Moore: Mariners are surging, but playoffs still more unlikely than likely
This time, I don’t think it’s because I’m being naturally cynical, skeptical and negative. It’s based on a realistic point of view.
We all know the Mariners can’t maintain their recent pace of winning seven out of eight games. That’s a given. But in the bigger picture, even when Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Mitch Haniger return later this month, and even when Jean Segura and Drew Smyly return next month, this team isn’t quite good enough to make the playoffs.
I’d rather look at it subjectively and say that the Mariners have been so great of late that the postseason is within their reach, and a look at the wild-card standings shows as much – they’re only 2 1/2 games back. And besides the Astros (42-16) and Yankees (32-22), the rest of the American League is a grab-bag of so-so teams, none of which are much better than the Mariners.
Their offense could be enough to compensate for their mediocre rotation, but as explosive as they’ve been on this homestand, it was only two weeks ago when the same team scored just nine runs in eight games.
I know that I should just sit back and enjoy what’s happening, and what’s happening just featured a three-game blowout of Tampa Bay. I should look at the rest of the homestand and picture the Mariners going 4-2 in their next six games against the Twins and Blue Jays. That’s not unrealistic, expecting them to go 4-2 since they just went 4-1 against the Rockies and Rays.
If that happens, they’ll be back at the .500 mark at 32-32 by the middle of June, a remarkable accomplishment considering they were 21-29 two weeks ago and 2-8 to start the season. Should they make the playoffs after everything they’ve gone through in the first two months, I would call it one of the most incredible seasons in Mariners’ history, rivaling 1995, and maybe even the most improbable in Seattle sports history.
We should be looking at this team falling in the AL West standings, shaking our heads at the bad luck and thinking it’s too bad we didn’t get to see the team that general manager Jerry Dipoto built them to be. We should be talking about next year, wondering if Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Felix have enough juice to make one more run.
Yet here we are marveling at how they’ve overcome one injury after another, thinking that just maybe they can keep doing it the rest of the season, and there’s a big part of me that thinks this adversity is so character-building that it will serve them well in September when they’re making their final push for the playoffs.
But that’s when the realistic part kicks in and says: “Nah, it’s more unlikely than likely.”
Taylor Motter, as much as I like him and his hair, is a decent fill-in at shortstop but won’t be nearly as good as Segura, which goes without saying I guess. If he were a better player, Motter would be playing every day and someone else would be the utility guy.
And if there’s excitement about Felix and Iwakuma coming back, I get it because they’re veteran pitchers with track records, but if they’re looked at as knights on white horses who will save the day, count me out with that line of thinking. Their best days are behind them. I still have hope for Felix but not so much for Kuma.
Frankly, what we’ve seen from their replacements, Christian Bergman and Sam Gaviglio, has been better than what Felix and Kuma produced before they got hurt. Then again, chances are that Felix and Kuma will be much improved when healthy, but age and wear-and-tear on their right arms will factor in too.
James Paxton gives you a big-time ace, and more and more, Ariel Miranda is becoming a fixture in the rotation. Who will go when Felix and Iwakuma return? You’d think Bergman and Gaviglio, but maybe it will be one of those guys and Yovanni Gallardo, who has been less than stellar as the fifth starter.
The other thing that fuels my doubts about staying in the playoff hunt – an unfair August schedule with 20 road games and seven at home. I’ve never seen a month like that before, and it will be crippling if the Mariners continue to play the way they have on the road. I feel like they need to be six or seven games over .500 by July 31 to give themselves a cushion for the brutal month ahead.
In the meantime, let’s see how it plays out. It could be an epic season but is more apt to end the way it did last year – just a little bit short.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.