Mariners Insider Blog

Mariners notebook: For Storen, save situations now arrive earlier in games

Former closer Drew Storen is still pitching with the game on the line...it’s just earlier in games.
Former closer Drew Storen is still pitching with the game on the line...it’s just earlier in games. AP

Drew Storen watched Mariners rookie closer Edwin Diaz wobble through the ninth inning Friday night through the eyes of experience. Diaz gave up three walks and two runs before securing a 7-6 victory over Milwaukee.

"I know that’s a frustrating outing, probably," said Storen, who rang up 90 saves at Washington from 2011-15. "But the way you have to look at it is it’s all about getting the save. Especially against a team that grinds you.

"You just say, at the end, `Hey, I got the save. I got it done.’ You just hold onto that."

For Storen, those moments now come earlier in games.

Since arriving from Toronto in a July 26 trade for Joaquin Benoit, another veteran reliever, Storen has emerged as manager Scott Servais’ first choice for bailing out a struggling starter in a close game.

"He’s been on a pretty good roll," Servais said. "His pitch has always been his slider, but I think his velo on the fastball has probably ticked up a little bit. His history as a closer, he’s adjusting to what we’re asking him to do."

Typically that means entering the game with runners on base. On Wednesday, Storen replaced Cody Martin with one out and the bases loaded in the sixth inning with the Mariners clinging to a 4-2 lead against the Angels in Anaheim.

Storen struck out Mike Trout and retired Albert Pujols on a routine fly to center, and the Mariners held on for a 4-3 victory. Storen bailed out Wade LeBlanc on Friday by getting the final two outs in the sixth after the Brewers scored twice.

"I enjoy those situations because you’re just rolling off adrenaline," said Storen, who has allowed one run in nine innings over his last nine outings. "I’ve been in those situations before — usually because of my fault. It’s a good spot.

"That’s a really important part of the game, and it allows me to be the bridge to the flames we have coming out at the back. Those guys are just coming out and attacking people."

Like Diaz with his triple-digit fastball and killer slider. Usually that’s more than enough. Sometimes, though, it’s just barely enough. Like Friday, when Diaz closed out the victory by striking out Hernan Perez with runners at first and third.

"You look at Eric Gagne’s streak of 84 (saves) in a row," Storen said. "That’s one of the most impressive streaks in the game because there are so many things that can happen before you get that last out. It’s so hard to do.

"(Diaz) stepped up and made the right pitch when he needed to. You take that home with you."

Take it from someone who knows.

GETTING A BREAK

After watching Diaz throw 34 stressful pitches Friday, Servais said he hopes to avoid using his rookie closer for a couple of days.

"I’ve said it all along that we’ve got to be smart in how we use him," Servais said, "but it’s really hard. We play so many close games. It seems like every game is life or death. You’ve got to have it. And you always feel good about him out there.

"We need to stay away from him tonight and maybe for a couple of days. Kind of regroup. He certainly lost the feel (Friday) night. Mechanically, he wasn’t right. He was rushing it. But that’s part of it.

"You’ve got to learn how to get through it and, fortunately, he did."

Servais hedged when asked whether he had a preferred backup closer in a bullpen that has three former closers: Steve Cishek has 120 career saves, while Tom Wilhelmsen has 68 and Storen has 98.

Cishek had 25 saves in 31 chances earlier this year before an injury forced him to the disabled list in early August and created an opportunity for Diaz.

"It’s match-ups," Servais said. "Wilhelmsen or Cishek. You could run (Arquimedes) Caminero in there. Storen has done it. It’s how they fit.

"Some guys, I’d feel more comfortable putting them in with traffic situations. Some guys, we feel more comfortable in giving them a clean inning."

M GAMES

In an attempt to alleviate the August dog days, Servais and his staff came up with the M Games, which is an in-house Olympics. Of sorts. The roster is divided into four teams for the competition.

"We’ve going to have fun," Servais said. "We came up with the idea a few weeks ago to try to keep it loose. August can get long. It gives guys something to look forward to when they come to the park.

"It’s good to have a little distraction every once in a while."

There was a lighting of the M Games flame behind the mound Saturday prior to batting practice. The list of events remains sketchy, although one promised highlight will be catching water balloons lofted from an elastic launcher.

First-base coach Casey Candaele tested that event last week prior to BP. His efforts suggest making a successful catch will be a challenge.

WIELAND CLEARS WAIVERS

Right-hander Joe Wieland, optioned Friday to Triple-A Tacoma, came off the 40-man roster Saturday after clearing waivers. He remained with the Rainiers on an outright assignment.

Wieland made one start for the Mariners following his Aug. 12 promotion from Tacoma; he allowed six runs and nine hits in five-plus innings that night in a 6-3 loss at Oakland.

The Mariners acquired Wieland, 26, in a Jan. 12 trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor-league infielder Erick Mejia. Wieland is 11-5 with a 5.38 ERA in 22 games, including 20 starts, at Tacoma.

MINOR DETAILS Short-A Everett right fielder Eric Filia entered Saturday as the Northwest League’s leader in batting average (.337) and on-base percentage (.434). The Mariners selected Filia, 24, in the 20th round of the MLB Draft in June.

Third baseman Nick Zammarelli, 22, is third in the batting race at .317. He was the organization’s eight-round pick in June.

***The Mariners’ seven affiliates, through Friday, had a winning percentage of 59.28 percent, which ranked first among the 30 organizations. Philadelphia was second at 56.99, followed by Boston at 55.40.

LOOKING BACK

It was 20 years ago Sunday — Aug. 21, 1996 — that Alex Rodriguez became the fifth shortstop in history to hit 30 homers in a season when he went deep twice in a 10-5 loss at Baltimore.

The previous four: Ernie Banks (five times), Rico Petrocelli (once), Vern Stephens (once) and Cal Ripken (once). Barry Larkin finished the 1996 season with 30.

For Rodriguez, it was also the first of 15 times in a 22-year career that he hit 30 or more homers. Four of those seasons came with the Mariners.

SHORT HOPS

Adam Lind entered Saturday with a .597 slugging percentage this season at Safeco Field. The only player to compile a higher mark (40-game minimum) was Ken Griffey Jr. at .616 over 42 games in 1999 — Safeco opened that season on July 15…Sunday’s game concludes the Mariners’ interleague schedule. Entering Saturday, they had a 12-6 record against National League opponents for their first winning interleague record since going 11-7 in 2009…Mike Zunino entered Saturday with a career-best streak of reaching base at least once in 16 straight games.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Brewers conclude their three-game series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field. Rookie left-hander Ariel Miranda (1-0 with a 5.79 ERA) will face Milwaukee right-hander Matt Garza (4-5, 4.87).

The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on the Mariners Radio Network, which includes 710 ESPN.

The Mariners open a three-game home series Monday against the New York Yankees.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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