SEATTLE – J.P. Crawford stepped forward to present a brave face after all that’s gone wrong over the past month for a Seattle Mariners team that began the season with so much enthusiasm and optimism.
“No one likes to lose, especially the way we are right now, especially games I think we should be winning,” Crawford said. “It’s frustrating, but you can’t look down on it. You got to keep going about it.”
The Mariners started the season with the hope of ending the longest playoff drought in the majors only to see those hopes dwindle during an awful 30-day stretch that has left them in last place in the American League West.
The Mariners were 11-6 after a fourth straight win and led the division on April 26. Seattle has since lost 21 of 28 and is 11 games behind the division-leading Houston Astros, the team coming to town Friday to begin a three-game series.
Seattle’s struggles have been punctuated by key injuries exposing a lack of depth, lackluster performances by players expected to be key contributors and a painful regression by a bullpen that was among the best in baseball a year ago.
Forty-five games don’t make a season, but the Mariners know their turnaround must get started now if they’re to make something of their expectations.
“We’re at a critical part of our season here. I think everybody realizes that,” manager Scott Servais said. “It doesn’t help to try any harder. You just have to go out and play and do your job. And if everybody does their job, we’ll be OK. We’re scuffling right now.”
Part of Seattle’s problem is how it presented itself entering the season, which has led to fan resentment, anger and borderline apathy due to the recent losses. The Mariners openly talked of the playoffs and how they were emerging from a rebuild.
The moves to bring in reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, All-Stars Jesse Winker and Adam Frazier and slugger Eugenio Suárez spoke to that belief.
But Ray hasn’t found his Cy Young form from last season with seemingly one blowup inning per start. Winker is hitting .216, nearly 100 points lower than where he finished last season with Cincinnati.
And for all the talk of how Seattle’s farm system had become one of the best in baseball, the number of players ready to contribute in the majors is woefully small. An ankle injury to Mitch Haniger combined with the struggles of prized prospect Jarred Kelenic that led to a demotion to the minors left Seattle’s outfield depth so thin that veteran Justin Upton was signed and expected to join the team in the near future.
Even Crawford’s strong start, a potential All-Star season from Ty France and the emergence of rookie Julio Rodríguez haven’t been enough to overcome obvious holes in Seattle’s lineup.
Seattle’s relief pitching has also been shaky with a 4.34 ERA among relievers that’s 25th in baseball and is tied for 23rd with 22 homers allowed. A season ago, Seattle’s relief staff was eighth in ERA, fourth in homers allowed and 11th in batting average against.
So now the Mariners are teetering on the edge of irrelevance a season after a surprising 90-win campaign that captivated the city even though it fell short of ending the playoff drought, which stretches back to 2001.
There are still 117 games remaining, but to get to 90 wins the Mariners would have to play .615 ball (72-45) the rest of the way.
“We’ve got more than 100 games to go. We’ve got a bunch of time. You can’t press right now,” Crawford said. “You’ve got to keep going day by day, keep preparing the way we are before each game and go about it.”