It seems the Mariners have come up with a new slogan for this pandemic-shortened season: 60 games, one goal.
And what’s that goal? To beat the Houston Astros just once?
The M’s haven’t been able to accomplish that in their past 15 tries, including the past two days when the Astros presumably weren’t cheating as they had during their 2017 World Series championship season and beyond.
The 15 straight losses against an opponent tied Seattle’s franchise record, set in 1977 against the Boston Red Sox and matched in 2006 against the Oakland Athletics.
The Astros, seeking their fourth consecutive American League West title, are the measuring stick by which each team in the division can judge themselves.
And the M’s are being laughed out of court.
If you look around the diamond, it’s hard to find a position at which the M’s have a better player than the Astros. Same for the starting rotation and the bullpen.
That doesn’t bode well as it doesn’t seem Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa or George Springer are about to retire anytime soon. Houston does have an aging rotation, but 37-year-old Justin Verlander is coming off a Cy Young Award-winning season with a career-high 300 strikeouts and 36-year-old Zack Greinke went 18-5 last season.
What the M’s really need is for general manager Jerry Dipoto to pull off the ultimate trade: The Astros to the National League for a team to be named later.
In this truncated, 60-game season, one of every six Mariners games will come against Houston. Now that’s a problem.
Three takeaways from Saturday afternoon’s 7-2 loss to the Astros:
• Outfielder Kyle Lewis, the 11th overall pick in the 2016 draft, continued to show he can hit for power in the big leagues.
Lewis homered in six of his first 10 games last September, becoming the first major leaguer in history to accomplish that feat.
He’s gone deep in each of the first two games of the 2020 season. Of course, both were solo shots.
Can Lewis, who has rebounded from a gruesome knee injury suffered while playing for the Everett AquaSox in the short-season Northwest League, put the bat on the ball enough to make him a cornerstone of this rebuilding franchise? In seven at-bats this season, he’s struck out four times. That’s might or plight.
But it’s not hard to imagine an outfield of Lewis, Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez on Opening Day in 2022 at T-Mobile Park. That has the potential to be better than the Astros’.
• Right-hander Taijuan Walker, the M’s top draft pick in 2010, made his return after three mostly injury-riddled seasons with Arizona.
Walker, signed to a one-year deal in the offseason, allowed one run through the first three innings, not even allowing a ball out of the infield in the second when he struck out Correa and got Josh Reddick and Kyle Tucker to ground out.
But Walker ran into trouble in the fourth and never got out of it.
With one out, Yuli Gurriel homered deep to left-center field. Walker then hit Correa with a pitch and Reddick lined a single to right field. Tucker’s double to right made it 3-0 and ended Walker’s outing.
Which pretty much sums up Walker’s career. With Saturday’s loss he’s 31-32. His best season was 2015 with the M’s when he went 11-8. The following season he was 8-11 before being traded to the Diamondbacks, for whom he went 8-8 in 2017 before making only three appearances over the past two seasons.
• For those Mariners fans looking for positives, consider shortstop J.P. Crawford.
He went 3 for 4 Saturday with two triples and a single.
Crawford’s glovework has never been in question. Whether he could hit enough was the reason Philadelphia dealt away its former first-round pick after he hit just .214 in each of his first two seasons with the Phillies.
Crawford hit .226 after being promoted by the M’s last season. He needs to better the .250 mark if he’s going to be a long-term solution because these are no longer the days of light-hitting shortstops.
Gene Warnick can be reached at (509) 459-5412 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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