Here’s a quick stat snapshot to explain why the Mariners, after entering the season amid high expectations, are barely clinging to the fringe of postseason contention.
The bullpen.The Mariners have nine losses when leading after seven innings — two more than any other American League club. (The league average is 4.7).
Further, the Mariners’ winning percentage of .870 (60-9) when leading after seven innings is the worst among AL clubs. Oakland is the second-worst at .885. The league average is .927.
We point that out to point this out:
The Mariners’ bullpen, through Friday, had not permitted a run over its previous 21 1/3 innings. It worked 4 2/3 scoreless innings in Friday’s 3-1 victory over Texas and led the majors with a 1.33 ERA in September.
And, no surprise, the Mariners are 11-5 this month.
“I think we are where we are, and trending in the way we’re trending, because of the bullpen,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “The back end of our bullpen has been outstanding. They’ve pretty much shut things down.”
Then came Saturday: The bullpen gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings after replacing an ineffective Vidal Nuno. The result was a 10-1 loss to the Rangers.
McClendon renewed his call for tighter roster limits for September. Current rules permit clubs to expand their rosters from 25 players to as many as 40 on the first of the month.
“I don’t like it,” he said. “You play five months with a 25-man roster, and then, for 30 days, some teams are playing with a 40-man roster. Teams that are in (postseason contention), they may have a few call-ups but not many.”
McClendon advocates allowing clubs to call up as many players, up to the 40-man limit, as desired but only allowing “four or five” to be active for any particular game.
The National Football League, for example, allows clubs to carry 53 players on their roster but only 46 are permitted to suit up to participate in a game. Seven players are designated each game as ineligible.
McClendon contends a similar rule in baseball would make for a more appealing game by effectively limiting the number of pitching changes.
“I don’t think it’s fair to the fans,” he said, “to sit there and watch that kind of debacle. Pitcher after pitcher after pitcher coming in the game. If I’m sitting in the stands, I wouldn’t want to watch that.”
The Mariners used seven relievers in Saturday’s loss to the Rangers. Here’s guessing McClendon didn’t like watching that.
Logan Morrison is 11 for 28 (.398) in his career against Texas starter Cole Hamels, including 3 for 7 with two doubles this season in three previous games.
So why wasn’t Morrison in the lineup Saturday against Hamels?
“Cole Hamels kind of handled him the last time out,” McClendon said, “and Logan’s not swinging the bat extremely well right now. So we’ll give him a breather against the left-hander.”
Hamels was 1 for 3 with a double against on Sept. 8 at Safeco Field, but he is 2 for 13 in nine games, most as a defensive replacement, since the Mariners last saw Hamels.
It was 15 years ago — Sept. 20, 2000 — that rookie closer Kazuhiro Sasaki set a Seattle club record for saves when he got his 34th in a 5-4 victory at Tampa Bay.
Sasaki stranded two runners by retiring Gerald Williams on a foul pop to third baseman David Bell. Sasaki went on to finish with 37 saves and he was selected the American League rookie of the year.
Sasaki broke his own franchise record a year later when he posted 45 saves. That record stood until last season, when Fernando Rodney had 48.
Saturday’s loss snapped the Mariners’ road winning streak at six games. They have not won seven straight away from home since a 13-game run in 2003. … Robinson Cano went 1 for 3 and now needs five hits in the Mariners’ final 13 games to reach 2,000 for his career and become the 14th player to do so through the first 11 seasons of his career. …Nelson Cruz played eight years for Texas from 2006-13, but now torments his former club. He is batting .417 (24 for 59) this season against the Rangers with six homers and 12 RBIs in 15 games. … Kyle Seager’s career .345 average (57 for 165) at Globe Life Park is the highest among all active players with at least 150 at-bats.
The Mariners and Rangers conclude their three game series at 12:05 p.m. (PDT) Sunday at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.
Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez (17-9, 3.55 ERA) will try to take sole possession of the American League lead in victories when he faces Texas lefty Derek Holland (3-2, 3.77).
The game can be seen on Roots Sports Northwest and heard on 770 (KTTH-AM).
The Mariners have an open date Monday before continuing their final road trip with three-game series at Kansas City and Anaheim, California.
Records (through Friday) when leading after seven innings:
1. New York (67-2): .971
2. Kansas City (66-3): .957
3. Cleveland (62-3): .954
4. Los Angeles (59-3): .952
5. Baltimore (56-3): .949
6. Houston (61-4): .938
7. Minnesota (60-4): .938
8. Detroit (53-4): .930
9. Chicago (52-4): .929
10. Toronto (72-6): .923
11. Boston (57-5): .919
12. Tampa Bay (59-7): .894
13. Texas (59-7): .894
14. Oakland (54-7): .885
15. Mariners (60-9): .870