It's time for the Mariners to grow up
In Sunday's pivotal inning, when the Mariners needed some fire, somebody to get angry and take it out on Addison Reed, they got zilch.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Maybe one inning, more than any other in a homestand that went terribly wrong, Sunday's seventh inning, best explained the early-season seriousness of the Mariners' offensive problems.
Jesus Montero, Alex Liddi and Kyle Seager, all elements of what is supposed to be a rich future for this perennially rebuilding franchise, came to the plate against Chicago reliever Addison Reed with the M's trailing 5-4.
Who on this team was going to stand up? Who, as manager Eric Wedge likes to ask, was ready to be accountable? The Mariners needed a lift. They needed better approaches to their at-bats. Could these kids kick-start the season?
One day after suffering the ultimate humiliation, victimized by Philip Humber's perfect game, this was a day to learn something about this version of the Seattle Mariners.
Which one of the kids was going to step up and pull this team out of the first funk of the season? Who was going to stop the slide by igniting a rally, taking an extra base, scorching a two-out hit?
"I hope we come out pissed off," shortstop Brendan Ryan said after Saturday's loss. "We just have to come back angry, chip on our shoulder, out with something to prove. Best way to learn is through failure. We failed (Saturday). Hopefully we'll take better at-bats, take a better approach and be better for it."
But in Sunday's pivotal inning, when the Mariners needed some fire, somebody to get angry and take it out on Addison Reed, they got zilch.
Montero had a bad hack at a pitch that was low and away. Liddi took a called third strike. And Seager hacked at another slider out of the zone.
Three up. Three K's.
It's very early, but Mariners fans are rightfully and righteously angry. It gets tiresome waiting for next year, or the year after that.
It's early, but the Mariners played this homestand like they did so many last year and the year before that. Seventeen games into this season, and the team looks like a mess.
Their approaches at the plate are bad. There are so many bad at-bats and bad swings. And so many hitters act as if they have no idea what the pitcher they're facing is going to throw.
The Chone Figgins leadoff experiment is an early-season bust. He struck out three more times on Sunday, giving him 20 strikeouts in 75 plate appearances. He's hitting .214.
When Mike Carp comes back from his rehab assignment, will Wedge make Figgins a utility man? He should.
And I know Wedge likes the leadership of Miguel Olivo. The veteran catcher had two hits and a couple of good defensive plays in Sunday's 7-4 loss, but he's not the solution.
He's hitting .154. His OBP is .170. And there is the issue of the passed balls. It's time to give Montero his trial-by-fire. John Jaso can be an adequate backup.
Nobody is expecting the Mariners to be contenders this season. So play the kids.
"You go through the little ups and downs. I think that's kind of how baseball goes," Seager said. "I don't think anybody in the clubhouse has really lost any confidence in each other, or themselves, or anything."
Wedge questioned some of his team's late-game approaches at the plate. The Mariners managed only one hit and struck out five times in the last three innings.
"I don't think the hitting today might have showed it, but I think everybody was battling," second baseman Dustin Ackley said. "We had some great at-bats up there. We just couldn't get the right hit in the right spot."
The Mariners are limping again. They blew an 8-1 lead on Tuesday to Cleveland. Two nights later, Brandon League blew a save. And then there was Humber's perfect game.
They lost the final four games of their 3-6 homestand. And in their 17 games, they have scored 60 runs. Only Minnesota and Oakland have scored fewer.
"We hold each other to a high standard," Seager said. "We hold each other to probably a higher standard than most people do."
Until further notice, you have to trust the team's scouts. You have to believe in Ackley, Seager, Montero and Justin Smoak. You have to believe there are pains associated with their growth and that these are those painful days.
The lineup should be more dangerous when Carp and Franklin Gutierrez return. This team should make progress this year.
Don't forget, last year Milton Bradley and Jack Cust were in the middle of the April order. This lineup is much better than that lineup.
But even this early in the season, this team needs the young players to step up. Smoak has to get hot. Ackley has to hit more line drives. Carp and Gutierrez have to get healthy.
The kids have to start living up to their scouting reports. They have to start growing. It's early, but it's time.
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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