Mariners injury woes are building up, but thanks to a deep roster and unproven players stepping up, they remain in contention to end their long playoff drought.
The Mariners sit at 16-17, six games behind the first place Houston Astros and 1 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot. The Mariners are not as in bad of a position as some think. Think about it, four of the five opening day starters in the rotation are on the shelf now with the announcement of Hisashi Iwakuma hitting the DL. The upstart rookie Mitch Haniger is also hurt and could be out another month. However, the Mariners are 8-4 since that terrible game in Detroit where Felix Hernandez and Haniger went down nearly simultaneously.
This past weekend, the Mariners won games started by Chase De Jong and Dillon Overton. The M’s currently have ten players listed on the disabled list, seven of whom were part of the original 25-man roster. In fact, as of Wednesday morning, the Mariners have the most players on the disabled list in the entire league.
Yet they are just one game under .500 and 5-2 this month. They keep finding ways to win. On Saturday, it was getting a surprisingly great outing from De Jong. He kept the Mariners in the game long enough to erupt to a 7-run lead after the 7th inning. On Tuesday in Philadelphia, it was winning a shootout 10-9 with guys like Ben Gamel coming through on offense and defense and the bullpen pitching 5 2/3 innings of solid ball.
The best teams find ways to win, even when all the horses are not in the barn. If the Mariners can stay within a series sweep of .500 (no worse than three games) until most of their pieces are back, they are in great shape.
If the Mariners had to pick a time during this season to have all these injuries, a stretch with four straight series against teams with a losing record would probably be it. If the Mariners can split this road trip (they head to Toronto after today’s early game in Philly), they will head home just two games below .500 with seven games against the likes of the Athletics and White Sox.
This team has shown impressive resiliency. It would be easy to make excuses and fold the tent when you have just one starter left (the fifth starter, mind you) in your rotation and your best player in April not in the lineup (Haniger). The Mariners have not gone anywhere. In fact, they are playing winning baseball.
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Despite all of these injuries, they are 14-9 since that horrible 2-8 start. Even when they are at full strength in the lineup, guys like Kyle Seager (just 8 extra base hits in 30 games), Robinson Cano (.277 average, well below career average) and Mike Zunino (now in Triple-A after hitting .172) are not hitting as well as expected. Yet the Mariners continue to win.
A microcosm of this trend was the series in Detroit. They went from losing the first game 19-9 and losing their ace and star rookie all in a matter of hours to bouncing back to winning the series on the road against a Tigers team that now has a winning record.
Every team has tough stretches with injuries. The playoff teams use their depth, make no excuses and find ways to win. The Mariners are doing that and have played themselves back into the playoff race.
Granted, it is still early May and a lot can change. However, from an injuries perspective, it really can’t get much worse (please don’t try, though). The Mariners will get healthy. There are rumors that guys like James Paxton, Felix, and maybe Haniger could be back in the coming week or two. The Mariners just need to weather this storm. If they endure it well, there could be a sunny horizon, and hopefully meaning October baseball.