Otto Greule Jr - Getty Images
The M's did not have their best season in franchise history, but they did improve and have some crazy unforgettable moments. Including one moment that rivals anything of the last 15 years.
I continue to my look back on the Mariners 2012 season, even if no one asked for or wanted to remember 98% of the Mariners 2012 season. Look, there have been a lot of bad seasons over the last decade and this is one with more highlights than most.
Don't be so greedy, Debbie Downer. Not every baseball team can win "The Great Jamboree" as I guess that's what the name of the baseball championship is since we've never actually been there.
One day the Mariners just might make The Great Jamboree, and I will be overcome with joy when they do. In the meantime, we have to appreciate what we have and remember the good and the bad, otherwise we are doomed to repeat Miguel Olivo.
Do not repeat Miguel Olivo.
Here are the highlights of the second half of the M's season. if you need to catch up, read the first half here.
(Sidenote: This is embarrassing...)
June 8, 2012 - Mariners 1, Dodgers 0
When you review 81 games at a time, I guess you're bound to make some mistakes. In my first half review I somehow glossed over June 8th.
Kevin Millwood - 6 innings, 0 hits, 1 BB, 6 K
Charlie Furbush - 0.2 innings, 0 hits, 0 BB, 1 K
Stephen Pryor - 0.1 innings, 0 hits, 2 BB, 1 K
Lucas Luetge - 0.1 innings, 0 hits, 0 BB, 0 K
Brandon League - 0.2 innings, 0 hits, 0 BB, 1 K
Tom Wilhelmsen - 1 inning, 0 hits, 0 BB, 0 K
A MLB-tying six pitchers combine for a no-hitter against the Dodgers and Pryor picks up the win despite having the worst outing among them. Millwood was on point for six innings but had to leave with injury so five relievers combined to throw three hitless innings and make it the third no-hitter in Mariners history. I wrote at the time that it was fitting for Seattle to combine for a no-hitter since this was going to have to be a team in order to contend. They lack stars, but at least four of the relievers to record an out in the game were guys that will stick around, for at least a little while. Will Millwood ever pitch for Seattle again?
It was cool that if this was going to be our only no-hitter for awhile, and if it wasn't going to be Felix, it's fitting that it was a team effort. Also fitting was Kyle Seager driving in the only run of the game in the seventh inning to setup this game ending in nine innings.
July 6, 2012 - Mariners 1, A's 4 (11 innings)
Leading 1-0 in the eighth with one out, Furbush allows a double to Brandon Hicks. Wilhelmsen comes in with two out and allows a single to Jemile Weeks. Steve Delabar comes into the game in the 11th with two on and one out and gives up an 0-1 homer to Chris Carter and the A's walk off.
Delabar allowed 9 HR in only 36.2 innings. He was traded at the deadline to the Blue Jays for Eric Thames. After being dealt, Delabar pitched 29.1 innings for Toronto with a 3.38 ERA, 46 K and 15 BB with 3 HR allowed. Thames played in 40 games for Seattle and hit .220/.256/.439 with 6 HR. It's still a very solid deal for the Mariners.
July 14, 2012 - Mariners 7, Rangers 0
Felix pitches a complete game shutout against Texas with 3 hits, 0 walks and 12 Ks. This started a stretch run where Seattle went 25-12 over 37 games.
(Also: "My birthday is July 14th. My daddy gets out of prison on July 14th. I'm going to see my daddy for the first time on July 14th." Name that movie!)
July 20, 2012 - Mariners 3, Rays 4 (14 innings)
Delabar gives up a game-tying single in the 7th and Wilhelmsen a walk-off triple to Ben Zobrist in the 14th.
During that run of success I talked about, Seattle would lose six games by a run and two in 14 innings.
July 23, 2012 - Mariners 1, Yankees 4
In an otherwise non-descript loss to the Yankees at home, the M's community is shocked when Ichiro Suzuki steps to the plate for the first time in his major league career as not-a-Mariner. He is traded earlier in the day to the Yankees for minor league pitchers Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell. Since the turn of the century, Ichiro had been the only constant in Seattle, seeing his team win 116 games in his first year, to missing the playoffs in each of the next eleven seasons.
Fittingly his first non-Seattle game was... in Seattle.
After 2,533 hits with the Mariners, 10 All-Star games, 10 Gold Gloves, an MVP (and nine top 25 finishes), Rookie of the Year, major league records, and 438 stolen bases, Ichiro was no longer ours. The Yankees could have him after he hit .261/.288/.353 in his final 95 games with Seattle.
He hit .322/.340/.454 in 67 games for New York because they always get better. He's back in the playoffs for the first time since he was only 27-years-old. Ichiro hit eighth in the lineup in his Yankees debut and went 1-for-4 with a stolen base. M's lose, 4-1.
