A lot of things happened to the Mariners on this homestand, and not many of them good. They lost two players to the disabled list (Michael Saunders and Stephen Pryor), and two others for shorter stints (Michael Morse and Franklin Gutierrez). They drew the two smallest crowds in franchise history, absorbed two embarrassing losses to the Houston Astros, dropped a heartbreaking 14-inning game to the Tigers last night, watched young hitters Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley continue to struggle, and dropped six of nine games heading into today’s matinee.
On the plus side, there was that whole Regional Sports Network thing announced Tuesday. And they pulled out a nice 2-0 victory today to give them a 4-6 mark on the homestand as they head out for the Texas Two-Stop: Three in Arlington vs. the Rangers, and three in Houston against the Astros.
Offense remains a major concern, as the Mariners’ team average has dipped to .224. Their on-base percentage (.286) and slugging (.359) are equally inadequate. A positive is their starting pitching. Joe Saunders has had two strong outings in a row, Brandon Maurer rebounded from two duds to pitch well in his third try, while the trio of Aaron Harang (who replaced Blake Beavan in the rotation after coming over in a trade with the Rockies — another significant event this homestand), Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma put up a combined 1.42 ERA in the three games against the Tigers, with 20 strikeouts and just one walk. The fact the Mariners won just one of those — today’s — tells you something about their offense.
But their pitching caught the eye of veteran Tigers manager Jim Leyland. Asked about his team scoring runs in bunches and whether that was just baseball, Leyland replied, “No, that’s pitching. You still have guys throw 100, 98, 97, spotting the ball really good. Last night, I’ve never seen Hernandez better. We saw a lot of good pitching in this series. Both teams saw it. Their hitters saw it, our hitters saw it. That pretty much simplifies it.”
More Leyland: “It looks to me like their bullpen is really good. (Carter) Capps and (Tom) Wilhelmsen are both nasty. This is a good team with a lot of good pitching, a lot of good arms in the bullpen and good starting pitching.”
The key for the Mariners as they move forward — and this is a broken record — is to get the hitting going.