When I was a newspaper reporter, editors only wanted you to express your opinion in a column. In sports-talk radio, they want them all the time. I just wonder why I’m wrong so frequently.
You’d think when you give opinions, you’d bat .500, maybe .400, certainly .300. With seemingly everything that is sports-related in Seattle, I’m around .200, and with the Mariners, I feel like I’m facing Edwin Diaz, hitting .100 or possibly even .000.
I say this because I’ve contended for the past two weeks that the Mariners need to be sellers at the trade deadline. As fun as it would be to end the 15-year playoff drought, it doesn’t make sense to me to scratch and claw for the second wild-card spot when you’re probably not going to make it past a division series matchup against Houston anyway. Better to try and bolster your team for stronger runs in 2018 and beyond.
So in true Smokin’ Lock fashion, I think something should happen and the complete opposite happens, which is the case with the Mariners since they returned from the All-Star break.
After they swept the White Sox in Chicago to get within one game of .500, I thought, well, that’s a great start to the second half of the season. I didn’t even want to point out that the White Sox aren’t very good because the Mariners have lost to bad teams before and were even swept by the Phillies, the worst team in baseball, last month at Safeco Field.
But in the back of my mind, I thought they’d go to Houston and get shut down by Lance McCullers like always and be on their way to losing their fourth consecutive series to the runaway AL West leaders.
Well, you saw Monday night’s game, or you listened to it, or you’ve heard about it by now. The Mariners won 9-7 in 10 innings in what Mike Blowers called the best game of the year. I’d have to agree. And I don’t know about the game, but what Jean Segura did defensively in the ninth inning is one of the most outstanding performances I’ve ever seen by a shortstop.
We know Segura as Jean the Hitting Machine, but Monday night he was Jean the Fielding Machine too. Like most everyone else, I see him as a terrific hitter and passable shortstop. The Mariners didn’t sign him to a five-year contract because of his defense. No one has ever compared him to Brendan Ryan until Monday night.
Ryan might have made all three plays that Segura made in the ninth inning to give the Mariners a chance to win in extra innings. But he might not have – that’s how difficult those three plays were. Well, two of the three were really difficult, and you could call the other one routine if you want, but it was still do-or-die. In order:
• Segura ranged far to his right to backhand a grounder hit by Marwin Gonzalez that, had it gone into left field, Josh Reddick might have scored from second to end the game. I was just happy he stopped it and didn’t even want him to throw from one knee because he was so off-balance – I thought the ball might be off-line and ricochet past Danny Valencia at first, leading to an Astros’ walk-off win on an unfortunate error. But somehow his throw was perfect, nailing Gonzalez by a step and a half for the first out of the inning. Gonzalez was so stunned that he chucked his helmet.
• With the infield in and runners on second and third, Segura cleanly fielded a grounder by Nori Aoki and threw out Reddick at home. This was the least difficult of the three plays, but still, Segura had to make the play or the game would have been over.
• With two outs and the bases loaded, Segura went deep in the hole to snare Alex Bregman’s grounder, spun around and in the air threw to Robinson Cano to get the force at second on a sliding Brian McCann to end the inning.
If you weren’t on your feet and yelling after that play, you must have been an Astros fan because that was a one-man defensive show you’ll rarely see, featuring two plays that were at the top of any network’s Web Gem list.
Then when Kyle Seager hit his homer in the 10th and Valencia followed with one of his own and Diaz ended it with a strikeout of Jose Altuve, all postseason hopes were very much alive. This talk of holding a Mariners’ garage sale with everything for sale stopped with a look at the wild-card standings, showing Seattle at 47-47 and just 1 ½ games out of the second spot, currently held by the Yankees.
The Mariners are also just 2 ½ behind Tampa Bay, the team in the first wild-card spot, and there’s only one team ahead of them in the chase: Minnesota, at 47-45.
More positive news – the Yankees have lost 20 of their last 29 games, and the Mariners will have a chance to overtake them in a four-game series that starts Thursday at Safeco Field with Felix Hernandez on the mound.
You can even put a positive spin on August now, the month in which the Mariners play 20 of 27 on the road. I figured they’d be deader than doornails in August with that schedule, but the Mariners have won 11 of their last 16 and seven of their last eight on the road. After starting the season 1-6 on the road, the Mariners are 19-19 since.
But if I’m Dave Grosby, who I’m working with Tuesday afternoon on the Show of Record (aka “Bob, Groz and Tom”), filling in for the vacationing Bob Stelton and Tom Wassell, I wouldn’t let me on his Dare to Dream Express. The Groz has shown more faith in the Mariners than I have. Potential passengers with my level of faith should be put in the caboose or tied to the tracks rather than getting the chance to drink champagne with the Groz in the lounge car if the Mariners make it to the playoffs.
I still think questions about the rotation will trip them up in the end, but with 68 games to go, the Mariners suddenly have a good shot, and the fact that I don’t think they’ll make it? They’ve got that going for them too.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.