BY John Hickey 08:56PM 07/23/2011

Hickey: After historic 14th loss, next year is here

Another bumbling day of offense Sunday (0-for-13 with runners in scoring position) means it’s time to turn over the season to Carp, Halman, Ackley and the rest of the youngsters.

Dustin Ackley and the rest of the rookies need to be the focus for the rest of the season. / Getty Images

What is there to say about the Seattle Mariners, now that the 2011 team is virtually the equivalent of the woebegone 1992 team?

Well, how about the fact that the season is over?

If that wasn’t clear after the 13 previous losses, Saturday’s 3-1 disaster in Boston underscored the point. Sure, this was game 100, with 62 games are left in the “to do’’ box, but in the last two weeks the 2011 season abruptly has ceased to be a priority.

The remaining  games have to be all about sculpting for 2012 and beyond. It’s not just that the Mariners have no chance of catching American League West-leading Texas.

It’s that the few bright spots during the streak have been the kids. That needs to be nurtured.

Mike Carp has homered the last two games, including breaking a scoreless tie in the seventh inning Saturday with a 400-shot to right-center in Fenway Park.

Blake Beavan, who came into the game with the best ERA of any of the starting pitchers (3.46) during the 13-game skid, took the opportunity of his first Fenway fiesta to throw six shutout innings against the most productive offense in the game. He had no margin for error. That became evident when he gave up three runs in the seventh to take the loss.

While the rest of the offense went on hiatus for bulk of the losing streak, a third rookie, second baseman Dustin Ackley, moved into the No. 3 spot in the lineup and gave that slot, previously unconquered by Milton Bradley, Adam Kennedy and Justin Smoak, some encouraging at-bats. Somehow, when he’s at the plate, it seems like he’s going to work over the pitcher rather than the other way around. He had three hits Saturday, twice leading off an inning with singles, but had little support.

While he hasn’t hit all that much in the streak, outfielder Greg Halman has showed he can cover ground in left and center. After Seattle had nine consecutive homer-free games, he was the one to step up, cranking out a three-run shot in the second inning Tuesday in Toronto. Not only is that one of just two homers during the streak to come before the seventh inning, it is the only one that took the Mariners from behind to ahead (4-2) with one swing.

None of these are Cooperstown-ish performances. They do show some grit, however. If there is one thing the Mariners haven’t shown much this year – particularly the hitters – it’s grit.

As such, the young guys need to play more. If that means that Franklin Gutierrez has to sit so Halman and Carp can play in the outfield at the same time, so be it. I’m a huge fan of Gutierrez, but he haan’t recovered from the stomach problems that dogged him last year.

And if it means that Jack Cust remains a once- or twice-a-week player so Halman and Carp get more playing time, so be it again. Will it lead to Cust being traded or released? Maybe. He’s had a decent couple of games back-to-back, but they hardly make up for the two homers in 100 games pace.

So what is there to say about the 2011 Mariners?

Only that it is over, and 2012 starts now.


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