The Mariners have been hurting for consistent pitching pretty much all season. The starting rotation has been stripped down to the bare bone over and over.
This story has been beaten just as badly as the Mariners’ pitching staff. On August 30th, Seattle got a much needed boost. Mike Leake came to the M’s in a trade from St. Louis. Leake has had a steady track record, throwing at least 167 innings every season since his rookie year in 2010. He has made at least 30 starts in five years and he may reach that again this year.
Leake made his third start as a Mariner on Wednesday night. Once again, he was steady and reliable. Leake went 5 2/3 innings, allowing just one run on five hits. He struck out five and walked one. He has pitched into the sixth inning in each of his first three starts as a Mariner. He also has only walked two batters compared to 17 strikeouts. He has won each start in Seattle as well.
Leake has been a welcome sight for sore eyes and tired Mariners fans. Another perk is that he is under team control through 2021, giving him another possible four seasons in a Mariners uniform. He is 29 and still could have some good years ahead. His best season thus far was in 2013 with the Cincinnati Reds. He went 14-7 with a 3.37 ERA in 192 innings. He posted a career best 112 ERA+ (average is 100).
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Through two starts, Leake was way up at 158 ERA+ as a Mariner (with his most recent start Wednesday still being processed). With such a depleted rotation, Leake immediately becomes the number-one option, the de facto “ace” of the available starting pitchers for the Mariners.
Leake may get some help soon as Felix Hernandez will reportedly finally return from the disabled list on Thursday. He has been shelved since July 31st. James Paxton will also return on Friday in Houston. Adding Leake to those two finally makes the Mariners’ rotation somewhat formidable once again. On paper, to start the season, it looked like the Mariners had a solid rotation. Now, in the most desperate and important stretch of the season, they get their two top arms back with an added piece in Leake.
It is now or never for the M’s. With every player who returns from the DL, the excuses evaporate and it is time to put up or shut up.