The first game back from the All-Star break is, for teams who have been struggling, always a chance for a new beginning.
They get three days off when they dont have to go the ballpark, dont have to work out unless you want to and dont have to think about baseball.
The break is mental and emotional as much as physical.
Thursday, however, the Mariners found that it took just one day to get them back into the old habits, mentality, and emotions, none of which were good in a 5-0 loss to Texas.
Instead of a new start, they spent the first six innings of the game struggling to get their first hit. It finally came on a Chone Figgins single moments after a Franklin Gutierrez walk on a 3-2 pitch to open the sixth ended Derek Hollands bid for a perfect game.
Seattle wound up with five hits, including none from the top of the order Ichiro Suzuki, Brendan Ryan and Dustin Ackley and the Mariners were shut out for the seventh time this season.
Is it more troubling that the Mariners have been shut out three times already in the first 11 games of July or that the pitching, which has been the cornerstone of whatever success the Mariners have had this year, is showing signs of breaking down?
Its a tough call.
First, the pitching. In the midst of a six-game losing streak that has Seattle at a season-worst 8½ games out of first place, the Mariners have allow 29 runs. In the last four games, the club has given up 11 homers.
Seattle had a 3.95 ERA at the end of April, but in a 60-game stretch from May 1-July 7, a time frame that includes the first two games of this losing streak, the Mariners had a 2.77 ERA, moving the overall mark down to 3.13, among the best in baseball.
In the last four games, however, Seattle pitching has allowed 22 runs in 33 innings, an ERA of 6.00 that has been spread across the pitching staff. The overall team ERA is up to 3.25, which is still good but is headed in the wrong direction.
Now, speaking of the wrong direction, there is the Mariner offense. Manager Eric Wedge has been as upbeat as humanly possible about a team that, with 70 games left in the 162-game season, is on pace for 530 runs. It’s better than 2010s 513 runs, but still basically horrible.
As good as the Mariners pitching has been this year, the opponents ERA against Seattle in 2011 has been 2.96, better than any team in the American League, better than any team in the National League.
Its going to be difficult beyond measure for the Mariners to be competitive when their pitching, as good as it is, is facing an evil twin of itself. And the pity of it all is that Seattles pitching is as good as it is without ever having to face the Mariner hitters.
“Their kid threw the ball well, Wedge said, “but we still need to do a better job. When we get fastballs to be hit, we have got to be ready for it.
“Until these guys understand that theyve got to take risks and make adjustments (there wont be any improvement). Ultimately, weve just got to do better.