Baseball in Washington is real bad right now, regardless of coast.
Expensive offseason additions, particularly starting pitchers Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva, have not led the Mariners (24-42) into contention for the AL West title as many expected. Instead, their 16 1/2-game deficit in the division is the biggest of any team in the majors and they own baseball’s worst record.
Expectations were not as high for Washington (26-42), which has not finished higher than fourth place in the NL East since 2002, but the team hoped to at least give its fans more to cheer about with the debut of Nationals Park. Washington, though, owns the worst mark in the NL and no team faces a bigger deficit in its division other than Seattle.
While the Nationals rank last in the majors in runs (243) and batting average (.234), the Mariners are 27th in both categories (259, .247).
Seattle has lost 15 of 21, but is coming off a rare series win. The Mariners took two of three in Toronto, capped by a 2-1 victory Wednesday.
“It’s a real good win for us,” Seattle manager John McLaren said. “I feel good for the guys. They played hard.”
Still, that win came with some bad news. Closer J.J. Putz was removed in the ninth inning when McLaren saw him grabbing his elbow and shaking his arm.
“It sent a red flag up,” McLaren said. “We’re not going to take any chances.”
That proved to be the case Friday, when Seattle put Putz on the 15-day disabled list with a hyperextended pitching elbow.
While Seattle’s pitching has been solid recently with a 1.54 ERA and .208 opponent batting average in the last four games, the offense continues to struggle.
Hitting coach Jeff Pentland was fired Monday and replaced by 70-year-old special assistant Lee Elia, but the switch has yet to pay off. The Mariners were held to six runs in the Toronto series and have failed to score more than three in five straight games while totaling just 33 hits - only five for extra bases.
While Adrian Beltre is in a 1-for-26 slump and Jose Lopez is 2-for-20 with no RBIs over the last five games, even career .331 hitter Ichiro Suzuki is 2-for-13 in the past four games, dropping his season average to .288.
None of the Mariners have faced Shawn Hill (0-3, 4.35 ERA), who takes the mound for Washington.
The right-hander is coming off one of his best starts of the season, though he again was a victim of poor run support. Hill gave up two runs in 7 1-3 innings of a 6-0 loss to San Francisco on Saturday. The Nationals have failed to score in his last two starts and have totaled 19 runs during his 51 2-3 innings this season.
Hill is 0-2 with a 6.66 ERA in five starts on the road.
Right-hander R.A. Dickey (1-1, 2.67) is coming out of the Mariners bullpen to take struggling Miguel Batista’s spot in the rotation. Dickey has pitched well in long relief lately, allowing one run in 18 innings over his last five appearances.
The knuckleballer lost his only start this season, giving up five runs and eight hits in six innings of a 5-4 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on April 18. Dickey, who has never faced Washington and spent the previous five seasons with Texas, is 1-9 with a 7.87 ERA in his last 16 starts - the only win coming against Seattle on Sept. 18, 2005.
These teams last met in 2005, when the Nationals swept a three-game set in Washington.