Things are going just dandy for the Mariners, who lost tonight for the seventh time in nine games, and lost another key player. Just as outfielder Michael Saunders went on the disabled list, now they’ll be without their other Michael — Morse — for a period of time.
How long remains to be seen, but Morse suffered a small, non-displaced fracture of his right pinky in the seventh inning. Eric Wedge said their estimates are that it will be three to seven days. Morse wants to play by Sunday. Either way, the Mariners don’t plan to put him on the DL and risk having him ready to play before his DL time is up. So they’ll get by in the meantime with four outfielders — Franklin Gutierrez (who started his fifth straight game tonight), Jason Bay, Endy Chavez (called up to replace Saunders) and Raul Ibanez.
More on Ibanez in a moment, but first a little more on the Morse injury. It occurred with him facing Tanner Scheppers in the seventh. A 95 mph fastball rode in on him and struck him on the right hand, resulting in a foul ball. Clearly in pain, Morse stayed in the game and was hit on the shoulder with the next pitch. When he got to first, Morse was removed for a pinch runner, Jason Bay.
“It went numb right away,’’ Morse said. “I got to first and tried to take my glove off, and it wouldn’t come off. I finally got it off, and it looked all mangled. I feel fine. I’ve had a lot worse things than this. It’s one of those freakish things. It’s my pinky. I’m not too worried about it.
“I’m hoping (to play) by Sunday. I want to get in there. We’ve already got Saunders missing quite a while. I’ll try to rehab this as best I can real quick. I might have to play through some pain.”
That HBP loaded the bases with two outs in a game the Mariners trailed at the time, 4-2. The Rangers brought in lefty Robbie Ross to face Ibanez. Rather than pinch-hit Jason Bay, Wedge elected to have Bay run for Morse, and let Ibanez hit against Ross. He struck out, just as he had done at a key juncture of a game against Chicago last weekend, when Wedge left Ibanez in to face lefty Donny Veal. His explanation was similar.
“Raul has been a clutch hitter his entire career, and he’s faced left handers his entire career,’’ Wedge said. “Early in the season, he deserves that opportunity to go up there. We’ve seen him obviously get clutch hits time and time again. We feel good when he’s up there.”
You have to wonder, however, if Wedge will manage differently the next time the situation comes up. Faith in your players is great, but Ibanez hit under .200 against lefties last year with the Yankees.
Of Wedge’s decision to let him hit twice against lefties, Ibanez said, “I don’t think about it too much. I’m ready for whatever. I’m sure Wedgie’s going to do what he’s got to do, and I’m perfectly OK with that. Whatever’s best for the team. I came up short there, didn’t get it done. We’ll keep on fighting. We battled the whole time.”
But the Mariners continue to flail in the clutch. They were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, and are now 3-for-41 (.073) in their losses in those situations. Eleven games into the season, and the same issues as last year are emerging. And Wedge’s lament sounds familiar, too.
“We just have to loosen stuff up offensively,’’ Wedge said. “We’ve got to be more consistent offensively, and do a better job making adjustments in game. I think what we’ve seen, there have been certain trends against us at certain points in time, and we haven’t made the adjustments. Until we do, they’re not going to. We need to do a better job with that.”
And quickly, before the Mariners dig themselves too deep a hole.