OAKLAND — After Saturday’s 4-0 victory at the O.co Coliseum, the Seattle Mariners are in the midst of a brilliant run of starting pitching over the last eight games, collecting eight “quality” starts.
A quality start is at least six innings pitched while giving up three or fewer earned runs. And while there has been criticism of the statistic’s validity and its importance, it does show that Mariners’ starting pitchers are at least pitching deep into games.
Even with all their early struggles and sub-five-inning stink bombs, the Mariners rank third in the American League with 41 quality starts this season — thanks largely to Hisashi Iwakuma (12) and Felix Hernandez (10), who have combined for 22.
The current streak started with Jeremy Bonderman’s impressive win against the New York Yankees on June 7 and included Aaron Harang’s shutout of the Houston Astros on Tuesday. But in those eight starts, the Mariners have a modest 5-3 record.
Yet it’s still a good thing for Mariners manager Eric Wedge to see from his rotation.
“It’s just so important,” Wedge said. “It starts with your starting rotation. If you are going to have any kind of consistency, it starts with those guys.”
For Blake Beavan, his teammates’ run of quality starts has left him with a lot of free time. The team’s long relief man hasn’t appeared in a game since June 6, the day before the streak started.
In that last appearance, Beavan was stellar, tossing 62/3 scoreless innings and allowing just one run in relief of Harang. He wishes he could have built off that outing, but there has been no need for him.
“It’s been eight days,” Beavan said. “That’s a long time without throwing in a game.”
Beavan has spent most of his career as a starter and is used to the cadence of its regimented routine.
“Being a starter is easy in that regard,” he said. “Everything is planned out. You know when you are going to pitch. You know when you are going to throw your (bullpen sessions). It’s all scheduled.”
As a reliever, Beavan’s pitching life is less regimented. In fact, the frequency and length of outings are totally unpredictable. Because of that, he can’t throw too much before games. Any bullpen sessions off the mound are maybe 15 to 20 pitches.
It’s hard to stay sharp with command if you don’t throw bullpen sessions or make appearances. He’s trying to figure out a way to maintain discipline.
Beavan’s pregame conditioning workouts have also had to be adjusted — particularly lifting.
“I can’t really go in and do hard upper body or lower body or core workout if I might have to pitch that night,” he said.
Of course, Beavan knows if he’s pitching less frequently, the starters are doing their jobs well.
“Our starters have been great and that’s what you want,” he said. “I’m just hoping to get an inning or two soon.”
ZUNINO GETS A MEMENTO
An Oakland A’s grounds crew member retrieved the baseball Mike Zunino crushed over the center-field wall Friday night in O.co Coliseum for his first big league home run.
Zunino quickly gave the baseball to his wife, Alyssa, who is following him on this trip. He did the same thing with the baseball from his first big league hit.
“I will lose that thing,” he said.
Zunino was out of the lineup Saturday. His backup, the recently signed Henry Blanco, got the start in the afternoon game.
Wedge wanted to get Blanco some early action. He said Blanco had once caught Hernandez during a bullpen session in the World Baseball Classic in 2009 when they played for Venezuela.
“Zunino will be back out there on Sunday,” Wedge said.
The Mariners will wrap up this three-game series with a 1:07 p.m. game today. The Mariners are expected to start right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (7-1, 1.79 ERA), while the Athletics are expected to go with right-hander Bartolo Colon (7-2, 3.14). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.firstname.lastname@example.org