Dipoto: Don’t overlook pitching staff’s role in Mariners’ strong May
It’s been an interesting past few weeks for the Mariners.
From losing Robinson Canó to a suspension and Dee Gordon hitting the disabled list with a fractured toe, to seeing Nelson Cruz and Mitch Haniger have to miss time after being hit by pitches, the Mariners have had to be pretty creative with their lineup.
And yet they’ve kept on winning. In fact, they’ve been winning at a better clip than they had been before taking hits left and right. Entering Thursday, the Mariners had won five straight and seven of their last nine – which just happens to be the exact time frame they’ve been without Canó.
General manager Jerry Dipoto joined Danny, Dave and Moore on Wednesday to discuss how the Mariners have been able to keep winning through the adversity.
“Some of this you can’t make up with some of the injuries we’ve incurred,” Dipoto said, “but at the end of the day this team really battles, and we’re finding ways to pull out wins. They all count – we’re banking (wins) now and hopefully that benefits us later.”
Dipoto made sure to give the pitching staff plenty of credit, an area of the team that has tended to be overlooked this year.
“The one thing that really does get lost in the shuffle here is that, knock on wood, our pitching has been exceptionally good for a month now,” Dipoto said. “Flying under the radar is the fact that for the most part, outside of three blowout losses in April, our pitching has been pretty good all year. Part of the reason our run differential looks just OK and it appears on paper that we are maybe on the lucky side, it’s distorted by three blowout games.”
Things definitely look different outside of those three blowout losses – 10-1 against the Giants on April 4, 10-0 against the Royals on April 9, and 9-2 against the Astros on April 19. The Mariners rank 14th in the majors with a plus-9 run differential, but independent of those three losses, they would be at plus-35. That number would rank seventh in the MLB.
While great starting pitching performances by players like James Paxton, Wade LeBlanc and Marco Gonzales have been important, the Mariners have seen their share of position players step up in recent weeks, too.
Guillermo Heredia, who took over as the main center fielder when Gordon moved back to second last week, has a .460 on-base percentage in May. After a slow start to the year, left fielder Ben Gamel is hitting .321 over his last nine games. And Jean Segura has assumed a role as a team leader, sporting a .322 average with seven extra base hits, 12 runs scored, 12 RBIs and six stolen bases this month.
“(Heredia) has been running with it. I think you’re seeing a two-week uptick from Ben Gamel that’s really encouraging. Jean Segura has really risen to the occasion,” Dipoto said. “… Since we lost Robbie to suspension, those three guys have noticeably taken a step forward.”