SEATTLE -- Jarrod Washburn is an expert in lack of run support, and he realizes the danger of going to work knowing one pitch could be the difference between winning and losing. He also sees the pain in the faces of the Mariners' hitters after another low-scoring game. "We can see the hurt in their faces," Washburn said on Thursday. "It hurts us all. It's tough to watch, because you feel so badly for them. We know they can't try any harder than they are. It's not like they are just going through the motions."
The best way, it seems, for a starting pitcher to win these days is to toss a shutout, or close to it. The Mariners are averaging 4.03 runs per game, the third-lowest in the American League, and they've scored four or fewer runs in 23 of their 35 games. Seattle is averaging a Major League-low 2.13 runs per game over the last eight. The Mariners' rotation has, for the most part, done an outstanding job of keeping the team in games. The rotation of Washburn, Felix Hernandez, Carlos Silva, Erik Bedard and Miguel Batista has made 18 quality starts (three or fewer runs over six innings), the sixth-highest total in the AL. Seattle is 11-7 in those games. "We know the [hitters] are struggling, and you have a tendency to try to do too much, be too fine," Washburn said. "It something you can't do, but it creeps into your mind. You have to block it out and pitch your game." Bedard agrees that he can't get caught up in what the offense is doing -- or not doing. "I have to pitch the same, regardless," said Bedard, who lost a 2-0 decision to the Rangers on Wednesday night and has made four straight quality starts and won none of them. "I just pitch my game." The most frustrating part is losing so many well-pitched games. The offense is too good to remain in a hitting funk. "We know we have some talented offensive players on this team, and what they're going through is just one of those things," Washburn said. "It's just a matter of time before we'll be scoring runs left and right." Not a day too soon. Washburn has surrendered three or fewer runs in five of his seven starts this season, but he has just a 2-4 record to show for it. The Mariners scored three runs in one of his starts and one run in two others. He received seven runs of support in his last start, against the Rangers on Monday night at Safeco Field, and all seven runs scored in the first three innings. "That was great," Washburn said. "It takes the weight off your shoulders knowing that not every pitch you throw could be the difference in the game. You can relax a little bit, knowing the game doesn't hinge on one pitch. "I've had a few games this year when I ended up giving up three or four runs just because of one pitch." Recent club history indicates the importance of having a dependable offense. The Mariners scored 795 runs in 2003, won 93 games and the staff ERA was 3.76. One year later, when the Mariners lost 99 games, the run production decreased to 698 and the ERA climbed to 4.76. "As common as it is in this game [to slump], no one has been able to figure out that all you have to do is this and it turns everything around," Washburn said. "You just have to keep grinding it out until one day everything clicks. One, two guys get hot, and all of a sudden everyone starts hitting."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.