Drayer: Mariners know the turning point that put them on path to playoffs

Oct 3, 2022, 11:01 AM | Updated: 1:19 pm

Mariners Scott Servais...

Mariners manager Scott Servais celebrates after clinching the playoffs on Sept. 30, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

“We will end the drought tomorrow.”

The words, coming from Scott Servais following Thursday’s win that put the Mariners a game away from ending the two-decades long streak of seasons ending with no playoffs, caught some by surprise. Yes, the odds were heavily in their favor to clinch a playoff spot in the coming days, but still, coming from Scott Servais this was a bold guarantee.

The Mariners found the perfect way to finally end the drought

While the six words that guaranteed something in the immediate future got the most play, there was more to the statement, perhaps an even bolder assertion.

“The goal is to win the World Series,” he said in his media session that night, “not just to end the drought. We will end the drought tomorrow. We are going to. And it’s a beautiful thing and it’s on to the next goal, and this team has got a lot of high goals.”

“This team.”

Not the team a couple of years down the road, a team that shares the core of the current group, that has gained experience, had more pieces added. “This team,” the team that is front of you right now.

In his clubhouse interview Friday night after Cal Raleigh’s walk-off homer sent Seattle to the playoffs for the first time since 2001, with goggles on his head, cigar in hand, and champagne flying, Servais said it again.

“The drought is over, but this team has just started. We have got a chance to go really deep in the playoffs and win a championship.”

At the beginning of the year, that goal would sound audacious. With nearly a full season behind them now, perhaps a little less so. Servais is obviously comfortable putting it out there, as are a number of the players. Interestingly enough, the belief was reinforced in a time of trouble.

“We talk about when our season turned around and everybody points to the brawl in L.A.,” said Servais. “For me it starts about a week ahead of that.”

Mid-June, the team was not where it wanted to be. Early on it looked like they were perhaps rebounding from a disappointing 10-18 record in May, but a rough stretch where the offense had completely stalled, leaving the team 10 games under .500, prompted Servais to call a number of meetings with groups of players.

“We were grouping up players and talking to them, trying to get them to talk so they can get their feelings out. I think that’s very important,” he said. “You have to listen to the people around you.”

In the hitters meeting, Servais threw out what he called hard questions. He went around the room asking each player what he thought. When he got to Eugenio Suárez, his answer opened eyes.

“He said something that resonated with the team, and certainly with me,” Servais remembered. “‘We are good enough to win the World Series.’ The room was quiet, nobody said, ‘Yeah, lets do it!’ but in my mind I’m like, ‘That’s what we should be thinking here.’ Even when you are 10 games under .500, the talent is still there. We’ve got to go out and play.”

Servais pinpoints this as the moment the team started to get going.

“It stuck with a lot of people – ‘We are way better than we are playing. We need to wake up and pick it up.’ It didn’t happen that next day, but the day after it did. We won six, seven in a row and got on a decent run, and of course had the 14-game winning streak that really got this team believing and the people around town believing that maybe these guys are pretty good.”

In the middle of the pandemonium of the team’s celebration on the field Friday night, Servais found Suárez and the two embraced. In his clubhouse interview, soaked in champagne with a joyous grin on his face, Suárez – who was given the honor of popping the first bottle of champagne in the clubhouse – turned serious when asked what it meant to him to be of impact to this team both on and off the field.

“It’s a great honor for me,” he said earnestly. “The first time I got here, I talked with skip, I told him we have a really good team to make the playoffs and not only make the playoffs, win the World Series. That’s what we were talking about after the game. I gave him a big hug. I’m just so proud, so happy to be a part of this game.

“I’m just grateful because they gave me the opportunity to come here, they believed in me after my last two years. Everyone knew I struggled, they gave me that confidence and I come here to help the team win and we did it today. This is just one strong step forward and we have to keep going.”

More on the Mariners clinching playoffs

Cal Raleigh’s walkoff highlights how important he’s become to Mariners
‘It was the craziest thing ever’: Mariners end playoff drought and party is on
Why Mariners’ Carlos Santana will be an important player in playoffs
Fann: What Mariners making the playoffs, ending drought, means to me

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