Mariners Romp Astros, Move Within A Game Of Playoffs


Nine games to go. Nine games in nine days, without another day of rest. Which is to say, in nine days we’ll know whether the Seattle Mariners made the playoffs or not. Right now, though, all we know for sure is they’ve got a shot. And they sure do have better odds than they did this morning.

The M’s took the opening game of their series against the Houston Astros by a score of ten to five. They did it with home runs, and they did it with Taijuan Walker. Both of those things are going to be important going forward, so it was nice to see the Mariners do important things and turn them into a win. Most importantly, of course, is winning. Winning means not losing. And there’s nothing more important right now than winning. There hasn’t been anything this important for the Mariners in a long time.

Walker was excellent in his return to the rotation, throwing 5.2 innings of two-run ball while lowering his ERA to 3.00. He struck out seven Astros while allowing eight hits and two walks. Strikeouts! Walker has looked much better in his more recent outings, and the results have certainly followed. Take a high-powered young pitcher and give him the ability to miss bats in the zone. That’s love. Which explains why we all love Taijuan Walker so much right now.

This game wasn’t won on pitching alone, of course, as the Mariners leaned heavily on the un-contributions of Astros starter Brad Peacock. The Astros have two really good starters, and Peacock is absolutely not one of them. He allowed seven runs, the first of which came Dustin Ackley solo homer in the third. The rest came in the fourth.

Ah, the fourth. The glorious, glorious fourth inning featured seven Mariners runs. Logan Morrison and Michael Saunders reached on errors leading off the frame, then went home after Mike Zunino twice faked bunt before cranking one over the fence. Brad Miller struck out, Austin Jackson and Ackley walked, and Robinson Cano singled home a run. That was it for Peacock. His replacement, Jake Buchanan, faced Kyle Seager, who ripped a three-run homer of his own. Innings like this are fun, and they sure have been cropping up often enough lately.

Brandon Maurer and Yoervis Medina ran into a little trouble in the middle innings, allowing three more Houston runs. But the ‘Stros scored less in the game than the M’s did in the fourth alone, so it was of little practical worry. Ackley homered again in the eighth, then the M’s created their last run out of thin air. LoMo singled. He stole second, then was rewarded for his success by being pulled in favor of James Jones. Jones immediately stole third, then scored on a passed ball. Boom, a run. Funny because Morrison still fancies himself a speed demon, funnier because he made it, funniest because Jones is amazing at running.

Oakland won, Detroit won, Kansas City lost. The Tigers are now a game and a half up in the Central, while the A’s have a half-game edge for home field advantage in the wild card game. They would currently host KC, but the Mariners are now only half a game back of the Royals. One less game to play, as usual, and things are still only getting messier.

Detroit and Kansas City’s matchup today proved to be a bloodbath, and the Royals now have to get through Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello if they want to have a chance at winning the division. After this they’re playing the Indians and White Sox to round out their season, and don’t forget about that suspended game. They’re losing in extras. It doesn’t count until it’s official, but the completion of that game will certainly lend some clarity to the playoff picture.

And of course, the mantra for the Mariners is still just win, win, win. If they win out, they probably host the wild card game. If they outplay Kansas City but don’t catch Oakland, they go to California to play the wild card game as visitors. Or Kansas City gets hot and Oakland sinks, or the Tigers suck and the Royals catch them and the A’s and M’s and Tigers battle for the last wild card spot, or something. We know for sure the Mariners play nine games in the next nine days. Aside from that, a lot could happen. It’s all so uncertain.

Tomorrow’s pitching matchup: Chris Young vs. Dallas Keuchel. Chris Young’s got a lot of press for his smoke-and-mirrors success, while Keuchel’s got a lot of press for his where-did-this-awesome-pitcher-come-from success. Keuchel’s the better arm, and it’s not like the Astros are resting their good players right now or something. These aren’t the Astros of the last few years, but they’re still a probable 90-loss team. They aren’t total pushovers, but they don’t completely suck. Especially considering the pitching on the other side, these could easily be hard-fought games.

But that’s what we want, right? We want the Mariners to be engaged in exciting, competitive baseball where each game has us on the edge of insanity. We want to be captivated, and we want to be rewarded for how much we care. Seattle has shown that it cares about the Mariners. The Mariners have shown that they are a pretty damn good baseball team. The season’s over soon, and there’s a playoff spot up for grabs. Here’s to hoping the Mariners can grab it. It won’t be easy. But it’ll almost certainly be fun.