Joe Blanton – yes, that Joe Blanton – was the latest starter the Mariners made look like Cy Young. The veteran journeyman out-dueled Felix Hernandez by silencing the Seattle bats on the way to a 4-1 Kansas City win Monday night (box score) at Safeco Field.
When Mariners CF Austin Jackson ended Blanton’s streak of 16 consecutive outs with a leadoff double in the seventh, it provided a flicker of hope. As Robinson Cano stepped into the batter’s box and pinch hitter Dustin Ackley emerged from the dugout to hit for Nelson Cruz, it seemed a bit odd. Turns out Cruz had a tight hamstring, and Ackley ended up striking out on the way to another runner being stranded on third base.
Hernandez unraveled in the second and third innings but composed himself to some degree. He allowed four runs – the fourth time in 15 starts this season he has given up that many – and was knocked around for nine hits. It wasn’t a typical King Felix performance. .
Mariners fans have seen enough of Blanton over the years to realize that it takes quite an inept offense to make him look like Felix Hernandez. That offense was on display Monday night. After Cano provided a rare home run in the first inning, Blanton mowed through 16 consecutive. They had a season-low-tying two hits and 13 strikeouts.
The inconsistency of the Seattle bats can best be explained by this nugget: the Mariners have beaten Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Trevor Bauer and reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber this month; they’ve also been dominated by Shaun Marcum, Ryan Vogelsong and, yes, even Joe Blanton.
Cano hit his first home run since May 30. He has three, one fewer than Dustin Ackley . . . Speaking of Ackley, the former No. 2 overall pick in the MLB draft appears to have fallen out of favor again. Ackley has not been in the starting lineup for three games in a row and has started only once in the past eight games – that came as an 11th-hour fill-in for Cano at second base. Seth Smith is the every-day leftfielder, while Nelson Cruz and Mark Trumbo have things covered in right . . . And speaking of underachieving outfielders, the Mariners officially released OF Rickie Weeks Monday, ending his forgettable tenure here. The 34-year-old Weeks, who hit .167 in 37 games, was designated for assignment June 13 and was released Monday after clearing waivers . . . Speaking of guys in limbo, LHP James Paxton (strained middle finger in his throwing hand) still hasn’t been cleared to throw. Paxton’s injury has lingered so long that he’s scheduled to see a team doctor this week.
After facing three Houston starters that had a combined 92 career starts, the Mariners continue their tour of senior-circuit Kansas City starters with 36-year-old Jeremy Guthrie (5-4, 5.55 ERA) and his 261 career starts taking the mound for the Royals Tuesday. Mariners LHP Mike Montgomery (1-2, 2.73 ERA) will get another shot at a team that let him go. He spent his first five seasons in the Kansas City organization without getting a cup of coffee before getting dealt to Tampa Bay in 2012. Montgomery had a solid start against the Rays earlier, only to take the loss in a 3-1 defeat.