Wanted: Better at-bats up and down lineup
The way Lloyd McClendon sees it, the solution is pretty simple. His Mariners seem to have squared away their early pitching problems. Now they just need to get the expected offensive production to support those arms.
The Mariners averaged 3.57 runs in their first 23 games, down from their 2014 full-season average of 3.91. After Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Astros, their batting average registered at .236, down from last year’s .244. The on-base percentage has slipped from .300 to .291.
Given new addition Nelson Cruz (pictured) has hit .330 and led the American League in home runs and RBIs in his first month, those are disappointing results. Through Friday’s games, the Mariners ranked 13 among the AL’s 15 teams in scoring and batting average and 14th in on-base percentage. They are tied for fifth in home runs and eighth in slugging percentage, but those numbers haven’t translated to increased run production.
“It’s real simple,” McClendon said prior to Saturday’s game with the Astros. “Just like I said with the pitching. If you pitch and play defense, you’ve got a chance to win. But you’ve got to score. You have to outscore the other team. And we’ve had bad at-bats. I’m not going to sugarcoat things. When we’re bad at the plate, we’re bad and I’m going to point it out and I don’t care who doesn’t like it.
“I saw somebody in the paper said I’m frustrated,” said McClendon. “I’m not frustrated, I’m just speaking facts. We’re bad. We’ve got to get better. We’ve got professional hitters in that locker room and they’ve got to give me better at bats and it’s just that simple.”
And what if that doesn’t happen?
“Then I’ll be at the track betting on the Kentucky Derby,” he said with a chuckle.
McClendon made one lineup change Saturday, inserting right-handed hitting Rickie Weeks in left field in place of Dustin Ackley even against Astros right-hander Collin McHugh. McClendon’s decision was based on Ackley’s 0-for-13 career performance against McHugh, with six strikeouts.
But with Ackley hitting just .190, he said it’s likely that he could opt for either right-handers Weeks or Justin Ruggiano more against future right-handers as well.
Clearly the Mariners need to get production from more than just Cruz. Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager didn’t have big first months and many of the Mariners seem to be pressing too hard early to provide the needed support. McClendon said that has been evident in the number of hitters chasing bad pitches.
“Anytime you go outside the strike zone, it’s one of two things,” he said. “Either you’re not seeing the ball or you’re trying to do too much. And I think right now, we’re trying to do too much. When you’re talking about driving in runs, it’s a real simple process. You have to get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it. We’re doing neither. We’re not getting a good pitch to hit and we’re not putting good swings on bad pitches. And that’s going to equate to not scoring runs.”
• McClendon said reliever Tom Wilhelmsen came out of Friday’s bullpen session without any problems and will throw another on Sunday before the club determines whether he’s ready to go out on a Minor League rehab. Wilhelmsen has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 11 with a hyperextended elbow.
• Logan Morrison hit his first triple in 121 games with the Mariners on Friday, but he had 16 three-baggers in 363 games with the Marlins, including seven in just 62 games in 2010 when he was called up midseason as a rookie.
“That’s when I was a little younger and lighter and before knee surgeries,” said the 27-year-old first baseman. “But I can still run a little.”