Brock & Salk: The big takeaway from the Mariners’ huge surge

Jul 11, 2022, 11:59 AM
Mariners Paul Sewald Cal Raleigh...
Cal Raleigh and Paul Sewald shake hands after the Mariners swept four games from Toronto. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The Mariners came into the 2022 season with postseason hopes, but that quickly stopped being the focus as they scuffled through the first two-plus months of the season.

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Well, now they’re back over .500 and sitting in an American League wild card playoff position after reeling off eight straight wins and a 16-3 record over their last 19 games, including a gigantic four-game sweep of the Blue Jays that gave the two wild card contenders identical 45-42 records.

“They are finally becoming the team we thought they were going to be, quite frankly,” Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk said about the Mariners on Monday morning. “… This team was supposed to be good. It’s not like this is coming out of nowhere. It just took them an extra couple of months to find it.”

What has come unexpectedly, though, are some the players who have played big roles during this stretch while some of Seattle’s biggest names have been out of action. The team’s best hitter, Ty France, missed two weeks in the middle of the surge with an elbow injury. Shortstop J.P. Crawford and 2021 All-Star Jesse Winker have both served suspensions. All-Star outfielder Mitch Haniger and 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis have both been on the injured list for the entirety of this run. Some bullpen arms who were expected to be key relievers are no longer on the roster or have landed on the IL.

“Now to be tied with (the Blue Jays) in the wild card race and just to get different contributors – right? That is the essence of what Mike Huard calls ‘team’ – together everyone achieves more,” said Brock Huard, referring to his football coach father, during his daily segment Monday on The Mike Salk Show. “And it wasn’t just one hero the entire weekend (in the Blue Jays series); it was everybody contributing in parts when they needed to, from the bullpen to your first baseman power hitter (Carlos Santana) who’s all the sudden found his stroke, to your starting pitching. It’s every one of them, and it’s why they sit where they sit and they’ve overcome and dug themselves out of such a massive hole from a month ago.”

Continued Huard: “It’s not your frontline guys, it is your middle (of the roster) that has got to rise and you’ve got to have pleasant surprises. And I think that is a big, big piece. … It’s been the middle guys that are the people that have stepped up, and moves that have been made to really do it. So you can say, ‘Yeah, we expected this team to be good,’ but if you looked at the starting lineups the last month or so, you’d be like, ‘Yeah, this wasn’t supposed to be the team. Who’s playing first? Who’s pitching? Who’s catching? Who’s called up?'”

There’s one position group that has been solid and remained healthy throughout the year, however, that Salk said deserves more credit than anything else.

“While I agree with everything you’ve said and all of those sort of middle of the roster guys have stepped up, none of it’s possible if your starting pitching doesn’t do what it’s done,” Salk responded to Huard. “I mean, like every single game you’ve got a shot to win.”

That’s especially been the case since Robbie Ray, the 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner who signed with the Mariners in the offseason, has shaken off a rough start with Seattle and reeled off six straight outings with at least six innings pitched and no more than one run allowed.

“Now that Robbie Ray is back in peak form and at the top of that rotation, it sets the table for everybody else,” Huard said. “Your young flamethrower in Logan Gilbert, I know maybe the last half-dozen starts haven’t been quite as impressive, but he is out there. Even when his stuff isn’t great, he’s working and he’s grinding and he’s still a (2.80 ERA). Once Robbie solidified that top spot, man, that ace, the rest of it falls in line and (the other starting pitchers) don’t have to try to be more than what they are.”

You can listen to the full conversation from Monday’s Mike Salk Show in the final segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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