Last night felt familiar. It felt familiar without picking a specific previous time it happened, because the Mariners have done this so many times—failing to get the key run when it mattered. But though you don't need to pick out another time it happened, it's easy to do.
This felt like Sunday, April 20th, a 3-2 loss to the Marlins. We probably all remember it, but to refresh, it was the Mariners' sixth loss in a row, and it came with the tying run left on third base in the ninth. And it wasn't just that he was left there, but like last night, they had a big run ninety feet from home with two outs to work with, and they couldn't get him in when it really mattered. Nick Franklin and Michael Saunders both struck out to end the game.
The Mariners, right now, have only lost three in a row—the first coming in a Fernando Rodney blown save. They're still scuffling quite a bit, having now lost six of nine, though not the level we saw at the end of April (but, that losing steak also started with Rodney blowing a save). And that reminds me of something said by the man who made the final out of that game down in Miami. Well, specifically, one thing he said over and over.
"We got off to a great start on the road to start the season off and, obviously like you said, we went through a tough stretch and we were just trying to minimize the damage, if you would. It won’t be our last tough stretch going through the season obviously with how long the year is, but that needs to be an experience that we’ve learned from and not let it get to eight to nine next time—and we need to take it one game at a time."
A week, and several wins later, here is Saunders again, this time talking to TEAM Radio 1040 out of Vancouver about Lloyd McClendon—and shedding some light on where this "learn from it" mantra came from:
"He gets how hard this game is and he’s never forgotten that. He puts his players first. He commands a lot of respect. When he speaks up, we listen. He’s that guy in the room. He keeps the clubhouse loose, especially when we went on our little bad streak of eight in a row, he was keeping us loose. He reminded us of how tough this game really is and we’re going to come out of this and, when we do, make sure that we learn what we went through because it’s not going to be the last time that we have a struggle like we did. But hopefully we can learn from that and minimize the damage over the course of a long year."
And finally, here is Saunders talking to Steve Sandmeyer and Jason Churchill for 1090 The Fan about went on during that losing streak. This was the same day as the previous quote, Friday, May 9th:
There were things that were unspoken. There were things that were verbally said and, mainly the fact that this is such a long season—we play every night. At the very least, we play 162 and we’re hoping to play a little bit more than that this year. We gotta understand that it’s not the end of the world. You’re not going to win pennants in April. This, obviously will not be the last time we go through a losing stretch and hopefully we can learn from what happened in April. And luckily, it happened so early. Hopefully we can learn from that and limit the damage the next time we go through a little bit of a rough streak.
As you can tell from the fact that the last two clips came on the same day, these guys give a lot of interviews. And they're bound to repeat themselves. But still, the fact that he's said this three times (if not more) means that this philosophy was pounded into the guys' heads by McClendon—and, at least with Saunders, it resonated.
Of course, it's one thing to say you've learned from something, and it's another to stop a skid like this. And even then, how does one "learn" from a losing streak and adapt? If it were as easy as just playing better, they wouldn't have lost six of nine in the first place.
Either way, I'm still interested to see how this team responds to another stretch of adversity. They had their season pushed to the brink once before, and though this isn't where it was then, they're still just a half game closer to first place now than they were at the end of that eight-game losing streak.
The Mariners have their three best pitchers going the next three days. I don't know how exactly a team goes about learning to better deal with and pull out of a losing streak, but here's to hoping this team has.