Don’t overlook reliever Danny Farquhar in the coming days when compiling the long list of what-ifs in the Mariners’ disappointing season.
Oh, Farquhar isn’t at the top, certainly.
There were bigger puzzles, such as Robinson Cano’s inexplicable six-week crash from late April to mid-June, a maddening lack of productivity with runners in scoring position and Fernando Rodney’s ruinous decline.
Mike Zunino’s regression. Injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton and Charlie Furbush. And a lot more. It’s a long list.
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But Farquhar might best exemplify these Mariners.
Like the club as a whole, he endured a miserable start amid heightened expectations and labored through a long stretch of inconsistency before putting it together in the closing weeks.
“I think there was an issue with my arm slot,” Farquhar said. “That’s what the consensus is. I’m just going to keep throwing from where I’m at right now.”
The “right now” shows Farquhar, 28, on a run of eight scoreless outings since his Sept. 7 recall from Triple-A Tacoma. He has allowed one hit and one walk in 8 1/3 innings while registering 11 strikeouts.
“In my mind,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “I think he’s back. It’s really nice to see. You try not to think about what-ifs. It’s nice to see him throw the ball the way he’s capable of throwing the ball.”
It was that Farquhar who entered the season projected as one of the club’s top setup relievers.
He was a former closer — 16-for-18 in save opportunities over the final two months in 2013 — who shifted roles last season, after the Mariners acquired Rodney, and responded with a 2.66 ERA and 13 “holds” in 66 appearances.
That Farquhar was nowhere in evidence over the early weeks. He had a 6.46 ERA through 20 games when the Mariners optioned him on May 25 to Tacoma.
His key pitch, his cut fastball, wasn’t cutting. Farquhar, at the time, believed he was close to a fix — “I think I’m not too far off” — but the Mariners were already eight games out of first and their bullpen was a mess.
They needed help now.
“It’s hard for any pitcher to try to make adjustments here in the big leagues,” McClendon explained. “It gives Danny a chance to step back and work on the things he needs to work on.”
The move didn’t pay immediate dividends for the club or player. For Farquhar, it marked the start of a 15-week odyssey that saw him shuttled four times between Tacoma and the big leagues.
“It sucks, obviously, going up and down,” he admitted at one point, “but I’ve been in way worse situations. You’ve just got to be mentally tough and deal with what happens.”
The pieces began to fall into place at Tacoma just after the All-Star break, when he put together a strong 10-game stretch that prompted another big-league recall.
Farquhar pitched well in four outings before an Aug. 22 clunker against the White Sox (four batters faced, none retired, three runs) resulted in another demotion to Tacoma.
That outing against Chicago now looks like an outlier. Farquhar hasn’t allowed a run since: five scoreless outings for the Rainiers before his current eight-game run in the big leagues.
He offers a simple explanation.
“I’m throwing my cutter for strikes,” Farquhar said. “I’m locating it down, and in and out. It’s a huge key to my success.”
The Mariners are 12-7 in September. Their bullpen leads the majors in that span with a 1.74 ERA. It isn’t solely because of Farquhar, but … what if?
While Zunino seeks to hone his swing in the Instructional League, his two rookie replacement catchers continue to pile up outs.
John Hicks is 1-for-26 with one walk and 15 strikeouts in 11 games, while Steven Baron is hitless in nine at-bats in three games. That’s a combined 1-for-35 and an .029 average.
The news isn’t all bad, though.
Backup Jesus Sucre is perking up since gaining additional playing time. He was 2-for-4 with a sacrifice fly in Sunday’s 9-2 victory at Texas and is 8-for-35 (.235) in 14 games since Zunino’s Aug. 28 demotion.
The Mariners entered Monday’s open date at 73-77 with 12 games remaining. They were six games behind Houston in the race for the American League’s final wild-card spot.
So the math isn’t good.
Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs each rated the Mariners as having a 0.3 percent chance of reaching postseason. That’s three chances in 1,000. ESPN was less optimistic in giving them a 0.1 percent chance.
It was 22 years ago Tuesday — Sept. 22, 1993 — that Nolan Ryan closed out his Hall of Fame career by failing to survive the first inning of a game at the Kingdome.
The Mariners scored five runs against Ryan, who officially faced five batters before leaving the game, and went on to a 7-4 victory over the Texas Rangers.
Ryan failed to retire a single batter. He gave up a leadoff single to Omar Vizquel before walking three straight batters. Dann Howitt then hit a grand slam for a 5-0 lead.
Ryan threw two pitches to the next hitter, Dave Magadan, before leaving the game. So Howitt is the last player credited with an at-bat against Ryan, and Magadan is the last player to see a pitch from Ryan.
Felix Hernandez needs 4 1/3 more innings to reach 200 for an eighth straight year. is the only other pitcher in club history with seven 200-inning seasons, but they weren’t consecutive. … Hernandez needs 15 more strikeouts to reach 200 for a seventh straight year. Randy Johnson is the only other pitcher in club history to post seven 200-strikeout seasons, but they weren’t consecutive. … Kyle Seager’s two doubles in Sunday’s 9-2 victory at Texas boosted his season total to 35, which matches a career high previously achieved in 2012. … Ketel Marte has reached base safely at least twice in seven straight games and has a .467 on-base percentage in that span.
The Mariners open a three-game series against the Royals at 5:10 p.m. Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The Royals won two of three when the clubs played earlier this year at Safeco Field.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (8-4, 3.90) will face Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (8-7, 5.55).
After three games in Kansas City, the Mariners conclude their final road trip next weekend with three games against the Angels in Anaheim, Calif.