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Servais 'bullish' on starters despite struggles

Manager confident rotation will 'get over the hump' of delivering short starts
Special to MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Mariners manager Scott Servais realizes starting pitching will play a major role if his team is going to get into a winning rhythm.

But as the Mariners continue to scuffle along, the club has had trouble getting any sort of length out of the rotation on a regular basis. In Monday night's 10-4 loss to the White Sox, Mike Leake lasted just 3 1/3 innings and surrendered eight runs. While Leake's outing was the shortest of any Seattle starter over the past five games, his short night certainly wasn't the first the Mariners have experienced of late.

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CHICAGO -- Mariners manager Scott Servais realizes starting pitching will play a major role if his team is going to get into a winning rhythm.

But as the Mariners continue to scuffle along, the club has had trouble getting any sort of length out of the rotation on a regular basis. In Monday night's 10-4 loss to the White Sox, Mike Leake lasted just 3 1/3 innings and surrendered eight runs. While Leake's outing was the shortest of any Seattle starter over the past five games, his short night certainly wasn't the first the Mariners have experienced of late.

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Leake's five-hit, two-run outing vs. the Indians on April 1 was the Mariners' only seven-inning start this season. Over the past turn through the rotation entering Tuesday, Servais' starters have only lasted more than five innings once, when Felix Hernandez pitched 5 1/3 innings Friday against the Rangers. But Erasmo Ramirez and James Paxton were unable to reach the fifth inning in their most recent start. 

Marco Gonzales helped buck the troubling trend by tossing six-plus strong innings in the Mariners' 1-0 win over the White Sox on Tuesday.

"We need to get more innings out of our starting pitching," Servais said before Tuesday's game, stressing the way the Mariners' bullpen has been taxed this season.

"Ultimately, to put [winning] streaks together, you have to have consistent starting pitching that can keep you in the game."

Video: SEA@TEX: Hernandez gets Profar swinging to end 3rd

If Servais has noticed a common denominator, it has been how hard opposing teams have hit the ball against the Mariners' starters. The White Sox, who had lost seven straight games and were outscored, 27-2, while being swept by the Astros over the weekend, continually made solid contact off of Leake, who struggled to keep the ball down and out of the strike zone.

Servais has stressed the importance of not holding anything back from the start. Rather than "leaving any tricks in the bag," Servais has instructed starters to throw their full complement of pitches instead of relying on a fastball to attempt to get through an opposing lineup.

The struggles have caught Servais offguard a bit. While Hernandez has shown glimpses of what he is capable of, Paxton has struggled to find any solid footing, and Leake allowed seven straight hits to start the first inning on Monday, which put the Mariners in a hole. Reliever Wade LeBlanc pitched 4 2/3 innings to keep Servais from having to reach deeper into his bullpen.

While Servais is confident the Mariners' offense is capable of scoring enough runs to keep his team competitive, the starters -- at some point -- will need to pitch deeper into games.

"It'll get there -- we're not there right now, [but] I'm really bullish on our guys," Servais said. "But it's something we need to get over the hump."

Jeff Arnold is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago.

Seattle Mariners