Remember when the Seattle Mariners were seemingly the hottest team in the world? Playoff bound and unstoppable, and that was only three days ago. Three games and three losses later, the Mariners are the seventh-best team in the league after being swept by the New York Yankees. The Yanks are now ahead of the M’s, tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild card. And everything feels so different.
Not much has changed, of course. The Mariners are still right in the thick of things, and still have countless dozens of games to play. Instead of being a game up on a couple teams with four months to play, they’re a game back of a couple teams, with four months less three days to play. It’s no big deal, overall. But it does highlight some dampening elements of the current situation.
Namely, the roster. Kyle Seager should be here. Robinson Cano, too, certainly. Mike Zunino‘s defense makes him a major leaguer, even if we’re going to have to keep being patient with his… patience, at the plate. But who’s the next-best active position player? Is it James Jones? It sure feels like it’s James Jones. The bench hasn’t been a disaster, I guess. That’s nice. But when your Cole Gillespies and Willie Bloomquists are outperforming your Dustin Ackleys and Brad Millers, there’s a real, terrifying problem with your so-said playoff team.
This loss falls right back to one of the purported good Mariners: Roenis Elias. The rookie starter pitched 3.1 innings and allowed six runs, with his four impressive strikeouts being way overshadowed by three walks and six hits, including a long ball. Jacoby Ellsbury had a two-run shot in the first. After a brilliantly clean second, Elias allowed two more in the third and two more in the fourth. It was arguably his worst MLB start yet, and hey, at least there’s that. Elias has been miraculously good this season, considering that he was essentially conjured out of thin air this spring. A stinker can be excused, given what he’s done so far.
Logan Morrison put the Mariners on the board in the bottom of the second with his first home run of the season. It was a legitimately wonderful display of righty pull power at Safeco Field, and highlighted a two-hit day for the first baseman. The M’s added a run in the fifth on a James Jones single and scored again in the ninth, when Morrison hit a ground-rule double that scored Dustin Ackley. Brad Miller had two hits! Don’t look now, but he’s turning it around. He really is, I swear.
Chase Whitley and Roenis Elias are both unexpected young arms who have been better than expected this year. Elias has been better overall, but tonight belonged to Whitley. These things happen. But let’s not overlook the non-Elias pitchers the Mariners used today: Dominic Leone, Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina, and Charlie Furbush combined for 5.2 shutout innings with six strikeouts, four hits, and a walk. Farquhar and Medina each struck out two of the three batters they faced. Leone continues to look like a dominant multi-inning guy. This ‘pen is alright.
It’s mid-June and the Mariners are two games over .500. That’s amazing. To hell with the sweep – the M’s just got swept and remain in the playoff hunt and are still an above-average team with the run differential to back it up. And now there’s a Friday the 13th Felix Day, in Seattle, in which Felix Hernandez gets the ball against Nick Tepesch. 7:10 start, and remember, the Rangers have a worse run differential than the Astros. This series is a great opportunity for the M’s to put some real distance between themselves and the Texas teams, and with the California teams trying to pull away, it’s more important than opportunistic. So here’s to the Mariners, and hopes for a good weekend of baseball in the Emerald City.