The Mariners had a nice little 5-game winning streak last week to end up 5-2. We took 2 of 3 against Oakland and 3 of 4 against Texas, all on the road. Because, you know, that’s what we do. We go out on the road and kick some ass.
The Mariners are a half-game up on the Detroit Tigers for the second wild card. The Mariners are 2 games behind Oakland for the first wild card. And, wouldn’t you know it? The Mariners play their last three games against Oakland this upcoming weekend! Chris Young and Felix are set to kick off that series, with Paxton presumably going on Sunday. I know we’ve been a .500 ballclub at home this year, but the Mariners have to find a way to nut up this week. The Houston series (today thru Wednesday) needs to be a sweep. And, ideally, so would Oakland, but I’d take a series win and a 5-1 week.
In looking ahead, after this 6-game homestand, the Mariners go out on the road for 11 straight games, before closing out the season with a 3-game series back at Safeco. In the final two weeks, the Mariners play the Angels 7 times. The 4-game series next week doesn’t currently have Felix in the running to make ANY of those starts. If that holds, it’s a critical mistake. He’s set to pitch this Saturday, the 13th. His next turn in the rotation – if we weren’t trying to give guys extra days of rest – would be Thursday the 18th, which is the last game of the series. He HAS to pitch in that game! This is why you have an ace pitcher to begin with! To pitch in the biggest games! I don’t care, give him an extra day of rest in the following week.
Or, you know, don’t. Don’t give him extra rest. Ride him out, because he’s a champion and he’ll rise to the challenge. If you keep Felix on his regular turns, after that game down in Anaheim, he’d pitch the second game in the Toronto series the following week. That would put him right on turn to either pitch the very last game of the season – if we absolutely need a win to get into the playoffs – or give him the extra day’s rest THEN and have him rested up for the 1-game Wild Card playoff.
Am I the only one who sees all the sense I’m making? I hope not. I hope Lloyd is right there with me.
In other news, is anyone else sick and tired of people being all like, “Wow, just sit back and think about it: the Mariners are in a playoff race in the middle of September! Isn’t that an amazing snowflake of a flower unicorn rainbow baby?” Look, yeah, it’s fun and all, and it CERTAINLY beats the shit out of the alternative. But, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not satisfied with just “making it interesting” in September. All of my focus is on what the Mariners need to be doing (or doing better) to get in this fucking thing!
Because, I’ll tell you what, if it comes down to the wire and the Mariners fail to make it? Yeah, 2014 will have been a nice year. We’ll be able to look back on it after it’s all over and say, “Yeah, I had a good time watching the Mariners. Things are looking up.” But, are they?
I’m not saying 2014 is all or nothing – that if we don’t make the playoffs and get super hot, it’s all over and the whole thing will need to be blown up – but for starters there’s no guarantee that the Mariners will be in contention in 2015. Let’s look at this thing objectively: the 2014 Mariners have had their share of luck, they’ve ridden a hot pitching staff with a crazy-good bullpen, and they’ve managed just enough timely hits on the road to take advantage of all that pitching and defense. Going forward, there’s no way you can count on this pitching being as good. Felix will be as good, of course, because he’s Felix. And, I think we’re all pretty confident in what Iwakuma brings to the table; he likely won’t just fall off the map. Maybe we get more innings out of Paxton and Elias, but I would still consider them question marks. And, do we go out and re-sign Chris Young? Would that be wise? He’s probably going to command a deal with a minimum of two years on it; do we want to commit that much to a guy at the tail end of his career? Will Taijuan Walker finally be ready next year? Will these guys who got injured in 2014 manage to stay healthy?
And, that’s just the rotation. The bullpen, I assure you, will NOT be as effective as it’s been in 2014. It just won’t. Bullpen performance is wacky and it’s impossible to predict from one year to the next. Someone with a sub-2 ERA will return the very next year – under no ill effects of injury – and fart out a 4+ ERA season. And a lot of that is simply BABIP luck (or lack thereof).
Then, look at the lineup. It’s not the worst thing in the world, going into 2015, with Cano and Seager and Austin Jackson. Zunino will be back, but will he still have that huge hole in his bat that keeps his average around .200? Yes, the power is nice, but a little more consistency (and ability to hit a curve ball) will go a long way. Ackley will be back, but will he be the Ackley we’ve seen in the second half of this year? Or, will he be the Ackley we’ve seen pretty much since he was brought up to the Majors? If he has truly turned a corner, then he may very well be worth that #2 overall draft pick status. But, if this is just a flash in the pan, and we’re doomed to see a guy with more cold streaks than hot, then that’s a problem. Michael Saunders will be back, but has proven he can’t stay healthy. LoMo and Smoak will be back, but neither one is someone you’d consider an ideal first baseman. Chris Taylor and Brad Miller will be back, but will either one be able to lock down the short stop job long term? Endy Chavez will be back, because where the hell else is he going to go? Kendrys Morales WON’T be back, because he hates it here, and that means the Mariners are going to have work to do this offseason.
It can’t all be trades. The Mariners need to go out and sign another big bat to play either first base or DH. And, wherever we don’t upgrade, we have to just hope for the best.
No, it’s not all or nothing, but making the playoffs in three weeks IS of utmost importance. And it WILL be a let down if we fail. It’s hard for me to enjoy a winning season that doesn’t end up with October baseball, knowing how difficult it is to get there, and knowing how precious these opportunities really are.