Mariners Analysis: Inter-League Success

Jun 29, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano (22) hits a single against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 29, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano (22) hits a single against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Mariners completed their last inter-league game before the All-Star break last night, and despite the poor result, overall, inter-league play has been a rousing success.

The Mariners might have looked outmatched yesterday in their 8-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but their success in inter-league games this year has been hard to rival for any team in either league. With an outstanding record of 9-3 during the first half of the season against the National League, the Mariners are tied with the Washington Nationals for best in this category. And while the M’s will only play 8 inter-league games in their next 84 contests, those could be the deciding factor if the Mariners will make a playoff spot.

It all started on the back-end of a short six-game road trip against the Cincinnati Reds. Three solid pitching performances, including Felix Hernandez’s last start before a rough outing due to injury landed him on the DL, helped the Mariners to a sweep. At the time the Mariners were arguably the hottest team in the American League and no one could have imagined the catastrophic drop-off after that series, but the M’s maintained their dominance verses the NL as May was turning to June.

Before the month ended, the Mariners began a two-game home and home with the San Diego Padres. The team was in desperate need of a pick-me-up, having been swept by the Minnesota twins -who were the worst team in the league at the time- the day before they did battle at Safeco Field, and they stepped up. The Mariners pounded the Padres for nine and sixteen runs respectively during the home stand. It was their largest two-game output of the season and that still holds today.

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Yet as soon it read June on the calendar the pitching declined. The back half of the home and home against the Padres was marred by 27 runs allowed by the pitching staff (starters and bullpen). On a positive note the Mariners did manage to win the last game of the series (after giving away the first one) by the gaudy score of 16-13, moving their overall inter-league record to 6-1.

Run production has been key to the M’s impressive achievements, at a record-setting rate. As of last night’s loss, the Mariners are on pace to set several club records for inter-league play, including batting average, on-base percentage and runs batted in. They are also set to have their best inter-league record since the competition started back in 1997, even besting the 2001, 116-win team that finished 12-6 when pitted against the NL.

Before the Mariners started their final five-game inter-league stretch before the all-star break, the team had plummeted in the standings, falling from a tie in first place with the surging Texas Rangers after the Padres series to ten games back of those Rangers by the start of their three games against the St. Louis Cardinals and two versus the Pittsburgh Pirates- the team went 6-16. At least they were able to change their form to fit their inter-league standards, kind of, as the M’s welcomed the Cardinals to Seattle.

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Bullpen mishaps that we’ve grown accustomed to in June almost gave the Cardinals the series opener, but it was Adam Lind that saved the day with a three-run walk-off blast to win the game 4-3. The next day it was starter, Nathan Karns, who almost blew the win, but the M’s bullpen had an unlikely change of control and held off St. Louis for the win. They would however lose the series finale, bringing their inter-league record to 8-2.

Versus Pittsburgh the M’s were treated to a star-like outing from Hisashi Iwakuma who gave up only six hits and two runs, allowing the team to notch their ninth win in inter-league play. Poor showings from Wade Miley and Donn Roach (out of the bullpen) let the game slip out of their hands, surrendering eight runs. That was too much for the M’s bats to overcome, as their bats were silent, tallying only one run in the loss. While it wasn’t the same level of success as their other series the 3-2 record was a welcomed statistic considering their June slump.

Next: Miley struggles in 8-1 loss to Pittsburgh

The Mariners will have to wait until their last five games of July to face the National League again- two games versus the Pirates and three against the Chicago Cubs- and then another three weeks for their final three inter-league games against the Milwaukee Brewers. If they continue their winning pace against the NL, the M’s will finish the year with a franchise best 16-4 record.