Seattle Mariners: 3 reasons for September collapse

Following a 4-7 road trip, the Seattle Mariners are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. 

While the Mariners are not mathematically eliminated yet, they need a miracle down two games in the AL Wild Card race with three to play. Seattle outperformed nearly everyone’s expectations in 2014, but it appears that performance will not be enough to secure a playoff spot.

Several factors contributed to the Mariners’ poor road trip, not the least of which was a difficult travel schedule against some good teams. Seattle’s offense continued to struggle as it had all season, but several of the Mariners’ strengths have suddenly become weaknesses over the past two weeks.

The starting rotation finally regressed

While the Mariners starting rotation is very talented, it was unlikely to put up such impressive numbers for the entire season. Regression finally caught up with Seattle in September.

After putting together a great season worthy of the AL Comeback Player Award, Chris Young hit a wall with two terrible outings in September and was removed from the rotation for his final start of the year. The fact that Young’s arm lasted into September is amazing and he did more than the Mariners could have expected or hoped for, but he couldn’t quite hold on for the last two weeks of the season.

There were also concerns about Roenis Elias‘ inning total and he also had to be removed from the rotation after suffering elbow tightness on September 16.

Something has not been right with Hisashi Iwakuma for over a month. James Paxton got bombed for the first time in his career on Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays, allowing eight runs in 2.2 innings.

Even Felix Hernandez gave up eight runs in 4.2 innings on Tuesday when the Mariners needed him to come up big. Hernandez will now need to pitch well in the season finale on Sunday to secure the AL Cy Young after the award seemed like a lock two months ago.

It could be nothing more than a poorly timed run of bad luck, but the Mariners’ rotation has struggled recently after pitching Seattle into contention all season long.

Kendrys Morales never got going

If the Mariners were going to make the postseason, Morales would need to provide something in the middle of Seattle’s lineup. Apart from a decent stretch in August, Morales has hit poorly.

Morales has managed just a .560 OPS in September and posted -1.8 WAR for the season. Yet he continued to bat fourth or fifth in the order, making Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager easier to pitch around.

Even matching the 102 wRC+ Morales put up in August could have greatly helped Seattle’s lineup. While acquiring Morales at the trade deadline was not necessarily a bad idea, the move hasn’t worked out at all.

The other teams did enough to build a lead on the Mariners

Part of the reason the Mariners were in contention in the first place was other teams underperforming. The Texas Rangers were blitzed by injuries, the Oakland Athletics have absolutely collapsed and the Detroit Tigers didn’t play to their potential for much of the season.

Seattle was also in competition with the Kansas City Royals, a good team but not one that could run away from the Mariners on talent alone. While the Mariners have struggled, the other teams have done enough to all but secure playoff births.

After trailing in the AL Central in August, Detroit has put together a 14-8 September to pull away. The Royals haven’t been quite as good at 12-11, but that’s been enough to basically put the Mariners away.

The Athletics continue to struggle, but took a crucial series in Seattle and managed to take two of three from the Philadelphia Phillies while the Mariners dropped a series to the Houston Astros. 

 Photo Credit: Nathan Denette / Associated Press

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.


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