Drayer: Why this Mariners’ run feels more real than others, and what Tyler Anderson’s start did for M’s

Sep 29, 2021, 2:51 PM
Mariners Mitch Haniger...
Mitch Haniger of the Seattle Mariners gestures after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

This has been as exciting of a last week to a Mariners regular season the team has had during its 19-season playoff drought.

Blowers: M’s playing their best baseball as they make a run at playoffs

And that’s not to say the M’s haven’t had any excitement down the stretch during that period. They won 93 games in each of the 2002 and 2003 seasons, finished one spot out of the wild card in 2007, and most notably were alive into their final game of the 2014 season and into Game 161 in 2016.

This, however, feels entirely different. But why?

Shannon Drayer, Mariners insider for 710 ESPN Seattle, joined The Mike Salk Show on Wednesday morning about 10 hours after the M’s beat the A’s 4-2 to pull within a half-game of the American League’s second wild card spot with just four games to go, and she has a pretty good idea why the 2021 Mariners standing where they are now is something new.

“I think you feel that this is a more solid club. They’ve been building to this since the end of May,” she said.

Drayer mentioned that the game notes provided by the Mariners media relations department has been providing updates for some time on the Mariners’ record since May 24, which was their first game after they were swept in three games by the Padres in San Diego to fall to 21-26. That appears to be where the M’s turned things around, as they are 67-44 (.663 winning percentage) since to get to 88-70 entering Wednesday.

“What they’ve done in the American League almost consistently is put up one of the top three records, often top two records, since that date,” Drayer said. “They have been winning at a good clip for a long time now, so it’s not like they’ve really been sneaking up on it. They just started from so far behind that you kind of lose sight that they’ve really been playing good baseball for a long time now.”

What Tyler Anderson’s start did for the Mariners

Tuesday’s game was as important as it gets, so much so that the Mariners went to drastic measures with their pitching in a way that is really only seen late in a playoff race.

Yusei Kikuchi, the team’s lone 2021 All-Star, has struggled down the stretch, so Seattle opted to start Tyler Anderson, who had a short outing Saturday due to being roughed up by the Angels, in his spot on just two days rest. The Mariners also promoted standout prospect Matt Brash to add extra firepower to the bullpen.

Who is Mariners rookie Matt Brash? What you need to know

Brash wasn’t needed Tuesday as Anderson breezed through four innings, throwing an astounding 40 strikes on 46 pitches while allowing just one run on two hits and no walks to hand a lead over to Seattle’s veteran relievers.

Drayer talked about what Anderson’s performance does for the Mariners with four gigantic games left to secure a playoff spot.

“The first thing that (Mariners manager) Scott Servais said (after the game), he was doing backflips when Anderson had an eight-pitch first inning. ‘OK, this worked.'”

She added that it turns out Anderson had experience being in the exact same position last year while with San Francisco.

“Strangely enough it was after the Mariners beat the Giants and gave him a hard time last year. He had to come out on short rest the next game against the A’s of all teams and threw 100 pitches,” she said. “So there was some thought that maybe you could go that far with it, but (the Mariners) stayed discipline. Scott said (before the game) he didn’t want to go too far with Anderson.”

That also saved Brash from needing to pitch in a tight game in his MLB debut. The hope now is he get some work under his belt in a less stressful spot.

“They want to handle Matt Brash right, and they stayed disciplined with that, as well,” Drayer said. “Let’s hope they get a huge lead tonight and they have an opportunity to put him out there so that if they do need that nasty slider this weekend, he comes in and he’s had a little experience.”

Drayer and Salk covered much more about the Mariners, including:

• Why the “Believe” slogan from “Ted Lasso” fits the team’s personality
• The relationship between Servais and shortstop J.P. Crawford
• What Jarred Kelenic has been showing in September
• Yusei Kikuchi’s future with the team

The interview with Drayer kicked off the 8 a.m. hour of Wednesday’s Mike Salk Show. Listen to it in full at this link or in the player below.

‘The future is now’: Scott Servais on Mariners’ final push for playoffs

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Drayer: Why this Mariners’ run feels more real than others, and what Tyler Anderson’s start did for M’s