The Mariners are reeling after dropping four straight on the road and six of their last eight games. As September starts, this is their last stand, for real this time.
At several points this season, I’ve thought to myself, “This is it. If the Mariners lose this game, they’re done.” And yet, even after a seemingly key loss, the American League gives them another chance to crawl back into the Wild Card game lottery.
This time, though, it’s really their last stand. The Mariners opened a nine-game homestand last night against the A’s, with the rest of their divisional foes to follow. They have no hope of catching the Astros, who traded for Justin Verlander yesterday, but beating the Angels and Rangers will be crucial to their fading playoff ambitions.
The Mariners latest debacle, this time over three games in Baltimore, left them at 66-68 and 4.5 games behind the Twins and Yankees in the Wild Card race. They’re running out of time to catch the six teams ahead of them with the calendar turning to September.
I’m not saying there’s no hope. The parade of AAA pitching and fringe starters might be finally drawing to a close with James Paxton and Felix Hernandez expected to return by mid-September and veteran Mike Leake joining the rotation after a(nother) trade with the Cardinals.
Seattle has gotten good starts out of Erasmo Ramirez but few others. The starting rotation simply can’t hold leads beyond the fifth inning, and I don’t care how good your bullpen is, you can’t expect them to pitch half of every game and make the playoffs. Even with the Mariners above-average lineup, they can’t score eight to ten runs a game unless they all catch fire at the same time.
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I was seven when the Mariners went on that amazing run at the end of the 1995 season to force the one-game playoff against the Angels and eventually reach the ALCS. While my memory of that team is a little warped, the 2017 Mariners are not the 1995 Mariners.
With September call-ups flooding the clubhouse, maybe they piece together enough scoreless innings from the mound to make a last-gasp attempt at the silly Wild Card playoff. But to do that, they’ll have to beat up on superior teams like the Angels, who just brought in both Justin Upton (who vetoed a trade to Seattle a few seasons ago) and Brandon Phillips to add to their lineup. Every game matters now, especially at home. The Mariners have to show their fans they care in this crucial homestand.
The question is, can they avoid being outclassed by their AL West rivals? Thank goodness it’s football season.