By Shannon Drayer
A victory within the victory Friday night for the Mariners as they were able to hold the Rangers to just one stolen base and one stolen-base attempt. Texas leads the American League in stolen bases over the last two weeks with 19. Impressive that a team with the capability of knocking the ball out of the park the way they do can also get it done on the bases. It turns out it has been a focus of late.
At the end of July the Rangers were in a bit of a free-fall. They had lost three straight to the Indians and dropped to six games behind the Athletics. After that game, manager Ron Washington called a meeting. It wasn't to rally the troops, it was to get to the bottom of why they were not winning games. Several players spoke and it was determined that a big part of the problem was they were waiting around for the long ball.
Heading into that meeting, the Rangers had lost 25 of the 34 games in which they failed to hit a home run. Since then, they have lost one (Friday against the Mariners) of six. What has changed? They are playing more small ball. They are stealing bases and taking the extra base.
That kind of baseball was on full display in the second inning Saturday when the Rangers put up five on the board against Felix Hernandez. There were five hits but also a stolen base and a perfectly executed suicide squeeze. Good baserunning and first-to-third has also come into play for the Rangers of late. Every little bit helps, especially against a pitcher like Hernandez.
It is worth noting that over the last two weeks, while the Rangers have stolen 19 bases, the Mariners have picked up just two. The Mariners have 36 this season. Elvis Andrus has 30.
While the Mariners are not a team made up of burners, they do have plus speed in Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders and Brad Miller. Kyle Seager is a smart base runner and can steal a base when he sees the opportunity. Nick Franklin should be able to do the same. If these guys have the green light and are not running, maybe it is time to tell them to run.
Good baserunning and stealing bases is something that we have talked about since spring training. It is something that should play more prominently into the Mariners' offense but doesn't, and it is getting worse. Since July 1 they have stolen a grand total of six bases.
Now, since July 1 they have also hit the second-most home runs in the American League, which is great, but the potential for more offense is there, and obviously they need it. They will need it going forward as well.