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Table Setter: The first-place Mariners didn’t come out of nowhere

Dee Gordon, Guillermo Heredia and the Mariners have taken first place in the AL West. (AP)

The Seattle Mariners have won 13 of their last 16 ball games, making them 37-22 on the year. The Houston Astros have lost six of their last nine, and are now 37-24.

Due to math, the Mariners now hold sole possession of first place in the American League West.

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Along the way to moving into the division lead this weekend, the Mariners saw perhaps the arrival of a revived Félix Hernández, another impressive showing by Marco Gonzales and the fourth seven-inning outing of the year for Mike Leake. The three wins also featured a couple more perfect innings by new setup man Alex Colomé and another pair of comeback victories, including the sixth extra-innings win in six chances.

Let’s dig a little deeper in this week’s Table Setter.

All according to plan

It’s Monday, June 3, which means you’re probably about to read and hear a lot of things proclaiming that the Seattle Mariners “came out of nowhere” to take first place from the Houston Astros over the weekend.

Don’t believe them.

This is the team general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais have been angling towards for at least two years. The Mariners’ run through May – most of which was played without Robinson Canó – may have been unlikely, but the manner in which they’ve been winning fits the blueprint.

A starting rotation that can get the game to the seventh inning more often than not. A top-of-the-line bullpen with impact at the back end. An offense with some pop, the ability to put together a rally when you need it and always ready to make opponents uncomfortable with its athleticism.

And how about some emotion, to boot?

Believe it or not, last year’s Mariners had a chance to do something like this, too. After all, they were expected to contend for a playoff spot and remained on the outer edge of the postseason race for almost the entire year. The difference is that these Mariners got the ever-important strong start out of the gate in 2018, so when the injuries and bad news have come, they’ve been able to feed off the adversity instead of trying to fend it off.

That’s how the Mariners were able to overtake first place in the division when the Astros dropped six of nine. That’s not coming out of nowhere – that’s being right where you need to be.

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The incline starts

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the Mariners’ 13-3 run came at a time when they mostly playing sub-par teams.

They swept the Rays, who fell below .500 after sending Colomé and Denard Span to Seattle the week before. They split a four-game set with Texas, who are in the cellar in the AL West. Minnesota, which Seattle took three straight from, are 25-30. The M’s took two of three from the A’s, who despite being 31-29 are still fourth in the AL West. And before that it was Detroit, owners of a 28-31 record, that the Mariners beat in a four-game series.

Oh yeah, all but three of those games were played at Safeco Field, too.

The month of June is much less friendly to the M’s.

Of the next 23 games, 16 will be played on the road. That stretch opens with two games in Houston (starting Tuesday), then features four in Tampa, a tough seven-game homestand against the Angels and MLB-leading Red Sox, and wraps up with a 10-game road trip against the Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles.

Good luck with that.

I know optimism isn’t an inherent quality in Mariners fans, but hopefully this can help put you at ease: The Mariners are currently 15 games over .500, and even if they only win 10 games over the upcoming 23-game stretch they will still be 12 games over.

Kyle Seager is playing Gold Glove defense

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. I’m just acknowledging the fact that he’s making everybody say “wow” about two times per game with his glove and/or arm, and I have a hard time believing he’s ever been such a vacuum cleaner at the hot corner – yes, even when he won a Gold Glove in 2014.

Also, I just wanted to include the video of this play he made in the ninth inning Saturday night.

Seager would certainly like to his see batting average well above its current .223 mark, but his nine homers and 33 RBIs make that a little easier to digest. And when you factor in how he’s been able to make what look like sure hits into routine outs with his glove at third, he’s been more than doing his part this year for the Mariners.

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