The Mariners aren’t out of the woods, but they aren’t wandering around the woods all lost, as was the case when they returned to Seattle a week ago. They had just finished a brutal road trip, losing six of seven games. Eric Wedge closed the clubhouse and lit into them after they dropped the final game to Houston. The offense was flailing, fans were ready to call it a lost season, and it appeared that jobs were on the line up and down the chain of command.
I’m not saying that all is cured, but order has been restored, and the vibe is much more positive as the Mariners head out to Toronto and Pittsburgh. Tonight’s 8-3 win over Baltimore gave them a 5-2 record on the homestand and back-to-back series wins over the Angels and Orioles. More importantly, the offense is heating up — they hit .302 (70-for-232) on the homestand with 18 extra-base hits, collecting 10 or more hits in six of the seven games. Their team average has lifted from .218 to .245.
“I think we started to head in the right direction offensively in Houston a little bit,’’ Wedge said. “It wasn’t translating at that point in time; it takes a little time. I feel like our guys have taken significant steps. What you’re seeing now is more the norm with regard to what our guys are capable of.”
The catalysts on Wednesday included Kendrys Morales, who had three hits and drove in three runs, two on a sixth-inning double that short-hopped the center-field wall; Michael Morse, who blasted his ninth homer with a man aboard in the fourth; and Michael Saunders, who had three hits and scored three runs. Justin Smoak doubled for the third straight game and got on base three times with a couple of walks. He’s 5-for-10 over the past three games. Jason Bay drove in a pair with a double and sac fly.
The return of Saunders from the disabled list has been a huge spark for the Mariners.
“He creates a lot of energy for us,’’ Wedge said. “He’s a fighter, whether there’s a right-hander or left-hander on the mound, he’s going to give you a spirited at-bat. What he means on the basepaths, the outfield – he means a great deal to us.”
Mariners starter Aaron Harang worked six strong innings to record his first victory in four starts since being acquired by Seattle. Coming in with an 11.37 earned-run average, Harang may have been pitching to retain his spot in the rotation, perhaps even on the roster, though he didn’t see it that way.
“We talked this week,’’ he said, referring to Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis. “I don’t think they were really worrying, or at least they weren’t letting on. They’ve reiterated after every game, they knew I had a couple weeks off before I came here, and there were going to be some little bumps in the road.’’
The key for the Mariners now is to sustain this new-found offense and confidence on the road trip.
“When we came home, we knew we were going to head in a better direction,’’ Wedge said. “We talked about that a little bit before we did come home. These guys know how to win. They’re big leaguers. The young kids have played long enough, and the veterans completely understand what it takes. Our guys are going about it the right way.”