Sunday, June 20, 2010

MARINERS: Sunday's 1-0 win completes series sweep over Reds


The Mariners earned their fourth win in a row Sunday afternoon after a dazzling performance from the left arm of Ryan Rowland-Smith (1-6, 5.98), which concluded a sweep against the Cincinnati Reds. Sunday’s 1-0 win was the second of the weekend (also winning 1-0 Friday night), and thus proved that winning is always within reach just so long as pitching and defense is exceptional.

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During the series opener Friday night, Cliff Lee (5-3, 2.55) provided one of the more spectacular pitching performances of the 2010 season, going the distance for his third CG in a Mariner uniform. Lee finished the evening with 9.0 IP allowing 6 hits and striking out 7.

The M’s needed all of Cliff Lee Friday night, facing Johnny Cueto of the Reds, one of league’s best of rising young stars. Jose Lopez scored on a close call at the plate after Josh Wilson ripped a single up the middle, which proved to be just enough to earn the win.

On Saturday, King Felix took the mound and certainly regained his title by going the distance as well. Hernandez went all 9.0 innings, giving up only 1 ER off of 5 H, striking out 9 and walking only one in the process. The back-to-back complete game showings of Lee and Hernandez will always prove to be an asset not only based on the results of the game, but also allowing a day off for the bullpen.

The Mariners earned runs via the long ball on Saturday night provided by outfielders Ichiro (3) and Michael Saunders (4). It was Saunders’ three-run blast in the bottom of the 6th that helped the squad with enough insurance to enter the final frames.
In order to complete the sweep Sunday afternoon, the Mariners relied on Ryan Rowland-Smith to break out of his season-long slump and earn his first win of the year. Hyphen cashed-in on what would be his best start of 2010 and not allowing a single run, despite composing 5 walks in 6.0 IP. He managed to stay composed and work himself out of a couple jams, before allowing Brandon League to come in relief and earn his swagger back.

League pitched the 7th and 8th innings to perfection, striking out 3 of his 6 batters and not allowing a base runner. David Aardsma finished the game, and the series, by following the trend of exceptional pitching, throwing only 11 pitches in the 9th (8 of which reached the strike zone).

When a team is dealing with offensive futility, and an overall struggle to score runs, it becomes very evident that they need to rely on effective pitching to win games, and that’s exactly what the M’s offered this weekend. After Sunday’s game, the Mariners allowed only 1 ER over a three game span, earning an ERA of next-to-nothing (0.037). It would be na├»ve to expect these kinds of performances night in and night out. But just so long as the starting rotation can provide a better night than the opposition, that’s all the hope a team needs to help make a gigantic turnaround.

Reach Jacob Kehle at nextseasonsports@gmail.com