We’re well past the point of caring too much about a one-run victory over the Houston Astros, other than the fact it halts a six-game Mariners losing streak. Beating the Astros, now 44-89 on the year, is hardly a big deal to most teams. Even the Mariners, who won their 60th tonight to jump to 60-73.
But the fact there was hardly anybody at the ballpark — the laughable 22,203 “paid” figure notwithstanding — shows just how little interest there is in the Astros right now, or in this series between teams with the two worst run differentials in the AL.
Still, we did see some other items that could rate as interesting if they are followed up with a degree of consistency.
Franklin Gutierrez hit the decisive two-run homer in this one and also added a double and a single. Gutierrez is running a Barry Bonds-like ratio of something like one home run for every 10 at-bats, which would be great if he wasn’t under 100 at-bats for the season. Still, it’s progress for him. Staying on the field this final month will be imperative for Gutierrez if he’s to salvage his reputation as a player who might still become a regular once again.
“It’s hard not to imagine just how much better we’d be as a ballclub if we had him all year,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Or, for the last three years, for that matter.’’
Truer — and sader — words have rarely been spoken by the Mariners, and that’s saying something for this organization. But the truth is, even if Gutierrez runs the table in September and is lights-out and on the field, it’s likely too late to save a future in Seattle. What he’s playing for now is largely the open market, trying to carve out some value. His $7 million option for 2014 is too hefty to pick up given all the uncertainties about his health, but Gutierrez still shows enough when he is on the field to potentially generate interest at a much lower cost.
As for players who will likely still be around in 2014, Nick Franklin needs to find a way out of his month-long (two-months long, depending on your parameters) slump. Franklin had been 0-for-16 with eight strikeouuts prior to hitting his first-inning homer tonight and the toll of it had been eating away at him.
“It definitely gets the best of you,’’ he said of his slump. “But at the end of the day, you’ve got to come to the field every day and prepare yourself for the game and not let yesterday or the day before, bother you.
“And that’s the biggest thing,’’ he added. “Part of this game is mental. It’s 90 percent mental and it’s a tough toll on your body. But at the same time, you’ve got to grind and just keep working through it.’’
He’s not out of the woods yet. Not with a sub-.200 batting average since July 1. Remember, after his last homer in Oakland nine days ago, he proceeded to go 0-for-16. So, again, he needs to build consistency and knows it.
Erasmo Ramirez is looking for the same. It’s been an up-and-down year for him, much of it lost to a spring training injury, then the struggle of working his way back towards being somebody who could put up decent numbers on a regular basis.
Ramirez went only 5 2/3 innings tonight, but he also struck out seven despite not having as much velocity as he’s used to early on. Instead of overthrowing, he focused on hitting his spots accurately and letting that help him get hitters out.
“If you throw it to a good spot, it’s going to be tough to hit it,’’ he said. “And that’s what you’ve got to work on when you don’t have your speed. Even if you do have it, be sure to put it on the spot where you want it. Tonight was like that. I wasn’t thinking too much about speed.’’
These are all relatively small victories in the grand scheme of things. There’s a chance none of those players will be with the Mariners a year from now, what with the winter transactions that will have to be made to make this even a .500 organization, let alone a championship contender.
But it’s a start. Victories for some of these guys have been rare indeed, so they’ll take them. So will the Mariners. They’ll take a lot more, actually.
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