The Series that Saved the Mariners 2017 Season

Jul 18, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Overall view of Safeco Field during the seventh inning of a game between the Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners. Seattle defeated Chicago, 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 18, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Overall view of Safeco Field during the seventh inning of a game between the Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners. Seattle defeated Chicago, 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Seattle Mariners swept the Detroit Tigers in a four-game series this past week to move above the .500 mark for the first time this season. We very well may be able to look back at that series as the turning point of the season, and this is what we can tell our kids about when explaining how the 2017 season ended the M’s 15 year playoff drought.

Gather around, and I will tell you all about the 2017 Mariners and how that particular group of guys made a lot of Mariners fans very happy. Leading up to the season, there was a lot of excitement that this would be the year the M’s finally return to the playoffs for the first time since 2001. The team had had a handful of other good years since then, but not good enough.

This team was built by Jerry Dipoto, and after making a bunch of moves in the offseason, he had the roster set just right to where a lot of us fans were ready to get behind a team primed for a playoff run. Adding players like Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger to the lineup, already consisting of guys like Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz. And bringing in pitchers like Drew Smyly and Marc Rzepczynski to round out the pitching staff.

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What could go wrong?

Well, really the biggest thing that could prevent a team like this from reaching their full potential was injuries, and that’s exactly what happened. These players started dropping like flies and landing on the DL. Before we knew it, four of our five starters were sidelined and even a lot of the offense was hurting too.

Believe it or not, though, this factor made the team almost more fun to watch. We got to see players come up and make the most of their opportunity, that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Players like Taylor Motter and Ben Gamel, the flow bros, turned out to become fan favorites that year. Pitchers like Sam Gaviglio and Christian Bergman got several starts and made the most of them.

Despite all the new faces, they were all scrappy guys that played their hearts out, and by the time mid-June rolled around, the team was sitting around .500. After getting by on a tough 3-4 road trip that put them at 34-37, the team returned home for a four-game series against the Tigers on June 19. Not only did the team get to be home for nine games, but many key players had begun returning. Haniger and Paxton had returned in the weeks before, but Segura and Felix Hernandez were due back during the Detroit series.

Everything seemed to be going right for this team. Key players were heating up and nearly everyone was getting healthy at the right time. This set up the perfect storm to push their record above .500 with a four-game sweep, and what a series that was.

Jun 19, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino (3) hits a two-run homer against the Detroit Tigers during the sixth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

In the first game the team was down early 2-0, but came back with a trio of two-run homeruns, two of which came from Mike Zunino, and they won 6-2. The next night was a game just as good. The M’s were up 3-2 for most of the game and added one more in the seventh before allowing the Tigers to tie it up at 4-4 in the eighth. But in the 10th inning, Kyle Seager walked the game off with a game winning double.

In the third game of the series, the Mariners found themselves having to dig out of another hole. They were losing  4-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning and Tiger’s pitcher, Justin Verlander, had thrown five perfect innings. To lead off the bottom of the sixth, Jarrod Dyson did the unfathomable and laid down a perfect bunt to break up the perfect game. Many Tigers fans and baseball purists immediately took to twitter to show their displeasure of such a revolting action.

However, this bunt entirely changed the game, as the Mariners proceeded to reel off seven runs over the next two innings to win 7-5.

Sitting at 37-37, the team was at the .500 mark for the fourth time of the season, but was still looking to be above that mark. To start game four of the series, the Mariners turned to their young pitching prospect, Andrew Moore, who would make his major league debut. Moore was phenomenal in his first of many great starts, holding the Tigers to three runs over seven innings, leading the Mariners to the four-game sweep with a 9-6 victory.

At that point, the team had won five games in a row to tie a season high and were sitting at 38-37. Second place in the division and only 1 game back of the Wild Card after a first half full of obstacles. But it was that series that propelled this team above .500 for good that season. Felix came back from the DL the next day, and after the All-Star break, the team was back to being healthy.

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Looking back now, it’s clear that that series started something in this team. It lit a fire in the team that they had been looking for all year and the four-game sweep started it all. It was a magical year, that 2017 season was. Don’t take amazing teams like that for granted, because you never know how long that group of guys will stay together.