Who better to end the second-longest losing streak of the season then your ace, right?
That’s the task assigned to Felix Hernandez, who takes the mound for the Mariners this afternoon looking to end the team’s run of five-straight defeats — all at home. Today marks the end of a six-game homestand that started with a three-game sweep by the Angels and Texas (today’s opponent) winning the first two games of this series, including a bizarre one Tuesday that saw the Rangers score the winning run in extra innings on a balk.
Seattle’s worst drought this season was going eight games without a win from May 17-25 against Cleveland, the Angeles and Texas.
Up next is an eight-game road trip with stop at Houston and Kansas City. More pregame notes to come followed by a separate post for the game thread.
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I’ll get to more from a pregame meeting with manager Eric Wedge in a bit, but first here’s an interesting quote when asked if some of the younger players on the team have shown leadership qualities in the clubhouse.
“There are a couple younger guys that have a chance to do it,” Wedge said. “I’d like to see them do it. I think they’re going to get to a point where they hold each other accountable, ride each other. But I think there have been some positives with the veterans in regard to that this year; I think there have been some disappointments within the veterans in regard to that this year. I don’t mind saying it. It’s tough to find leadership with people. Hell, everybody wants to be liked and everybody is afraid of confrontation. Show me a leader that wants both of those things and I’ll show you a bad leader.”
Wedge didn’t specify which veterans in particular had disappointed.
Also put on notice? The middle of the lineup.
“You need those guys in the middle to do more,” Wedge said. “We need those guys int the middle to start producing, getting some big hits for us. But we still need to do it from 1 through 9. I felt like we were really getting close to it, 1 through 9, for a while, so my goal right now is to just to get things back in line here so we can keep moving forward.”
In regard to the lineup, Wedge explained that he knew he was only going to play Franklin Gutierrez two of the three games in this series, and felt resting him for the day game made sense. The manager also mentioned Michael Morse‘s struggles in giving him a day off. Wedge also wanted to match up catcher Henry Blanco with Hernandez.
In the bigger picture, the Mariners, of course, have gone winless since Wedge’s return from a medical absence (0-5). “We need to get back in the business of progressing and keep moving forward,” he said. “… We’ve got 30-some-odd games to go; I want to get back on the program, get back on that and keep pushing forward.”
Seattle’s starter for Friday’s game at Houston hasn’t been determined but is expected to be announced after today’s game.
In some other notes from Wedge:
“I think we’re always going to be a team that has a nice blend of younger players, older players and players who are in the middle of their career, so everybody has a responsibility to do their part if we’re going to be a championship team. That’s why you do it 1 through 9. You’re not going to be all young players; you’re not to all be veteran players. There are a few teams that are loaded with veteran players, but that’s a short window of opportunity and it usually ends up ending quickly. We don’t want to do that.”
“I want to be able to have (running) be an option to where you can steal more, you can hit-and-run more, you can use the bunt game a little bit more, whether it be for a hit, a safety squeeze or a regular squeeze. I think we’re going to have some guys that can do some of those things if we can stay healthy.”
“You’re not going to get on base unless you do hit the fastball. If you look back when we were rolling, that’s what we were doing. Everyone was gaining some momentum, we were hitting the fastball, and because of that, you’re laying off those tough breaking balls. You’re seeing the ball better. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to understand that. Look at what Texas is doing. Look at what these other teams are doing. I’m talking about it. They’re doing it. And when we were doing it, I didn’t have to talk about it. You were talking about it. It’s evident. It is what it is. So they’re going to throw 65-70 percent fastballs and you have to get on them. The breaking balls and everything else, those are the toughest ones to hit. If you are on the fastball and they make a mistake with the breaking ball, you’ll hit those too.”
“I love where (Dustin Ackley) is at right now. I’ve said this quite a few times the last three, four days. I think he put himself through some mental rhetoric that really got in his way, because he’s always been a hitter. … I think he tried to recreate something last winter, which we asked him to consider taking away, which he did. Get back to what you’ve been doing the last five, six, seven, eight years that allowed you to be one of the best hitters in the country, and that’s what he’s done. Focus on mastering that, and that’s what he’s done. Because of that, his hands are in a btter position, he’s freed himself up mentally and he’s squaring up the baseball with plate coverage — that’s a great combination. You’ve got to let go sometimes. That’s what he’s done. It’s been fun watching.”
“I don’t know where (Ackley) is going to end up (in the batting order). Literally he’s a guy that can go 1 through 9. I kind of feel the same way about (Michael) Saunders, too. … You’re going to have a couple of guys you can do that with. Ideally, you’d like them to settle in somewhere. As everyone defines their role, then it will happen. Think about it, you’ve got (Mike) Zunino, you’ve got (Justin) Smoak, you’ve got (Nick) Franklin, (Brad) Miller, (Kyle) Seager, you’ve got Ackley and Saunders — you’re almost covering everything. You know what I mean? Of course you add to that hopefully with a veteran guy or two, and we have some other young guys coming. As they define what they do, it should take care of itself.”