Mariners Insider Blog

Game 55 - Will the Mariners ace deliver a win?

Felix Hernandez and Franicsco Liriano have been matched up before, and while Liriano has struggled this season he's no one to take lightly.

Ask Yuniesky Betancourt, who is sitting this one out. His career numbers vs. Liriano: 1-for-14. Ronny Cedeno, starting in his place, has never faced Liriano.

Against the Twins, Felix has always pitched well, without always winning. He's 3-3 despite a career 2.98 ERA.



In a case of mutual need tonight, the Mariners would love about eight innings from their ace - and Hernandez would love about four runs.

As for Ichiro, he starts the night with a 27-game hitting streak, the 11th longest in the majors since 2000 - and the second longest in baseball this season.



We're off.



Mr. Sweeney lives

Mike Sweeney batted .182 in May, and some folks began losing faith in him as a viable DH.

In the lineup tonight, Sweeney's second-inning solo home run has given Hernandez a lead. - and in a game like this, ever run is magnified.

The pitchers are dealing.

After two: Mariners 1, Twins 0

Really small ball

Two balls bounced past third and fielded by Cedeno at shortstop became base hits - not misplayed, but perfectly placed - and the Twins bunted those runners to second and third base.

Joe Mauer walked to load 'em up and Justin Morneau walked to the plate already owning 50 RBI.

That, folks, is your classic jam.

Morneau flied out deep enough to score one run, but Felix got a ground ball to get out of the inning.

The only ball hit hard was Morneau's fly.

In the third: Twins 1, Mariners 1

An opportunity missed

Ichiro drew a two-out walk, Russell Branyan singled him to third base and Adrian Beltre coaxed a walk on a 3-2 pitch from Liriano.

That brought up Sweeney with the bases loaded and Liriano laboring - his 57th pitch pushed the count to Sweeney to 3-2.



On pitch No. 58, Sweeney flied out.

After three: Mariners 1, Twins 1

Not Ichiro's night?

Ichiro's third plate appearance of the night came with Cedeno perched on second base with one out.

Ichiro tapped out to second base, and is now 0-for-2 with a walk, and the game remains tied.

After five: Mariners 1, Twins 1

Not Felix's night?

The Mariners ace pitche like on, going seven strong innings and giving up just one run on a couple of excuse-me ground ball infield singles.

He controlled the two most dangerous Twins hitters - Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. He battled out of a couple of troublesome innings.

Now he's done, pulled by his manager after 111 pitches - quite a few thrown under duress.

Felix can't lose, but cannot win, either.

Seattle was held scoreless in the seventh inning, with Ichiro's weak grounder the final out.

Sean White now pitching.

After seven: Mariners 1, Twins 1

And now, the bottom of the ninth

White worked the eighth inning, David Aardsma the ninth and the Mariners will be coming up the bottom of the ninth with the chance to win by scoring a run.

Can they?



They'll start with Jose Lopez, Wladimir Balentien and Rob Johnson.

One thing to keep in mind. The Mariners have four walk-off, game-winning hits this season. Lopez has two of them.



To the bottom of the ninth: Mariners 1, Twins 1



Extra innings, anyone?

Mauer just doubled, hitting a slicing ball to the wall in left field that Balentien couldn't make a play on - looking bad in the process.

Mark Lowe intentionally walked Morneau.



Gutierrez then turned in one of the finest plays of the season, out-running Jason Kubel's fly ball before leaping and spearing the ball just as it was clearing the fence.



Spectacular catch - but it got Mauer to third base with one.

The Twins then called a suicide squeeze, and the Mariners countered with a pitchout, leavin Mauer hung up and tagged out.



All that, and Balentien then dropped the third out - a fly ball to left from Matt Tolbert, allowing Morneau to score.

In the 10th: Twins 2, Mariners 1

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