Free-falling Mariners lose ninth straight game
Among the numerous statistical and anecdotal indicators that the Mariners are an offensive wasteland, there is this: They have now gone...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle @ Toronto, 4:07 p.m., ROOT
Among the numerous statistical and anecdotal indicators that the Mariners are an offensive wasteland, there is this: They have now gone nine consecutive games without a home run, the second-longest streak in club history.
During that span, Seattle's opponents have belted 14 long balls, including a three-run shot Sunday by Texas' Mitch Moreland in the second inning off Mariners rookie Blake Beavan.
That one swing realistically ended the M's chances of victory a mere 15 minutes into the game. Sure enough, it held up for a 3-1 Texas victory at Safeco Field.
That's how badly the Mariners are struggling right now: Every opponent's lead feels insurmountable. And accurately so. They have lost nine straight games, including consecutive four-game sweeps at the hands of divisional foes Los Angeles and Texas.
Coupled with the Rangers' 11-game winning streak, the Mariners have dropped nine games in the standings in their last nine games to fall 11 ½ games out of first.
It's no longer about contention, however; it's about reversing an offensive free fall that has seen the team batting average drop to .221. The Mariners managed just two runs in 36 innings against the Rangers.
"It's so frustrating right now, with our offense not scoring runs," catcher Josh Bard said. "We have to find a way. It's almost to the point of maddening."
Mariners fans, including the 30,335 in attendance Sunday, might argue that point has already arrived. The Mariners made a move after the game, optioning struggling outfielder Carlos Peguero back to Tacoma and recalling Mike Carp. Manager Eric Wedge said Carp will see more consistent playing time than he did in his previous major-league stint.
But the M's are in such a collective funk that it's hard to imagine one player pulling them out of it. Wedge is fighting to stay positive as the season slips away.
"Yeah, it's been a tough stretch," he said. "But what we've built hasn't changed. Where it's changed drastically, obviously, is in the standings. That's a tough pill to swallow, no doubt about it.
"Ultimately, you have to believe good things lie ahead. As tough as it is right now, we'll get this thing turned around. It has to start by winning a ballgame, and then you work to get better than that. ... What makes it painful for everyone, it's just been so drastic offensively. We've been playing good baseball; we just haven't been hitting at all. That's why it sticks out so bad."
The contrast to the streaking Rangers was striking. Texas' starting lineup had produced 106 homers heading into the game, while the Mariners' starters had just 32. And sure enough, Texas' No. 9 hitter, Moreland, connected on a 2-1 changeup from Beavan for his 12th homer of the season with two aboard in the second.
"It wasn't a great pitch, but it wasn't a bad pitch," said Beavan, originally a first-round draft pick by the Rangers in 2007. "It was too much over the plate, obviously. He got a real good swing on it. Moreland's a good enough hitter, if you give him something to hit, he's going to hit it."
Beavan settled down to blank the Rangers from there before departing with two outs in the seventh. Three subsequent pitchers didn't allow any runs, either. But the Mariners were held hitless by Texas lefty Matt Harrison until Justin Smoak's one-hit single in the fifth; a no-hit flirtation by the opposing pitcher seems like an almost nightly occurrence.
The M's finally scored in the eighth when Bard doubled and came home on a single by Jack Wilson, making a rare appearance in the starting lineup. That was the fifth and final hit by the Mariners, who went down meekly in the ninth against Texas closer Neftali Feliz. Stunningly, the M's have never gotten a hit off Feliz, going 0 for 33 lifetime against the hard-throwing right-hander, with 13 strikeouts.
Before the game, Wedge talked about his lineup machinations, which some have likened to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The latest incarnation included Greg Halman hitting sixth, which Wedge conceded was "out of necessity."
He added, "We haven't had a prototypical big-league lineup all year. It's not going to change. We have to put guys in positions we feel is best with what we have."
Right now, what they have is not getting the job done.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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