It’s not the offense. It’s not the defense. It’s not even a bullpen that finds its arms hanging by a thread with a month left to the season.
What’s killing the Seattle Mariners in their latest losing streak – this one a second seven-game stretch – is the starting rotation. Manager John McLaren said hours before Friday’s game the team needed a starter to make 100 pitches last eight innings, not five.
Then Jarrod Washburn made 102 pitches last just 3 1/3 innings, putting his team behind 6-2, and McLaren spent the rest of a 7-5 loss trying to eke innings out of a worn down relief crew.
At issue all season, the rotation’s glaring weakness has jumped up and bitten the Mariners again, and the timing is crucial.
Who is going to give Seattle seven or eight quality innings?
Felix Hernandez can, but hasn’t regularly, and won’t pitch 200 innings this season.
Miguel Batista is a six-inning man most good starts, Jeff Weaver left a start in Texas last week when he told McLaren he was ‘cooked’ after 84 pitches. The Mariners are happy on nights when Horacio Ramirez goes five, and Jarrod Washburn has won once since the All-Star break.
That’s the group that must devour innings in September if the Seattle bullpen is to have a chance to regroup. It’s not impossible, but it’s not likely, either.
All year the strength of this team has been it’s offensive tenacity – nearly 40 of their victories have been come-from-behind affairs – and a lights out bullpen. Now, that bullpen is staggering under the workload.
And the offense is being asked to come from behind every night.
Among the September callups, there are no complete-game wonders Seatttle can slide into its rotation. What they have is going to have to be enough, or there won’t be an October that matters.