The Seattle Mariners were in pretty good shape, having avoided last place in the A.L. West for most of the season hovering near .500 while the Angels got off to a slow start. However, that was until the Angels came into Seattle. In the teams’ first meeting of 2012, the Angels swept four straight from Seattle to catapult the Mariners in the standings. Even with snapping a five-game losing skid last night vs. the Rangers, the Mariners at 22-30 find themselves a game behind the A’s for last place.
How did it come to this for Seattle? Seattle had won their last two series, and they had won their last three series at home coming into the games vs. the Angels. Every game was competitive, with the Mariners losing by two three times and three once but they couldn’t get over the hump. A 4-0 lead slipped away Friday night. The Mariners were still hanging on to a 4-3 lead in the ninth but the Angels put up three runs against closer Brandon League giving him his 4 blown save of the season. They only put up nine runs in the four games vs. the Angels, giving every starter a loss except Friday’s starter, Blake Beavan. Jason Vargas lost Thursday as the Mariners were shut out by Dan Haren. Felix Hernandez got touched up for a grand slam Saturday, and the Mariners couldn’t come back losing 5-3. Hector Noesi had one of his better starts of the season, going 8 IP allowing only five hits and three ER, but it was too much to overcome in a 4-2 defeat giving Noesi his sixth loss of the season.
In a nutshell, and simply put, it all comes back to the offense. The offense isn’t putting up enough runs. All of the games of the last series were winnable. Seattle’s rotation is as strong as any in the A.L. West. Like last season, it’s been untouched by injury and stable with the same five guys. Beavan showed flashes early in the season, and he bounced back from an arm injury to look sharp Friday night vs. the Angels. Kevin Millwood has been on fire off late, leaving Hector Noesi the coldest. But, even Noesi has had sharp rallying from a slow start for quality starts in four of his last five starts. He lost his last two starts to the Angels and Rangers despite going 8 IP and giving up 3 ER in both.
Justin Smoak was brought over from the Texas Rangers in the Cliff Lee deal to anchor the middle of the Mariners' order, but he has struggled this season at the plate.
So, why are the Mariners back in last? The offense. Only one offensive piece was added in the off season on the hope that the Mariners’ young players would develop. The team is batting a paltry .229. Mike Carp was electric for the Mariners last season (.276-12 HR-46 RBI), but he missed the beginning of the season with an injury and is now batting 100 points lower (.167-4 HR-9 RBI). Justin Smoak, the prized prospect in the Cliff Lee deal, is starting everyday and down 14 points (.234-15 HR-55 RBI last season vs. .220-7 HR-21 RBI now). Miguel Olivo is coming back off the DL looking to improve upon batting .189 with 3 HR and 7 RBI. And, Brendan Ryan has had a massive drop-off in his second season in Seattle going from .248 to .176.
Unlike last season, where the Mariners were still in playoff contention in early July, they will likely be out of it at the trade deadline, barring some better play between now and then. If they are out of it, they won’t make a move to bolster this sagging offense. And without more bats, a playoff birth seems to be a far off dream. Even clawing their way to .500 might be a little out of reach. Right now, as Mariner fans, we have to trust that the front office was right in not doing more to bolster the offense in the off season, but, right now, that theory seems to be off.