The 2012 Seattle Mariners are good. They’re actually pretty good.
They beat one of the best teams in baseball, the Texas Rangers, 10-3 then turned around and pummeled them 21-8 the next night. They fought hard and took a series from the red-hot Los Angeles Angels, including two 8-6 victories. As a team, on their last road trip, they batted .281 with 14 home runs and 60 RBI in just nine games.
The problem is the Mariners are only good on the road.
When the M’s come home to Safeco Field, Seattle fans see a different team. They see the Home Mariners, a fledgling group of guys who can’t even hit .200. They see players who can’t string together enough hits to bring runners home, and when the M’s do get a rally going, it’s usually with two outs. They see supposed power-hitters who can’t swat a ball past the warning track. They see great pitching squandered by poor batting.
For the past five games, fans have watched the Home Mariners play boring baseball, offensively at least. Really, there’s ba y been any contest. The M’s have lost four of their five games this homestand — two to the best team in baseball, two to the worst. And the only way they were able to win last Friday’s game against the L.A. Dodgers was with a historic pitching performance: That six-pitcher no-hitter was just the 10th combined no-hitter in the modern era of professional baseball.
But when the team leaves Seattle, when they leave Safeco Field and the fans and the hometown press, they become the Road Mariners.
The Road Mariners are batting .257 this season, with four guys around .300. They have twice the runs and RBIs of the Home Mariners. They have twice the doubles of the Home Mariners. They have twice the total bases of the Home Mariners. They have twice the stolen bases of the Home Mariners. And they have three times the home runs of the Home Mariners.
Granted, the Road Mariners have played 10 more games than the Home Mariners. But the difference is obvious; it’s a glaring discrepancy. The 2012 Seattle Mariners are good on the road, but they stink at home.
“Offensively, we’ve just gotta figure this out here at home. It’s no secret,” manager Eric Wedge said after Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to the San Diego Padres. “We’ve shown what we’re capable of doing on the road. And we’ve just gotta work to help these guys get over the hump here at home, to where we can go out there and be the offensive team that we’ve shown to be very capable of being.”
After the series in Texas, when the Mariners outscored the Rangers 33-15 over three games at the end of May, it looked like the up-and-down M’s had finally turned a corner. It was apparent that those games boosted their confidence. They returned home with a 5-4 record on the road trip, winning two series against A.L. West foes.
Seattle fans got some excitement Friday with that “no-no-no-no-no-no-hitter,” but at the same time the Mariners didn’t add much offensively. Once again, they had trouble with runners in scoring position — the M’s recorded eight hits, but only got one run when Kyle Seager drove in Ichiro Suzuki from second on a two-out single.
The offensive drought continued: four hits for three runs on Saturday, five hits for two runs on Sunday, and while a late-game rally pushed the M’s up to 12 hits on Tuesday, they still lost 5-4. On Wednesday, the Mariners had several big chances to tie the Padres or take the lead, but went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and lost 1-0 despite getting eight hits.
The past two games must have been particularly frustrating for Justin Smoak, who hit two long fly balls Tuesday and another Wednesday that, in just about any other stadium, would have easily been homers. The Road Mariners have been hitting lots of dingers, but the Home Mariners still haven’t figured out the big dimensions of Safeco Field.
And while it would be easy to blame the stadium — or, like 710 ESPN Seattle’s radio hosts Brock Huard and Mike Salk, advocate for the Mariners to move in the outfield walls next season — that’s a bit of a cop-out. Sure, Seattle would get more home runs with a smaller outfield, but singles and doubles wouldn’t be much easier to come by.
So why can’t the Home Mariners play like the Road Mariners?
“You know, we’ll get it. They’re good hitters. I think they’re trying to do a little bit too much here at home,” Wedge said Wednesday. “Regardless of where you’re playing, or what the temperature is, or home or away, or what the score is, you’ve still gotta go up there and put up the type of ABs (at-bats) and do the things situationally that put you in a better position to score runs.
“These guys don’t make any excuses, they’re very accountable for what they do. And they’re very aware of what happens. That’s half the battle. So now it’s just about myself and all the coaches helping these guys get over the hump here at home offensively.
“You can’t play it this close. You can’t be perfect or have to try to be perfect — you know, one-nothing ballgames or one-run ballgames — all the time. You gotta be able to go out there and do what we’ve done on the road, be able to score 10 runs every now and again, break it open and be able to breathe a little bit.
“You know, there’s a lot more going on at home than on the road, a lot of the things these young men are going to have to handle better, whether it be distractions or press or just everything that goes along with being at home. It’s just part of it. It’s part of being a pro. And these guys are good with that. So, I really do believe that when it’s all said and done, and these guys settle in, we’re going to be very consistent here at home as well.”
