If you haven’t heard, the Mariners beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-3 Sunday afternoon in front of 25,000 fans at Safeco Field. It was by no means a great win. The Mariners did not dominate, looked a bit sloppy at times and ultimately won by the skin of their teeth. However, when you factor in the implications of the victory, it was probably the Mariners’ most important win of 2013.
The first reason why is obvious: it clinched their first sweep of the season. Let’s just put in context what that means. It took the 2013 Mariners 95 games to sweep another team. The 61-101 2010 Mariners had their first sweep by April 20 and had two by the All Star break, despite being 35-53. The 67-95 2011 Mariners had their first sweep by April 28 and had three sweeps by the All Star break. The 75-87 2012 Mariners had their first sweep by April 26 and had two sweeps by the All Star break. The 2013 Mariners are better than all of those teams and didn’t have a sweep until Sunday, July 14.
Not only does it get the sweep monkey off their backs, but now we can actually talk about the Mariners ripping off a significant winning streak. That talk wasn’t rational until the team got past the mental block preventing them from finishing series. Mental block, gone. Now they can go on a run in the second half and save some jobs.
This was also a big momentum building win going into the break. The Mariners just had 13 games against the Rangers, the Reds, the Red Sox and the Angels. They won eight of them. That’s a brute stretch that they just weathered. Their next ten games after the break? Three in Houston and then three at home against Cleveland and four at home against Minnesota. The way they played over the last two weeks, seven or eight victories is definitely in play. The Mariners would almost be pushing .500 by then. Anything becomes possible once you have more wins than losses.
It was great to see Hisashi Iwakuma bounce back and win a game. He wasn’t outstanding, but he was solid enough to rack up seven innings and hold the lead for the M’s. Yes, he did give up another home run, this time to Mark Trumbo, but it was a major improvement over his last outing which was the worst of his career. If he can keep racking up quality starts, the Mariners will be dangerous in the second half.
Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders also looked great for the Mariners. Both men hit nearly .400 during the home stand, and Saunders added the big blast in the second inning to propel Seattle to victory. Smoak looked patient at the plate yet again, but I would have liked to see him come through with the bases loaded in the sixth, which he failed to do. Either way, these two hitting well will make for a potent lineup when you throw in the rooks at the top and Ibanez, Morales and Seager in the middle.
This game was hugely important for the Mariners to win, and doing so sets them up nicely for an exciting second half.