Mariners can pitch, can't hit

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:44 AM ET

TORONTO - The Seattle Mariners are about as easy an outfit to figure out as there is in baseball.

They have some of the best pitching in the American League. They also have the absolute worst offence in the American League.

When Seattle pitches well, which is more often than not, they have to rely on their wretched offence to get them over the finish line in front. More often than not, itís not enough.

Seattleís offence is epically inept. Not only are the Mariners dead last in just about every meaningful offensive category, they are last by a great deal.

Through Saturdayís games, they had scored 390 runs to trail the next-worst team, the Minnesota Twins, by 69 runs. Their team OPS (on-base, plus slugging) is at .628 and thatís 49 points worse than the next worst team, again the Twins.

On the other side of the ledger, the Marinersí pitching staff is among the leagueís best. Entering paly Sunday, they stood fourth-best in ERA, third in batting average against (.244), second in runs allowed (455), third in walks allowed and third in quality starts.

For much of this season, the Mariners were able to stay in touch with the American League West division-leading Texas Rangers. As recently as July 6, the Mariners began the day a .500 ball club (43-43) just 2.5 games behind the Rangers. Then their world collapsed. They would lose 17 consecutive games before coming out of that tailspin on July 27 with a win over the Yankees. Since then, they have played nearly .500 baseball again but hope for their season is gone.

In the midst of the Mariner collapse, rookie Dustin Ackley has emerged as a potential cornerstone for the future. Just 47 games into his big-league career, the 23-year-old second baseman was hitting .297, with an OPS of .877 and is hitting third in the batting order, a spot typically reserved for a teamís best hitter.

Young players such as Ackley, Justin Smoak and hot-hitting Mike Carp are expected to lead the Marinersí offence back to respectability. But it will take time.

Right now, starting shortstop Brendan Ryan is on the disabled list with a bruised shoulder after colliding with third baseman Adam Kennedy last week. On Friday, first baseman/DH Smoak was hit in the face by a bad-hop grounder in the second inning against Boston. He has been placed on the disabled list with a broken nose and a hairline fracture of the maxilla bone in his left cheek. Smoak had just returned from a stint on the sidelines with a thumb injury.

It appears that 37-year-old Ichiro Suzukiís remarkable string of consecutive 200-hit seasons will end at 10. After 118 games, Suzuki was sitting at 131 hits and would need to average almost two hits a game the rest of the way to make it 11 straight. He also is on pace to hit below .300 for the first time in his career.


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