The Mariners Are Playing Like A Playoff Team Right Now

That’s a great Atlanta Braves team right there, probably the eventual N.L. East champions and maybe even a World Series participant this season. And the Mariners just beat them two out of three games.

I wouldn’t say it was easy. In fact, if a couple things happen differently, there’s a reasonable argument to be made that the M’s should’ve been swept. But, our pitching did its job and the hitting did just enough. This felt a little bit like playoff baseball, or what people think “playoff baseball” looks like in the regular season. How soon we forget what it ACTUALLY looks like, which is starters going MAYBE five innings, and their very best relievers working repeatedly on zero days rest. That’s not what this was. This was relying on your starters to go 7 dominant innings. This was getting awesome production from everyone in your bullpen, not just the top two guys. And, sure, there was a 5-out save sprinkled in, but there was also no chance he was going to appear in any other game this week.

We kicked things off on Monday with a thrilling 2-1 pitcher’s duel. Bryce Miller bounced back to go 7 strong, holding one of the better lineups we’ll see all year to 2 hits, 1 run, and a walk, while striking them out a whopping 10 times. Unfortunately for Miller, he had to settle for the no decision, because the M’s were held hitless through 7 innings and scoreless through 8. Ultimately, all it took to win this one was a bloop (by Polanco) and a blast (by Garver), to walk it off and give our newcomers something to celebrate.

Tuesday’s game was almost as impressive, with Luis Castillo also going 7 strong, holding them scoreless on 3 hits and a walk, with 7 strikeouts. For those keeping track at home, Castillo had three pretty crummy starts to kick off the season (12 runs in 15.2 innings) and four straight quality starts to follow (5 runs – 4 earned – in 26 innings). An ERA that was pushing 7 is down under 4 where it belongs.

We almost gagged that one away, though, with another brutal outing by Stanek, who got one out in the 8th and gave up 2 runs in the process. As he clearly didn’t have it, we hustled Munoz in there to get us out of the jam (though he did give up an inherited runner, and very nearly blew the save then and there). Once that nightmare subsided, Munoz had a relatively easy go of it in the 9th, to get his fifth save of the season.

The Mariners did all their damage before the fifth inning, with a 2-run Polanco homer kicking things off in the third, and a Moore RBI double in the fourth to give us the cushion we needed. Unfortunately, that clutchness failed us on Wednesday, as we lost 5-2, while being held to 2 for 11 with RISP.

I’ll be honest with you, I predicted a Mariners loss heading into that game, given all that happened leading up to it. I knew Munoz wouldn’t be used. I was pretty sure Stanek would be given some rest. That meant Speier would be held back unless we had a late lead for him to protect. Also Known As: we’d be getting the back-end of our bullpen, and a shaky Emerson Hancock, to try to keep the Braves at bay.

What I didn’t see coming was a brutal Haniger flat-out drop of a can of corn in right that led to four unearned runs in the 4th. Hancock couldn’t get out of the jam, and we were down 5-0 as a result. However, the bullpen kept the Braves scoreless from there, which is phenomenal! If we didn’t have that drop, maybe we sweep with another 2-1 victory. Or, if the offense had a little more going for it, maybe we pick Haniger and Hancock up and win it a little ugly.

But, it’s hard to be too upset about a series victory against a team like the Braves. They’re GOOD, and we hung right there with them. That has to be a confidence boost for a team that’s coming back from a horrendous first couple weeks of the season.

6-10 was our record midway through April. We’ve since won 11 of 15 games – largely on the strength of our pitching – to pull ourselves up to 17-14 and in first place in the A.L. West. Now, we’ve got an off-day, followed by a weekend series down in Houston. Then, it’s four games in Minnesota next week, who are on a major hot streak of their own after a slow start.

You can just feel the baseball oozing off of this season.

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