ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – If you are in a debate about win-loss record not being a be-all, end-all stat, you can point to this game.
Felix Hernandez didn’t get the win on Sunday at Tropicana Field, but he should have.
The Mariners’ ace struck out career-high 15 batters in seven shut-out innings of work, yet took a no-decision for his brilliant effort. Yoervis Medina vultured the win, pitching an inning, walking a batter and getting bailed out on a line-drive double play.
So Felix throws seven shut-out innings, gives up four hits, walks one and strikes out 15. But as he said, at least the team got a win, 5-0 thanks to a five-run ninth inning.
The Mariners have won seven of their last nine games and are 33-29. It’s the first time the team has been four games over since .500 since the 2009 season.
The pitching duel between Hernandez and hard-throwing Chris Archer was as advertised. The Mariners finally broke a scoreless tie in the top of the ninth inning, scoring all five runs off of Rays closer Grant Balfour.
The late rally was ignited by the unlikeliest of players – Brad Miller. The young shortstop came into the game carrying an anemic .169 batting average. But he looked like the Miller of last year, hammering a line drive down the right-field line just out of the reach of a leaping James Loney. He was thinking triple the whole way.
“That felt pretty good,” Miller said. “We were just scratching and clawing. I saw it get down in the corner. I didn’t break stride and went for it.”
With Miller on third, Willie Bloomquist coaxed walk from Balfour to bring Endy Chavez to the plate.
The veteran outfielder, who was just called up few weeks ago, punched at a 0-2 cut fastball, squibbing a soft liner just past Yunel Escobar at shortstop to put the Mariners up 1-0.
The swing was far from textbook. Chavez’s rear end was going toward first base and his arms were flailing at the pitch out on the outside of the plate.
“After watching that for about the last eight or nine years, it’s not luck anymore,” McClendon said. “I think it’s talent. I’ve seen him do it time and time again.”
Chavez was taking grief from Hernandez and others in the clubhouse about the swing.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play,” Chavez said. “The guys were making fun of me, saying I’m the only guy in the world that can do that.”
So how does he do it?
“I think that’s talent,” he joked.
Seattle wasn’t done with one run. James Jones broke the game open, lacing a triple over the head of right fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who misread the hard liner, to score two runs. Seattle poured it on. Robinson Cano drew a walk and Kyle Seager doubled on high chopper over Loney just inside the right-field line to score two more runs.
“We got a little lucky there,” McClendon said.
Said Rays manager Joe Maddon: “Obviously, the hit by Miller was big for them. Grant was throwing the ball well. It really comes down to, more than anything, the pitch selection and pitch execution; I would say execution more than selection. Like I’ve talked about before, any pitch I think is the right pitch to throw in any count if it’s executed properly, so I’m not going to bemoan that. Then after that, I think the big play is the walk to Bloomquist. That’s the one that kind of gives them a little thing … you’ve got to give them credit there. They’re really grinding out at-bats – they being the Mariners. A lot of balls in play, very difficult on our part just based on their contact.”
As far as Hernandez, goes it was possibly his best outing other than his perfect game, which also came against the Rays.