SEATTLE - There have been good moments, strong performances, in each of the past seven Seattle Mariners game - all losses - but patience is wearing thin.
Not just in the stands at Safeco Field, where 21,128 watched the Cleveland Indians complete their three-game series sweep with a 6-4 victory.
Jack Cust feels it.
The Mariners’ designated hitter and the man who has hit cleanup in each of the Mariners’ nine games, watched fellow left-handed hitters Ryan Langerhans and Michael Saunders hit home runs as Seattle tried to come back from a 6-0 deficit.
“You’re watching from the bench and those guys hit one out and you’re fired up for them and yourself,” Cust said. “Home runs come in bunches, and they’re the result of good at-bats.”
On Sunday, Cust went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk. In nine games, he’s batting .226 with three RBI but without a home run.
“We’re going through a real tough stretch, and so will the teams we’re playing,” manager Eric Wedge said. “Some of the guys are pressing a little, but it will come. We’ll become a better-hitting club.”
Cust is one of those trying a little too hard, and as the cleanup hitter he knows he’s under the microscope. Fans may not think much about the No. 6 hitter, the No. 8 hitter – but everyone knows what a No. 4 hitter is supposed to do.
“The other night in a 2-1 game I came up with a man on second base,” Cust said. “I tried to force it, I wanted to get that run in so badly. Instead of staying with my approach, I went after pitches, chased a couple of bad pitches. Let me tell you, this is a tough league when the count is 0-2.”
Before Game 9, Cust sat at his locker watching himself hammer hit after hit on a digital tape, and visualizing himself getting a big hit.
“It’s coming, for a lot of us, it’s coming,” Cust said.
By the time Mariners hits came Sunday, the game was out of hand.
Erik Bedard’s second start of the season was a reminder that it’s been a year and a half since he pitched regularly. He remains very much a man in the process of trying to come back.
“Erik was off a bit today, but his stuff was good,” Wedge said. “He didn’t finish all his pitches off, left a few up, but he had life on his pitches, the ball kind of exploded out of his hand.”
Bedard wasn’t sure about the explosion part.
“I threw strikes, for the most part, but I wasn’t consistently down with them,” he said. “They hit good pitches and bad pitches, but it might take awhile. I’m trying to get my arm back.
“I’m looking for consistency, for knee-high strikes. I struck out six, but I left some balls in the hitting zone, too.”
In four innings, the Indians had 10 hits against Bedard, maybe half of them hammered – including home runs from ex-Mariners Asdrubal Cabrera and Jack Hannahan.
When Bedard left, the Mariners trailed 6-0 and had one hit, a single.
Then, two things happened: reliever David Pauley came in and retired nine consecutive Indians – and Seattle began trying to scramble back into the game.
Justin Smoak got one run home with a sacrifice fly, and in the seventh inning, Langherhans hit his second home run of the season with Smoak aboard to make it 6-3.
A few moments later, Saunders went deep and it was 6-4.
“Our bullpen gave us the chance to come back,” Wedge said. “Pauley, Jamie Wright and Brandon League shut them down and gave us a shot. It’s like so many other games in this stretch we’re going through – we had a chance to win.”
The biggest reason: a .215 team batting average and a .288 on-base percentage.
Wedge and his coaching staff are working not just in on-field batting practice, but in off-the-field conversations about how to hit.
“After I walked four times (Friday, hitting coach) Chris Chambliss talked to me about all the balls I’d fouled off that night,” Langerhans said. “There were mistake pitches I might have done something more with, done damage on.
“I’m willing to walk, but if a pitcher makes a mistake, I’ve got to make them pay. Today, the home run swing was the easiest, smoothest swing I had all weekend. I don’t have to jump at balls, just wait for them and hit them.”