Mid-Road Trip Exam
Mitch Haniger homers in an otherwise unhappy game against the White Sox
The Mariners are halfway through their current road trip through Dallas-Ft. Worth, Chicago, and Cleveland, having taken the series with the Rangers two games to one and split the first two with the White Sox. How has it gone? Let's examine.
In going 3-2 thus far, the offense has been mostly splendid; even in yesterday's 1-0 victory in Chicago, the bats produced when needed in a game played in deep shadow where visibility was nowhere near optimal. In the five games, the M's as a unit have batted .290 and scored 24 runs. Good numbers all around, Mike Zunino's 2-for-15 notwithstanding. The bullpen has likewise been stellar, putting up a collective 2.75 ERA in 192⁄3 innings. Unfortunately, the starting pitching wasn't as consistent; Mike Leake, James Paxton, and Erasmo Ramírez all had weak-to-godawful outings while Felix Hernández had a solid start and Marco Gonzales was brilliant in his game (aided by generous umpiring and late afternoon shadows).
Everyone has a bad game every now and then, and Leake's impression of a batting tee on Monday evening we can, for the moment, dismiss as a "normal anomaly." It was the worst game of his career—a 31⁄3-inning appearance with 8 earned runs—but he tends to have one game like that a year. Last August 15th he allowed 8 earned runs in 41⁄3 innings for St. Louis against the Red Sox, in August of 2016 he gave up 7 in 5 innings against the Reds, in May 2015 he served up 9 in 5 innings to the Giants. These starts happen every year, but they're few and far between so I'm not concerned about Leake. Paxton, on the other hand, I do find myself worried about even though his most recent poor start came after three good ones. Probably that's due to higher expectations; fair or not, I tend to expect awesomeness every time Pax takes the hill, and he's bound to fall short of the awesome bar now and then. Let's see how he does in Cleveland before sounding any alarms.
Standing out in the offensive success, right fielder Mitch Haniger has gone from a .259 average at the end of the homestand to a .321 mark today, a hitting spree that includes four homers and nine RBI. Doing his part to fulfill our opening day declaration that he would win the 2018 batting title, Haniger looks absolutely locked in at the plate, and hopefully he can ride this hot streak through the end of the road trip, if not longer.
Mitch Haniger's road trip so far (5 games, 4/20 - 4/24)