The Mariners July was arguably their most eventful month of the year. There were walk-offs, comebacks, trades and the All-Star Weekend festivities. And, that’s just a part of what the M’s experience in the hot summer month. Here are the top five moments in July.
The month started off on a pleasant July 1st note with the birthdays of Nelson Cruz and Mike Montgomery. The Mariners would also beat the Orioles 5-2 on this day. If only they could have ended the month with such joy. Instead, the M’s would head into August being dealt one of their toughest losses of the year.
Even with so much happening on these bookend dates, it was only a small sample of the many high and low points during the incredibly hectic month. As interesting as it would be to cover every aspect of the thrilling month -and all the moments that would help define the season as a whole- these are the top-five moments from the month of July.
As always, these moments are selected by how the each moment impacted the team’s record, the game in which it took place and the overall “wow” factor.
Jun 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Mike Montgomery (37) pitches during the fifth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
5. Mike Montgomery Traded For Dan Voglebach- July 20th
As you’ll see throughout the slideshow, many of the most intriguing moments of the month came on this day. Whether it was on the field or off it, the Mariners would make July 20th one of the most interesting days of the year.
The Mariners were playing a big afternoon game aginst the Whitesox this day, but their front office was also making a big move. General Manager, Jerry Dipoto would send Mike Montgomery to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for the promising first base prospect, Dan Vogelbach.
Over thirty appearances in the first half of the year, Montgomery had a respectable ERA of 2.34 as a reliever. In his final two outings before the trade, Montgomery would test himself as a starter. He went 1-1 with an ERA of 3.18.
The newly turned twenty-seven year old was showcasing his talent; it just wasn’t filling the needs of the club like Vogebach (potentially) could. Since Vogelbach stepped into the minor league system as a regular back in 2012, he has proven to be a reliable power bat with a strong right arm.
In each year since 2012 (excluding 2015) Vogelbach hit at least fifteen home runs and had over sixty RBI. Even better, in the minors in 2016, Vogelbach smashed a personal-best twenty-three home runs while also having another career-best in RBI with ninety-six.
Although the youngster couldn’t make a big splash in the majors this season -he hit 1-12- the future looks bright for the young man. This mid-July trade could change the trajectory of this team for years to come if Vogelbach lives up to his potential.
Jul 20, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) throws against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
4. The King Returns- July 20th
Felix had been on the DL for a career-long six weeks by July 20th. The right calf strain -that was caused by celebrating a home run- would plague him even when he returned to the mound on this day.
The Mariners had lost a pitcher on their roster in Montgomery on the 20th, but they got one back in Hernandez. Unfortunately, over the 6.2 innings Hernandez pitched, he gave up five runs on ten hits while walking two men. It was clear from his delivery and his pitch-location that Hernandez was still bothered by the injury.
What was important -despite the poor outing- was that the team’s King was back in his kingdom. If there’s one thing the Mariners could be happy about, it was that the core of their rotation was back with the team, providing much emotional comfort.
Jul 11, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; American League infielder Robinson Cano (22) of the Seattle Mariners at bat in the quarterfinals during the All-Star Game home run derby at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
3. Cano’s Home Run Derby- July 11th
For any Mariners player, there is an especially high standard for Home Run Derby performances. After all, Ken Griffey Jr. is the ultimate champion. He has won a league-best three times and has appeared in the Derby a record eight times.
He also ranks fifth on the list of total derby home runs hit with seventy. And this was way before the rules were changed to give hitter more chances to smash homers.
So, when Robinson Cano was invited to the derby, he was already lost deep in Griffey’s shadow. In all, Cano was the fifth member of the Mariners to compete in the derby. Mariners greats, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Brett Boone, had all tried to live up to Griffey’s stature but failed.
Cano was faced with the enormous challenge of battling the machine built for a competition like this, Giancarlo Stanton in the first round. Stanton hit twenty-four home runs, four shy of tying Josh Hamilton’s record of twenty-eight in one round in 2008.
