After a malicious 2-4 week on the east coast against two high powered offenses in the Nationals and Red Sox, the Mariners rallied off a fantastic 6-1 week, taking three of four from the first place Colorado Rockies, and later sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays at home.
They won the opener 6-5, getting out to an early 3-0 lead. Sam Gaviglio did not have his best outing, surrendering five runs in five innings, but the Mariners bullpen, who has quickly turned things around as of late, had his back. Using what was almost the entirety of their bullpen, six different M’s relievers threw the final four innings allowing no earned runs to pick up the W.
The M’s would take games two and three, winning by sufficient margins of 10-4 and 5-0. In the third game of the series, in which they returned home to Seattle after the prolonged road trip, James Paxton came off the DL, making his first start since May 2nd, and gave the M’s everything they had hoped for and more. Paxton threw 5.1 scoreless innings in his return, earning a standing ovation at Safeco Field.
They would drop the finale 6-3, therefore failing to sweep the Rockies, but the loss was the least of Seattle’s concerns. The injury bug simply won’t get out of the Mariners system. Nelson Cruz was drilled by a Kyle Freeland fastball in the right hand during the 3rd inning, and would later leave the game. He ended up being okay, with the MRI revealing no structural damage, but that wasn’t the case for Jean Segura.
Segura hurt himself sliding into second base while attempting to tag up on a fly ball and had to be helped off the field by the trainers. It was later discovered that Segura suffered a high ankle sprain, and is expected to miss about a month. The club called up rookie Tyler Smith to fill his void on the roster, but it will be Taylor Motter roaming at short for the time being.
When the Rays came into town on Friday, the Mariners put together what was their best weekend of the season, dominating from all three phases. They outscored Tampa 28-7 in the three games, pitching was outstanding, and the club didn’t commit an error all weekend. It was capped off on Sunday afternoon with a complete game from Ariel Miranda that was a sun triple away from being a complete game shutout. Miranda gave up just the one run along with four hits in his outing.
But the most intriguing takeaway from the series was the eye-popping display of offense from Mike Zunino and Danny Valencia.
As we know, Zunino hasn’t exactly been the Buster Posey-esque catcher that everybody had hoped for when the Mariners drafted him third overall back in 2012. But this weekend he used all of the adjustments he made in Tacoma and applied them to his at-bats. He went 5 for 11 on the weekend with 10 RBI’s and a towering grand slam against Rays starter Alex Cobb on Saturday that was two rows from exiting Safeco Field. Zunino had 7 RBI’s in Saturday’s game alone and brought his season average up to .216, which currently sits as the highest of his career.
Meanwhile Valencia came into the weekend hitting .247 but finished at .283 after nine hits on the weekend, going 9 for 9 until his final at bat of Sunday’s game, which tied Raul Ibanez for a franchise record. He also had a homer and drove in six runs.
The M’s now sit at 28-30, just 2.5 games back of the second wild card. This team has been very streaky in the last couple of weeks. After going 1-7 and being outscored 50-9 in those contests, the Mariners turned it around and went 7-1 in their last eight games, outscoring opponents 57-22. They continue their longest homestand of the year this week when they will take on the Twins for a three game sweepstakes before the Blue Jays make the long trip to the Pacific Northwest for the weekend.
MVP: There are so many guys who are deserving of it in this incredible week, but this week’s goes to Danny Valencia, beating out Mike Zunino by a thread. As I mentioned, Valencia raised his average by 36 points during the weekend and by 30 points during the week. He also had 9 RBI’s on the week. The M’s are going to need him and Zunino to keep producing at the bottom of the lineup if they want to stay in the race.