Mariners face growing challenges on offense

July 24th, 2019

SEATTLE -- The Mariners have acknowledged that they won’t be able to win much by scoring just one to two runs per game. With a pitching staff, including , that largely plays to weak contact, the Mariners’ success is predicated on power and run production.

Which is why their 7-2 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday night at T-Mobile Park is as reflective as any during their second-half swoon. Seattle has dropped 16 of its past 20 since June 27, only a half-game better than the Tigers for the worst stretch in the Majors in that time.

On the season, the Mariners fell to 1-30 in games in which they score two runs or fewer. They are 37-15 in games that they score five runs or more.

“The key to our club, where we're at right now, we've got to score runs. We're not going to win too many games 2-1, 3-2,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We win when we score five. To do that, we've got to have contributions. Everybody has got to chip in. It might be 2-3 guys one night, then 2-3 guys have got to step up the next night. I don't think we have just the one carrying piece or the big 1-2 bats in the middle of our lineup.”

A frustrating component in this stretch of their “step-back” season is that the club is missing the chance to allocate at-bats and innings not just to their everyday players but also those they hope to develop.

Outfielder is still recovering from a ruptured spleen and only recently began hitting in the cage. , the Mariners' No. 12 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, would’ve been a strong candidate to take ’s spot at second base after Gordon hit the injured list with a left quad strain but Long himself has a broken finger on his right hand.

Third baseman (spinal stenosis) and right fielder (ruptured testicle), more established players who remain a part of the club’s plans, are also still on the IL.

“It is challenging. It certainly gives younger guys opportunity, but when you're playing younger guys or inexperienced guys, you've got to be patient,” Servais said. “You go through the growing pains -- little things, like getting accustomed to at this level. But, most importantly, the speed of the game at this level is a big difference than what you're going to see at the Minor League level, at the Triple-A level. … The big thing we have to do is stay patient with guys and keep working with them.”

Even their run producers who aren’t shelved are experiencing health issues, such as , who Servais said earlier this week has been playing with a sore left shoulder that has been bothering him since the All-Star break, and outfielder , who left Tuesday’s game during the third inning with right elbow soreness. Vogelbach went 0-for-4 and is 4-for-28 in the second half, and Santana is 5-for-35 in that same stretch.

Most glaring in Vogelbach’s game is that his strikeout rate in the second half is 37.9 percent, well above his 23.2 percent in the first half.

“It's just a rough go right now for me,” Vogelbach said. “I'm coming in every day believing that this is the day that it's going to turn. And you just have to believe that and deal with it, hoping that it turns sooner than later.”

Said Servais: “Certainly, we're a lot tougher when Domingo is going good and Vogey is going good. Omar [Narvaez] has been pretty consistent, but everybody is going to have to chip in here. If we score runs, we're fun to watch and we're usually in a good spot in the game. When we don't, it's been a struggle for us.”

So when the Mariners play from an immediate hole, as they did on Tuesday after Milone served up a homer to Shin-Soo Choo on the game’s first pitch, Seattle is in an even more challenging position to crawl back, given its lack of depth. Milone’s pitch to Choo was 86.3 mph and left up over the middle part of the plate.

“Overall, I felt like it was OK,” Milone said of his stuff on Tuesday. “I was getting ahead and then I just wasn't putting guys away. I was just leaving balls over the middle of the plate, so that's where the damage was.”

The Mariners tied the game in the bottom of that inning, when Narvaez hit an RBI single, but Texas added three more homers and bulk-innings pitcher Pedro Payano kept Seattle’s bats quiet. Payano tossed five innings of one-run ball and gave up just three hits while punching out seven.