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Mariner bats need to get going in season’s final two weeks

Seattle Mariners first baseman Ty France singles on Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.  (Tribune News Service)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

OAKLAND, Calif. – With a dozen games remaining in the 2023 season, and the outcome of each vital to the Mariners’ goal of returning to the postseason, is manager Scott Servais concerned about his players trying to force situations and results, particularly with runners in scoring position?

Some folks refer to it as a “hero” mindset, others talk about trying to “hit a five-run homer with a runner on second.”

Doing too much versus taking what is given.

“Were you just in our hitters meeting?” Servais joked. “That’s not what I saw in our meeting.”

In the three losses over the weekend to the Dodgers, the Mariners produced a .225/.289/.288 slash line in 121 plate appearances with six runs on 25 hits, including four doubles, a homer, four RBIs, nine walks and 39, yes 39, strikeouts. Basically, one in every three times to the plate resulted in a strikeout. Even for a team that strikes out a lot, that’s not ideal.

The numbers were worse with runners in scoring position. Seattle had 34 plate appearances with at least one runner on second or third and produced just four hits – all singles – for a .121 batting average. It resulted in five total runs with a walk and 14 strikeouts.

Striking out with runners in scoring position 41% of the time just can’t happen. It’s the worst possible outcome.

The Mariners’ middle-of-the-order hitters – Julio Rodriguez, Teoscar Hernandez, Eugenio Suarez and Cal Raleigh – had 21 plate appearances with runners in scoring position and produced one hit, a Hernandez RBI single, with nine strikeouts.

“When you don’t hit, that’s what it looks like,” Servais said.

“You don’t have much to get excited about or much to get the 40,000-some people in the stands excited. You’ve got to do things offensively to create momentum and get some excitement going and we didn’t. We weren’t able to get much going. We had chances. Not a lot of big hits.”

A needed day off for Cal Raleigh

With lefty J.P. Sears starting on the mound for Oakland, the Mariners went with a starting lineup heavy with right-handed hitting, with J.P. Crawford as the only lefty swinger starting. It also presented an opportunity to start Luis Torrens at catcher and give Raleigh a much-deserved rest day.

Servais was reminded before the game that he might still feel the need to play Raleigh late in the game.

“I’m hoping not, OK, and I mean that in a good way,” Servais said. “I’m hoping we can go out and score some runs early. We’ll have Luis Torrens back there. It’s the first time he’s caught for us this year. He’s been with us the last couple of years. He’s anxious to get out there and help us out any way he can.”

In fact, Torrens came through Monday with an RBI double in the sixth inning, and Raleigh was able to take the night off as Servais had hoped.

When Tom Murphy suffered a jammed thumb on a foul tip that later ended up being diagnosed as a displaced tendon with a small fracture, Raleigh’s rest time went from minimal to nonexistent.

Murphy’s last game was on Aug. 12, his last game at catcher. He was placed on the injured list on Aug. 16.

Before Murphy’s injury, both catchers were in the lineup multiple times per week with one at designated hitter. So Raleigh was already playing more than usual before Murphy went on the IL.

Since Aug. 13, Raleigh had started 27 of the Mariners 33 games at catcher and came off the bench to catch in five other games.

Of late, he’s taken a beating behind the plate, getting hit by a number of foul balls. The heavy sinker use by Mariners pitchers has led to an inordinate number of foul tips off his ankles, thighs and protective cup.

“That pitch is your best friend and worst enemy,” he said.

As he watched his teammates take infield, Raleigh was told: “You know you will probably be playing late in the game.” Raleigh gave a weary smile. “Why do you say things like that?” he said. “But yeah, I will be ready to go.”