Felix Hernandez was his usual dominant self on Monday night against the Kansas City Royals—tossing seven strong innings, scattering six hits, giving up just two runs, and striking out a half dozen before leaving with a 4-2 lead.
The inconsistent Brandon League took over in the eighth inning and struggled to find the strike zone. Facing just five batters, he gave up four singles and a sac fly to tie it at four.
The Royals would go on to take the lead and eventually the game in the 10th inning off Chad Cordero, who with two out and nobody on failed to close out the inning.
Throughout the season, the Mariners offense has been taking the brunt of the blame for their struggles, and rightfully so. However, the bullpen has not been the lights-out game-saver that it was in 2009.
Last year's biggest surprise, David Aardsma, has been not nearly the same pitcher he was for the team in 2009. After posting 38 saves in 42 opportunities last season, with a 2.52 ERA and striking out 10.1 per nine innings pitched, he has regressed mightily in 2010. At the halfway mark in the season he's already blown as many saves as he did all of last season.
He has particularly struggled as of late, going 0-2 with a 7.78 ERA over his last 10 outings.
Aardsma is not the only member of the Mariner pen struggling to hold on to leads, however.
Sean White, who was one of the Mariners' top arms out of the pen leading up to Aardsma in '09, has been so bad that he was sent down to Triple-A at one point to work out the kinks. He hasn't been any better since returning, posting a 7.58 ERA.
Garrett Olson's ERA remains in the high fives, and nobody should be surprised. In 255 innings of major league work, his career ERA is 6.42. Why he has a job, I do not know.
Mark Lowe has been on the DL most of the season, and while he has electric stuff, he still has yet to learn to control it enough to be a top-level MLB reliever.
Brandon League has been their best option out of the pen, and while he hasn't been awful, he hasn't been great either, posting a 5-5 record with a 3.32 ERA.
While the Mariners must put much of their focus on rebuilding their dreadful lineup, they also need to look for more consistent arms coming out of the pen.
All the offense in the world means nothing if you don't have the pitching to hold on to it at the end of the game.