Mariners ought to look ahead

CHRIS SHAW | Evergreen columnist

As the MLB season wears on, cracks have begun to appear in the pristine rosters of opening day – and the Seattle Mariners are no exception.

Even though they have stayed afloat in the American League West by hovering around .500, they need to make some necessary tune-ups in order to solidify their playoff contention.

The team can fix some of its problems from within its organization, but the Mariners’ front office must also consider whom it ought to pursue before the trade deadline. The biggest need is in the pitching staff, which seems ironic when one considers the lack of run support the starting rotation has received.

In particular, Felix Hernandez has been plagued by the Mariners’ offense. In his last two starts, the offense did not score a run before he left the game. This could lead to a loss for both Hernandez and the team, even after a quality start.

Against the Tampa Bay Rays, Hernandez struck out 15 over seven innings, left the game with the score tied at 0-0, and the Mariners eventually won 5-0. In his most recent start, Hernandez threw 8 1/3 innings and ended up taking the loss as one of the base runners he allowed in the ninth inning scored on a botched double play.

If the Mariners’ offense continues to falter for near-entire games, the team will be in trouble come September. The final month of the season often requires timely wins to earn a playoff spot, and the Mariners will need to score consistently to ensure victories in close games.

To do this, the front office has a choice. It can invest in another premier reliever to assist relievers Danny Farquhar and Yoervis Medina and closer Fernando Rodney, or it can trade for a dominant starter who will perform similarly to Hernandez.

Rodney has been reliable in the closer role, saving 18 games out of 20 opportunities heading into Sunday. However, if the offense cannot score enough runs to have a lead by the ninth inning, Rodney won’t be able to finish off any wins. This became apparent on Saturday night when he entered the game in the ninth with the score tied 3-3 and gave up the game-winning run. The offense couldn’t get it back, and another loss occurred, despite five shutout innings from starter Erasmo Ramirez.

Furthermore, the long season is taxing on starters’ arms, which means they might not be able to last as long. An elongated bridge between the starter and Rodney is necessary to maintain a lead with the small amount of runs the Mariners’ offense provides. In fact, the Seattle offense tied for No. 18 in runs scored heading into Monday.

Alternatively, the Mariners could choose to find another starter to accompany Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, who pitched eight innings of one-run ball Sunday against the Texas Rangers.

James Paxton started 2-0 with an ERA of 2.25, but he might not be the same once he recovers from his injury. Besides those three, the other pitchers who have started for the Mariners this season have combined for a record of 12-18 this season. All of the starters, excluding Hernandez, Iwakuma and Paxton, have ERAs over 3.50 heading into Monday.

Stamina is also important to consider. Hernandez is the only Seattle starter to throw more than 100 innings. Without a reliable offense, the Mariners will need another starter who can last as long as King Felix or at least another reliever who can hold the opposition until Rodney enters for the ninth inning.

No matter which route the Mariners choose before the trade deadline, they will be better for it. Unless their offense fixes itself, the necessity for another commanding arm grows with each passing day of the season.