BY Art Thiel 06:32PM 04/13/2014

Thiel: Mariners get more good pitching, but . . .

The Mariners managed eight hits and one run against Oakland pitching the last two games, but manager Lloyd McClendon seems unperturbed at the faltering offense.

Lloyd McClendon is a largely unconcerned about the Mariners’ punchlessness. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

In the narrow context of a single infant season, Robinson Cano was right.

“You don’t want to look at anything negative right now,” said the Mariners star and well-compensated proponent of the party line. The 3-0 loss Sunday was the fourth defeat in six tries against Oakland, and again featured feeble hitting reminiscent of the past season, and the season before that, and the season before that.

Two singles from Cano and one from Brad Miller was all that stood in the way of no-hit infamy, which the Mariners narrowly avoided Wednesday when they were one-hit by Angels starter Garrett Richards and crew. The 3-0 road sweep of the Angels that opened the season is now looking like a fading dot in the rear view mirror.

This time the opponent “buzz saw,” to use Lloyd McClendon’s expression, was Scott Kazmir, an off-season, free-agent acquisition by the A’s that looked suspicious (two years, $22 million) for a guy who was on a long, slow recovery from a mid-career meltdown.

Now, of course, the acquisition looks audacious, because audacity is what the A’s do. Another audacious acquisition, left fielder Yeonis Cespedes, was the offensive difference, his two-run homer in the eighth inning off Charlie Furbush breaking the Safeco Field shut out.

At 6-5, the Mariners’ audaciousness is less obvious. When McClendon, the Mariners manager, was asked if he was concerned with the offense, he said, “I was today. When I wake up tomorrow, I’ll be just fine.”

As with everyone else, a good night’s sleep can fix a lot of things. Unfortunately, when he wakes up Monday, he’ll be in Texas, which is rarely a good thing for anyone. It’s the start of a seven-game road trip from Dallas to Miami, and maybe the renewal of hitting, or at least attempting it in warmer ballparks.

But if Cano is right, that mid-April is time no to be looking under the bed for monsters, then the Mariners could at least be pleased Sunday with the performance of Chris Young, the newcomer plucked from the spring training scrap heap who delivered six shutout innings.

Whether his pickup could be described as audacious or lucky, it worked Sunday. At 34, Young made his first MLB start since Sept. 29, 2012, and his first American League start since 2005. He had surgery last year to fix thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that irritates nerves and blood vessels in the neck and chest.

He went to spring training with the Washington Nationals, where he pitched well but was a late cut, about the time the Mariners unexpectedly parted ways with Randy Wolf, the forecasted No. 5 starter, in a contract dispute.

The 6-foot-10 righthander earlier pitched two scoreless innings in relief, and after six more in the start Sunday, suddenly took a load off the rotation that has been pickled with injuries.

“I was really, really pleased with his outing,” said McClendon, who is temporarily missing  with injuries Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton. “He fatigued a little bit at the end, but he was great for us.

“I think this guy is real close. I saw his breaking ball start to come a little bit today, and I think when that pitch comes for him, he’s really going to be tough.”

In light of the team loss, Young was quick to low-key the achievement.

“I can pitch better,” he said, lamenting the three walks that went along with four hits. But for a guy who thought he was done last summer because of shoulder pain, he was entitled to champagne and confetti. Instead, he was happy just to be able to sleep pain-free.

“I couldn’t sleep at night,” Young said. “Couldn’t play catch at the field, much less pitch, and I thought, ‘This isn’t fun. I’m tired of being in pain.’ And I was ready to walk away.”

Well, it appears that Young and McClendon are sleeping well these days. So Mariners fans, if you prefer to panic, you may end up doing it alone.

McClendon unhappy with replay

McClendon was willing to go along with MLB’s new replay system, but after a couple of weeks is not happy with the the results.

“I’m really worried about where we’re heading with replays, the effect it’s having on the game, the effect it’s having on the fans,” he said. “It’s confusing.”

The new outfield transfer rule, where umpires must see the ball transferred cleanly to the throwing hand, has proven a vexation. The Mariners already have had three such plays this season. McClendon said he is instructing his baserunners to watch the umpires for a signal instead of the outfielder for a catch, to decide whether to advance or hold.

“I think the players are struggling more than the managers,” McClendon said. “Initially, I thought I’d be a fan of it. But I’m not so sure now.”

Notes

The Mariners are 3-5 in games not started by Felix Hernandez . . . Not counting left fielder Willie Bloomquist and his four seasonal at-bats, the Mariners started Sunday with only two hitting better than .238 — Robinson Cano (.316) and Mike Zunino (.281) . . .The Mariners had one runner reach third base, and the only other real scoring opportunity died when Miller’s sixth-inning drive to the fence was caught by RF Josh Reddick . . . Each of the last eight Mariners games have been decided by three runs or less . . . The back-to-back losses were the Mariners’ first this season. They were one of final two to say that . . . Walker (shoulder) is scheduled to make another rehab start Tuesday in the minors. Blake Beavan is likely to be called up from AAA Tacoma to make the start in Texas.


