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News / Sports / National Sports

Mariners hope pitching can keep them atop the AL West and overcome lackluster offense

Seattle leads baseball with 37 quality starts from its starting pitchers

By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer
Published: June 3, 2024, 5:59pm

SEATTLE — Considering it took two decades to end a postseason drought a couple of seasons ago, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s been 21 years since the Seattle Mariners hit the month of June sitting in first place in the AL West.

But that’s where the Mariners find themselves, holding a four-game lead in the division entering Monday after winning seven of their last eight games.

Seattle (34-27) has taken advantage of a lackluster division in which Houston and defending champion Texas both have underperformed to date. The Mariners are a flawed team, especially on the offensive side, where they rank near the bottom of the league in many categories.

But Seattle has had some of the best pitching in baseball and is off to the second-best home start in franchise history.

“We’ve pitched very well here. No question about it. Our guys are very comfortable here. We pitch, we play good defense here. It’s a pitcher’s park from what they tell me. So it’s not surprising,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “But the key thing on the road is you’ve got to hit better on the road, be more consistent. We have not done so. We have a lot of season left. We need to get better on the road.”

The last time Seattle reached the month of June sitting in first place in the AL West, its current star center fielder Julio Rodríguez was a toddler. That 2003 Mariners team ended up winning 93 games but finished three games back in the division to Oakland and two games behind Boston for the only wild-card berth at the time.

This time, the Mariners’ likelihood of staying atop of the division rests mostly with an elite set of starting pitchers. The fivesome of Luis Castillo, Logan Gilbert, Bryan Woo, Bryce Miller and George Kirby have put together a spectacular first two months of pitching.

Seattle leads baseball with 37 quality starts from its starting pitchers, while ranking tied for second in opponent batting average and tied for sixth in overall staff ERA.

“We’re trying to get better every week. We want to top what we did the week before,” Kirby said. “I always say we do things really well different and we have a really good competitive environment. We all want to one up each other each week, but we’re all trying to get each other better at the same time. I think it’s good things to have.”

The uncertainty with Seattle is whether the offense can keep from letting all that quality pitching go to waste.

On Friday, Seattle fired Brant Brown, who was brought in during the offseason as the “offensive coordinator” to try to boost the bats.

Clearly, it didn’t work.

Even after a promising weekend at the plate, when Seattle scored 19 runs in a sweep of the Angels, it still hovers near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories. The Mariners are 28th in runs per game, 28th in batting average, 24th in OPS and lead the league in strikeouts.

The pitching so far has been able to absorb an offense ranking in the bottom third of the league. Seattle is 12-4 in one-run games and 27-3 when scoring more than four runs. But it’s also clear that if the Mariners make upgrades before the trade deadline, getting an impact bat is the target.

“I genuinely enjoy going out every day knowing our starting pitching is going to keep us in the game and give us an opportunity to win every single day. Bullpen, too,” outfielder Luke Raley said. “Just a lot of faith in those guys.”