By Shannon Drayer
An up, up and fly away note. After struggling for the better part of three months, the Mariners offense seems to have hit its stride, logging their 22rd straight game with a home run and picking up their first sweep of the season.
Michael Saunders’ two-run blast in the second inning extended the franchise-best streak, which is now just five games shy of tying the Major League record set by Texas in 2002. For Saunders it also extended a modest but much-needed hitting streak to seven games. Kyle Seager is the owner of the Mariners’ longest hitting streak at 14 games. In that time he has hit .442 with 16 runs, two doubles, five home runs and 10 RBI.
Individual streaks are good, but team success is even better, and we are starting to see that. The win against Anaheim Sunday pulled the Mariners to a dead even 24-24 in the division. Since June 10 they have gone 12-7 against the AL West.
In my previous post I gave you some of the numbers the team has put up in the last two weeks. They were at or near the top in most offensive categories. Two weeks is obviously a small sample size, but if you go back 30 days the results are similar. Second in home runs to Chris Davis and the Orioles. Fifth in RBIs. Ninth in average, 11th in OBP, second in SLG, fourth in wOBA and seventh in wRC+. This is a far cry from the 21st in runs, 22nd in average, 21st in OBP and 15th in SLG you see on the top of the team’s page on ESPN.com. Those numbers of course are for the season, and they are what they are, but the numbers for the last month are pretty remarkable.
Over that last month Raul Ibanez has done more than his fair share of damage, hitting .321 with a 1.042 OPS, but Kendrys Morales has dropped off a bit, hitting .262 with a .791 OPS. It hasn’t just been the veterans carrying the team the past 30 days.
The uptick in offense has coincided with the arrival of Nick Franklin, Brad Miller and Mike Zunino. I asked Eric Wedge, numbers aside, how much of a factor has their presence been in this turnaround for the offense.
“Two of those young guys are first and second in our lineup, and I think that is real,” he answered, but then cautioned that they would most likely have their ups and downs like most young players do.
We certainly saw that from the first wave of young players, but Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders are contributing to the success we see now, with Smoak batting .320/.400/.587/.987 over the last month and Saunders putting up a line of .284/.359/.418/.777 since June 13.
It has been fun to watch, and the hope is the All-Star break won’t kill the momentum. It is not a concern of Eric Wedge’s, however, who said Saturday if what we are seeing is real, and he believes it is, a four-day break shouldn’t derail it. Let’s hope not, because for the last few weeks this offense has actually been fun to watch.
We will tackle the pitching a little later in the week.
News and notes
-The Mariners haven’t officially announced their rotation coming out of the break, but it most likely will be Saunders getting the ball Friday in Houston to be followed by Iwakuma, Felix, Harang and Ramirez.
-The injured and banged up players won’t be getting much of a break. Stephen Pryor is headed to Everett to pitch in a game or two and could be with Tacoma by the end of the week. Franklin Gutierrez most likely will work out with Everett during the break, and if all goes well head to Tacoma as well. Michael Morse is not ready for a rehab assignment and will stay in Seattle for the break to receive treatment. Nick Franklin, who played Sunday, will also remain in Seattle to get treatment on his knee.
-USA beat the World squad in the Futures Game in New York. Taijuan Walker pitched a scoreless inning and Ji-Man Choi went 0-for-2 for the World Team.
-Jeremy Bonderman, who opted for free agency earlier this week, signed a minor league deal with his former team, the Detroit Tigers.