The Seattle Mariners are a quarter of the way through their 162-game season following Thursday night’s series finale in New York.
After rapidly securing the best start in club history at 13-2, the Mariners gradually drifted back toward the .500 mark in late April and early May, and have a 20-20 record entering Friday.
Here are five things we’ve learned about the Mariners so far.
1. AT HOME ON THE ROAD
The Mariners are one of only two teams in the majors with a winning record on the road (13-9) and a losing record at home (7-11). The Padres were the other.
And the Rays, Yankees, Twins, Cubs and Diamondbacks were the only other teams with winning road records.
After the early-season jolt, Seattle’s slide started with a six-game homestand midway through April. The Mariners lost all six games. During their most recent homestand, they lost four of six.
But, Seattle has also gone on streaks of as many as six consecutive wins on the road.
Contributing to the uneven success, the Mariners score an average of 6.3 runs per game on the road, while just 4.6 at home. And, they allow 4.7 runs on the road, while giving up 5.9 per game at home.
“We’ve obviously played better on the road, but I wouldn’t put too much stock into that really,” Mariners veteran Jay Bruce said recently. “At the end of the year, teams mostly play better at home.”
2. BULLPEN BLUNDERS
The Mariners knew their bullpen was going to be a mix-and-match approach. What they didn’t know is how bumpy that was actually going to be.
“Our bullpen will be in flux as we go forward, until some of these guys maybe settle in and grab hold of specific roles,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said midway through April.
The Mariners are tied for the major league lead in blown saves (eight in 20 opportunities) with the Royals and Padres. Six relievers who have pitched for Seattle this season have recorded at least one, and Anthony Swarzak’s three are tied for the American League lead.
Seattle’s relievers have a combined record of 7-8, and allow 5.3 runs per game, which is the fourth-worst average in baseball.
3. ERRORS PILING UP
Veteran third baseman Kyle Seager had hand surgery in March, prompting the Mariners to move Ryon Healy, who has some prior experience at the position, from first to third.
Bruce, an outfielder most of his career, has played a lot of first base this season. So has Edwin Encarnacion, who been mostly a DH the last two seasons.
Domingo Santana has moved from right field to left with Seattle. Tim Beckham is back at shortstop after playing a lot of third with Baltimore.
This defense was projected to have trouble adapting early on. But, this much trouble?
The Mariners, by a margin of nine, lead baseball with 41 errors in 40 games, and have a fielding percentage of .972. They are on pace to commit 170 errors this season. St. Louis led the league last year with 133.
Beckham’s 11 individuals errors also lead the majors, and 13 more players who have logged innings with Seattle this season have committed at least one.
“Certainly the game gets sped up a little bit when you’ve got guys that don’t have an overwhelming amount of experience at those spots,” Servais said recently.
“But, still, it’s the big leagues. We’ve got to get better. We’ll continue to get out there early and work. … It does have to get cleaned up.”
4. GONZALES HANDLES ‘ACE’ STATUS
Felix Hernandez made 10 consecutive Opening Day starts for the Mariners until this season, when left-hander Marco Gonzales earned the nod.
The 27-year-old has embraced the role of Seattle’s new ace, and the responsibility that comes with it.
“I want that,” he said before making his first start at T-Mobile Park this season. “I think I’m that type of person where I enjoy going out and setting the tone for a team like this. Especially when this could be a defining year for us.
“I think I want to be at the forefront of that, and I want to show what this team is all about. I think I can do a good job of that.”
In nine starts this season, Gonzales has compiled a 5-1 record and 3.08 ERA; both are tops among Mariners starters.
Gonzales has pitched into the sixth inning in all but one of his starts, allowed four or fewer runs in all but one, and three or fewer earned runs in each.
He has 39 strikeouts to 13 walks in 52 2/3 innings, and hasn’t allowed double-digit hits to any opponent.
5. EXTRA-BASE POWER
The Mariners have scored double-digit runs in eight games this season. They’ve also been shut out three times, but on most days, the offense proves pretty fun to watch.
Seattle continues to lead the majors in runs scored (222), RBIs (218), extra-base hits (152) and home runs (75).
The Mariners set an MLB record for consecutive games to start a season with a home run (20), and haven’t slowed much since, averaging 1.9 long balls per game.
Encarnacion (12 homers) is tied for fourth in baseball, while Bruce (11) is tied for seventh, making Seattle one of just five teams with two players that have collected double-digit home runs this season.
Healy’s 16 doubles, which were also leading the majors, add to the 3.9 extra-base hits per game the Mariners hit. Mitch Haniger (12) and Beckham (11) also checked in to the top 20 players in baseball in doubles.
Santana was tied for the AL lead in RBIs with 35.