ARLINGTON -- There should be an asterisk next to this one, given that they just faced last year's top three strikeout pitchers in the American League. But Mariners hitters are on a record pace for strikeouts after 18 games and were set down at an historic rate over the three previous games heading into Saturday's contest with the Rangers.
The Mariners struck out 44 times over 32 innings in three games from Wednesday through Friday, including 19 in a 14-inning loss to Detroit on Thursday. Not coincidentally, they faced the Tigers' Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander and Rangers ace Yu Darvish in those three outings, and that trio were the top three AL pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings in 2012.
Scherzer and Verlander both racked up 12 strikeouts and Darvish had 10 in his seven innings on Friday, marking the first time in Mariners history they've struck out 10 or more times against an opposing starter in three straight games.
That run certainly skews their early numbers, but manager Eric Wedge isn't thrilled to see his club second to only the struggling Astros in strikeouts in the American League and on pace for 1,332 for the year, which would break the franchise record of 1,280, set in 2011.
"We have faced good pitchers, but we're a lot better than that," Wedge said. "The one thing is, we have to do better with two strikes. There's certain things we need to do better prior to that to create damage, but speaking to the strikeouts, we just need to do a better job with two strikes. We're capable and we should be better than that."
The key, in Wedge's mind?
"Just protecting the plate and being disciplined at the same time," he said. "That's why it's so difficult to hit. You're up there not to take strike three, but you're up there not to chase, too. So it's just having better discipline and pitch recognition."
Slugger Michael Morse leads the Mariners with 17 strikeouts in 57 at-bats, but it's been a team-wide trend as 10 different players have at least 10 K's. Catcher Kelly Shoppach leads the club with his .333 batting average in limited duty, but he also has the highest strikeout rate with 10 in 24 at-bats.
"It's a battle," third baseman Kyle Seager said of the necessary two-strike approach. "You get in there with two strikes, you really have to dig in and battle and fight. That's basically what it comes down to. Sometimes you can be in there fighting and they surprise you with a pitch, but for the most part, you've got to do whatever you can to get the ball in play."