I’m absolutely stunned by this Mariners team right now. Nothing about this makes any sense, but I DON’T CARE!
Ever since Jackie Z & Co. unofficially (but sort of officially) abandoned the Youth Movement – starting in 2014, with the signing of Robinson Cano – we’ve been on an Every Other Year sort of track with this team. In 2014, we were pretty good; we won 87 games and were a game out of the second wild card. In 2015, with expectations pretty high, we sucked. In 2016, we were pretty good again; we won 86 games this time and were 3 games out of the second wild card. In 2017, with expectations pretty high again, we sucked again. So, it’s 2018 now, and by that logic it’s time to be pretty good again! I think we’re all in agreement – and have been since before the season started – that the Mariners would probably be in contention for a wild card spot, even in spite of the fact that they did nothing over the off-season to improve their rotation. After the obvious divisional favorites, I figured the M’s would be one of the 4 or 5 best remaining teams to compete for those 2 wild card spots, and I figured they’d fall just short in the end.
I’ll reiterate – as I do every time I even APPROACH getting my hopes up – that this could all still happen. Everything could still fall apart and/or another team or two could get insanely hot, and we could still fall just short in the end.
But, I mean, come on.
The Mariners are now 38-22. For those that don’t feel like doing the math, that’s 16 games over .500! Are you literally shitting me out of your ass right now? Someone posted on Twitter that this is one of the four best starts for the M’s after 60 games in franchise history (alongside all those great teams from 2001-2003, that the second wild card team was created for). At what point do we go from cautiously optimistic that this team can hold the Angels at bay for that second wild card spot (they are currently 5 games behind us) and start talking about the limitless possibilities that this team can achieve?
We’re 2 games ahead of the Astros for the division lead, after beating their asses by the score of 7-1 last night. James Paxton got 2 outs into the 8th inning, giving up just 1 run. We jumped all over Dallas Keuchel (scoring 4 in the first and 2 more in the second), making this one of the worst starts of his career, as he went 6.2 innings, giving up 7 runs on 7 hits, a walk, and only 3 strikeouts. Seager hit a 3-run oppo-shot off the lefty, Zunino crushed a 2-run bomb against the glass, and Segura capped things off with a solo job in the fifth.
Sure, it was a Paxton start, and you generally expect to win these games when he’s healthy (and especially when he’s rolling like he’s been since the beginning of May), but would anyone have been shocked if we lost yesterday? Keuchel traditionally kills us, as does the Astros’ offense. Since the Astros joined the A.L. West – heading into yesterday’s game – we were 41-58 against them dating back to the beginning of the 2013 season (and remember, the first two years, the Astros were objectively one of the worst teams in baseball). At this point, I’m just conditioned to losing to this team. And not only did we win, we CRUSHED them! This wasn’t one of those 1-0 jobs where Paxton is just out of his mind and we get a lucky run late; this was the Mariners stomping on their throats from the get-go and never letting up!
So, can we dream a little bit? Let’s have just a little bit of fun before it all falls apart on us.
If the season ended today, the Mariners would be in the playoffs for the first time since 2001. As divisional winners, we wouldn’t have to worry about a 1-game playoff. It would be the Yankees against the Astros in that game, which is huge, because those are two VERY big threats, one of which will have to go down without facing the Mariners.
What happens next? Well, the team with the best record in the American League plays the Wild Card winner. That team figures to be the Red Sox, another VERY big threat. So, again, two VERY big threats will be playing one another, without facing the Mariners.
Who would the Mariners play in the ALDS? None other than the Cleveland Indians. Remember that terrible A.L. Central? Yeah, the Indians are 31-28 right now and look exceedingly mediocre (the second-best team in that division, not for nothing, is the Detroit Tigers at 29-33). The Mariners are finished playing the Indians for the regular season, but we went 5-2 against them. We actually have winning records against all the teams in that division, so you figure the ALDS is looking mighty good for us.
Beyond that, it’s just a 7-game ALCS standing between us and our first-ever World Series appearance. A lot would have to go right for us to get there, but it doesn’t sound as impossible as it did just yesterday at this time. And, since no one in the National League really impresses the hell out of you, who’s to say this year couldn’t be THE year?
I know that’s all nonsense, and there’s still PLENTY of time for things to go sideways, but this is fun, isn’t it? It hasn’t been THIS fun since 2001. Where now my expectation is that the Mariners will win on any given night, vs. the other way around. And, to their credit, they’re finding ways to get it done on a regular basis.