UPDATE: The Mariners have updated their starting rotation probables for this week, moving Felix Hernandez to Friday and TBA for Wednesday.
The Mariners return home for a six-game homestand Monday night on the heels of a three-game sweep in Boston to cap a 6-3 road trip that was the most dramatic three-game set team has played in a long time.
I spoke with Mariners radio voice Rick Rizzs prior to batting practice and he confirmed just as much to me. The drama, the comebacks, the back-and-forth nature of the games and the performance of the bullpen in crucial late-game situations all made it stand out.
The final game in particular, a 4-hour and 10-minute roller-coaster ride, can be viewed as the best game of the season. Hard to argue when you look at the lead changes, the overall competiveness of the game, execution by both teams and drama at the end.
Manager Lloyd McClendon was asked in his pre-game media session with reporters specifically about the ending. His decision to bring the outfield in and spread the infield with the bases loaded in a 2-run game, showed he wasn’t trying to hold a tie that would push the game to extras.
“Literally, I told (bench coach) Trent (Jewett) in the ninth inning,” said McClendon, “I said, ‘Bring the outfield in and spread the infield,’ because this is like a spring training game. We’re either going to win it or lose it. I don’t want to go to extra innings, because I didn’t have (another relief arm).
“You just take your shot. You’re on the road, you don’t want a tie. You either win it or you lose it, and you go home for the sake of the next seven games.”
Thankfully, it didn’t come to that and the team did pull out the victory to stay a game ahead of the Tigers in the race for the second AL wild card. Now 15-5 over its last 20 games, Seattle clearly has a confidence about itself.
“I felt that before we left on the road trip . . . Our guys are feeling pretty good about what they’re doing.”
Over the last five starts, the Mariners starting rotation has allowed three or more earned runs in each game without lasting more than 5.1 innings. Prior to that, the staff had gone the entire month, a span of 13 games, without allowing more than two runs in any start. Chris Young, and tonight’s starter Roenis Elias in particular are approaching unchartered innings totals. McClendon said that is a concern for him and the team is taking the necessary steps to safeguard against a potential collapse from its rotation.
“I’ve been concerned about that all year, and that’s why we have done everything we can to push them back whenever we get the chance to do that,” McClendon said. “There’s probably been a little wear, but we’ll try to make some adjustments and keep our eye on the future a little bit, we’re not sure what we’re going to do yet., but hopefully we’ll have answers in the next few days.”
When pushed for who the “spot starter” might be, McClendon just said, “Yes” when the two obvious candidates were mentioned. Obviously nothing official yet, but it would be surprising if either Taijuan Walker or Erasmo Ramirez isn’t re-called prior to the September 1 roster deadline. Both should be up to help relieve the stress on the back-end starters.
With that, here is tonight’s lineup for the Mariners riding a three-game sweep of the Red Sox and looking to carry that momentum back home.
1. Austin Jackson cf
2. Dustin Ackley (L) lf
3. Robinson Cano (L) 2b
4. Kendrys Morales (s) dh
5. Kyle Seager (L) 3b
6. Logan Morrison (L) 1b
7. Mike Zunino c
8. Endy Chavez (L) rf
9. Chris Taylor ss
LHP Roenis Elias (9-10, 4.09)