During his stewardship of the Mariners, Eric Wedge has developed a remarkable knack for spinning the most negative development into a glass-half-full scenario. But Monday afternoon, after the Mariners failed to convert a rash of scoring opportunities against Kansas City (1-for-11 with runners in scoring position), Wedge abandoned his customary boosterism, lashing out at a number of his players who, he carped, “haven’t learned how to win.”
The Mariners left two runners on in each of the first four innings. Kendrys Morales, the cleanup hitter, whiffed twice with two men on and less than two outs. Justin Smoak, batting fifth, also failed twice with two aboard, no surprise since Smoak is hitting .214 with runners aboard and .209 when they’re in scoring position. Wedge apparently saw enough.
“We had plenty of opportunities to score again early, but just did a very poor job,” Wedge after Seattle’s 3-1 loss. “We’ve got a lot of guys here who still have to learn how to play this game. I need to see improvement and consistency, not only from month-to-month, but game-to-game and at-bat to at-bat. I’m not seeing that. The one recurring theme (of the season) is that we’ve not taken advantage of our opportunities offensively.”
The Mariners enter Tuesday’s second of four games against the Royals batting .233 with runners poised to score, and having tallied once in 26 innings dating to the second inning Saturday. That .233 ranks next-to-last in the American League, ahead of Minnesota’s .229, and is down six points from last year’s .239.
Much as Wedge continually (until Monday) expresses hope that isn’t so, sooner of later he’s going to have to entertain the notion that the “consistency” he seeks in his young hitters might never be achieved. By Wedge’s own admission, it’s overdue.
September is a big month for the Mariners. They are on track for 90 or more losses for the fourth time in six seasons when this was supposed to be a year in which they would finish with a winning record for the first time since 2009. The off-season will not be long enough to rationalize away 90 defeats, given the club’s own expectations.
Wedge has spent most of the season touting development of his young players and begging the indulgence of the impatient. Based on his remarks Monday, it sounds like Wedge is finally questioning his own optimism.