YourThoughts

  • Joe Fan

    Its interesting to see Smoak fall back to earth to show everyone what he’s made of at the plate. I sure like him in the field, but the does anyone really have any confidence that he will turn things around hitting wise? It will be very telling to see where he is at come the end of the road trip. Seager’s hitting woes are a bit surprising but given his proven track record I expect he will get things going here soon.

    • Edgar Martinez

      Smoak just continues to be Smoak. He teases for a week or two, then slumps. He’s been doing it his entire career. I just don’t know if he as the mental makeup to be a good, consistent hitter. Seager concerns me because he’s been slumping for so long now. Since late July last year he’s been a very ineffective hitter. In his last 230 AB’s going to last year he has 5 HR’s, 20 RBI’s, and about a .170 average. Not sure what happened to him.

      • art thiel

        They knew in Texas his swing was inefficient. It’s taking the Mariners 1,700 ML ABs to agree.

  • RadioGuy

    I’m concerned about the hitting, too, because we’ve all seen this before. However, we’re two weeks into a six-month season and there are still 151 games to go. It’s a little surprised to see Cano NOT being pitched around (yet) because I figured opponents would take the bat out of his hands and dare the other eight in the order to beat them.
    Anyway, bottom line: It’s early.

    • Marcus

      The issue has been that plenty of people have been trumpeting how awesome we are (largely at beating up on the Angels). Now that we have started to see a few warts it’s “too early”. All in all, I agree actually. But there are some red flags even this early. Cano’s not being pitched around (yet) and this offense still can’t regularly produce. Our pitching has been surprisingly good and we’re still losing most of the time when Felix isn’t on the mound. I’m dubious our rotation can keep this up, although help is eventually on the way.

      • art thiel

        Once the real Seager shows up, instead of the Jimmy Fallon impersonation, things will heal.

    • art thiel

      Write when it’s not early. Dying to know.

  • Matt712

    The Ms can make a ten game (at least) difference this season just with better situational hitting. That’s based on the premise that they can’t possibly do any worse than last year. The abysmal RISP production and walk-off losses last year seemed anomalous, even for the Mariners. That said, this team has been vexing in that so many young promising, talented players have yet to fill their projected potential. And since the Ms bet the farm (literally) that these guys will get the job done around Cano, this will continue to be the narrative throughout the season.

    If McClendon is truly “unperturbed” with the offense, it’s only because he hasn’t sat through the last three (or ten) seasons. Not even Felix can win without a single run behind him. So, I don’t mind a bit of ‘Chicken Little’ this early from fans, media or whomever. The pressure is on (as it should be). It’s do or die for a lot of these guys. Just ask Hector Noesi.

    • art thiel

      When it comes to the Mariners, Chicken Little is a low-risk position. I’m trying to see whether any of the young group — Ackley, Seager, Zunino, Smoak, Miller, Saunders — can turn the good months they’ve all had into a full season. Gotta give them at least April to offer hints.

  • notaboomer

    cano is the new ichiro at twice the price with 1/2 the speed. singles hitter. fail.

    • 1coolguy

      Cano is great in the clubhouse and helps the batters. Ichiro did nothing for the clubhouse nor the other players. He was a very poor teammate and nonexistent as a leader.

      Also, Cano is in @ $24m while Ichiro was @ $18m. Still WAAAAY too much for hitting a baseball.

      • art thiel

        Are Colbert/Oprah/Fallon worth what they get? It’s the same business — entertainment.

        • notaboomer

          colbert/oprah/fallon may be a more intimidating lineup than almonte/miller/cano, so i’ll say the entertainers are worth it.

    • art thiel

      I’d like to see him be the Seattle Beltre. The Texas Beltre is oiut of the question.

  • notaboomer

    yes replay sucks b/c it interferes with the time/space continuum. remember the saying that there’s no time in baseball? now there’s altered timelines thanks to replay.

    • art thiel

      I don’t mind the time. I do mind the umpires, managers and players not knowing the applicable rules.

  • 1coolguy

    Fools Gold: Seattle Mariners.

    Come on everyone that was suckered by the M’s early start; Until Lincoln and JZ are gone (at least Armstrong is gone) and they bring on a competent GM (Gillick is the model here), just fuggedaboutit.

    BTW – The A’s roster comes in $12 MILLION LESS THAN the M’s and is typically even a greater spread: In all their wisdom, looking back, what would it have been worth to pay Beane what he was worth years ago???

    Anyway, enjoy the season, which for the M’s is typically is over by the end of May, just in time for summer………

    • art thiel

      They went after Beane years ago, and the A’s countered with a small percentage of the team. Smart move.