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May 11, 2008 at 7:16 PM

Could have been worse

Not much worse, but worse nonetheless. The Mariners managed to finally come back and win a game in which they’d trailed by two or more runs, taking a 6-3 decision today after trailing 2-0 in the first. Seattle had been 0-19 once the other team achieved at least a two-run lead. The M’s had only overcome the gap twice previously, losing both times in the end. Not this time.
I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you to back away from the cliff. Stay there for a bit. This team finally managed to score four or more runs in consecutive games for the first time since April 20 and 22 (four runs each time). Problem is, it’s May 11. That is ridiculous. No team with designs on winning even a Little League tournament can go three weeks between putting up consecutive run totals that don’t even equate to league average. The time for being diplomatic is done. This team has to step it up.
That said, the Los Angeles Angels did the M’s a favor by getting swept by Tampa Bay this weekend. Instead of being double-digits back of the Angels, the M’s are “only” seven games behind. That’s pretty sad. But it isn’t — sigh! — terminal just yet. I know, I know, it’s about as bleak as you can get. The M’s are also eight games behind division-leading Oakland. If you expect the A’s to win the AL West, that’s bad news. I don’t expect that, so it isn’t the end of the world to me.
Seattle is, however, up the proverbial creek with a splintered paddle. Seven or eight games out is not where you want to be at any point in the season — let alone the second week in May. But it is still May. If this was the worst of the storm, the Mariners may have a shot — may have a shot — at getting back in this thing. But only if the starting rotation comes through in Texas this week and the offense finds away to score five runs in a game again.

The M’s have their Big Three going this week. Erik Bedard has been “money” since coming off the DL. I’m not worried about him. Felix Hernandez has let his team down the last two times out and there will be plenty of distractions for him in Texas this week. Him, I’m worried about. Carlos Silva will give you seven innings and allow three or four runs. The offense will have to show up.
That’s what needs to happen the next few days. Raul Ibanez and Adrian Beltre will have to hit with runners in scoring position. Ichiro will need to make things happen. The “kids” will have to have their feet under them. Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Lopez will have to have their heads in the game defensively. And the M’s will have to make their own luck. That’s what good teams do.
The bullpen, as I mentioned before, seems to be coming around. The rotation, I assume, has had a minor hiccup. We’ll worry about Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista after the Texas series. Both of them need to do more. But first things first.
If the M’s pull another three and out in this series, then you fans are on you own. You want to bail, I’m not going to sit here like a fool and try to pull the wool over your eyes.
Right now, I haven’t seen much to convince me the plug should not be pulled…EXCEPT…the Angels and A’s are hardly juggernauts. If they were, the M’s would be dead and buried, double-digits back. They aren’t. The two frontrunners are vulnerable and have shown it, as many of us thought they might be. Not terrible, but vulnerable to losing stretches that pop out of nowhere.
Also, the M’s have their three best starters heading into Texas. No.1 goes tomorrow, then Nos. 2 and 3 after that. That’s not just the order. That’s their talent level based on what they’ve shown to-date. The M’s, if they got anything right coming out of spring training, got the rotation perfectly. Anyone disagrees, it’s time to step on the mound and prove it. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of chatter on a team where nobody has earned the right to talk very loud.
Finally, I don’t believe the numbers we’ve seen from the middle of the order with runners in scoring position is going to hold up much longer. The numbers are too low to match the overall averages of Ibanez, Beltre and — when he comes back — Richie Sexson. I also don’t think Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien will continue to struggle like this much longer. In other words, something has to go right for this offense at some point.
But it had better happen soon.
So far, the only thing to really go right for the M’s all week was the Angels losing four in a row and six of 10 and the A’s going only 6-4 over their last 10. Neither team ran away and hid from Seattle. So, the curtain may have started to descend on Seattle’s season, but it isn’t all the way down yet. It hasn’t been pretty. But there is still a tiny opening left to crawl back into this race through.
You don’t have to agree, but there it is. Seattle’s goal tomorrow has to be to win the opener behind Bedard and take the series at least two of three. After that, they can worry about Batista and Washburn.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there, especially mine, Marilyn, an avid reader of the blog back in Montreal in what has been a difficult few months for her. She kept me focused on my dreams and fought to give me a shot at them when things could have easily gone in a different direction. Time for the Mariners to take a page from that history book and fight to get the 2008 season going in another direction before all of you get tired of waiting for it to happen.



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