In the last 14 days, comprising 12 games, the Mariners have hit like nobody’s business. They’ve had 138 hits, smacked 21 homers, and scored 85 runs. That’s just over seven runs per game. The Mariners have slashed .322/.375/.515.
Their record during that time is 7-6.
Why not more wins? Because their starting pitching has been B-A-D, bad. I envisioned the starting pitching on this year’s M’s as a real strength, while the offense would be better but only incrementally so. Wrong on both counts. Well, maybe wrong.
On May 22nd the Mariners returned home from their 5-1 road trip, taking 2 of 3 from Baltimore and sweeping Cincinnati. The won their series with Oakland and promptly fell into a funk, swept by an awful Twins team, seeming to recover against San Diego at Safeco, but looking very bad in two games in San Diego, and looking bad in the opening game against he Rangers. These results are chiefly because of bad starting pitching. Let’s review:
- May 27th-Felix Hernandez was pounded for five runs in the 3rd inning. 6 IP, 8 H, 6 ER Ms lose 7-2
- May 28th-Wade Miley can’t get an out in the 5th inning. 4 IP 6H 4BB 5ER M’s lose 6-5
- May 29th-Taijuan Walkers throws 95 pitches in 4.1 innings, loses. 4.1 IP 6H 5ER 3 HR, M’s lose 5-4
- May 30th-Nate Karns throw 6.2 innings against Padres. 6.2 IP 8 H 1BB 0HR 6K. M’s win 9-3
- May 31st-Kuma wins, M’s bats incinerate Padres. 7.0 IP 5H 0BB 3HR 4ER M’s win 16-4
- June 1st- Felix Hernandez placed on 15 day DL with calf strain. Replaced by James Paxton. Paxton sucks in brief outing in San Diego. 3.2 IP 10H 2HR 8R 3ER 1BB 7K and a critical throwing error. M’s lose 14-6
- June 2nd-Wade Miley destroyed in second straight start, but saved when Mariners bats stage biggest comeback in team history. 4.2 IP 12H 2 BB 9ER 2K. M’s win 16-13
- June 3rd-Taijuan Walker ineffective through five innings. 5.0 IP 9H 4 BB 3HR 6ER 2K. Mariners lose against healthy Yu Darvish 7-3.
The M’s are now their second time through the rotation in which at least three of their five starters have been terrible. Paxton (and Felix, when he returns,) Miley, and Walker have got to improve if this team is to win consistently AND spare the bullpen from repeated overuse. Walker has pitched poorly in five of his last six starts.
So what’s to be done? I have no idea. Rub a lucky rabbit’s foot. Pray to the baseball gods? Hope for the best? The M’s have done best when their pitching is performing well. About 75% of baseball is pitching. It won’t matter how many runs the Mariners score if you can’t stop the other guy. If you’re ready to point to Thursday’s exceptional game, the Mariners have only done this once in their 40 years.
June and July’s schedule is packed with the good teams. Not only will they hit well, they’ll pitch better. Don’t expect Cleveland’s excellent staff to surrender 14 runs in a Mariners comeback bid. Watch the offensive numbers all you want. They’re fun, but they won’t win without effective starting pitching.