July 19: Seattle 5, Houston 4
Seattle’s Felix Hernandez has had a maddening season after being expected to be the #1 starter. Luckily for Seattle, Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer, and Freddy Garcia have all stepped up and been better than expected and pitching has been a strong suit for Seattle overall. But Hernandez has scuffled along to a 5.45 ERA coming into this game, when it looked like he was finally going to put together his first great game of the season.
Seattle’s offense backed up Hernandez with five runs, including a walk and two doubles by Edgar Martinez, plus a solo homer from Ken Griffey in the top of the ninth that looked pretty meaningless since it only stretched the Seattle lead from 4-0 to 5-0.
Hernandez took the hill in the bottom of the ninth with his first complete game and first shutout in his sights, but once again things didn’t come easily for Felix. Moises Alou and Lance Berkman started the bottom of the ninth with back-to-back singles. Bob Watson then grounded out, but Alou came home to spoil Hernandez’s shutout. Then Jim Wynn spoiled things even more with a two-run bomb, and all of a sudden Houston was within two runs with just one out.
Out came Felix, in came Arthur Rhodes, and it looked like even the victory was going to be spoiled for Felix. Art Howe singled, Dickie Thon grounded out for the second out, Morgan Ensberg walked, and Craig Biggio drove in Thon to get Houston within a run with runners on the corners. (Griffey’s homer did not look meaningless any longer.) Out came Rhodes, in came Michael Jackson, and Seattle breathed a sigh of relief with a fly-out from Jeff Bagwell. The win brought Seattle’s record to a game over .500.
R H BB SEA 001 010 201 - 5 12 6 HOU 000 000 004 - 4 8 3 HR: K. Griffey (18), J. Wynn (5) starters IP R ER HR BB SO F. Hernandez 8.1 3 3 1 2 6 J.R. Richard 6.2 4 3 0 5 4 SEA 47-46, HOU 42-49
July 20: Seattle 4, Houston 2
It was lefty-on-lefty action with Randy Johnson and Mike Cuellar facing off. The Big Unit increased his already huge league lead in strikeouts by recording 10 more Ks–his ninth start reaching double digit strikeouts. He also walked six, including three in the seventh inning that loaded the bases and earned Johnson the hook though he was yet to allow a run. Two of those runs came around and were charged to Johnson, but the Seattle hitters were slugging against Cuellar. Ichiro Suzuki scored after leading off the game with a triple, and Alex Rodriguez drove a two-run bomb for the winning runs in the sixth.
R H BB SEA 110 002 000 - 4 6 5 HOU 000 000 200 - 2 5 7 HR: A. Rodriguez (20) starters IP R ER HR BB SO R. Johnson 6.2 2 2 0 6 10 M. Cuellar 6.0 4 4 1 3 3 SEA 48-46, HOU 42-50
July 21: Seattle 5, Houston 3
Then the Mariners really brought out the lumber in the finale. Martinez, Griffey, and A-Rod all took Nolan Ryan deep in the first five innings. Jamie Moyer’s charmed season continued on the hill for Seattle as well. The M’s are on a 16-4 run that has them nipping at the heels of the division leading Royals.
R H BB SEA 021 020 000 - 5 6 7 HOU 001 001 010 - 3 9 0 HR: E. Martinez (9), K. Griffey (19), A. Rodriguez (21), J. Bagwell (19) starters IP R ER HR BB SO J. Moyer 7.0 2 2 1 0 3 N. Ryan 4.1 5 5 3 4 5 SEA 49-46, HOU 42-51