Happy Independence Day!
With the Mariners kicking off a series in Chicago this afternoon, I decided to comb through their record books to find several Fourth of July wins from past road trips. Here's hoping that history repeats itself today.
July 4, 1992: Mariners pull off an extra-inning win after two rain delays in Detroit.
Frank Tanana was four innings into a 2-0 shutout when the rain struck. The 38-year-old southpaw was in his seventh and final year in the Tigers' organization, sitting on a 7-5 record and coming off of two consecutive wins. Through four innings, he allowed five baserunners and struck out three.
The first rain delay lasted a brief 18 minutes, followed by another two scoreless innings from Tanana and Seattle left-hander Dave Fleming. Fleming's costly mistake of the game came in the first inning, when he gave up a two-run shot to Detroit third baseman Skeeter Barnes. The 22-year-old starter threw to first base three times before Barnes lifted the fourth pitch to right field for a two-run homer. Through seven innings, Fleming struck out five batters and allowed five hits and a walk.
Opportunity knocked again for Seattle in the eighth inning. On the cusp of another rain delay, Edgar Martinez launched a solo shot against reliever Kurt Knudsen. Two batters later, when Ken Griffey, Jr. had popped up to the third baseman and Kevin Mitchell had drawn a four-pitch walk, the umpires called another rain delay.
This time, it would be a solid 41 minutes before play resumed, and had the weather worsened, the game would've been called in Detroit's favor. Instead, the reprieve from the game seemed to give both the Tigers and Mariners renewed vigor. Harold Reynolds took reliever Mark Henneman deep in the ninth inning, while pinch-hitter Dave Bergman hit a solo homer against Seattle's Mike Schooler, sending the game to extras at 3-3.
The rain didn't have a chance to delay this game a third time. With Griffey on second base and two outs in the 10th, Jay Buhner chopped a ball through the left side of the field to drive in the winning run. Lefty reliever Russ Swan made quick work of the Tigers, allowing a single baserunner before clinching his third save of the year.
July 4, 1999: John Halama pitches his first career complete game shutout against the Rangers.
From the start, run support was never a big concern for John Halama. In the first inning, Alex Rodriguez sent second baseman David Bell home on an RBI single, and Edgar Martinez unloaded a three-run homer to build a comfortable 4-0 lead against Texas right-hander Mike Morgan.
Halama was in his sophomore MLB season and working through his eighth start of the year after a 14-game stint in the bullpen. While any thought of a no-hitter was erased with Ivan Rodriguez's first-inning single, Halama didn't let a runner past second base until the ninth inning.
As the Rangers rotated their pitchers -- no pitcher lasted more than three innings -- the Mariners continued to pad their lead. Junior grabbed an RBI single against Morgan in the second inning. When Danny Kolb arrived to relieve Morgan in the fourth, David Bell wasted no time in putting up a home run, bringing the Mariners' total to six runs.
From the fourth inning onward, this game belonged to its pitchers. Right-handers Kolb and Danny Patterson dueled with Halama, each putting up zeros through five innings. In the ninth, Halama found himself in a pickle for the first time that evening. After earning the first two outs, he gave up a first-pitch double to Rafael Palmeiro, walked Todd Zelle on eight pitches, and accidentally struck Roberto Kelly to load the bases.
With one pitch left in his arsenal, Halama was almost pulled from the game. Manager Lou Piniella approached the mound, prepared to sacrifice his starter's complete game with the Rangers threatening from every angle. Thankfully, he had little to worry about. Feeling fatigued from the Texas heat, Halama lobbed one last pitch to first baseman Lee Stevens, inducing a groundout to Bell and clinching the rookie's first complete game shutout.
July 4, 2005: Ryan Franklin pitches his last career complete game shutout against the Royals.
While Halama earned his first shutout on the Fourth of July, another Mariners pitcher saw his last. Emergency pitcher Ryan Franklin was approaching the tail end of his six-year gig in Seattle and dragging a 3-10 record through 17 appearances in 2005. He hadn't recorded a shutout since his two-hitter the previous September. In fact, just one year earlier, Franklin lost 16 games, the most by any Mariners pitcher since 1992.
In 2005, Franklin was receiving an average of 3.46 runs of support per game. As the Seattle P-I's Jon Paul Morosi reported at the time, the lack of support became so expected that the 32-year-old began telling his teammates to stop apologizing to him for it.
This time, however, the Mariners worked a holiday miracle for their unlucky starter. Catcher Pat Borders scored the first run of the game in the third inning with an RBI base hit off of rookie southpaw J.P. Howell. With Borders on first and Willie F. Bloomquist at third, Raul Ibanez mashed his 12th home run of the season.
Now backed by a 4-0 lead, Franklin took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. One out from another scoreless frame, he worked an 0-2 count against Royals' backstop Angel Berroa, then watched Berroa hook a base hit to center for Kansas City's first hit of the game. With the no-no gone, Franklin fielded a groundout from third baseman Mark Teahen and brought the inning to a close.
As if the threat of a rally from the 106-loss Royals scared them, the Mariners returned in the sixth for several insurance runs. Howell gave up three consecutive singles, the last a first-pitch line drive to center, so first baseman Richie Sexson could score Ibanez. Sexson's RBI marked the end of Howell's outing, as 25-year-old right-hander Mike Wood stepped onto the mound. Second baseman Jose Lopez hit into a double play, but not before Adrian Beltre crossed home plate for the sixth and final run of the game.
Franklin lost his footing by the seventh inning, when Mike Sweeney led off with a line drive double. He hit Royals' first baseman Matt Stairs with a pitch, then served up a single to right fielder Terrence Long. With the bases loaded and none out, Berroa battled through a seven-pitch at-bat for a swinging strikeout. Manager Mike Hargrove toyed with the idea of pulling his starter, but left him in as Teahen popped out to Beltre and John Buck hit into an inning-ending groundout.
In the eighth, Franklin handed the Royals yet another opportunity to salvage the game by putting runners at the corners. The Royals refused his offer, however, sending Mike Sweeney to the plate for a double play. Franklin retired the heart of the order on nine pitches in the ninth, without so much as the threat of a three-ball count.
Unfortunately, neither Franklin nor the Royals had a happy ending to their seasons. Franklin would go on to lose 15 games and file for free agency after testing positive for steroids in August 2005. The Royals, for their part, capped the year with a record of 56-106, worst in franchise history.