Michael “The Condor” Saunders stats for the week of June 18th through June 24th:
Home Runs: 1
What Went Wrong? Saunders misplayed a couple of balls off the wall in Arizona, one leading to an outfield assist, and the other unfortunately leading to an inside-the-park home run for Ryan Roberts. Look for sharper defense from Saunders once the Mariners return to the friendly confines of Safeco Field.
What Went Right? Hitting a home run in Petco Park is no easy task, and the Condor put one out with a good swing on a pitch on the inner half, showing the ability to get his hands around quickly and keep the ball fair–something he couldn’t do last year. Saunders also swiped two bases and currently ranks 5th in the A.L. in Power-Speed #.
Michael “The Condor” Saunders stats for the week of June 11th through June 17th:
Home Runs: 1
What Went Wrong? Saunders failed to get an effective bunt down in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game, but was bailed out when Justin Smoak came through with a game-winner. He also struck out five times during the week after cutting down on K’s during his recent hot streak.
What Went Right? The Condor continued to punish left-handed pitching, collecting two hits off Padres starter Clayton Richard before drilling this massive home run to centerfield off southpaw reliever Joe Thatcher. His speed and base running savvy continues to be an asset to a Mariners squad looking for any offense they can find.
Michael “The Condor” Saunders stats for the week of June 4th through June 10th:
Home Runs: 1
What Went Wrong? Saunders struggled against the Dodgers talented pitching staff, picking up five strikeouts in the weekend series with L.A. Like the rest of his teammates, he continues to perform poorly at Safeco Field, a problem the Mariners will need to solve soon if they want to stay within striking distance of .500.
What Went Right? The Condor continued to hit the ball with authority throughout the week, collecting four more extra-base hits and raising his average to .272. Keep flying high Condor. Keep. flying. high.
An unlikely group of grizzled vets, beleaguered closers, and fresh-faced young hurlers put the Mariners on the right side of history Friday night, in Seattle’s 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Safeco Field.
Kevin Millwood, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, and Tom Wilhemsen combined to hold the Dodgers hitless, completing just the 10th combined no-hitter in baseball history.
Millwood, who just a month ago looked like dead weight on the sinking U.S.S. Mariner, cruised through six innings, striking out six and issuing just one walk. The 37-year-old right-hander came out to the mound to start the seventh, threw one warm-up pitch, and promptly left the game, felled by a balky groin and perhaps father time.
In stepped Charlie Furbush, a patchwork beard doing little to hide his inexperience and relative youth. The southpaw collected two outs in between a throwing error, and was spared the ignominy of allowing a run in the Mariners pursuit of perfection when rookie Stephen Pryor blew a fastball by Juan Rivera to end the top of the 7th.
Seattle’s offense finally broke through in the bottom of the inning, scoring on yet another clutch hit from Kyle Seager to take a 1-0 lead.
Six outs to go.
Pryor returned for the top of the 8th and promptly forgot the goal of pitching, walking two consecutive Dodgers to start the inning. Nursing a one-run lead, the Mariners appeared in danger of losing a game in which they did not allow a hit. Eric Wedge apparently realized this fact, and went back to the bullpen again, this time for Lucas Luetge, a pitcher who had never played above Double-A before this season. As it turned out, it didn’t matter if Luetge had never pitched above middle school, because Dodger James Loney laid down a sacrifice bunt, advancing the runners but moving Seattle one step closer to history. What a schmuck.
With the game and the no-hitter on the line, Wedge called once more behind the left field wall, summoning a man the fans call BLT when they aren’t busy cursing his name to the sky. Yes, Brandon League was going to play a critical role in preserving a no-hitter. It was like something out a Disney movie, expect instead of a misfit made good playing the hero, it was a greasy, mohawked, and tattoo covered reminder that Brandon Morrow no longer pitches for the Mariners.
The much maligned League did his job though, inducing a fly out to shallow left field (which was caught by a player that fans forget even existed—for good reason) before striking out Tony Gywnn Jr. to end the frame.
Three outs to go.
“Bartender, I’ll have the drink that’s the equivalent of a hitless ninth inning.” That’s what Eric Wedge told Tom Wilhemsen when we summoned out the Mariners newly christened closer for a pressure packed final inning. Thankfully, Tom’s never poured a drink Seattle fans didn’t like.
The first out of the inning was close (so close it probably wasn’t an out) but the slick fielding of shortstop Brendan Ryan was just enough to cut down the fleet footed Dee Gordon. Elian Herrera and Andre Ethier, realizing how rude it would be to ruin the Mariners special evening, meekly went down to end the game.
No outs to go.
Kevin Millwood, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, and Tom Wilhelmsen just combined for a no-hitter.
You’d have to see it, to believe it…
If I told you a month ago that Michael Saunders would be on the front page of Yahoo Fantasy Sports as a “must add” player, would you have believed me? Of course not! Even as the most ardent of Condor supporters I wouldn’t have believed it myself (though I often dreamed of such a day). Yet here we are on June 7th, and Saunders is leading the Mariners in batting average, stolen bases, and is sporting a healthy .807 OPS.
It’s easy to forget, since he’s been in Seattle since 2009, that Saunders is still just 25-years-old and might just be figuring out big league pitching. His aggressive approach at the plate this season is paying early dividends with 13 first pitch hits in 2012 against just one first pitch hit in 2011. Saunders ability to hit the ball the opposite way and up the middle leaves pitchers fewer spots to expose his swing than last season when his only success came pulling the ball.
After being nonplussed by left-handed pitchers for the first three seasons of his career, Saunders is hitting southpaws with authority (.873 vs. lefties/.783 OPS vs. righties) and is putting to rest any idea that he is merely a platoon outfielder. He struggled with strikeouts early in the season and probably always will, but he’s K’d just three times over his last 40 at-bats, showing the ability to make adjustments on the fly. Saunders is hitting for average, he’s hitting for power, he’s stealing bases, and he’s playing terrific defense in centerfield.
The Condor is soaring. Enjoy the ride…
Michael “The Condor” Saunders stats for the week of May 28th through June 3rd:
Home Runs: 1
What Went Wrong? The normally reliable Saunders had a rare fielding miscue which led to three unearned runs in the inning and overshadowed an outstanding defensive play earlier in the game. Don’t expect it to happen again.
What Went Right? The Condor came out swinging and didn’t stop, notching two three-hit games and one four-hit game as part of a week that saw him raise his average from .224 to .257. Four of his twelve hits went for extra-bases, including a long home run against the White Sox, and his season OPS now stands at a tidy .751. If Saunders can continue to cut down on strike outs (just two last week) and drive the ball with authority, he should have no problem finding playing time when Franklin Gutierrez returns.