Mariners’ Monthly Roundup: September & October “Great End to a Surprisingly Successful Season” Edition

Mike Sweeney enjoyed his best month as a Mariner in September.

Designated hitter Mike Sweeney enjoyed his best month as a Mariner in September.

Record: 17-13 (85-77 overall)

Final AL West Standings: L.A. Angels  (97-65); Texas Rangers (87-75); Seattle Mariners (85-77); Oakland Athletics (75-87)

Top Hitter: Though best known as the nicest guy in baseball, Mike Sweeney proved in September and October that he still has something to offer at the dish, hitting .339 with 3 HRs and 8 RBIs in just 53 at-bats. The wily veteran provided a number of clutch hits, including a go-ahead two-run single against the Oakland A’s on October 1st. Sweeney finished the year with a .281 average, 8 HR’s and 34 RBI’s. Along with Ken Griffey Jr., the gregarious Sweeney was instrumental in changing the Mariners’ clubhouse from a funeral home to an environment that bred success.

Top Pitcher: The best just kept getting better as Felix Hernandez went 6-0 in September and October with 1.52 ERA. The 23-year-old phenom allowed just one HR in his last 7 starts of the year and had an astounding 0.97 WHIP over the season’s last month. Though he will probably finish second in this year’s AL Cy Young race, Hernandez has given Seattle fans plenty of reasons to be excited about the M’s chances in 2010. King Felix tied for the league lead in wins (19) and finished 2nd in ERA (2.49), 3rd in WHIP (1.14) and 4th in strikeouts (217). Yeah, he’s that good.

Biggest Surprise: On a 3-1 pitch in his second at-bat of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 27th, Matt Tuiasosopo hit a fastball into the left-field stands for a HR, making Mike Blowers look like Nostradamus in the process. Blowers, a former M’s third baseman, predicted in the pregame show that Tuiasosopo would hit his first career HR, and against all odds Tui came through. The story quickly made its way through the blogosphere and onto ESPN, making Tui’s HR the highlight of a very fun season of baseball for the Mariners (besides of course that Griffey guy returning to Seattle).

Biggest Disappointment: Russell Branyan was having the best season of his career before a herniated disk in his back forced him to miss the year’s last month. The Mariners clearly were a different team without his bat in the middle of the lineup and will likely try to bring him back as either a DH or first baseman for next season. Despite not playing in September, Branyan still led the Mariners with 31 HR’s for the season and finished second on the team with 76 RBI’s. The M’s faith in Branyan was not misplaced.

It was a storybook ending to Griffey's return as a Mariner.

What a way to end a magical season in Seattle.

Griffey Watch: Ken Griffey Jr. finished the season with a flourish, hitting HR’s in 3 of his final 5 games and rapping a single in his last at-bat of the year. Though statistically one of the worst seasons of his career, Junior provided timely hits and much needed leadership to a young Mariners’ team looking for an identity. If he is willing to accept a reduced role in 2010, Seattle would love another season with the franchise’s most popular player.

Overall Grade: (A) The Mariners ended 2009 on a roll, with a 17-13 record in September and October that brought their season mark up to 85-77. Considering the team lost 101 games last season, the quick turnaround orchestrated by Jack Zdrunciek and Don Wakamatsu is nothing short of spectacular.  The strong play of youngsters like Mike “Magic” Karp, Matt Tuiasosopo and Doug Fister, along with the continued emergence of players like Felix Hernandez, David Aardsma, Jose Lopez and Franklin Gutierrez, gives the Mariners a strong foundation to build upon moving forward. Two thousand and nine was a great season for the Mariners; here’s hoping 2010 holds something special for Seattle. Hats off to the Mariners for a tremendous year, it sure was a lot of fun to watch.