We’re down to the last three weeks of regular season baseball, and the games still matter for the Seattle Mariners. This is past the point where the team is experiencing 2007-level success, and now we can safely say this is the best Mariners season in the last decade. Not since the team’s crazy early-2000’s peak have they been competitive this late in the year. But that’s not the best part. The best part is that they’re playing better than ever right now.
When it rains it pours in Texas, and I’m not even talking about the Rangers’ injury woes this time. I’m talking literal rain, which is how a 5:05 game became an 8:15 game. Which, of course, was a 10:15 start time in Arlington, where the game was played. The Mariners waited patiently, then took to the field and staged a nice little late comeback to steal their fifth straight victory. In doing so, they improved to a season-best fifteen games over .500 while expanding their lead for the last AL playoff spot.
We wondered all year if the Mariners’ were as good as their run differential suggested. We wondered if they were a fluke, beating lefties and tough teams while struggling with weaker, more right-handed competition. None of those things are really pressing questions anymore. Now we’ve got a team that seems more likely than not to reach the playoffs, and a team that has now taken three in a row from the lowly Rangers, their apparent achilles heel from a week or so ago.
Chris Young pitched for five innings, which is longer than he pitched in his previous two starts combined. He struck out six, walked three (one intentionally), and allowed two unearned runs on four hits. Not far from the typical Chris Young line, and so Taijuan Walker probably won’t start out of this rotation spot next time around, either. That’s fine – Walker not being in the rotation is a baseball decision, and it’s not like he’s losing postseason eligibility or anything. This team is suddenly deep enough that this makes total sense.
Kyle Seager put the Mariners on the board with a two-run home run in the sixth inning. Seager, by the way, is now the fifth-best player in baseball by WAR. The bomb was part of a three-hit day from Seager, who was somehow outshone by Brad Miller and his four base hits. Miller’s come alive a little lately, and these signs of life plus his powerful bat make for an interesting question going forward as the team seeks to find a long-term answer at short.
Chris Denorfia walked leading off the eighth and went to third on a Seager single. That set the table for Kendrys Morales, who continued a hot month of his own with a line drive single to left that put the Mariners ahead by one. Logan Morrison then laced an RBI single to extend the lead, and the Mariners rightfully survived a he-didn’t-even-touch-the-base challenge to keep their hands on that extra run. Fernando Rodney got a popup, a flyout, and a groundout, and that was that. M’s win. For the fifth game in a row.
The series concludes at 12:05 today, with James Paxton and Derek Holland. Holland tripped over his dog this winter and then missed almost the entire season, as this is only his second start since returning from injury. Derek Holland is the Texas Rangers. Oh, and of course there’s the news that Yu Darvish has officially been shut down for the rest of the year. What a crazy year for them.
The Mariners are two back of Oakland for home field advantage in the wild card game. The A’s are facing Dallas Keuchel and the Astros today, while the Tigers are up against Tim Hudson and the Giants. Go Giants! Go ‘Stros!