By Gary Hill
The blazing hot Mariners have steamrolled their way to seven wins in a row.
They broke out the brooms against the Angels before the All-Star break and then repeated the feat against the Astros. Two solo blasts helped the Mariners eke out a one-run win over Cleveland in the opener of a three-game series Monday night at Safeco Field.
This is the sixth time in club history the M's have won seven games in a row. The have also done it in 2012, 2001, 2000, 1995 and 1984/1985. They have only exceeded a seven-game winning streak 13 times in their history.
Hisashi Iwakuma and the rest of Seattle's starting rotation have a combined 7-0 record and a 1.71 ERA during the team's seven-game winning streak. (AP)
• 10 games: 2002, 1996
• 9 games: 2003, 2001, 1995
• 8 games: 2012, 2007, 2001, 2000, 1996, 1991, 1985
The offense has been suburb during the recent streak, rolling up 6.5 runs per game. They have walloped 13 homers in their last seven games and smacked 11 doubles. They are hitting .262 during the streak, which is made more impressive by the fact they were one-hit against the Astros; a 1-for-27 game tends to drive down the batting average.
However, the starting pitching has been an equally important factor in this streak. Mariners starters are an impressive 7-0 with a 1.71 ERA. They have fanned 38 hitters while allowing just 10 walks. In five of the seven games, the starter pitched at least seven innings. In four of the seven, the starter yielded one run or fewer.
The All-Star break made it possible for the Mariners to manipulate their rotation so that Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Joe Saunders have each pitched twice during the streak. Hernandez has not yielded a run in his last 16 innings. Saunders is 4-0 with a 1.73 ERA in his previous four starts. Iwakuma has allowed five earned runs over 14 innings in his last two starts.
The Mariners stumbled out of the gates to a 22-30 start. In those first 52 games, Hernandez (2.51) and Iwakuma (2.35) were both among the top six in ERA. The Mariners were 13-9 when they took the ball. They were 9-21 when the other three in the rotation pitched. Brandon Maurer (6.93), Aaron Harang (6.51) and Joe Saunders (6.09) were among the top 10 for highest ERA in the American League. Hernandez and Iwakuma combined for a 2.43 ERA while the rest were 6.45.
The M's have reversed course and surged at a 12-5 July record. The offense has obviously been a driving force, but consistency in the back end of the rotation has been a significant contributing factor. Saunders has excelled the third spot in the rotation thanks to a 2.60 ERA since his last start of May. Harang maintains a 2.25 ERA in his last six taking away his July 10th turn against Boston in which he gave up seven earned runs.
The Mariners are hoping that Erasmo Ramirez can stabilize the final spot in the rotation. He was 1-3 with a 3.64 ERA as a starter in eight turns a year ago. He was greeted rudely in his season debut against the Red Sox on July 11. He coughed up seven runs and he wasn't able to get out of the fifth inning. He will pitch again Tuesday against the Indians as he tries to add to the starting pitching consistency.
He will also try and pitch the Mariners to their eighth win in a row.