Baseball’s hits leader over the past decade seemingly can’t buy one these days - neither can Seattle’s outfield as a whole - yet the Mariners are finding way to remain in the thick of the AL West race.
With a pitching staff this good, it’s easy to see why.
Michael Pineda(notes) has been the best starter on a Seattle staff flexing its prowess, and the standout rookie can deliver his second win at Comerica Park as the Mariners continue their four-game set against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night.
In spring training, it would have been difficult to buy the Mariners (33-31) - fresh off a 101-loss season - being within 2 1/2 games of first place 10 days into June.
Couple that with the fact that Ichiro Suzuki(notes) is hitting .149 over his last 21 games and Seattle’s outfielders are batting .218 overall - no team has seen its outfield hit worse than .221 since 1974 - and it’s even more difficult to believe.
The Mariners have won 17 of their last 25 thanks to a pitching staff with a major league-best 2.59 ERA. Seattle’s starters have been solid (2.91 ERA) over that stretch, but the bullpen has led the way. The Mariners got four scoreless innings from their relief corps in Friday’s 3-2 victory in Detroit, culminating with Brandon League’s(notes) AL-leading 18th save.
“They’ve done a really good job,” said starter Eric Bedard, who went five innings. “The reason we’re in the position we’re in right now is because of them. After the starters get out, if they put zeros up there, it puts less pressure on our offense.”
Suzuki certainly seems to be putting pressure on himself right now. Manager Eric Wedge sat him down Friday, ending the 10-time All-Star’s streak of 255 consecutive games played.
“He’s mentally tough, he’s physically tough,” Wedge said. “He has so many different things that are reasons for the fact that he has been so successful, but ultimately, he’s a human being, and everybody needs a break every now and again.”
Pineda (6-3, 2.33 ERA) has shown no signs of slowing down. The 22-year-old right-hander has a 1.64 ERA in his last five starts, and impressed teammate Brendan Ryan(notes) in Monday’s 3-1 loss to the White Sox after allowing two runs over seven innings.
“You almost come to expect outings like that from him,” Ryan said. “He’s been outstanding and it’s even more disappointing to not give him some help.”
Pineda got plenty of help April 28 at Comerica, when he struck out nine Tigers and allowed two runs over six innings of a 7-2 victory.
Lately, he’s needed all the help he can get. Scherzer has a 12.51 ERA in his last three outings, but the Tigers’ bats carried him to a 13-7 win Monday at Texas even after he allowed five runs in five innings.
“Right now for whatever reason, he can’t find his slider consistently,” manager Jim Leyland said. “We have to look into this, see what’s going on, and get it straightened out.”
Facing Seattle could help. Scherzer is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts against the Mariners.
Suzuki might benefit from another day off. He’s 1 for 9 lifetime against the hard-throwing Scherzer.