It's difficult to ferret out the highlights in a week where the Mariners nearly got no-hit by Bartolo Colon and Kendrys Morales came slinking back to the DH spot. Barring a couple of high points -- Felix's gem, Willie Bloomquist's three-hit night -- I'd venture to say that we're all looking forward to a clean slate next week.
Before the M's try to salvage the remainder of their homestand today, let's take a look back at one of Seattle's best.
July 20, 1993: Ken Griffey, Jr. hits his first home run in a career-high eight-game streak.
It had only been done twice before. In 1956, Dale Long did it for the Pirates with 15 hits and eight home runs. In 1987, Don Mattingly did it with 17 hits and 10 home runs. On July 28, 1993, Junior joined the club with 14 hits and eight home runs in eight straight games, becoming the youngest MLB player to put together an eight-game home run streak at just 23 years old.
The streak started on July 20, in the middle of a series against the visiting New York Yankees. The Mariners amassed six runs in the seventh inning and finished with a 9-5 score, helped by Griffey's two hits but mostly by the complete disintegration of the Yankees' bullpen -- with particular regard to relievers Melido Perez and Bobby Munoz.
In his last at-bat of the game, Junior arrived at the plate with the bases empty and two outs against 33-year-old left-hander Paul Gibson. He drove a pitch over the right field wall for his 23rd home run of the year. By the end of his streak, he had racked up six solo shots, a two-run homer, and a grand slam.
Just three months and 22 home runs later, Griffey made history as the youngest Mariner to reach over 40 homers in a single season. Five years later, 22-year-old Alex Rodriguez would break that record with his own 42-home run season.
July 21, 1996: Griffey records the first of three multi-home run games in July.
From 1996 to 1998, Griffey averaged seven multi-homer games per year. Between July 21 and July 31, 1996, he had three of them under his belt.
It was the finale of a four-game series against the California Angels and the Mariners' last chance to split the set after squandering 15 runs in their first win. With 28-year-old Jim Abbott on the mound, Griffey wasted no time, putting up a 3-0 lead with a three-run homer in his first at-bat.
For the next couple of innings, the bats were silent -- at least, those that could drive a few runs home.Griffey popped out to shortstop Gary Disarcina in his second plate appearance, then, with Alex Rodriguez hovering on first base, took Abbott deep again for the unlucky left-hander's second home run of the afternoon. (By the end of 1996, Abbott would finish with the worst record in Angels' history: 2-18.)
Griffey's next multi-homer game came on July 27, when the Mariners beat the Brewers 13-5 after two five-run innings and four home runs. On July 31, the stars aligned for Junior's final multi-home run game of the year. He went back-to-back with Jay Buhner in the first inning, then back-to-back with A-Rod in the ninth. Each player finished with two home runs apiece, leaving the less-memorable Brian Hunter out in the cold with only one home run to his name.
July 21, 1998: Junior becomes the fastest player to reach 40 home runs in a single season.
The same year that A-Rod put up his first 40+ home run season, Griffey was on his way to breaking another record. The now-28-year-old had put together four seasons with 40+ home runs and was about to do it for the fifth time. In 1997, he set a career record with 56 homers, and would match his total again by the end of 1998 for a grand total of 350 home runs in 10 years.
Griffey's 40th home run came against one of the American League's worst starting pitchers: 28-year-old southpaw Wilson Alvarez, who racked up a career-worst record of 6-14 and finished the year with 0 fWAR and a 6.19 FIP. On this day, Alvarez took his eighth loss, going 4 2/3 innings against the M's and allowing seven runs, five walks, and two home runs. Griffey's home run was the first of the night for the Mariners, a first-pitch solo shot with two outs left in the fourth inning. He came within a triple of hitting for the cycle, going 3-for-5 with a double, RBI base hit, and a pair of strikeouts.
What was most remarkable about Griffey's home run tally was the speed with which he reached -- and broke -- the record. It only took him 100 games to reach 40 home runs.
Of no particular note, except for my own amusement: The Devil Rays' leadoff hitter was one Quinton McCracken, a center fielder who ended up on the Mariners for 19 games in 2004. Quinton McCracken. Is there a better name in baseball?