‘Just the start’: After tough loss ends season, Mariners excited for future
The Mariners went toe-to-toe with the AL West champion Astros for three games in the ALDS. They led most of the first two games and held Houston without a run for 17 innings on Saturday.
But Seattle didn’t take a single game in the best-of-five series, getting swept after the Astros’ 1-0 win on Saturday to end a season that will go down in franchise history for ending a two decades-long playoff drought.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, this series will go down as one of missed chances and opportunities for Seattle.
In Game 1, the M’s blew a 7-3 lead heading into the eighth inning.
In Game 2, Seattle was up 2-1 heading into the sixth before the Astros took the lead. The Mariners then had a number of chances to pile together some runs, but to no avail.
And in Game 3, the Mariners’ pitchers were stellar, putting together 18 innings of one-run ball, the lone blemish a Jeremy Peña solo shot into The Pen in the top of the 18th inning, more than six hours after first pitch.
The Mariners very well could be playing on Sunday and even Monday. Heck, there’s a case to be made they could have swept the dang thing.
But after 18 innings in front of a sellout, raucous, on-edge, electric and emotionally-invested crowd, the bats put together just 10 total baserunners and posted 18 zeroes on the scoreboard.
They were right there. Right there. But they have no wins to show for it in what had been a magical season full of ups (a 14-game winning streak) and downs (10 games under .500 in mid-June) that resulted in a playoff berth and an incredible series win in Toronto.
But after 18 nail-biting innings in Seattle, it was over. And for this team, yes, there’s anger, sadness and frustration that they couldn’t get the job done. But the overarching theme in the Mariners clubhouse after Saturday’s marathon loss was that this is just the beginning of something special when it comes to baseball in Seattle.
“We fell short, but this is just the start,” shortstop J.P. Crawford said.
Crawford was far from alone in that sentiment, as voiced by a pair of rookies.
“This is just the start,” said George Kirby, who threw seven scoreless innings on Saturday. “The first time in 21 years (we made the playoffs) and now we’re probably gonna get a good taste of it every year.”
“We’re not too far away,” rookie All-Star Julio Rodríguez said when asked what his big takeaway from the postseason is. “That we’re not so far away. It’s going to be a fun year next year.”
And the team’s closeness and camaraderie is a big reason why this group is ready for the 2023 season already.
“I just feel like to win baseball games, you definitely need everybody to be on the same page,” Rodríguez said. “I feel like everybody just fights for each other here, and I feel (like) that’s what you want in a team is being together … I feel like everybody’s got great chemistry with each other.”
All-Star first baseman Ty France also thinks that the closeness of this team was special and is important to success. The Mariners had that in both 2021 and 2022, and with so many players expected to return, France thinks there’s a lot to build off of.
“This was a really fun year. Very, very proud of these guys, and I’m looking forward to next year,” he said.
Cal Raleigh, the Mariners’ young catcher who caught all 18 innings on Saturday, thinks getting to the playoffs in itself is a major building block for the Mariners.
“We tasted it this year. We got to the DS, we see what the postseason is like, we see what it takes now,” he said. “And I think going into next year it’s gonna be huge now that we have playoff experience and we know what it takes and we know who we need to beat. It’s going to help us out a lot.”
And it’s likely that the Mariners will need to beat the Astros in the playoffs in the coming years to get to an ALCS and even World Series appearance. Even though Seattle lost all three games of the ALDS, the M’s saw they can hang with the very best.
“We’re just as good as that team,” Kirby said. “Just some things didn’t go our way.”
“I think we’ve got all the pieces, man,” he added. “We’re there. You saw how we played this year. Just fell a little short. We’ve been fighting for each other all year and we’re gonna keep doing that for years to come … We’re not scared of anybody.”