The Safeco Field electronic scoreboard lit up a zero under the hits category in the eighth inning Friday night, though the Mariners had two hits at the time.
After a homestand mostly consisting of plate failure, even inanimate objects think the Mariners can’t hit in Safeco.
It was a particularly frustrating return to the distant confines for Justin Smoak prior to Sunday’s game-winner. In the Padres series, he hit three would-be home runs, were he stationed in another park. They were three outs in Safeco. Smoak slammed down his helmet during the game and voiced his frustration afterward.
Manager Eric Wedge put an end to the public caterwauling about the park with a pregame message Thursday. The Mariners brass is worried deep outs in the park can become an excuse that deters adjustments. In Safeco, the ambition has to be to square up and line into gaps. If it goes out, it goes out. Loft is a results decimator here. Play accordingly.
The organization will discuss the fences after the season. The San Diego Padres are going to do the same at Petco Park. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he thought moving in the Seattle fences a few feet would be “fair.”
A massive gap in OPS between home (.588, last in the bigs) and away (.725, 10th in the bigs) indicates the problem has moved beyond fences and burrowed into brains. Doubt is the ultimate enemy during the relentless repetition of a baseball season.
“You can’t let it get inside you,” Wedge said Friday. “Doubt should never come our way. Frustration is going to be here. I’m sure it’s here for a few of us now.
“But, for me, it’s just knowing that these guys are eventually going to be as good an offensive club here as they are on the road. Just because of their talent base and skill level. But we have to get over that hump.”
The Mariners had lost six in a row coming into Saturday. They were a season-high 12 games under .500 then. Ichiro has been a disappointment no matter his lineup location. After an extraordinary career, he’s done and should not be back next year.
But Wedge and general manager Jack Zduriencik remain steady in their belief production will come. Wedge repeats almost daily that the team will soon be hitting at home the way it did on the previous road trip. In an exclusive talk with Sportspress Northwest, Zduriencik said he’s not frustrated.
“I said all along, that, in this year, we would see ups and downs,” Zduriencik said. “We would see streaks. We would see good things and some things that need to be corrected. It’s simple youth. Just a simple fact that it’s youth.
“I think coming home, we were all happy about a lot of things we saw on the road. But then again, as I said, you’re going to have moments of time where their youth shows. You have to be really realistic about this and realize that kid behind the plate (Jesus Montero) is 22 years old, the kid at second base (Ackley is 24), the kid at third base (Seager is 24), some of these very young pitchers . . . .This date a year ago, they were in the minor leagues.”
Also a year ago, Michael Saunders was destined for the scrap heap. He’s been a revelation this year, lining shots often to center and, at times, to left, instead of pulling the ball each at-bat. Zduriencik feels Saunders is destined to be a good player for years to come in Seattle.
The same slack should be given to Seager and Montero.
There is also the promise of the farm arms. Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2011 draft, has been dominant. He will start the Southern League All-star game Tuesday. After that, expect him to promptly be elevated to Tacoma. Hultzen gave up five runs in his Double-A debut. He’s given up five runs in 12 starts since.
“It is just part of a process that there is just no way to shortcut it in any business that you’re in,” Zduriencik said. “Experience works to your favor and there’s no way to get it unless you go through it.
“I do think what we’re seeing, there’s some pretty good young kids. How good they’re going to be? Yet to be determined.”
Zduriencik went on to make an analogy with running, saying a half-mile has to come prior to running a full mile. And so on.
Of late, it feels like the organization is running a marathon chasing a finish line carried by Kenyans. The six home losses in a row? That’s usually the nudge toward the repeated 100-loss abyss.
This roster has shown grit, however, perhaps enough to keep it from being whittled down to a fall embarrassment once again. A future is finally visible.
That type of change can provide belief in the plan. Even for the scoreboard.