July 29, 2012 - Mariners 7, Royals 6
Now that the pain has worn off, Trayvon Robinson breaks up a 5-5 tie in the eighth when he tries to bunt pinch-runner Munenori Kawasaki to third but instead reaches on error and Kawasaki scores the go-ahead run.
M's complete four-game sweep of Royals at Safeco.
July 30, 2012 - Mariners 4, Blue Jays 1
Hisashi Iwakuma strikes out 13 in 8 innings against Toronto. Over his final 14 starts, Iwakuma did this: 85 innings, 74 K/22 BB, 2.22 ERA. He's certainly someone that Seattle will be interested in bringing back.
August 1, 2012 - Mariners 5, Blue Jays 3
M's sweep the Blue Jays in Safeco. Blake Beavan struck out 4 and walked none in 7.2 innings to pick up the win. Over his last 13 starts, Beavan posted an ERA of 3.11 even though he only struck out 34 batters in 84 innings, he walked just 13.
August 4, 2012 - Mariners 1, Yankees 0
Felix pitches a complete game shutout in Yankee stadium, with two hits and two walks allowed. In five starts at the New Yankees Stadium, Felix is 4-1 with an ERA of 1.13.
August 14, 2012 - Mariners 3, Rays 2
Down 2-1 headed to the bottom of the ninth, Seager singles and Figgins reaches on an error-bunt. Smoak sacrifices in Seager and Thames walks off in singles fashion.
August 18, 2012 - Mariners 3, Twins 2
August 20, 2012 - Mariners 5, Twins 3
Michael Saunders homers twice and drives in four to lead the M's to victory. Saunders made a case as "Centerfielder of the future" finally for Seattle and hit .280/.364/.607 with 9 HR in his last 29 games of the year.
August 22, 2012 - Mariners 3, Indians 1
Thames gets to be the hero of the day again, hitting a two-run double in the eighth to give the M's the lead and eventual win. It is the Mariners eighth win in a row. During the winning streak, Seattle allowed just 13 runs.
This is how we were supposed to be a contender. Never move those fences in-OH NO!
However, this is as close as Seattle would get to .500. They went 14-23 over the rest of the season.
August 24, 2012 - Mariners 8, White Sox 9
Nobody knows how to pee on my heart like the White Sox know how to pee on my heart.
Seattle is down 7-2 headed into the ninth inning. Philip "perfect game against the Mariners LOL" Humber gives up a lead-off homer to Jesus Montero. Eventually Addison Reed comes in and gives up a two-run single to Dustin Ackley and a run-scoring lineout to Kyle Seager. JOHN "MOTHERF)#@$IN" JASO hits a 2-run, 2-out single to give the Mariners the lead.
COME ON WILMY!
Nope. The bartender goes: single-walk-single-flyball-single and Mariners lose. That's how the 8-game winning streak ended. In Chicago, that is the ONLY WAY it could have ended.
August 26, 2012 - Mariners 3, White Sox 4
Millwood gives up a two-out, two-run homer to Tyler Flowers in the bottom of the 7th and the game is called due to rain before the inning is over. Swept in the Sweepy city.
August 27, 2012 - Mariners 1, Twins 0
Eric Thames came up big late in games several times this year. Felix pitches a complete game 5-hit shutout and Thames saves him from more heartache with an eighth-inning solo blast.
September 9, 2012 - Mariners 2, Athletics 4
This game isn't really that significant, but it's a good time to point out that Seattle dropped it's last seven games against the A's. They basically escorted Oakland to first place in the division, with the help of the Rangers. Two AL West teams made the playoffs and neither of them were the Angels, which was a surprise, but neither of them made the ALCS. This division is getting tougher by the second and I guess all we can do next year is hope that the Astros are still the Astros and not some (s)crappy team that continuously beats us when they shouldn't.
Tommy Milone went 6 innings and struck out 10 with no walks. Kyle Seager hit his 17th homer. A's sweep M's in Seattle.
September 13, 2012 - Mariners 3, Blue Jays 8
I hate to bring it up, but Felix really struggled down the stretch. After going through the most dominant stretch of his career, maybe he was just emotionally and physically exhausted. He had doubled his amount of career complete games in the matter of a couple of months.
King gave up 7 runs in 4 innings to the Blue Jays. He made six September starts and had an ERA of 6.62, giving up 4 runs or more in four starts. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about, just like that talk of "lost velocity" to start the year was nothing to worry about. Extend this man, for he has extended us.
