Rounding Third: Same old story in Seattle

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Updated: 7/09/2014 10:03 am

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Seattle Mariners could head into the All-Star break holding one of the two wild card spots in the American League.

But if they plan on maintaining that spot, they are going to have to do something about an offense that has been, well, offensive.

Especially lately.

Seattle was shut out for the second time in three games on Tuesday and has been blanked 11 times this season, one fewer than Tampa Bay and San Diego for most in the majors.

Struggles at the plate are nothing new for this Mariners team. They scored the third-fewest runs in the American League last season and their .237 average was dead last.

Seattle had hoped that the addition of second baseman Robinson Cano would change things, but its .242 average this season is second-worst only to Houston.

Cano certainly can't be blamed for the team's offensive woes. After a slow start, the All-Star second baseman's power numbers still may be down, but he is hitting a team-best .319 with six home runs and 51 RBI.

Third baseman Kyle Seager will be joining Cano at the All-Star Game in Minnesota next week, but his production has started to tail off, as he is just 2-for-21 with seven strikeouts in the last five games. He had hit .528 with three homers and 12 RBI in his nine games before that.

Other than those two, though, there are just too many outs from 1-through-9.

So, if the lineup has been so bad, how are the Mariners in the position they are in? And why is everyone in the league starting to pay real close attention to the team in the Pacific Northwest?

Well, it's the same reason anyone has paid the Mariners any mind the past few years. Starting pitching, specifically Felix Hernandez.

With all due respect to the recently struggling Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees, King Felix has been the AL's best pitcher. The former Cy Young Award winner leads the league with a 2.11 ERA and a 0.895 WHIP. And he's 10-2.

Hernandez isn't doing it by himself, either. The staff as a whole has been terrific, pitching to the second-best ERA in the AL at 3.15 and the best WHIP at 1.15.

By the way, how good has Chris Young been? He may have been on the losing end of Tuesday's blanking, but he has given up just six runs over 32 innings in his past five starts, and four of those runs have come on solo homers. He has an ERA of 1.74 in that span.

"He's been great," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said of Young, who was released by the Washington Nationals after spring training. "I didn't know what to expect from him, but I couldn't have expected this. He's been outstanding."

And it's not just the starters. Seattle's bullpen has been one of, if not the best in baseball.

The disparity between hitting and pitching has been clear during the Mariners' recent 2-3 stretch. The arms have compiled a 2.25 ERA while the bats have mustered a .199 average with six runs after being shut down by Phil Hughes and the hapless Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.

Take a look around the AL. There is not much there. Oakland stands out as the best team in the league for sure, but there can't be anyone looking forward to facing the Mariners in a short series come October.

It's not going to happen, though, if they don't upgrade that lineup.

And Seattle does have some chips to make a deal. They have a wealth of young pitching. Maybe it's time to deal a Taijuan Walker for a bat. St. Louis is talking to Boston Red Sox about Jake Peavy, maybe the Mariners can swoop in and swing a deal.

Would St. Louis turn down Walker for outfield prospect Oscar Taveras?

That may be a pie-in-the-sky type of deal, but there is a trade to be made. Unfortunately for Seattle, though, there isn't a whole lot of bats available. Does Marlon Byrd, Carlos Quentin or Josh Willingham get anyone excited? Probably not, but they won't cost a blue chip prospect and would make that lineup better.

Texas' Alex Rios could be an interesting option, but it's probably far-fetched to think the Rangers are going to send him to a division rival, especially when he has a very team-friendly $12 million option for next season.

Perhaps a healthy Corey Hart in the second half will help things, but can he really be counted on to play day in and day out?

Seattle has the pitching to play with anyone in baseball. The Mariners made the move of the offseason when they added Cano. If they want to make the playoffs, though, they are going to have to get another bat.

And if they do, don't be surprised if they make a deep October run.


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