This is the latest the Mariners have been in first place in the A.L. West since 2003? Am I reading that right?
This is … utter insanity. I keep waiting for these guys to fall apart and this team keeps proving me wrong! We’ve seen good stretches of Mariners baseball before; in each of the last 4 years, for instance, we’ve flirted with the concept of contention. Maybe the M’s have a great week or two, maybe they have an outstanding road trip or something and head home to face a division rival for a huge weekend series, and what happens next? They fall apart. And, it’s not necessarily always against the likes of the Astros! This team has been on some runs and were set to face some sub-.500 competition and they would STILL find ways to lose to those teams, and derail all the progress they’d made scratching and clawing to get to that point!
Hell, when the Astros were the worst team in baseball – before all their prospects hit it big – we’d STILL lose to their fucking asses at least half the time!
What’s the difference this time? The Mariners are still beating all the teams they’re supposed to beat. They’re beating the Twins, and the Royals, and the Tigers, and the Blue Jays, and the White Sox, and the Athletics, and the Rangers, and the Indians. Coming into this series, the Rays were one game over .500; they were a scrappy group of battlers who might’ve been JUST the thorn in our side to – as I mentioned – derail all of the progress we’ve made lately. And yet, what happened? We beat them in all three games by a combined 4 runs!
On Friday, we saw another Mike Leake gem: 7 innings, 2 runs, 6 hits, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts. Colome got us to the 9th with a 1-run lead, but unfortunately Diaz had his 3rd blown save of the season to send it to extras. We eventually won it in the bottom of the 13th (after 2 scoreless innings from Roenis Elias, who was called up to replace the DFA’d Scrabble; I’ll be happy to not have to talk about that guy ever again) on a Mitch Haniger solo homer to center.
On Saturday, we saw the continuing emergence of Marco Gonzales, who went 6.2 innings of 1-run ball, with 5 hits, 2 walks, and 6 strikeouts. He continues to be so impressive; I love it! Cruz, Seager, and Healy accounted for the 3 runs, and the bullpen was perfect (with Diaz getting his 20th save of the season).
On Sunday, we saw the return of Dominant King Felix: 8 innings of 1-run ball, with 5 hits, 1 walk, and 7 strikeouts. I say dominant even though it wasn’t Felix at his peak; it wasn’t Perfect Game Felix or anything. But, even when Felix was a Cy Young guy, he had games like this: he’d dance around a couple jams here and there, but he’d go deep into the ballgame nevertheless, keeping the team in it. Indeed, it was so much like a Classic King Felix game that the Mariners didn’t score any runs until the 8th inning! It was 1-0 for the longest time, because the Rays’ Blake Snell absolutely murdered us through 6 innings, striking out 12 (including the first 7 of the game, to tie the A.L. record, and 8 of the first 9 through the lineup), walking 0, and giving up only 2 weak singles. We were fortunate to foul off a bunch of pitches and otherwise get his pitch count high so they had to pull him early. We finally scratched a couple runs across in the bottom of the 8th thanks to some elite small ball from the likes of Span and Gordon, and Diaz was able to make it hold up with his 21st save of the season.
As for the Felix show yesterday, I’ll say this: I was thrilled for him. He REALLY needed that. Now, it’s the Rays, and their lineup looks like one of the more impotent ones in the American League (at least from what I’ve seen of it), but with the way Felix had been going, that didn’t matter. He would’ve struggled against AAA hitting; so hopefully it’s something mechanical they were able to work out. He gets a rematch against the Rays (and the same opponent in Snell) this week, so hopefully it goes the same as before.
We’re now 37-22; the Astros are 37-24. The Yankees are still a ridiculous 37-17, but they don’t matter at the moment; they’re the Astros’ problem! Because WE own the division right now! And, not for nothing, but we’re 5.5 games over the Angels, which is a lot of breathing room (but I’ll always accept a little more).
Of course, we have a 2-game set in Houston starting tomorrow, so this very well could be a short-term division lead. They have the best rotation in all of baseball; but we have Paxton and LeBlanc going, our two hottest pitchers! If anyone is going to keep us in these games, it’s those guys!
Now that I’ve said that, watch us get blown out and swept. But, today’s an off-day; WE CAN’T LOSE TODAY (knock on wood)!