The Seattle Mariners are no more likely to win the AL West than they were 24 hours ago. The Seattle Mariners are more likely to win the World Series than they were 24 hours ago. While avoiding the wild card game would certainly be the biggest potential boost to the M’s title chances, it’s not the only thing that can increase their odds. An AL victory in the All-Star game means home field advantage, and home field advantage is a distinct and real edge. Thanks to certain Mariners (and Mike Trout), the AL now has that edge.
Felix Hernandez started the All-Star game and was brilliant, of course. He pitched one full inning, which put him in a thirteen-way tie for most frames thrown in the game. He struck out Yasiel Puig, which is cool but which was also a feat matched by Yu Darvish and Max Scherzer. He then struck out Troy Tulowitzki, who is probably one of the two best baseball players in the world right now. So Felix is really good. But this we knew.
The first batter the King faced was Andrew McCutchen, who laced one right to starting shortstop/folk hero Derek Jeter. Jeter, of course, was the darling of all the festivities, just as Mariano Rivera was a year ago. Who can blame the media for playing these guys up – this is the end of a legendary era for a legendary team that kept all their best players together for a long time. Jeter had the opportunity to make an awesome play, but McCutchen was just too fast, beating the throw for an infield hit. No worries, of course, as Felix came back and recorded three fast outs. What a gem that Felix is.
Robinson Cano started at shortstop and in the three-hole, which would indicate that John Farrell considered him the best hitter on the squad. Remember, this isn’t the M’s we’re talking about, it’s the friggin’ All-Star team. Cano batted twice and struck out both times, first against Adam Wainwright and then against Alfredo Simon. Alfredo Simon?! For all the hubub that was made over this being Jeter’s last ASG appearance, nobody seemed to make the same fuss about Simon. Because, let’s be honest, this isn’t happening again.
Kyle Seager got into the game in the sixth inning as a pinch-hitter for Nelson Cruz. Cruz, as you’ll recall, has a 150 wRC+ and 28 home runs, making him one of the very best hitters in the American League and a candidate for the best one-year free agent signing ever. Sure, it’s the All-Star Game, so these things happen just so as many guys as possible can get a shot. But still, Seager pinch-hitting for Cruz. Cherish it. Seager grounded out against Francisco Rodriguez, then stayed in the game as the DH since Adrian Beltre was manning third. Seager again grounded out in his second at-bat, ending the eighth against Aroldis Chapman.
Fernando Rodney got a little action too, as all four Mariners representatives were able to play in the game. Rodney came in with two outs in the eighth after Sean Doolittle had allowed Freddie Freeman to reach on a single. Both the scary Rodney and the dominant Rodney were on display, as he walked Todd Frazier on four pitches before striking out Daniel Murphy. He even shot his imaginary bow and arrow, despite it being the top of the eighth. Fernando Rodney knows damn well that sport is theater, and made sure that all the world got to enjoy his archery act.
The American League won 5-3, and will have home field advantage in the World Series. This is good news for every AL club, especially contending ones like the Mariners. The road there is still improbably rough, but if the team does make it to the end they’ll at least have an easier time than they would have otherwise. Most excitingly is that the AL will have this advantage in part because of strong performances by certain Mariners in the midsummer classic. Baseball resumes on Friday. Until then, just remember that the M’s are seven games over .500 and hold a nice lead in the Wild Card standings. And that game one of the World Series will be played at Safeco Field.