BRENT STECKER

The Seattle Mariners are red-hot – have they finally clicked?

Aug 7, 2023, 12:01 AM | Updated: Aug 10, 2023, 10:26 am

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Tayler Saucedo, Ty France, Julio Rodríguez and J.P. Crawford celebrate a Seattle Mariners sweep. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

The 2023 Seattle Mariners have been a lot of things.

Inconsistent? Frustrating? Disappointing? Yeah, those are probably the terms that have been at the top of the list for M’s fans this season.

Expectations were sky high coming off last year’s playoff run, and the Mariners themselves believed they had a roster capable of challenging for a World Series this year.

That sure didn’t look like the case early on. The first 100 games were a brutal push-and-pull for the M’s as they seemed unable to create any distance from the .500 mark, and sure enough they went into Game 101 with an even 50-50 record. They just… weren’t… clicking.

But after 100 games is where the 2023 Seattle Mariners started becoming some other things.

Resilient. Clutch. Encouraging. Maybe even the version of the team that fans had been promised.

Beginning with Game 101, the Mariners have gone on a 10-2 run, and they’ve won five straight games and five straight series to boot.

Sunday: Suárez delivers in 10th, Mariners beat Angels 3-2 to sweep

Believe it or not, after all that inconsistency, all that frustration, and all that disappointment over nearly the first two-thirds of the season, the M’s now sit at 60-52, the exact same record they had through the exact same number of games last year – and yes, that was after their 14-game win streak.

Take this as a reminder that if you find yourself asking “Is it really too early to worry?” about a team’s chances as it scuffles even deep into July, it just might be. It’s a long season, and a lot can change along the way. And boy if the 2023 Seattle Mariners aren’t beginning to look like the poster children for that, considering they’ve once again found their dramatic knack for winning close games.

On the flip side, glance at the state of the Texas Rangers right now. Yes, they’re still firmly in first place in the American League West with a 66-46 record, and yes, they’ve won six straight entering a three-game set Monday with the lowly Oakland Athletics. But Texas has a very real reason for concern. With standout rookie third baseman Josh Jung suffering a fractured left thumb over the weekend, he became the fourth of the Rangers’ six All-Stars to land on the injured list since the Midsummer Classic less than a month ago in Seattle. And this is the same Texas team that lost its offseason headliner, Jacob deGrom, after just six starts to Tommy John surgery.

Alright, alright, enough with the silver linings and “pie in the sky” hopefulness. None of this makes up for the facts that the Mariners did themselves no favors by digging an early hole this year, still aren’t in position for a playoff spot, and certainly have not delivered on the promise of taking a step forward and challenging for the division this year. Even if Texas comes back to earth, which it almost seemed like it would with a 2-7 stretch prior to its current win streak, Houston (64-49) very much remains a player in the West.

The AL’s wild card spots, however, suddenly look very much in reach for Seattle. While the M’s go into a day off Monday six games back of Texas and 2 1/2 behind Houston, they’re just 2 1/2 back of the Blue Jays (63-50) and those same Astros for the second and third wild cards.

The Mariners are showing encouraging signs that they’re ready to repeat last year’s push for October, too, and they were all over the huge four-game sweep of the Angels in Anaheim.

There was a fired-up Julio Rodríguez, who finished the final three games of the series 7 for 11 with a homer and three doubles, and he seemed to channel his visible anger from a frustrating first inning on Saturday night to play some inspired ball the rest of the weekend.

There was J.P. Crawford adding to his impressive step forward at the plate this year by crushing the first pitch of Sunday’s game for his career-high 10th homer this season (and still making dazzling plays in the field all series along the way).

And most importantly, there was the return of the signature chaos. Seattle scored at least one important run in the late innings of each of the four wins, most notably rookie Cade Marlowe’s incredible grand slam in the ninth inning Thursday that delivered a truly improbable comeback against Angels All-Star closer Carlos Estévez.

A lot of people identified the turning point of the 2022 Mariners’ season as their late June brawl with the Angels, which just might have been the galvanizing moment that team needed. Perhaps the 2023 Mariners’ version will turn out to be another moment in Anaheim, as it sure looked like they had galvanized by the end of the sweep.

On Saturday, Eugenio Suárez (himself on a tear of late) was shown on the TV broadcast helping to calm down an incensed Rodríguez in the dugout. Rodríguez went on to be the star of the game, going 3 for 4 and coming up with the biggest hit of the night, a two-run double that just missed clearing the wall in left. Then late in Sunday’s game, Suárez received words of encouragement that were audible on the radio broadcast from Rodríguez, who was on base in the 10th inning when Suárez hit the game-winning RBI single.

Click.

So maybe the M’s didn’t click right away this year. They definitely didn’t the way the Rangers initially did. But what they looked like in Anaheim was a team that has figured it out and is now sure of its identity. And it would be hard for their timing to be any better.

The dog days of summer are here, and it looks like the 2023 Mariners finally are, too.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Drayer’s Seattle Mariners Notebook: Brash and Muñoz step up in bullpen
Rookie Dominic Canzone talks joining the Mariners, role going forward
Dipoto details why Seattle Mariners ‘love’ players from D-backs trade
Morosi: How Mariners stack up against other wild card contenders
Passan: How good is Seattle Mariners’ trade return for Paul Sewald?

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