Not much has gone right for the Mariners in 2011. Of course, since not much went right for the franchise from 1977 through 1994, from 1996-99, and from 2004 until now, this hardly qualifies as nasty slap upside the head. But as we sift through the rubble of another season in which the Mariners turned the wrecking ball on themselves, there have been a few points of light.
The latest involves outfielder Mike Carp, who has spent much of the past three seasons yo-yoing between the Mariners and Tacoma Rainiers, while providing scant evidence that he might become a serviceable major league player.
But starting July 19, when he punched out three hits (3-for-6) in a 6-5 Mariner loss at Toronto, Carp emerged as one of the club’s most effective hitters. Between then and the end of August, Carp had six go-ahead hits and 10 multi-hit games, including four knocks (4-for-5) at New York July 27, and three in a game three other times.
By mid-August, he finished off a rare (at least for the Mariners), 20-game hitting streak and concluded the month with a .313 batting average and 25 RBIs, a total that topped all American League rookies and matched the rookie franchise record established by Danny Tartabull in July 1986.
It’s not often (once every decade or so) the Mariners trot out a rookie hitter of any consequence, much less one who produces a 20-game hitting streak en route to winning a major American League award (Rookie of the Month), which Carp claimed earlier this week.
If any Mariner newbie figured to do this, it was Dustin Ackley, hitting .304 since his call up from Tacoma. Instead, Carp, who entered the majors as a ninth-round choice in the 2004 June draft (Mets), has become the only Seattle rookie batter other than Ichiro in 2001 (four times) to win the monthly league award, and one of only five batters in club history other than Ichiro to produce a 20-game hitting streak.
Of the 13 20-game hitting streaks (single season) in Mariners history, no one had a hotter one than Joey Cora in 1997, when, over the course of 24 games between May 2-29, he hit .475 (48-for-101). Carp, who replaced an injured Justin Smoak for much of August, didn’t come close to that average during his streak (.363). But he had a trove of big hits.
Both of Carp’s hits against Toronto on Aug. 15 at Safeco Field went for home runs. The Mariners won that game 6-5. Two weeks later, Carp delivered a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to give the Mariners a rare victory over the Angels. On Aug. 31, Carp delivered a two-run double in the eighth in a 2-1 triumph over the Angels.
If the question is whether Carp can sustain his July-August production, the answer is probably not, if recent AL Rookie of the Month winners are any guide. Of the last nine position players (dating to 2009) to win the award, just one, Brennan Boesch of the 2010 Tigers, maintained his award-winning pace.
But Boesch, the AL Rookie of the Month in both May (.345, 15 RBIs) and June (.337, eight homers, 23 RBIs), then hit .209 (July), .185 (August) and .186 (September/October) the rest of the season. Boesch has been a .283 hitter ever since.
Meanwhile, five of the monthly award winners lapsed into serious slumps following the awards. Most notably, Ben Revere of the Twins hit .294 in winning the 2011 June award, then followed with .217. Gordon Beckham of the White Sox hit .330 in July of 2009 and then slumped to .203. And Nolan Reimold hit .301 in June of 2009, then fell to .269.
Perhaps predictably, in Carp’s first 23 at-bats in September, he went 3-for-23, a .130 average. Still, for a month, Carp wielded the club’s hottest bat. That might not be saying much, but minus Carp in August the Mariners offense would not have had anything to say at all.
HOTTEST 20-GAME HIT STREAKS
Seven batters in Mariners’ history have produced hitting streaks of 20 or more games, led by Ichiro’s 27-game streak in 2009. The following ranks those 20-game streaks by batting average:
|1997||Joey Cora||24||May 2-29||48-for-101||.475|
|2006||Ichiro||20||May 20-June 9||42-for-89||.472|
|1996||Alex Rodriguez||20||Aug. 16-Sept. 4||38-for-85||.447|
|1982||Richie Zisk||21||July 6-Aug. 3||37-for-88||.420|
|1979||Dan Meyer||21||June 6-30||35-for-85||.412|
|2007||Ichiro||25||May 7-June 2||46-for-112||.411|
|2001||Ichiro||23||April 22-May 18||44-for-114||.386|
|2009||Ichiro||27||May 6-June 3||47-for-122||.385|
|2007||Y. Betancourt||20||May 20-June 9||28-for-76||.368|
|2011||Mike Carp||20||July 30-Aug. 21||29-for-80||.363|
|1998||Joey Cora||20||Aug. 15-Sept. 4||27-for-75||.360|