September 18, 2012 - Mariners 2, Orioles 4 (18 innings)
"The game that wouldn't end"
If you were a hardcore Orioles fan that dared not miss a single inning of their season, you may have watched this game in Baltimore and then headed off to work on no sleep.
The M's played the O's nine times this year. They won the first meeting 6-3 and then dropped the next eight. They lost a 14 inning inning game against Baltimore on August 7th, but the only team that beat the O's in extras this year was the Yankees. Otherwise, the Ridiculous Miracles were unstoppable after nine innings.
In what was basically a double-header played without intermission, Baltimore scored two in the top of the ninth to torture their own fans and keep them restless for the night. Erasmo Ramirez pitched brilliantly for eight innings but came out in the ninth and allowed a pair of singles before being relieved for Wilhelmsen. The bartender was great this year, but he was not perfect.
Seattle squandered countless opportunities to score just one run:
- Two on, 1 out in the 10th. Montero and Saunders strike out.
- Leadoff single by Smoak in the 11th.
- Leadoff double by Ackley in the 12th.
- Two on, two out in the 15th.
- Leadoff walk to Olivo in the 16th. (more on that later.)
- Leadoff double by Seager in the 17th.
They could not score a single run in any of these opportunities. They went 14 straight innings without scoring a run. Perhaps the most ridiculous thing to happen all year, and as I've spent thousands of words telling you - there was a lot of ridiculousness this year - was probably Miguel Olivo on September 18th.
Coming into the game, Olivo walked four times. On the season. This was 9/18. Olivo walks about as often as I run. (I am fat.) I don't care if this game took 18 innings or 180 innings... Miguel Olivo walked three times. I guess it would make sense that something so senseless would happen against the Orioles, the most senseless baseball team that I've seen in my nearly 30 years of living.
I don't know the exact number of pitches that Olivo took in this game, but I'm dumbfounded to know that he didn't swing at a pitch at least 12 times. That just does not happen. And that at least 12 times somebody didn't hit the strike zone against Olivo. Look, Miguel Olivo can hit for power and he's stuck around the majors for this long because he has some small amount of value to baseball teams... but he is otherwise not a very good baseball player relative to major league baseball players and so to see him walk three times in the same game was dumbfounding. He posted an OBP of .239 this year and got on base five times in eight at-bats against Baltimore, including a 2-run HR that was the only runs Seattle scored.
I don't believe that Olivo will be a Mariner next year. The only problem is to get rid of Miguel Olivo, you'd have to let him walk. That just so rarely happens.
By the way, the M's lost to the O's in 11 innings the next night.
September 25, 2012 - Mariners 4, Angels 5
Zack Greinke struck out 13 in only 5 innings (and the M's struck out 20 times in 9 innings total) but the story for me here is Justin Smoak. There was a lot of talk about what to do with Smoak after his continuous struggles and whether or not the organization should just let him go or trade him for a pack of smokes (because of jokes and puns haha) but in the meantime they ended up having to play him when they needed a first baseman.
One of my favorite little movie cliches is "and then something happened..." where a magical force just makes everything better. Well, and then something happened with Smoak....
He hit .288/.375/.475 in 42 games after being recalled from the minors with 6 HR and 20 BB/26 K in 160 plate appearances. He got ridiculously hot at the end of the season, hitting .394/.481/.697 in his last 18 games. He homered twice in this loss to LA.
I think we're all hoping that finally he can do something like this over an entire season (and a few more years after that) because it's been rather disappointing so far.
October 3, 2012 - Mariners 12, Angels 0
Feels good to end a season with a 12-0 win over the Angels. Casper Wells homered, his 10th of the year, giving the Mariners eight players with double-digit home runs. It doesn't feel like anything like that's happened in a long time. Kyle Seager led Seattle with 20 home runs, while Smoak and Michael Saunders each fell one shy. Saunders was close to being Seattle's first 20/20 player since 2004.
Blake Beavan finished the year with this "gem that only Beavan seems to enjoy": 8 innings, 7 hits, 0 runs, 1 BB and 0 strikeouts.
And then another season was in the books.
And then something happened.....
Don't freak out on me just yet. I know that I forgot the M's no-hitter in the first half and so by now you are probably wondering why I skipped over August 15th. I didn't forget that. I could never forget that.
August 15, 2012 - Mariners 1, Rays 0
I almost feel comfortable with saying that Felix Hernandez is the best pitcher in the history of this organization. That's not a slight to Randy Johnson, who was the most dominating pitcher in the history of this organization, but I have to look at context a little bit.
Felix Hernandez is 26 and has 1,620.1 career innings.
When Johnson was 26, he had 406.1 career innings. (and he was a wild pitcher that just lead the leagues in walks in 1990 and wasn't striking everybody out yet.) Big Unit was a project that worked out to perfection. Felix is simply perfection.
