The next step, reliever Danny Farquhar believes, is to try thinking less.
“A little more free and easy, I think, is my next approach,” he said. “Just kind of let it go. Don’t worry about anything.”
That’s one of baseball’s oldest axioms: “Stop thinking. You’re hurting the ballclub.” But Farquhar’s ongoing struggles are a growing concern for the Seattle Mariners.
His past two outings have been the lowest of low-leverage situations: A five-run lead Saturday against Oakland, and a seven-run lead Tuesday against San Diego.
Each time, Farquhar created a mess that required other relievers to intervene to prevent a safe lead from slipping away.
“I’m a little concerned about it,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “and we’ve got to get it straightened out. He’s such an important piece for us because he’s so versatile. He can pitch in a lot of different situations.
“Something’s not right there.”
Farquhar, 28, was a reliable member of last year’s bullpen — the de facto backup closer to Fernando Rodney — while compiling a 2.66 ERA in 66 appearances. Only five times did he permit more than one run to score.
This year, he has a 5.63 ERA in 15 outings and has already matched last season in permitting multiple runs five times.
“I just think he’s trying to be too good with everything,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “He doesn’t need to put the cutter on the black every time. I think if he trusts it over the outer third (of the plate), he’ll be good.”
The Mariners have already shown a willingness to demote struggling relievers; Yoervis Medina and Dominic Leone, who also performed well a year ago, are currently toiling with Triple-A Tacoma.
Left-hander Tyler Olson was also sent to the Rainiers before a knee injury surfaced that forced the Mariners to rescind the option and place him on the disabled list.
Medina is eligible Thursday for a recall, but it would be a stretch to say he has fixed his command issues after working just three innings for Tacoma over two appearances.
Nor is there anyone else in the Rainiers’ bullpen currently making a serious push for promotion. Lefty Lucas Luetge gave up a three-run homer Tuesday in a 4-3 loss to Salt Lake.
So Farquhar is likely to get a while longer to straighten himself out at the big league level. The key, he believes, is re-establishing his cut fastball as a reliable weapon.
“The last couple of years,” he said, “I could locate my cutter in and out, up and down. Do whatever I want with it. Right now, it’s not pinpoint. I think that’s definitely the starting point.
“That’s my bread-and-butter pitch. I think everything works off of that. Once I get that going, I think I’ll be rolling.”
Is Zunino finally emerging from an extended (career-long?) slump? He had three hits in Tuesday’s 11-4 victory over San Diego, including a pair of home runs.
That marked Zunino’s first three-hit game since July 27 in Baltimore and only the fourth of his 213-game career. Both homers came on two-strike pitches when he shortened his swing to try to hit a single up the middle.
“I was able to get two pitches I could handle,” Zunino said. “On the single, I was able to get another breaking ball I could handle. It’s been a work in progress.”
It remains a work in progress, but recent signs are encouraging.
Zunino is 10 for 34 in his past nine games with three multiple-hit games. His average is up 66 points in that span although, at .185, still 15 points shy of the “Mendoza Line” — an expression for a .200 average named for former shortstop Mario Mendoza.
“We know he’s not a polished .300 hitter,” McClendon said, “but he’s not a .150 hitter, either. I think he has tremendous potential. He needs to learn on a daily basis.
“It was very tough for him in a two-week stretch (in late April) — not to hit, and not to take it out into the field. He really focused on his defense. My hat’s off to him for that. But he’s going to hit. To what extent, I don’t know.
“I don’t think he’s going to be a .170 hitter for his career. I think he’s going to be OK.”
The Mariners hit six homers in a game at Safeco Field only one time before Tuesday’s romp over San Diego. That occurred Aug. 27, 2004 in a 7-5 victory over Kansas City.
The first four homers in that 2004 game came against Zack Greinke, then a rookie. He gave up two homers to Miguel Olivo and one each to Jose Lopez and Hiram Bocachica.
Even so, the Royals had a 5-4 lead going into the eighth inning before Bret Boone and Scott Spiezio hit back-to-back homers against D.J. Carrasco for the victory.
Tuesday marked the 13th time that the Mariners hit at least six homers in their 39-year history, but it was the first time since that 2004 victory over the Royals. It was the second time in 1,278 games at Safeco Field.
The franchise record for homers in a game is seven, accomplished four times but not since May 2, 2002 in a 15-4 victory over the White Sox in Chicago.
The Mariners hit seven homers only once in their 1,755 games at the Kingdome: April 11, 1985, when Gorman Thomas hit three in a 14-6 victory over Oakland. They hit six on three occasions.
Right-hander Edwin Diaz, the organization’s top-rated pitcher on The Olympian Top 10, was promoted to Double-A Jackson after going 2-0 with a 1.70 ERA in seven starts at Advanced-A Bakersfield.
Diaz, 21, was a third-round pick in 2012 and entered the season at No. 6 in The Olympian rankings of the organization’s top prospects. He allowed just 21 hits in 37 innings for the Blaze while striking out 42 and walking nine.
Kensing, 32, was 6-3 with a 3.58 ERA in 49 games last season at Triple-A Tacoma. He signed last in November with the Chicago White Sox as a free agent but was released just prior to the start of the season.
It was 19 years ago Thursday — May 14, 1996 — that the Mariners suffered a no-hitter for the second time in franchise history when beaten, 2-0, by New York Yankees right-hander Dwight Gooden at Yankee Stadium.
Gooden was the first opposing pitcher to throw a complete game in a no-hitter against Seattle. Former Mariner Mark Langston and Mike Witt of the Angels combined for a no-hitter in a 1-0 victory over April 11, 1990 at Anaheim.
The only other opponents’ no-hitter in the Mariners’ 39-year history was April 21, 2012, when Philip Humber of the White Sox pitched a perfect game in a 4-0 victory at Safeco Field.
The Mariners open a four-game series against Boston at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at Safeco Field. It marks the Red Sox’s only trip of the season to Seattle. Lefty Roenis Elias (0-1, 3.86 ERA) will face Boston right-hander Joe Kelly (1-2, 4.50) in the opener. .