It’s been a while since my last post. Lots of journalism deadlines, and on the road last weekend with my students in Los Angeles adds up to little time to post.
Last night Hisashi Iwakuma filled in for Felix and held the Angels to a couple of runs on six hits on eight strong innings of work. For the second game in a row, one of the Core stepped up to put the game out of reach with a big hit, Nelson Cruz’s two run blast coming on the heels of Franklin Gutierrez’s go ahead RBI. Steve Cishek’s perfect 10th inning sealed the deal for the Mariners eighth win and his fourth save.
In the twelve days since my last post, with the A’s getting out of town after sweeping the M’s, swiping everything but their jock straps (leaving behind the ugly 1989 caps,) the Mariners have gone 6-4. They Rangers ran the good ship Mariner on the rocks, but back out on the road, the M’s took series from the Yankees and Indians and poached one from the Angels in Anaheim.
The tone of the fan-base has lightened a little, now that Seattle is looking somewhat respectable. A game and a half behind leaders Texas and Oakland, but three and half ahead of outhouse dwellers, the Astros, the M’s don’t look quite so hapless.
What does it all mean–not a damn thing. Consider these two numbers:
2014, after 16 games the Mariners were 7-9. They went on to finish 87-75
2015, after 16 games the Mariners were 7-9. They went on to finish 76-86
Both teams finished out of the playoffs. One more number to consider, and that is May 31st. That is the day the Texas Rangers reached .500 last year at 25-25, after being as many as seven games below .500 in 2015. They won the division. It’s April 23rd, give it a rest.
We’ve seen Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker and now Iwakuma each turn in one of those dominant performances they are going to have to throw in order for the M’s to have a shot at a playoff spot.
Though he struggled with command in his last start against the Yankees, and seems to have contracted a bug in Anaheim, his April 10 performance against the A’s and Chris Bassitt was vintage Felix. 7.0 IP, 0 Runs, 3 H, 10 K, 2 BB in a loss was much better than his first start or his more recent start in New York. In both of those outings he’s struggled with his command and been out of games early. We need the vintage Felix.
Walker had an excellent outing against the Indians, with 6.0 IP, 1 Run, 3 H, 6 K 0 BB to beat Danny Salazar on April 20.
Last night’s win against the Angels was a reminder of vintage Iwakuma, who has gotten out of the gate slowly. Throwing only 89 pitches, Iwakuma went 8.0 IP, 2 Runs, 6 H 3 K, 1 BB and a pair of solo homers. Betcha the Dodgers are thinking twice about letting ‘Kuma go after Scott Kazmir‘s slow start.
The Mariners have had three extra innings wins since my last post. They beat Texas April 13th on Dae-ho Lee’s walk-off home run. Robinson Cano crushed Cody Allen with a long home run to center field on Thursday. Gutierrez laid the marker with the game winning single last night, followed by the Boomstick blast.
The Mariners were in 23 extra inning games in 2015. They lost twelve of those, but in addition, they lost 12 more late walk-off games. So far just one extra inning loss and no walk-off melt downs, though there was that late homer against the A’s on opening night.
Controlling the Zone
At the present time, the M’s have 130 strikeouts, tied with Detroit for 8th in the league. Last year the Mariners with 2nd, behind the Astros. The are 7th in the league in the walks with 50, about where they were in 2015. That’s a net minus of 80
Seattle pitchers are fifth in the AL with 140 strikeouts. They are tied for seventh in the league for fewest walks with 51. Mariners pitching are a net plus of 89.
Put it all together and you get the Scott Servais Control The Zone factor: 89-80, the M’s are a +9, so they are doing a plus job controlling the zone. We’ll see how this works out as the season progresses.
Help: More offense needed.
The M’s have scored 64 runs, which puts them at sixth in the American League. Decent number, right? Wrong. 36 of those runs were scored in just four games, for an average of 9.0 runs in those four wins. In the remaining 12 games, they’ve scored 28 runs for an average of 2.3 runs per game. The M’s have scored four or more runs only six times in their 16 games. That makes it really hard to win consistently.
The Mariners are 10th in the A.L. for OPS with a very mortal .690, despite Cano’s six home runs. Though Seth Smith is hitting a robust .303, he’s a platoon player, and Cruz is the only other starter hitting as much as .270. Definitely room for improvement.