You wouldn't know it from looking at the standings, but the Mariners have put together some of their most inspiring team records over the last four years, from their six-man no-hitter to Felix Hernandez's perfect game.
August 10, 2010
Felix was 24 years old when he became the youngest Seattle pitcher to record at least 13 strikeouts in a game. It had been 12 years since a Mariner had attempted the feat, and the first time since 1993 that someone not named Randy Johnson would pull it off.
From the first at-bat, any pressure of maintaining a no-hitter was alleviated. Oakland's Coco Crisp lined a single on a 2-1 count, and Daric Barton and Kurt Suzuki were quick to follow. With the bases loaded, Felix settled down enough to record his first strikeout and escape the jam with a slick double play.
The Athletics' wouldn't see that kind of luck again. Felix didn't allow another hit until the 5th inning. As Cliff Pennington broke for second, Seattle backstop Adam Moore threw him out to end the inning.
By the 7th, Felix had tied his previous high of 11 strikeouts with a three-pitch out to second baseman Mark Ellis. He lasted just one more inning, beginning and ending the 8th with his 12th and 13th strikeouts. Fittingly, it was Coco Crisp who would be Felix's last out of the day, caught looking on four pitches.
Over the next month and a half, the Mariners dropped to another 100+ loss season. For the King, however, the year was far from a total wash. He led the league with a 2.27 ERA and 7.1 bWAR, earning the AL Cy Young award by an overwhelming mark, and becoming the first Cy Young winner to do so with a 13-12 record.
May 21, 2011
No one* had as many shutouts as Michael Pineda in 2011.
(*Right-handed rookie Mariners pitchers who started a baseball game, that is.)
Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. The Mariner with the most shutouts in 2011 was Jason Vargas, who was having one of the best seasons of his career despite a 9-12 record with a team that was destined, once again, for last place in the division.
Still, the rookie's debut was impressive. Pineda broke camp with the team and was tagged by Baseball America as the 16th best prospect MLB had to offer that year, second in the Mariners' organization behind Dustin Ackley.
On May 11, Pineda pitched his third shutout in nine starts, and his first on the road. He retired five batters in a row before giving up his first hit, a double to second baseman Orlando Hudson. Two more baserunners would escape under his watch, but the 22-year-old never allowed more than one an inning, ending each threat with a strikeout and a pop fly.
By the time Pineda was pulled from the game, the Mariners were coasting by on a four-run lead. David Pauley and Jamey Wright combined for an additional three hits and four strikeouts, handing the rookie his sixth win of the season. It wasn't his last shutout of the year, either -- on June 23, Pineda repeated his success with a four-hitter against the Washington Nationals, striking out nine batters over seven innings and just 97 pitches.
June 8, 2012
Felix Hernandez's perfect game is the obvious focal point of the last half decade, but it wasn't the only shining moment in the Mariners' 2012 season. In fact, it was one of three no-hitters showcased at Safeco Field in a single season, and one of two that belonged to the M's.
Millwood was perfect through four innings. The 37-year-old was riding out the final year of his pro career after a brief stint in Colorado and a disheartening 4-16 year with the 2010 Orioles. Now, he had retired 12 Dodgers and was halfway to his second career no-hitter.
By the time Millwood's groin started aching, he had struck out six Dodgers through six innings. The Mariners were hardly faring better -- despite five hits, they were also held scoreless by 23-year-old Nathan Eovaldi. Upon Millwood's exit, Eric Wedge deployed five relievers to finish off the final three innings. Four of the five had a year or less of major league experience. Two were in their rookie seasons.
Charlie Furbush and Stephen Pryor tackled the 7th inning. Furbush gave 22,028 fans a slight panic attack when he misplayed a throw to first, allowing third baseman Elian Herrera to reach second base. Pryor stepped in for the final out of the inning, earning his first major league win with a single strikeout to Juan Rivera.
By the 8th, the M's hopes rested on the likes of Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen. League had just been demoted as the team closer after a string of blown saves, and though Wilhelmsen inspired more confidence in the fanbase, he was no match for a one-run lead and a fragile no-hitter.
As luck would have it, League faced the bottom of the Dodgers' lineup, retiring A.J. Ellis and Tony Gwynn to clear the bases. Wilhelmsen found it equally easy in the 9th, though his success can very well be credited to Wedge, who substituted Brendan Ryan for Munenori Kawasaki. The Bartender seved up nine pitches, while Ryan and Ackley pocketed each out. The rest, as they say, is history.
It was the 10th combined no-no in MLB history, and the first one in nine years. Coincidentally, the preceding combined no-hitter was the only other one to feature six pitchers: the 2003 Houston Astros' Roy Oswalt, Pete Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel, and Billy Wagner.
Following the game, Wilhelmsen delivered the greatest quote to ESPN.com's Jim Caple. How many times have pitchers finished a no-hitter before realizing the game's significance?
"Well, I mean, I knew what was going on. But no, I have a brain fart every so often and just focused so hard on getting one thing done," Wilhelmsen said. "It's not like you forget, but it's like you put it off to the side. And then it's like, 'Holy cow, we just did it,' and Montero is in my arms. And then it's, 'Holy Cow, we just did it!' 'HOLY COW, WE JUST DID IT!'"
June 5, 2013
While it's tempting to name the Robinson Cano signing as the highlight of the year, let's focus on something that actually happened on the field last season.
On June 5, the M's were crafting another scoreless performance, though this one had no place in the history books. It had been five hours, 13 innings, and a parade of wasted at-bats. The Mariners had exhausted six pitchers; the White Sox, seven. Every starter but Chicago's Dayan Viciedo had reached base, and every starter including Viciedo had failed to score. An inning earlier, Danny Farquhar struck out the side.
Whatever the ailment affecting both clubhouses, the baseball gods were fed up with it by the 14th inning. Suddenly, Farquhar couldn't control the ball, issuing two walks, two base hits, and the game's first run in the first four at-bats of the inning. Hector Noesi entered only to allow another three hits and four runs. At last, it looked as though the 20.152 fans in attendance (considerably fewer by this point) might be able to make it home in time for dinner.
The Mariners were not quickly deterred, however. They battled back with four consecutive base hits, leaving Endy Chavez to drive in the first run. With one out, Jason Bay arrived to tie the game. A grand slam would do it. He struck out.
It was at this point, I'm ashamed to say, that I turned off the TV. I didn't need to get my hopes up for another two-out, bases-loaded strikeout.
Unfortunately for me, and fortunately for Seattle, Kyle Seager chose this moment to launch the first game-tying, extra-inning grand slam in major league history. The ball landed right in the middle of family-friendly center field seating, prompting a grown man to knock over a toddler in his eagerness to reach the ball. Kelly Shoppach, Brendan Ryan, and Endy Chavez came home to score -- as unlikely a trio as you would expect, given the circumstances.
Of course, the Mariners couldn't find another such rally to win the contest. Noesi gave up a pair of RBI singles and a walk, while Addison Reed recovered from his blown save and struck out the side to end the 16-inning affair.
We’ve reached the end of this series, and now it’s your turn. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a couple paragraphs about the moment in Mariners history that shaped your fandom. I’ll take submissions through Friday, December 20 and post some of the best stories here next Sunday.
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