SHANNON DRAYER

Drayer: Mariners seeing results with new approach — will they turn the corner?

Jun 20, 2023, 11:10 AM

Seattle Mariners J.P. Crawford...

Seattle Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford celebrates after scoring on June 18, 2023. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

I’m fairly certain the words “The Seattle Mariners have a tough road trip ahead of them and will need to take two of three from the Yankees with the Orioles coming up if they want to come home at least even” have never before come out of my mouth, but here we are.

Baseball in 2023 has been interesting, to say the least.

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With the series starting Tuesday in New York comes an opportunity that the Mariners (35-35) failed to capitalize on earlier this year, as they won just one game of a three-game series with the Yankees in late May at T-Mobile Park. The Yankees came to town with no Giancarlo Stanton, no Anthony Rizzo, almost no Harrison Bader, and the lower part of their rotation due up, yet they still managed to outscore the Mariners 20-6 in the first two games. Aaron Judge did his thing, but the rest of the non-superstar lineup more than did their part, hitting as a team and doing the little things the Mariners have struggled with this season.

This time around, Judge is out and the Yankees come into the series having lost eight of their last 11 games, including getting swept over the weekend by the Red Sox. Gerrit Cole on the hill in Game 1 against Seattle could give New York a boost, but again, there is opportunity for the Mariners with George Kirby taking the ball. Especially if they can they stick with the new approach at the plate that has helped limit opposing starters to five innings pitched or fewer in all but three of Seattle’s last 11 games.

The approach – a new focus throughout the lineup on staying up the middle, gap to gap – has taken hold. You hear the language and phrases that Mariners manager Scott Servais has used to describe what they have asked for in pregame media sessions and postgame interviews with the players. For the first time this season, there has been a feeling of this team hitting together as a team for a stretch, much like what was seen as the Mariners made a run to the postseason last year, and much like what they saw from the Yankees in May. It is a small sample in terms of results, but the trends are promising.

Since a June 6 game in San Diego, the Mariners have posted a wRC+ of 112 (eighth in MLB over that time), up from the season mark of 95 (21st) before June 6. Their walk rate has jumped from 8.8% (13th) to 10.7% (fifth), and the slash line has improved to .232/.325/.418 from .228/.307/.376. The strikeouts? All the good was erased by the 18 strikeouts against the White Sox on Sunday, but that too was heading in the right direction.

It has been a struggle, but it’s encouraging to see the players for the most part stick with the approach. After where they have been this season, a little bit of success is no doubt a good sell. All of this is for naught, however, if the Mariners can not translate chasing opposing starters early and the increase of runners on base into runs, and they are aware of this.

“We’re not getting that clutch hit to get guys in,” shortstop and leadoff hitter J.P. Crawford said. “If we are going to be good, we want to be better. We have got to start diaing in and getting those runs in – no matter the means, we’ve got to get them in. We need to realize the pressure is on the pitcher and not the batter in the box.”

If the Mariners approached the corner in San Diego with the new offensive approach, New York would be a great place to finally make that turn.

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