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Mariners Still Don’t Have an Offense

A week ago in Oakland, it looked like the Mariners might be a changed team — that is, one with an offense.
They scored 15 runs in two wins over the A’s and followed that with five more in an 11-5 loss to Texas that gave them 20 runs in a three-game stretch — something they did just three times last year.

The question then was: Was this a momentary blip or a sign of things to come for the Mariners’ offense?
After Friday’s pitiful home opener — the first I have ever attended — we have our answer. The Mariners now have scored seven runs in their last four games and look no better on offense than they have been the last three paltry seasons.
Felix Hernandez gave up six earned runs last Saturday in Oakland, but the Mariners staked him to a 7-1 lead and held on for an 8-7 win. They apparently used up all of their run support in that game, as they got a measly three hits behind him in a 4-0 loss in a home opener that was not even sold out.

Mariner fans have become disenchanted with this team — and not just because CEO Howard Lincoln and the rest of the ownership are a bunch of selfish bastards who preach a family atmosphere on one hand while gouging fans with the other. (It certainly didn’t help their image any that Safeco Field’s credit-card system went down in the opener; who knows how much money they lost on $10 beers and food when they had to go to a cash-only system all game? On the other hand, BECU had to love it, since they made $2 off every non-customer who used their ATMs just outside the park.)

Back to baseball, the Mariners are hitting .238 (which is actually better than Oakland’s .205 and three other AL teams) as guys like Justin Smoak, Michael Saunders, Miguel Olivo and Brendan Ryan stink it up.
Chone Figgins was off to a great start, hitting .381 after that 20-run stretch last week, thanks to a couple of three-hit games. But he was back to his 2011 self Friday, going 0 for 4 and grounding into a demoralizing double play with two on and no outs in the eighth inning.

Figgins, Ichiro and Kyle Seager were the catalysts for that early offensive explosion. Figgins and Seager each went 7 for 13 in the first three games in the States, but they are both just 2 for 16 since. Ichiro went 5 for 13 in that 20-run stretch, but he is 2 for 15 since.

We all know this is going to be a work in progress, with so many young hitters. But, as Larry Stone wrote Friday night, it can be very frustrating to see the Mariners flail and fail for long stretches.
Dustin Ackley is the one guy everyone knows will do it this year. He hit .273 with six homers and 36 RBI in 90 games last season. He should be over. 300 with 20-25 homers this season despite a .257 start.

But which of his young teammates will develop alongside him? The Mariners really need Smoak and Jesus Montero to take big strides this season. Smoak is hitting a measly .194, but Montero has a seven-game hitting streak and is hitting .286.
Our take on 2012 has always been that it is the steppingstone year for all of the young hitters, who need to learn how to hit this year so the Mariners become legitimate playoff contenders in 2013.

Manager Eric Wedge told Stone that he expects the young Mariners to pick it up eventually.
“We’ll settle in and be more consistent and have better at-bats,” he said. “I really feel that once we hit our stride, you’ll see a much more consistent team offensively.”

We can only hope it happens at some point this year so we aren’t talking about the same frustrating futility next season.

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