As if he heard the growing cacophony of disgruntled Mariners fans during Seattle’s recent 2-4 road trip, manager Lloyd McClendon during Friday afternoon’s pre-game press conference disclosed a message he told his players after their sluggish start to the 2015 season.
“To think that it’s going to be a fairytale season and everything’s going to be fine, and you’re not going to have three- or four-game losing streaks, come on,” McClendon said. “That’s ridiculous. And to think that the world’s coming to an end when you’re 3-6, that’s also ridiculous.”
Make that 3-7.
The Mariners fell 3-1 to the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field Friday night, a fourth consecutive loss (box score).
When the Dodgers swept the Mariners out of Los Angeles, the culprits were sloppy defense, bad base running, struggling starting pitchers and a Fernando Rodney blown save.
Those weren’t the problems, in front of an announced crowd of 36,606.
In his second start of the season, LHP J.A. Happ (0-1, 2.70 ERA) allowed two runs over seven efficient innings. DH Prince Fielder nicked him for an RBI double in the first and C Robinson Chirinos added a solo home run in the fifth. Otherwise, the veteran did his part, allowing five hits, walking two and striking out three.
“Regardless of how we’re doing, my goal is to go deep in the game,” he said. “I feel good about getting through seven tonight.”
After 10 games, it is ridiculous, as McClendon said, to make sweeping evaluations. The Mariners were the only team in the majors to begin the year playing three teams that made the playoffs in 2014. Of their 10 games, nine have been decided by three runs or fewer, seven by two runs or fewer.
“This team is fine,” McClendon said Friday afternoon. “They’re a real good team. And they’re built for it. Trust me when I tell you they’re built for it. They have the character. They have the make-up. And they got the talent. We’ll win our share of games.”
But the inability to score runs at home is something that dates back years. So is the propensity to get blanked by unheralded starting pitchers. They’ve scored just eight runs in four games in Seattle. They let RHP Yovani Gallardo (2-1) throw six shutout innings.
“We had the opportunities,” McClendon said. “We just couldn’t get the big hit to get us over the hump. There will be better days. I think, offensively, we’re a much better club than we were last year. Right now, guys are trying to find their groove a little bit.
“I think it will come and I think it will come fast.”
The offense didn’t manage a run until the bottom of the eighth, when Smith trimmed the Texas lead to 2-1 with a sacrifice fly. Later in the inning, Cruz came to the plate with Robinson Cano on first. He had singles in his first three at-bats. But his fourth ended when he hit a towering flyout to left field off Texas reliever Tanner Scheppers to end the inning.
“It was the pitch I was looking for,” Cruz lamented.
That ended his streak of five consecutive games with a home run, second-longest in club history.
So the Mariners are off to a poor start after being the trendy pick to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
“Like I told the guys the other day, and this is real important,” McClendon said pre-game. “Everybody’s giving the American League title and the pennant to the Seattle Mariners. We’re going to hoist the trophy, we’re going to the World Series, we’re going to win it. All that’s great.
“But in-between, there’s a lot of blood, sweat, tears, some heartaches, some adversity that you’ve got to go through, and you’ve got to be built for it. And you’ve got to handle it. And if you’re lucky, in the end you’ll be able to hoist that trophy.”
Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen (hyperextended right elbow) has yet to start playing catch but will likely resume throwing later this week or next week. . . SS Chris Taylor (15-day disabled list) is progressing well in Triple-A Tacoma after fracturing his right wrist during spring training. He entered Friday 5-for-19 in five games with the Rainiers . . . McClendon said he has “full confidence” that Rodney will bounce back after two poor outings — a blown save Tuesday against the Dodgers and a four-run ninth against the A’s Sunday — during Seattle’s 2-4 road trip.