Even after a dismal start in the month of April, winning only 13 of 28 games the Mariners have managed to pick up the slack in May winning a total of 15 of the 26 games played (two additional games were postponed due to weather), pushing their overall record above .500 with 28 wins, and 26 losses. True productivity for the M’s in the month of May has not been seen since 2003 when the team accumulated a team high month record of 19-8, and marks the 11th time the team has had a successful May in the entire 35 years the franchise has been active.
Majority of this success has been attributed to the outstanding pitching staff Manager Eric Wedge has assembled. As of May 31st, the starting rotation has recorded a record of 9-6 in May with a team ERA of 2.93, making their overall ERA the second highest in the MLB at 3.33. Leading the way for the pitching staff is young gun Michael Pineda who currently stands at 6-2 with a 2.30 ERA, 1.00 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched), and a respectable 73 strikeouts. With a screaming fastball speed of 96 MPH and probably one of the nastiest sinkers you will ever see, Pineda puts himself among the top of his rookie class in 2011.
However, when you begin to talk about Mariners starting pitching, the main name that comes to mind is none other than seven-year veteran Felix Hernandez. The 2010 Cy Young Award recipient is currently 5-4 with a 3.19 ERA, and a total of 81 strikeouts, which ties for 4th place in the MLB alongside Tampa Bay Rays starter Scot Shields.
Yet, one thing still has yet to be desired, and that’s for the Mariners bats to finally wake up and create some productivity to keep the wins consistently happening. The team’s batting average currently stands in last place in the MLB at .226, with a 27th overall run count of 241, and a 28th overall OBP (on-base percentage) of .299. Fortunately, May has proved to be a ray of hope for the M’s offense, as more players in the batting order have begun sending balls into the field.
Second-year 1B Justin Smoak has helped spark this newfound hope with a 16th AL-ranked 31 RBIs and a 21st-ranked 8 home runs, one of which clinched victory for the M’s against the Orioles on May 31st. Smoak had this to say about Orioles’ pitcher Jeremy Gutrhie’s performance, and the pitch that created his game-winning blast, “He was great today. He stayed away basically all night. I was looking out over the plate and got a changeup middle away and put a good swing on it.” (Quote courtesy of http://www.mlb.com)
Another name coming about in the M’s batting order is SS Brendan Ryan, who currently has been batting second in the order. Ryan doubled his hit count from April in the month of May from 14, to 28 and is currently batting .282 with 17 RBIs and a .349 SLG%. The four-year veteran is also in the middle of a ten-game hitting streak that became 11 after he went 2-4 against the Orioles Tuesday night.
While the Mariners have had one of their best May performances in years, their true test will come in the month of June, as they will have to endure big series matchups against teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays, the Chicago White Sox, and even the 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. However, as long as the pitching continues with its stellar performances, and the hitting continues to slowly awaken the M’s are sure to pull the killswitch on each of them come the “midsummer classic”.
About the Author
Written by Chase Smith
Freelance/professional writer for stories in MLB, NBA, and NCAA (particular to teams in Pacfic Northwest/West Coast)