The Mariners, who have dropped three in a row, are battling the Houston Astros for the title of the American League’s worst team. The clubs begin a three-game series Monday.
GAME: Mariners (7-13, 4th, AL West, -6.0 GB) at Astros (5-13, 5th, AL West, -7.0 GB). GAME #: 21. SERIES: 1st of 3 games. MEETING: 4th (Astros lead 2-1). WHEN: Monday, 5:10 p.m., Minute Maid Park. STREAKS: Mariners L 3; Astros L 2. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network
When the Mariners finished spring training with a Cactus League franchise-record 58 home runs, they fooled a lot of people into thinking they could contend for a playoff spot, perhaps even a division title. But the last week, if not the month of April to date, has demonstrated that the only race the Mariners are in is to see whether they, with an $83 million payroll, or the Houston Astros, with a $25 million outlay, are the American League’s worst team.
After Sunday’s 11-3 thump job by the Texas Rangers, the Mariners are 7-13. The Astros are 5-13. Widely predicted to lose more than 100 for the third consecutive season, the Astros also have an edge in the season series with Seattle, having taken two of three April 8-10 at Safeco Field.
That series loss, dashing a lot of false Cactus League optimism, became the first major embarrassment of the Mariners’ season, but many have followed in the last three weeks, including several in the past five days.
In that time, the Mariners have quietly slipped to the bottom of the league rankings in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging — meaning, so far, the Mariners have had no offensive improvement from a year ago despite the additions of Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez. In fact, the offense, thanks in part to injuries, has regressed, as statistics bear out.
Since Tuesday, the Mariners are 1-4. Since Wednesday, they have scored five runs, at one point going 19 consecutive innings without scoring. Also since Wednesday, the Mariners have struck out 72 times (five games, including 11 more Sunday), placing them well ahead of their 2011 franchise-record strikeout pace, and have gone 3-for-35 (.086 BA) — 3-for-35! — with runners in scoring position.
Under normal circumstances, no three-game series in mid-April would be classified as “defining.” But since the $83 million Mariners are facing the $25 million Astros in their next series, which begins Monday night, this one might be.
A poor performance over the next three days will ruin April for the Mariners, if it hasn’t already been ruined. A bad April, as the Mariners have demonstrated repeatedly over the years, means a bad season. You can look it up.
Seattle’s only supposed edge as it heads to Minute Maid Park is that it will throw its three best pitchers against the Astros, starting with Felix Hernandez Monday night opposite Brad Peacock.
Taking the edge off that edge is that the Mariners batters couldn’t make a winner out of Hernandez in his last start, when he fanned 12 and walked none, and Peacock has already defeated Seattle this year.
Hernandez will be making his fourth attempt at career victory No. 100, a milestone that has eluded him so far largely because those 58 spring training home runs, and what they appeared to promise, were a mirage. A closer look at Monday’s starters:
MARINERS: RHP Felix Hernandez (1-2, 2.20 ERA, 0.97 WHIP)
The 27-year-old Hernandez, in his ninth major league season, all with the Mariners, will make his fifth start and first against the Astros. Hernandez has had two outstanding starts, April 1 against Oakland (7.2 IP, 0 ER, 8 K) and April 17 against Detroit (8.0 IP, 0 ER, 12 K), sandwiched around two relatively mediocre ones when he absorbed both of his losses. Hernandez will enter the game as the American League leader in innings pitched (28.2) and wild pitches (3).
RANGERS: Brad Peacock (1-1, 5.27 ERA, 1.31 WHIP)
The 25-year-old Peacock, a Florida native in his second major league season and first with the Astros, will make his fourth start and second against the Mariners. Peacock, who began his career with the Washington Nationals in 2012, has defeated the Mariners and lost to the Athletics. He also has a no-decision against Oakland. Peacock has yet to work past 5.0 innings in any of his starts.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
|4/22||Mon||at Hou||RHP Felix Hernandez (1-2) vs. RHP Brad Peacock (1-1)|
|4/23||Tue||at Hou||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (2-0) vs. RHP Bud Norris (2-2)|
|4/24||Wed||at Hou||LHP Joe Saunders (1-2) vs. RHP Lucas Harrell (0-2)|