Randy Johnson won his first Cy Young award when he was 31. That was the first time he posted an ERA under 3.00. Felix is 26 and has pitched four straight seasons of over 230 innings. Johnson pitched his fourth season over 230 innings when he was 36. Johnson walked 512 batters over his first four full seasons. Felix has walked 480 batters in his career. (Eight seasons.)
Felix came into this league as a teenager and got his licks in early. If you remove the "college years" between 19 and 22, and just look at his last four seasons: 59-40, 2.81 ERA, 954 innings, 894 K/264 BB and he only turns 27 next year.
If you don't consider context, then you're basically saying that if you sent Matt Cain to double-A ball and he dominated, it would be really impressive. Except that it wouldn't be impressive because he is Matt Cain and they are minor league hitters. Felix came into this league and faced off against men who had been playing in the majors since long before he was on any scouts radar. He dominated the minors as a teen and then held his own in the majors. Now he's just one of the top three pitchers in major league baseball and he's not even entered the "prime" years of his career.
When Johnson hit 27, he still walked everybody but he struck out over 10 batters per nine innings for the first time in his career. He really started to get the hang of it in 1993 when he was 29. It wasn't until then that he became probably the best left-handed pitcher in the history of the game. But he was so-so in his twenties. Felix is halfway through his twenties and he's been nearly unhittable for the last four years. Hernandez has eight years with the organization, Unit had ten. By the end of next season, he will likely have made more starts for Seattle than Johnson did, so we can no longer apply the theory that Johnson just pitched here longer. Considering context, age, dominance, and accomplishments, the argument between the two is extremely close. I can't tell you that it's Felix, but I won't be able to say that it's Johnson with confidence either. If we can get Felix that extension, it shouldn't be long until he's easily the best pitcher in the history of the franchise, and he's still got plenty of time left in his career.
What can we expect now?
We can't know that for sure, but I think we always expected August 15th, 2012. We were waiting for it, and then when it came I still couldn't believe it. Things like this don't typically happen to us. A single in the sixth, a walk in the eighth... something would surely screw this up. Except on this day, on this one day in the history of an organization that has such an unexciting (sorry but yeah) history, we all got to be kings for just one day. The baseball world would have to look to Seattle and respect what had just happened.
Maybe we can't be champions this year, but we can finally go around and proudly tell people, "Yeah, that's my team. That's my guy." On August 15th and the days following, being a Mariners fan was akin to being a champion, even though I can't honestly say that I have any idea what that feels like. I still feel like the biggest winner of all that "Felix is ours, and you can't have him."
The only threat of hit came in the first inning. There have been perfect games by way of web gems, but Felix didn't even put this one on his defense. "I'll strike out 12 and then the rest will be routine plays, don't worry fellas, this is on me."
There were 24 swinging strikes on 113 pitches. Felix was awesome through five innings. He was absolutely out-of-his mind in the final four. When pitchers are supposed to be wearing down and easier to hit on their third trip through the lineup, Felix pitched as good as anyone has ever pitched.
He struck out the side (all swinging) in the top of the sixth.
He induced three weak groundouts in the seventh.
With three outs to go, he didn't miss a beat. He struck out pinch-hitter Desmond Jennings swinging. Got Jeff Keppinger to weakly groundout. And froze Sean Rodriguez to end the game on what else, a strikeout. It was almost so easy that it would have been boring if it weren't for the context, the excitement, and a crowd of Seattle fans that had waited over 30 years for something special to happen.
Finally, it did.
I didn't put this moment in chronological order, because not everything is chronological. This might have happened on August 15th in game 119, but it won't feel that way years from now. When I'm much older than I am today, I won't remember what the Mariners record was in 2012. I won't remember all of the moments that I've detailed in this long two-part post.
I won't remember Oliver Perez, or what day Ichiro was traded, and I might not even remember much about the six-pitcher no-hitter. I will remember that the M's had a perfect game thrown against them, but I might not remember Philip Humber.
However, I will always remember Felix. I'll remember where I was, what I was doing, and how I felt when he struck out Rodriguez and made history. This is the moment that doesn't necessarily define the 2012 season (because overall the season was not very good) but it will be the moment that erases all others. This is my lasting impression of 2012, this is something that I will take with me until I'm old and senile. Perhaps one day I will tell my son that "I remember where I was on August 15, 2012, but I do not know what your name is."
Felix raising his arms and kicking up his leg in celebration after the greatest moment of his career, that's an image that will never go away for the Seattle Mariners.
That's why I end this post on this game. Because this isn't the last moment of the year, but it's the lasting one.
Thank you, Felix.