JOE FANN

Fann: 3 things I want to see from Mariners after disappointing series loss

Aug 15, 2022, 2:28 PM | Updated: 2:30 pm
Mariners Jesse Winker...
Jesse Winker fields a double in Saturday's Mariners game against the Texas Rangers. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Mariners’ current AL West road trip got off to an inauspicious start over the weekend. Seattle dropped back-to-back games to the Rangers on Saturday and Sunday after taking the series opener on Friday.

Mariners need to flip switch in “easy” part of schedule

The team enters Monday at 62-54 on the season with 84.9% odds to make the playoffs, according to FanGraphs. Seattle is currently sitting in the No. 2 wild card spot, a half-game behind the first-place Blue Jays, a half-game ahead of the third-place Rays and two games up on the fourth-place Orioles.

Next up is a three-game set against the Angels, starting Monday night in Anaheim with an epic pitching matchup of Luis Castillo vs. Shohei Ohtani.

Here are three things I’d love to see from Seattle over the course of the next three days in order to avoid losing a second straight series.

1. Ty France to wake from his slumber.

The problem with being a star in an otherwise average lineup is that there aren’t many bats capable of picking up the slack during a slump. France is currently slumping in a small, yet not insignificant, sample size.

In his 10 games since returning from injury, France has had minimal production with a .146 average in 41 at-bats. That includes just one extra base hit (a two-run homer against the Angels on Aug. 6) and 10 strikeouts. France went just 1 fr 12 over the weekend at Texas.

Seattle’s lineup as a whole has been struggling mightily in August. The Mariners rank 23rd in on-base percentage (.302), dead-last in batting average on balls in play (.242) and 19th in wRC+ at 96 (100 is average) since Aug. 1. In those 13 games, they’ve scored three runs or fewer six times and four runs or fewer nine times. The egregious BABIP number could signal positive regression is coming, but it’s also indicative of how little hard contact the Mariners have been making lately.

It’s going to be guys like France, Julio Rodríguez and Mitch Haniger to do the heavy lifting and turn things around. We know the pitching staff has carried (and will continue to carry) this team, but the bats still aren’t holding up their end of the bargain of late.

2. Mariners pitchers to get out of jams more regularly.

For much of the season, Seattle’s pitching staff has been among the league’s best in stranding runners on base. That hasn’t been the case in August, where the Mariners have dipped to 19th.

You don’t need me to tell you the importance of limiting the damage in high-leverage situations, especially with a lineup that regularly struggles to score. We saw a prime example of this on Sunday.

In the bottom of the seventh, Matt Brash had two outs and two strikes against Corey Seager with nobody on base. Seager doubled to left, marking the first of three straight hits for the Rangers to push two runs across home. That broke a 3-3 tie in a game Seattle ultimately lost 5-3.

It’s unfair to expect Seattle’s arms to be perfect. However, that doesn’t change the reality that the margin for error is slim given the team’s offensive woes.

3. Anything from Jesse Winker.

Winker’s bat has been such a disappointment this season that we haven’t even spent much time on his blunders in left field. His pair of miscues on Saturday during the Rangers’ four-run fourth inning were impossible to ignore, though.

He has been comprehensively underwhelming this season, which sounds harsh, but it doesn’t change the reality that he’s nowhere near the 2021 All-Star version of himself. Winker is undeniably cool, which is why he is near the top of the “man, it would be awesome if this guy was good” rankings.

There have been a handful of signature moments, like his grand slam against the Angels on Aug. 7. But Winker is hitting just .231 in August, which is regrettably an improvement to his .226 average on the year. His wRC+ against right-handed pitching has dipped from 178 to 102 year-over-year.

At this point it seems unlikely he’ll regain form as a middle-of-the-order bat this season, but improvements are necessary nonetheless. If his current level of production continues, there will be a very legitimate debate as to whether he’s deserving of everyday starts ahead Sam Haggerty.

Drayer: Mariners’ roster, after adversity, is in place with top wild card in play

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