Half of an inning. The Mariners scraped across a run in the bottom of the eighth, and they took a 1-0 lead into the ninth, half of an inning away from a sweep. Instead, the Astros rally for six in the top of the ninth, salvaging the finale of the three-game set. Seattle ends up with a 5-5 home stand, and two bizarre sweep-busting losses (they also lost a sweep on the 7-5 16 inning loss last Wednesday to the White Sox). Seattle stands now at 29-38, good enough to be alone in third place in the A.L. West but eleven games back of the new division-leading A’s.
Great Starting Pitching. This series looked more like what Mariners’ fans would be getting when they faced with the Astros. Houston owned a 4-2 record vs. Seattle coming into this series. Iwakuma snapped a two-game losing streak on Monday throwing seven innings allowing only an unearned run in a 3-2 victory. Hisashi dropped his ERA to 1.79, second behind Clay Buchholz, and he owns 0.92 ERA in six starts at Safeco with forty-six strike outs to three walks. Aaron Harang took the baton from Iwakuma, throwing a complete game shut out in a 4-0 win on Tuesday. He allowed two hits and struck out ten Astros, outdueling Astro ace Bud Norris. He has rebounded from a slow start to throw quality starts in three of his last four games, allowing one earned run in twenty-four innings in those quality starts. Harang (3-6) has two complete game shut outs this season. Jeremy Bonderman didn’t disappoint in the series finale. Following up a win over the New York Yankees, Bonderman went eight innings allowing three hits while striking out five.
It was another rough night for Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen. Wilhelmsen, who blew his fourth save in his last nine tries Wednesday night, should keep the closer position despite recent struggles.
Sweep Avoided. Tom Wilhelmsen has struggled as of late. He was unable to protect a 1-0 lead last night, as the Astros rallied for six runs. Wilhelmsen was charged with five of those runs, allowing three hits and two walks retiring only one batter. For the Mariner closer, he has blown four saves in his last nine tries. His ERA has grown from 0.75 to 3.77 with a 19.29 ERA in six outings this month. Will Eric Wedge make a change? I think he will stick with Wilhelmsen to make his way out of this rough patch. It was an ugly loss last night, but he has still been a dominate closer, June notwithstanding. I think it would be an overreaction to shift the bullpen after some rough outings, and no other Mariner reliever stands out as being ready to take the role.
Speaking of the A’s. The A’s are now in first, and Seattle is going to visit the new division leaders for a three game set starting on Friday. After a day off, the Mariners will throw Joe Saunders, Felix Hernandez, and Hisashi Iwakuma. Saunders is 1-1 vs. the A’s this season, Hernandez is 1-0 having beat the A’s Opening Day, and Iwakuma is 2-0 vs. the A’s. Overall, the three starters have combined to go 4-1 in five starts, a nice advantage to have. The A’s have won ten in a row at home depending upon today’s result with the Yankees to help catapult the Rangers. Seattle is 4-3 vs. Oakland; 2-2 in Oakland, but they haven’t played there since the Opening Series of the season.