The Mariners head home today after another road trip from hell. The difference in this trip and others so far this year is the M’s had considerable success. 2-0 in a rain shortened series in New York. 2-1 in some jaw-clenching games in Houston. 3-1 in surprising wins against the A’s in Oakland.
That the Mariners lost the afternoon finale at O.Com Colisseum is of little importance. Today they look up at the standings in second place in the division, a half game ahead of the Rangers. This team was left for dead in the wake of an eight game losing streak that ended April 22nd. What’s changed?
This has two pieces, the starting rotation and the bullpen. In the face of considerable injury, the starting rotation has been surprisingly resilient. Yes, it starts with Felix, but in his last three starts, Felix has been surprisingly pedestrian. We’ve seen his ERA jump from 2.04 to 2.73. His strikeout numbers are down. In yesterday’s game, his third straight no-decision, the King struck out nobody. He’s been sick, so hopefully this is nothing more than a glitch in a great season. Roenis Elias has exceeded expectations, while Erasmo Ramirez has flamed out. Chris Young started four games, and all except his April 18th game in the midst of the M’s swan dive, have been acceptable. With the return of Hisashi Iwakuma, the M’s will have to decide whether to keep Ramirez with the team after his respectable performance in yesterday’s 2-0 loss, or if Brandon Maurer should remain. A healthy James Paxton and Taijuan Walker will settle things a great deal, so keep your fingers crossed and keep hoping for that late May return.
The bullpen has looked somewhat better the last seven games. Closer Fernando Rodney is living much less dangerously, throwing more strikes. Tom Wilhelmsen had a perfect week, sort of. Joe Beimel allowed one hit and no walks through two innings and is a perfect LOOGY. Altogether the bullpen had five saves and 12 holds, including a two inning gem from Danny Farquhar. All is not roses, however, as Yoervis Medina and Charlie Furbush at times seem to have forgotten how to throw strikes. If the bullpen can round into a group who can consistently be effective it will complement an improving rotation.
The Seattle pitching staff is ranked in the top five in the American league for ERA, WHIP, and OBP, but much lower for K/9 and BB/K. Some good things, but cutting down on walks, particularly from the relief staff is something to work on.
It would be great to tell you the team is winning because a new face has stepped up to take charge, but that hasn’t happened. This team still doesn’t hit enough, strikes out too much and walks too little. Nearly all of Seattle’s offensive statistics are in the bottom third, if not next to last. However, over the last seven days, covering eight games, the Mariners ranked third in the league in runs scored. Some guys have been hot. Michael Saunders and Stefen Romero both hit over .300 for the week. Robinson Cano, while he isn’t hitting for power, hit .294 and drove in seven runs with hits and outs to lead the team. Kyle Seager hit .281 with five doubles. Smoak isn’t lighting up the place, but he’s not stinking it up either. 31 games into the season he has nine doubles with his four home runs, and leads the team with 22 RBI’s. Yes, there continue to be those who struggle. Brad Miller seems hopelessly lost at the plate right now. Dustin Ackley seems to be swinging and missing a lot. Other guys, Mike Zunino and Corey Hart, have moments when they seem to have it, and just as quickly lose it.
I never like to draw too many conclusions, because it’s so early in the season. I always give a team 40 games before I start making prediction. Due to injuries, and the unsettled nature of the outfield, that may be too soon. This team is winning because they have just enough hitting to go with just enough pitching. If either of these fail, we’re likely to see more losing streaks. But we should enjoy it while we can. Go M’s!! Beat KC.