Going into this series, there were a few things we thought we knew. The Kansas City Royals? Hottest team in baseball! Maybe even the class of the AL Central, what with Justin Verlander being all weird and the Tigers offense being just a little too stars-and-scrubs. The Seattle Mariners? Roughly a .500 team, and probably spending September going on fishing trips. While the M’s were reeling in bass, the Royals were to be making a World Series run as lovable underdog darlings. Since then, two games have been played. Not much has changed, except the way we feel. Now there’s one thing we know: the Royals are doomed to be forever unlucky, and the Mariners are a Team of Destiny.
Chris Young. Chris Young, or at least the 2014 version of Chris Young, is one of the hallmark traits of a Team of Destiny. Nobody, not even Chris Young, would (or could) have seen this coming. Through fourteen starts and 86.1 innings, Young’s got a 3.23 ERA. He’s also a 35-year-old soft tosser who didn’t pitch in the majors last year. He’s also got a 5.12 FIP and 4.48 strikeouts per nine, and those numbers suggest a terrible, terrible pitcher. Instead, Young’s been a key cog in a Mariners run prevention unit that ranks second in the American League in runs allowed. He’s outperforming his peripherals by a tremendous, unthinkable margin, but we know why. It’s his destiny.
Ninth inning magic. Teams of Destiny rely heavily on late-inning trickiness to fuel their improbable successes, and that’s again been what’s allowed the Mariners to squeak past Kansas City. Maybe Ned Yost shouldn’t have left Jason Vargas in to pitch the ninth, but then again, maybe what happened to Greg Holland last night kind of forced his hand. Whatever the cause, the result was Vargas getting absolutely worked by Dustin Ackley, who chopped a few fouls before getting exactly the hit he wanted. But was it Ackley’s effort… or was it merely his destiny to hit that single? Will we ever know?
Yes, we know. There is no such thing as a “Team of Destiny,” and if there is, it’s probably not a team that frequently gives first base starts to Willie Bloomquist. The fun right now is that the Mariners are winning, not that they’re winning inexplicably. If the M’s make a playoff push, it’ll more likely be due to their talent and less likely due to their Chris Young. But to deny the energy and excitement of wins like today are to deny all the best parts of baseball. Destiny, man! This team has a way of making you think they’re dead in the water, only to come storming back in explosive fashion. Right now, the M’s are on one hell of an upswing.
The Royals are now only half a game in front of the Mariners. Neither club is in playoff position, because the Angels are really good and the Yankees had a big week. As the M’s have hung tight and kept themselves at or above .500, the rest of the field has kind of caught up to them. The Blue Jays, A’s, and Angels are the class of the American League, with the Tigers and Royals battling for the Central and the M’s, Yanks, and Orioles scrambling to keep themselves in the Wild Card conversation. By run differential, the M’s have an advantage. But by run differential, Chris Young hasn’t shown any signs of imminent regression. Run differential, you could say, buys the Mariners as destined to overperform.
Another day, another wild win. The Mariners are still only three games over .500, but we’re used to them being so much lower than that at this point in the season. Today is the first day of summer. The Mariners are in contention, and rumored to be one of the most active teams in early trade discussions. Slant it how you like, but this is a thrill to me and probably a thrill to you. There’s real talent on this team, and Chris Young has a 3.23 ERA. Anything is possible in baseball, and we’re seeing that right before our eyes.
Roenis Elias vs. Yordano Ventura, tomorrow at 11:10am. One of those guys was one of the most exciting pitching prospects in baseball coming into this season. You’d never heard of the other guy, but here we are, on the first day of summer, and they’ve both been awesome major league starters all year. With a win the M’s would sweep the Royals and further our belief in them. And why won’t they? It’s their destiny.