Arrow-right Camera

Color Scheme

Subscribe now
Seattle Mariners

Commentary: For fans to fully embrace these Mariners, first they have to hit

It's been a rough start for Ty France and the Seattle Mariners offense.  (Jennifer Buchanan/Seattle Times)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

The Mariners’ first hit mercifully arrived in the fourth inning Sunday, when Mitch Haniger chopped at a 91-mph sinker and dented it into the dirt. The ball promptly dribbled and died, while Haniger hustled out an infield single.

Exit velocity: 68.6 mph.

Distance in the air: 1 foot.

Launch angle: minus-62 degrees.

Haniger’s hit was negated by a Jorge Polanco strikeout and an inning-ending Ty France double play, his first of two on the day.

This, all-too-often, is the Mariners’ April offense.

Which doesn’t make it tempting to buy a ticket.

An exception must be made, of course, for opposing fans — who have witnessed six wins in 10 tries at T-Mobile Park this spring. On a sunny 60-degree Sunday in Seattle, the stadium radiated Cubs support, even mangling the only interchangeable word in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

(Root, root, root for the Cub-iners? It sounded something like that.)

With Chicago an out away from a 3-2 win in Sunday’s rubber match, a rebellious refrain gained steam in the stadium:




Six pitches later, they got their wish.

After Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh singled with two outs and the bases empty, he was promptly replaced by Julio Rodriguez as a pinch runner. As outfielder Luke Raley stood at the plate, Cubs reliever Adbert Alzolay caught the speedy Rodriguez leaning and picked him off to end the game.

In the aftermath, Mariners manager Scott Servais defended his superstar center fielder, saying Rodriguez’s mistake is “not the play that cost us the game.”

Servais is right about one thing, and wrong about another.

It’s not “play.” It’s “plays.”

As in, there were multiple missed opportunities for the Mariners on Sunday. After Dylan Moore was hit by a pitch and Mitch Garver walked to kick off an encouraging seventh inning, Raleigh flied out and Raley grounded into a double play (on a 105.6 mph BB to second base) to instantly end the threat.

Seattle delivered demoralizing déjà vu in the eighth. After Josh Rojas, J.P. Crawford and Jorge Polanco all walked to load the bases with one out, France bounced into a second double play, while reliever Héctor Neris punched the mound to celebrate.

In all, the Mariners managed five hits — a Polanco two-run homer and four singles — struck out 10 times and went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. They couldn’t come through when they needed to.

Not for a lack of trying.

Maybe even the opposite.

“It’s not like, ‘Bear down,’ in these moments. You don’t want to try harder. These guys are definitely trying hard,” Servais said. “They’re grinding through it. They’re just not getting results. Sometimes you’ve got to back off and be a little bit easier. You want to grip the bat a little bit easier, instead of gripping it harder.

“Our club knows. We know we’re not playing well offensively. The guys know it. Everybody in there, all 26 [know it]. The pitchers know it, the position players, the coaches, myself: we’re aware. At the end of the day, we’ve got to get better.”

He’s right again.

But, when?

The numbers, through 16 games, are offensively inept. Specifically, Seattle (6-10) ranks third in the majors in strikeouts (157), 26th in home runs (12), 27th in runs (47), 27th in batting average (.205), 27th in hits (101), 27th in total bases (152), 28th in doubles (15) and 29th in slugging percentage (.309).

Cubs first baseman Michael Busch hit three of his seven career homers in this weekend’s series, two more than all Mariners combined.

It’s not a marine layer problem. It’s a Mariners problem.

“There’s talented guys [on this team]. There’s guys that have track records in this league, guys we have brought in from other organizations,” Servais said. “It should all work together, and I believe it eventually will. It’s just not happening right now. It is frustrating.”

Frustrating for Seattle pitchers, who have received precious little run support. On Sunday, Seattle ace Luis Castillo dropped to 0-4, striking out nine while surrendering seven hits and two earned runs (while committing an error that led to another) over six uneven innings. Relievers Brett de Geus, Gabe Speier and Trent Thornton scattered a single hit over three scoreless frames as well.

Frustrating for Polanco, who said his first T-Mobile Park homer “feels great. It would have been better if we won. It’s been a tough stretch here, but we’re still working. We’re going to put our head down and come out of it and play better.”

Frustrating for fans — who watched Mariners ownership restrict spending this offseason, potentially handicapping an emerging core in need of additional help; who are understandably sick of hearing that it’s early; who were involuntarily serenaded by Cubs supporters Sunday.

Who may not be tempted to buy a ticket to watch this team, until — or unless — it starts to hit.

“As we figure this thing out, you’ll see a good offense out there. There’s no question in my mind,” Servais said. “But I’d like to see it happen sooner rather than later, for sure.”