SEATTLE — 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.
Two recent two outings were 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, in fact — 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 5.29 ERA in 16 outings after working a shaky inning in Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Padres, but he has already matched last season in permitting multiple runs on five occasions.
“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 at Triple-A Tacoma.
Lefty 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’s 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 reestablishing 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.”
ZUNINO ON UPSWING
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 last July 27 in Baltimore and only the fourth of his 213-game career. Both homers (VIDEO LINK) 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 was 1-for-4 with a double Wednesday and is 11-for-38 in his last 10 with three multiple-hit games. His average is up 69 points in that span although, at .188, still 12 points shy of the Mendoza Line.
“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 on only one occasion prior to 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 on four occasions 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 TNT Top 10, was promoted to Double-A Jackson after going 2-0 with a 1.70 ERA in seven starts at Hi-A Bakersfield.
Diaz, 21, was a third-round pick in 2012 and entered the season at No. 6 in the TNT’s 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.
***The Mariners reacquired veteran right-handed reliever Logan Kensing by signing him to a minor-league deal and assigning him to extended spring training.
Kensing, 32, was 6-3 with a 3.58 ERA in 49 games last season at Triple-A Tacoma. He signed last 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 right-hander Dwight Gooden at Yankee Stadium.
Gooden was the first opposing pitcher to throw a complete game in a no-hitter against the Mariners. 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 no-hitter in the Mariners’ 39-year history was April 21, 2012 when Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox pitched a perfect game in a 4-0 victory at Safeco Field.
Nelson Cruz didn't hit a homer Wednesday, which means he settles for a share of the Major League record of hitting homers in five straight interleague games (including four this season). It has been done eight previous times, most recently by Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox from June 17-21, 2011…James Paxton has a 1.82 ERA in his last four starts (five earned runs in 24 2/3 innings). His overall ERA has dropped from 8.40 to 4.31 in that stretch…The Mariners calculated their six homers Tuesday traveled a combined 2,401 feet — or just over 400 feet on average.
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) will face Boston right-hander Joe Kelly (1-2, 4.50) in the opener. The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710 ESPN.