For a second there the Seattle Mariners were dead in the water. After losing a rough series to the Texas Rangers, the M’s looked to do what they do best – rebound with excellent play against a good team. Beating the good teams does a lot to lessen the blow of losing to the bad teams. With the Washington Nationals in town, the chance to beat a good team certainly existed.
Except the Nationals whooped Felix Hernandez in the first game, perhaps as hard as he’s been whooped in years, or ever. Then they took the second game, and suddenly the Mariners were a game and a half out of a playoff spot. They’ve been that far back before, but things are different now. It’s September tomorrow. With every passing day, a small deficit becomes a little harder to overcome.
In short, this was a huge win for the Mariners. Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Tanner Roark may sound like a mismatch, since Iwakuma is a star and Roark is the sound of a dog simultaneously roaring and barking. But the previously-unheralded Nats starter has actually had a tremendous season, and his emergence is one of the big reasons why Washington has been amongst the National League’s best teams this year. We know Felix is better than Jordan Zimmermann, but that still meant the offense had to figure out an ace. Stephen Strasburg vs. Roenis Elias was the bad kind of mismatch. This represented the easiest path to a win, and the Mariners found a win.
Iwakuma did his part to hold things together, despite the Nationals going all homer-crazy again. Fortunately they were all solo shots: two from Bryce Harper and one from Nate Schierholtz. Kuma allowed only two other hits while walking none and striking out six in six innings. Dingers are an issue, but today they weren’t the end of the world.
The top of the order did all they needed to and more, with Austin Jackson and Dustin Ackley combining for five hits and four RBI. Actually all the ribbies were from Ackley, who hit a critical three-run homer and also drove in a run on a single. Endy Chavez also doubled home James Jones in the ninth for an insurance run. Oh yeah, and Brad Miller had three hits! Brad Miller! Remember that guy?!
It’s been a couple days, so let’s look at the playoff picture. Baltimore is going to win the AL East, and all of a sudden Anaheim is running away with the West. Wait, what? The Angels have won six straight while the Athletics have lost four in a row. Kansas City has cooled down, and now leads Detroit by only half a game. Cleveland is three games back of the wild card, with New York half a game behind them. Even Toronto won a couple in a row. Things are getting pretty crowded, and everyone outside of Oakland has been playing well of late.
This is Bud Selig’s dream come true: a captivating chase that rightfully involves many. But for fans in Seattle, nerves are certainly flaring up. Want some words of encouragement? Here they are: run differential. Want more? How about these: Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, bullpen, magic.
Those are some nice words. The Mariners are in a better position than most of the competiton.
So remember what I was just saying about Oakland playing terrible baseball lately? That may bode well for the Mariners, who are going to be in Oakland for a three-game series that starts tomorrow at 1:05pm. Chris Young vs. Jason Hammel, so the M’s have an advantage on the mound. After that it’s James Paxton and Sonny Gray, followed by Felix vs. Jon Lester. With a sweep, the Mariners would be well positioned to take a serious run at the first wild card. Which would mean a September 30th playoff game at Safeco Field. Think about that. Think about that a lot.