Mariner Monday: Is This a Speed Bump or Are the Wheels Falling Off?

Remember when the Mariners were good?

No, not all the way back in 2001. I mean at the start of the 2022 season when they were 10-6 and had one of the best statistical offenses in the league.

Well, we are far past that now. Seattle just finished a week in which it went 1-6 and didn’t notch its first win until Sunday, exactly one week after its last win. That win was exciting, coming in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the 10th, but the rest of the week was pretty abysmal.

Let’s start with the good, though. The best moment of the week also came in the lone win on Sunday. George Kirby, the Mariners’ top pitching prospect and the 11th-best prospect in the sport according to Baseball America, made his debut in that game against the Rays. He pitched six shutout innings with seven strikeouts and no walks while allowing just four hits.

Kirby was brought up to make the start because fellow prospect Matt Brash was sent down to triple-A. The circumstances are unfortunate but the results are immaculate. Kirby was known to have great stuff but it wasn’t clear how well it would translate to the big leagues right away. Great pitching prospects can struggle at times to adjust to a level of hitting they have never faced before. Kirby seemed very up to the task. He looks like the future top-of-the-rotation arm that he was expected to be, which is good because the Mariners need all the help they can get right now.

If you are looking for bright spots in Seattle’s week then you could look at the fact that they ended it much better than it started. That is mainly because it took them until Wednesday to score any runs. The Mariners did not score for the first 24 innings of the week until Eugenio Suarez hit a two-run homer run in the third game against the Astros.

Suarez had a very hit-or-miss week for Seattle, and I mean that literally. He either hit the ball well (four hits, three of which were home runs) or missed it (10 strikeouts on the week) in his 24 at-bats. He did drive in six runs with those dingers, which accounted for nearly half of all of Seattle’s scoring this week.

The other accomplishments on offense this week were very minimal. Ty France continued his great stretch of play, albeit with a less productive week (eight hits, one RBI, .276 average). Julio Rodriguez kept his good momentum going. He hit .240 on the week, including the first triple of his career, and has even moved up the batting order on occasion. Adam Frazier and Jesse Winker hit their first home runs of the season and had six and five hits, respectively.

It was a very good sign for Winker to finally see the ball leave the yard. He has been struggling so far this season to the tune of a .196 batting average. He is still walking at a very good pace and refusing to strikeout, both of which are very good things, but just hasn’t gotten the offensive production he is known for. Some of that can be attributed to bad luck but hopefully hitting his first home run will get Winker out of whatever funk he was in and lead to him producing much more on offense because the team definitely needs it.

Seattle’s pitching also took a step back this week, which when combined with the lack of offensive production leads to a very bad week (like 1-6 bad). Other than Kirby, none of the starts pitched very well this week.

Logan Gilbert had his worst outing of the season. Granted he still went five innings and struck out six batters while allowing three earned runs. It did bring his ERA up to 1.36 on the season, which is still good enough to be near the top amongst starters. There are a lot of pitchers out there that would kill to have an outing like Gilbert had, so if that is his worst outing of the season so far he is definitely doing something right.

Chirs Flexen had another solid outing with very few runs allowed (one earned run) but still took the loss because the Mariners refused to score on offense. And Robbie Ray gave his usual performance where he ate up innings (six and two-thirds) while allowing a couple of runs (four earned runs) and striking out a decent amount (five punchouts).

The bullpen featured great stuff from Penn Murfee (four-and-two-thirds scoreless innings with seven strikeouts) and Erik Swanson, who has become the latest breakout reliever for Seattle. Paul Sewald also had a decent week. He did blow a save by allowing a three-run home run to Manuel Margot on Friday but the other two innings he pitched last week were scoreless.

It is not time to panic. Yet. This certainly was a frustrating week for the Mariners but it does not mean that the season is over already. If this sort of play continues, especially on offense, then it will be cause for concern. But enough players are either playing well or trending up that there is still hope that the team can turn it around. If I am talking about some of the same issues next week or the week after that, then I may start to get concerned, especially with the Angels and Astros both playing very good ball right now. There is still a lot of baseball left to play, let’s just hope the Mariners start playing it better.