Not much for fans to appreciate on M’s Fan Appreciation Night
It was Fan Appreciation Night on Friday at Safeco Field.
It’s a good bet that the few fans who bothered to make their way into the park – 19,656 was the announced crowd – did not appreciate much of what they saw.
The Mariners were down 1-0 before they came to the plate Friday, and down 7-0 before they got a chance to bat in the second inning.
All Seattle, a team needing to win two of the four games of this final series to avoid 100 losses, has done so far is put on a startling display of how they lost the first 97 times.
Poorly executed pitching, anemic offense and less-than-memorable defense have led to the Mariners’ being outscored 17-1 in the first two games of the series, including Friday’s 9-0 debacle.
Frankly, there’s not much to appreciate in that, not when the Athletics, a mediocre offense at best, have five more runs than the Mariners have hits.
And there probably isn’t much to appreciate in the fact that one of the club’s two bright spots this season, right-handed starter Felix Hernandez, isn’t being given a chance to pitch in front of the home folk Sunday. He’s being replaced by Ryan Rowland-Smith.
Having Hernandez pitch would be one way to show the fans a little appreciation, but that’s not going to happen. It’s one more disappointment for Seattle fans who have gotten used to such things.
Oakland is 11th in the league in runs scored, but for the first two nights of this series, interested spectators have been duped into believing the A’s know how to hit with the best of them. The reality is that Doug Fister on Thursday and Luke French on Friday couldn’t make quality pitches on demand, and they paid the price against an offense that hadn’t scored eight runs in consecutive games all year until now.
A’s first baseman Daric Barton made French pay, hitting a solo home run in the first inning, then capping a six-run second inning with just the second grand slam of the season for the A’s.
“It really wasn’t my night,” French said in the quiet of the Seattle clubhouse. “Obviously, they hit the ball hard off me. It’s going to happen. And it’s not very fun.
“It’s not the way I wanted to end my season, but you have to move on.”
That last sentence could apply to most of the rest of the roster.
Sometime in the next 72 hours, it’s likely that general manager Jack Zduriencik will come to a final decision on whether he wants to retain interim manager Daren Brown, who is 19-29 since taking over for Don Wakamatsu on Aug. 9, on a noninterim basis.
Under Wakamatsu, the Mariners were 22.5 games out of first place; they’ve made it to 28 games out since Brown took over. Wakamatsu’s winning percentage this year was .375, and although Brown’s is better (.396), the improvement is only marginal – the matter of one win, to be exact.
It hasn’t been a particular fair way to judge Brown, giving him only about 50 games in which to show his mettle, but then it wasn’t a particularly fair way to judge Wakamatsu, saddling him with a team without much hope of scoring runs.
Friday’s shutout was the 15th thrown against the Mariners this year, 10 under Wakamatsu’s watch and now five under Brown.
No matter what the decision is on Brown and his coaching staff, thumbs-up or thumbs-down won’t make a difference unless and until the front office peoples the lineup with some genuine offensive stars.
Ichiro is one – perhaps the only one at this point – but even there, a problem exists. Ichiro collected his 211th hit of the season Friday, and walked, but he didn’t score. He has, in fact, reached base 259 times this year – 211 hits, 45 walks, three times hit by a pitch – and has scored only 73 runs.
As a counterpoint, Arizona’s Mark Reynolds, who has the fewest hits (100) of all major leaguers with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, has scored 79 runs.
Clearly the Mariners are stranding Ichiro on base way, way too often. And until that changes, whatever plans Zduriencik has for managing the club is of secondary importance.
John Hickey is a senior MLB writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com).