It is another glorious afternoon at the ballpark where there is not a cloud in the sky above Safeco Field. That might not be the case for the Mariners where Lloyd McClendon is concerned. The team has lost three of their last four, four of six and is in danger of dropping a four-game set to the mighty, AL Central cellar-dwelling Minnesota Twins if Tom Wilhelmsen and the bullpen cannot come through with seven or eight scoreless innings tonight.
You see, the offense has been mired in one of its worst slumps of the season. Over the past six games, the team has scored seven runs, hit under .210 as a team and is 3-for-44 with runners in scoring position. That is just plain not getting it done.
Now of course, the offense could see a surge at any moment like it did over a week ago in Houston. This is true. When you trot out a lineup everyday that is at least 50 percent filled with “developmental” (or pre-arbitration level) players, these swings of success should be anticipated.
There is, however, one opportunity for a lift entering a vital three-game series with the division-leading Athletics (you may have heard of it) before the All-Star break hits. That is the addition of 1B Justin Smoak who is rehabbing/toiling in Triple-A Tacoma currently. Smoak started out hitting .200 with one home run in his first 15 games with the Rainiers, but is 8-for-15 over his last three games including two home runs last night in Salt Lake City.
The team has positioned its best three starters to pitch against the A’s, and if they don’t see an offensive surge tonight, you would think they would do all they can to field their best offensive unit over the weekend.
The promotion of Smoak, would likely mean the demotion of a reliever as the team is currently holding nine to get through its “Johnny All-Staff” day Thursday. Once that is completed, either Luetge or Maurer could head down and Smoak could be summoned up.
As far as the lineup is concerned, there is a desire to get the recently promoted Corey Hart going. Either he or Logan Morrison could move from their respective DH or 1B role to LF where the McClendon now seems willing to try anyone not named Dustin Ackley. If Smoak is brought up, he will play first base.
When asked during his pre-game session with the media all McClendon wouldn’t address it in depth.
“Anything’s possible,” he said.
1. Endy Chavez (L) lf
2. James Jones (L) cf
3. Robinson Cano (L) 2b
4. Kyle Seager (L) 3b
5. Corey Hart dh
6. Logan Morrison (L) 1b
7. Michael Saunders (L) rf
8. Mike Zunino c
9. Willie Bloomquist ss
rhp Tom Wilhelmsen (1-1, 2.49 ERA)
Wilhelmsen, meanwhile, will be counted on for three innings, possibly four on a 55-60 pitch limit. With Maurer unavailable, though, I wouldn’t be stunned to see him go five and 70 if he’s pitching well.