What must the Mariners do to get the struggling lineup back on track?
The Mariners had a very important night on Thursday with the MLB debuts of top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert.
While Thursday’s game will mostly be remembered for those two playing in an MLB game for the very first time, the game also showed the key issues that remain with Seattle’s current roster despite the additions of Kelenic and Gilbert.
The Mariners lost the game 4-2 to the Cleveland Indians with Kelenic going 0-4 with a strikeout and hard lineout while hitting from the leadoff spot. Gilbert, meanwhile, got the start and allowed four runs on five hits in four innings while striking out five and allowing no walks.
Gilbert’s performance was solid despite allowing four home runs and two home runs, and he was on a pitch count so he wasn’t expected to pitch deep into the ballgame.
And Kelenic may have gone 0-4, but he put together better at-bats than most of the team.
Seattle scored two runs, both of which came on a Dylan Moore home run in the eighth inning, but the Mariners only had two hits and both were in that same inning. Indians starter Zach Plesac carried a no-hitter into the eighth before J.P. Crawford broke that up and Moore followed that up with his home run.
Plesac’s no-hit bid came a week after Baltimore Orioles starter John Means no-hit the Mariners in what had been their most recent home game.
Lack of hits has been all too common for the Mariners this season, especially of late.
Seattle currently ranks last in MLB in team batting average, on-base percentage and OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). The team ranks 25th in slugging percentage.
Right now, only four Mariners regulars are hitting over .200 and of those four, two of them have been cold of late in third baseman Kyle Seager and designated hitter/infielder Ty France. Those two started the season hot but have cooled down of late.
So what needs to change for the Mariners going forward? Danny O’Neil and Michael Bumpus discussed that on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant on Friday.
The Mariners have done some shuffling with the lineup of late, namely moving Crawford up in the order. Bumpus thinks that’s the right call at this point.
“I like the shuffle. If it isn’t working, you’ve got to fix it,” he said.
But Bumpus thinks the team’s issues run deeper than the order in which the hitters are coming to the plate.
“I’m OK with it, but it’s more about the mental approach to this thing when it comes to the player and then the message that’s being delivered to this ballclub as well,” he said.
And when it comes to that mental approach, Bumpus thinks it might be time for the Mariners to change their plan of attack.
“You change your approach at the plate. Every team has their approach, has their philosophy,” he said. “… It’s all about getting guys on base and in scoring position and then being aggressive. If you’re being timid, you’re not being aggressive and attacking certain pitches, you’re not going to get on base. You’ve got to be smart, right? You can’t just swing at everything. But I think it’s a mentality thing.”
The Mariners preach patience and dominating the zone both at the plate and on the mound, but Seattle ranks eighth in baseball in strikeouts compared to being 13th in walks.
O’Neil pointed out that even without the addition of Kelenic to the lineup that the Mariners are a young and inexperienced club overall.
“It’s been a rough go of it, but it’s a young team and you need to show resiliency,” he said.
And this young team is learning one of the hardest things about professional baseball on the fly,” O’Neil said.
“The hardest thing in baseball is bouncing back from a slump,” he said. “And that’s a skill. Learning to get out of a slump is a skill, just like learning to hit a baseball.”
Listen to the full third hour of Friday’s Danny and Gallant at this link or in the player below.