There are moral victories and then there are real ones. After taking a bunch of moral victories out of Cleveland, the Mariners need the real thing this afternoon as they conclude a road trip currently at 2-6 after starting off oh so promising with two wins and nearly a sweep in New York. For all of the nice things being said about how well the Mariners have played and how hard, they are now just 20-26 on the season and the platitudes won’t matter if they finish roughly the same as last year.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge isn’t panicking yet, or so he says. But his lineup today refelcts just how badly he wants the win here today just to give his team something to build off with the Rangers coming to town this weekend. Wedge had Jason Bay in the leadoff spot once again, a role he occupied in Houston last month after Franklin Gutierrez got hurt with Michael Saunders already on the 15-day DL.
Saunders is now healthy, but his offensive numbers have taken a nosedive on this road trip. He is just 4-for-32 (.125) with an on-base-percentage of .152 with a .188 slugging mark for a .340 OPS. It’s amazing that the Mariners as a team had done so well offensively on this trip prior to last night, given how poorly the leadoff hitter has been performing.
But with two shutouts in three days, the lack of a presence atop the order may be catching up to the Mariners. That’s why you see Bay in there today, with Saunders at No. 2 and Michael Morse now No. 3 with Kyle Seager given a rest.
Wedge was asked about why he thinks Saunders has seen his numbers go off a cliff.
“I think he’s expanded the (strike) zone a little bit from time to time,” Wedge said. “You know what? When he stays in his zone, he does some damage. So, I think he’s just expanded his zone, is trying to do too much. So, again, we’re at our best when these guys are willing and able to set the bat down and take the walk and let the next guy get a shot at it.
“So when you try to do too much, or get a little greedy out there, that’s when you get into trouble.”
Wedge said it’s important for his players to keep rememering how well they played in New York — going 5-0-1 in their most recent six series to that point — and in most of the Cleveland series before getting blasted last night.
“You can’t compute that,” he said of the Indians series. “Those things happen once in dozens of years. And then we’re one game into here, so you’ve got to keep it all in perspective.”
Wedge has Jesus Montero on the bench against left-hander C.J. Wilson. He said it’s strictly a matter of wanting to better control the running game the Angels have and he feels Kelly Shoppach is best positioned to do that.
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