On August 27, 2007, the 73-55 Mariners came home after losing a tough series to the Rangers to face the Angels. The game had a playoff atmosphere as the M’s were fighting for a playoff spot, and nearly 46,000 fans packed Safeco Field as the M’s took their best shot to catch the Halos, trailing their division rival by three games. Miguel Batista gave up six runs in six innings, John Lackey shut down the Mariners bats on seven hits in his complete game victory and the massive crowd went home disappointed.
The Mariners were swept at home in front of huge crowds, and went on to lose 15 of 17 between August 25th and September 11th effectively putting themselves out of the playoff picture. However, they did finish 88-74, still their best record since the 93 wins of 2003.
I share this because as well as the Mariners seem to be playing right now, bad stuff can still happen. Detroit seems to have suffered seems to have suffered devastating injuries to their pitching staff at the same time Pittsburgh’s all-everything Andrew McCutcheon has gone on the disabled list. The M’s could once again forget how to hit, as they have many times this season. As the schedule gets tougher they may suffer total amnesia, but I hope not.
Bad stuff happened in 2007 and could happen again to this seemingly snake-bit franchise, but I believe this team is different. That team was led by Ichiro in one of his last seasons of unquestionable greatness. The team scored 794 runs, no Mariners team has scored 700 runs since, but had a miserable pitching staff after a 21 year old Felix Hernandez. A strong bullpen could not keep this team from having a run differential of -19.The 2007 team was also plagued by bad chemistry. Manager Mike Hargrove mysteriously resigned mid-season, and in a tell-all 2008 post trade interview, closer J.J. Putz revealed there was considerable clubhouse dissension with particular ire directed at Ichiro.
The 2014 is led by all-world pitching and has a run differential of +84. Felix Hernandez is in an unquestioned position to be the AL Cy Young Award winner and is supported by excellent rotation mates Hisashi Iwakuma and Chris Young. The Mariners bullpen is the deepest in baseball. Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Austin Jackson provide veteran offensive leadership to the team, while Dustin Ackley, Mike Zunino, and Chris Taylor continue to show signs of development. This teams seems to follow the examples set by Seager and Cano and seem to fit the mold desired by manager Lloyd McClendon. They believe they will win, and by all accounts, the Mariners are well-positioned for a playoff race.
Last night the Mariners mugged a bullpen depleted, sleep deprived Toronto Blue Jays team 11-1. This series, that ends Wednesday, was highly touted as a battle of wild-card rivals. Tied entering the game last night, the M’s need to beat the Jays before setting out on the road.. The three game weekend series against a battered, struggling Detroit team is taking on new significance as the Royals dropped the team from Motown into the second wild card spot, one game ahead of Seattle. Now is a good time for the Mariners to stay hot as the season sets for terminal velocity.