What Mariners’ win streak ending by Astros’ dominant sweep tells us

Jul 26, 2022, 2:13 PM

Mariners Ty France...

Ty France slides into third base during the Mariners' win over the Texas Rangers on Monday. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

As great as everybody felt about the Mariners when they took a 14-game winning streak into last week’s All-Star break, the feeling was worrisome to an almost equal level following Houston’s three-game sweep in Seattle over the weekend.

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Making matters worse was the absence of rookie All-Star Julio Rodríguez, who missed the entire Houston series plus Monday’s Mariners win over the Rangers while nursing a left wrist injury.

What does all of that tell us?

MLB Network’s Jon Morosi provided his insight during his weekly appearance Monday on Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob, and what he said was as much a reality check as it was a vote of confidence.

“I’ll say this: they proved over the winning streak that they’re a playoff team,” Morosi told Dave Wyman and Bob Stelton, “and there was that glimmer of, ‘Oh, let’s see if they’re right there with the Astros and being able to maybe make this crazy late season run at winning the division.’ And I think that we got our answer there, too.

“They’re just not quite to that level of the Astros, and really no one is right now except for the Yankees, and even then the Astros seem to have the edge over the Yankees right now. So there is no shame in losing to the Astros.”

Entering Tuesday, Houston is 64-33, and while the Yankees are slightly ahead for the best record in the American League at 66-31, the Astros swept a doubleheader from New York the day prior to coming to Seattle and finished the season series against the Yankees with a 5-2 record.

OK, so the Mariners are “a cut below where the Astros are,” as Morosi went on to say. The good news, though, is things are still in great shape for the M’s in the AL wild card picture. At 52-45 entering Tuesday, the Mariners have a three-game advantage over Cleveland and a reeling Boston team for the final of three wild card spots, and the struggling Rays are only a half-game ahead of Seattle for the second wild card.

“You look at what’s happened, the sort of misfortune that has befallen the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox are lost right now – they are lost – and you line up all of these elements and this is not just some far-off dream of, ‘Hey, maybe the Mariners can put together a great second half and make the playoffs,'” Morosi said. “If they have a good second half, they’re in. If they have just a little better than average second half, they’re in. … They’re in a good position.

“(The Astros sweep) is a bit of a wake-up call, a reminder to them of just sort of how far above the rest of the division the Astros are, but I look at the (AL) East and what’s going on there and the struggles of the Rays and the struggles of the Red Sox, there is every reason to believe this team finds its way to the postseason.”

Something else is apparent coming from that Houston series, according to Morosi, which is how important the 21-year-old Rodríguez has already become to the Mariners. Seattle managed just eight runs in the three games against Houston without him, with five coming in the final three innings Sunday after the Astros had jumped out to a 6-0 lead.

“I think over the weekend, it really just illuminated how much the Mariners have come to rely on Julio,” Morosi said. “He makes them go. (Ty) France is an All-Star and is a great hitter, but Julio is their heart and soul, and he’s their most talented player. And when you miss that guy… I think the Mariners without Julio are just not the same group, and I think that’s sort of been borne out by the numbers.”

The M’s certainly hope they won’t have to worry about missing Rodríguez any longer, with manager Scott Servais saying he would return to the lineup Tuesday barring any setbacks. That would give Seattle a much better shot at putting its best foot forward from here on out.

“The Mariners at their best, there’s probably a handful of teams that I put ahead of them from the National League, but when they get going I think they could easily be a top 10 team in this sport,” Morosi said. “And that’s what the numbers say.”

You can listen to Morosi’s full conversation from Wyman and Bob in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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