A bullpen that continues to hemorrhage runs isn’t the only reason the Seattle Mariners are quickly fading into irrelevancy as the calendar pushes toward September.
But it’s a good place to start.
The Mariners, through Monday, had the American League’s worst bullpen ERA since the All-Star break — an appalling 5.85. Their season-long mark was up to 4.47 and closing in on Oakland (4.51) and Detroit (4.48) as the AL’s worst unit.
And it’s getting worse — until Tuesday, when it worked 7 2/3 scoreless innings in a 6-5 victory over Oakland.
Tuesday’s effort, while welcome, was uncharacteristic. Prior to Tueday, the Mariners’ relief corps allowed 44 runs in 37 2/3 innings in 10 games since Hisashi Iwakuma pitched a no-hitter against Baltimore.
And there doesn’t appear to be any help on the horizon.
The Mariners made 10 roster moves involving eight relievers since Iwakuma’s gem. Those moves mostly involved shuttling pitchers between Triple-A Tacoma and the big leagues.
It hasn’t helped.
So what happened? The Mariners’ bullpen, a year ago, led the majors with a franchise-record 2.59 ERA.
Manager Lloyd McClendon points to injuries and Fernando Rodney’s inability to replicate his 2014 form, when he was an All-Star while leading the majors with 48 saves.
“I think you’ve seen the effects of what happens when you lose your closer,” McClendon said. “It can be very devastating to a ballclub. Rodney didn’t perform.
“All of a sudden, everybody has to step up. Quite frankly, people were stepping up into positions that they’re not quite ready for.”
Rodney lost his closer’s job in early June and had a 5.68 ERA when the Mariners designated him for assignment after last Saturday’s bullpen giveaway in a 6-3 loss to the White Sox in 10 innings.
Ironically, Rodney didn’t pitch in that game.
“We’ve got a lot of injuries in our bullpen,” McClendon said. “We know that. And we’ve got some young kids down there who are overexposed a little bit. They’re doing the best they can do.
“Unfortunately, we have to put them in some tough situations, and they just haven’t pitched very well to this point.”
Lefty specialist Charlie Furbush is likely out for the rest of the season after being diagnosed with a tear in his rotator cuff that initially went undiagnosed.
Furbush had a 2.08 ERA when he reported soreness after a July 7 outing. He was placed on the disabled list for what the Mariners characterized as biceps tendinitis.
When Furbush was slow to heal, he underwent a second examination by Dr. Edward Khalfayan, the club’s medical director, that revealed the torn rotator cuff.
Khalfayan’s findings are undergoing a second-opinion evaluation by Dr. David Altchek, a New York specialist. Furbush should begin a treatment-and-recovery program within a few days.
Veteran Joe Beimel initially filled Furbush’s role and had a 2.50 ERA before overuse took its toll. Beimel gave up 12 runs in 1 2/3 innings over five outings and wound up on the DL because of shoulder inflammation.
Some good news: Beimel has resumed throwing and still projects to rejoin the bullpen on Sept. 4 at the conclusion of a minimum 15-day stay on the DL.
The Mariners also figure to get some additional arms next week; rules permit rosters to expand from 25 to 40 players on Sept. 1.
More doesn’t necessarily mean better, though. The likeliest promotion candidates are familiar names: Danny Farquhar, Mayckol Guaipe, Lucas Luetge and Jose Ramirez.
Right fielder Nelson Cruz hit a homer in the fouurth inning that extended his career-best streak of reaching base successfully to 35 straight games. It was the longest streak in club history since Ichiro Suzuki’s 43-game run in 2009.
Cruz’s streak dates to July 18. He is batting .347 (50 for 144) in the streak with 30 runs, 17 homers and 26 RBIs.
Rookie shortstop Ketel Marte went 3-for-5 and now has a 12-game streak of reaching base at least once. He is batting .400 (18 for 45) in his run, which began Aug. 12
The seven runs that Hisashi Iwakuma allowed Monday in the fifth inning of an 11-5 loss to Oakland were the most he had ever allowed in an inning.
Not only that, but the seven runs matched the most Iwakuma has ever given up in an entire game. He also gave up seven on Sept. 15, 2014 in an 8-1 loss to the Angels in Anaheim, California.
It was 11 years ago — Aug. 26, 2004 — that Ichiro Suzuki became the first player to get 200 hits in each of his first four seasons.
Suzuki reached the milestone with a leadoff homer in the ninth inning against Jeremy Affeldt in a 7-3 loss to Kansas City at Safeco Field after going hitless in four previous at-bats.
Suzuki had at least 200 hits in each of his first 10 seasons. He finished 2004 with 262 hits, which remains a major league record, while batting a career-high .372.
Now in his 15th season, and playing for Miami, Suzuki, 41, has 2,923 career hits. He had 1,278 hits while playing nine seasons for Orix in Japan’s Pacific League before signing with the Mariners prior to the 2001 season.
The 7 2/3 scoreless innings from the bullpen was the Mariners’ longest scoreless relief effort since going 8 1/3 innings on Sept. 17, 2009 against the Chicago White Sox...First baseman Logan Morrison turned 28 on Tuesday. He hit a homer in four at-bats and is 7 for 16 in his career on his borthday … Outfielder Austin Jackson has with eight multihit games since Aug. 11. … Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez has 17 RBIs in his last 14 games. … First baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo has five homers in his last 13 games dating to Aug. 7.
The Mariners and Athletics conclude their three-game series at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (14-8, 3.74 ERA) seeks to break a personal two-game skid when he faces Oakland right-hander Chris Bassitt (1-5, 2.48). The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710-AM.
The Mariners open a three-city, 10-game trip Thursday with the first of four games against the White Sox in Chicago. The trip also includes three games at Houston and three at Oakland.
American League bullpen ERAs since the All-Star break
New York 2.70
Kansas City 2.72
Tampa Bay 3.46
Los Angeles 3.96