At the end of June, the Mariners were 35-47. They had just finished a homestand where they played 8 games in 10 days (with a 2-game Pittsburgh series sandwiched between two off days) and they went 3-5. This was following a road trip where the Mariners lost another 4 of 7 games, which followed a home stand where they went 5-5. Let’s face it, if this season’s ship was ever going to be righted, it was going to be in the month of June where they played 18 of 27 games at home and had a whopping three days off sprinkled in. Instead, the Mariners finished June with an 11-16 record, and all hope was officially lost.
Then, the first two weeks of July happened. I wouldn’t call June 30th the season’s low point (for that, you’d probably have to look at the end of Game 8 of that 8-Game Losing Streak back in May), but it was one of many low points that left this team at sort of a crossroads. Would they play for the current season, in hopes of saving some high-level jobs? Or, would they play for the future, in hopes of saving some high-level jobs?
As it turns out, there’s a way to do both, and it just might be working!
To kick off July, the Mariners won 2/3 in Texas and another 2/3 in Cincinnati. In case you hadn’t heard, those are two very good baseball teams. Riding that wave of euphoria, the Mariners came home and promptly lost 3/4 to the Red Sox. Here’s where it gets wonky, though: in that 4-game series, the Mariners scored 30 runs … IN SAFECO! And, not for nothing, but I don’t think the new brought-in fences had much to do with it. These were legitimate offensive numbers, and they were a long time coming. Buoyed by this resurgent offense, the Mariners went out and swept the Angels in the three games leading up to the All Star Break, outscoring them 18-6. In that homestand, the Mariners averaged nearly seven runs a game.
Let me say that again: in that HOMEstand, the MARINERS averaged NEARLY seven RUNS a game.
So, where does that leave us now? Two weeks later, after the Mariners struggled so profusely, with an 8-5 record in that span, suddenly there’s something resembling Buzz about these Mariners. You could knock me over with a feather.
First, let’s go ahead and analyze this buzz. I would argue that there wouldn’t be NEARLY the buzz if this team didn’t sweep the Angels. If they were to have lost that last game on Sunday (which they very nearly did), this would be an entirely different discussion. But, they did sweep the Angels, and it was their FIRST sweep of the season. That’s significant. Along with the fact that the first sweep immediately preceeded the All Star Break, we’ve had three full days to sit and digest what we’ve seen. Obviously, what we’ve seen most recently takes precedence, as it’s freshest in our memories, so here we are. Buzzed.
At this point, there’s a lot to like about this team, rather than just a lot to be hopeful about. In season’s past, we would all hold out hope for guys like Casper Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Eric Thames, Carlos Peguero, and of course bigger prospects like Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Michael Saunders. Ultimately, all of those guys would go on to brutally disappoint, rendering our hope as futile as it gets.
But, not the 2013 Mariners! Right here, we’ve got something we can hold in our hand! Hard, firm numbers, gently pulsating, exciting us to climax. Guys like Brad Miller and Nick Franklin who are actually DOING something. Not just sitting there with all the promise in the world, failing us at every turn. Then, we’ve got guys like Kyle Seager and Justin Smoak absolutely tearing the cover off the ball … with their bats … because they hit the balls so hard the stitches come loose … I don’t get it either. Anyway, we’ve got production, and not just from the usual gang of idiots! It’s not ONLY Ibanez and Morales. It’s the younger guys, FINALLY contributing. And it feels like a million God damn dollars in here.
There’s nothing quite like the excitement you feel when your team finally turns the corner. For the Seahawks, that happened in the middle of the 2011 season, when they improbably beat teams like Baltimore and the New York Giants. Yeah, they finished that season 7-9, but you could see things coming together. These Mariners, if they are indeed turning the corner, likely won’t finish much better, percentage-wise. They currently sit 9 games under .500, which it seems like they’ve been hovering at this mark the whole damn season. For the Mariners to reach .500, they would have to finish 38-29. It’s not an impossible dream for this team, especially if they figured out how to bottle whatever it was they had the first two weeks of this month. If the Mariners can get to .500, or very close to it, considering how they started this season, I would consider 2013 a success. .500 would mean that the youngsters have continued to produce. .500 would mean a winning record in the second half, which will hopefully mean continued winning in 2014. .500 would mean that the Seattle Mariners have FINALLY turned the corner.
Of course, if they keep hovering around 9-12 games under .500 for the rest of the year, then you could probably make the argument that they turned the corner, only to run into another brick wall. The last thing I want to see out of this team is the injury bug tearing through our core. If they start dropping like flies and their numbers suffer accordingly, everyone will go into the offseason saying, “If it weren’t for their being injured, they would’ve had great seasons!” Which, judging by how often we’ve used that line of logic the last half decade, is utter bullshit.
So, no injuries, get to .500, and have the young core be the primary reason for our second half success. THAT’S what I expect from this team. Continuing this winning streak by sweeping the Astros (series starting tomorrow) would be an excellent start.