SHANNON DRAYER

Drayer: Sliver of optimism? Seattle Mariners must capitalize quick

Jul 7, 2023, 10:14 AM

Seattle Mariners Houston Astros...

The Seattle Mariners celebrate after defeating the Houston Astros on July 6, 2023. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

(Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

A wake-up call is the last thing anyone in the Seattle Mariners traveling party wanted to hear Thursday after spending the night traveling from San Francisco to Houston for a four-game series against the Astros. But later that night, on their field of horrors at Minute Maid Park, that perhaps is exactly what George Kirby gave them.

Wake-up calls of this variety are welcome.

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The daunting task of playing after a night of travel and the disruption of routine were put away quickly as a well-rested Kirby took the hill (he flew to Houston ahead of the rest of the team), and it became apparent he would keep up his end of the bargain. Kirby put up his zeros (mostly), while the home run made its appearance – one off the bat of J.P. Crawford, two from Eugenio Suárez – and 2 1/2 hours later the Mariners had their fifth win in the month of July to get back to .500 (43-43).

The good they had displayed in the week since a players-only meeting would not be disrupted by the rude scheduling of MLB.

If they haven’t quite yet turned the corner, they certainly have remained on track, and starting pitching performances like what we saw from Kirby as well as Logan Gilbert’s shutout Tuesday in San Francisco should reinforce this team has plenty to fight for.

Yes, they have dug themselves a gargantuan hole and the math does not favor them, but the math is getting better. Not in the wild card race, silly (look away from that, that’s a mess), but in the division. Crazy talk? Sure. But they wake up this morning seven games out in the American League West with a chance Friday night to jump the Angels (45-44). This time a year ago? Seattle was 12 games out with a juggernaut atop the division.

I was charged this week with writing about what now and what next after the Mariners hit what was hopefully the low point of their season. After a couple of days of putting it off with a “I need to see more,” I still need to see more – much more – but am trying out the tinge of optimism thing here. After what has been an absolutely maddening first half for the Mariners, those who would like to partake I think are entitled to do so after seeing a sliver of promise.

That sliver, of course, will need to turn into bigger things quickly.

The AL West-leading Rangers (51-37) have struggled of late, but with the roster they have could very well prove to be the new division juggernaut. The Astros (49-39), who have looked like a shell of themselves this season, have still managed to pull within two games of the division lead – and don’t look now but yes, that was Yordan Álvarez running through a near-full slate of drills on the field Thursday before Game 1 of the Mariners’ series in Houston. Regardless, with no Altuve and no Alvarez on the other side this week, an opportunity the Mariners have not had in sight for some time is at hand.

More on the Seattle Mariners

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Mariners’ Dipoto details Flexen trade, gives Miller injury update
What’s changed for the Mariners of late? Aaron Goldsmith weighs in
Home Run Derby field set: Julio takes on Alonso in Round 1
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