For most of the players currently residing within the Mariners clubhouse, games 140-162 have meant little more than a chance to pad stats and reach incentives.
Not this season. The final month of games are going to decide whether or not Seattle plays postseason baseball for the first time in 13 years. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the finish the team or its fans were hoping for. At 7-12 with the final three games to be played this weekend, Seattle has thus far squandered a wonderful opportunity (thanks to the similar struggles of Oakland and Kansas City) to clinch an October berth.
Down the stretch, the offense has faded, the brilliant pitching has eroded and the defense has imploded. In half of the 12 losses, the Mariners have scored one run or fewer. Even team leader and unquestioned ace of the pitching staff, Felix Hernandez, has wilted. Hernandez was shelled over 4.2 innings by the Blue Jays in his last start, yielding a career-high eight runs on seven hits in a game Seattle needed.
Frankly, questioning the effort of a vast majority of the players would be an acceptable opinion. At least from afar. Internally, manager Lloyd McClendon sees a roster of 34 players giving him everything they have. And that’s all he can ask.
“Our guys show up every day and come ready to play, and they give me everything they’ve got,” McClendon said. “I’ve got no complaints.”
The manager pointed to a few physical hardships, namely an 11-game cross-country road trip without an off day. After concluding a game late Thursday night against the Angels, the Mariners arrived at 6 a.m. in Houston the next day with a 7 p.m. game to play.
“From a physical standpoint, it probably wasn’t (what) they expected,” McClendon said. “It’s pretty tough. It takes its toll on you.”
What the future holds remains to be seen (obviously), but regardless of the end result, Seattle will be better off because of this experience. McClendon pointed to a former experience while on the coaching staff under Jim Leyland in Detroit as a good example.
“You know what people don’t realize? That 2006 Detroit team, we failed . . . We lost the division the last three games of the season,” McClendon said. “That was a veteran club with a lot of guys who hadn’t been in that position before. We were fortunate enough to stay into the wild card hunt. It happens, it happens to everybody. You have to go through that, and I think because of that 2006 team, we were better moving forward.”
Seattle hopes the same is the case for its franchise.