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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

June 10, 2009 at 8:42 AM

Rangers leaving door wide open for Mariners, Angels

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My Talkin’ Baseball segment on KJR AM 950’s Mitch in the Morning show will air at 9:15 a.m. today
Well, it took some time, but the bloom seems to be coming off the ole’ Texas Rangers rose. The Rangers were hammered last night, 9-0 by the Toronto Blue Jays in their home ballpark. So, the Mariners, for all of their uninspired play here in Baltimore, remain just five games out of first place.
What’s going on with the Rangers?
Well, it’s not a full-on collpase just yet. The Rangers have dropped six of their last 10 games. They are 10-11 since May 19. Not exactly trying to run away and hide. Well, they are trying. Just not getting it done with any consistency.
As expected, the Rangers are starting to show daily cracks where their pitching is concerned. They sport the 11th-best ERA in the AL, which has still been enough to get them by since their offense scores so often. Up until last week, the Rangers had the ninth-best ERA in the league, which made winning a bit easier than right now. Thing is, offensively, the Rangers are also slowing down. Josh Hamilton is now out for 4 to 6 weeks after surgery yesterday for an abdominal injury. Hamilton hasn’t been the impact player he was a year ago. But he is still a cog in this Rangers machine and impacts the way pitchers go at their lineup. He brings a certain fear factor when he’s up there. Sometimes, all it takes is one of these guys to go down for the rest of the lineup to start faltering. If that happens, like a house of cards, this Rangers team could take a tumble down the standings because, as we’ve mentioned, the pitching is a work in progress.
In June, the Rangers have a lowly .641 on-base-plus slugging percentage (OPS), that is only 11th in the AL. Pitching-wise, they are dead last for this month with a 5.47 ERA. When you don’t pitch and don’t hit, you can’t win. So, it’s hardly a surprise the Rangers have played sub-.500 ball of late. What is a surprise is how close to .500 they’ve played in June, considering how bad their numbers are tanking overall. That usually won’t hold up over the long haul, though.
But the Mariners still have to capitalize. They didn’t do it last night against a last-place Orioles team largely contained by Seattle pitching. The schedule favors Seattle the rest of this month, but it’s time for this team to make a move — or risk having the GM start making moves of his own come July.
As we’ve said, this division is wide open. The Mariners are sporting the best pitching statistics in the American League at the moment and might be in first place if they could score even three runs per game instead of just one, two, or zero. The frustration amongst the team’s braintrust and coaching staff is palpable. This is simply one of the worst offensive showings they’ve ever seen over such a sustained period. Usually, pitching and defense this good gets you at least — at least — a .500 record.
They are 7-2 over their last nine games when scoring at least three runs. They’ve actually managed to win two games this month when scoring only two runs. That’s what great pitching and defense does for you.
But this offense is just not getting the job done. And it’s not about talent. It’s about execution, as manager Don Wakamatsu once again implied last night. Talent-wise, the Mariners have lifted their team OPS to .744 (6th best in AL) this month as bats come around to produce a more-balanced attack. They have the league’s third-best slugging percentage in June at .421.
Execution-wise, though, the M’s have scored the third-fewest runs in the AL over that same period, most of them coming in one game against Baltimore last week. Seattle had been 0-for-20 with runners in scoring position the past few games until Jose Lopez knocked home Adrian Beltre in last night’s ninth inning. That’s a product of poor pitch-selection, haphazard swings and all around tight-collars with runners on second and third base. That’s a product of not moving runners over. Of not getting the job done. Nothing to do with talent. This team has the talent to be a mediocre offensive club. Not one that is historically awful.
If more hitters start executing, and doing the job they are capable of, this team has a shot at contending beyond the month of June and perhaps even July. Thing is, they are running out of time. The Rangers keep allowing the Mariners to seize the moment. Problem is, the only seizing the Mariners have done is of their own throats in the batter’s box. If that continues through June and into July, the Mariners won’t get any closer to the division lead than five or six games and their season — following a series of obligatory trades — will be effectively over come July 31.

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