Even within the context of a blazing hot streak, it’s not entirely surprising that the Seattle Mariners were shut out by Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz, as you may know, was once a top starting pitching prospect, but has only recently found success in a long relief role. He’s a marginal guy who was once considered to have a world of upside, and you know what those kind of pitchers are prone to do? Dominate the Mariners, that’s what. Pomeranz dominated the Mariners yesterday, keeping them from grabbing their share of first place and saving the Athletics from a four-game sweep. There’s plenty of amazing in that last sentence, and the Pomeranz part is the least of it.
Let’s back up a game. The M’s and A’s played twice yesterday. Going into the day the Mariners had taken two straight against their division foe, having completely turned their fortunes around following a devastating losing streak that saw them swept by Miami and almost swept by Houston. That was the scene for a weird Felix Day, and though the Mariners did secure a series win in game one of the doubleheader, the King contributed nothing more than innings. It was another weird outing for Felix, though his teammates actually picked him up for the first time in weeks.
Felix threw 6.1 innings of no-strikeout baseball. This is the strangest kind of Felix outing, since so much of his game is built on his ability to blow hitters away. He traded the K’s primarily for grounders, but also floundered a bit in allowing eleven hits and a pair of walks. He was tagged for four runs, three earned, and left with the M’s losing. He threw plenty of strikes, but saw plenty of those strikes fall for base hits. His strikeout and walk numbers are now a little bit behind his 2013 pace, but it’s not as if he’s changed anything about his skill set over the last few starts. He’ll be fine, since of course he’ll be fine, he’s Felix. And besides, the Mariners won. Winning cures all.
Noted strong man Corey Hart sent a ball into orbit leading off the second inning to give the M’s an early lead. Mike Zunino launched a solo shot of his own in the fifth, and is a very powerful human in his own right. James Jones walked to lead off the sixth and quickly stole second. Jones is shiny and new and a lot of fun to watch. Who knows how much we’ll hate him when he starts striking out 40% of the time, but so far he’s delightful in the way Abraham Almonte was when he came up last September – a true athlete, playing his brains out at all times. So fun. Robinson Cano grounded Jones to third, and Hart walked. Then Hart stole second without a throw, and this is Corey Hart’s knees we’re talking about here. Smoak flew out and Hart took off for third, with Jones scoring before Hart could be tagged out. So there was run number three: an inning-ending sac fly double play. Standard.
Oakland took the lead with a three-run seventh, pitting the M’s offense against the A’s awesome bullpen with a winning streak on the line. Fernando Abad and Luke Gregerson each walked a man before the latter allowed a game-tying single to Cano. The game went to extras, which is just so dreamy on a doubleheader day. The Athletics bullpen was complicit in ending the game in a timely manner, as they allowed a pair of RBI singles to Justin Smoak and Kyle Seager. Fernando Rodney worked around a two-out double by Director Of Human Resources Eric Sogard to secure the save and bring Seattle within one game of the division lead.
While game one featured the best pitcher (or player, really) on either team, game two featured a recently-demoted youngster and a recently-sent-to-the-bullpen-forever youngster. Erasmo Ramirez vs. Drew Pomeranz was the kind of matchup that many had once hoped would be marquee by now, but neither has yet even elevated themself to the level of being fun to watch. Erasmo did his thing, allowing a home run to Yoenis Cespedes. An inning earlier he allowed back-to-back singles to Craig Gentry and Jed Lowrie, with Gentry’s amazing speed allowing him to score from first.
Cespedes home run aside, Ramirez was good. Four strikeouts, one walk, six innings. He allowed six hits and got almost all of his outs in the air, so it’s not like this outing screamed “keep me in the majors” but it also was not a bad game by any means. Pomeranz, of course, was dominant through five shutout innings, striking out five and walking none to go with two hits. Dan Otero allowed one hit over his three frames, and Jim Johnson got the save with a perfect ninth. Cano, Smoak, and Seager each had singles. Swell job, fellas.
The Mariners are back in Seattle today to face the Kansas City Royals, who were once upon a March a hot pick to challenge the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. The Royals are 16-17, so it’s not like they’ve fallen on their faces, but they’ve been outshone in their own division by the upstart Twins and White Sox, who have been KC’s equal all season but with better run differentials and more exciting players. The Royals never hit home runs, and important players like Alex Gordon and Billy Butler have struggled early. The pitching staff has been fine, but this team has yet to really look like the contender it was supposed to be. Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Danny Duffy, 7:10 start time. And remember: the Mariners are above .500, in second place with a positive run differential. Iwakuma’s back. Maybe the Royals suck. This should be fun.