The Seattle Mariners will try and break out of their season-long hitting slump at Safeco Field tonight when they kick off a three game series with the team with the worst record in the Major Leagues, the San Diego Padres. Following their historic no-hit win on Friday night versus Los Angeles, where a record-tying six pitchers – Kevin Millwood, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen – combined to throw Seattle's third no-hitter in team history, the Mariners dropped the last two games of the series to the Dodgers, watching their National League opponent bang the ball around the park to the tune of 16 runs. That two game total surely seems like an unattainable goal for the Mariners, who are averaging just 3.16 runs per game here in 2012 while batting .192/.278/.301 as a team. Compare those stats to the club's road numbers: 4.81 runs per game and a slash of .257/.307/.417.
I spoke to one person with the team recently and asked about the players' mindset about Safeco. "Oh yeah, it (the difficulties hitting at home) is definitely getting in their heads," he told me.
The Padres must know how Seattle players feel all too well: they play their home games in Petco Park, which has notoriously been one of the toughest parks to score runs in since opening in 2004. True to that point, the Padres are hitting much better on the road themselves with a Petco-OPS of .632 and an everywhere-else-OPS of .700. In fact, the Padres are one of only three clubs with a team OPS lower than the Seattle's. Safeco and Felix Hernandez – pitching for the first time in 10 days following a bout with back stiffness – will likely stop them from making any progress in that regard tonight.
While it is acknowledged that this season is a building year, the Mariners need to get healthy against bottom-dwelling teams like the Padres, who rank 10th in the National League and 21st in all of MLB in runs allowed per game at 4.51 and are 19th with a 4.06 team ERA. A strong offensive showing in these next three games could do wonders going forward for the Mariners young hitters. And the San Francisco Giants -- themselves a very good pitching team – invade Safeco next. Some confidence heading into that series would be huge.
Michael Saunders and Kyle Seager returned from the last road trip as the two hottest hitters on Seattle, having combined for a slash of .419/.456/.716 (31-74) during the nine games. But in their last 10 games at Safeco the pair is hitting just .164/.329/.246 (10-61). They aren't the only ones that have struggled, clearly, but that example is very telling of how this Mariners team is playing like two different clubs.
First pitch from Felix tonight shortly after 7:00 pm – let's hope that the King's Court gets to see some offense.