The Mariners just brought fun back to fall baseball in Seattle
The question is now rhetorical. Mariners fans, are you having fun yet?
Of course you are. It’s late September, the Mariners just finished off a gigantic four-game sweep of a division rival and fellow playoff hopeful by smacking three homers for a 6-5 comeback win, and oh, at 84-69 they’re within two games of an American League wild card spot with nine games to play.
Maybe it’s the fall air, or that familiar “Refuse to Lose” mentality, or all these homegrown players coming together down the stretch, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say all this fun the Mariners are having feels like something people around here witnessed some 26 years ago across the street from where T-Mobile Park stands now.
Fall baseball in Seattle is fun again.
There’s no telling if these Mariners are going to pull off a run as memorable as what those Mariners did, but you can’t deny that they’ve been more than worth the price of admission this year. In just their third season since they tore it all down and started building it back up again, the M’s have established themselves as a team the rest of the American League needs to watch. Say what you want about promises made and moving goalposts, but that is a remarkable turn of events.
The Mariners play defense. They fight at the plate, especially with two outs. And while they might not always have enough offense, their pitching has made up for it – especially down the stretch.
Seattle went on the road on Sept. 17 after dropping four of five to the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks and fellow AL playoff hopeful Boston Red Sox. After reaching within a game of a playoff spot, that skid put them just about out of it at 78-68.
I guess the road trip was what they needed, because they’ve reeled off six wins in seven games since. Take out an 8-1 loss to Kansas City on Sept. 18 and Thursday’s 6-5 win over Oakland (I’ll let you look up the starting pitcher those two games have in common yourself), and the Mariners didn’t allow more than two runs in any of the six remaining games.
The bullpen has been taking care of business all season, and it’s continued even if relief ace Paul Sewald is having a little trouble keeping the ball in the ballpark lately. And now they’re being joined by a starting rotation that has been solid as can be save for the struggling Yusei Kikuchi.
Chris Flexen got people talking about down-ballot Cy Young Award votes after seven strong innings on Wednesday. Marco Gonzales has eight quality starts in 10 games since the start of August, and he’s getting close to lowering his ERA under 4 after a rough first three months of the season. Big rookie Logan Gilbert has a 2.01 ERA in four starts this month, bouncing back from a tough stretch in August. And Tyler Anderson has been the glue, as his arrival just before the MLB trade deadline has coincided with the rotation finding the consistency Seattle had been seeking all season.
When you’ve got pitching holding down opponents like that and an offense that does just enough to take advantage of it, that opens up the door for a whole lot of fun games. Especially if it’s happening during a playoff race.
This is just the start of something in Seattle. In the end, it won’t be a surprise if the Mariners don’t have the horses to finish this race, but that’s not exactly a bad thing.
The wave of young players like Jarred Kelenic, Cal Raleigh and Gilbert that are already on the team are only beginning to show their promise, and you can’t put a price on the experience they’re getting by playing in these meaningful September games. There are plenty more prospects on the way, Julio Rodríguez the most exciting name among them. Kyle Lewis and Evan White will rejoin the core headlined by Ty France, Mitch Haniger and J.P. Crawford next year after they recover from injuries that took them out of action this year. Even the bullpen is going to get a boost with veteran closer Ken Giles and young fireballer Andrés Muñoz set to be back from Tommy John surgery. And we didn’t even talk about the additions they say they’re going to make this offseason.
The best is still to come, and yet this team has a chance to play its way into the postseason in the final three series of the year. Now wouldn’t that be something?