Drayer: Who are the Mariners now? A look at Seattle’s surge

Jul 6, 2022, 11:56 AM | Updated: 12:02 pm

Mariners walkoff...

Mariners players celebrate after Abraham Toro's game-winning single on July 2. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

With so much time and effort having been put into telling the story of what the Mariners have not been in 2022, it’s high time we take a look at what they are.

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Yes, very little has gone as planned and there have been some horrific stretches of flat-out bad baseball, but somehow on July 6 with a roster that does not currently include Mitch Haniger, Ty France, Kyle Lewis, Taylor Trammell or Jesse Winker, they sit just one game under .500. Considering where they were June 19, having lost four of five to the Angels to go 10 games under .500, it’s probably time to give some credit where credit is due.

After posting a 10-18 record in May, the Mariners bounced back with a 16-13 June. This went largely unheralded because of the stretch of bad baseball at home, because of the failures of hitting with runners in scoring position, and because of an understandably gloomy outlook after high expectations for the team appeared to be dashed early. Even with their current run of winning 12 out of 15 there have been the “yeah buts” – easy schedule, getting lucky, still not hitting, etc. – but you don’t completely luck your way into 12 wins in a two-week period.

Mariners manager Scott Servais, who a week ago was still emphasizing the failure to score runners in scoring position after wins, agrees: what we have seen of late is different.

“We played really good baseball for a couple of days against a team that’s having a good year and we are starting to get things going on our side,” he said following a 6-2 win in San Diego on Tuesday, which wrapped up a quick two-game sweep.

It was the Mariners’ fifth straight series victory and fourth win in a row. Matchups haven’t been easy for the Mariners, with Oakland throwing Paul Blackburn and Frankie Montas at them and the Padres owning the fourth-best record in the National League.

Following a 5-3 win in Anaheim 10 days earlier, in a walkoff Mariners Radio Network interview I asked Dylan Moore about the mentality of the team having taken injury hit after injury hit, and his answer was simple: it’s next man up.

Tuesday in San Diego, having won seven more games with the same group that is now weathering suspensions to key position players, I asked for him to go further into depth on that mentality. His answer came rapid fire.

“Everyone is just playing the best type of baseball they can play,” he said. “Everyone has a unique skillset that they show up at the field with and when there’s guys out in different situations, you don’t try to do anything more than what you can do. You are in the big leagues for a reason. You hit well. You are the best of the best. You have got to know that. You have got to have that mentality and I think a lot of these guys do. We have a group that sets us up for success in that regard. I love playing with these guys, hitting is contagious, and we have got a good group of guys 1-9 no matter who we put out there.”

With wins come confidence, and perhaps that is contributing to the run we are seeing with this group. In some ways that confidence has always been there.

“I feel like everybody is playing really well right now on every side of the ball,” said pitcher Logan Gilbert, who earned his 10th win of the season Tuesday, tying him for the MLB lead. “I feel like we are playing well. That’s the thing. When we were going through a little rough stretch earlier getting a ton of questions about it, I don’t think anybody really panicked. We know the baseball we can play, we know we are really good. It helps when you have got guys like Julio (Rodríguez) doing what he’s doing and stuff like that. I think we really know the kind of baseball we can play and we are not really worried about those things.”

Similar things were said when the Mariners were on a 6-17 run in May. There has been a constant belief in what this team can do and perhaps we are now seeing it.

“The offense has been the real difference in what we are doing now,” said Servais. “We are creating more opportunities and we are getting big hits with runners in scoring position. That was a big thing the last two or three weeks. We just couldn’t get the big hit. We couldn’t get the guy in from third. Guys are slowing the game down (now) and they are making adjustments.”

With the losses of key players, the offense is not close to what was originally drawn up. What’s encouraging is that the group currently in place appears to be taking a step forward. Kudos to the pitching for keeping the Mariners in it, but if what we have seen in the past week in particular holds, they just got some help.

Julio will continue to come up with big hits. The four-game break – thank you Angels – appears to have done J.P. Crawford good. Abraham Toro with his left shoulder feeling better has shown up, hitting .292 in his last seven games with a 125 wRC+. Cal Raleigh has come up big in big situations, Carlos Santana has made it tough on opposing pitchers, and Sam Haggerty and Moore have produced at the bottom of the lineup. Your “2022 Mariners for now” are getting the job done.

“It’s exciting,” said Moore. “It’s a brand of baseball we knew we could play. We just had to find it a little bit and hopefully we can run with it as long as we can.”

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