Eric Wedge is tired of talking about approach, swing mechanics, confidence and all of the things that go into hitting a baseball well. Since taking over as manager of one of the most offensively challenged teams in baseball before the 2011 season, Wedge has heard unending debate and analysis about his team’s hitting.
So, after watching his team waste another solid outing by Felix Hernandez in a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, Wedge was moved past the point of discussion.
“I’m tired of even talking about it,” he said. “You’ve got to hit. We can break it down 10 times and then break it down 10 times again. We’ve been doing that here for 2ß years. And it hasn’t gotten any better.
“We’ve got to hit.”
The Mariners, who came into the game last in the American League in runs per game (3.6) and batting average (.236), mustered eight hits. But none of them came in the five at-bats with runners in scoring position while the Mariners stranded 10 runners on base.
Wedge has seen hitting performances like that too many times during his 2ß-season tenure.
“You are not going to win games unless you hit,” Wedge said. “They
got the two-out hit, we didn’t. Game over. That’s the difference.”
The Pirates’ two-out hit came in the top of the ninth inning of a 2-2 game.
Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez led off with a hard single to right off reliever Charlie Furbush. Neil Walker bunted Alvarez into scoring position. Wedge then called on right-hander Yoervis Medina to finish the inning. Medina got Gaby Sanchez to ground out to third for the second out. With first base open, Medina then intentionally walked left-handed hitting Travis Snider.
But the move backfired when No. 9 hitter Jordy Mercer singled sharply up the middle to drive in Alvarez. The Pirates added a run when Medina uncorked a wild pitch on a swinging third strike to Starling Marte that allowed Snider to score.
“I’ve been on the other side of that stick,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Sometimes, you get the matchups you want, and you don’t get the results you want.”
Down 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth, the Mariners’ victory hopes seemed slim. But they managed to put the tying run on base against reliever Mark Melancon. Pinch-hitter Mike Zunino delivered a one-out single and Nick Franklin later singled with two outs.
That brought up Kyle Seager, one of the Mariners’ better hitters, representing the winning run. Seager swung at the first pitch from Melancon and grounded out to first to end the game.
The Mariners also missed out on a prime scoring opportunity in the eighth inning against reliever Vin Mazzaro, getting runners on first and second with one out. Justin Smoak struck out and Michael Saunders flew out to left field to kill the rally.
Seattle’s two runs came from a sacrifice fly from Saunders in the fourth inning and a solo homer from Raul Ibañez in sixth inning off left-hander Justin Wilson.
While Wedge is clearly irritated with most of his players’ inability to manufacture runs, he has no such anger toward Ibañez, who leads the team in homers (18) and RBI (43).
“Raul has been fantastic,” Wedge said. “He’s a shining example what you want a big leaguer to be. But we got other guys that need to be doing better, both young and old.”
Hernandez was better on Wednesday. After an awful start in Anaheim, Calif., where he gave up seven runs on 12 hits in five innings against the Angels, the Mariners’ ace looked more like himself.
He threw seven innings, giving up two runs on six hits with 11 strikeouts and two walks.
“I had pretty good command with (the) fastball and my breaking ball was much better,” Hernandez said.
The two runs came on one swing of the bat. Hernandez made a mistake to Neil Walker, who ripped a two-run homer to right.
“I was behind in the count and tried to throw a sinker and (it) didn’t sink,” Hernandez said.
And with his team unable to put up any offense, Hernandez took a no decision.
So what can the Mariners do to fix this issue of meager hitting that has dogged them the last five seasons?
It’s not a matter of working harder.
“I’ve never had any issues with working or their effort. It’s always been there,” Wedge said. “They bring it every day. That’s not it. (It’s) about getting it and getting over the top. That’s where our issue is.”
Ibañez had no easy solution to it.
“We have to keep grinding and keep fighting,” he said. “It’s a mentality. If you win small battles on a daily basis from pitch to pitch and at-bat to at-bat then good things will happen for the team.”
But Wedge is losing patience.
“You can’t come to the ballpark and try to win games like this every single day,” Wedge said. “It’s just too damn hard.”