In the past, whenever the Mariners were in the midst of a multi-game losing streak, the task of stopping the run of losses fell solely on the capable shoulders of Felix Hernandez.
It was duty he humbly and gladly accepted.
But it appears the responsibility no longer belongs completely to Hernandez. His hard-throwing protégé is pitching in.
Rookie Michael Pineda continued to impress and dominate first-time opponents, carving up the Minnesota Twins for seven shutout innings and leading the Mariners to a 5-2 win, snapping a six-game losing streak.
Seattle improved to 16-23 on the season and with Hernandez starting today, the Mariners won’t need him snap a streak, but start one. Having Pineda and Hernandez go back to back is a combination most teams simply can't match or deal with.
“We created opportunities for ourselves and took advantage of those opportunities,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “But Michael set the tone out there.”
Pineda was outstanding in just the eighth start of his young big league career. Over the seven scoreless innings, he scattered just three hits and struck out seven hitters without walking a batter to improve to 5-2 on the season and lower his ERA to 2.45. He threw 99 pitches with 70 of them going for strikes.
“I felt pretty good,” he said.
It makes you wonder what he would throw like if he felt pretty great.
“I’d say his 94 to 96 mile per hour fastball and nasty slider kept us off-balance tonight,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It makes you jump at the ball, and he shut us down pretty hard.”
The only trouble Pineda found himself in came in the sixth inning with the Mariners up 2-0.
Luis Rodriguez threw high to first baseman Justin Smoak for a two-out error. Pineda then gave up a single to Jason Kubel and hit Justin Morneau in the foot load the bases.
“On a couple of pitches my left shoulder opened and it was up,” he said. “I made an adjustment and got the ball down.”
It looked as though the Twins might get a run across when Pineda left a 0-1 slider up in the strike zone. But Michael Cuddyer’s hard ground ball up the middle struck Pineda in the foot and bounced right to second baseman Adam Kennedy, who flipped to shortstop Luis Rodriguez for the easy force out.
Some other notes and thoughts ...
Justin Smoak tweaked his ankle a little it's nothing serious. Said Wedge: “He’ll be fine,” Wedge said. “He was hobbling a little bit, but he was OK. I didn’t want to take a chance of taking something that’s really nothing and making it worse.”
Yes, Pineda was outstanding, but the Twins are not good. Denard Span is up there swinging at everything and Justin Morneau still nothing like himself. The bottom part of their order might be weaker than the Mariners. I didn't think that was possible.
I wasn't sure whether Carlos Peguero's home run went over the wall in right field or through it -- it was hit that hard. Tried to find video of it, but none was up at mlb.com
• The Twins have now lost 9 straight games…it is the first time Minnesota has lost 9 consecutive games since September 9-19, 1998 when they lost 10 games in a row.
• Justin Morneau has a hit in his last 5 games, and 6 of his last 7 dating back to May 9th @BOS…over that span Morneau is hitting .333 (9x27).
• Jason Kubel has now hit in 7 of his last 8 games, batting .303 (10x33) with 7 RBI dating back to May 8th
@BOS…Kubel is the team leader in RBI on the season with 20.
• Delmon Young has failed to record a hit in his last 3 games, while striking out a total of 9 times in 12 at bats over that time…this also marks Young’s longest hitless streak of the season (prev: 2 games April 2-3 @TOR).
• Michael Pineda tossed his 2nd start without allowing a run (last: 4/22 @OAK, 6.0 IP) in 8 starts this season…it is also Pineda’s 2nd game without a walk this season (last: 5/4 vs. TEX, 7.0 IP).
• Pineda has tossed at least 6.0 innings in each of his 8 starts…it is the 4th longest streak to start a Mariners career behind: 1. Cliff Lee (13, 2010), 2. Bob Stoddard (12, 1981-82), and 3. Gaylord Perry (11, 1982).
• The Mariners snapped a 6-game losing streak, their first win since May 6th vs. Chicago (AL).
• Adam Kennedy and Carlos Peguero hit back-to-back home runs in the 6th inning, marking the first back-to-back home runs for the Mariners this season and first since August 16th 2010 at BAL (Russell Branyan & Jose Lopez).
• This is the first time the Mariners have had multiple home runs in back-to-back games since Aug. 20-21, 2010 at NYY…Justin Smoak & Carlos Peguero homered in Mariners last game May 13 at CLE.
• Aaron Laffey has not allowed an earned run since April 24 vs. Oakland, a span of 9.2 scoreless innings.
• Jack Cust currently has a 6-game hitting streak, batting .348 (8x23) with 5 doubles and 4 walks…Cust has also hit in 13 of his last 15 games for the Mariners, going .294 (15x51) with 8 doubles and 5 RBI over that span.
• Ichiro has hit in 6 of his last 7 games, and 21 of his last 25 (.333; 35x105) dating back to April 17th.
• Justin Smoak left the game in the 8th inning for precautionary reasons after rolling his ankle…he was replaced by Brendan Ryan.