Coming into this homestand, the Mariners were 57-54. They’d just lost a series in Baltimore to finish .500 on their last road trip. From July 4th onward, they’d gone 10-16 and fallen all the way to 2 games out of the second Wild Card spot behind Toronto, New York, and Kansas City. Things were looking pretty grim. Our new bats weren’t really doing much, we were squandering great pitching performances left and right, and it just felt like this season was sputtering to a premature stop just as football season was kicking off.
Not only that, but the Mariners were about to embark on a 9-game homestand, a place where they were a whopping 26-31 on the season!
Well, eight wins later – sandwiching an extra-innings loss to the Hector Noesi-led White Sox last Saturday – and here we are: 65-55, ten games over .500 for the first time all year (indeed, for the first time since 2007). We’re tied with Detroit for the second Wild Card spot. AND, we’re three games ahead of Toronto and 3.5 games up on New York (Kansas City has been on a wicked tear and has overtaken Detroit by a half game). We get a much-deserved day off today, then it’s three games against – you guessed it – Detroit, the team we’re currently tied with for the second Wild Card spot.
And that’s how you do it. Yes, Baltimore gave us fits in recent weeks, but Baltimore is 19 games over .500; they’re REALLY good. Atlanta and Toronto are fringe playoff teams in their respective leagues. The White Sox are something worse. The Tigers are in a free-fall and they’ve suffered some nasty injuries to key players. Moreover, we only play one of their mighty Big Three starting pitchers: David Price, on Saturday. Yes, he’s good, but we’ve seen him a lot. Plus, he’ll be facing Felix for the first time ever. That’s going to be a game for the ages (so, I’m glad I’ll be throwing a rooftop barbecue at my building and missing the whole fucking thing).
Here’s the thing, though: after Detroit, we go to Philly and Boston, two last place teams going absolutely nowhere. This is the time to strike! We took care of business on the most recent homestand; now, we need to bring the pain on this 9-game road trip. Give us a nice little bit of cushion going into the hellfire that will be the final month.
The Mariners have played 120 games so far this season. 42 more to go. They need to go 25-17 the rest of the way to get to 90 wins, which we all feel is a number that would get us into the playoffs. That’s do-able! That’s very do-able.
I know it’s probably just the good vibes talking, what with the 8 wins in 9 games and all, but this really has the feel of a season that’s the anti-2007 & anti-2009. Where instead of fading late, we’re actually getting STRONGER! Knock on wood and whatnot, but Chris Young continues to impress. Felix is on the roll of a lifetime. Iwakuma is his steady, solid self. Roenis Elias shouldn’t be hampered by an innings limit after being skipped and sent down for a short start last night. We’ll have him back up next week, good to go. And, if James Paxton manages to stay healthy, we can continue this lights-out run of pitching we’ve been on. A run that has seen our staff throw up a sub-3 ERA on the season.
And, I haven’t even gotten into our hitters! Cano and Seager aren’t going anywhere. Dustin Ackley may have plateaued around .250, but if he can hang around there and provide more timely hits, we should be okay with that. Austin Jackson has given us stability at the top of the order and in center field. A Taylor/Miller platoon (with Taylor getting the majority of the starts) is just what the doctor ordered at short. Mike Zunino has shown some true opposite field power of late – if he can keep that up, he’ll be a major weapon in Safeco. Logan Morrison isn’t Justin Smoak, so that’s a plus. And, in the last couple games, Kendrys Morales has found his stroke, like I always believed he would.
It’s not the best lineup in the world, but it’s MUCH better than it was in July. And, let us not forget: Michael Saunders is currently in Triple-A working his way back from injury. If he can settle in as our everyday right fielder (who gets platooned against lefties, and for regular days off so he can STAY healthy), that picks us up that much more in the hitting department.
It’s a little over two weeks until September. At that point, we’ll have our full allotment of bench players, bullpen guys, and who knows, maybe even an extra starter! I mean, think about this: the Mariners’ best prospect – Taijuan Walker – is down in Tacoma getting his work in. AND, we’ve got Erasmo Ramirez, if we need any long relief in the final month.
This isn’t the ’27 Yankees, but this is a legitimate potential playoff team! We’ve got the best pitching in baseball, we’ve got some solid defense, and if we can maintain our timely hitting of late, there’s no telling how far this team can go.
This is fun. It’s been WAY TOO LONG since we’ve been allowed to feel this way.