Well, we’re more than one-third through the season. The M’s have played 27 games at Safeco Field, and 37 on the road. How long will it take for the Home Mariners to settle in?
Fans have heard all along that 2012 would be another rebuilding year for the Mariners — hopefully their last one. Five of the regular starters are 25 or younger, and just eight guys on the roster are 30 or older. The young M’s don’t have much in the way of veteran leadership: Brendan Ryan, 30, is hitting .157; Miguel Olivo, 33, just returned from the disabled list; Chone Figgins, 34, is having his own problems; Kevin Millwood, 37, is a quiet pitcher on his last legs; and the oldest guy at 38, Ichiro, is … well, Ichiro is Ichiro.
Wedge, who recently gave reporters a lecture on how he knows better than anyone how to rebuild a team, is saying fans have to be patient. The young pros are learning to be pros. And, Wedge says, they’re well on their way.
“I like where our guys are fundamentally, really, for the most part. I really do. They’ve worked hard to get there and we’ve seen it pay off for them,” he said. “But you just gotta really slow it down and take it at-bat by at-bat. Keep your mind in the moment, just focus on what’s in front of you, and don’t get caught up in the ninth inning, or the end result in the first or second inning. You can’t do that. You gotta just really focus on what you’re doing and go up there and put up good ABs.
“I still feel like we’re having pretty good ABs. Tonight was somewhat typical, last night as well. What’d we have, 12 hits last night, eight or nine hits tonight? You know, you need to score more than a couple runs. Getting the hits, getting on base, that’s a big part of it.
“We’ve been here before, you know. And they got over it. So we just need to do it again.”
Mariners rout Rangers 21-8
All stats current as of June 1, 2012.
Seattle’s 21 runs on May 30 were just one away from tying the club’s single-game record. On April 29, 1999, the Mariners beat the Detroit Tigers 22-6 at the Kingdome. The 21-8 win over Texas tied for the team’s second-biggest game; the M’s beat the Angels 21-9 on Sept. 30, 2000, at Anaheim. (Rick Yeatts / Getty Images)
Twenty-one was the most runs scored by any MLB team this season, and the most since the New York Yankees beat the Oakland Athletics 22-9 on Aug. 25, 2011. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
The 2012 Mariners are just the second team in baseball history to, in the same season, be the victim of a perfect game and to score 20-plus runs in a game. And they are the first team to pull it off in the modern era. The 1880 Cleveland team was the last club to do so. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
It was just the 27th time the Mariners had 20 or more hits in a game, and the first since beating Texas 12-6 on Sept. 1, 2008, in Arlington. That ballpark is good to the Mariners, it seems. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
It was the first time in club history that the Mariners scored eight runs in consecutive innings — the seventh time in MLB history and just the fourth in the modern era. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
For the club, those 16 runs were the second-most scored in consecutive innings. On April 29, 1999, the M’s scored 11 in the fifth and 6 in the sixth on their way to that 22-6 win over Detroit. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
The Mariners’ 11 extra-base hits tied for the second most in club history for one game. The club record is 12, set on May 11, 1996, when the Mariners had eight doubles and four home runs en route to an 11-1 win over the Kansas City Royals. On Wednesday, the M’s hit seven doubles and four homers. (Rick Yeatts / Getty Images)
Though he got the win, starting pitcher Blake Beavan gave up five runs on eight hits. It was the most hits he’s given up in a game this year, and the outing tied for the most runs he’s given up in a game this season. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
The Mariners had scored 21 runs in the previous six games. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
It was the first game of the season that Ichiro Suzuki had off. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
The M’s lineup batted around in both the second and third innings — the first time in club history that the Mariners had batted around in consecutive innings. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
Jesus Montero was just a triple short of hitting the cycle. Of course, Montero runs so slowly, he’s not likely to get a triple anytime soon. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
Each starter had at least one hit and at least one run. Only Mike Carp, who pinch hit for Alex Liddi in the top of the eighth, put a zero up in the box score. He hit a fly ball deep to right field to end the inning — in which the M’s had already scored four more. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
Justin Smoak had his first career multiple-homer game and recorded a career-high 6 RBI. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
Relief pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, despite entering the game with a 17-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh, recorded a save thanks to a statistical oddity. A pitcher can earn a save if he pitches at least three innings and finishes the game. He tied the club record for a save with the biggest margin of victory; Bill Swift got the save in Seattle’s 15-2 win over Detroit on June 15, 1991. (Rick Yeatts / Getty Images)