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Mariners blog

Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

Category: game analysis
April 27, 2013 at 10:54 PM

Mariners finally got some big hits to cash-in some baserunners

When you look at what happened tonight, it really wasn’t all that different from last night. The Mariners stranded 11 more baserunners after leaving 13 on the night before.

The biggest difference was Felix Hernandez holding the Los Angeles Angels to just two runs — one earned — through eight innings, unlike Aaron Harang getting torched for five runs just three frames in last night. Hernandez’s work allowed his team to finally generate some runs to go with all of their baserunners.

Hernandez made a huge difference on one fielding play in the fourth inning, fielding a Brendan Harris squeeze bunt and flipping to Jesus Montero. The catcher locked the plate and tagged out Mark Trumbo as he came bearing down on him.

“I think that was a big difference right there,” Hernandez said. “And we won the game.”

Montero was just glad he got out of it in one piece.

“That was a nice play by him, he threw the ball with the glove,” he said of Hernandez. “I was trying to block home plate. This guy (Trumbo) is huge. I was like ‘Please don’t hit me!’ ”

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Comments | More in game analysis | Topics: jesus montero; felix hernandez; eric wedge; kendrys morales

April 21, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Mariners face an early crossroads in their season

There are many ways in which a season can go for a baseball team and the level of talent often indicates just when that crossroads might come that will separate a pleasant campaign from a miserable one. Last year, you’ll remember, the Los Angeles Angels got off to a miserable start in April, then caught their breath in May and — though they underachieved for a good part of the second half later on — still finished with 89 wins.

The Mariners are not the Angels. They don’t have nearly that kind of talent level.

This is a team of .500 or so talent that, if things broke right and they overachieved a bit, might think of winning 85 or even a few more games. After all, that’s what the 2009 Mariners did and they weren’t any better than this squad.

But talking to players all spring long, they quietly discussed the need to get off to a strong start and survive a particularly tough first two months of the schedule. So far, the Mariners have not done that. And at 7-13, having been trounced 11-3 today, they are in real danger of digging themselves a hole here that they could spend the next several months digging out of.

The reason for that is, the schedule doesn’t offer many breaks. They have the Angels in for four games next weekend and you just know that club — off to their own rough beginning — is going to want to use the Mariners as a springboard to better things.

First off, the Mariners have to right themselves, beginning this next series in Houston. The Mariners have not won a series all year and this would be a great place to start.

The offense, collectively, has to do a better job all around.

“We kind of crashed as a team offensively after being really good if you go back to spring training and the beginning of the season,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said after this one. “I mean, for a good couple of months there, we had a pretty good stretch going for most of our guys and they kind of all crashed together.

“So, now, they’ve got to pick themselves up and get it back going the other way. If we do, then we should have a chance to do some good things.’’

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Comments | More in game analysis | Topics: kyle seager; dustin ackley; justin smoak; eric wedge

April 20, 2013 at 10:31 PM

Mariners need to ‘fight’ just to get a run on the board these days

That wasn’t the happiest of clubhouses after a 5-0 loss tonight to the Texas Rangers. The Mariners have gone 19 innings without scoring a run and look as bad on offense as we’ve seen them the past three or four years.

This club was not supposed to be this bad and the Mariners, to a man, insist things will change. I spoke to Raul Ibanez earlier, since I know many of you are not happy with his performance so far. The Mariners imported a bunch of veterans to help bring some “swagger” and leadership to the team this season and right now — given how things are unfolding — it will fall on those veterans to keep this squad from coming apart.

Ibanez knows he hasn’t gotten the job done. He’s down to just .174 hitting-wise and is playing a whole lot more in the field than anybody really expected.

Right now, he isn’t using that as an excuse. If he’s got a uniform and the team needs him, he has to play and do more than he’s done. Same with some other guys out there, both young and older.

“I’m just not doing my part,’’ Ibanez said. “But you try to do better and you keep fighting. The most important thing is to keep fighting and pulling together and just scratch and claw.

“You go through moments like this in baseball as a team. You scratch and claw and play a little pepper. You try to square up some balls and not do too much.

“Otherwise, what winds up happening when you start going through something like this collectively is that everybody tries to do too much.’’

