Seattle Mariners Takeaways: Stellar pitching leads, offense finding a way

May 1, 2024, 4:52 PM | Updated: 4:53 pm

Seattle Mariners...

Jorge Polanco of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his home run during a 2024 game. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners have won five straight series and entered the month of May with the American League West lead for the first time since 2009, quite the turnaround for a team that floundered early with a 4-8 record.

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The Mariners’ three most recent series wins have come against an impressive array of opponents. They took two of three games each from 2023 World Series runner-up Arizona Diamondbacks, defending world champion Texas Rangers and National League-leading Atlanta Braves. Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to Atlanta closed a 4-2 homestand, and Seattle receives a day off Thursday before heading to Houston to start a seven-game road trip with a three-game set against the struggling Astros, who entered the day in last place in the West.

With the homestand finished, here are three observations on the surging Mariners.

Seattle Mariners can hang with MLB’s best, and pitching is why

The Seattle Mariners’ recent run of pitching dominance is well-documented. It’s hard to scroll social media without seeing a new, extraordinary stat that Mariners pitchers have achieved.

Mariners pitching has allowed just two earned runs or fewer in each start since April 10 and entered Wednesday sporting MLB bests in a number of pitching categories since that date, including a 1.62 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and .167 opponents’ batting average. The stats for each starter since April 10 are eye-popping as well:

• Logan Gilbert: 2-0, 27 1/3 innings, 1.32 ERA, 29 strikeouts, seven walks
• Luis Castillo: 3-1,  26 innings, 1.38 ERA, 31 strikeouts, four walks
• Bryce Miller: 2-1, 23 1/3 innings, 1.54 ERA, 26 strikeouts, nine walks
• George Kirby: 18 innings, 1.00 ERA, 25 strikeouts, two walks
• Emerson Hancock: 21 2/3 innings, 2.07 ERA, 16 strikeouts, seven walks

The bullpen has been equally impressive. Eight different relievers have an ERA under 3.00 and four with a strikeout rate of at least 30%. Left-hander Gabe Speier is off to a brilliant start with a 0.84 ERA over 10 2/3 innings, and right-hander Trent Thornton isn’t far behind with a 1.54 ERA in a 11 2/3.

Seattle’s stellar bullpen work was on full display during the homestand with just four runs surrendered while striking out 18 over 17 innings. The included 5 1/3 shutout innings against a dangerous Braves lineup Wednesday.

It’s added up to a 13-6 record since April 10 that’s seen the Mariners climb from 4-8 to 17-4 and first place in the division.

What’s made this recent run even more impressive is that the Mariners aren’t just simply feasting on inferior competition. They’re doing it against some of the league’s best, including holding the Braves to their lowest run total (eight) in a series. Atlanta’s previous worst was 11 in a two-game set.

Strikeout problem persists, but offense doing enough to be average

For as good as good as the Mariners have been playing, the offense is still struggling with the problem the organization attempted to fix this offseason: strikeouts. Entering Wednesday, Seattle had the highest strikeout rate in baseball (28.4%) since April 15 when the team opened its run of five straight series wins.

The Mariners’ offense, which has taken a back seat to the incredible run of pitching, has found a way to be league average at producing runs despite the strikeouts. Seattle entered Wednesday 15th in MLB with 60 runs scored during the stretch. That’s been more than enough with the way the team has pitched.

How have the Mariners done that while putting the ball in play less than anyone else? They’re walking and hitting the ball hard when they do make contact. In that same span, Seattle is fourth in walk rate (10.1%), hard-hit rate (43%) and average exit velocity (90.1 mph). They were also sixth in home runs (19) and wRC+ (111).

Josh Rojas has been the surprise offensive star as the team has racked up series wins. The 29-year-old third baseman is is hitting nearly .300 and slugging over .600 with three home runs since the start of the Reds series on April 15, and he’s provided a spark while moving into the leadoff role against right-handed starters with J.P. Crawford sidelined by an oblique strain. Atlanta showed it wanted nothing to do with Rojas and walked him three times in four at-bats when he drew his only start of the series Tuesday.

Catcher Cal Raleigh has also been a big part of keeping the offense afloat with a team-best five home runs since April 15.

Some signs of life from offseason additions not named Haniger

The Mariners made a number of new additions to their lineup in the offseason, but Mitch Haniger is the only add that made much of an impact with his bat early on. Entering the three-game series with the Braves, Mitch Garver, Jorge Polanco, Luke Raley, Luis Urias and Seby Zavala were all hitting under .200 and had a strikeout rate of 29% or higher.

A few of those bats started to show signs of life against the Braves. Garver hit the walkoff two-run home run Monday that gave Seattle a 2-1 win in a game where it had just one baserunner and no hits through the first seven innings. Polanco singled in front of Garver in the ninth to set up the walkoff situation Monday, then provided a two-run home run of his own in Tuesday’s 3-2 win and collected a pair of two-out RBI singles on Wednesday.

Raley battled for a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning of Monday’s game, which helped Seattle load the bases and threaten (unsuccessfully) to erase their 1-0 deficit. He added another hit in his start Tuesday and drew his first walk of the season while pinch hitting Wednesday. Even backup catcher Zavala provided a pair of hits Wednesday and scored the Mariners’ first run when he drew the start at catcher.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Mariners fall short of sweep as Sale helps Braves win 5-2
• Mariners Breakdown: Pitching Ninja on ‘absolute legendary stretch’
• Blowers on Mariners’ recent pitching run: ‘Never seen anything like it’
• Walk-off HR a ‘huge relief’ for Mariners DH Mitch Garver
• How Seattle Mariners could keep Emerson Hancock when Bryan Woo returns

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