By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners once employed an infielder, Mario Mendoza, whose inability to hit major-league pitching was so profound baseball decided to call a .200 batting average “The Mendoza Line.”
Their 5-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Friday did what some considered as improbable as breaking Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.
As a team, the Mariners are now below The Mendoza Line at Safeco Field this season.
They’re batting .197 at home, where they have been shut out six times in 36 games and have posted a 14-22 record. When this game was over, when the Mariners managed just two singles in 28 at-bats against journeyman pitcher Aaron Cook, manager Eric Wedge had seen enough.
“That was horrible,” he said. “We stunk the place up tonight. An 81-pitch complete game? We can’t make it that easy. That’s just brutal.
“We took a step back tonight. I’m tired of watching this. I’m patient, but there has to be a sense of urgency with every guy in our clubhouse.”
The Mariners’ offense, ranked fourth in the American League on the road this season, is 30th among 30 big-league teams when it comes to home games.
Need a little perspective?
Out in Denver, the Colorado Rockies have a team batting average of .295 at Coors Field.
The Mariners came in batting .201 at Safeco Field — and dropped four points in nine innings. It’s not just that they don’t hit home runs there — they don’t — it’s that they don’t hit, period.
For the innocent among you, the Mariners had Mendoza in 1979-1980, and players since then who bat below his line rarely stay in the majors long.
An entire team batting under .200 — at home?
“We will get better, it’s my job to see that they find it, and this team will be a good team at home,” Wedge said. “Whether it’s going to be with all these same guys or not is to be determined.”
The same Cook who started the night 2-9 with a 9.39 earned-run average and, in two starts, had allowed opposing batters to hit .389. dominated Seattle hitters who uniformly did not adjust.
“I’m pretty sick and tired of complimenting the other side,” shortstop Brendan Ryan said. “That’s getting old. Take nothing away from Cook — he’s had that sinker his whole career.
“But we made the same kind of outs, and that’s a product of bad at-bats. It’s not like we’ve never seen a sinker. If I was the skipper, I’d be pulling my hair out this homestand …”
Why? The Mariners are 2-3 at Safeco Field this week.
They’ve lost games 1-0, 2-1 and 5-0.
They’ve won games 1-0 and 3-2.
Five runs scored in five games won’t win anywhere in the AL.
The Mariners only hit over the first seven innings was an infield chopper by Ichiro Suzuki that was a bang-bang “safe” call at first base.
For four innings, Seattle starting pitcher Hector Noesi matched the zeroes in the runs column. Then Boston rolled out the kind of thunder Seattle fans dream about.
Right there in Safeco Field, with 23,094 fans watching, the Red Sox hit three fifth-inning home runs — long-gone drives by Will Middlebrooks, Cody Ross and Daniel Nava.
An inning later, Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered with David Ortiz aboard, and it was 5-0.
“Hector was throwing well for four innings and then the ball crept up in the strike zone on him, and it happened quick,” Wedge said. “His pitches didn’t have the same life.”
In five innings, Noesi threw 87 pitches, or six more than Cook threw in nine innings.
Seattle’s offensive response to those home runs? John Jaso’s one-out, ground ball single in the eighth inning. He was immediately erased when Dustin Ackley grounded into a double play.
In 79 games this season, the Mariners have now been shut out 10 times, and one of those shut outs was Phil Humber’s April 21 perfect game. Earlier this week, the Mariners lost 2-1 while allowing just two hits.
The Mariners have scored three runs or less 42 times in 2012, which puts them 29th among 30 big-league teams. In those games, Seattle is 7-35.