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Are the Mariners...back?
Just three games before the break—but they could say a whole lot.
Remember where we were a week ago? Whew, that was no fun.
On the morning of the homestand opener, in a post published about the same time as this one, I said we had reached a lowpoint for the season, this era and maybe more.
And it got worse. I swear to God, it got worse.
Start of a holiday weekend, pristine evening in the Pacific Northwest, good team in town for a series opener, their best guy on the bump and the Mariners hang a four-spot in the second on a dude with a 10-1 record coming in.
So of course they lose.
They needed a win. It felt like they’d win. They did not.
A four-run Mariners lead became a two-run lead became a tie ballgame became a one-run game became—I’m getting the hell out of there.
To be perfectly honest, I walked up and out of the seats my wife and I ended up in when it was about a five-run affair, probably three runs past when it felt like it was over. And it got six runs—six runs!—worse than that.
I’m a normal dude. I’m not the best of us. No way.
When the boos reached their crescendo upon the final out, after the 15-run total was made officially unanswered, I was either in zipping down First Ave on my RadWagon or in the Team Store because my wife wanted an All-Star Game hoodie for next week.
We bought tickets for Saturday using our Flex Plan like 90 minutes later.
The Mariners have lost one ballgame since.
Subscribe for free or go paid to buy me a High Life at the ballpark.
They hit their heads on the bottom of the pool, then managed to like jam their fingers in a grate while reaching for the quarter they were diving for and…somehow, they’re approaching the surface gleefully like this isn’t what they do every damn time.
On the radio postgame show yesterday, enjoyed by me with a Dick’s chocolate shake in hand on a balmy 80-degree walk with Grinnell the sheepadoodle, Aaron Goldsmith said he’d open today’s media session with a question on 2024 and if the club should maybe just lose 10 in a row out of the chute, get rock bottom out of the way and climb from there.
I won’t fault him if he ducks this semi-serious commitment. There are more fun things to talk about.
Among them—this team can fuckin’ pitch, man.
As good as George Kirby was yesterday, firing 6 2/3rd strong frames in his first matchup vs. the Astros since the ALDS, you can’t beat a good, old-fashioned CSGO.
It’s helped when the shutout is provided by kind of a gnarly-looking guy—gangly, grimy and shovin’ on the Fourth of July.
Even more meaningful to the Mariners’ near- and longterm future, Bryan Woo is a Dude.
I was skeptical after his first start because he did not look good. Normally, not good from a young starter is coming out and walking the world—which he didn’t do—but he was catching so much of the plate vs. the Rangers and the results bore that out.
You can’t rely so heavily on the heater and live in the path of barrel after barrel.
He has not been the guy we saw in Arlington.
That brings us to Luís, tonight and this series.
The Mariners in 2023 have yet to win a road game started by La Píedra. They’re 8-9 overall in his 17 starts. If the Mariners are going to get where they want to go, that needs to change.
And part of it’s on Luís. Streaks of dominance have been interspersed with multi-start runs of, well, something much less than that. After allowing four earned and six runs total last time out, with the offense coming to life in the comeback dub over the Rays, tonight vs. an emasculated Astros lineup is a nice opportunity to set the tone for the stretch run.
That’s what these last three games are about, setting the tone. Last night was nice, real nice, but they still need at least two more wins before most of the roster gets a little vacation. Three would be even better.
I’ve said it a lot in the early few weeks on this blog but for as much as we talk about numbers and projections and advanced analytics in baseball, it is a game so dependent on vibes. On rhythm and momentum and not just weathering the grind—but riding it like a wave.
Not everyone’s going to be hot all the time. They don’t have to be.
But someone has to be. If last night was a glimpse of what’s to come from Geno, if not for the second half but at least the next couple weeks, that’d be big. We’ve seen him do it before.
We’ve seen this club make a run before.
I’ve said numerous times this year wasn’t supposed to be a repeat of 2022 but, well, that idea’s out the window—and if 2022 is what we get, I’ll take it now.
Though the climate around the team has changed since I wrote on a so-called Tropic of La Stella—not focusing on the big picture but just enjoying and observing outcomes as they transpire—that’s what I’d still recommend, for fans and the team themselves.
There’s a lotta ballgame left.
My least favorite genre of tweet is “If the Mariners want to reach X wins, they have to play an .XYZ winning percentage the rest of the way—or the equivalent of a team winning so and so games.”
That may be technically true—sure, the math checks out—but it isn’t the most accurate encapsulation of what finding a path to the Postseason would look like.
I’d like to see the Mariners win two of the next three. That doesn’t necessitate them playing like a 108-win team to do it.
The Seattle Mariners have to play great for like two weeks and then solid the rest of the way. It doesn’t even have to be the next two weeks. It doesn’t even have to be two consecutive weeks.
String together a couple winning streaks, stack a few four-of-fives or six-of-sevens and baby we got a stew goin’.
I don’t know if you’ve looked around at the rest of meal the American League is cooking up, but it’s a little less daunting than it felt a week ago.
There will be three Wild Card teams in the Postseason. There will be some very flawed teams trying to earn a spot and the records bear that out.
Hell, if the M’s manage to sweep aside this temporarily hollowed-out version of Houston, they’d close the gap between the clubs to two games—and they’re WC2.
There are a lot of teams to pass. And doing so won’t be easy, the Mariners will have to earn it.
But now there’s a path, one that’s widened considerably in only a week’s time—and it’s one they’ve taken before.