SEATTLE — When the Seattle Mariners surged in June and suddenly became a legitimate playoff contender in the American League, it was largely on the strength of an offence that was scoring plenty of runs with jolts of power at the plate.
Just as quickly, that offence has disappeared and become a major concern for a team that has seen its lead for the second AL wild card shrink to only a couple of games.
“The offence has kind of cooled down. That’s baseball. It’s going to happen once in a while,” shortstop Jean Segura said. “Everybody is dragging, even myself. Every time we go out there we’re trying to do the best that we can … and sometimes it’s going to be one of those games where you’re dragging and it’s going to be a (lot of) close games down the stretch. One of those teams is going to separate to make it to the playoffs because those kinds of games you’re going to need to advance to the playoffs.”
Whether the Mariners can rediscover their offensive punch is a major concern with the non-waiver trade deadline approaching and Oakland suddenly nipping at Seattle’s heels in the wild-card race.
Seattle’s June surge saw the Mariners go 19-9 while averaging 4.5 runs per game, hitting 40 home runs and batting .261 with an on-base plus slugging percentage of .754.
Everything changed in July. In 18 games this month, the Mariners are averaging 3.2 runs per game, their batting average has dropped to .232 and the OPS to .651. In 11 of the past 14 games, the Mariners have scored three runs or less, putting even more pressure on a pitching staff that so far has thrived in high-pressure situations this season.
“You can tear down the stats any way you want to tear it down. It’s baseball. You go a little bit streaky here and there. That’s where we’re at. We weren’t going to play at the pace that we were playing as far as the wins and losses go. It’s just the way the game is set up to be,” manager Scott Servais said.
“I think every team out there has areas of the whole team they need to improve and get better at. Offense for us has been a little bit of a struggle putting up big numbers, to go out there consistently and put up five, six runs every game. When we do that we win. Most teams do because our pitching is pretty good. It just hasn’t been easy for us here the last 20 games.”
Seattle will get a boost next month when Robinson Cano returns from his 80-game suspension. But even that could come at a cost with the possibility he’ll take playing time from Ryon Healy at first base. There’s also the lingering reality that even if Cano bolsters Seattle’s offence down the stretch, he won’t be available should the Mariners make the post-season.
That’s raised the possibility Seattle will deal for a hitter prior to the trade deadline, but there is no position where an upgrade seems obvious with the exception of centre field. Even general manager Jerry Dipoto said last week that the likelihood would be Seattle adding an arm to the bullpen.
For their part, the current players believes they can rediscover what the Mariners had going just a month ago.
“I don’t ever doubt this offence, I don’t ever doubt this team, any aspect of it,” Healy said. “I think there are a lot of special things that are waiting to happen.”
Tim Booth, The Associated Press