By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Mariners manager Eric Wedge is tired of talking about approach, swing mechanics, confidence and all of the things that go into hitting a baseball well.
He’s dissected it over and over in his mind and in conversation since taking over as the manager of one of the most offensively challenged organization in baseball two seasons ago.
It’s been an unending topic for debate and analysis.
So after watching his team waste another solid outing by Felix Hernandez in a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, Wedge moved past the point of discussion.
“I’m tired of even talking about it,” he said. “You’ve got to hit. We can break it down 10 times and then break it down 10 times again. We’ve been doing that here for 21⁄2 years.
“And it hasn’t gotten any better. We’ve got to hit.”
The Mariners, who came into Wednesday’s game last in the American League in runs per game (3.6) and batting average (.236), mustered eight hits, but were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position while stranding 10 runners on base.
Wedge has seen hitting performances like that too many times in his tenure with the Mariners.
“We’ve got to hit,” Wedge said. “It’s time to hit. You are not going to win games unless you hit. They got the two-out hit, we didn’t. Game over. That’s the difference.”
That two-out hit came in the top of the ninth inning of a 2-2 game.
Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez led off the inning with a hard single to right off of reliever Charlie Furbush. Neil Walker bunted Alvarez into scoring position. Wedge then called on right-hander Yoervis Medina to finish the inning. Medina got Gaby Sanchez to ground out to third for the second out. With first base open, Medina then intentionally walked left-handed hitting Travis Snider.
However, No. 9 hitter Jordy Mercer made the move backfire, singling sharply up the middle to score Alvarez. The Pirates added another run when Medina uncorked a wild pitch on a swinging strike three that allowed Snider to score.
“I’ve been on the other side of that stick,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Sometimes, you get the matchups you want, and you don’t get the results you want.”
Down 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth, the Mariners’ victory hopes seemed slim. But they managed to put the tying run on base against reliever Mark Melancon. Mike Zunino delivered a one-out, pinch-hit single and Nick Franklin later singled with two outs.
It brought Kyle Seager, one of the Mariners better hitters, to the plate representing the winning run. But remember this is the Mariners. Seager swung at the first pitch from Melancon and grounded out to first to end the game.
The Mariners also missed out on a prime scoring opportunity in the eighth inning against reliever Vin Mazzaro, getting runners on first and second with one out. But Justin Smoak struck out and Michael Saunders flew out to left to kill the rally.
Seattle’s two runs came from a sacrifice fly from Saunders in the fourth inning and a solo homer from Raul Ibanez in sixth inning off lefty Justin Wilson.
While Wedge is clearly irritated with many of his players’ inability to produce at the plate, he has no such anger toward Ibanez, who leads the team in homers (18) and RBI (43).
“Raul has been fantastic,” Wedge said. “He’s a shining example what you want a big leaguer to be. But we got other guys that need to be doing better both young and old.”
Hernandez pitched better on Wednesday. After an awful start in Los Angeles where he gave up seven runs on 12 hits in five innings the Mariners’ ace looked more like himself.
He tossed seven innings, giving up two runs on six hits with 11 strikeouts and two walks.
“I had pretty good command with fastball and my breaking ball was much better,” Hernandez said.
The two runs came on one swing of the bat. Hernandez made a mistake to Neil Walker, who ripped a two-run homer to right.
“I was behind in the count and tried to throw a sinker and (it) didn’t sink,” Hernandez said.
And with his team unable to put up any offense, Hernandez took a no decision.
So what can the Mariners do to fix this issue that has dogged them the past five seasons? It’s not an issue of working harder.
“I’ve never had any issues with working or their effort, it’s always been there,” Wedge said. “They bring it every day. That’s not it. But about getting it and getting over the top that’s where our issue is.”
Ibanez had no easy solution to it.
“We have to keep grinding and keep fighting,” he said. “It’s a mentality. If you win small battles on a daily basis from pitch to pitch and at-bat to at-bat then good things will happen for the team.”
Wedge is losing patience waiting for those good things to happen.
“We have other guys (who) need to be doing better both young and old,” Wedge said. “You can’t come to the ballpark and try to win games like this every single day. It’s just too damn hard.”