May 14, 2013 at 9:12 AM
We’re about to kick off a nine-game Mariners road trip with a gem tonight that sees Felix Hernandez facing C.C. Sabathia. And the way this trip lines up mound-wise for the Mariners, it’s going to be a huge test of their offensive ability to generate some runs.
We saw last week in Pittsburgh how, even with Hernandez at the top of his game, the Mariners nearly didn’t pull a victory out until a late home run by Jesus Montero. That’s because the Mariners were shut down offensively most of the day by Pirates starter A.J. Burnett.
We’re going to see some similar dynamics at play in this series against the Yankees, who don’t score as often as they used to but are still capable of putting up an average number of runs per contest. That means the Mariners will have to score an average number of runs to give themselves a chance at winning and it will be a challenge when they face the likes of Sabathia and others.
The one thing the Yankees have done very well this year is pitch. Not just the starters. When the Yankees get a game into the seventh inning, their bullpen is highly effective at shutting opponents down via strikeouts. And we’ve already seen that the Mariners are vulnerable to becoming invisible when facing strikeout pitchers. So, this will be one of those early defining tests for this offense. We’ll see whether they start to roll over again, as they did when facing the Tigers and Rangers a few weeks back.
Or, whether the Mariners can battle, even with two strikes on them in the count.
May 13, 2013 at 8:56 AM
Nice to be back after a couple of weeks away. I’d like to thank everyone who wrote in to express their sympathies on the death of my mother during heart surgery back on May 3. Special thanks to the Times team for their support and to colleague Larry Stone for his kind words in print and on the phone and for his jumping on a plane to pick up for me in the middle of a road trip.
The Mariners keep on winning and are doing so via strong pitching from the top part of their rotation and continued, albeit gradual, improvement on offense.
We are now 2 1/2 weeks removed from the infamous road trip to Texas where the Mariners got wallopped in five of six games and saw their offense hit rock bottom in terms of strikeouts and production.
Since that trip ended, the team has rallied to go 10-5 the last 15 games. The Mariners are hitting .247 over that span, with a .329 on-base-percentage (OBP), a .405 slugging percentage and an OPS of .734 while scoring an average of 4.1 runs per game.
After that series in Texas ended, the Mariners were 8-15 with a .292 OBP, a .363 slugging mark and a .655 OPS while scoring 3.2 runs per contest. Folks were calling for heads to roll. That part has since stopped, namely since the Mariners keep winning two of every three games.
So, clearly, there has been a marked improvment.
May 2, 2013 at 8:22 AM
Now, that was how a homestand is supposed to look for a half decent team. The Mariners spent much of April pretending things hadn’t changed much since 2010-2012 on offense, but then, after things hit a crisis point following their last road trip, they kicked it into gear their last seven games at Safeco Field against some good opponents.
We spoke after the Angels series about how the Mariners were putting the fundamentals together on offense and appeared to be merely having some luck problems when it came to runners in scoring position. Well, they aren’t completely over that issue, but logic dictates that if you keep putting runners on base and getting them into position to score, you will eventually start knocking them in.
And the Mariners have kept putting runners on base. A week ago, they came home from Texas with their season reeling and some jobs appearing to be at stake in the coaching ranks and front office if things continued. Well, they did not continue. In fact, this is now looking every bit like the offense it was supposed to be when the season opened.
Over the last week, the Mariners have hit .302, put up an on-base percentage (OBP) of .372, a slugging mark of .457 and an OPS of .829. Do that over an entire season, we can start buying playoff tickets now.