How are Mariners still in playoff race? Their ‘unique’ brand of resilience
You would be hard-pressed to find an uglier pair of back-to-back games from this Seattle Mariners season than their losses Friday and Saturday in Houston.
The American League West-leading Astros beat the M’s by a combined score of 17-4 in those two games, roughing up both All-Star starter Yusei Kikuchi and rookie standout Logan Gilbert in the process. It had a lot of people wondering if the Mariners’ postseason hopes had reached the end of the line.
Those doubts continued into the eighth inning Sunday as the M’s trailed Houston 2-0 and were just four outs away from being swept in the three-game series after the first two hitters in the frame were retired.
This is the 2021 Mariners we’re talking about, though. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned throughout this season, it’s that it’s best not to count them out.
Seattle put together a little two-out magic against Astros reliever Kendall Graveman – yes, that Kendall Graveman – as a J.P. Crawford RBI double cut Houston’s lead to 2-1, and Ty France led off the ninth with a solo homer to tie it. Paul Sewald then worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th, France delivered a go-ahead RBI single followed by a three-run homer by Kyle Seager in the top of the 11th, and Yohan Ramírez came up with two outs after being summoned from the bullpen with a run in and the bases loaded to earn a save.
And just like that, the Mariners (67-58) take momentum into a huge two-game series in Oakland, a team they’re trailing by just three games in the AL wild card chase.
Resilience has been a common theme for the M’s this season, including last week during 710 ESPN Seattle’s weekly Scott Servais Show with the team’s manager.
“The thing that’s stood out to me with this team all year long,” Servais said, “we’ve had some awesome wins and unbelievable comebacks where you’re on top of the world. We’ve also had some difficult losses where you come in the clubhouse and you’re like, ‘We never should have lost that game. We didn’t really get it done.’ But the one thing about this team is they’ve been very consistent when they show up to come to work the next day. You go around the clubhouse, you really wouldn’t know whether we lost or won the game the night before.”
Servais, a former MLB catcher who worked in player development for big league teams before being named M’s skipper ahead of the 2016 season, went on to speak about how rare that quality is in a team.
“Pretty unique,” he said. “It’s especially unique with a young team and it’s something that I’m really happy about because we play so many games, the season is so long – you’re going to have those hot streaks, you’re going to have those cold streaks when it’s really tough. … That’s a credit to the group we have and their commitment to focusing on getting better, what’s going to allow us to win the game today, and we’re always looking ahead. Now we’re trying to learn when things don’t go our way and you try to grow from that, but the focus has really been take the next step, keep looking ahead, keep grinding through it (and) good things will happen. And that’s the reason we’ve been able to bounce back when we’ve had some crazy losses.”
Sunday’s win over Houston wasn’t even the only example of this on Seattle’s current road trip. Last Thursday, they took a 7-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning against Texas, only to suffer a devastating bullpen collapse, allowing five runs to find themselves in extra innings against the Rangers. France came up big in the 11th in that game, too, hitting a two-run homer that lifted them to a 9-8 win and wrapped up a three-game sweep.
That win came two days after Servais’ comments on 710 ESPN Seattle, and he was clearly emotional speaking to reporters following the game about his team’s comeback and how proud he was of his players.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) August 19, 2021
The Mariners’ general manager is another fan of their ability to shake off adversity, as we learned last Thursday on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jerry Dipoto Show.
“We’ve talked about it all year, and this team is really resilient. They do bounce back, even within a game,” Dipoto said. “… If we get down two or three runs, they just keep clawing back. They’re like the feisty kid on the block who has the bully holding their head back and they just keep on swinging, and more often than not they land it. It’s such a fun group to be around. You can never count them out, and I think that’s one of the most exciting things about watching the Mariners right now.”
The Mariners open their series in Oakland at 6:40 p.m. Monday. Coverage begins on 710 ESPN Seattle with the pregame show at 5:30.