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June 30, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Mariners pass halfway point looking worse by the week

The Mariners dropped their second in a row to the Chicago Cubs and finished 3-5 on their eight-game homestand.

The Mariners dropped their second in a row to the Chicago Cubs and finished 3-5 on their eight-game homestand.

That last road trip the Mariners were on was a tough one, given that they played hard, blew some leads and cost themself a winning stretch. This homestand — in which the Mariners officialy crossed the halfway point in their schedule — was entirely different.

This time, they just flat-out stunk. They took two of three from the Oakland Athletics, then got their bats handed to them by a pair of National League squads, one of them the lowly Chicago Cubs.

Those Cubs took their second in a row today, 7-6 at Safeco Field, and frankly, the Mariners are fortunate they did not get swept. The only thing keeping Seattle in any game this series was the Chicago bullpen, which helped fritter away a 7-1 lead today and nearly blew another game.

The Mariners got late home runs by Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez and Kyle Seager. But it wasn’t enough.

And now, the Mariners sit 12 games under .500. Their season has officially lost just about any on-field relevance, other than looking at the latest batch of “kids” and hoping some of those stick this time. There’s also the continued strong play of some veterans worth watching, with Ibanez hitting his 19th home run to equal his total from all of last season. Bay also hit his 10th.

If I’d told you in March that Ibanez and Bay would have 29 homers just past the halfway point in the schedule, you’d think the Mariners would be a lot closer to .500 than a dozen games out. But that’s just how disappointing the season has gone. The Mariners have hit big on some longshot additions. It’s just the “sure things” that haven’t worked out.

Sort of like this Cubs series. They’ve got this rallying-late stuff down to a science. It’s the whole getting-into-the-game part they’ve had a heap of trouble with.

“I think that this team, for whatever reason, we do the hard part well,’’ Ibanez said. “Which is, we score late in the game. And that’s the hard part. The hard part is hitting the setups, closers and late-inning guys.

“And I think we do that part well. We’re good at coming back. I think if we can, offensively, hit collectively the first six innings the way we do in the last three, I think we’ll be a really good team.’’

Of course, a “really good team” playing for zilch in the standings because the Mariners have once again played themselves into irrelevance before the calendar turns to July.

Today’s goat was Jeremy Bonderman, who saw the law of averages catch up to him when that frequent contact he gives up turned out to be a lot more solid than usual. Contact pitchers rely on pinpoint command and Bonderman just didn’t have it today.

“I just never really got anything going,’’ Bonderman said. “It was a battle all day and it definitely wasn’t how I anticipated the outing going. No excuses. I sucked.’’

This will only increase the calls for Erasmo Ramirez and company to come up from Class AAA. And they probably will at some point, though the Mariners will have to figure out which veteran pitcher to jettison first because whoever they do get rid of isn’t coming back. It’s not like Ramirez was the second coming of Nolan Ryan when he did pitch here, despite a string of good games late last year.

Remember, he’s already coming off a pair of arm injuries the past two years and any additional setbacks will leave the team shorthanded if Bonderman, Aaron Harang, Joe Saunders or whoever is dealt away to make room. So, the Mariners are making sure Ramirez is built up. I’m sure they’re testing the trade market for some of their veterans and will continue to do so as we get deeper into July.

Until that time, there is no rush to get rid of anyone already here — even after this one bad Bonderman outing.

Playing the kids will help those who have to market this team try to build hope for the future. But it isn’t helping the Mariners win more games. Getting Ramirez and whoever up here for a few more starts won’t make all that big a difference when it comes to winning games in 2014. We saw that with Ramirez already after his strong finish last year. He hasn’t seen an MLB mound yet this season. A lot can happen from one season to the next, including possible trades this squad will have to make this winter if it hopes to have a better shot at winning anything that matters down the road.

So, for now, we watch the players who are here. Ibanez is a great story being wasted on what’s allowed itself to become a lousy baseball team.

Brad Miller had two hits today, Nick Franklin drove in another run and Blake Beavan shut the Cubs down for most of his 4 2/3 innings. Tom Wilhelmsen also had a solid inning as he continues to work his way back.

But overall, this team just had a real lousy week of baseball. Take this act on the road to Texas and Cincinnati this week and the Mariners will get blown off the field.

We’re now 4 1/2 seasons into this rebuilding plan and this is what the Mariners have to show for it. Some bright spots from the latest batch of kids, ut simply too much non-performance and underachievement on the whole.

If the point is to win something at any point in the next couple of years, this squad is coming up woefully short across the board. Again, the only thing that prevented them from being swept at home by a bad Cubs team was an awful Chicago bullpen.

At this rate, the Mariners will again lose 90-plus. If that’s become acceptable under the standards of this rebuilding plan — to fans, pundits, or the team’s owners — then we’ll be having this conversation in 2015 all over again. This team should not be losing as much as it already has. But on-paper potential and real life success are two different things. At the very least, in taking it on-the-chin in 2010, 2011 and for most of 2012, the Mariners were supposed to be “learning how to win.”

If they want to prove that expression is more than just the default mantra used by losing teams since the dawn of time, they’ll have a half-season of baseball left to show us something different.

Because the way this first half ended was barely watchable.

Comments | More in analysis | Topics: jeremy bonderman; raul ibanez; brad miller; blake beavan

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