ARLINGTON, Texas – Fair or not, a struggling Raul Ibanez is fast becoming a symbol for what ails the Mariners in a season going wrong.
The Mariners have gone 19 innings without scoring a run after a 5-0 loss to the Texas Rangers on Saturday night. Ibanez has been playing the outfield more than expected because of the Michael Saunders injury and the inability of Franklin Gutierrez to stay healthy more than a few days in a row.
With his batting average down to .174, Ibanez and other struggling veterans on a team that was supposed to be better than this are going to catch some heat. Ibanez admits he and the team, now 7-12, are underachieving and says there’s little to do now but put their heads down and fight their way out of this.
“I’m just not doing my part,” Ibanez said. “But you try to do better and you keep fighting. The most important thing is to keep fighting and pulling together and just scratch and claw. You go through moments like this in baseball as a team. You scratch and claw and play a little pepper. You try to square up some balls and not do too much. Otherwise, what winds up happening when you start going through something like this collectively is that everybody tries to do too much.”
The Mariners didn’t do enough in front of 43,025 at The Ballpark on a night Brandon Maurer yielded only two hits, but both left the yard. Texas scored five runs on five hits, with help from the Mariners booting the ball around in the eighth inning after the bullpen entered.
An apt symbol for the night was center fielder Gutierrez leaping to snare an A.J. Pierzynski home run at the center-field wall in the fourth inning. But right when he was about to catch it, a heavy-set fan dressed in a Rangers game jersey and shorts and calling himself The Worm leaned over a protective rail in the outfield berm area and took the ball away from Gutierrez.
The fan wasn’t cited for interference because there’s a gap between the railing and the outfield wall and the ball was technically outside the field of play. Gutierrez angrily pounded his glove in frustration as The Worm began the popular Gangham Style dance in celebration in the bleachers.
“I thought it was gone,” Maurer said. “I thought he (Gutierrez) got a lot closer than he probably should have. It was a good play out there. He said he would have had it if that fan didn’t snag it.”
Maurer went on to retire 10 in a row after, but then David Murphy hit a two-out blast to right-center on Maurer’s 94th and final pitch in the seventh. By that point, all hope seemed lost for the Mariners, who failed to take advantage of Rangers starter Nick Tepesch leaving the game just 1 2/3 innings in after being hit on the arm by a Jesus Montero comebacker.
Derek Lowe came on and tossed four innings of hitless relief to pick up the win. The Mariners grounded into two double plays and lead the league in that category – the biggest one coming in the eighth inning with two on and none out.
Kendrys Morales grounded a ball at third baseman Adrian Beltre, who tagged lead runner Gutierrez and threw on to first for the out to help snuff the final Mariners rally. The Rangers put it away in the bottom of the inning on a two-run single by Lance Berkman off Yoervis Medina, then added a final run on a Pierzynski single.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said the team is simply in one of those zones where nothing is going their way.
He said the team needs to regain some of its early swagger.
“We talk to these guys,” he said. “I mean, that’s something that can never waver. Confidence is a big part of everything. I think that collectively, as a team, offensively, we need to get that swagger back, and that confidence back that we had early. But each guy, to a man, just has to do what they need to do to help us get there.”