The Mariners will put April behind them on Sunday. A farewell wave seems appropriate, but too polite to a month that has turned springtime into 30 days of ugly.
April showed up with a hostile attitude and never budged. When we tried to embrace her, she snarled, displaying the fangs of a junkyard dog.
“I’m raining until there’s a puddle in every pothole, and every ball field is a swamp,” April announced. “And when my clouds are emptied of rain, I’ll find new clouds for more rain.”
Nobody endured April’s wrath more than the Mariners, who broke training camp in good spirits, only to appear broken before the season was a week old. They lost six of their first seven games on a road trip that culminated with the bullpen’s failure to protect a 9-3 lead in the ninth inning, then dropped two of their first three at Safeco Field.
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Just as things began to settle down during the homestand, it was off to Oakland for a Baseball 101 tutorial — Take Nobody For Granted — and then to Detroit, where the Mariners endured what might have been the single worst night in their history: A 19-9 defeat April 25, not nearly as troubling as the injuries that put starting pitcher Felix Hernandez, an old fan favorite, and right fielder Mitch Haniger, a new fan favorite, on the disabled list.
That shortstop Jean Segura, recovered from a hamstring strain, had just returned to the starting lineup intensified the doom and gloom. The Mariners finally had a version of the team general manager Jerry Dipoto envisioned over the winter — speed at the top and bottom of the batting order, power in the heart of it — and that team stayed intact for all of two innings.
Some years are not meant to be, I thought after the debacle in Detroit. All the right moves had been made, the philosophy was sound on paper, but karma is more powerful than paper.
It reminded me of another time I came to the same conclusion: Memorial Day weekend in 1995, a day after Ken Griffey Jr. made the acrobatic, wall-banging catch that broke his wrist. On my way out of the Kingdome — the Mariners had been blown out by the Orioles — I saw a discarded ticket stub on the floor and put it in my pocket, a sad souvenir marking the precise occasion of Major League Baseball’s demise in Seattle.
The season was a goner and, quite likely, so was the team. Absent Griffey, generating public interest in the new ballpark owners craved would be all but impossible.
You know how that turned out: The Mariners hung in without their superstar, and when the superstar was cleared to play, they went on a magical roll.
Is that magical roll accomplished if Griffey doesn’t sit out for two months? I suspect not. Griffey’s return provided a jolt of energy, and by the middle of September, the energy was compounded daily.
Unlike Griffey in 1995, Hernandez has passed his prime. But there are some parallels: A face of the franchise, popular to the point of beloved, is on the shelf with the kind of injury that suggests the Mariners are cursed.
Griffey’s teammates prevented his broken wrist from sabotaging their season, and Hernandez’s teammates have been challenged to respond similarly.
So far, so good. The Mariners regrouped in Detroit to win their first road series of the season, and have positioned themselves to win another road series Sunday at Cleveland.
Despite their early travails — the injuries, an inconsistent bullpen, the hitting struggles that cost Leonys Martin his job in center and continue to haunt catcher Mike Zunino, minimal offensive production from positions (first base, left field) associated with offensive production — the Mariners did not allow April to defeat them.
They’ll wind up the month with a losing record, at least 14 defeats, but there’s life after slow starts. Thinking here of 2014, when Seattle took a 11-14 mark into May and ended up 87-75, playoff contenders until the end.
April wasn’t entirely disastrous. We got familiar with Taylor Motter’s homer hair flip, Haniger’s breakthrough potential, Segura’s overall talent, and James Paxton’s emergence as the Mariners’ most dominant lefty starter since Randy Johnson.
You may have been a headache, April, but you never were a bore.
Now get outta here, and make room for a month that lets the sunshine in.
John McGrath: @TNTMcGrath