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Matt Calkins: John Means’ no-hitter may be painful to Seattle fans, but Mariners must keep focus on the big picture

UPDATED: Thu., May 6, 2021

Baltimore Orioles pitcher John Means reacts after completing Wednesday’s no-hitter against the Mariners in Seattle.  (Associated Press)
Baltimore Orioles pitcher John Means reacts after completing Wednesday’s no-hitter against the Mariners in Seattle. (Associated Press)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – So what comes with the bigger asterisk? Throwing a no-hitter in a seven-inning game, as Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner did last month? Or doing it over nine innings vs. the 2021 Mariners, as the Orioles’ John Means did Wednesday afternoon?

No doubt each was a marvelous achievement, and the mobbing Means received after the 27th out was well-deserved. But for the average M’s fan who’s been watching this team flail at the plate through 32 games, this almost seemed, dare I say … inevitable?

OK, maybe that’s a little strong. But the zero hits in Wednesday’s 6-0 loss to Baltimore couldn’t have been shocking. The Mariners are hitting .201 this season, which was the second-worst batting average in MLB by game’s end (the Tigers, who played the Red Sox on Wednesday night, began the day hitting .199).

This isn’t a byproduct of bad health like it may have been in recent seasons. Mitch Haniger, the team’s OPS leader (.834) has played all but two games. Kyle Seager, who’s second on the team in OPS (.764), has played in every game. Ty France, who’s third in OPS (.746) has also played in every contest.

No, it’s not an injury thing. It’s simply this: The Mariners’ cuts just aren’t cutting it.

Remember how second baseman Dylan Moore managed to be second on the team in WAR last year despite playing just 38 of 60 games? Yeah, he’s hitting .129 and slugging .247. Remember how reigning American League Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis was going to resuscitate this languishing offense once he returned? He’s batting .188.

The good news for the Mariners is that, despite their swing suffering, they’re still 17-15. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that, from a hitting standpoint, they’re about as frightening as a labradoodle.

“We’re not swinging the bats great right now,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais, adding that flip-phone sales and Blockbuster’s profits aren’t great right now, either (not really). “We gotta get it going offensively. We know that we will. I’m confident in our guys, but we’re in one of those stretches right now.”

So now that the problem has been introduced, what’s the solution? Is it to fire the hitting coaches the way the Mets did earlier in the week? Um … no. Is it to bring up stud prospects such as Jarred Kelenic or Julio Rodriguez? Not sure that’s the answer, either.

Yes, on Wednesday there was a fan escorted by T-Mobile Park security that was shouting expletives at Servais and screaming, “Bring up the kids!” But as keen an intellect as that man likely has, the M’s shouldn’t deviate from their plan.

Going hitless may be more noticeable than scoring one run one off two or three hits, but it doesn’t say a whole lot more about one’s offense.

This season wasn’t supposed to be one without adversity. The fact that the M’s are above .500 a fifth of the way through the season is above expectations.

Right now, painful as it may be to hear, Seattle’s best course is to stay it. The pitching prospects are the best Servais has seen, and the young hitters, well, their time will come. And perhaps the veteran hitters’ time will come, too.

We’re still just a fraction of the way into the season, after all. Asked about his team’s struggles at the plate Wednesday, Seager offered this response:

“There’s a lot of different things that go into that, right? Your sample size plays a key … but those things kind of go in flows,” he said. “So, you know, you look up at the end of the year, that’s something (former Mariner Robinson) Cano talked about that all the time. You know, you look up at the end of the year, your numbers will be where they’re supposed to be.”

That’s Seager the optimist talking. He’s telling us that, in time, the Mariners’ numbers will be where they are supposed to be.

I suppose the fear around here is that, based on this lineup, they already are.

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