First-place Mariners providing plenty of reasons to think success will continue
May 12, 2016, 10:50 AM
Playing with a few numbers Wednesday afternoon, I figured out that the Mariners will win 100 games if they remain at their current pace.
And even if they play .500 ball the rest of the way and go 64-64, they’ll finish with an 85-77 record. Last year the Astros were a wild-card team at 86-76.
How about something in between, like 69-59? That would make them a 90-win team.
Related: Dae-Ho Lee’s long, eventful journey to the Mariners
All scenarios are possible, and I know, I guess the negative ones are, too, for those who think the Mariners will have a losing record in their final 128 games.
But even if that happens – say the Mariners go 60-68, they’d still finish 81-81, and a lot of us might have taken that record before the season started in the first year with GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais.
When they were 2-6 after dropping the first five games on their first homestand, I thought maybe the Mariners weren’t as properly constructed as they appear to be now. I thought some of the players might be too old to produce like they had in the past.
We’ll see if they can sustain this .618 pace. And the good news is, for every reason you think they won’t, you can come up with a reason why they will.
The bullpen can’t keep it up, right? Opponents are averaging .186 against Mariner relievers, the lowest mark in the major leagues. Steve Cishek is 11 for 12 in save opportunities. It’s been a strength, and we all thought it would be the team’s biggest weakness when spring training ended.
Somehow the relievers have hung in there and flourished in spite of starting the season without two relievers who were supposed to be on the roster in Ryan Cook and Evan Scribner. The bullpen has also endured through injuries to Joaquin Benoit and Tony Zych. Raise your hand if you’d ever heard of Steve Johnson before he was called up a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t. Yet there he was, getting out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the 10th Wednesday afternoon.
The starters have been everything from solid to terrific. With all five of them, you know going into every game that the Mariners have a good chance to win. And the longer they go, the better it is for the bullpen. Most of the time Seattle’s starters are good for six or seven innings if not more.
The rotation is so deep you can make a case for the fifth starter, Nathan Karns, being the best of the bunch off of his last three starts. If he’s not, he has to be the best fifth starter in baseball.
The lineup can sting you early or sting you late. The Mariners scored three runs in the first inning in Tuesday night’s and Wednesday afternoon’s games against Tampa Bay. And they lead the majors in game-winning RBIs in the seventh inning or later.
The bottom of the lineup is naturally not as good as the top or the middle, but I still have confidence in whomever is hitting seventh, eighth and ninth. They aren’t automatic outs like they’ve been in past seasons. I know Leonys Martin has not been consistent and may never be, but his defense is so good in center field that it more than compensates for his .205 average. Plus I love the pop in his bat when he connects, and his speed on the basepaths.
Just like Dipoto projected, the Mariners have more players who can get on base, and they can score in a variety of ways, via the long ball or small ball. Heck, Wednesday they were in position to win on a Robinson Cano double, wild pitch and Nelson Cruz sacrifice fly until Nick Vincent gave up a game-tying homer to Kevin Keirmaier in the ninth.
For every player who figures to regress, someone else will step up, or so it seems. It might be Adam Lind, a disappointment thus far, but his history suggests a brighter forecast the rest of the season.
The best thing at this point is having realistic hope. Usually by the middle of May, we’re wondering if the Mariners can get back to .500. They’re either at the bottom or near the bottom of the AL West, and here they are this year, at the top with a 1 ½-game lead over the Rangers.
Can you believe they’ve won seven of their last eight series, and went 2-2 with Houston in the one series they didn’t win? It’s amazing stuff, and they can certainly make it eight of nine with the Angels arriving for a weekend series at Safeco Field. They have lost five in a row and are stuck with a banged-up pitching staff.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com, KitsapSun.com and jimmooregocougs.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.