This isn’t to say the Mariners aren’t good. They are! They’re fine. They’re still almost certainly going to make the playoffs this year, and if I had to do a power rankings of the American League, I’d still put them ahead of Cleveland, Anaheim, and most of the rest. But, the Mariners just aren’t the Best of the Best. They’re not in Tier 1. And that’s okay.
Tier 1 includes Boston, Houston, and the Yankees (and that’s it). Those are the three best teams in the A.L. and if you let me, I’d bet everything I own that it’ll be one of those three teams that makes it into the World Series.
The Mariners, on the other hand, are not quite on their level. We’re probably at the top of Tier 2, but there’s still a drastic difference in quality between the two tiers, as we’ve seen over the course of the last two days.
On Tuesday, Marco Gonzales got rocked, and the Mariners’ offense was held in check as we lost 7-2. We hung in there for a bit – we were competitive, as is our trademark this year – but a 4-run Yankees fifth inning put it away.
On Wednesday, King Felix looked like the King Felix of Old again, at least through the first four innings. He had a little bit of a hiccup in the fifth, but still escaped with a 5-2 lead before handing it off to the bullpen. The M’s were able to ding up a guy making just his second career Major League start (who nevertheless has remarkable stuff, if he ever figures out how to cool it on his pitch count), and things looked pretty good. But, that Yankees lineup – with power hitters for days – was just too much for our meager bullpen to match up with. Pazos gave up a run, Colome gave up the blown save with a game-tying 2-run homer, and Cook walked it off with yet another 2-run homer. What at one point was a 5-0 Mariners lead turned into a 7-5 defeat, as of course we couldn’t do anything with their superhuman bullpen after the fifth inning.
This is 2 years in a row where the Yankees have just bashed the fucking shit out of us. We went 2-5 against them last year, and all I can picture is Aaron Judge mashing towering moonshot after towering moonshot against our poor excuse for a pitching staff. This year, we’ve got Giancarlo Stanton playing that role, having homered in both games so far (including the game-winner).
It helps to take a step back and try to remember why we were so excited heading into this road trip. Well, we split a 4-game series with the Red Sox; that’s something, huh? Yeah, except it took a crazy come-from-behind rally and an even crazier dominant LeBlanc start to do it. Does that feel like something that could be replicated in a playoff series? There was the 3-game sweep of the Angels, but of course they’re super injured and are essentially just Mike Trout and a lot of nobodies. There was that 2-game split with Houston a couple weeks ago …
Other than that, the Mariners have beaten up on a lot of shitty teams this season. Which, believe me, I’m not complaining. You need to beat up on the shitty teams to climb to the top of Tier 2 and make the wild card! That’s what’s separating us from the Angels, A’s, and the rest of the wild card contenders. But, if we’re all in agreement that the Mariners are going to make the playoffs (barring a historic collapse), then your expectations have to shift a little bit. Now, we have to start thinking about what the Mariners are going to do when they get there.
First and foremost, they’re going to have to play a Tier 1 team in that wild card game, which means on that one day, we’re going to have to be almost perfect. It’s something we’re capable of, but it’s also something that you can’t count on. If we do luck our way into the ALDS, then that pits us against yet another Tier 1 team (with the way they’re going, figure Houston will have the best overall record by that point). Who’s excited about the Mariners facing the Astros in a 5-game series? If that isn’t a 3-game sweep, I’ll eat my hat. Meanwhile, the Indians get to bumble their way into a guaranteed ALDS spot simply by winning the worst division in baseball. What a bunch of fucks!
Thankfully, after this week, we’ll be done with the Red Sox and have only 3 more against the Yankees (at home) and that’s it. Just get us through this East Coast road trip without any fucking rainouts and I’ll take whatever record I can get.