Maybe it’s going to take more than just a rebuilt offense to turn the Mariners into a legitimate contender. Monday’s 7-5 loss to Houston served as another example of the bats doing enough, but not getting the pitching. How things have changed. Watching Nelson Cruz deliver hit after hit for the Mariners is fun for fans. Watching some Astros guy named Luis Valbuena hit two home runs? Not as easy on the eyes.
The 3-4-5 hitters have been everything the Mariners could have wanted. Monday’s game was lining up when Robinson Cano, Cruz and Kyle Seager were set to come to the plate in the bottom of the ninth. But Cano and Cruz went down quietly, Seager walked, and Seth Smith struck out on a pitch in the dirt to give the AL West-leading Astros – that’s not a mistake – their third consecutive win.
It’s safe to assume that the days of Hisashi Iwakuma challenging Felix Hernandez for the title of staff ace are long behind. It wasn’t that long ago that giving up five hits and four runs would be considered a disaster for Iwakuma, but now it’s becoming the norm. Yoervis Medina didn’t do Iwakuma any favors in the sixth, while Danny Farquhar struggled in the eighth. Seattle’s bullpen is already working too many innings, a bad sign this early.
The Cano-Cruz-Seager show continued through the early innings, even if they couldn’t deliver in the end. They combined for six of Seattle’s 10 hits and had a hand in four of the five runs. That trio is 15 for 26 with 12 RBIs and eight runs scored over the past two games.
“Listen, I love my bullpen, but you keep running them out there, that’s not going to work.” – Manager Lloyd McClendon, on having to over-extend his bullpen because of another short start.
The only opposing pitcher who’s had much of an answer for Cano lately was the Rangers’ Neftali Feliz, who intentionally walked him in Sunday’s ninth inning. Those who have been brave enough to pitch to Cano have regretted it – as evidenced by by his .500 batting average during the current homestand. He doubled in each of his first two at-bats Monday, when he went 2 for 4 to raise his season batting average to .296. Just eight days earlier, Cano was hitting .120.
Taijuan Walker, the Mariners’ 22-year-old pitching phenom, has lived up to the hype . . . but only when facing the Astros. Walker is 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA in four career starts against Houston; he’s 0-5 with an ERA of 5.44 against everybody else. Walker (0-2, 17.18 ERA this season) could certainly use another astro-nomical performance against Houston if he’s going to stay with the big club much longer. He’ll face one of the best little-known pitchers in baseball in Houston’s Collin McHugh (2-0, 1.54). Since Aug. 1, McHugh has gone 9-0 with an ERA just a shade under 2.00.