Athletes rarely engage in the prediction business, leaving that to oddsmakers, sports writers and broadcasters, and anyone else who cares to opine. But Felix Hernandez this week joined an expanding chorus of professional pundits who believe that the Mariners are the chic pick to win a wide-open American League.
“Close is not good enough anymore,” Hernandez told Yahoo Sports. “Our goal is to make the playoffs and win the whole thing. We’ve got the pieces now.”
The “pieces” to which Hernandez specifically referred are leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, acquired last July from Detroit; Seth Smith, brought over in a trade with San Diego during the off-season as a gap hitter in front of Robinson Cano; and Nelson Cruz, hired as a free agent to provide power between Cano and Kyle Seager.
“Listen, we’re good,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “And barring injuries, we’re going to be very competitive. Where that’s going to take us, I don’t know. We’re like everybody else: We know what we hope to be, and if all goes well, we have a good chance to get there.”
The key, as always, is scoring. The last time the Mariners scored more than 700 runs in a season, Mike Hargrove was manager. That was 2007. The Mariners have had seven managers since, including McClendon.
In the last seven years, the Mariners have ranked 11th (2014), 12th (2013), 14th (2012), 14th (2011), 14th (2010), 14th (2009) and 13th (2008) in AL run production.
Hernandez, along with Cleveland’s Corey Kluber (last year), is the only Cy Young winner in the past 10 years to pitch for a team that failed to score at least 700 runs. Hernandez, the 2010 recipient, is also the only Cy Young winner in the past decade to earn the award while receiving fewer (3.06) than four runs per start. Five of the last 10 Cy Young winners received more than five runs per start.
The Mariners are paying Cruz $58 million to fix that.
Angels 5, Mariners 0
A second-inning error by Willie Bloomquist led to four Los Angeles runs, two of them earned, and the Angels defeated the Mariners 5-0 Monday in Cactus League play in Tempe. Erasmo Ramirez, making his fourth start of the spring, retired the side in order in the first, but Bloomquist’s miscue enabled the Angels to score all the runs they would need.
The Mariners (9-9-2) scratched out just two hits, a one-out double by Mike Zunino in the fifth, which was followed by Logan Morrison’s base hit. But the Mariners stranded both runners.
After Ramirez departed, Seattle reliever Grady Wood, who played last season at High-A High Desert, allowed a run in 1.1 innings before the rest of the Mariners bullpen threw zeroes the rest of the way. Jordan Pries allowed two hits in three shutout frames, before Charlie Furbush (7th) and Yoervis Medina (8th) closed out the loss.
LHP J.A. Happ will receive the start Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. when the Mariners face the San Diego Padres at Peoria . . . Taijuan Walker, the favorite to win the No. 5 job in the rotation, pitches Wednesday, against the Chicago White Sox. McClendon said this week that he probably won’t decide on the fifth starter until the final week of spring training . . . Hernandez makes his next start Thursday, in a 1:05 p.m. contest against the Kansas City Royals . . . Dustin Ackley has hit safely in his past six games, driving in seven runs . . . After starting the season 0-for-8, Seth Smith has reached base safely in his past six games . . . The Mariners have hit 11 triples, tied for the most in the Cactus League. Nine Mariners have tripled . . . LHP Tyler Olson has not allowed a run in his past six appearances, spanning nine innings. In that stretch, he has 11 strikeouts . . . Thirteen Mariners have collaborated for 19 home runs this spring.