Mariners' frustration crescendos as hitting just gets worse
There were glimmers of offensive hope Sunday, but it was not nearly enough in a 4-0 loss to Texas.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle @ Kansas City, 5:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
In the second inning of what would be another dismal offensive performance in an eventual 4-0 loss on Sunday, the Mariners had Texas' All-Star starter, Matt Harrison, in trouble. That's a rarity, given Harrison's 8-1 record against the Mariners.
But with runners on first and second, Brendan Ryan hit a line shot right at second baseman Ian Kinsler for the third out. The Mariners' rally went poof, and Ryan's scream of frustration was audible to many in the crowd of 27,378 on Safeco Field's 13th birthday.
"That's as loud as I've ever yelled," Ryan said. "That's an RBI there. It probably would have been first and third, and who knows what would have happened? It's frustrating to do everything right, hit the ball hard, and nothing good happens."
To a certain extent, that was a recurring theme for the Mariners, who managed just five hits off Harrison as he crafted his fourth career shutout, but had nothing to show for several hard-hit balls.
On the other hand, success is ultimately judged by results, and the Mariners are regressing offensively by virtually every measurement. They now rank 29th in the majors in batting average (.229, one point ahead of Oakland), and 30th in on-base percentage (.291) and slugging percentage (.355).
They are hitting just .196 at home, which would be the lowest in the major leagues since home-road splits began to be kept in the early 20th century. In 22 of their 44 games at Safeco, they have scored two runs or fewer. And Sunday marked the 11th time they've been shut out this season, tied with Oakland for most in the majors.
All that, heaped on top of the second-worst record in the American League at 37-53 (Minnesota is 36-52), is pretty sobering stuff as the Mariners head out for a seven-game road trip to Kansas City and Tampa Bay.
Manager Eric Wedge clung to the fact that at least the Mariners hit some balls hard off Harrison, who beat them for the seventh consecutive start. At Safeco, the left-hander is 5-0 with a 0.96 ERA, lowest ever at Safeco for a pitcher with at least five starts.
"I know we didn't score any runs, but I felt like our at-bats were a lot better against him," Wedge said. "We only struck out a couple of times (three). We had seven or eight hard outs. That ball Ryan hit — if that's a little higher, it's a whole different ballgame."
But the Rangers would push across four runs in five innings against Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma, more than enough for Harrison. They got one in the first without a hit, via a walk, passed ball and two ground outs.
Former Mariner Adrian Beltre drove home two more in the third.
"Iwakuma did a good job of getting a ground ball, but it found a hole," Wedge said. "If it's a couple steps one way or the other, we have a potential double play ball there. I like the fact he put the ball on the ground right there."
Ian Kinsler completed the scoring in the fifth with his 10th homer.
From that point, the Mariners' bullpen was brilliant, blanking the Rangers on one hit over the final four innings.
But the Mariners left two runners on base in each of the first two innings, and also in the fifth, against Harrison, who is now tied for the major-league lead with 12 wins.
"Obviously, you want to take advantage of every opportunity you get, but especially with a guy like him," said Michael Saunders, who had two of Seattle's five hits.
"There were a lot of hard-hit balls. Nothing really fell for us today. Sometimes that's the way the game goes."
Justin Smoak's average dropped to .199 going 0 for 4, one of four starters Sunday to end the game under the Mendoza line. Jesus Montero had an 0-for-23 slide end with a first-inning single, only to get out the next three times.
"Hopefully, they derive confidence from me, the coaches, and each other," Wedge said of his hitters' morale. "That's the way it has to be. I'm firm in my beliefs we have a lot of guys here, as I've mentioned so many times, speaking in particular about the position players, that are going to be solid big leaguers for quite a few years.
"You have moments of frustration, but ultimately, the belief never changes. It's not just blind faith. There are real reasons to believe these young men are going to be much more consistent offensively."
But for now, the frustration mounts.By the numbers
Games Mariners have been shut out, tied for major-league lead
Mariners' batting average at Safeco Field this season
Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison's all-time record at Safeco Field