The Mariners are set to start a best-of-5 game series against the Houston Astros, who have been in charge of the American League for quite a while. Most fans knew that if the Mariners were going to make a run at all in the postseason, it was likely going to have to go through the Astros.
Personally, I think that Scott Servais and the squad are going to have to get a little bold in order to pull it off. It is just a five-game series, and I think that is something that actually favors the Mariners a little bit. The longer the series, the more likely that the best team wins. Rephrase that. The more talented team.
What if the Mariners decided to start Erik Swanson in Game One?
The Mariners are definitely going to have their hands full at the plate going up against Justin Verlander. He’s a monster, and there is no denying that. However, the Astros hitters are pretty darn good as well. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the Mariners top four starters do in this series (Gilbert, Castillo, Ray, Kirby – I think that’s how the first four games go), but I think the bullpen is just as important.
Which makes me wonder. What if they started someone like Erik Swanson to get through the top of the Houston Lineup? He could throw the first inning, and avoid setting Gilbert up for an early exit in the 5th or 6th (or 4th) inning when he faces these guys for the third time. Instead, we could have Swanson, who has experience starting games, take on the top of their lineup, and then hand the ball over to Gilbert in the second.
Would something like this work? I have no idea. But I like the premise of it. If Gilbert was going to see the meat of their lineup a third time, Servais might be tempted to pull him even if he is pitching well. But if Swanson can get them the first time through, it would give Gilbert a chance to throw deeper into the game and avoid extra at-bats against their best hitters.
The other reason that I want to see Erik Swanson be given this opportunity is that he has pitched well against Houston so far this year. Four appearances, five innings, three hits, one walk, seven Ks, and no runs. If his pitch count goes up a bit, it’s not a big deal. The Mariners play Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for the first three games of the series. If he pitches a ton to get through the opener, he could rest Thursday and be golden for the weekend.
At the same time, maybe it would take a little more pressure off of Gilbert. He doesn’t have to take the mound against Houston for his first preseason start. He gets a chance to relax a bit, and watch the offense (hopefully) and Swanson get things going.
Again, all of this is conjecture, and I have no idea if it would work. I do think they are going to need to get a bit wild and crazy with it to have a chance against Houston because they are likely the second-best team in baseball. We will save the actual preview for closer to game time, but we all know that the Mariners are going to have their hands full.
Whether it is Gilbert, Swanson, or someone else that gets the ball in Game One, there is one thing that I am certain about. The Mariners are still alive in the playoffs, and it’s a great time to be an M’s fan.