ANAHEIM -- Right-handed reliever Sean Green had such a superb first season with the Mariners in 2007, going 5-2 with a 3.84 ERA in 64 games, that the coaching staff selected him for the team's "Unsung Hero" award. His role became more prominent this season, and he had an even better first half, ranking among the American League leaders in appearances and ERA heading into the four-day All-Star break. But for whatever reasons, the past two months have been a head-scratcher for the 29-year-old hurler, and everyone around him.
What a difference that four-game break has made. The pre-All-Star Game Green had a 2-2 record and 2.72 ERA in 48 appearances covering 53 innings. Opposing batters hit .224 against him. The post-All-Star Game Green has a 2-3 record and 8.31 ERA in 18 appearances covering 17 1/3 innings. Opposing batters are hitting .300 against him. What the heck happened to make such a difference in such a short amount of time? "I haven't been able to make a good pitch when I'm ahead in the count," the funky-delivery sinkerball specialist said. "It's one of those things that when I get ahead in the count, I can't finish them off. I feel good. I just haven't been able to put guys away." Manager Jim Riggleman and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre are having a tough time figuring out what has happened to one of their most reliable relievers. Green has surrendered at least one run in six of his past seven outings, including a four-run pratfall in the sixth inning of Thursday night's series opener against the AL West champion Angels. A two-run deficit quickly became a seven-run gap in an eventual 7-4 Seattle loss. "I don't know what to tell you," Riggleman said after the game. "We tried to put him in a little softer situation tonight, when were down a couple but still in the game. Mel and I thought it was kind of a good spot for him, an important spot, but yet not in the seventh or eighth. Nothing can go right for him right now." Green, who held opposing hitters to a .255 batting average a year ago, including a .234 mark against right-handers, says he has not been able to throw two-strike pitches just far enough out of the strike zone that hitters will chase. Those pitches are getting too much of the strike zone, and getting hit. Some are soft fly balls that fall in, others are ground balls that sneak through the infield, and some are line drives. "I haven't been able to expand the strike zone the way I should," he said.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.