Salk: Who do Mariners need to step up during intense final stretch?

Sep 20, 2023, 12:43 AM

Seattle Mariners...

Seattle Mariners infielders J.P. Crawford, Eugenio Suárez, Ty France and Josh Rojas on Aug. 23, 2023. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

When the Seattle Mariners depart Oakland after Wednesday’s series finale, they will get a day off to take a deep breath before what could be the most intense 10 days of baseball we have seen here in ages. My suggestion is to get your rest when they do, because you’re gonna need it.

Tuesday: Mariners beat A’s 7-2, inch within 1/2 game of AL West lead

Have you really thought about what the final 10 games of this season are going to be like? It is essentially a 10-game playoff series against two different division rivals, and it hopefully will lead to more actual playoff games that will be even more stressful.

That’s kind of hard to even imagine.

What should we call this stretch that starts with three at Texas, then returns to Seattle for three against Houston and four more against the Rangers? The Play-Ins? The No-Delay-Offs? The Three-Way-Offs? The Al-Most-Season? The Lone Star Super Series?

MLB Standings: Division | Wild card

Dopey dad jokes aside, I can’t wait for this. We often talk about how baseball changes throughout the season.

It goes from the excitement of spring training, when all you can think about is the warmer weather on the way, to the optimism of opening day.

April and May are supposed to be casual – you watch, listen and cheer knowing the season is so long and so much will change.

June and July are for discussion. How do you improve? How do you make the team better? How much of the future are you willing to sacrifice to help right now?

Then you lock in for the intensity of August that ratchets up in September and (hopefully) even more in October.

Baseball is great in all of its forms, but absolutely at its best when every moment matters. And we are about to get an extra 10 days of ultra-intense action.

It’s been popular this year to focus a lot of attention and angst on the Mariners’ offense. It’s understandable given how inconsistent it has been, yet the M’s start the day ranking 11th in baseball in runs scored. They get there in an unconventional and often unaesthetic way – but they get there. If they want to make it to October, they’ll certainly want that offense to come to life and look more like it did in August than so far in September. But I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t bet the farm on that happening.

I’d be shocked if they could withstand and prevail in too many derbies against the teams from Texas that are built to win them. Not only do the Mariners not have the horses for it in their lineup, but it would drain their best resource: their pitching.

Last week, we asked Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto who he would choose if he could wave a magic wand and get the very best version of one player on his team for the stretch run. He chose Eugenio Suárez, who can make the middle of that lineup a lot more imposing. Certainly, that would be great.

On Tuesday’s Brock and Salk, we asked ESPN’s Jeff Passan the same question, and he went with the struggling Ty France. Hard to argue against given how little thump the Mariners have gotten from first base this season.

I’d go with Andrés Muñoz, because if this team is going to get past their Texas brethren, they are going to need more than Matt Brash in the late innings. They are going to need the bullpen, which has been their calling card for the last three seasons. The one that can neutralize some of those big bats and keep the most stressful moments of the games under control.

Look, the Seattle Mariners have one superpower, and that is their pitching. The starters have to be good – if they aren’t, this team is toast – and with the big three of Luis Castillo, George Kirby and Logan Gilbert, you have to think that has a high probability of happening. But those offenses are going to keep grinding. They are going to try to get those starters out early and feast on the pen. If Muñoz and his buddies can give the Mariners an edge in the late innings, I think they can do what they need to: win more games than they lose in a full-on sprint to the finish.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Mariners’ J.P. Crawford homers, celebrates by petting dog
Which big bats could M’s get this winter? Watch for trades, says Morosi
Drayer’s Seattle Mariners Notebook: Talks play role in needed win

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