One morning at spring training last March, the Mariners posted their lineup for that afternoon’s game and there was a good amount of snickering by a couple of writers in the media work room.
Adam Kennedy was batting third that day.
It was the kind of thing you sometimes see with
a spring training lineup, with guys batting in the all-important third, fourth and fifth spots when you know there’s no chance they’ll be there during the regular season. But even at spring training, seeing Kennedy’s name in the third spot sent a few of us online to see how many times he’d batted there in his career. The answer: 12 times in 12 years.
We’re now two games away from the halfway point of a mystifying Mariners season and guess who’s in the three hole and putting together some of the best at-bats on the team? Kennedy, and rightfully so.
Batting third for the 15th time this season, Kennedy produced the Mariners’ only run tonight with a fourth-inning home run in a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
Other than that, it was the same sorry tale of non-hitting by the Mariners, who manager Eric Wedge swears will put together better at-bats, string together hits and score multiple runs in an inning.
Can they do it this year?
Maybe, although this is a mix of veterans who aren’t producing and young players learning the hard way, and the result has been a consistent stretch of paltry scoring. The Mariners have scored more than two runs in only two of their past nine games and, at 39-40, it’s a miracle they’re only two games behind first-place Texas in the AL West.
A lot of people are crying for another bat to help the Mariners make a real run in the division. Sure, go ahead, although what the Mariners need most is an approach.
That’s how Wedge is talking, and his postgame comments tonight had a definite edge.
“The biggest disappointment for me is seeing individuals going up there time and time again doing the same things expecting results,” Wedge said.
Let’s see, who could he have been talking about?
Ichiro Suzuki? He went 1-for-4 and struck out twice, including a tough one in the fifth inning when Braves starter Brandon Beachy got him on four pitches.
Brendan Ryan went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk, but at least he fought his way through 23 pitches tonight.
Chone Figgins tossed up another zero at the plate and again became the target of the fans’ ire. He went 0-for-3 and popped out in foul territory with Mike Carp on third base and one out in the fifth inning when the Mariners had their best chance to break a 1-1 tie.
Justin Smoak went 0-for-4 and is on an 0-for-13 skid.
Carp went 2-for-3, including a leadoff double in the fifth that the Mariners completely wasted. Franklin Gutierrez did a nice job moving Carp to third with a ground ball to the right side, but the guys behind him left him there – Figgins by popping out and Suzuki by striking out.
After Gutierrez grounded into a double play to end an eighth inning that had Mariners on first and second with one out, the M’s were quiet the rest of the game.
Wedge had plenty to say, though, after a one-run, 13-strikeout night by the Mariners’ offense, whose .227 team average is the lowest in the major leagues.
“These guys are going to have to find a way to get tougher up there and start squaring up some fastballs,” Wedge said. “They can’t feel sorry for themselves. They can’t get down on themselves. The only way you’re going to get better is to fight through it, be more aggressive and be tougher. Otherwise, this game will beat the hell out of you.
“We’ve talked about it repeatedly this year — you’ve got to go up there and be more aggressive. You’ve got to have that fighter’s mentality up there. You’ve got to stick your nose in there. You’ve got to keep your mind in the now and get to it. Each player to a man, they have an opportunity when they get up there to turn things around, for themselves and for us as an offensive ballclub.”