The Mariners went meekly again last night, this time mustering one run on five hits against the supposedly pitching-starved Angels. Is this the beginning of the end?
Most analysts, including ECS writer Nick Lee and myself, thought the Mariners would struggle at times to get outs. Their starting rotation and bullpen had questions heading into the season, and the Drew Smyly injury out of Spring Training only intensified those concerns.
Most of us thought at least the Mariners could hit the ball. The heart of their order features Robinson Cano–fresh off a career season with 39 home runs, Nelson Cruz–who tallied his third-straight 40-plus home run year, and Kyle Seager–who reached the 30 home run plateau himself last season.
Rounded out with speed at the top and bottom of the lineup and the guy who led the National League in hits last season in Jean Segura, the Mariners lineup looked like a strength.
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Then the season started. In five games, of which the Mariners have won exactly one on a ninth-inning rally against Houston, they have scored eight runs. They saw most of the Houston Astros rotation, which was supposed to have question marks as well, and largely couldn’t hit anyone. Then they went to Anaheim, away from the house of horrors that is Minute Maid Park…and were shut out for five innings by Jesse Chavez en route to a 5-1 loss.
It’s only five games, but these five games have been as perplexing as the Mariners’ hitters faces after striking out again and again. Last night, the Mariners stranded 16 baserunners while striking out 10 times and walking just once. What happened to controlling the zone?
Based on recent past performance, it’s unlikely this lineup is this bad. But this is the wrong point in the season to have a slump. April is full of games against AL West rivals, and beating the Texas teams is especially important. Sitting in the cellar of the division, the Mariners already have a ways to climb to catch up.