BY John Hickey 06:02PM 09/16/2010

Drama dwindles down to lovely parting gifts

M’s season comes down to milestones for Ichiro, Felix, and the dubious chase to 100 losses

100 losses

For the second time in three years, the M's have a dubious target

Good thing the Mariners have a little pitching. Otherwise, they’d never win again.

The finale of a three-game series against Boston was painfully typical. Six good innings from starter David Pauley was no match for bad defense, bad base running and bad hitting. A seventh consecutive loss, this one 5-1, was too easy for the Boston Red Sox.

It was the 91st loss of the season for a team that has the fourth-best ERA in the American League, leaving the Mariners with three unresolved issues:

Can Felix Hernandez pitch well enough to convince Cy Young voters that he’s the best despite having just a .500 record?

When will Ichiro Suzuki get his 200th seasonal hit for a record 10th consecutive season with the milestone?

Will the Mariners avoid 100 losses?

The emotions around these issues don’t generate pennant fever.

Hernandez lost last time when he was mauled by the Angels, one of the two teams owning a winning record against him. He faces the other, the Rangers, Friday. If he can get past them without his league-leading ERA taking too much of a beating, he’s got a shot, at the award.

Ichiro’s goal is more achievable. He averages 1.4 hits per game over his career. He has 16 games left to get the 11 hits. He’s a career .331 hitter against the Rangers, although that average is just .291 against Texas this year.

As for the 100 losses, it doesn’t seem like there’s any way around them. Eclipsing the 104 losses that is the current standard for the franchise is unlikely. But how much of what has happened with the Mariners this year has been likely?

They started with Hernandez and Cliff Lee in the starting rotation. For the better part of two months (Lee missed a month with an abdominal injury), the Mariners owned the best 1-2 punch. But Lee was traded for a four minor leaguers in July and things have spiraled down.

The Red Sox loss was  typical and atypical. Casey Kotchman was picked off third base with men on second and third and no one out, skunking a possible big inning.

With the game tied at 1  in the sixth, Chone Figgins let a ground ball – a potential third out – get under his glove, enabling the Red Sox’s David Ortiz to score from third.

And with Seattle’s typically anemic offense – just six hits including Russell Branyan’s solo homer in the first – the seventh consecutive loss was assured.

John Hickey is a Senior MLB Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com)


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