As the summer days passed in August, it meant that time was running out for the Mariners to reach the playoffs. On the attempted route to the post-season, the M’s made some changes and relied on their core stars, all while taking part in games that went deep into the night. These are the top-five moments during the August grind.
It was the month of August when the Mariners started to enter the playoff race discussion. Although the Texas Ranger had already run away with the AL West, the M’s were challenging the rest of the American League for a Wild Card spot.
They faced three Wild Card possibles in the Boston Red Sox, Detriot Tigers, and New York Yankees. They also played a handful of key divisional matchups, including a road trip to face the Rangers in Texas.
It was a wild, exhilarating month that sparked our hopes that this could be the year the Mariners finally ended their playoff drought. Our top five moments of August were scattered throughout the madness. Here is how those moments rank in the month.
As always, these moments are selected by how the moment impacted the team’s record, the game in which it took place and the overall “wow” factor.
Aug 22, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino (3) hits a three-run home run against the New York Yankees during the sixth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
5. Mike Z Hits Home Runs In 3 Straight Games- August 18th, 20th, 22nd
I know what you’re going to say. “Why is it a big deal when Mike Zunino hits home runs in three straight games and not Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz or even Seth Smith?”. I would say that’s a fair question to ask, but here’s why.
There is an expectation of those men and others like Kyle Seager to hit a bunch of home runs. Cano and Cruz have set the bar a little higher for themselves, but generally, they all live up to their expectations when healthy.
The intrigue with Mike Zunino is the way he teases us with his power. We all know he’s a big strong guy that should be hitting home runs, but his inability to make contact with the ball has given him horrendous batting numbers.
In four years, Zunino hasn’t hit over .215 once. He even hit below .200 in half of his years in the big leagues. However, he earns the respect of the Mariners fans and the skeptics when he starts to get on a home run hitting role. He fools us into thinking that his streakiness will be the start of something new. But it never is.
So, when he hit homer after homer in this three-game stretch, fans thought this could be a turning point for the back-up catcher. And not just for Zunino, but for the Mariners too, who would be getting another consistent power bat.
And these home runs weren’t scraping the edges of the wall to get out. These balls were blasted so far that the outfielders knew from the moment the ball left the bat all three times that they weren’t going to have a chance to catch it.
They were home runs seven, eight and nine for the slugger in games twenty-four, twenty-five and twenty-six for him on the season. Not bad numbers.
Unfortunately, this would end up being the next trick. Zunino wouldn’t hit another home run for twelve more games and he only hit three more dingers in his last twenty-four appearances. Those numbers just won’t cut it.
Sep 8, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Edwin Diaz (39) shakes hands with catcher Chris Iannetta (33) following the final out of a 6-3 victory against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
4. Edwin Diaz First Career Save- August 2nd
Edwin Diaz had already proven himself as a dominant, flamethrowing reliever, but in early August he earned a promotion due to Steve Cishek’s demotion, to become the Mariners next closer.
Just like in his debut as a set-up man, Diaz would be brilliant in his new role.
Facing the intimidating juggernauts that were the Boston Redsox, Diaz came into the game in a very intense situation.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Mariners had stormed back from a 4-0 deficit to take a 5-4 lead. Diaz wasn’t initially preparing to take the mound, but as the M’s surged in front, he quickly got ready for his second big debut.
Diaz would handle the RedSox as if he were a seasoned veteran. He struck out the first batter on a dicey 2-2 count with no one out using a 98MPH fastball.
After walking the second guy he faced, he redeemed himself striking out the next batter with a nasty off-speed pitch that dropped into the dirt.
The very next batter experienced the same fate as the other men who were called out. Diaz would seal the game for the Mariners with a blazing 99MPH fastball to emphatically shut down the RedSox.
Dave Simms perfectly described how big this moment was live on the air that night. As the final out was recorded he shouted:
“A new era is born here in Seattle. The electric one, Edwin Diaz, with his first career save…”
Aug 9, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager (15) celebrates with second baseman Robinson Cano (22) after hitting a three-run homer against the Detroit Tigers during the eighth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
3. The Mariners Longest Game Ends With A W- August 9th
Most people don’t enjoy to do things for extended periods of time. Whether it’s work or even play, balance in life is crucial to not exhausting the enjoyment out of whatever someone is doing.
