The Seattle Mariners (45-52) went Blue Jay hunting on Friday night, beating the Toronto Blue Jays (49-49) 5-2 in the series opener. The big win quieted thousands of visiting Canadians, and sent them home empty handed. Felix Hernandez (12-5, 2.69 ERA) shut down the Blue Jays en route to earning his 12th win of the season. Marco Estrada (7-6, 3.55 ERA) was roughed up, and was saddled with the loss. Carson Smith shut the door in the final frame to record his 9th save of the year.
King Felix got off to a bit of a rocky start in the 1st inning, but as you would expect, the best pitcher in baseball recovered nicely. Hernandez allowed 2 runs, 1 earned on 5 hits across 7 innings pitched. He fanned 7 and walked 1 in the series opener. The 29-year-old right-hander had great command, with 67 of his 100 pitches finding the strike zone. Toronto typically gives Felix fits, but he did a great job shutting down the Blue Jays’ bats in this one.
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Mark Lowe was called on to pitch with a 3-run lead in the 8th, and he delivered a scoreless frame for his 12th hold of the season. Carson Smith appears to be the Mariners full-time closer, and I could not be happier. The scintillating 25-year-old pitched a perfect 9th to pick up the save. Smitty’s slider is unhittable, and he used it to strikeout Kevin Pillar to end the game.
Marco Estrada was not originally supposed to start tonight, but he was pressed into action at the last second. Estrada never looked comfortable on the mound this evening, and the M’s took advantage. The 32-year-old allowed 5 runs on 8 hits across 4 innings of work. He struck out 4, walked 3 and served up a key 2-run home run. Ryan Tepera worked a pair of scoreless innings in relief. Former Mariner, Steve Delabar pitched 2 scoreless innings of his own to keep Toronto in the game.
Mark Trumbo got the M’s on the scoreboard in the bottom of the 4th tonight. Trumbo connected on a 2-run home run that just made it over the wall in right field. Seattle added to their lead in the 5th, plating 3 runs. Kyle Seager got the rally started by ripping a leadoff double into the right field corner. Seager made it to third base on a Nelson Cruz infield single with a heads up base running play. Robinson Cano is as hot as anyone in baseball this month, and he delivered a 2-run triple that split the gap in right-center field.
Jose Reyes reeked havoc on Felix Hernandez and the Mariners’ defense in the first few innings. The All-Star shortstop was awarded second base following a Hernandez throwing error in the 1st inning. Reyes used his speed effectively to plate the game’s first run on a pair of groundouts. Jose Bautista always hits the King hard, and he launched a solo home run into Edgar’s Cantina in the top of the 6th to shrink the M’s lead to 3. Edwin Encarnacion had a nice game for Toronto, finishing 2 for 4 with an RBI. The Blue Jays have a potent offensive attack, but the Seattle arms did a great job limiting the damage.
Jul 24, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners right fielder Nelson Cruz (23) is greeted in the dugout after scoring a run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the fifth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Something interesting is happening with the Mariners; they are playing the game with enthusiasm. It seems like Franklin Gutierrez‘s game winning grand salami on Tuesday in Detroit has been the catalyst. Players started smiling immediately after Guti made contact with the ball, and the grins have not left their faces in the 3 games since. Even with the “home” crowd rooting against the Mariners for much of the night, the players on the field never stopped having fun. It will be an uphill climb for Seattle to get back in the race, but if a miracle happens and they make a run, I think we will look back on July 21st as the night everything changed.
Seattle has now won 2 in a row, and 3 of their last 4. This recent hot streak has allowed the Mariners to gain some valuable ground in the American League West standings. The M’s currently sit 9.5 games in the AL West, and 7.5 games out in the wildcard.
The Seattle Mariners (45-52) will attempt to secure their first 3-game winning streak since June 27th tomorrow afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays (49-49). First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 pm from the corner of Edgar & Dave. J.A. Happ (4-5, 4.12 ERA) will be on the bump for Seattle against his former club. Drew Hutchison (9-2, 5.19 ERA) will try and work through a nasty stomach bug when he toes the rubber for Toronto. Root Sports will carry the game live locally, and MLB.tv subscribers can watch worldwide on connected devices.