Moore: Injury bug bites Mariners again, but they’ve proven already they can overcome
We wake up today and find the Mariners still in the thick of the wild-card race, just a game behind the Twins. At 65-63, they somehow have a winning record. They are 4-2 at the halfway point of the 12-game road trip that was supposed to end any realistic chances of their playoff hopes.
Maybe we haven’t woken up. I shake my head almost every day and night when I see what the Mariners are doing. When they lose 4-0 like they did Tuesday night to Atlanta, I think: “Well, it was an amazing run while it lasted. Pretty cool to think they hung in there ‘til the end of August.”
Then the next night they beat the Braves 9-6, rallying from a 6-5 deficit with five runs in the eighth inning and I think: “How in the world is this happening? With their rotation, THIS SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING!”
I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it – somehow the Mariners are a much better team on the road than they are at home, something else about the team that makes no sense. They started the season 1-6 on the road but are 31-31 now and 9-5 this month.
So when you hear about Robinson Cano leaving Wednesday night’s game with a pulled hamstring and Guillermo Heredia leaving after he was hit in the right wrist, you can’t believe the injury bug has bitten the Mariners again.
But I’m to the point of thinking they can overcome potential short-term losses of Cano and Heredia, too. I mean, why not? They’ve overcome every other injury this year. How do you replace a future Hall of Famer at second base? On a temporary basis, I’m guessing Taylor Motter can do it. Look at what he did Wednesday night, filling in for Cano by going 2 for 3, including a two-run single in the eighth that game the Mariners a 6-5 lead.
I know Motter can’t do it long-term, but short-term, let’s wait and see. I know this, I missed his hair and am glad it’s back. Motter was on fire in Tacoma and maybe he can rekindle the stroke that he had with the Mariners in April.
With Heredia, they’ve gone more than a week without Jarrod Dyson (strained groin) and played well without their starting center fielder. Dyson is eligible to come off the 10-day disabled list on Sunday.
If they had waited one day longer, the Mariners probably would not have DFA’d Leonys Martin to make room for reliever David Phelps. But Martin is gone now, creating a shortage of outfielders. By the way, I understand the move with Martin, but I’ll still miss him.
Unless we get some surprising news about Heredia, the Mariners will go into a three-game weekend series with Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger as their only two everyday outfielders. But just watch, manager Scott Servais will throw Motter and/or Danny Valencia out there and they’ll probably both go 3 for 4 and come up with a Web Gem catch.
Every time you expect some sort of setback from an injury, the Mariners seem to have a finger to plug every leak in their ship. If it’s not Valencia or Motter, just watch, it’ll be some guy we’ve never heard of from some Triple-A team that Jerry Dipoto will acquire today.
Last year Wade LeBlanc was acquired for cash from the Blue Jays and jumped into the rotation like he belonged there the whole time. This year it’s Andrew Albers, 2-0 in his first two starts, after the Braves gave him up for $50,000.
I look at this weekend’s Yankees series and don’t think the Mariners will win two of three like they did in Tampa Bay and Atlanta to start the trip. In fact, logically speaking, they might get swept when you look at the pitching matchups, all favoring the Yankees: Friday is Ariel Miranda vs. C.C. Sabathia; Saturday is Yovanni Gallardo vs. Sonny Gray; and on Sunday it’s Albers vs. Masahiro Tanaka.
But the way the Mariners have been defying the odds, they’ll scrape and claw and shock us all by sweeping the Yankees. And come Monday, we’ll be wondering if they can somehow earn the first wild-card spot and host a playoff game in October.
This will sound crazy, but what the heck. I would love to see a playoff game at Safeco Field for the first time since 2001, but I’d almost rather see them in the wild-card game on the road since they’re a better team on the road.
The biggest key to everything continuing in the right direction is getting James Paxton back. Last we heard, the Mariners’ ace could return in early September from a strained pec. They need him in the worst way, as you know.
In the meantime, the Mariners will try to get to Sept. 1 without falling out of the race. At that time, they can call up a bunch of Tacoma Rainiers to stock the bullpen. Until then, all of these five- and six-inning starts and going to wear out the relievers.
Here’s what I have to say about that – I fully understand that it will help to get more arms on Sept. 1. But if those arms were truly good arms, wouldn’t they be in the bullpen already? It’s a negative thought on this cheery season, but I’m sorry, I tend to drink from a glass half-empty. And it’s not like the Twins and Angels and Royals won’t get more help from their Triple-A affiliates too.
As much as I’m in a hurry to see Paxton again, I don’t feel the same way about Felix Hernandez. The King is sidelined with shoulder bursitis, and to be honest, I haven’t missed him. The numbers you get from most of these nondescript guys in the rotation are about what you were getting from Felix.
In a Wednesday night Tweet, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times said the Mariners are 39-33 during the two times that Hernandez has been on the disabled list this season. Are the Mariners a better team without him? No, but the 39-33 record says they’re persevering and then some in his absence.
That’s in keeping with this makes-no-sense season, one that could challenge 1995 as one of the Mariners’ most surprising ever.
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.