BROCK AND SALK

Mariners’ slide a sign of doom? ESPN’s Passan explains why it isn’t

Sep 28, 2022, 12:07 PM | Updated: Sep 29, 2022, 12:09 am

Mariners Eugenio Suárez...

Mariners DH Eugenio Suárez walks away after striking out Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners are scuffling through an untimely rough patch, having lost eight of their last 11 games yet continuing to inch closer to clinching the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2001.

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Offense has been hard to come by for Seattle, as the lineup has scored one run or less in seven of those last 11 games. The Mariners’ usual solid defense has taken a dip in recent weeks, too, as has the bullpen that’s been the team’s strength for two straight seasons.

Is this late slump just par for the course for a team nearing a huge moment? Not really, ESPN MLB reporter Jeff Passan told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Wednesday. But it’s also not something he thinks need to be read into too much.

“I don’t know if it’s normal or not, I just don’t think it says a whole lot,” Passan said. “I don’t, in a sport like baseball where fortunes turn on a dime, believe that limping into the playoffs is a sign of doom, or surging into the playoffs is a sign of impending success. I just think that things can change so quickly, fortunes can change so quickly.”

A factor in Passan’s response is that the Mariners’ playoff chances aren’t really taking a hit. Their magic number to clinch a postseason spot is down to five, with the Baltimore Orioles (80-74), who Seattle (83-70) is trying to clinch the playoffs over, having gone 5-7 over their last 12 games.

“It’s not great. It doesn’t bring you comfort,” Passan said about the Mariners’ recent play, “but it would be a different story if Baltimore was playing better. Where the Mariners are right now, they are still in a very good position. And I don’t want to throw a big, old capital ‘J’ jinx on here, but if they were to blow this lead, it would be a historically bad thing – which Mariners being Mariners, we’ve seen such things before, but I don’t think this is gonna be a repeat of that.”

Asked if the Mariners are showing an inability to get “locked in” at an important time like contending teams seem to do, Passan pointed at two key missing pieces during Seattle’s slide.

“You know what locked in is to me? Eugenio Suárez and Julio Rodríguez back in the lineup. That’s what locked in looks like.”

Suárez, the Mariners’ leader in home runs and RBIs as well as a strong defensive third basemen, returned from the 10-day injured list to serve as Seattle’s designated hitter on Tuesday night. He still has a fracture in the tip of his right index finger, though, which makes throwing a tough task, and his swings in Tuesday’s loss certainly looked different as he went 0 for 3 with a walk and three strikeouts.

Rodríguez, meanwhile, is on track to return from his own 10-day IL stint for a low back strain next Monday. He’s been Seattle’s best overall player in 2022, earning All-Star honors as a rookie, serving as the team’s leadoff hitter and playing a defensively-sound center field.

“If you go and look at where the Mariners have faltered recently, it’s because their two best hitters this season haven’t been healthy,” Passan said. “Isn’t that a lot of the blame to go around here?”

You can listen to Passan’s full weekly conversation with Brock and Salk in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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