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April 22, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Mariners reeling…and a tough road trip looms

fukudome.jpg
(Kosuke Fukudome is thrown out at the plate by Ichiro in the fourth inning of Seattle’s 7-4 loss to the White Sox today. Photo by Associated Press).
It’s hard to say a team has reached a crisis point 17 games into the season. And that’s not where the Mariners are. Yet. But doesn’t it feel like the wheels are already starting to come off?
WIth the trip to Japan, the season doesn’t seem to be quite as early as the schedule indicates. They’ve played 17 out of 162 — barely more than 10 percent. Yet they’ve been through a grind already, and now they’re heading off on a brutal road trip: Three games in Detroit against a Tigers’ team that won 95 games and added Prince Fielder; three against an improving Toronto team that is tied with the Yankees for the AL East lead; and four against Tampa Bay, which has made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons. It doesn’t seem like the kind of schedule designed to make things better.


Many of the Mariners’ feared flaws are manifesting themselves. The offense is flailing — in Sunday’s 7-4 loss to the White Sox (their eighth straight loss at home to the Chisox), they were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. In their last five games, they are batting .119 (5-for-42) with RISP. That, after beginning the seadon by hitting .291 (25-for-86) in those situations over the first 12 games. No need to dwell on the struggles of Chone Figgins (20 K’s in 65 at-bats) and Miguel Olivo (.153, despite his first two-hit game of the season). Right now, no one is hitting with authority. I’d have to say Ichiro is coming the closest. The young players upon whom they are banking so much hope are going through the “growing pains” part of their development.
The depth of their rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas is another issue that is coming to the fore. Kevin Millwood couldn’t hold a 4-2 lead today. In his last two starts, he has a 10.61 ERA. We know what Hector Noesi has done in two of his three starts. The bullpen, which has had more than its share of shaky moments, is another ongoing concern.
Millwood said today, “You can’t panic. We’re 16, 17 games in. Panicking definitely is not the answer.”
He’s right, of course. The Mariners could change the tone of the discussion with a couple of good games. But right now, after a homestand in which little went right — and a lot went glaringly wrong — they already find themselves at a crossroads.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins

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