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Well, we’re one week into the 2013 season and we can already see signs of potential with this Mariners offense. For one thing, the power is there like we haven’t seen it in quite a while.
The Mariners have now hit nine home runs in their first seven games. Last year, they hit just three in their opening week and didn’t club No. 9 until their 13th game.
But a year ago, the Mariners were also 4-3. This season, they have started 3-4 after their fourth loss in five games today, a 4-3 walkoff defeat to Dayan Viciedo and the Chicago White Sox in 10 innings.
One of the reasons the Mariners have been losing more than winning is they’re starting to over-rely on the homer and aren’t finishing off rallies and innings with the kinds of key hits that can lead to multiple-run outbursts.
The signs are there, as I said. One of my big worries heading into the season was this team’s ability to get on base at the top of the order. Well, as of today, Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders have OBPs of .333 and while that’s not brilliant or anything it’s still loads better than the production seen up top in recent years.
Like I said, the Mariners have been getting on base. It’s what they do after that’s been an issue.
“It’s the first week and there are some good things that have happened and some things we need to get better with,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We need to settle in offensively. We know we’re going to be a good offensive club. But we need to settle in offensively, both different individuals and collectively. That will take some of the pressure off the pitching staff.’’
Indeed, it might. That staff has been under too much pressure early. We saw Felix Hernandez lose a game he could have won yesterday because of a lack of execution by the hitters trying to knock runners in and we saw a repeat today.
Hisashi Iwakuma did a good enough job to win for his seven innings, holding the White Sox to just three runs. But again, other than home runs by Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales, there was nothing else done with runners on.
The Mariners went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Morse struck out four times, three of those with a runner at second base.
“I think we’re definitely underachieving what we’re capable of doing,’’ Morse said. “But we haven’t played what, a week of baseball? I think we’ve showed some good signs of what we’re capable of doing.’’
Yes, they have. As mentioned, they are getting on base. Justin Smoak has a terrible .190 batting average and no extra-base hits. But I have to say, he’s been hitting the ball very hard and just coming up unlucky at times.
“I feel like I’m hitting the ball hard,’’ he said. “My first at-bat today, I hit the ball hard and right to the center fielder. You’ve just got to go up there and keep grinding out at-bats.’’
Dustin Ackley is struggling a bit more at 1-for-20 (.050) and not generating the same type of contact as often as Smoak. Jesus Montero has had some ugly at-bats at times.
But as Morse said, it’s early.
“We’re not getting the base hits as much right now and no one’s really clicked yet,’’ Morse said.
He also repeated what he’d said about it being early.
Yes, but Mariners fans have heard the “it’s early” thing for quite a few years now. Morse is right in that it is very early. But for this team to convince the skeptical fans out there that this year is going to be different — and I believe it will — there is going to have to be more production, especially from the non-power spot holdovers from last year.
The Mariners are getting production up top. They are seeing the middle of the order hit for power at times. They need the young core of Smoak, Ackley and Montero to hit as well. Otherwise, it will be a pretty long year. And fans who have spent the past four-plus seasons waiting on this rebuild are going to start wondering what the wait was all about.
So, the Mariners have shown their potential to get on. They’ve shown their potential to hit for power. Now, they have to combine the on-base part and the hitting part more frequently.
After that, we’ll worry about the last three spots in the rotation. That’s for another post.
We’re one week in. Let’s see whether this week at home changes anything and look back on stuff after that.