After starting the season strong with five straight scoreless appearances, Seattle Mariners closer Drew Steckenrider has put together two subpar performances in a row in high-leverage situations.
In Thursday night’s series finale with the Rangers, Steckenrider took the mound in the ninth inning after the Mariners offense was able to tie the game at 6 in the bottom of the 8th. Steck appeared set for another dominant outing, setting down the Rangers’ first two hitters, then chaos struck. He walked Adolis Garcia, gave up a laced double to Kole Calhoun on a piped changeup (scoring Garcia), then allowed an RBI single to Nathaniel Lowe on another poorly located changeup.
In yesterday’s series finale with the Royals, Steckenrider once again couldn’t come through in the ninth, this time giving up a game-tying home run to Hunter Dozier on a first-pitch fastball down the middle.
Over the course of his Mariners career, Drew Steckenrider has found his success primarily by locating his 94-96 mph fastball up in the zone early in counts, then finishing hitters off with an offspeed curveball or changeup down and out of the zone. With Steckenrider currently unable to locate any of those three pitches effectively, he’s been hard-pressed to find success in recent high-leverage situations.
In his defense, the Mariners have been without stud reliever Paul Sewald for the past several days, so Steckenrider has been forced into the spotlight on a more consistent basis than he’s used to. Typically, Steck will see the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings over the course of the week; a strictly 9th-inning role could have been challenging to adjust to.
SoDo Mojo contributor Michael Thompson believes Diego Castillo should be Seattle’s primary option in the 9th while Sewald is out – does Mariners Nation agree?