It would have been a great September for the Seattle Mariners if games against the Houston Astros didn’t count in the standings. The Mariners are 8-2 in September against teams not named the Astros. However, Houston went 6-0 vs. Seattle with two crushing sweeps, the last one this weekend pretty much ending the Mariners’ Wild Card chances. While they are not mathematically eliminated, they pretty much need to win out and get a lot of help as the Minnesota Twins own a four game lead on the Mariners with two weeks to play. I look at three reasons the Mariners came short on breaking their playoff drought.
Injuries. If you were using a word to describe the Seattle Mariners rotation this year it would be ravaged as in the entire rotation was ravaged by injuries. The Mariners lost starters 1-4 during the season including all of those pitchers being out most of August and September as the Mariners tried to mount a late push. Drew Smyly didn’t pitch all season for the Mariners. Hisashi Iwakuma hasn’t started a game since May 3rd. Iwakuma was only able to give the Mariners six starts before a shoulder issue derailed his season, and he wasn’t his normal self (0-2, 4.35 ERA). James Paxton and Felix Hernandez both had two stints on the D.L. Seattle this season has used seventeen different starting pitchers, a franchise record beating out the sixteen used in their inaugural season of 1977.
The Offense Didn’t Overcome. Now this wasn’t like a Mariner season we’ve seen in the past where runs were hard to come by. The offense had a good year overall. It’s just when the entire pitching staff is bitten by the injury bug, the offense needs to be superhuman to give the replacements a comfortable cushion to work with. In the six losses to Houston, which has pretty much closed the door on their Wild Card chase, they scored three runs or less in five of the six games. There was a lot to like from this offense this season: Mike Zunino had his best season at the plate, Ben Gamel and Mitch Hangier both had excellent offensive season, and the 3-4-5 of Cano, Cruz, and Seager all had over 20 HRs. The Mariners, though, were 15th in the MLB in runs scored where the injuries to the rotation necessitated the Mariners needing to be a top 5 team in runs scored to land a playoff spot.
Bullpen Woes. It was Edwin Diaz’s first full season as closer, and he struggled at times. At one point of the season, Diaz was taken out of the closer’s role. Diaz has put up 32 saves this season, but he has also lost six games and blown four saves. In his last eighteen appearances, he does have fourteen saves but a high ERA for a closer (4.58). If you count position player Mike Freeman, 40 people have pitched for the Seattle Mariners this season. Part of it was Jerry Dipoto’s need to wheel and deal to keep this team afloat with all the injuries, but that many pitchers usually spells doom to team’s playoff chances.