Cano wouldn’t even come close to Stanton. He would hit just seven long bombs, and only hit those balls an average of four hundred and fourteen feet. Stanton not only crushed a ball four hundred and ninety-seven feet, but his average home run was over four hundred and forty feet.
So, Stanton’s average home run was almost farther than Cano’s longest solo blast. Now that’s a beat down.
Cano would go on to hit a personal-best thirty-nine homers in 2016 but would never hit it with the same type of power that Stanton did. In the second half of the season, Cano’s farthest home run traveled four hundred twenty-one feet. That’s only a couple feet longer than his teammate, Nelson Cruz’s average season length.
As a side not, that’s only a couple feet longer than his teammate, Nelson Cruz’s average season length.
In the end, though, we can be proud that such a prominent Mariners player was back in the HR Derby. It hadn’t been since 2003 when Brett Boone was in the competition that we last saw a Mariners representative in the derby.
Jul 20, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Leonys Martin (12) celebrates as he runs the bases after hitting a walk-off solo-homer against the Chicago White Sox during the eleventh inning at Safeco Field. Seattle defeated Chicago, 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
2. Two Wild Walk-Offs In Three Days- July 18th & 20th
There had been many let downs in the season up to this point, including several in July alone. But, on these two dates, the Mariners flipped the switched and earned two important and dramatic wins.
First, on the 18th, the Mariners looked like they were going to drop under a .500 winning percentage for the first time since June 23rd. Down 3-0 to the Chicago Whitesox heading to the bottom of the ninth, the M’s seemed doomed. Coming into the final frame, the Mariners had been dominated and held to one hit.
They would start the ninth off with a single. Then, with one out, Cruz would walk, bringing the winning run to the plate. Kyle Seager would single later in the inning to score Robinson Cano with two outs, cutting the lead to two. The very next batter, pinch-hitter, Adam Lind would turn the entire ballgame on its head.
He would smash a ball to deep left field and way out of the ballpark. He had won the game with one swing of the bat. The Mariners had overcome the deficit and stolen a game. But this would be just the start of the Mariners heroics as the week unfolded.
Two days later, Leonys Martin would play the spoiler, and the Mariners would steal one more win. Once again, down 4-0 early this time, the M’s had to fight back, and they did, eventually tying the game 4-4 in eighth.
Then, after facing tense moments in the ninth and tenth innings, Martin channeled his inner Lind and smashed the ball out of the park. It was his second home run of the game and thirteenth on the year.
None were bigger than this blast. It also capped off one of the wildest series the Mariners had all year. Thanks to Lind and Martin, the Mariners won a huge summer series.
Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
1. Cubs Comeback And Walk-Off To End Month
With all the excitement that happened less than two weeks before, the powerfully surging Chicago Cubs were on a mission to end the Mariners month on a low note.
It was much the opposite of the two winning walk-offs earlier in the month. The Mariners were the team leading the game, and not just by three or four runs, they were up 6-0 by the end of the third inning.
Then in the fifth, everything started to fall apart. Felix Hernandez gave the Cubs two runs by walking in a run with the bases loaded, then hitting the subsequent batter. The score was now 6-2.
In the seventh, the Ben Zobrist smacked a RBI triple to cut the lead to three.
Finally, in the ninth, the Cubs began their big rally. With one out, the cubs hit a double and a single to put the winning run on the plate. Then, another single scored one run, slicing the lead to two runs. A fielder’s choice two batters later would bring in the Cubs fifth run of the game.
Shockingly, that wasn’t the end. With two outs, Steve Cishek threw a wild pitch that brought in the tying run from third. Remember, earlier in the game, Hernandez walked in a run and hit a batter to score another. For all three of these situations to come back and hurt a team like this in one game is unheard of. Amazingly however, the torture wasn’t over.
In the twelfth, the Cubs used a sneaky squeeze bunt by the pitcher, Jon Lester -with two strikes no less- to bring in the winning run, completing the unbelievable comeback from down 6-0.
It was the loss to end all losses, but the Mariners stayed strong after the defeat. Despite suffering what could have been the beginning of the end for the Mariners, they ended up rallying around this defeat to win as often as possible to make a significant playoff push.