The Mariners do more damage than any team in baseball via the long ball. After tonight, they have scored an MLB-high 48.1 percent of their 451 runs as a result of homers.
The Mariners hit three more homers tonight, two of them by Michael Saunders and another from Justin Smoak, and went on to win 8-4 over the Baltimore Orioles. Seven of their eight runs in this game came as a result of homers. The only difference tonight is that the pitching did not collapse late as it has throughout this road trip and season.
The offense isn’t the real problem with this team. The Mariners are averaging 4.13 runs per game, which is an improvement over the past four seasons, but still nothing to write home about. The big sign of change is in the team’s park-factored OPS+, which began the night at 106 — six percent above the AL average.
That’s the highest number posted by the Mariners since 2002 and that’s significant. It supports the contention that the hitting with runners in scoring position is what really killed the team early on. Based on the OPS+ totals, the Mariners really should have many more runs than they do.
They’ve started hitting better in those situations since July began and we’ve seen them pile up 23 runs the last three games on this trip.
Smoak and Saunders struggled with runners in scoring position in the first half. Saunders struggled to hit at all for 2 1/2 months but pulled out of his slump several weeks ago. The two of them now connecting regularly makes a big difference for the offense.
“We’re always looking to extend the lead, obviously,’’ Saunders said after his first multi-homer game in three months. “To get a couple of more cushion runs in the ninth, I’m sure it took some pressure off Farquhar.’’
Mariners relief pitcher Danny Farquhar certainly agreed with that statement.More