The Mariners have had trouble scoring runs for several seasons. They haven't scored more than 700 runs in a year -- and even that would be somewhat below league average -- since 2007.
On the other hand, the Mariners have done a pretty good job over the last few seasons preventing runs; their total of 651 runs allowed last year was third-best in the American League. Of the top nine teams in fewest runs allowed in the AL, only the Mariners failed to have a winning record.
So the solution here is simple, right? Get some hitters and score some runs, because the pitching staff is pretty good.
Seattle might just do that with the addition of two big bats over the winter: left fielder Michael Morse, acquired in a three-way deal (that included the Athletics) from the Nationals, and designated hitter Kendrys Morales, another trade acquisition from the Angels. Morales rebounded from that horrifying broken ankle suffered on a walkoff home run in 2010 to have a pretty good year in 2012. Morse, who played four years for the Mariners from 2005-08, was so mediocre then that he was sent to the Nats for Ryan Langerhans. (No, I did not make that up.) He's apparently happy to be back in Seattle, and they're happy to have a hitter with some power (in addition to their lack of run-scoring ability, Seattle also finished last in the AL in SLG in 2012 with a pretty pathetic .369 mark -- even the pretty-punchless 2012 Cubs did better than that at .378).
So the Mariners should be better at scoring runs, and of course they still have one of the top pitchers on the planet in King Felix Hernandez, who just signed a multiyear extension. The rest of the Mariners' starting rotation is serviceable, if not great, and they turned a guy who was out of baseball for four years in the mid 2000s, Tom Wilhelmsen, into a respectable closer.
Beyond those players, the Mariners hope that top draft picks from recent years such as Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager finally live up to their hype. There's also catcher Jesus Montero, acquired with much fanfare from the Yankees last offseason; he wasn't as good as hoped, but he is just 23, and the guy Seattle gave up, Michael Pineda, hasn't pitched since 2011 and recently pleaded no contest to a DUI charge, so you'd have to say the Mariners came out ahead in that one.
The Cubs and Mariners have played three three-game series, in 2002 and 2010 in Seattle and in 2007 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs have won five of the nine games, and I can't say I particularly remember any of them. This year's series will be June 28-29-30 in Seattle.
Friday, this series concludes with a look at the Texas Rangers.