For baseball player’s however, after all of the training and warming up that takes place before the game, they must take part in a three-hour affair that can go late into the night. And on some nights, like the August 9th match-up, the game can creep into the next day.
The Tiger would pounce early in the game to take a commanding 4-1 lead by the end of the fifth. The bad news for the tigers is that they wouldn’t score again for several hours. This gave the Mariners ample chances to comeback, and, in the eighth, they leveled things up.
By the time Kyle Seager stepped to the plate the game had been going on for around a couple of hours. In a few seconds, he would make one of the biggest impacts on the entire ballgame. On the first pitch Seager saw that inning, he blasted a ball to way out of Safeco Field, instantly knotting the game at four a piece.
On the first pitch Seager saw that inning, he blasted a ball to way out of Safeco Field, instantly knotting the game at four a piece.
Neither team would make another dent in the scoreboard until the fifteenth inning. When they finally got there, the Tigers would attack first. Victor Martinez would hit a solo home run to put the Tigers up. Unfortunately for his team, the Mariners weren’t going to disappoint the group of supporters who had stayed put for nearly five hours.
In the bottom half of the frame, the Mariners would bring a run home via a Kyle Seager single to tie the game once more.
Seager was followed by Mike Zunino with a runner on third. Zunino would get the job done, hitting a fly-ball deep enough so that Adam Lind could score from third. The game had finally ended just after the clock struck midnight, bringing us into August 10th.
Thankfully the Mariners could get a good night’s rest knowing the just won their longest ball game of the year.
Aug 15, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) reacts after he is taken out of the game during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
2. The King Wins Number 150- August 15th
Felix had already accomplished a couple of his biggest goals of the 2016 season when he took over the lead for franchise wins and most strikeouts from Jamie Moyer and Randy Johnson respectively. But, just taking the all-time lead in wins didn’t mean he had to stop right there. As the year ran on, he continued to pile on the wins, and in August, he made it half-way to the 300 club.
The game would be a nail-biter. Hernandez would struggle early, walking two batters and throwing a wild pitch in the first. In the second he continued to be beaten, allowing back-to-back doubles which scored the Los Angeles Angels first run.
Hernandez continued his shakiness in the third, walking his third man of the game and hitting a batter. He would settle down after this point.
While Hernandez was keeping enough runs off the board, The Mariners were putting runs on the board to get Hernandez a win. Two RBI singles by Adam Lind and Mike Zunino put the Mariners ahead 2-1 in the fourth. Nelson Cruz would add some insurance by smashing a home run in the fifth, extending the lead to 3-1.
Hernandez would give up a towering blast to Mike Trout, trimming his lead to one, but he would hold on. Despite shaky moments in the seventh, The King would be relieved of his duties so the bullpen could close out the game. And, they did just that. Tom Wilhelmsen and Edwin Diaz would tie up the remaining Angel batters til the end of the game, giving Hernandez the win.
For Hernandez to reach one hundred and fifty wins at thirty is extremely impressive. Moyer didn’t reach win one-fifty until he was thirty-eight, meaning Hernandez is way ahead of Moyer’s pace. Of course, who knows if Hernandez will pitch deep into his forties as Moyer did, but as of this benchmark, Hernandez is in great shape.
Aug 6, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners former player Ken Griffey Jr. number is unveiled during a ceremony before a game against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
1. Griffey’s Safeco Ceremony- August 6th
There isn’t any player – excluding maybe Felix Hernandez or Edgar Martinez- that has done more for the Mariners organization than Ken Griffey Jr. For thirteen years he set the incredible club record of four hundred and seventeen home runs and amassed many other outrageous stats.
On this hot August weekend, the Mariners followed up his Hall of Fame induction ceremony, with a celebration of their own.
The Mariners hosted Griffey Weekend. An event-filled weekend honoring The Kid, as they inducted him into another hall, the Mariners Hall of Fame.
The stands were packed all weekend. Safeco Field had over 40,000 visitors each of the three days, something Safeco doesn’t usually see.