Mariners savor big win in 'up and down' season

May 31, 2012

The Mariners 21-8 victory over the Rangers this week is something to be celebrated. But KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says it's also an example of the extremes the team has experienced this season.

Seesaw season

Art says Wednesday night's game was one of the most extraordinary in team history. The Mariners posted the most runs in a single game in the majors this season. ESPN reports they scored the second-most runs in club history, equaling a 21-9 victory against the Angels on Sept. 30, 2000.The M's scored 22 runs in a game in 1999.

So, why can't the Mariners always hit this well? Art says 2012 has been a season of huge ups and downs.

"This has been a very streaky team. And manager Eric Wedge has said they would be, because seven of their starters, typically, are under 25. They're new to the bigs. They get high highs, low lows. The Mariners have had seven-game winning streaks, seven-game losing streaks. And then they explode for unknown reasons on quality pitching against, basically, the best team in the American League."

Smokin' Smoak

Mariner first baseman Justin Smoak hit two three-run home runs in Wednesday night's wallop. Art says the young hitters have been impressive.

"His is the hottest bat of the young guys that is developing now. And (manager) Wedge has said all season long - and it's been met with considerable skepticism - that this team has quality potential as an offensive team."

But Art says the older players getting in the way.

"Miguel Olivo, Brendan Ryan, Ichiro - all of the plus-30 crowd - aren't keeping up."

Struggles at Safeco

Art says the team is really struggling at home this year.  Collectively, the team is batting .193 in 22 games at Safeco Field.

"This is just another jaw-dropper. If an individual player is batting .193 a team typically cuts him (except if you're a Mariner). So, to have an entire team averaging .193 is beyond absurd and if it prevails for the rest of the season would be the worst in the history of the Major League."

On the road, the team's batting average bumps up to .259.  Art says that may lead to some changes at Safeco.

"I think finally the ownership is getting the hint that this is a park that's so skewed toward pitching and defense that it's hurting their own hitters. A 70-point differential between batting average at home and road is absurd. And I think there is going to be serious consideration given in the off-season to bringing in the fences a little bit to make the ballpark more balanced. Because there's a real issue with the cool air that's heavier and the fences here that are more distant than average. I think the Mariner ownership has to decide to make this a more fair ballpark because if they can score 21 runs and suffer a perfect game within a month, it just can't be written off to randomness. There's something going on."

Talk about a throwback!

Art says this week's big win coupled with a big loss earlier in the season have made Major League history.

"The Mariners scored more than 20 runs in the same season in which they were victimized by a perfect game from a very ordinary pitcher in Chicago. Philip Humber allowed no runs, hits or any base runners for 27 outs. And that same team gets 21 runs against Texas. That particular set of circumstances has not happened in baseball since 1880."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.