Just 27 1/2 games out wih 15 to play - including tonight - the Seattle Mariners aren't a blip in the rear-view mirror for the Texas Rangers, who are already looking ahead to the post-season.
Seattle? It has to win at least eight of those 15 games to avoid losing 100 for the year, and if they can't beat the Rangers, their chances are diminished. They have six games left with Texas, including this one.
Felix Hernandez is on the mound to finish off a spectacular year that won't be long-remembered, because he started the night 11-11 despite a marvelous earned run average (2.39) and the league lead in innings and strikeouts.
Ichiro, meanwhile, starts the game with 189 hits, and until he reaches the 200 mark he will be a bit nervous, as he has been each of his first nine major league seasons. In a lost year for the Mariners, Felix and Ichiro are great players.
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If only they'd each been triplets.
- Make that 190 hits for Ichiro, who just dropped a bunt single. If you're counting, that's his 51st infield hit of the year.
- Now here's a Mariner rally for you: Franklin Gutierrez legged out an infield hit, took second on a ground ball, stole third - his 22nd steal of the season - and scored on a wild pitch. That's firepower! Michael Saunders walked and stole second. He was stranded. In the second: Seattle 1, Texas 0.
- Make that 191 hits for Ichiro, who singled up the middle with one out in the third inning. Ichiro then stole second and third, giving him 41 stolen bases. Chone Figgins singled, Ichiro scoring. Figgins stole second base with two outs, his 40th. In the third: Seattle 2, Texas 0.
- Two runs isn't much against Texas, but it should be mentioned: Felix has allowed one base runner in five innings - on a first-inning walk. He's struck out six.
- It didn't see to bother Mr. Hernandez, but the Safeco Field crowd booed when the Rangers No. 9 hitter, Julio Borbon, tried to bunt for a hit. Felix threw him out easily, and Texas is still looking for a second base runner. In the sixth: Seattle 2, Texas 0.
- Michael Young went down flailing, a gifted hitter badly fooled by three strikes. David Murphy rolled back to the mound. Vladimir Guerrero? Ground ball to second. Through seven, Felix has allowed one walk, period. Seventy-two pitches, 21 outs.
- Well, now ... Nelson Cruz led off the eighth inning with a home run, his 20th of the season. Felix needs six outs for a win. In he eighth: Seattle 2, Texas 1.
- Ninth innings, David Aardsma time. With a one-run lead, he faced the 2-3-4 hitters in the Rangers lineup. Fly ball. Strikeout. Ground out. Aardsma's 30th save. Mr. Hernandez is now 12-11 with a 2.35 ERA. It's a final: Seattle 2, Texas 1.