Drayer: Mariners’ slide has lasted a month, and changes could be made to address it
HOUSTON – With a disappointing Rangers series coming on the heels of a disappointing Blue Jays series, the Oakland A’s now hold a three-game lead over the Mariners and it feels beyond time for patience with a team that has gone on a 9-18 slide since the beginning of a series against Colorado on July 6.
After the Mariners’ 11-7 loss to the Rangers in Texas Wednesday afternoon, manager Scott Servais admitted that guys were “frustrated and ticked off,” but at that moment it was not time for him to shake things up.
“Steady is the key here,” Servais said. “Playing in conditions here, when it gets hot, your fuse tends to get a little shorter. We’re going into a big series in Houston, we need to pull together – there’s no good to fraction apart.”
For the Mariners’ part, they did climb back from an initial 7-2 deficit in the loss to Texas, scoring four runs in the seventh inning to make it a game.
“I think we saw some things today, there’s no quit in our team,” Servais said. “It could have been easy to pack it in; it’s not our day. We didn’t go there. We figured out a way to get back in the ball game, just couldn’t take it from there.”
He’s right. The minutes after the game when emotions are still running high is probably not the best time to show anything other than what you have shown all season through thick and thin. It’s a different story hours later or the day next day, however, and while I understand the don’t-upset-the-apple-cart aspect that comes into play in a sport that unfolds over a 162-game season, sometimes the apple cart needs to be turned over. Sometimes it is better to flip it than trying to carefully guide it.
One huge change is already coming with Robinson Canó set to return Tuesday in Oakland. A roster spot will need to be created for him and playing time will be taken away from players who have been playing every day so that Canó’s name can once more be permanently inked into the third spot in the lineup. Those are big changes. Why not add more and why wait for Cano’s return?
If you can do better than a .300 on base percentage in your leadoff spot, what are you waiting for? For long stretches of the season, Dee Gordon has done very good things in the leadoff spot. But over the last 30 days he is hitting .266/.281/.590 and has stolen just four bases. He is far from the only player who has under-performed offensively of late, but it is hard to hide at the top of the order. If the Mariners didn’t have a viable option for that spot it would be one thing. But they do in Mitch Haniger, who hasn’t looked like the slugger he was for the majority of the first half, but over the last 30 days has gotten on base to the tune of a .354 on base percentage.
(Update, 1:49 p.m.: The Mariners have penciled in Haniger as the leadoff hitter with Gordon at No. 9 for the series opener in Houston.)
It’s just one move, it’s not going to solve all of the problems, but at this point the Mariners don’t have much to lose. I am hoping that when we talk with Servais shortly after, he will also have news regarding what is next for Félix Hernández.
While a three-game deficit in the the Wild Card race may not be a lot, it could turn into a five-game deficit in a matter of days. If the Mariners have cards to play, now is the time.