After a walk-off win in the 13th on Friday night and an exciting 3-1 win last night the Mariners were looking for a sweep on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. Felix Hernandez (5-4, 5.83 ERA) took the hill against Blake Snell (7-3, 2.56 era).
Felix’s struggles in the 1st inning have been well documented. So it was encouraging to see him work quick 1, 2, 3 innings to start the game. His control was much improved today. Perhaps the efforts of Felix and Mel Stottlemeyer Jr. in between starts would be paying dividends today.
Snell was unhittable early in the game, setting an American League record by striking out the first seven Mariners he faced. Everything about Snell was impressive. He showed a smooth delivery, a great mix of pitches and a killer instinct in two-strike counts. He set down the first nine batters he faced before Dee Gordon broke up the perfect game with an infield base hit.
Both teams traded scoreless innings until the 4th when former Mariner Brad Miller drove in Daniel Robertson with a two-out double.
It looked as if the wheels might fall off for the Mariners in the 5th. The Rays loaded the bases with just one out and the heart of their order coming up. But Felix was resilient and was able to strike out Joey Wendle and coax Matt Duffy into a harmless comebacker to end the threat.
Despite Snell’s dominance Mariners hitters were able to drive his pitch count up and he exited with a one-run lead after going six scoreless innings and striking out twelve.
This was Felix’s best start since his opening day effort when he gave up no runs. He gave the Mariners eight innings of one-run ball and struck out seven today leaving the Mariners with a chance to steal a win.
The Mariners caught a break in the 8th inning when Guillermo Heredia looked to lay down a sacrifice bunt and Brad Miller simply muffed a throw from Jose Alvardo at first base, setting up runners on the corners and no-outs for Denard Span. Span drove a single the other way plating Andrew Romine who was pinch running for Ryon Healy. Dee Gordon gave the Mariners the lead with a jam shot single that barely floated over Robertson at shortstop and it was 2-1 Mariners heading to the 9th inning.
Edwin Diaz closed the door in the 9th, picking up his 21st save on the year and delivered a sweep for the Mariners faithful.
The Mariners will remain in first place at least until Tuesday when James Paxton(4-1, 3.13 ERA) will take on Dallas Keuchel (3-7, 3.65 ERA) and the Houston Astros.