Well, shit, you can’t sweep ’em all.
Another losing homestand. In seven games, the Mariners went 3-4, bringing us to 24-26 at home on the season. Which is another way of saying we’re 27-18 on the road. And, of course, when you put it all together, the Mariners are 51-44 at the All Star Break. Third place in the division, 8 games behind Oakland, and 2.5 games UP on Kansas City & Toronto for the second Wild Card. I don’t care who you are, if you’re a Mariners fan and someone guaranteed that to you coming into the season, you’d take it in a heartbeat.
Doesn’t mean the Mariners are a finished product. Doesn’t mean we can simply ride this out and coast into the playoffs. Right now, the two best and hottest teams in baseball are right in our own division: Oakland and Anaheim. You figure Detroit is a pretty safe bet to win the Central. And, at the moment, Baltimore has gone on a tear to take a 4-game lead in the East. I’m not so sure they’re going to run away with the thing, but the East is pretty much wide open, so it’s not impossible.
That still leaves a lot of pretty good teams out there to worry about when it comes to getting that second Wild Card spot. As I said earlier: Kansas City & Toronto are right on our tail. Either one of them has the capability to get hot, and I would imagine either one of them is just as likely to make a deadline deal to improve. I’m not so wild and crazy about the Yankees, but you can see they won’t stop trying to get better. Cleveland is hanging around. Tampa or the White Sox – if they don’t decide to sell their stars – could just as easily go on a tear and get back into this race. Doesn’t seem likely, but the point is: there’s a lot of baseball left and anything can happen.
Since day 1, I’ve been of the opinion that the Mariners HAVE to hit that 90-win mark to be in a solid position to make the playoffs. That’s why contention with this team seemed so remote at the beginning of the season. Yet, here we are at the All Star Break, and the Mariners have a .537 winning percentage, good for fifth in the American League. Our run differential is good for third! To get to 90 wins, the Mariners will have to go 39-28, which is a .582 winning percentage. It’s certainly not impossible – and it will certainly be made easier if we can find another outfielder or 1B/DH in a trade – but the easy part of our schedule is over.
Back in early June – after a 2-game sweep of a very good Braves team – I talked about the schedule leading us into the All Star Break. From that date onward, the Mariners went 20-16, which is less than ideal, but still pretty good for this team. The fact of the matter is, we have continued to prove in the last five weeks that in spite of our flaws, we ARE in contention. That’s outstanding! We ARE buyers at the trade deadline! This is all really good news!
Coming out of the break, it’s a little nasty. We play games against the following teams who are also in playoff contention: Anaheim, Baltimore, Cleveland, Baltimore again, Atlanta, Toronto, Detroit, Washington, and then the month of September, which is a total orgy of difficulty, as we play nothing but the A.L. West and the Toronto Blue Jays on the road for 4 games. As for the “bad” teams we play in the next six and a half weeks, we’ve got the Mets, the White Sox and their crazy-good starting rotation, the Phillies, the Red Sox, and the Rangers. I know those last two teams are bad, but you never count out the Red Sox in Boston, and the Rangers are still a division rival and will want to play spoiler like nobody’s business.
It’s a little scary out there, that’s all I’m saying.
In other news, I already wrote about that craptastic Twins series where we went 1-3, so I won’t revisit. We ALMOST made up for it by really taking it to the A’s this weekend. King Felix was superb and Iwakuma was nearly better! Chris Young couldn’t quite bring it home yesterday afternoon, but that’s neither here nor there, because unsurprisingly, the offense was the story of the game.
In the fourth inning, Cano and Seager both singled to put runners on the corners with no outs. We held a tenuous 1-0 lead and needed to play add-on in a big way. We proceeded to leave that runner stranded and Sonny Gray went on to pitch into the 8th inning. If we score there – even one run – I feel that it changes the complexion of the game somewhat. Chris Young had rolled up until that point. Maybe their batters get more desperate and start over-swinging or something. I dunno. All I know is: the game was decided in that inning, with Dustin Ackley fouling off two fastballs right down the middle with two outs and a chance to do some damage, before he rolled over and died.
A sweep of the A’s would’ve absolved the Mariners of their sins in that Twins series. Instead, we got a much-needed series win at home and now we get a few days off to rest.
We should hear about Felix starting the All Star Game later today. Cano will be there, starting at second base. Seager seems likely to get some playing time at third. And, for good measure, we found out over the weekend that Fernando Rodney is another injury replacement. I don’t expect him to pitch at all unless this thing goes to extra innings, but it’s still a nice honor.
Justin Smoak was called back up as Michael Saunders went back on the DL. With an oblique strain. Sounds like he’s going to miss a lot more than just the 15-day minimum. Might be upwards of 4-8 weeks, which would put him out for pretty much the rest of the season. We’ll see; maybe he’s a quick healer.
We know who 4/5 of our rotation is coming out of the break, but apparently Taijuan Walker is on the hot seat a little bit. I don’t know what the plan is outside of him; Erasmo for a third time? I can’t help but wonder if Tom Wilhelmsen will get stretched out. We’ve got this massive bullpen now, Brandon Maurer is really making a name for himself as someone we should keep in that role. SOMEONE has to go; why not convert Wilhelmsen into a starter?
I don’t like that role for him long term, but it’s something interesting to look at. The 5th starter position for the Mariners this year has been a fucking dumpster fire. Until Taijuan Walker can get a little more consistent with his pitches, I have no problem working out Wilhelmsen to see if this run he’s been on in the bullpen can translate to the rotation.
That’s all for now. Next game on Friday down in Anaheim.