What a difference a year makes

Dae-Ho Lee, Leonys Martin, Kyle Seager
Seattle Mariners’ Dae-Ho Lee, center, is congratulated by Leonys Martin (12) and Kyle Seager, right, after hitting a two run home run off Oakland Athletics’ John Axford in the seventh inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

On May 5, 2015 the Mariners were wallowing in 4th place with an 11-16 record.  They were seemingly going nowhere, and quickly.  Between  April 30-May 6, a stretch of seven games, the Mariners lost six.  Three of them were loss in the most depressing fashion–walk-offs.  Dominic Leone coughed up the first of these to Houston on April 30th.  Leone and Carson Smith gave up consecutive walk-offs to the Angels on May 4th and 6th.  The Mariners were seven games behind the streaking Astros.  The season already looked hopeless and over

On individual fronts, Nelson Cruz was showing the American League his free agent deal was a bargain–at least for 2015.  Robinson Cano was stinkin’ up the joint. The Seth Smith/Justin Ruggiano platoon was shelved, but on May 5th, Ruggiano was playing center field. Wellington Castillo and Mark Trumbo had not yet made their appearances on the Mariner roster. Fernando Rodney was still the closer, giving himself and everybody else on the team a hot foot with his arrows. The team was under-performing offensively, on the mound and in the field.

What a difference a year makes. Today the M’s will steam into Houston staring down the barrel of hot bats and hotter arms at the Lastros.  A year ago they led the Mariners by seven, today they’re 6.5 games behind the first place Mariners.  Combined with the Ranger loss in Toronto, the M’s find themselves with a narrow 1.5 game lead between themselves and the rest of the division. With an 8-2 record over their last ten games, they’re hot, tied with Boston as the hottest team in the American League.

Robinson Cano is leading the American League in home runs, and his batting average is beginning to catch up with the long ball. Cruz, with a respectable start, seems to be heating up with the weather. Kyle Seager seems to be awakening from his annual pupa stage to the butterfly we know him to be (but, whew, that larval stage is sure ugly.) The supporting cast is also showing signs of kicking it into gear, and the Mariners are suddenly an offensive dynamo.

Yep, what a difference a year makes.  Last year May 5th found the M’s hopelessly out of things, and 2016 shows the Mariners roaring into Houston with the wind at their backs.

But this is also a cautionary tale.  Though a year ago the M’s seemed utterly forlorn, they also began to turn things around.  Their record on May 29th, their 48th game of the season was 24-24.  They went on the road to Cleveland and New York, were slaughtered, and never regained their mojo.  The rest of the season was about stats.

The lesson?  Things change quickly in major league baseball.  So to the Mariners, keep on doing what ever you’re doing for as long as you can do it.  To the fans, what ever good luck charms you’re doing for the beloved Mariners, don’t let up.  It’s a long season, and lots can happen, good and bad, along the way.

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