MLB Scores: Rangers Win 11-3, Sweep Mariners

Rick Yeatts

7-13: Rangers hit 4 homers

There's really not a whole lot I want to say specifically about this game. On the heels of four defeats in five days, there's nothing illuminating about today's 11-3 loss to the Rangers. It was nice to see Kyle Seager continue to play well and clobber his first homer of the season -- one of those well struck flies that still surprises me, even if I've seen him do it 10 times before -- but there's nothing about his day that can salvage a game or a week like that.

Aaron Harang struggled, allowing three homers and eight runs in less than five innings. We always knew that starting a homer prone righty with an 89-MPH fastball in Texas was a recipe for disaster if he didn't have his best stuff, and we saw that play out today.

As for the offense, at least they tacked on a few runs. The broadcast noted that the M's went 1-24 with runners in scoring position this series, and it's pretty difficult to score with that kind of situational hitting. There's nothing predictive about that -- teams usually hit better with runners in scoring position -- so we can chalk part of this scoreless streak up to sequencing. That said, teams that go a week between home runs tend not to score very much, sequencing be damned.

I don't want to spend a whole lot more time talking about this afternoon's contest. It was a lousy ballgame: if you saw it, you probably don't want to read more about it. If you didn't, consider yourself fortunate.

Instead, let's take the opportunity to examine the reality of the team's current situation. Let's start with the positive, or at least, the less negative. The fact is, the Mariners just played a brutal stretch of teams. Texas and Detroit might be the two best teams in the American League right now, and as Dave Cameron outlined last week, we shouldn't be surprised that a club like Seattle struggled against the class of the circuit. Given that they've also played Oakland and Chicago -- two more decent outfits -- a record like this is understandable, if a bit lower than we might have liked.

The Mariners also haven't had the luxury of a full roster. Injuries are part and parcel of the game, but already the M's have dealt with a pretty heavy burden:

  • Erasmo Ramirez, arguably the club's third best starter right now, has been sidelined since spring training. In his stead, near replacement-level pitchers have made four starts. The M's have won only one of those games, losing comfortably in the other three.
  • Michael Saunders hasn't played a full game since April 9th, thanks to a shoulder injury he suffered crashing into the right field wall on April 10th. He's a big part of the team's offense, and with Franklin Gutierrez unable to play every day, a vital cog in the club's defensive alignment as well. This year, the M's are 4-4 when he plays and 3-9 when he does not (I'm counting the day he injured himself as a 'did not play' since he was on the field for a grand total of one batter). They've missed him badly.
  • Michael Morse missed four games with a broken pinkie. He's returned, but hasn't looked like himself at the plate since the injury. Whether it was dumb for him to come back so early is a debate that will probably gain momentum over the next week or so. Either way, Seattle has gone 3-7 since Morse hurt himself.
  • Gutierrez has started only 13 of the team's games. This might not have been unexpected, but with Saunders out, there isn't another reliable center fielder in the organization right now. The M's have a substantially weaker team when Gutierrez can't anchor center, particularly after injuries decimated other outfielders.
Critically, none of those four were consistently in the lineup -- if they were suiting up at all -- during the rough stretch of games over the past eleven days. Injuries have hampered this roster when the M's have needed their best players most, and as a result, it's really not all that surprising that the M's have played poorly. If there's a positive to take from this, it's that Saunders should be back soon, Ramirez is throwing, and both Morse and Gutierrez are at least playing, if not fully healthy.

The bad part is that this is a broken team with little depth and no contingency plan for when things -- unexpected or not -- go badly, and that's a problem that won't alleviate itself throughout this season. Contention, and even respectability were predicated on the M's getting significant contributions from their Opening Day roster. There's no Mike Trout waiting in the minor leagues and a rebuilding club shouldn't be trading valuable farmhands in an effort to salvage a winning season in 2013. Consequently, if the players on the Opening Day roster underperform relative to expectations, there's not a whole lot the Mariners can do about it.

Essentially, if Dustin Ackley doesn't hit, or Justin Smoak doesn't hit, or Jesus Montero doesn't hit, there isn't really a well of talent the M's can dip into to offset that loss of expected production. Ackley isn't going to post a wRC+ under 10 all year and Smoak will presumably homer one of these days, but there's a good chance that both players will be below average hitters this season, and there aren't palatable alternatives backing them up. Taking Ackley out of the lineup entails placing Robert Andino in it, and moving Smoak or Montero out ensures that either Jason Bay or Raul Ibanez will have to start, even with the roster at full strength. For as bad as the young hitters have been, those are grisly alternatives.

Hopefully, the M's, and particularly Ackley, Montero, and Smoak can turn their season around in the next few weeks. Starting with a much needed trip to Houston, the schedule softens up a bit in the coming days, and sometimes, even the ugliest April's are an aberration.

To end optimistically, recent precedent demonstrates that the M's can start horribly and still make the season interesting. The 2011 team, which was not a particularly good club, also started 7-13, and then dropped as low as 8-15. That team looked awful, and morale among fans was low.

At least for a little while, though, the 2011 Mariners rallied. They won seven of their next nine, were half a game back of the division lead in late June, and had a .500 record as late as July 5th. It didn't last -- a nasty 17 game losing streak started July 6th -- but it proved that even a feeble team can play good baseball for a couple of months.

On talent, this years team should be better than 2011's. That's not to say that the M's will suddenly win five in a row, or even finish with a better record than they did last year. They may not. But, this is still only 20 games. There's a lot of baseball left to play, and there's a chance that the M's can make it interesting over the next few months. We'll all be hoping that they will, starting tomorrow.
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