The Mariners are exactly where they expected to be at the All-Star break, leading the American League West.
They have a 4-1/2-game bulge, Ken Griffey Jr. on pace to hit 50-plus home runs for the first time in his career, power from virtually the entire starting lineup and Randy Johnson’s surgically-repaired back surviving the rigors of pitching 131 innings.
Is the best yet to come?
“We’ve done OK,” shortstop Alex Rodriguez said, “but there is so much potential here, this team can do great things. We still haven’t hit on all cylinders.”
Seattle reached the mythical halfway point of the regular season at Anaheim Stadium Sunday night on a downer, losing 8-0 to the Anaheim Angels before 22,916 fans and a national television audience.
Angels left-hander Chuck Finley struck out 13 in becoming the first pitcher to toss a complete-game shutout against the Mariners since Sept. 15, 1992 - when he did it.
Three Seattle errors led to five unearned runs. Two of the miscues came in the fourth inning, when ex-Mariner Dave Hollins slugged a grand slam off reliever Josias Manzanillo.
The Mariners dodged a potential serious injury when starter Jeff Fassero twisted his right ankle in the fourth inning while fielding a bunt down the third-base line.
“It looks like we got lucky,” trainer Rick Griffin said. “There doesn’t appear to be any damage to the ligaments but he’ll have precautionary X-rays (today in Seattle). He is walking around without any pain or swelling and should be able to make his next start (Friday against the Texas Rangers).”
Finley walked away with his fifth win of the season, a career-high in strikeouts and his 13th career shut
The left-hander surrendered just four hits, blanking M’s All-Stars. Joey Cora, Rodriguez, Griffey and Edgar Martinez went a collective 0 or 11 with seven strikeouts.
“The break is coming at a good time,” said Mariners Lou Piniella, his team losing four of its last five games heading into the mid-season breather. “We feel we are going to come back and play good baseball, but we have to do it on the field.
“This is a 162-game season and you can’t let your guard down.”
The first half went just as advertised. An offense projected to score runs in bunches did just that.
The Mariners lead the majors in runs (509), home runs (139), RBIs (487), total bases (1,480) and slugging percentage (.492), and the A.L. in doubles (182).
But with the good (hitting) came the bad (pitching). Imagine how large the division lead would be if the fourth and fifth spots in the starting rotation had performed better. And if the bullpen hadn’t blown 11 save opportunities.
The Mariners are next to last in the A.L. in ERA (5.15), last in home runs allowed (114) and third to last in walks allowed (342).
“We had a good first half, but there is a lot of baseball still to be played,” Piniella said.
They were at their worst in May (11-16) and best in June (20-7). They are 2-4 in July.
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