August feels like a lifetime ago doesn't it? After the best month of baseball in the history of the Seattle Mariners, these same M's had a horrific 10 game road trip that saw them go 3-7. The AL West division lead? Seattle is now 2.5 games back of the hated Houston Astros. The pitching staff looks tired and the bullpen looks cooked. With just a .5 game lead for the final wildcard spot, the Mariners look to be holding on for dear life in the final 19 games.
Could the return of Jarred Kelenic stem the tide and get the Mariners into October?
As bad as it's been, it's important to look at the schedule. 6 of the final 19 games are against the Angels and Athletics, two of the worst teams in baseball. They have a difficult series at home against the Dodgers, but then the true season-defining gauntlet. Seattle will play 3 games at Texas, then host the Astros and Rangers for the final 7 games of the season. Overall a difficult schedule, but everything they want is on the table.
If the Mariners want to take advantage of this opportunity, they need a jolt, and I think Jarred Kelenic can be just that. After his disappointing injury cost him most of the second half, Kelenic has been getting game ready in Tacoma. In his 9 games with the Rainiers, Kelenic is slashing.324/.425/.925. He's looked fantastic in the field, and has even stolen a base. It is widely expected that he will return to the big league club, and play on Monday night. It's safe to say he's ready, but what can be his impact, and how will it affect the roster?
As far as impact goes, I don't think it's fair to ask Kelenic to return and play like April Kelenic. Anything close to that and the Mariners could and should catch Houston and win the AL West. I think it is reasonable to expect the Kelenic that we saw for the majority of the season.
A streaky hitter that carried an OPS+ of 110, while providing plus speed and Gold Glove caliber defense in the corner outfield. His level of defense could be massive in the playoffs, especially with the unique ballparks that Seattle could potentially be visiting (looking at you Houston and Toronto).
This would present a sizable upgrade for the Mariners both at the plate and in the field over guys like Cade Marlowe, Dominic Calzone and Sam Haggerty.
All three have had big moments in helping the Mariners get to this position, but decisions need to be made. If I was in charge, I would send Marlowe down, and get him ready for the postseason taxi squad. In his past 28 games, Marlowe is hitting .140 with a .508 OPS. It feels like the magic has dried up. Canzone is a bat I'd like to have in the playoffs coming off the bench. He's proven a couple of times this year that he can step in and deliver off the bench. Haggerty's last calendar year has been a real bummer, but he's still that "scat back" that Scott Servais wants to have to help create a run in a playoff game. The Mariners could've used him against Houston last year, and he could swing a game possibly.
It's been a wild ride watching the Jarred Kelenic experience, but the time to step up is now. If Kelenic can right his wrong, the Mariners should get enough of a jolt to take a wildcard spot, and maybe even threaten to catch Houston (don't forget Seattle owns the tiebreaker). If not, Seattle will be forced to answer some very difficult questions in the offseason about Kelenic and the roster construction.
Here's to hoping the Prince that was promised can help get the Mariners a new banner to put in the rafters.