Drayer: The tough part is over for Mariners — now it’s ‘go time’

Aug 4, 2022, 9:33 AM
Mariners Suárez Frazier Winker...
Eugenio Suárez celebrates home run Wednesday with Adam Frazier and Jesse Winker. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

On paper, the tough part is over for the the Mariners.

The Mariners’ biggest win of the season just came out of nowhere

The gauntlet of playing 13 games in 13 days – 10 of which were against the two best teams in the American League, with seven of those being played in the toughest places to play – is behind them. They survived, reaching the 6-7 record that I told Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy at the onset of the stretch would be a reasonable, good outcome. If unambitious, it was certainly realistic considering the opponents and travel.

While there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm for the forecast, especially coming off a 14-0 run, I suspect most are feeling better about it on the Mariners’ day off Thursday.

Despite their struggles in seven games against the Astros, the Mariners remain in good position to make a serious run for the postseason with the cushion built up in the 14-game win streak giving them the insurance they needed. Along the way, they lost their two top offensive players in Ty France and Julio Rodríguez, yet still had the opportunity to dance on an opponent’s field twice en route to winning their first series at Yankee Stadium since 2016. The series was capped off by the electric Mariners debut of Luis Castillo, who Seattle picked up in a blockbuster trade that gave the team a notable boost both on and off the field.

What stands out from Luis Castillo’s Mariners debut

“Everyone is excited,” catcher Cal Raleigh said in his walkoff interview on the Seattle Sports radio broadcast following the Mariners’ 8-6 Tuesday win over the Yankees, the night before Castillo’s debut. “Obviously, a big trade and it’s go time. It’s ready to go and we are all excited and looking forward to it.”

Impossible to know if that excitement brought a little extra to what we saw on the field the next day. The Mariners lineup’s relentless attack on Yankees ace Gerrit Cole coming out of the gates, the defensive wizardry of J.P. Crawford, the shutdown work of the relievers. It was as good of a game as we have seen all year – and again played without France and Julio.

At this point, however, it should not be a surprise that those who were healthy pulled it together once more. From the early losses of Mitch Haniger and Kyle Lewis to the shocking blow of losing Julio, France and Dylan Moore in one fell swoop – seriously, let’s not forget a taxi squad that included two Double-A players due to the quick turnaround in the clubhouse in Houston on Sunday morning – the attitude has never been “Why us?” Rather, it has been a firm “Why not us?” regardless of situation.

The constant throughout the season has been the confidence.

“We came here to win the games,” third baseman Eugenio Suárez said on the field following Wednesday’s 7-3 win. “We are fighting. We all know that the Yankees are a really good team and that they are playing really well right now, and we played better than them in this series. This is about winning and we won two of three so we go home happy.”

“It says a lot about our group,” manager Scott Servais said. “Where we are at, what we have come through, what’s ahead of us, that’s important. The one thing about our club does is we don’t look back, we look forward. I think it’s really important our guys understand that when we lose a guy, like right now (with) probably our best two offensive players – who’s going to step up, find a way? Geno (Suárez), obviously, the home runs the last couple of days. (Carlos) Santana has picked it up. Nobody is hotter than Adam Frazier. (Jesse) Winker chips in, (Jarred) Kelenic. Everybody has to do their part, just do their job, and that’s what they are doing.”

This is who the 2022 Mariners are. It has got them to where they are today, in position to end a 20-year drought. Key players are close to returning. The worst of what has been the very worst travel is behind them. The schedule is friendly, with the toughest series remaining limited to three-game sets against the Yankees and Braves, then two games against the Padres, all played at home.

As Raleigh said, it is go time. While that likely has not been lost on any player in a Mariners uniform, Servais pulled the team together before leaving New York to reinforce the message.

“What I told this group is what lies ahead of us the next couple of months, it’s going to be a lot of fun baseball. It’s stuff they are never going to forget. So you are going to sacrifice a little bit to get a little bit. This group is willing to do that.”

ESPN’s Passan: Mariners had good, not great deadline; set to “really take off” in ’23

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Drayer: The tough part is over for Mariners — now it’s ‘go time’