Alright, where did the real Seattle Mariners go? You know that team that struggles to score four runs a game and does it with a slap and tickle attack, featuring the always exciting infield singles, fielder’s choice and bases loaded walks.
And certainly the real Mariners would never dare score runs when Felix Hernandez is on the mound. The reigning American League Cy Young winner usually receives run support comparable to his miniscule earned run average.
No this group of “imposters” that showed up on Thursday at Safeco Field overwhelmed one of the best pitchers in the AL in Tampa Bay’s James Shields with a barrage of homers, line drives and hard hit balls in an 8-2 rout.
Just ask Rays manager Joe Maddon.
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“That one I did not see coming,” he said. “The Mariners are a nice ball club but they’re not known right now for that kind of outburst.”
Neither did anyone else.
The onslaught was led by an unlikely hero. Carlos Peguero, who can be an all-or-nothing type of hitter, got all of two pitches, crushing a pair of home runs to lead the Mariners. The massive rookie had been coming up with mostly nothing in the last five games, having gone, 0 for his last 14 with two walks and 10 strikeouts.
But in his first at-bat against Shields with runners on first and second and the Mariners already leading 2-0 thanks to a solo homer from Jack Cust and a rare RBI single from Chone Figgins, Peguero crushed a change-up to deep right-center for a three-run homer. It sparked a five run second inning. The ball traveled an estimated 421 feet.
Peguero wasn’t finished. In the third fourth inning, he led off the inning with a solo blast. Shields hung a curveball to Peguero, who went with the pitch and drove it over the wall in left-center into the Mariners bullpen.
Justin Smoak hit a solo homer later in the inning to give Seattle four home runs on the night. The last time the Mariners hit four homers in a game came on Sept. 22, 2010 when Jose Lopez hit three in one game.
Lost in the barrage of power was the splendid pitching of Hernandez, who got a rare night of run support. With plenty of runs behind him, Hernandez carved up Tampa hitters, pitching seven innings and allowing just one run on five hits, while striking out 11 batters and walking two.
Wedge limited Hernandez to just 97 pitches after throwing 128 in his last inning.
“He pitched another fantastic ball game,” Wedge said. “But we knew we were going to pull him back a little bit anyway, so it gave us an opportunity to do that in the type of game we were in tonight.”
TAMPA BAY NOTES:
• The Rays have lost 9 of their last 13 games and 12 of 17 since May 13 when they were a season-high 8 games over .500…still 15-11 on the road and won 10 of their last 16 at Safeco Field…the team has also lost all three games when starting pitcher James Shields and Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez have faced, all at Safeco.
• Shields allowed 8 runs tonight (7 ER)…had allowed only 8 runs in previous 5 road starts this season (led AL with 1.88 road ERA coming into tonight)…drops his first road start this season, including a 4 consecutive road win streak (4-1)…snapped a streak of 9 consecutive games with 7.0+ IP…walked a season-high tying 3 batters (3x, 5/6 @ BAL,
5/28 vs. CLE)…shortest outing (4.0 IP), most runs allowed (8) and most home runs allowed since 8/7/10 @ TOR, when he worked 4.0 innings and allowed 8 runs on 6 HR, which tied a modern major league record.
• Shields is the 15th visiting pitcher to give up at least 4 home runs in Seattle (last: Jered Weaver, LAA, 8/29/06)…last pitcher to give up at least 4 home runs to Seattle was Jarrod Washburn (8/20/09 @ DET).
• Relief pitcher Juan Cruz pitched 3.0 scoreless innings, his longest outing since 7/21/07 @ CHC (with Arizona, also 3.0 IP)...he threw 53 pitches, his most in a relief outing since 4/18/06 vs. SF (with Arizona), when he threw 55 pitches.
• Matt Joyce has hit safely in 14 of his last 17 games…has reached base safely in 40 of his 47 starts this year…owns a career .400 (10x25) vs. SEA (highest against any opponent)…has 27 RBI in last 32 games…hit 3rd home run in his last 13 at-bats vs. left-handed pitchers...had previously gone 67 career at-bats against lefties without any home runs.
• Johnny Damon has now reached base safely in 28 straight games, the longest active streak in the AL and 3 shy of his career longest (31 games, 8/5-9/6/00 with KC)…first game this year batting clean-up.
• Tonight is the fourth time this season the Mariners have scored 5+ runs in one inning (2nd inning)…first time since scoring 6 runs 4/27 @ DET in the top of the 9th inning.
• First time this season that the Mariners have hit 4+ home runs as a team (last: 9/22/10 @ TOR)…14th time to hit 4+ homers in a game at Safeco Field (last: 6/23/07 vs. CIN)…4th time vs. TB (last: 5/21/00 at home).
• Carlos Peguero snapped an 0x14 hitting drought with a 3-run homer in the second inning (3rd of the season; also 5/13 @ CLE, 5/16 vs. MIN) and a home run (4th of the season) in the fourth inning…first time a rookie has hit two home runs in a single game since Michael Saunders on 6/30/10 vs. NYY…17th time in club history…career high 4 RBI tonight (previously 2, 2x, last: 5/23 @ MIN).
• The Mariners have now won 12 of 15 and 13 of 17 games…21-12 over the last 32 games…are 16-14 at home and 23-16 in night games.
• Seattle is now 7-0 when starting pitcher Felix Hernandez starts against Tampa Bay at Safeco Field.
• Hernandez recorded his 3rd double-digit strikeout game of the season (also: 5/22 at SD & 5/1 at BOS)…it is his 12th
career 10+ strikeout game…struck out a season runner-up 11 batters (high: 13, 5/22 @SD)…passes NYY’s CC Sabathia for most wins prior to turning 26 (77 wins)…has now thrown at least 7.0 innings in 21 of his last 27 starts at home…has allowed 2 ER or less in 10 of 13 starts this season.