BY Art Thiel 06:26PM 04/28/2013

Thiel: Mariners win series, Angels look worse

Solo homers by Bay and Morse give the Mariners a home series win over the Angels for the first time in a decade. And by the way, Iwakuma is the AL’s best.

Mike Morse delivered the game winner Sunday, a solo shot in the eighth, to give the Mariners a 2-1 win. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Eric Wedge says he likes how his Mariners “are carrying themselves,” which presumably means he didn’t care for how they were being carried on stretchers five days earlier.

But before they are signed out of critical care, consider who is entering — their weekend opponent, the Los Angeles Angels. The sick men of the AL West (9-15), the preseason divisional favorites, have a bad case of bat rot.

In three games featuring the good Mariners starters, the Angels scored zero (Brandon Maurer), two (Felix Hernandez) and one run (Hisashi Iwakuma). Two runs were unearned.

As you make your own call on the half-full, half-empty metric, know that in the four-game series concluding with Sunday’s 2-1 Mariners victory, the Angels’ Josh Hamilton was 3-for-16, Mike Trout 3-for-14, Albert Pujols 2-for-15, Howie Kendrick 3-for-13 and Mark Trumbo 3-for-15.

For this kind of hitting, Angels owner Arte Moreno could have walked across the street in Orange County and hired five of the Seven Dwarves, at a steep discount.

In the half-full camp are the Mariners, left for dead by a fan base Wednesday after four losses seven games against the woebegone divisional newbies, the Houston Astros. But the Mariners took three of four from the Angels, including the last two in a row and inched ahead of them into third place in the minimally torrid AL West race. It was the first home series win against the Angels in 10 years — June 16-19, 2003.

“We still have a ways to go offensively,” Wedge said. “But we see certain indicators from certain guys that they’re heading in the right direction. When that translates collectively, we’ll be on our way.”

Wedge’s cautions are wise, since the Mariners’ consecutive one-run wins were scant evidence of dominance. They entered Sunday’s play having scoring 85 runs in 26 games,  worst output in the American League. Only twice in the past 13 games have they scored more than three runs.

But only two swings were necessary to chop down the enfeebled Angels. Jason Bay led off  the seventh inning with a home run. An inning later, Mike Morse also put one in the left field bullpen.

Both were off Jason Vargas, the former Mariner traded in the off-season for Kendrys Morales. In allowing only six hits and two walks over eight innings, he looked every bit like the No. 2 starter he was in Seattle for the past couple of seasons. He pitched probably his best game of the year, but is 0-3 with a 4.85 ERA because he left up in the middle of the strike zone two fastballs, mistakes he couldn’t afford to make last year with the Mariners and this April with the Angels.

The game-winner was Morse’s seventh homer, but first since April 9. A pitch broke a pinky bone April 11, and he hadn’t been the same since. Until Sunday.

“We wanted to win this series — bad,” said Morse, clearly jacked by the jack. “To square up on a guy like Vargas . . . he was pitching incredibly.

“Early on (after the finger fracture) I was thinking about it, and it was affecting my play. But there’s a lot of guys in here playing with injuries. I’m not thinking about it any more.”

Important as was the run, so was Morse’s improved demeanor.

“Morse has been grinding,” Wedge said. “He’s a fun guy, with a lot of personality and energy. From a personality standpoint, we are seeing from these guys what we need to see every day, regardless of what’s going on, because that will carry us over the top.”

Speaking of over the top, Iwakuma might be the best starting pitcher in the AL at the moment. With no earned runs in six innings, he dropped his ERA to 1.67, and with eight strikeouts, has 19 in his past two games. His mastery of several pitches and ability to repeat his motion and release point are up there with his Japanese countryman, the Rangers’ Yu Darvish.

His only limitation has been a finger blister that develops throughout every start.

“Today he came out (of the game) better than he has,” Wedge said. “Getting him through today was big. If we pushed him one more inning, we’d probably go back to where we were with him.”

Another mild encouragement for the Mariners was that with no trinket incentive such as beard hat night (31,543) or bat night (31,901), 20,638 showed up at Safeco Field. That may not be impressive to many, but when you’ve been sick for almost a month, it’s nice to have visitors just because you’re you.

The Angels know. They would be happy with a bat night.


YourThoughts

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.sims.14 Bob Sims

    The way Iwakuma set up Josh Hamilton in his first at bat was filthy, all that slow breaking stuff, and then goes up the ladder with the fastball for the K
    . That cat can pitch.

    • art thiel

      His ability to mix speeds and pitches is masterful. Hamilton was terrible in all 4 ABs.

  • Michael Kaiser

    “We still have a ways to go offensively,” Wedge said. You think? But, still, good for the Mariners. I said I could see them perhaps pushing into third place, and I also said that Iwakuma might be the best pitcher on this team, although that might be stretching things. Or it might not. It will be interesting to see how the hitters respond to him as the season goes on and they get a better feel for him. Oh, and this week a good TEAM comes to town. And as an aside, I was watching the Orioles-A’s game last night and I was blown away to see that Jim Palmer pitched 211 COMPLETE GAMES in his career. And he won three Cy Youngs and three World Series over about a 15 year span. So he certainly did not break down.

    • maqman

      Jim Palmer was a hell of a pitcher but Robin Roberts pitched 305 complete games, including 28 consecutively for the Phillies and once started three games in the last five days of the 1950 season. Cy Young threw 747 complete games, which among other things led to the pitchers award being named for him. Pitchers ain’t what they used to be but who is, not me.

      • art thiel

        Pitchers are actually better than they used to be; but the good ones are paid so much now that clubs have to protect their investments. Baseball history is littered with great pitchers who burned out by 25 or 28 because of overuse. Back then, managements never cared because there was always someone else they could burn up and throw away.

    • art thiel

      Neither did Cy Young, Walter Johnson or Nolan Ryan. But they are the outliers. Pitching is an unnatural act with a high rate of casualties.

  • Trygvesture

    Safeco capacity: 47k. Good turnout on a perfect day for baseball in Seattle: 20k. Sad state of affairs for a grand ballpark to have such a terrible, terrible tennant.
    Too bad the landlord can’t impose user fees when misfeasance leaves the facility largely unused for community benefit. Wouldn’t it be great if they had to pay for putting a bad product on the field? There’s a business model HL would understand.
    They averted a head on train wreck by the grace of 3 players and a gift from batrotfluenza in the other dugout. Still, Iwakuma was stellar.

    • art thiel

      Imagine: Tenants being accountable. If you thought the NBA was mad at 1-91, wait until MLB here’s THAT idea.

  • maqman

    Art this one pegged the chuckleometer.

    • art thiel

      Thanks.

  • jafabian

    Moving in the fences made the difference. If they didn’t the M’s would have lost 1-0.

    • artthiel

      Morse’s was out, new or old.

  • notaboomer

    and the only game Ms lost was beardhatnight, dammit!

    • art thiel

      Mariners tradition: Promotions better than the games.