Seattle Mariners’ Ty France tosses his helmet after striking out against the Boston Red Sox in a baseball game Friday, March 29, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Seattle Mariners’ Ty France tosses his helmet after striking out against the Boston Red Sox in a baseball game Friday, March 29, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

It’s not time to panic about the Mariners’ offense … yet

Seattle struggled to control the zone in its season-opening series against the Red Sox.

SEATTLE — It’s early. Maybe I should copy and paste those two words a dozen times for effect, but you get the idea.

Barring serious injuries, no meaningful evaluation can be made over a four-game stretch in MLB — least of all the first four games of the season.

It’s doubtful that the loaded, three-time-defending American League West champion Astros are panicking after their series with the Yankees, and they’re 0-4. The Mariners are 2-2.

It’s just … that offense. Those strikeouts. The plate discipline that is so heavily emphasized in the team’s offensive mission statement is still on standby in Peoria, Arizona.

It’s early, yes — but the K’s have been often.

In Seattle’s 5-1 loss to the Red Sox on Sunday, every Mariner in the starting lineup but Josh Rojas struck out at least once. There were 10 strikeouts overall. Over four games, the Mariners have fanned 45 times, and their 11.25 Ks per game are the second most in MLB.

This was the primary flaw in the M’s’ offense last season, when they struck out 1,603 times — also the second most in the big leagues. It played into the parting of ways with Eugenio Suarez and Teoscar Hernandez, who ranked first and second, respectively, in American League Ks last season.

Perhaps putting more balls in play would have meant little Sunday given the commanding lead Boston took in the fourth inning when Enmanuel Valdez socked a three-run home run off Seattle starter Bryce Miller. But if there was one shortcoming the Mariners would have liked to shore up in their first series of the season, strike three was probably it.

“It’s a little frustrating for the guys and coaches,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “You feel really good where we were at coming out of spring training. I say all that — we went 2-2. We’re OK. I don’t want to read too much into that or get too high or too low.”

Nor should his players. Nor should the fans. Certainly not yet.

It is worth noting the game plan for pitchers throughout last season was to stifle the Mariners with secondary pitches. Changeups, sliders, breaking balls galore. That didn’t change Thursday through Sunday at T-Mobile Park where the Red Sox offered endless off-speed pitches. As Mariners first baseman Ty France said, “they spun us to death this series.”

There were plenty of examples of players working pitchers deep into counts, but far too many instances where they chased the wrong pitch and offset their work.

Again, it’s not even April at the time of this column’s publication. There have been significant changes to the lineup, all of which point to an offensive surge if players stay healthy. But this opening homestand looked more like games 163-166 of 2023.

Have patience, Mariners die-hards — and know that the pitching will keep your club stable when offensive anemia strikes. Just hope that the M’s have more patience at the plate going forward, because three straight games with just one run through the first nine innings is not an auspicious start.

But let’s stick with the theme for now — it’s early. Shortstop J.P. Crawford’s average of .133 through his first 15 at-bats should soar once he gets locked in. Same with second baseman Jorge Polanco — who slugged .503 in his last healthy season in Minnesota but was slugging .071.

Center fielder Julio Rodriguez finished fourth in the AL MVP voting last season. He was 3 for 16 with five strikeouts against Boston. And though sluggish starts have been an issue for the Dominican in his first two seasons, the numbers are almost sure to come.

“The guys at the top of our lineup are really good major-league hitters, and they’re off to a slow start,” Servais said. “But get back after it tomorrow.”

Perhaps the most encouraging part about this series with the Red Sox is how well pitchers George Kirby and Logan Gilbert performed for Seattle. In Friday’s 1-0 win, Kirby pitched 6 2/3 innings, struck out eight and allowed just two hits. The next day, when the Mariners scored three runs in the 10th to nab the 4-3 win, Gilbert pitched seven innings, fanned eight and allowed just one run.

These are key cogs in the rotation deemed by many to be the best starting rotation in baseball. But when other starters such as Luis Castillo, who struggled on opening day, or Miller, who made a couple crippling mistakes Sunday, aren’t performing, the offense needs to be there to keep the M’s afloat.

There is plenty reason to think that the “O” will emerge. It’s irrational to be overly concerned at this point in the season.

But based on what fans saw last year, such concern is, at the very least, understandable.

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