The sound of laughter and the clubhouse speakers music, including the Felix favorite El Mariachi Loco, was something different from the last eight games. Then again the Mariners scoring more than three runs is something different.
In those eight losses, Seattle scored 12 total runs (1.5 per game) and never more than three runs in any game, including being shutout back-to-back games and going scoreless for 22 innings. And it wasn’t just a lack of runs, but a lack of hits. Seattle hit .173 (47-for-271) in those eight losses.
Today, they banged out eight runs and 12 hits and looked like a competent offensive team. Of course, two of the players that accounted for much of the offense.
Of course, much of the offense from Sunday’s win was generated by two players that really hadn’t been a part of the Mariners’ recent woes. Shortstop Josh Wilson and outfielder Michael Saunders have joined the team in the last week and perhaps they weren’t infected by the offensive funk that has permeated in this team.
Then again, neither seem like likely candidates to be the cures or the catalysts to an ailing offense. But for at least one game they were.
Wilson, who has made it to the big leagues for his defensive versatility and is just career .224 hitter, had three hits for Seattle and was double away from the cycle. The biggest of the three came in the fourth inning with runners on first and second and two outs. Wilson got a hanging 2-1 slider from Angels starter Ervin Santana and he turned on it and crushed it into the left field seats for a three-run homer.
“I was feeling ok at the plate the last few days, and today it just kind of clicked,” he said. “I was really seeing the ball well and got good pitches to hit.”
Wilson’s three-run homer – his sixth homer of his career - provided as many runs or more in one swing of the bat than the Mariners had gotten in each of the eight losses.
Saunders followed up the homer with one of his own, ripping a ball deep to center for his first big league home run.
For those of you unaware, I wrote about Saunders and his mother Jane's battle with cancer in today's paper.
Jane Saunders has been battling cancer for close to 12 years, having first been diagnosed with breast cancer when the now 23-year-old was just 11.
Just before spring training, doctors found cancer in her lower back and she has begun chemotherapy.
“She’s fought and beat worse before,” Saunders said. “She’s a strong woman and she’ll keep fighting.”
So with his mom in the stands wearing a pink and black No. 20 West Tennessee jersey with Saunders on the back, Saunders belted his first major league home run, following up Josh Wilson’s three-run homer with a solo home run to center field.
“I wasn’t sure,” he said of his homer. “I knew I hit it well. But center field is pretty deep at Safeco. I actually thought it was going to be a double. But a day game and the roof opened, it went out.”
Jane Saunders, who keeps book at every one of Saunders games since he was in little league, stood up and cheered, while getting congratulated by other Mariners family members around them and Mariners executive Tony Blengino.
“It wasn’t the biggest thing to get my first home run, but to have her in the stands when I did it, made it special,” Saunders said.
Unfortunately, Saunders didn’t get to hit the home run with a pink bat like his teammates. Because he was called up so recently, he didn’t have a chance to get one in. But Ken Griffey Jr. is going to give him a pink bat, and Saunders will give to his mom along with the game jersey, the pink wristbands he wore, the pink necklace and of course the home run ball, which the pitchers in the bullpen grabbed.
Oh and then there is the starting pitching of Jason Vargas, who was outstanding. He pitched another solid outing again. The lefty threw 7 1/3 innings allowing an unearned run on four hits, while striking out four and walking two.
“Obviously the pressure involved in a losing streak and a young guy like Vargas coming out and setting the tone, he was unbelievable,” Manager Don Wakamatsu said. “He just kept getting better as the game went on.”
Vargas is the furthest thing from flashy, but he went about his business avoiding the big inning, despite having base runners on four of them.
“He’s a former high school quarterback and he understands what it is to compete,” Wakamatsu said. “He was calm out there. He changed the game plan as the game went on. He used his breaking ball at certain times and his changeup at certain times. He had great command today and that’s a good hitting ballclub he pitched against.”
- Starter Ervin Santana allowed a season-high tying 5 runs…5th straight outing of at least 6.0 innings…entering today, had allowed just 2 runs in previous 16.0 innings on the road.
- Angels finished road trip 2-8…first time since 2001 with 8 losses on a road trip. They went 1-8 from 9/18-9/27 in 2001. Angels won 2 out of 3 at Safeco Field and have now won 14 of their last 21 in Seattle dating back to 2008.
- The Angels scored 2 runs or less in 5 of their 10 games during this road trip.
- Brandon Wood went 1x4 to end the road trip batting.142 (4x28) with 11 strikeouts.
- Jason Vargas tossed a season-high 7.1 innings…it was his 5th straight quality start…in his last 5 starts is 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA (8 ER, 33.2 IP) with 26 strikeouts.
- In his career against the Angels, Vargas is now 2-0, 2.20 ERA (4 ER, 16.1 IP) in 3 games, including 2 starts…as a starter is 2-0, 1.32 ERA (2 ER, 13.2 IP).
- Mariners scored 8 runs, most since 8 on April 19 vs. Baltimore…first time with double-digit hits since April 28 at KC.
- Josh Wilson and Michael Saunders hit back-to-back home runs …first time this season the Mariners have had back-toback home runs…hit back-to-back home runs 3 times in 2009 (last: K. Johjima & M. Tuiasosopo on 9/27/09 at TOR.)
- The home run by Michael Saunders was the first of his Major League career…in 2 games since being recalled May is batting .500 (3x6) with 2 runs, a double, home run, 2 RBI and a walk. First time this season Seattle has hit more than 1 home run ….last time with 2 or more 9/30/09 vs. OAK.
- Josh Wilson recorded season-high 3 hits and fell a double short of the cycle when he walked in his final at-bat in the 8th inning…recorded two 3-hit games in 2009 (last: Oct. 4, 2009 vs. TEX)…career-high 4 on Sept. 5, 2007 vs. BAL). Ichiro recorded 3 hits and 3 steals today…marks only the 7th time in club history that a player has accomplished that in a game, last also done by Ichiro (4 H, 4 SB on 7/20/04 vs. BOS)…Alex Rodriguez (1998), John Moses (1986), Henry Cotto (1990), Rich Amaral (1998) and Kim Allen (1980) also accomplished this.
- Ichiro collected 3 more hits to give him a team-leading 15 multi-hit games on the season. Over his last 22 games he is hitting .365 (34x93) with 12 runs scored, 3 doubles, 2 triples, 4 RBI and 7 stolen bases.
- Ichiro stole 3 bases, 10th time in his career with 3+ stolen bases (last: June 30, 2009 at NYY)…stole career-high 4 July 20, 2004 vs. Boston.
- Jose Lopez recorded his 7th multi-hit game of the season (last: 5/1 vs. TEX), going 2x5 with a single and double. Ryan Langerhans walked twice to gives him 8 walks on the season in only 6 games…at least 1 walk in 4 straight games. He has now reached base safely in 9 of 18 plate appearance this season.
- Chone Figgins walk in the 8th gives him 24 on the season…at least one walk in 20 of the last 22 games.
- Mariners stole a season-high 4 bases (3 by Ichiro, 1 by Langerhans)…stole 4 bases twice in 2009 (last: June 30, 2009 at NYY).
- The Mariners have now won 6 straight games on Mother’s Day and is 19-14 overall.