May 6, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager (right) greets right fielder Michael Saunders (55) after they scored in the ninth inning against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports. Mariners won 8-3.
The Seattle Mariners recently played ten baseball games. Over that stretch they went 2-8, sending fans directly to doom and gloom despite the club’s hot start a week or so earlier. Directly after playing those ten games the team played ten more. Over this second stretch, which I will again remind you directly followed the first stretch, they went 8-2, pushing their record over .500 and putting them in second place in the crowded AL West. Not third, and certainly not fourth. Second.
It’s early, so we still don’t exactly know what this Mariners team is. That’s worth repeating over and over and over, since it’s always true and often unnoticed. These M’s have been alternatingly really good, then really bad, then really good again. Does that tell us if the team is good or bad? Absolutely not. Baseball is five weeks old. The M’s have clustered their wins and losses, but what do you get when you look at the last twenty games? A .500 team. Looking at the season as a whole, we see a slightly above .500 team. What were the Mariners projected to be? A .500 team, give or take a couple games.
These streaks are undoubtedly skewing our perception of the team. The order in which wins and losses occur doesn’t matter at all. What counts is the final standings. If the season were to end today, the M’s would be in second place. They’d be playing the New York Yankees in the wild card game, despite their .516 winning percentage. Sure, they’re only beating out Texas by .001%, but the nature of this early season game is exaggeration. The M’s aren’t as good as they’ve looked recently, and not as bad as they looked directly before that. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle.
So anyways, there was a baseball game last night. It was between the first place Oakland Athletics and these wacko Mariners, and the M’s won. Give Roenis Elias all the credit he deserves, but especially acknowledge the offense that scored four runs and saved the young starter from having his few mistakes turn into a loss. Elias struck out six while finishing six full innings and retiring the first batter of the seventh. He walked three, including the last batter he faced, and allowed a homer to Yoenis Cespedes. But he still ruled.
Here’s a guy who skipped AAA despite never being a top prospect. He’s got an 8.06 K/9 through his first seven big league starts. That’s… awesome. It would be nice if the walks disappeared, but they certainly don’t have to in order for Elias to be effective. What we’ve been seeing is Roenis Elias, effective major league starting pitcher with a 4.14 BB/9. As it stands, Elias is a nice, quality number four starter. Take away the walks and he’s a number two. That’s a lot of upside and immediate value from a guy you might have never heard of before late March.
James Jones started for the first time today, batting second and playing center. Lloyd McClendon is generally inoffensive, but his use of the number two spot has been baffling this year. After Brad Miller couldn’t get it done there, he’s been using guys like Willie Bloomquist and Stefen Romero in the spot that some say is where you should be putting your team’s best hitter. Jones got two hits, including a single in the first. Robinson Cano singled right behind him, and Jones scored on a wild pitch. Following the wild pitch, Justin Smoak hit a double to score Cano. Kyle Seager walked, and Dustin Ackley singled in another run. Jesse Chavez, like Scott Kazmir before him, had his awesome halted by the early-innings Mariners. So weird.
Mike Zunino gave the Mariners their eventually-decisive fourth run in the sixth on a sac fly. Things were tight going into the late innings, with the score still 4-3. Jim Johnson, Oakland’s $10 million closer, had another brutal meltdown, putting the game squarely in Seattle’s hands. He walked Miller, then committed an error on a Michael Saunders bunt that sent Miller to third. He intentionally walked Cano to load the bases, then served an RBI groundout to Corey Hart, with Cano out at second, a run in, and everyone else safe. Cole Gillespie came in to run and immediately stole second. Smoak and Ackley singled and doubled, plating two more and chasing the sometimes-closer from the game. Dan Otero finally got the last out, and Tom Wilhelmsen nailed down the non-save for Seattle. 8-3, second place, positive run differential, winning record.
Doubleheader today! Felix Hernandez vs. Dan Straily at 12:35, Erasmo Ramirez vs. Drew Pomeranz half an hour after the first game ends. Ramirez is up for the afternoon since teams are allowed to carry 26 players for a doubleheader. After this, he’s probably heading back down since why would he stay? Pomeranz is a long reliever, Straily is good, and Felix is the actual best. Keep in mind that Seattle is currently two games behind Oakland for the division lead. Seattle and Oakland play twice today. Felix starts game one! Watch these games. These are important games, in May.