With numerous hitters struggling, M’s may need to find new options
Just as it seemed the Seattle Mariners were building momentum, they once again were stopped dead in their tracks. And just as before, it’s a lack of consistent production from the offense that persists.
The Mariners (24-26) fell two games back under .500 by dropping three of four to a another sub-.500 team, the Cleveland Indians, right on the heels of a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays. Seattle didn’t score more than three runs in any of the games vs. Cleveland, and it took eight masterful innings from Taijuan Walker for the M’s to pull out their only win of the series, a 2-1 victory Friday night.
Sunday’s 6-3 loss in 12 innings was the most frustrating of the three defeats, and it made evident just how much trouble the offense is in. The Mariners manufactured three runs in the fifth inning, but it was preceded by four scoreless frames (the first 3 2/3 of which were hitless) and was succeeded by another seven scoreless in which they managed just one more hit.
There’s no getting around it at this point – 50 games into the season the Mariners offense is underperforming. They rank 28th out of 30 MLB teams with 186 runs scored and 29th with a .236 batting average, even with the boost that Nelson Cruz (.335 average, 18 home runs, 38 RBIs) has provided.
While the scuffling of Robinson Cano (.251 average, two home runs, 16 RBIs) is a concern, the biggest offensive issues are in left field, shortstop and catcher, and it shouldn’t be much longer before the Mariners go looking for answers in one or all of those spots.
The easiest spot to address is left field, where Dustin Ackley (.188), Justin Ruggiano (.190) and Rickie Weeks (.183) have been a collective black hole at the plate. The Mariners have an option in Tacoma to try to revitalize that position, too, albeit not the most attractive: 32-year-old Franklin Gutierrez has been tearing up Triple-A pitching in a bid for another shot with the M’s. He has a .333/.440/.541 slash line with five homers and 20 RBIs in 32 games, which just may be enough for Seattle to take a chance on a player who took the entire year of 2014 off to recover from three seasons of disastrous health.
As for catcher, it’s unlikely any moves will be made in the near future considering the Mariners recently acquired Welington Castillo to share time with Mike Zunino. Castillo’s off to a rough 2-for-20 start to his Seattle career, though, not even an offensive improvement over Zunino’s .188 average at this point.
Shortstop could be a candidate for improvement through trade or even a shot in the dark with a prospect. Ketel Marte, 21, is another player ripping up Triple-A, hitting .343 for the Rainiers and putting pressure on Chris Taylor (.159) for his roster spot, though his age is definitely something holding him back for now.
Whether the Mariners will make any changes soon is unknown, but it would be foolish to think they can continue moving forward with the number of struggling hitters they’re carrying.