BY SPNW Staff 02:23PM 05/03/2012

Time for traditional adjective: Mariners hapless

Here’s the good news: The Mariners’ six-game losing streak is well short of the club record of 17 set a year ago.

The bad news: It’s early.

In front of the biggest crowd of the series, 11,575, the Tampa Bay Rays completed a four-game sweep of the Mariners, the first in history between the teams, with a 4-3 triumph Thursday.

After sweeping the Tigers in Detroit at the start of the now-concluded 10-game trip, and taking one more in Toronto, the Mariners gave the appearance of competitiveness.

Then they lost the final two in Canada and the quartet in Florida. Granted, three of the Tampa losses were by one run and the other by two runs. And Tampa is leading the American League East at 18-8, the best record in the league.

So it’s not exactly shocking that the Mariners are 11-16 and on the verge of last place in the AL West. It’s just that it is so annoyingly familiar.

The Mariners even tried an unusual lineup — all left-handed hitters, not seen in Seattle since 1983 — but they still struck out nine times and could do little damage to big right-hander Jeff Niemann and the Rays’ rugged bullpen.

“We’ve played gtood teams, and they’ve all been tight games,” said manager Eric Wedge, who seemed to be running out of either threats or inspirational words. “We’ve got to find a way to win games.”

Asked if a shakeup were imminent, Wedge deflected: “It’s a process. We’ve already made a couple moves, and if we have to make more, we will.”

The key moment came in the second inning when Tampa’s Desmond Jennings hit a two-out, two-run triple to complete a four-run inning against Mariners starter Kevin Millwood. It was Millwood’s only bad inning, but with the decrepit offense, that’s all it takes to lose.

In the top of the inning, former Ray John Jaso, getting his first start at catcher as a Mariner — had the first of his two doubles. A ground-out scored Kyle Seager, who had walked, and a single by Justin Smoak gave Seattle a 2-0 lead.

But the lead dissolved in the Rays’ spree, after which they had only two more hits. The Mariners’ only counter the rest of the way was a pair of two out doubles by Dustin Ackley and Ichiro to cut the lead to 4-3.

In the sixth came a moment that typified the current travail. Jaso led off with a double, but Mike Carp, Smoak and Michael Saunders all struck out, the last two by reliever Jake McGee, who retired all seven batters he faced.

“We’ve got get Jaso over (to third, and home) there,” Wedge said. “They’ve got to learn to do that.”

Baseball school continues when the Mariners return home Friday to face the non-glamorous Minnesota Twins, who at 6-18 are even more hapless than the Mariners.

The matchup brings together the two teams in MLB that have been no-hit this season.  Party on.


YourThoughts

  • Saywha

    Expansion sisters? 1977? Check your numbers.

    • RadioGuy

      I think that would be the Seahawks and Buccaneers, and the year would be 1976.  Beyond that, a perfectly good factoid.

    • Artthiel

       Gah. Mixed my sports. Thanks.

  • Jamo57

    Sad sacks works too.

    • Artthiel

       The longtime Mariners fan has as many descriptions for futility as Eskimos have for snow.

  • Grover

    The M’s should have seven losses in a row, now.  They would have been swept by the Blue Jays, execpt in game one, the Jays threw away the third out of the 9th inning, leading to an unearned, tying run.  Just completing a basic baseball throw would have beaten the M’s in that game, also.

    And, of course, against the Tigerst the M’s faced 3 starting pitchers who at that time had ERA’s of 8; 8; and 6.5.  None of them were named Justin Verlander.

    Will the M’s miss Verlander again in next week’s series against the Tigers?  They better hope so.

    • Artthiel

       You can play the what-if game with the close losses too, Grover. The flaw in this team is what SPNW pointed out as the season began: 70 percent of the payroll goes to declining vets, and the rest to kids who aren’t in their primes yet. Bad mix.

  • RadioGuy

    I’m waiting until June to hit the panic button, but there weren’t a lot of positives to take out of this series, to say the least.

    What struck me while watching a couple of the games was how reminiscent of the mid-80′s Kingdome things were at the Trop:  Rows and rows of empty seats, a crowd so lifeless that individual hecklers were easily heard and just a dreary environment overall.  And the Rays are leading the AL East!  Imagine how moribund it would be if TB were 10 games UNDER .500 instead of 10 games over.  What’s worse, the Rays are outdrawing the M’s.  Yechh!

    • Artthiel

       Anytime a fan flashes back to the Mariners’ 80s days in the Dome, for any reason, seek medical attention for depression last more than four hours.

      • jafabian

        Ugh.  I had purged those days from my memory banks until now.  The only MLB franchise to have a losing record at home for the entire decade.  I did notice how empty Tropicana was.  I also noticed not a lot of fans wear Rays gear whereas at Safeco Field usualy most of the crowd is decked out in Mariner gear.  Remember when MLB said that the Tampa/St. Pete market was a hot bed for baseball? 

        • Jamo57

          An empty Tropicana Field while fielding a true World Series contender for 5 years, another example of the genius that was the vision of Jeff Smulyan.  

          • jafabian

            Smulyan wasn’t the only one.  Jerry Reinsdorf of the White Sox thought Tampa was the next NYC for baseball.

      • RadioGuy

        My therapist isn’t taking my calls anymore, Art…too many couches ruined since 1977.  Instead, I’ve taken to listening to old recordings of Dave Niehaus backwards so I can pretend Al Chambers, Jim Maler and Tito Nanni were legit major leaguers.  One man’s illusion is another man’s reality.

        • Artthiel

           Scary, radio. I think that’s known in psych circles as Pokey Reese Syndrome.