Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE
In a season riddled with unexpected trades, more perfect games than Seattle has witnessed in 35 years, and a barrage of freak injuries for Franklin Gutierrez, the Mariners pulled off something spectacular. On August 14, dragging a 54-64 record behind them, they eked out a win against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The win, an insignificant prelude to the pinnacle of Felix Hernandez‘s career, was a 3-2 squeaker that ended on Eric Thames‘ walk-off single in the 9th. The next day, the momentum shifted—not from Seattle to Tampa Bay, but from the Mariners’ offense to its defense. King Felix reigned supreme with his first no-hitter and the club’s first perfect game.
Over the course of the next week, the Mariners continued to find ways to win. The Twins went down swinging in three games, punctuated by John Jaso‘s walk-off sacrifice fly in Game 2. When the Indians pulled into town, sporting a 4-1 record against Seattle, they were also promptly swept to finish off the homestand.
The Mariners and their eight-game winning streak, good for seventh longest franchise history, were joined by nine other teams with streaks of 8+ wins in 2012: Yankees (10), Reds (10), Athletics (9), White Sox (9), Angels (8), Nationals (8), Rays (8), Padres (8), and Rangers (8). The Yankees faced the toughest competition, tackling the Mets, Braves, and Nationals in ten games, while the M’s dealt with the three teams most often faced over the nine streaks: Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and Cleveland.
Not surprisingly, they also did the least damage in their eight game streak, with the fewest RBI (29), hits (63), runs (30), at-bats (248), and lowest average (.254). They placed second-to-last in extra base hits, managing just 22 behind the Angels’ 20. By contrast, Oakland reached 20 home runs alone in nine games, taking a significant lead with 50 extra bases.
While Seattle’s offense provided just enough fuel to propel eight wins, much of their successful run can be attributed to the pitching staff. The Mariners led the pack with the lowest ERA (1.50), earned runs (12), strikeouts (56), and inning pitched (72.0, tied last with Texas and Tampa Bay). Backing dominant outings form the rotation, the ‘pen held the opposition to 10 hits, 10 walks, and an incredible 2 runs in 17.2 IP.
As we now know, the team’s late-season run did not culminate in a division title. It did not lead to a wild card berth, or break .500. What it did accomplish, however, was creating a surge of optimism for its fanbase, causing fans of legitimate playoff contenders to take notice, and reaffirming Eric Wedge and Jack Zduriencik’s plans for a solid rebuilding year. If this is a preview of future seasons from the Mariners, there can only be good times ahead.