I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty good about this team. The Mariners took four of five games this week, three of the past five series, and have the opportunity to get a leg up on the Indians tonight. Taijuan Walker's season debut is around the corner. Brad Miller is improving. Endy Chavez found some power hiding in his bat. It's a good week to be a Mariners fan -- and not just in 2014.
June 23, 2008: Felix Hernandez hits a grand slam off of Johan Santana.
You knew this one was coming.
Of those on the M's current roster, only one was present when Felix whacked a first-pitch grand slam off of Johan Santana. Willie Bloomquist was the last Mariner to touch base before the King stepped to the plate, setting the table as third baseman David Wright bobbled an easy grounder.
The hit -- a two-out miracle -- broke at least four records. It was the first home run by any Mariners pitcher. It was the first grand slam by an American League pitcher since Cleveland right-hander Steve Dunning took Diego Segui deep in May 1971. It was the first home run by a pitcher since both the DH rule and interleague play was adopted.
As if to cement his status as one of the premier pitchers in M's history, Felix retired the first nine batters he saw, taking a perfect game into the fourth inning. Jose Reyes wrested a single out of a three-pitch at-bat, but Hernandez managed to keep his cool and escaped the inning with a double play.
In the fifth, all thoughts of Felix's shutout and grand slam were forgotten. Carlos Beltran smashed a leadoff double to left field, stole third base, and charged home on a wild pitch to score the Mets' lone run of the game. Waiting for him at home plate was none other than the King himself, and as Beltran slid across the base, his foot connected with Felix's ankle.
Thankfully, what could've been a disastrous end to Hernandez's season turned out to be nothing more than a mild sprain. When asked about it following the game, he only had this to say (per the Seattle Times' Larry Stone):
"I'm going to pitch next time," he said. "For sure."
June 25, 1992: Ken Griffey, Jr. hits the 2,000th home run in Mariners history.
Up to this point in the year, the M's had lost by 10+ runs on 10 different occasions. Their worst was a 15-1 drubbing at the hands of the Orioles, who would finish third in the AL East by early October.
Here, the Mariners punished the baseball gods with a 13-4 win against the California Angels. Junior led the charge, salvaging a two-out opportunity in the first inning with his 13th home run of the season. Coincidentally, it also marked the 2,000th homer in franchise history, from Juan Bernhardt's first home run in 1977 to Jay Buhner's solo shot the night before.
By the end of the night, the record swelled to 2,003 home runs. Tino Martinez, Edgar Martinez, and Dave Valle each went yard against Angels' reliever Chuck Crim, contributing an additional six runs to the blowout. It was just the second time that the right-hander would relinquish three homers in an outing, and much to his relief, the last.
June 26, 2002: Kazuhiro Sasaki earns his 100th career save against the A's.
Kazuhiro Sasaki was in his third MLB season when he logged his 100th career save. No Mariner had accumulated that many saves in 25 years, even as right-hander Mike Schooler bumped up against the record with 98 in 1992.
Earning that milestone save was no easy feat. The Mariners were grasping a one-run lead in the ninth inning, vying for their 10th shutout of the year and sixth in June alone. The A's sent out the heart of their order to rally in the final inning, with David Justice, Eric Chavez, and Jermaine Dye all boasting batting averages over .265 so far that summer.
Sasaki served up nine pitches in the ninth, aided by Justice's first-pitch foul popup in front of home plate. Chavez went down swinging on four pitches, leaving Dye to hit into a routine, game-ending groundout. It may have appeared effortless from a fan's perspective, but Sasaki reported feeling sore in his pitching arm the morning after, presumably from throwing harder than usual.
Not only did he become the first Mariner to record 100 saves, but he also set a record as the fastest reliever to make it to 100 saves. The four runner-ups are listed below:
- Dan Plesac, 1989: 100 saves in 210 opportunities.
- Doug Jones, 1990: 100 saves in 205 opportunities.
- Brian Harvey, 1991: 100 saves in 208 opportunities.
- Billy Koch, 2001: 100 saves in 192 opportunities.
Despite Sasaki's remarkable accomplishment, his name would be inked over in the record books by the following summer. Dodgers reliever Eric Gagne set a record for most consecutive saves converted, with 84. In little under two seasons, he became the new fastest pitcher to notch 100 career saves.
June 27, 1999: The last baseball game is played in the Kingdome.
It was a nice way to cap a miserable 22 years in the chilly concrete dome.
The visiting Texas Rangers rolled over, unable to dig themselves out of a three-run deficit after putting up two runs in the first inning. Ken Griffey, Jr. was the last to hit a home run in the stadium, taking a pitch from future Mariner Aaron Sele deep to right field for a three-run homer. Freddy Garcia, Frankie Rodriguez, and Jose Mesa kept Texas quiet for eight consecutive innings, earning the last win, hold, and save that the Kingdome would ever see. (For even more Kingdome lasts, the Seattle Times ran a full list here.)
The move to a "big and cold" Safeco Field was well-documented as the players exited the field following their 1,583rd win in a soon-to-be imploded dump. From the Times' Bob Finnigan, Steve Kelley, and staff:
"We've had a lot of fun in this stadium, so many great players have been in here. Most of the memories of my career are here." Edgar Martinez, Mariner DH
"I'm excited, but a little sad. This is the place an entire generation of Seattle baseball fans grew up in the majors. Sometimes change is the best thing." Alvin Davis, "Mr. Mariner"
Griffey was Spartacus in the Roman Colosseum. He was Olivier at Stratford.
The Kingdome was his stage.
And his final performance was so good, you almost hated to leave.
Despite, or perhaps because of their nostalgic memories, players soured on the new park:
"The fences need to come in about 5 feet - at least," Buhner said.
Griffey looked up to the girders of the roof and said, "It feels like an airplane hangar."
Jamie Moyer jabbed the worried hitters by saying, "Just another hitters' park."
"Yeah," Buhner retorted, "look at the smile on Jamie's face when he said that."