The Mariners win today 7-5 over the Blue Jays. Yes, it’s good news. The M’s enter their final series of the season at 84-75. That’s 13 games better than last year, and we shouldn’t forget the 2014 season is a big step forward over last year.
Even so, it’s hard not to sigh heavily and wonder what the hell went wrong. Just to be clear, this team was doing quite well until it slipped on a banana peel entering the month of September. On Monday September 8th, the Mariners defeated Houston at Safeco 4-1 to reach 15 games over .500 at 79-64. It was the high water mark of the season. Since that day the Mariners have gone 5-11. After today the Mariners still need a win to equal their win total in 2009. They can’t reach the 88 wins of the 2007 team. It’s likely they’ll be eliminated by from the wild card race tomorrow unless they sweep the Angels in Seattle, while the Royals and Athletics do a collective double pratfall.
Most discouraging, the Mariners plunge from competition, respectability and national notice is the chief instrument of that decline, the pitching staff. Yes, the Mariners offense has again begin offensive in most of the losses since September 8th, but its the last few starts by Chris Young and Hisashi Iwakuma together by the last starts against the Blue Jays by James Paxton and Felix Hernandez that seem to put the exclamation point on the disappointing close to a promising season.
There are those who will exclaim “Same ol’ Mariners,” and redouble their pledges to refuse to return to Safeco until Howard Lincoln and Jack Zdurencik are both found floating in Puget Sound. It’s hard not to be disappointed about the end. But there are some good things that happened too.
Though the season ending stats may not show it do to this month’s meltdown, but the Mariners pitching staff-starters and relievers-had a stupendous year. Pressed into starting roles by early season injury, Chris Young and Roenis Elias were fabulous. The bullpen was simply unhittable for most of the season. Though I sat through the Fernando Rodney-walks-four-guys-to lose-in-ten innings-to-the-A’s game on September 13th, he brought stability to the bullpen allowing Tom Wilhelmson, Danny Farquhar, Justin Leone and late comer Brandon Maurer to thrive.
Offensively, there were lots of guys who had moments, flashes of goodness, but only Robinson Cano had a season of uninterrupted awesomeness. Though Kyle Seager was awfully damn good for 5/6ths of the season, he was pretty well missing these last 20 games. Dustin Ackley’s comeback was undone by a bad ankle. Logan Morrison showed us something in September. Michael Saunders showed us he was injury prone. If this team is to take the next step next year, it’s clear offensive upgrades have to happen. DH, first base, outfield are all areas that need upgrading.
The rest of the year . . . we’ll see, but I’m done holding my breath and hoping for the best. Mariners, you’re always in my heart, but you came darn close to breaking it this year.