A 4-10 finish to the season’s first half was a major blow to the Mariners, whose starting rotation (14 pitchers so far) faltered numerous times to kick Seattle to the wild-card outskirts.
After winning a season-high six consecutive games from June 18-23, the Mariners went 4-10 heading into the All-Star break to finish the first half 43-47. That left a them light year-ish 17.5 games behind AL West-leading Houston (60-29), Seattle’s largest deficit at midseason since the 1992 team lagged by 18. But the wild card game remains reachable — four games in arrears with 72 to play.
The second half gets underway Friday night when the Mariners play the first of three at Chicago against the White Sox. Although the White Sox are 38-49 and last in the AL Central, they are 3-1 against Seattle this season – and a dominant 3-1.
In a four-game set at Safeco Field May 18-21, Seattle won the opener 5-4 on Guillermo Heredia’s ninth-inning, walk-off single. The White Sox took the next three by a combined 26-3. That included a 16-1 romp.
The Mariners then play three at Minute Maid Park in Houston, which already has taken seven of 10 from Seattle, before returning to Safeco Field to face the New York Yankees four times. If the season ended today, the Yankees (45-41) would own one AL wild card spots and Tampa Bay (47-43) the other.
With AL East-leading Boston (50-39) following the Yankees into Safeco Field July 24-26, the Mariners play 10 of their next 13 games against three teams that are a combined 46 games above .500. Shortly comes the schedule nightmare of August, which holds only seven home games, mostly in cities figured to be from steamy to blistering.
The Mariners head into this stretch after what club GM Jerry Dipoto described as a “disappointing” end to the first half.
“We under-performed, truly,” Dipoto told The Seattle Times Thursday. “Particularly over the course of the last couple of weeks. We just haven’t played well, and we are at probably the longest stretch of positive health that we’ve had since Opening Day. We’ve played perhaps as poorly as we’ve played all year long over the course of the last two weeks.
“It’s disappointing because we had a nice stretch in the schedule (the six-game winning streak) that set us up to do some damage before the All-Star break. We came out flat. We didn’t show up effectively.”
Can’t blame Dipoto, who has worked overtime trying to field a competitive roster in the wake of so many injuries (16 placements on the disabled list, including four starting pitchers and leading hitter Jean Segura twice).
According to information compiled by the Mariners, since setting its Opening Day roster less than 100 days ago, Seattle has made 122 transactions involving the 40-man roster – or one transaction every 19 hours and five minutes. In one 15-day stretch (May 9-23), the club made 32 roster moves.
All that churn failed to provide the club with sufficient traction.
The Mariners had six winning streaks of at least three games and nine losing streaks of at least three games. They’ve scored 431 runs, fourth-highest in the AL. But they have also allowed 435, 11th worst, leaving the club looking up at six others in the wild card standings.
If the Mariners are to make the postseason for the first time since 2001, the rotation will need to improve dramatically. The starters – Seattle used 14 — opened the season with a 3.97 ERA (233.1 IP) in the team’s first 43 games through May 19. But in the final 47 they had a 5.45 ERA (262.1 IP). The rotation’s ERA of 4.76 ranks 11th in the AL, not nearly good enough for a playoff run.
The bullpen has been little better. It has blown 13 saves in 29 attempts, fourth-worst percentage in the AL, and its 4.23 ERA ranks 10th. The relievers have given up 49 homers, tied with Minnesota for the most.
James Paxton gets first crack at reversing the course of the pitching. The weekend’s probables:
Friday: LHP James Paxton (7-3, 3.21) vs. RHP James Shields (2-1, 4.95)
Saturday: RHP Felix Hernandez (4-3, 4.44) vs. LHP Derek Holland (5-9, 5.01)
Sunday: RHP Andrew Moore (1-1, 3.86) vs. TBA