Three Things: Mariners can’t afford offense to keep sputtering
The Mariners have made another big push at an American League wild-card spot, but their winning streak was stopped at eight last Friday and they entered Tuesday with just one win in their last four games.
The good news is even with Monday’s loss to Toronto, the current holder of the second wild-card, wins in the final two games of the series with the Blue Jays would still put the Mariners within a game of that last playoff spot.
Here are three things to keep an eye this week with the Mariners:
1. Bad time to struggle with scoring runs. With the Blue Jays in town, the Mariners need to fight firepower with firepower. Toronto can put runs on the board with the best in baseball, and while Seattle’s pitching staff did a commendable job keeping the Jays to three runs on Monday, the offense let it down by failing to get a hit until the seventh inning of the 3-2 loss. Despite coming home last week on fire, a day off before the homestand began appears to have been just enough to cool the hitters off as Seattle has scored two or fewer runs three times since. Now isn’t the time for any one part of the roster to go off the rails, and the Mariners could very well be pointing at a tapped-out offense as the reason they couldn’t complete their run at the postseason unless something changes almost immediately.
2. Ariel Miranda’s emergence. The Mariners were absolutely ecstatic about Taijuan Walker’s complete-game, three-hit shutout last week after he made some mechanical adjustments, as they should be. But there’s another young starting pitcher who has been even more impressive recently. Miranda, the 27-year-old Cuban lefty acquired before the trade deadline from Baltimore for Wade Miley, has thrown three straight quality starts, including a nice seven-inning outing in Sunday’s win over Houston in which he allowed just two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out eight. Over that stretch, he’s lowered his ERA from 5.76 to 3.88. Of all the pitchers currently in the rotation, Miranda has the least MLB experience and therefore the longest odds of staying in it next year, but this type of consistency will go a long way next spring.
3. We might need to talk about Felix. Felix Hernandez is unquestionably the Mariners’ ace. He’s also 30 years old, has a ton of mileage on his arm, and has given up at least five runs in three of his last four starts. He just hasn’t looked like The King in 2016, and yes, there’s a lengthy disabled-list stint for a calf strain that can be blamed for much of that. Seattle is in the thick of a playoff race, though, and the man that’s essentially been the No. 1 starter through eight different managers hasn’t had it for much of the last three weeks. The Mariners might make the playoffs without Felix pitching up to Felix levels, but that’s a big might, and they certainly won’t go far in the postseason with him scuffling.