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Comments | More in game analysis | Topics: brandon maurer; eric wedge; raul ibanez; franklin gutierrez

April 19, 2013 at 10:04 PM

This Mariners offense not doing what it’s supposed to

We’re getting to that point in the season again where this Mariners offense is going to have to kick it into gear. The three-week mark is just around the corner and so far, the offense has been worse than last season.

After tonight’s 7-0 loss to the Texas Rangers, the Mariners are now averaging 3.22 runs per game compared to 3.72 a year ago after 18 games.

Batting average is also down, from .233 to .220. OBP is almost dead even at .285 compared to .284, while slugging is down from .353 to .350.

And remember, that isn’t a juggernaut they put on the field last year. This year’s offense is supposed to be better with the new additions. With the “young core” developing over last year. So far, we’re not seeing it. And that will spell bad news for the folks in charge of this rebuilding plan if things keep going this way.

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Comments | More in game analysis | Topics: joe saunders; justin smoak; raul ibanez; eric wedge

April 13, 2013 at 10:45 PM

Mariners not capitalizing on opportunities both at plate, in field

What happens with a depleted offense that gives away chances is that it forces players to be perfect in all facets of their games and the Mariners simply couldn’t walk that tightrope tonight. Instead, they took a 3-1 loss to the Texas Rangers and now have dropped eight of 11 since beginning the season with consecutive victories.

Many of you noted that first baseman Justin Smoak could have tagged Adrian Beltre out and then thrown on to second to cap a double play and get the Mariners out of that sixth inning unscathed. Which is true. Smoak admitted as much. The problem is, the play unfolded so quickly in front of him that the first baseman barely had time to think after nearly snaring that scorching liner by Nelson Cruz with the bases full.

“Sure I could have,’’ Smoak said of tagging Beltre. “He was right there. But your first instinct is to throw it to second base.’’

It didn’t help that Beltre scampering back to first base, anticipating the line drive would be caught, also partially screened Smoak from seeing what was going on.

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Comments | More in game analysis | Topics: joe saunders; justin smoak; brendan ryan; dustin ackley

April 12, 2013 at 11:26 PM

Hisashi Iwakuma gives 32nd birthday gift to himself and the Mariners

This all-Japanese mound duel between Hisashi Iwakuma and Yu Darvish certainly lived up to its billing.

And the Mariners came out on the long end of a 3-1 score largely because while Darvish blinked in the first inning, Iwakuma kept it going from start to an earlier-than-expected exit in the seventh because of a blood blister.

It turns out, that split-fingered fastball he’d confounded the Texas Rangers with all night long was also perplexing to his finger and causing another blood blister flare-up. Iwakuma said, through interpreter Antony Suzuki, that the split-fingered pitch causes the most strain on the finger because of the rotation it needs to generate in the baseball.

“That was something that I had to think about, being on the mound,” he said. “But I’ll be ready after five days of rest. I should be ready by my next start.”

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Comments | More in game analysis | Topics: hisashi iwakuma; yu darvish; kelly shoppach; kyle seager

April 8, 2013 at 11:52 PM

Mariners get more-balanced contribution on a night hits were sparse

There weren’t all that many hits to speak of tonight despite all the predictions that Safeco Field might turn into a bandbox overnight.

Joe Saunders had a very Jason Vargas-like outing in which he tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings in which he scattered six hits — none of them really all that dangerous. The Mariners also weren’t hitting the ball long distance at all, with their biggest hit all night being the Kendrys Morales double lined to the left-center gap in the third to score Michael Saunders.

But when you get only five hits total, you’ll take a 3-0 victory.

Morales had two of the hits, Saunders two more and the other was a single by No. 8 hitter Dustin Ackley. In other words, the top, middle and bottom of the order. Franklin Gutierrez also produced from the top, doing the safety squeeze bunt to bring in bottom-order guy Ackley with a huge run in the fifth.

“I was looking for a good pitch to bunt and put the ball down,’’ Gutierrez said. “It was very important for us. We need to score as many runs as we can and it doesn’t matter how we do it.’’

