One week after perhaps the most imperfect start of Mike Leake’s career, he flirted with perfection.
Leake retired the first 24 batters he faced, Daniel Vogelbach hit a pair of three-run homers and the Mariners defeated the Los Angeles Angels 10-0 on Friday night at T-Mobile Park.
They were the same Angels that seven days earlier had no-hit the Mariners in a 13-0 win, with Leake giving up seven runs — four earned — in just two-thirds of an inning, the shortest start of his 10-year big-league career.
So what happened this Friday? A turnaround that was hard to fathom, even if the perfect bid ended when Luis Rengifo hit a grounder through the right side for a single to end the perfect game and no-hit bid.
“It’s baseball, and it’s crazy and you never know what you are going to see when you come to the ballpark,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais, whose team ended a six-game losing streak. “Obviously, a tremendous effort by Mike Leake. He had all of his pitches working and he kept them off balance. (Seven days) ago, he was pitching against them and they were on everything.”
The only pity was that fans could not see all of the Angels’ zeros as the main videoboard was dark, thanks to a Seattle City cable failure that knocked power out to it.
But Leake’s bid for major-league baseball’s first perfect game since Seattle’s Felix Hernandez in 2012 wasn’t a secret for long. It was the longest Leake has been perfect, and even though he finished off the one-hitter, he was disappointed he wasn’t perfect.
“To get that close, yeah, but hopefully there is another day when I get another shot,” Leake said.
Leake threw 98 pitches. After allowing the hit, he allowed a walk, then retired the next three hitters, including superstar Mike Trout. But he wasn’t as fortunate against Rengifo.
Rengifo said the key to getting the hit was “to stay focused and wait for the results.”
Leake’s troubles last week in the Mariners’ first game back from the All-Star break were a bit overshadowed because the Mariners went without a hit. But now, that seems like a rare blip for Leake, an innings-eater who can almost always be counted on to go at least five innings.
“They came out super, super urgent the last outing, and I definitely did not want that to happen again,” Leake said.’
Leake undoubtedly improved his trade value with the July 31 trading deadline rapidly approaching, but no one was thinking ahead in this game. This was all about the moment.
The Mariners were pretty silent on offense until the fourth inning, when Jaime Barria walked the first two batters and Vogelbach made the Angels pitcher pay. Vogelbach hit a shot into the right-center stands for a three-run homer.
And the fun continued, with the Mariners getting three more consecutive hits, the last of those being a two-run single by Tom Murphy to make it 5-0.
Vogelbach hit his second three-run homer of the game in the fifth inning, another towering blast to right-center, to make it 8-0, leaving little doubt which team would win.
Still, the suspense continued to build with each hitter Leake retired. Even with the videoboard out, everyone at the ballpark seemed clued in on what Leake was doing by the seventh inning as the cheers got louder with each out.
The crowd of 19,976 was on its feet as Leake cruised through the eighth inning.
The excitement was at a 10 to start the ninth, but it quickly ended when Rengifo singled. Leake got a well-deserved huge ovation, then finished off the shutout.
“It was fun,” Leake said. “As you get close, you get the shakes and you have to calm yourself down, and it’s just a matter of making the pitches.”
With very few exceptions, Leake made his pitches.
“We didn’t look overmatched, but we didn’t make a ton of solid contact,” said Angels manager Brad Ausmus.