The Mariners won 2 of 3 against the Yankees, 2 of 3 against the Indians, and 2 of 3 against the Angels over the last nine games. More importantly, they got through their only road trips to New York and Cleveland without any of the games being rained out.
The Mariners currently sit at 9-9. They’ve gone 8-4 on the road to start the season. How do you like that?
On the one hand, it’s promising, because part of me feels like this team is just scratching the surface of its potential. You expect guys like Seager, Cano, and Aoki are on the cusp of breaking out of their 3 weeks-long slumps. You even expect someone like Wade Miley to be better than what we’ve seen so far (though, he started to turn it around after the first inning in yesterday’s game; but you can’t discount the 3 runs he gave up in that first inning).
On the other hand, you’ve gotta wonder if .500 isn’t the ceiling for this team. The bullpen has been pretty unsustainably good, Taijuan Walker will have some bumps in the road he’ll have to deal with, and Felix hasn’t quite been as Felix-like as you want to see. Factor that in with the bullshit surrounding this team being unable to hit at home, and you get a lot of feel-good vibes with the team 9-9 this late into April, but all of that could change in the blink of an eye.
Conversely, you gotta wonder what they’re thinking down in Houston right now. The Astros were one of the hottest and best teams in the A.L. this time last year. Now, they’re last in the West and at 6-13, are second-worst in the entire league. But, if I’m being perfectly honest, I have MUCH more confidence that the Astros will be able to turn things around and get themselves back in contention, than I do the Mariners parlaying this decent start into anything remotely interesting come August and September.
I guess that goes with the thing about it still being early in the season. But, make no mistake, the grind is upon us.
Tough week this week. The Mariners return home, to some decidedly spring-like temperatures, to face Houston and the reigning World Series champion Kansas City Royals. How the Mariners come out of this 6-game homestand will be a good early litmus test. Beat Houston, and you could argue that we’re catching them at the right time. Nevertheless, it’s a divisional opponent, and one I anticipate will be much improved by the time we play them again in July, for instance. To gain 1 or 3 games on them this early would be HUGE. On the flipside, if we struggle against them, then maybe we’ve just kickstarted their run towards getting back in the race; at which point, you’re talking about a huge letdown after a promising road trip.
As for the Royals, it should go without saying what that series means. That’s the team the Mariners are aspiring to be! Good pitching, rock solid relief, guys able to get on base and make life difficult on opposing pitchers, with just enough power mixed in to get the job done. Once again, the Royals look remarkably well-positioned to get back to the post-season and maybe make it three World Series appearances in a row. THESE are the teams you have to beat to get to where you want to go. Are the Mariners on the same level as the Royals? If they can prove it by taking two of three, maybe that’s a nice ego boost for a club looking to make a name for itself. If the Mariners lose, and look bad doing it, maybe that just reinforces the fact that we’re not ready, and you can’t turn around a culture of losing in one offseason.
Or, shit, maybe it’ll mean nothing. Because it’s the end of April, and all of these teams will look vastly different come October.