Mariners Table Setter: Mitch Haniger turns up heat on already torrid start

Apr 23, 2018, 12:14 PM
Mitch Haniger homered in each of the Mariners' three games in Texas. (AP)...
Mitch Haniger homered in each of the Mariners' three games in Texas. (AP)

The Mariners locked up their fourth series win of the season by taking two of three in Texas over the weekend, moving their record to 11-9 as they headed out to Chicago for a set with the White Sox.

Salk: Mariners are being nice to Ichiro, but now isn’t the time

Here are three storylines to follow this week as their road trip continues with three games in Chicago and concludes with four in Cleveland.

Haniger’s hot streak

When the Mariners acquired Mitch Haniger, the attention wasn’t on him. It was shortstop Jean Segura who headlined the deal, and the two players Seattle sent to Arizona, Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte, were more well-known than Haniger at the time.

Not anymore.

Haniger had a nice 2017 season with the Mariners, but injuries derailed him and he finished the year having played just 96 games. He still had 16 home runs, 25 doubles, an .843 on-base plus slugging percentage and 3.0 WAR, though. And that nice debut with Seattle is why you can read a little more into his torrid start to 2018.

Haniger has been one of the best hitters in the American League through the first 3 ½ weeks of the season. He is second in the league in RBIs (22), tied for third in home runs (seven), fifth in slugging (.671), and sixth in OPS (1.062). He’s been good from the start of the year, but he’s locked in even more now than before, hitting a home run in each of the three games in Texas and going 7 for 12 over the series.

It’s pretty impressive to see Haniger’s name on the AL leaderboards among Mike Trout, Manny Machado and Mookie Betts. And as great as Segura has been for the Mariners since coming over from Arizona, Haniger is doing a great job making people wonder if the Jean Segura trade was really the Mitch Haniger trade.

The rotation-bullpen relationship

The Mariners offense did a nice job in Texas, scoring 19 runs over the three days. But Seattle needed those runs, too. That’s because the starting pitchers are struggling to put together quality starts.

The Mariners are on a run of four straight games without a starter getting through the sixth inning, and they have had a starter record an out in the seventh inning just three times in 20 games. That has taxed the bullpen more than necessary, to the point that Seattle couldn’t send down a reliever like planned when Erasmo Ramirez returned from the disabled list and had to option outfielder Guillermo Heredia to Triple-A instead on Sunday.

The bullpen was expected to be a strength of the team, but that hasn’t come to fruition. In 73 1/3 innings, Seattle’s relievers have a 4.30 ERA, ranking ninth out of the 15 teams in the AL – and that’s with Edwin Diaz’s 10 1/3 innings of one-run ball included.

A little less work so early in games would probably help the Mariners’ bullpen right the ship. That’s going to take the starting rotation putting a few more quality starts together each week than it has been in the early going.

Ichiro Watch

Yes, Ichiro Suzuki is still on the Mariners’ active roster – at the expense of Heredia, who was sent to Triple-A despite hitting .310 with two homers, a double, four walks and four RBIs in 16 games.

There’s no telling how much longer Seattle will be able to keep its 44-year-old future Hall of Famer, though. Not with Ryon Healy expected back soon and manager Scott Servais likely itching to get Heredia back when eligible after 10 days.

Ichiro acquitted himself well Sunday after Heredia’s demotion, going 2 for 3 with two walks in the 7-4 loss to Texas. The fact remains, though, that he doesn’t have the same range in the outfield, speed on the base paths or ability to hit extra-base hits (of which he has none in 12 games) that Heredia does.

It’s pretty unlikely Ichiro will be on the Mariners’ active roster for the entire season. The question now is how long the Mariners will wait until they make a move with him.

Mariners re-acquire LHP Roenis Elias from Red Sox

Brent Stecker

Mariners Julio Rodríguez...
Brent Stecker

Mariners Odds & Ends: Uniform notes, Julio Rodríguez snub

Seattle Sports' Brent Stecker provides a few notes on the lighter side of baseball regarding the Mariners, including their 2023 uniforms.
10 days ago
Mariners White Sox A.J. Pollock...
Brent Stecker

Mariners Breakdown: What veteran A.J. Pollock brings to the table

The Mariners are reportedly bringing in veteran slugger A.J. Pollock on a one-year deal. We look at what he adds to Seattle's roster, including insight from Dodgers announcer Joe Davis.
30 days ago
Mariners Angels Shohei Ohtani...
Brent Stecker

Are Mariners right about free agency? AL West rivals will test that theory

The Mariners will chase Houston again in 2023, but they need to keep their eyes on two AL West rivals who have turned to free agency for help.
2 months ago
Mariners offseason Brandon Drury...
Brent Stecker

Mariners Offseason: 6 under the radar free agents to fill need for 2 bats

The Mariners are looking for one or two more bats, and they have spots to fill on the corners. We look at free agents who would fit the bill.
2 months ago
Mariners Julio Rodríguez...
Brent Stecker

Sweep or not, Astros now know Mariners are coming for them

Sweeps don't get any closer than the Mariners' ALDS loss to the Astros, and there are signs the perennial AL West power knows it has company.
4 months ago
Mariners Cal Raleigh Julio Rodríguez...
Brent Stecker

How did Mariners make it this far? Same reason they could keep going

The same old Mariners are gone, and the reason they made it to the ALDS is the same reason they will have a chance against the Astros.
4 months ago
Mariners Table Setter: Mitch Haniger turns up heat on already torrid start