If only the Seattle Mariners offense could actually show up before they found themselves hopelessly behind—such has been the underlying theme of the Mariners’ 2011 campaign. And Friday night was a microcosm of that very issue, too little too late.
Against the Kansas City Royals, the Mariners offense floundered for the first seven innings, registering just one lone hit. Three up, three down was the story for the offense through innings three through seven, as Royals starter Luke Hochevar dominated the hapless hitters.
After 100 pitches in seven innings, Hochevar was finally done for the night and the M’s immediately took advantage in the eighth inning. Off reliever Blake Wood, Ichiro singled in Luis Rodriguez to cut the lead to 6-2.
Then, in the ninth inning off closer Joakim Soria, the M’s were able to get four walks and a Michael Saunders RBI single to narrow the lead to 6-4. With the bases juiced with one out and Ichiro, the team’s strongest hitter at the plate, suddenly things were looking hopeful for the M’s.
But like they’ve done all season, the offense failed to capitalize with runners in scoring position. Ichiro did manage a weak ground-out to score another run, but Chone Figgins lined out hard to end the rally and the game.
Granted, Soria’s pitches were all over the place and offered the offense several opportunities they wouldn’t have normally gotten. But regardless, the game tonight reaffirmed a lot of things about this team for me.
Off to a slow start, things have been tough for the offense to get in a groove. The Mariners are mired in a slump, and it’s no new concept that good teams tend to get lucky. Look no further than Figgins’ stinging line drive with the game on the line in the ninth...straight to the third baseman.
Of course, the blame rests equally on the oft-injured shoulders of Erik Bedard. For the third straight outing, Bedard failed to pitch more than five innings. Falling to 0-3 with an 8.56 ERA on the season, it’s clear that Bedard has been the weak chain in the link that is the M’s starting rotation.
Bedard was able to get out of a couple jams, but gave up too many runs to keep the M’s in the game. The team can’t afford to keep trotting Bedard out on the mound every fifth day expecting a taxing game for the bullpen and a probable loss (combining a poor offense and mediocre pitching and that’s what you get).
Falling to 4-10 two weeks into the season, the M’s face serious questions with almost every facet of their team.
To make sure this doesn’t just become a rant, and to give credit where credit is due, it’s important that we highlight the successes of first baseman Justin Smoak. Pinch hitting for Brendan Ryan in the ninth, Smoak worked a seven pitch walk to force in a run. Smoak has hit .273 on the season, good for second on the team, and has walked as many times as he has struck out (nine times).
King Felix will try to stop the bleeding Saturday afternoon (10:10 AM PT) against Sean Sullivan, who has an 11.25 ERA in two appearances this season.
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