Behind Hernandez and Iwakuma, Mariners’ starters aren’t giving them a chance

May 29, 2013, 4:24 PM | Updated: 4:28 pm

By Danny O’Neil

No team has thrown itself for a loss quite as often as the Seattle Mariners this season.

It’s a reality that is spelled out in both the team’s statistics and the fact Seattle sits so far south of .500 despite having two of the top six pitchers in earned-run average (ERA) in the American League.

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Brandon Maurer and the rest of Seattle’s starting pitchers have an ERA of over 10 in losses this season. (AP)

The back end of the rotation has been Seattle’s problem, something that goes well beyond rookie Brandon Maurer, who was 0-4 in his last five starts before being optioned to Tacoma on Wednesday.

In Seattle’s 22 victories this season, Mariners pitchers have a combined ERA of 1.33. That is the best ERA of any team in the league in victories and a testament to how well Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma have pitched.

In losses, the Mariners’ collective ERA is 6.59, which is the second-worst in the league. The disparity is even greater when you isolate the starting pitchers as Gary Hill of 710 ESPN Seattle and 710Sports.com did. Seattle’s starters have a 1.12 ERA in victories, but the starters’ ERA exceeds 10 in losses.

So not only have the Mariners needed an exceptional effort from their starter to win, but the bottom has totally fallen out during defeats with the starting pitcher all but spontaneously combusting on the mound. The self-immolation has been so complete that the Mariners have never had a chance.

The problem wasn’t just that Maurer was learning on the job, paying for all those mistakes he tended to leave out over the plate. He’s a rookie after all, and those struggles can’t be considered all that surprising. The issue is that Aaron Harang and Joe Saunders aren’t consistent enough to let the Mariners live with Maurer’s learning curve in the meantime.

And Maurer was the easiest change to make with Hector Noesi already recalled from the minor leagues and Erasmo Ramirez making his first rehab start in Double-A Jackson on Tuesday, pitching five innings.

It’s not a total surprise the Mariners have taken a step backward this year in their starting pitching. After all, they traded Jason Vargas, who had been this team’s No. 2 starter.

The issue is just how far back the rotation is fallen, specifically on the back end. As great as Hernandez and Iwakuma have thrown for most of this season, the back end of the rotation has struggled far too often for this team to have a winning record.

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