By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
ARLINGTON, Texas — For the last week, Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge has stubbornly maintained his belief in the offensive potential of his team. Even before Saturday’s 5-0 loss to the Texas Rangers, Wedge was adamant about what this team can do at the plate.
“We are going to get better offensively and these guys are going to figure it out,” Wedge said.
His faith didn’t waiver postgame. But the results are clearly making it more difficult to stay that way.
“We hit some balls hard tonight,” he said. “We are in one of those zones right now where if you do hit it hard, it’s usually right at them. We are going through some tough times right now.”
His players share his belief.
“We’re fine,” said Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager, who had two of the Mariners’ five hits. “We hit some balls hard, but didn’t have any luck tonight. We had some runners in scoring position and hit some balls hard at people. It’s baseball.”
Right now, the Mariners fans aren’t likely sharing their optimism. To be fair, they are predisposed to be skeptical and cynical after sitting through the last few seasons of offensive anemia.
Saturday night offered no solace.
Seattle was shutout for the second straight day by the Rangers. It’s not something that’s common in the hitter-friendly confines of the Ballpark at Arlington.
The Mariners became the first opposing team to be shut out in back-to-back games in the stadium’s history.
The other numbers aren’t pretty. The Mariners have not scored since the seventh inning of Thursday’s win over Detroit — a span of 19 innings. They struck out eight more times to push their season total to 156 — second most in the American League. They grounded into two more double plays — giving them 20 on the season — most in the AL. As a team, the Mariners are averaging 3.2 runs per game and are hitting just .218 with a .342 slugging percentage — all the lowest in the league.
It seemed like the warm weather and hitting conditions of Texas might kickstart the Mariners’ offense. But it hasn’t.
Wedge doesn’t believe there is any secret to it.
“As I said before, you keep working and you keep doing what you need to be doing to get out of it,” he said. “And when we come out of it, we’ll come out of it big.”
The lack of offense overshadowed and nullified a pretty good start from Brandon Maurer. The rookie right-hander pitched 62/3 innings, allowing just two runs on two hits — a pair of solo homers, while walking three and striking out two
“I was really proud of him,” Wedge said. “Tough ballpark, tough club and he threw a great game.”
The first homer came in the fourth inning. A.J. Pierzynski jumped on a hanging slider and hit to dead center. Franking Gutierrez climbed the wall and reached way over it trying to make a highlight reel catch. However, a fan intent on making his own highlight, jumped into the area behind the wall which is covered in grass and also reached out for the ball, snagging it before Gutierrez could.
Because of the ball was technically over the fence and the fan’s glove was not in the field of play, there was no interference. Wedge knew well enough to not even protest it.
“Guti said he probably would have had it,” Wedge said. “Someone else got it before him. If it’s over the fence, it’s whoever comes up with it first.”
Maurer was impressed that Gutierrez even made it close.
“I thought it was gone,” Maurer said. “He got it closer than I thought he would have. He said he would have had it if not for the fan.”
Texas got to Maurer in the seventh as David Murphy hit a fastball over the right-field fence for another solo homer. Maurer’s day was done. But he pitched well enough to give the Mariners a chance.
“It would have been a lot better if we got a win,” Maurer said. “But I felt all right out there.”
Realistically, there wasn’t much Maurer could do with his team not scoring runs. The Mariners never got a runner to third base and only three times to second base.
The two-run deficit ballooned as the Rangers tacked on three more runs in the eighth inning off relievers Charlie Furbush and Yoervis Medina.
A game that was so close early on never stayed close with the Mariners’ lack of run support.
Wedge isn’t worried about his players losing confidence with the lack of offense, particularly after what has happened the last few season.
“We’ve talked to these guys,” Wedge said. “That’s something that could never waiver. I think collectively as a team we need to get that swagger back, that confidence back that we had early. Each guy to a man has to do what they can do to help us get there. And that’s all they can do.”