April 10, 2011 in Sports

Blanchette: No feeling cold M’s can heat up

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Follow John Blanchette’s tweets at http://twitter.com/srjblanchette

SEATTLE – After each home game, the Seattle Mariners media relations staff issues a page of notes, statistical curiosities mostly – RBI streaks, a hitter who owns opponent pitching, season highs and the like.

All as straightforward as junior high math.

On Sunday, however, after the Mariners were swept in their home-opening series by the Cleveland Indians, the final note read:

“With today’s loss, the Mariners are currently on a seven-game losing streak … this is the first time they have lost seven straight since Sept.8-15, 2010.”

Now, these guys are pros. They have plausible deniability. Just pointing out the facts, they can say. No editorial comment intended. But you know. You just know.

The first time since Sept.8-15?

That’s 32 games. Two seven-game losing streaks in the last 32 games. In real time, that’s saying this is the first time you’ve blinked since the last blink.

This stuff is really starting to get to people.

Especially now that the Mariners are officially off to a poorer start than a year ago, a season which redefined the notion of unwatchable.

But it’s worse than that. Because the Mariners began the season offering their evaporating fandom – 33,000 tickets remain to watch the Cy Young winner tonight – absolutely nothing in the way of expectations.

Somehow they have failed to meet those.

In dropping three to the Indians, Seattle managed all of 10 hits in 19 innings against starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin – who will make a combined $1.3 million this season, or less than what the Mariners still owe Carlos Silva.

(Speaking of ex-Mariners, three in the Cleveland lineup – Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo and Jack Hannahan – were 6 of 13 with two home runs Sunday. You’ll recall that Cabrera and Choo were swapped for Eduardo Perez and Ben Broussard, who for all we know are busking at Pike Place Market now.)

As the new cap’n on this death ship, Eric Wedge will not throw his men overboard already. Indeed, he is even more emphatic that this is no time to panic than general manager Jack Patience.

Yes, the name is “Zduriencik,” but these days you spell Zduriencik “p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e.”

“The critics are going to be out there,” Wedge admitted. “The numbers are going to stick out, but you’ve got to handle it.”

Milton Bradley handled it Saturday night by wearing earplugs. At home.

“You’ve got to be a strong man to play this game.” Wedge said. “You have to be tough mentally and you can’t let those numbers bog you down.”

That’s all very reasonable. Here’s what isn’t so reasonable:

“We’ll definitely be a better hitting team,” Wedge claimed. “I’ve said that all along.”

Uh, no, they probably won’t.

Their three “major” offseason acquisitions – shortstop Brendan Ryan, catcher Miguel Olivo and designated hitter Jack Cust – all have career batting averages under .260, and Cust experienced a severe power outage last year. Big bopper of the future Justin Smoak has yet to figure it out, and five spots in the lineup Sunday were occupied by guys hitting .200 or less – though, yes, the statistical sample remains small. On the upside, the runners-in-scoring position batting average dropped just three points to .194 – because only one runner reached scoring position.

In 2011, the Mariners averaged just 3.2 runs per game, a nadir last attained by the 1981 Toronto Blue Jays.

So far this season Seattle is averaging … 3.2.

But it’s not just hitting. The Mariners trotted out reclamation project Erik Bedard on Sunday – he must have been thrilled that Wedge sat four regulars behind him – and saw him raked for 10 hits in four innings. Hitting the cutoff man is suddenly high comedy.

Look, things are going bad right now in Boston, in Tampa Bay, in Minnesota. But those franchises are recent winners. They have players with histories of production. There’s a palpable likelihood they’ll turn it around.

There is no such sense here and, frankly, that’s already been given voice in the patience plea from the front office.

“It’s really unfortunate,” said outfielder Ryan Langerhans, who took over the team home run lead with his second Sunday. “If we had started out 0-6 and come here and won two of three, you’d be thinking there’s reason for optimism.

“It’s a long season, but you want to live in the moment. It’s a game of momentum. Look at (the Indians) – they swept the Red Sox and came here and just kept on a roll. Long season or not, you need to take advantage of getting hot. It’s a season of streaks.”

Yes. And if the Mariners lose their next seven in a row, it’ll be the first time since … this time.

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