They call it an All-Star break in reference to the players, but Mariners fans need some time off too. They need a break from watching the team that makes no sense.
I’m glad we don’t have to watch them for four days because I’m tired of trying to figure them out. Whatever you think will happen won’t. And if you think something can’t possibly happen, it generally will, like yet another injury in the first half of the season.
Sunday was another case in point. Felix Hernandez was never supposed to be great again. We were told those days were over, and I believed it. The wear and tear of so many years had caught up to him, and now we’re left with a King that needed to re-create himself to remain moderately effective. But he would never be dominant like he used to be.
Yet this new Felix shut down the A’s on two hits over six innings in a 4-0 victory at Safeco Field that ushered in veteran savvy as the biggest weapon in his repertoire. He was the Felix of old, getting hitters to look foolish swinging at changeups in the dirt, recording eight strikeouts and rewarding his supporters in King’s Court.
I want to believe this is what we’ll see from Hernandez from here on out, that he’s set his ego aside and will become even more of a pitcher than a BB thrower now that his velocity has gone from mid-90s to the low 90s and the high 80s at times.
But I’m skeptical, and I would say I’m not even surprised that he threw a six-inning gem on Sunday. When I look at this new version of Felix, I feel like you’re going to get occasional great starts, occasional bad starts and passable starts the rest of the time.
Could certainly be wrong about that. If we see this Felix in his next start Saturday against the White Sox, then we can start talking about the latest model of the King being a pretty good knockoff of the first. And if that happens, we can kick around the idea of Felix still being the ace as he prepares to face the Yankees on July 20.
Everyone knows they need this kind of Felix to contend, and I’d argue that even this kind of Felix won’t be enough. But a 1-2 punch of James Paxton and Felix at the top of the rotation, particularly if the Big Maple pitches like he did in April, would be a huge lift.
But really, Sunday’s 4-0 victory and the encouraging developments with Felix and the return of Nelson Cruz’s home-run power over the weekend did not obscure the past two weeks of mostly terrible baseball – a 4-10 record, including nine losses in 11 games at Safeco Field.
It’s impossible for me to call this team a legitimate wild-card contender when it gets swept in a two-game series at home by the Phillies, the worst team in the majors. And when the Mariners needed a four-game sweep of the A’s, the worst team in the AL, they managed a split.
More and more, the Mariners appear to be a .500 team at best, and that’s pushing it when you know that August is three weeks away, a month in which Scott Servais’ team plays 20 of 27 on the road. I think they’re already done. Even though they’re only four games out of that second wild-card spot, they are jostling for two berths with seven teams.
I’ve maybe mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Let’s say it takes 85 wins to make the playoffs. That would mean the Mariners would have to go 42-30 the rest of the way. Could they do it? Sure. But come on, what’s more likely off of what we’ve seen through 90 games. I’ll tell you what’s more likely – 30-42 instead of 42-30.
Plus what are they battling for really? A chance to end a 15-year playoff drought in Seattle, which would be outstanding. As exciting as that game would be, it would probably be on the road, they’d be underdogs, and even if they won, there’s just no way the Mariners are good enough to get past the Astros and advance to their first World Series ever.
At best, this is the equivalent of a 9-7 team in the NFL hoping to run the table with a hot streak at the end of the season. Again, it’s possible, more possible now that Felix looks to have found himself, but let me know when you wake up and we can have a conversation about what we’ve seen and what’s more apt to happen in the next 2 1/2 months.
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.