Seattle Mariners pitcher Mike Leake felt mixed emotions when he arrived at T-Mobile Park on Saturday, one day after delivering a one-hit complete game shutout in a 10-0 win against the Los Angeles Angels in the series opener.
On the one hand, he tossed a brilliant game — a dominant performance from start to finish, in which he kept the Angels lineup off-balance and guessing over nine innings.
But on the other hand, he was just three outs away from throwing what could’ve been the 24th perfect game in MLB history. Los Angeles second baseman Luis Rengifo broke up the perfect game with a single between the first and second basemen in the ninth inning.
More than anything, Leake walked away from the game feeling as though he had a blueprint to work with in future outings.
“It makes me feel like there’s a chance to do it again,” Leake said. “The way I built it, I can learn from it and establish it again and get myself in another similar situation. Time will tell. It does feel like a state of accomplishment.”
In a rebuilding 2019 season, there was a buzz Friday night that Mariners’ manager Scott Servais said he hadn’t felt since the beginning of the season, when Seattle got off to a blazing 13-2 start. With each passing inning, the crowd’s excitement and anticipation grew.
“It’s fun,” Servais said. “I think there’s a lot of anxiousness. You’re hoping you get the big out and Mike will continue to keep it rolling. The guys in the dugout don’t ever talk about it, of course, but they’re in tune on defense, on their toes. Every pitch hit to them could be a big play, one way or another. So it’s good. We haven’t had a lot of those moments this year. We had a few early in the season when we had some momentum going.”
Leake, clearly, was in the zone on the mound. But as dialed in as he was, he still felt the building energy from the crowd over the course of the game.
“I definitely felt it,” he said. “The progression of watching a perfect game is kind of that way. Each inning gets a little more exciting. And especially when you get that opportunity in the ninth, it’s the most exciting.”
Seattle was clicking on offense, too, with first baseman Daniel Vogelbach blasting a pair of three-run home runs. After an 0-5 road trip following the All-Star break, the team was eager to get off to a good start to its 10-game homestand, and is hoping a near-perfect pitching performance and an offensive explosion will prove a good launching point.
“I think what we’re looking for is a little consistency,” Leake said. “If you can somehow skew all this to make it a consistent approach — right now, we’re kind of up and down. So it’s a matter of being consistent and showing what you have in the right time and moments.”
Servais said he hopes the performance will snowball into a winning-streak.
“We had been struggling on the road trip, so to come back and start a homestand, start off on a good note — not only did Mike pitch well, but we scored runs,” Servais said. “We had guys on base, had good at-bats, which is something we had been struggling to do. So hopefully the good at-bats carries over and we get some momentum going there, some guys get some confidence rolling. I’d like to see us put a nice little streak together, run off four, five, six in a row.”
BISHOP NEARS RETURN
There’s likely no one happier to be playing catch and hitting in a cage again than Braden Bishop, who suffered a lacerated spleen in a Mariners’ loss to Houston June 4, telling coaches he was unable to stand up straight.
He was admitted to Harborview Medical Center the next morning, where doctors discovered there was a torn blood vessel in his spleen. He had surgery the same day. For a few weeks, he was unable to do any physical activity outside of the normal day-to-day stuff.
“It was the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Bishop said. “There’s so much unknown with it. I didn’t know what was happening when it did happen. And then when I did find out, there’s not a whole lot that’s known about the spleen and its connection to baseball.”
Having to be patient with his recovery was a challenge for the young outfielder.
“It’s the hardest part,” Bishop said. “I always like to move around, do a bunch of activities. The only recovery for that is doing nothing. That’s tough. But you find different ways to make yourself better, whether it’s mentally or spiritually, if you can’t do it physically.”
Bishop said he focused on meditating during his recovery from the surgery.
“I’m really big into mindfulness and meditation,” he said. “So when I can’t do anything, it’s a really good outlet to just get away a little bit. And then, I think it makes you more ready when it’s time to do physical stuff.”
His timetable for returning to game-action is still unclear, but Bishop is just happy to be active again.
“I think it’s so much mental, telling myself I’m OK,” he said. “Swinging is starting to feel better over the last four days, throwing is stating to become more natural. We have four months to prepare for the offseason and I didn’t do anything for basically four weeks. To make it more natural again, the buildup has been good so far. So within the next couple weeks, we’ll see how I feel. My inclination is to get out and play and compete, but obviously I have to be smart. I don’t want to go through that pain again.”
MORE INJURY UPDATES
- Mallex Smith is back in the lineup, hitting leadoff, one day after leaving Friday’s game with a sore right thumb. Servais said he will be evaluated during batting practice but is expected to play in Saturday’s game.
- Dan Altavilla (right forearm strain) is now playing catch and is hoping to return soon to help bolster Seattle’s bullpen.