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Jayson Stark: Still hope for a Mariners postseason run

Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager have accounted for 10 runs and 11 RBIs over the last three games. (AP)
LISTEN: Jayson Stark on the Mariners' offensive woes

When long-time baseball analyst Jayson Stark saw the Mariners play the Phillies in early May, he came away thinking Seattle had one of the best lineups in baseball. He told “Brock and Salk” on Wednesday that the ensuing stretch of inconsistency has been “hard to comprehend.”

But Stark says the Mariners’ offensive firepower during their current three-game win streak is part of the reason the team still has a shot at the playoffs.

“This has really been a strange and confusing year, I think even for the guys involved and the guys who put together the team,” Stark said.

The Mariners have scored 21 runs during the streak against the playoff-hopeful Red Sox and Rockies. That string of wins came on the heels of a stretch in which Seattle scored just seven runs in eight games.

The middle of the Mariners’ lineup has fueled the team’s recent onslaught, with Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager batting a combined .333 and contributing 10 runs and 12 RBIs. Stark said the Mariners feed off Cano and that the second baseman’s stint on the 10-day disabled list for a quad injury slowed the team down.

“This lineup should have been better than it’s been. The pitching injuries, in theory, should have been what killed this team and yet I feel like they’ve hung in there OK on that front,” Stark said. “But the offense hasn’t given them a chance to win enough games. I still think there’s hope, though.”

Besides the Astros, who have an MLB-best 37-16 record, and an expected resurgence of the Indians in the American League Central, Stark sees a relatively mediocre AL. He counts nine teams with a shot at the last three spots: all five teams from the AL East, the Twins and Tigers as well as the Mariners, which entered the day 4.5 games out of the second wild-card spot.

“I still think the Mariners, when they get healthy – and get Felix (Hernandez) back and (Hisashi) Iwakuma back – and get their team on the field, that’s still a team that has a shot to get there,” Stark said. “Baseball Prospectus is projecting (for) the second wild card in the American League, it’s gonna take 84 wins. That’s not out of the question for the Mariners.”