100 win. Thank God I hit that homer. I give him a little more confidence, you know? I told him, ‘don’t worry, we get the win.'”
Montero wasn’t the only teammate that helped. Kyle Seager and Kendrys Morales homered as well. Dustin Ackley had three hits, two lasers to left and an infield hit where he showed good speed. Justin Smoak had two hits, including a double.
In his on-field interview after the game, Seager said the full team’s early batting practice likely contributed to the win.
“All the coaches were out there, even the pitchers were out for early BP, too,” he said of the support.
There was some concerning news when Franklin Gutierrez was slow to get up after diving for a ball in the fourth inning. A trainer and Eric Wedge met him behind second base and walked him off the field. He will be re-evaluated Tuesday, but Wedge admitted he could face time on the disabled list. Carlos Peguero was pulled from the Rainiers game when the Mariners clubhouse opened after the game so it looks like there is a good chance we could see him Tuesday.
DL time could be a blessing in disguise for Gutierrez, who has not been able to take the field with any regularity while dealing with what he earlier described as more than just leg problems.
“I have had some issues with my pelvis and I am trying to fix it,” he said. “Some days it is the groin, some days the hamstrings. It’s different, but I am working on it. I’m doing a lot of things just to get strong in that area and avoid any injury.”
Extended time off might help heal the problem, which first crept up during spring training. The timing is obviously not good with Michael Saunders on the DL, but he is progressing nicely — taking batting practice and starting to throw Monday. He is eligible to come off the DL Friday.
Hisashi Iwakuma takes the hill Tuesday. He is still dealing with the blister on his middle finger but it has hardly slowed him; he’s currently third in the American League in batting average against. Pretty remarkable considering he is unable to throw breaking pitches in bullpens. Let’s see if the offense saved him a couple of runs. Or more.