Franklin Gutierrez is thehottest hitter the Mariners have, batting .321 with three home runs and 16 RBI and having played every game this season.
He batted cleanup tonight for Seattle, following in the footsteps of Milton Bradley (6) and Jose Lopez (19) in the No. 4 spot in the order. The simple truth is, the Mariners don't have a cleanup hitter.
Look at the Angels. You could make the case that six of their hitters would be as good or better a cleanup hitter than anyone the Mariners currently have on roster.
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Tampa had at least as many candidates. Most good teams the Mariners face in the rest of May will. The American League remains a hitter's league, and a team like the Mariners - built on pitching and defense - still needs runs to win.
Even on nights when Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez pitch, the Mariners are challenged not to be outscored - if only because scoring is so difficult for them. They've now played 18 innings without scoring a run.
Even tonight, when they were no-hit into the seventh and shutout all game, they had point-blank scoring opportunities.
Chone Figgins walked and stole second with one out in the first. Casey Kotchman struck out. Gutierrez flied out.
With runners at second and third base and one out in the eighth inning, Ichiro struck out after taking two strikes, then chasing a pitch that bounced. Figgins popped up to shortstop.
The Mariners don't have a run producer. Not in Ken "Griffey Jr. or Mike Sweeney, not in Lopez or Gutierrez. No one has shown the consistent ability to take the pressure of hitting with runners in scoring position.
The Angels starting lineup had 24 home runs coming in, then hit three more. The Mariners? They had eight, and never got a ball to the warning tracking.
The argument that the Mariners hitters will come around may ring true in the case of Figgins or, depending upon his emotional health, Bradley. But a look at Friday's lineup begs the question.
Will Kotchman, Griffey, Lopez, Rob Johnson, Josh or Jack Wilson, Michael Saunders or Ryan Langerhans really improve dramatically?
A team that has averaged 1.3 runs a game in this seven-game losing streak isn't a bat short, it's two or three bats short with no wood in sight. Great pitching and defense may produce more 2-1 losses, but will anyone feel better?
And who's going to drive in that one run?