Mariners Mayhem Part 2: Believe in the Mariners
By Tyler Wicke
It’s hard not to be excited and certain that ‘this is our year’ after 17 years of disappointment. Now, the certainty is all but gone.
I wrote “Devil’s Advocate” with confidence in the Mariners. Their lead was six games above Oakland for the second wild-card spot. I thought Oakland’s 17-4 run would dwindle back to their typical .500 ways. Now, the A’s are 25-7 in their last 32. Even worse, Seattle has dropped 7 of their last 10 and are just 1.5 games ahead of Oakland.
With Tampa Bay and Los Angeles as the next closest teams roughly ten games behind, it seems as if the Mariners will have to duke it out with the A’s for a trip to the Wild Card Game. To clarify, I see no realistic chance of any team but Houston taking home the AL West Pennant, leaving just the wild card up for grabs.
What matters most to the Mariners in their final 61 games is their head to head matchups against their division opponents. They have only played 6 of their 19 games against the Astros this season, and have yet to play 10 against Oakland.
I believe that the remaining 23 games versus the Astros and A’s will decide whether the Mariners make the postseason. They are done competing against the MLB-leading Red Sox and only play 3 more against the Yankees in Seattle. If the Mariners can get through Houston and Oakland anywhere over .500, they will more than likely see their first playoff berth since 2001.
Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto will almost certainly make a trade to better the team in order to take the majority of the 23 games against our division rivals. Whether for a starting pitcher or an everyday center fielder, a boost in the starting lineup or rotation could propel Seattle past the A’s.
The Rangers’ Cole Hamels and the Blue Jays’ J.A. Happ are Seattle’s largest pitching targets. Kansas City Royals outfielder Whit Merrifield is another potential target, but his defensive ability and .300 batting average may come with a price tag as large as Ryon Healy.
The Tigers outfielder and former Mariner Leonys Martin may also be a quality pickup by Seattle, and would certainly be Site Expert Colby Patnode’s first choice.
Seattle fans must sift through the bleakness of what has been the past two weeks. In fact, there are many promising tidbits of information to consider when preparing for the final two months of the season.
First off, we should be excited to face Oakland ten more times this year, considering we are 6-3 against them. Seattle has taken 2 of 3 from the A’s in all three series thus far, and two of the losses were games that should have never gotten away.
Most memorably, Paxton struck out 16 batters in 7 innings in the start directly before his no-hitter in Toronto. Nicasio let Jed Lowrie hit a 2-run homer in the eighth to tie it at 2-2 and Diaz gave up a solo home run to Mark Canha in the 9th that would win the game.
My point is that the A’s have been on a tear but can be beaten by strong teams, including Seattle. I know I mentioned that Oakland would come back to earth last week, and they have yet to. However, they will have played the Rockies, Angels, Astros, and Mariners before August is over. Their schedule is no cakewalk.
Also, the Mariners bullpen has returned to what looks like a formidable defense against quality hitters. Juan Nicasio, who is the definition of inconsistency, has allowed just one hit in his last three appearances. Marco Gonzales has emerged as one of Seattle’s premier pitchers and holds an 11-5 record on the season. GM Jerry Dipoto will look to add to his pitching staff with a trade on or before July 31.
Something else to consider: Robinson Cano returns to the Mariners lineup in just over two weeks. That is something every Mariners fan should look forward to.
Should we be concerned about the Oakland Athletics? Sure. Do I think they are a better team than Seattle? No. If the offense can heat up, the Mariners will be a dangerous contender come October. But first, they need to get there.