Every fifth day, Mariners fans can breathe a little easier. With Felix Hernandez on the mound, there is no questioning the threat posed by powerhouse rivals, be it the hot-hitting Rangers or star-studded Yankees. The only shadow hanging over a King Felix start is the matter of run support. Will it be a nail-biting, one-run affair, or will the offense show enough spark to carry Felix comfortably?
Tonight’s game landed somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. In fact, with Felix facing boyhood idol Freddy Garcia, the teams mirrored each other for the first few at-bats of the game. Derek Jeter led with a groundout, and Curtis Granderson took a fastball for a home run over the right field fence. Half an inning later, Dustin Ackley grounded out, making way for Michael Saunders to launch another fastball over the right field fence and tie the game.
As the Mariners built a lead, however, tonight’s storyline quickly shifted from an exchange of extra-base hits to an exchange of minor injuries. In the 2nd, Felix caught a piece of his own sinker when a nasty comebacker from Eric Chavez ricocheted off his right forearm. Several innings later, he plunked newly-minted Yankee Ichiro Suzuki, then Jeter, then Alex Rodriguez.
Of the three injured Yankees, none suffered worse than A-Rod, who is expected to sit out for 6-8 weeks with a fractured left pinky. It may sound laughable, but I dare you to watch this video and not feel some sympathy for the guy.
Tom Wilhelmsen notched his 11th save of the season, striking out 2 of 3 batters to close out the 9th and cement the win for Felix and the Mariners. After his unfortunate outing against Tampa Bay last week, Wilhelmsen is inching his way towards another scoreless streak with a single hit and 3 strikeouts in his last 2 appearances.
Tomorrow, the Mariners face the Yankees for the series finale. I don’t say this often, but if you haven’t made it out to the park yet this week, ditch work and catch an afternoon game at Safeco. It will be the last time Ichiro plays in Seattle this season.
Next game: vs. Yankees | July 25 | 12:40pm