Three things: Mariners getting what they need out of starting pitchers
Jul 25, 2016, 8:33 AM
After an eventful week in which the Mariners got their ace back and made their biggest trade of the season to date, they’re in for a rough nine-game stretch against a decent Pirates team, the MLB-leading Cubs and four games with the dangerous Red Sox.
Here are three things to consider this week about the Mariners:
1. Treading water or the start of a big run? There’s a few ways to look at the Mariners’ record after the All-Star break. At first glance, it appears that they’re just treading water like they were for the final two weeks before the midsummer classic, as they sit at 5-4 since returning and 50-48 on the season. On the other hand, they might just be finding their stride. The Mariners reeled off three straight wins over the White Sox and Blue Jays before falling 2-0 in the series finale in Toronto on Sunday, and they’ve won four of their last six. There’s one big reason to believe the run is coming, too, which brings me to No. 2.
2. The starting rotation is back on the rails. In the nine games since the break, the Mariners have gotten six quality starts out of their rotation, and they’ve seen their starting pitcher go at least six innings seven times. That’s exactly what manager Scott Servais has been looking for and a dramatic improvement from what they saw throughout June and early July, when the pitching staff was struggling to stay healthy or make it deep into games. Hisashi Iwakuma, who has finished the sixth inning in 12 of his last 13 starts, was not alone in giving the bullpen a break over the last week. Wade Miley threw two straight quality starts and now has three in four games since coming back from the disabled list. James Paxton was as good as he’s been all season on Friday, allowing just one run on three hits and a walk while registering nine strikeouts to beat the Blue Jays. And oh yeah, Felix Hernandez is back. He may not have had his best stuff in his return against the White Sox, but he kept his pitch count down to give the Mariners a chance to win, and there’s a good chance he’ll improve when he takes the mound again Tuesday.
3. What else does Dipoto have up his sleeve before the trade deadline? The Mariners’ struck early for their first big move of trade deadline season, adding to their future by acquiring a pair of prospects for versatile left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery and a minor-leaguer. While that wasn’t the kind of move you’d expect out of a playoff contender, it was an opportunistic trade by general manager Jerry Dipoto, and he is looking for ways to add to the roster that will improve Seattle’s chances this season to break its long postseason drought. Will he look for a potential leadoff bat or late-inning bullpen option? Could he find a taker for Norichika Aoki? Since Ketel Marte is on the DL with mono, would it make sense to bring in a veteran shortstop? The offense has needs and there is a sudden surplus of pitching, so there’s certainly opportunity for Dipoto to make a splash.