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Comments | More in game analysis | Topics: kendrys morales; michael saunders; franklin gutierrez; joe saunders

April 8, 2013 at 9:52 PM

Mariners get only five hits, but still shut Astros out in home opener

Tom Wilhelmsen got the side in order in the ninth, capping a 3-0 win for the Mariners on this groundout.

Tom Wilhelmsen got the side in order in the ninth, capping a 3-0 win for the Mariners on this groundout.

Tough to say the Mariners cured all that ailed them tonight, given the rather weak caliber of their opponent and the fact Seattle only managed five hits.

But it was a more varied offensive attack we saw from all parts of the order tonight — not the home-run-or-nothing approach of the past two games — as the Mariners won 3-0 to improve their early-season record to 4-4.

They did it with Joe Saunders tossing 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball, though he did allow six hits and walked a batter. But they don’t call this Houston squad the “Lastros” for nothing and even when they got runners on, you never really got the sense they were a threat to do anything with them.

In essence, they were the Mariners of the past three or four seasons.

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Comments | More in game analysis | Topics: kendrys morales; joe saunders; michael saunders; franklin gutierrez

April 7, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Mariners have some work to do in order to get this offense firing

Well, we’re one week into the 2013 season and we can already see signs of potential with this Mariners offense. For one thing, the power is there like we haven’t seen it in quite a while.

The Mariners have now hit nine home runs in their first seven games. Last year, they hit just three in their opening week and didn’t club No. 9 until their 13th game.

But a year ago, the Mariners were also 4-3. This season, they have started 3-4 after their fourth loss in five games today, a 4-3 walkoff defeat to Dayan Viciedo and the Chicago White Sox in 10 innings.

White Sox mob Dayan Viciedo at home plate after his walkoff homer handed Seattle a 4-3 loss.

White Sox mob Dayan Viciedo at home plate after his walkoff homer handed Seattle a 4-3 loss.

One of the reasons the Mariners have been losing more than winning is they’re starting to over-rely on the homer and aren’t finishing off rallies and innings with the kinds of key hits that can lead to multiple-run outbursts.

The signs are there, as I said. One of my big worries heading into the season was this team’s ability to get on base at the top of the order. Well, as of today, Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders have OBPs of .333 and while that’s not brilliant or anything it’s still loads better than the production seen up top in recent years.

Like I said, the Mariners have been getting on base. It’s what they do after that’s been an issue.

“It’s the first week and there are some good things that have happened and some things we need to get better with,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We need to settle in offensively. We know we’re going to be a good offensive club. But we need to settle in offensively, both different individuals and collectively. That will take some of the pressure off the pitching staff.’’

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Comments | More in game analysis | Topics: Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, kendrys morales

April 6, 2013 at 4:37 PM

Anatomy of a Mariners strategy gamble that paid off in theory, just not in execution

Today, we saw the perfect example of how the best-laid strategic decisions can sometimes go awry for a baseball team. Many have written in to me on Twitter asking why Eric Wedge did not go to one of the right-handed bats off his bench in order to pinch-hit for Raul Ibanez instead of letting him face southpaw Donnie Veal with two on and two out in the sixth inning.

It’s a fair enough question, since the Mariners had a plethora of right-handed options on the bench, including Jason Bay, Franklin Gutierrez and Jesus Montero. But it was also relatively early in the game, the score was tied (meaning extras were still a possibility) and it’s still early enough in the season that managers are sometimes reluctant to pull players after only two at-bats in a game for matchup reasons.

I know some of you roll your eyes at that latter one but the human condition is still what it is and a manager has to keep his entire team on board for 162 games. Start pulling guys that early — showing the ultimate lack of confidence — and it can cause problems down the road. Just like the seemingly innocuous practice of getting relief pitchers up and throwing in the bullpen and then not using them can become a source of major irritation for pitchers as the season progresses.

And also, sometimes a manager doesn’t want to start pinch-hitting as early as the sixth inning. Especially in the American League, where, unlike the NL, there is no pitcher coming up in the No. 9 spot every few innings.

Anyhow, Wedge decided not to pull Ibanez, who hit just .197 off lefties last season. Did the strategy work? Well, in terms of Wedge’s stated strategy, yes it did.

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Comments | More in game analysis | Topics: eric wedge; raul ibanez; jason bay; donnie veal

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