Despite their longest winning streak in more than four years, the Seattle Mariners will have a new manager on Monday.
The Mariners begin adjusting to life without Mike Hargrove as they open a three-game road series with the Kansas City Royals.
Hargrove shocked the Mariners (45-33) by resigning on Sunday, saying his “passion has begun to fade” after 37 years in baseball. His team responded by sending him out a winner, beating Toronto 2-1 on Jose Guillen’s tying home run in the eighth and winning single in the ninth.
The victory was Seattle’s eighth in a row, extending its longest winning streak since a nine-game run May 27-June 5, 2003. Hargrove is the first manager since at least 1900 to depart while his team was on a winning streak of at least eight games.
“I won the first game I managed in and the last one,” Hargrove said. “Pretty good bookends.”
Bench coach John McLaren will take over as Seattle’s manager. The managerial job will be his first since 1985 at Knoxville of the Southern League.
“This is not a perfect scenario to take over a ballclub,” McLaren said. “But I’ll run with it.”
The Mariners improved to 12 games over .500 for the first time since the end of 2003—their last winning season. Their surge has them in second place in the AL West, four games behind the Los Angeles Angels.
“To see a manager step out like this, you kind of still don’t understand what’s going on,” Guillen said.
Even Hargrove said he didn’t entirely comprehend his decision.
“I don’t expect people to understand it, I really don’t, because at times I don’t understand it myself,” he said.
The Mariners take to the road after a 10-2 homestand that included three-game sweeps of Boston and Toronto. They will face a familiar starter in the opener of their seven-game trip: Gil Meche (5-6, 3.28 ERA), who signed a $55 million deal with the Royals in the offseason, started his career with the Mariners and went 55-44 for them from 1999-2006.
Meche has already faced his former team twice. He threw three shutout innings in an 8-3 win in Seattle on April 28, but allowed seven runs in 4 1-3 innings in a 10-2 home loss on May 25.
Meche, who was named Kansas City’s lone All-Star representative on Sunday, has won consecutive decisions after dropping five straight starts. He allowed three runs in six innings of Tuesday’s 12-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
“I kept the ball down a lot better, and my curveball was good,” he said. “It’s been a pitch that I’ve been able to go to lately for a punchout. I located some real good pitches down and away and stayed in there as long as I could.”
The Royals (34-48) have dropped back-to-back games since a season-high five-game winning streak. Alex Gordon singled in Kansas City’s lone run in the first inning of Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
After scoring 30 runs during the winning streak, the Royals have managed just two in the losses. They will try to get back on track against Seattle starter Felix Hernandez (4-4, 4.33), who has allowed at least four runs and 11 hits in three of his last five starts.
Hernandez gave up six runs and 11 hits in the Mariners’ 8-7 win over Boston, but didn’t get a decision. Five days earlier, however, he threw eight shutout innings in a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh for his first victory in five starts since a 10-2 win at Kansas City on May 25.
Hernandez has won both of his previous starts against the Royals, earning a 2.03 ERA in those outings.