Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon searched for adjectives before Tuesday’s game to characterize his bullpen. The word he settled for was “historical.”
And he’s right — at this point in the season, anyway.
The Mariners’ relief corps entered Tuesday’s game against Toronto at Safeco Field with an ERA of 2.33.
If it stays there, it would be the lowest bullpen ERA for any American League club over a complete season since use of the designated hitter began in 1973 — 42 years.
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“The thing about our bullpen, if you really think about it,” McClendon said, “is we added two two veterans in (lefty specialist) Joe Beimel and (All-Star closer Fernando) Rodney.
“Everybody else was able to be slotted into, probably, the proper roles — where they weren’t overexposed; they weren’t overused. As a result, they’ve been fantastic.
“Now, did I think they were going to be this good? No. This is historical-type stuff that we’re doing now. It’s been pretty special to watch.”
Currently, the distinction of having the best bullpen ERA over a complete season belongs to the 1990 Oakland A’s at 2.35. After that, it’s a long drop to second place: last year’s Kansas City Royals at 2.55.
The Mariners are even within range of catching the 1981 New York Yankees who, in a strike-shortened year, finished at 2.26.
Plans for Elias
Look for rookie left-hander Roenis Elias to throw about 60 pitches Wednesday in a stay-sharp start for Triple-A Tacoma at New Orleans before rejoining the Mariners’ rotation next week in Philadelphia.
The Mariners optioned Elias to the Rainiers after his Aug. 7 start against the White Sox to ease his innings count. He pitched 1422/3 innings last season, counting winter ball, but is already up to 1342/3 for this season.
McClendon said when Elias returns, he should be able to take his regular turn throughout the remainder of the season without any restrictions. Elias, 26, is 9-9 with a 4.14 ERA in 23 starts.
Ultra quality stuff
Felix Hernandez’s 16-game streak of ultra-quality starts is a major league record and, not surprisingly, his 20 such starts overall are the most in either league.
St. Louis right-hander Adam Wainwright ranks second with 17, while Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber ranks second to Hernandez among American League pitchers with 13.
An ultra-quality start is defined as pitching at least seven innings and allowing two or fewer earned runs. Hernandez broke the record of 15 in a row by Gaylord Perry in 1974.
Hernandez’s streak is actually even better: He hasn’t allowed more than two runs, period, in his last 16 starts. He also has at least 20 ultra-quality starts in four of his last six seasons, including a career-best 23 in 2010.
Cano’s dandy decade
Robinson Cano gained a niche in major league history when he hit his 10th homer in Monday’s victory; he became the 38th player in history to reach double figures in each of his first 10 seasons.
The last to do it were Matt Holliday and David Wright, who did it last season.
Cano also has six homers in 36 games since June 29 after hitting only four in his first 77 games with the Mariners. If he maintains his post-June 29 pace, he’ll finish with 17.
Felix fastest to 2,000
Hernandez, at age 28, passed the 2,000-innings plateau in Monday’s 11-1 romp over the Blue Jays. He pitched seven innings, which boosted his career total to 2,005.
The last pitchers to reach 2,000 innings in a year when they turned 28 were Dwight Gooden in 1993 and Fernando Valenzuela in 1989.
But Hernandez was younger than both when he reached the milestone: 68 days younger than Gooden; 88 days younger than Valenzuela.
Hernandez also became just the second pitcher to pitch 2,000 innings as a Mariner. Jamie Moyer pitched 2,093 from 1996-2005.
Only two other native Venezuelans have reached 2,000: former Mariner Freddy Garcia at 2,264, and Johan Santana at 2,0252/3.
The Mariners have 28 come-from-behind victories — one more than they had for all of 2013. ... The Mariners set a franchise record Monday by holding an opponent to three or fewer runs for a 10th straight game. Their previous record was a nine-game run in 2009.
Two Mariners’ farmhands were picked as the player of the month in their league for July.
Triple-A Tacoma first baseman/designated hitter Jesus Montero won the award in the Pacific Coast League, while first baseman/outfielder Jordy Lara was cited in the Advanced-A California League.
Montero, 24, batted .375 with eight homers and 33 RBIs in 27 games for the Rainiers. Overall, he is batting .290 at Tacoma with 16 homers and 74 RBIs in 94 games.
Lara, 23, batted .434 with nine homers and 27 RBIs in 24 games at High Desert prior to his July 27 promotion to Double-A Jackson, where he is batting .320 with one homer and 10 RBIs in 13 games.
The Mariners signed Lara, a Dominican native, in 2008 as a non-drafted free agent.
Jackson third baseman D.J. Peterson, generally viewed as the organization’s top prospect, remains sidelined after fouling a ball off his left leg in Sunday’s game at Pensacola.
Peterson, 22, was in a 7-for-48 slump prior to the injury, which dropped his average to .255 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 38 games since his promotion from High Desert.
It was one year ago Wednesday — Aug. 13, 2013 — that Brad Miller hit two homers in a 5-4 victory at Tampa Bay.
Miller and Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist each hit homers to lead off the first inning. Zobrist also hit two homers. It marked just the third time in history that both leadoff hitters had two homers in the same game.
The Mariners conclude their nine-game homestand when the face the Toronto Blue Jays at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (10-6 with a 2.86 ERA) will oppose Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (9-11, 3.99). Root Sports will telecast the game.
The Mariners have an open date Thursday before opening a nine-game trip that consists of three-game stops in Detroit, Philadelphia and Boston.