This season, the Mariners started slowly, but all of the sudden, they have fought their way back into the playoff picture. Seattle has erupted since the Ichiro trade, and Felix threw his perfect game which invigorated the Seattle fanbase. Hernandez’ historical outing was just the second of eight consecutive wins for the Mariners; a streak that continues currently.
All of the sudden, Mariner fans have reason to hope. They are 12 games out of the division lead, 7 back in the wild card race, and are the hottest team in baseball. Despite the reason for excitement, Mariner fans, myself included, seem to be pessimistic. Like most Mariner fans, I have dreaded putting my confidence in a team. For eleven years we have constantly been disappointed by the Mariners. Few things have gone right for us, and the last decade of frustration has turned us all into pessimists. This year I have been content with not being last, with winning a few games, with seeing a few guys improve a little, with being average.
However, something changed for me yesterday. It was a tied game in the eighth inning and Kyle Seager was at the plate with one out. Seager hit a ground ball into right-center that would have normally been a base hit, but instead, he hustled out of the box and dove into second head first to avoid a tag for a hustle double. A few batters later John Jaso walked. With a runner on first and second with two outs, Eric Thames doubled down the line and Jaso, who is not a very swift guy and had caught several games during the week, hustled all the way around from first to score and to give Seattle the two run lead. Wilhelmson came in for the save and delivered the eighth straight victory.
When I saw Seager go all-out to get into scoring position and then Jaso hustle all the way from first, it occurred to me that these guys aren’t trying to “not be last.” Trayvon Robinson hasn’t put his body on the line to make phenomenal catches in the pursuit of “being average.” These guys haven’t strung together late inning rallies hoping to “improve a little.” This team isn’t playing hard for another mediocre season, they are playing for a playoff spot.
As the fans, it’s our job to believe in these guys. This team has played great baseball since the Ichiro trade, taken series from playoff caliber teams, won fifteen out of the last sixteen home games, and won eight straight games; they deserve our support.
I’ll admit that the playoffs are a long shot. In all honesty, this is not a great baseball team. We don’t have any real run
producers, much of the batting order has seen time in AAA this year, and the back-end of the pitching staff has had rough patches, but somehow they have won. Somehow we took two of three on the road against the Angels, somehow we threw the team’s first perfect game against a playoff caliber team, somehow we won eight straight, somehow we have come through in the clutch night after night, and somehow we actually got 40,000 fans into Safeco Field on a Tuesday night in August.
There is magic in the air. I have tried to ignore it, but I can’t anymore. I’m telling you that this team has a legitimate chance at the playoffs. We are 12 games out of the division lead right now, and we were 11.5 back at this time in 1995. This team isn’t anything remotely similar to the 1995 team, but it’s just another reason to believe.
The schedule is going to get pretty rough down the stretch however. We have quite a few games against the Rangers, A’s. The pessimistic me looked at that schedule and said, “There is no way we will survive those games,” but the newfound optimism inside of me says, “That schedule will give us a chance to pick up ground in the wild card race even faster.” It’s true, we have a challenging schedule, but if this team stays hot, they will have the chance to pass the A’s and Angels if they can win a couple of series.
Who knows, this could be a lucky winning streak, and we could get swept by the White Sox this week and be out of the race again, or we could fade down the stretch and end up ninth in wild card standings. Maybe this playoff run isn’t in the stars. If that is the case, then what’s the worst that can happen? We will simply be disappointed for the twelfth straight year. If we survived the Bavasi era, we can survive a disappointing finish to 2012, right?
Regardless of whether we have a miracle comeback, take the wild card, and go to the playoffs or whether we go back to playing unimpressive baseball, I urge all of you pessimistic Mariner fans to have some fun and believe in these guys! Don’t dread yet another letdown; enjoy this run for however long it lasts! Believe Bigger!!!