On September 1st, I officially wrote off the 2016 Seattle Mariners. They had started off the month of August on fire, to get back into the playoff hunt, then finished the month in a miserable way. What with football season kicking off, I figured – barring a no-hitter, or some other noteworthy single-game feat – that I wouldn’t be writing about the Mariners again until season’s end.
And yet here we are. Why are we talking about the Mariners? Because after a gruelling stretch of baseball – where the Mariners had to play 33 games in 34 days – they finally reached September, and on the 1st had a welcome day off. With September rolling around, the organization has been able to call some guys up from Tacoma to help spread out the burden. With guys getting healthy, getting rested, and most importantly, with the pitching coming back around, the Mariners have started out the month 8-3, on the back of a 6-game winning streak (and counting).
We’re now 76-68, we’ve once again leapfrogged Houston by a game, and we’re now just 2.5 games out of the second wild card. The A.L. West is a lost cause, but the playoffs are back in play! 18 games to go! Every little bit helps!
My take on this thing is: it’s just another hot streak before the inevitable downfall. You might hang your hat on beating the Rangers 3 of 4 games at home last week, but the bulk of this winning streak has come from sweeping the A’s over the weekend. We have two more against the Angels the next two nights, and they’ve been a poor matchup for us all year (we’re only 9-8 against them, and they’ve proven to be one of the very worst teams in the league this year). This could all come to a crashing halt with a few more Trout or Pujols homers the next two days.
Or, we could get cut off at the knees by the Astros, who we play 6 more times between now and the end of the year. Don’t forget about the Blue Jays; they’re currently the top wild card team, and they always seem to ruin our good times late in seasons. If we make it through all of that, we’ve still got a 3-game stand in Minnesota; sure, they’re the very worst team in all of baseball, but when has that ever stopped us from sucking before? Hell, the Twins swept us at Safeco in a 3-game series back in May, when we were playing our very BEST baseball!
An optimist would relish the opportunity before us. We have 9 of our 18 remaining games against teams with losing records. We can officially elimiate the Astros, and we can gain a lot of ground in the Wild Card standings by taking out the Blue Jays! While we don’t control our own destiny, remember that the A.L. East – who currently holds three playoff spots, with the Yankees still ahead of us and in contention – has to play one another quite a bit to end the season. If we just keep winning, and they bash each other around, it’s the perfect opportunity to sneak in there and steal a spot!
But, of course, we’ve been down this road before. In mid-August, before it all went to shit, we were pretty much right where we are now. We’re 8 games over .500, we’ve been as high as 10 games over .500, and we’ve never been able to push through that glass ceiling. Winning streaks are fun, but with this Mariners team, they’ve always proven to be the calm before the storm. All this shows is that we’re going to have an easy road to finish with a .500 overall record at 81-81.
Can this team stay hot, not just for a week or two, but for an entire month? They’ve yet to prove they can. The best stretch was that month of May. If we pull that as the best version of the 2016 Mariners, and superimpose it onto the September schedule (meaning, essentially, that the Mariners finish 18-11 in the month), that would mean the Mariners will finish 10-8 in the next 18 games. Which, for this team, feels right. 10-8 is what I’d expect this team to go in any given 18 games. If that comes to pass, the Mariners will finish with a record of 86-76. Considering the Blue Jays and Orioles (the two wild card teams, if the season ended today) have 79 and 78 wins respectively, odds are 86 wins won’t be enough.
In other words, for the Mariners to complete this thing, make the playoffs, and end this horrid streak of worthless seasons, they’d have to play better than they ever have this year, for a longer stretch of games. Just doesn’t seem likely, does it? I know, in the midst of a 6-game winning streak, anything seems possible. It doesn’t really feel like the Mariners are ever going to lose again! But they will, and then they will again, and then it’ll be infectious. And we’ll resent them for sucking us back in all over again.
Being a sports fan: does the fun ever START?