By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The emotion in Michael Morse came rushing out. He felt he hit the ball well. He was pretty certain it was going to be a home run. He knew his team needed it.
Morse watched the ball rocket to left field as he trotted to first base with right arm raised, index finger extended. When the ball cleared the wall, Morse screamed and violently pumped his fist.
His seventh-inning homer off Los Angeles Angels left-hander Jason Vargas proved to be the difference in a 2-1 come-from-behind win for the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
The emotional outburst wasn’t because Morse snapped a homerless streak that extended all the way back to April 9th.
No, this was about his team.
“We wanted to win this series badly,” Morse said. “We’ve been fighting. This was a tough game. It was a pitchers’ game. And we are going to have a lot of these one-run games, so to come out on top like that means a lot.”
Morse’s power bat means a lot to the Mariners’ success. And for the past 12 games it had been relatively quiet. Sure Morse got a few singles here and there, but he had gone 56 plate appearances without a home run.
“I feel like I hit one just the other day,” he joked
To be fair to Morse, the home-run drought could be traced largely to the broken pinky on his right hand that caused him to miss four games. He came back as quickly as possible even though it clearly affected him.
“He’s been grinding,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s still working his way back from that. It’s definitely been a factor.”
Morse has downplayed it since coming back, but finally admitted it was an issue at first.
“It’s something that I’m not thinking about now,” Morse said. “Early on I was thinking about it and it was affecting my play. But now I’m not thinking about it. There are more guys in this clubhouse that are going through more aches and pains every day than me with a little pinky.”
Danny Hultzen was in the Mariners clubhouse of Safeco Field wrapping up a rehab session on his strained left rotator cuff. It obviously wasn’t the way the left-handed pitcher wanted to be in the Mariners clubhouse.
“No, this kind of sucks,” said Hultzen, who is pitching for the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers. “I’ll be good in a couple weeks and ready to go.”
Hultzen has a strained left rotator cuff and is battling tendonitis in the area.
“They said it’s not worrisome, that was their phrasing,” Hultzen said. “This is the first time I’ve had to lose a significant time from throwing.”
Hultzen said he felt a little stiff when he started preparing for his start on Thursday in Las Vegas. When he started playing catch in the outfield before going to the bullpen to warm up, the stiffness never went away. Rainiers’ pitching coach Dwight Bernard noticed that Hultzen didn’t look right when he was throwing from about 70 or 80 feet.
“He asked if it was bothering me because it looked like it was,” Hultzen said. “I didn’t really want to say anything, but he shut it down and now I’m here.”
Hultzen didn’t put up a fight. He knew better than to push it.
“Good for him for being honest and being smart about it,” Wedge said. “You feel something or something doesn’t feel right, you have to be careful. Today body awareness is such a key thing for these guys. You want them to be tough, but you want them to be aware. If something doesn’t feel right, it usually means something is not right. Let’s at least get it checked it out. Maybe it’s nothing. But if it is something we could preempt something.”
The last time the Mariners won a four-game home series against the Angels was in June of 2003. … Kyle Seager went 0-for-4 and saw his career-high 16-game hitting streak snapped. Meanwhile, Dustin Ackley extended his hitting streak to nine games. … The talented trio of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton combined to go 8-for-47 (.170 batting average) in the series against the Mariners. Hamilton is really struggling this season. He is hitting just .219 (21-for-96) with a .267 on-base percentage and a .323 slugging percentage. He has just five extra base hits, and has struck out 29 times with just five walks. … Michael Saunders will likely be activated off the disabled list today. Carlos Peguero is expected to be sent to Tacoma.