Are the Mariners for Real, or Will Their Playoff Drought Continue?

While the likes of Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, and Aaron Judge continue to command the attention of baseball world, the Seattle Mariners have quietly been on a tear, posting a 23-9 record since May 14.

The Mariners sit just 1.5 games behind the reigning world champion Houston Astros and appear to have at last compiled a resilient, winning team.

Riding excellent starting pitching, timely offense, and a stellar bullpen, the Ms are on pace to have their best regular season since 2001 when Ichiro Suzuki, who started the 2018 season out as a Mariners outfielder, won Rookie of the Year and the team won a franchise-record 116 games.

Much of this recent success has come in the absence of 8-time All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano, who is currently under an 80-game suspension for using a performance-enhancing drug. Furthermore, Dee Gordon, the Mariners’ current starting second baseman and steady offensive threat, missed several games due to a toe injury. Adding to potential problems, longtime Mariners starting ace Felix Hernandez has had a poor start to the season.

Yet, somehow, the Mariners are neck and neck with the Astros. How? Good outings by starting pitchers, stellar relief, and timely batting.

James Paxton is following up his stellar 2017 season with one even more brilliant this year, posting a 3.44 ERA, 6-1 record, 111 Ks, and a 1.01 WHIP in 14 starts. By contrast, Hernandez has had a rough season thus far: 6-6 with 5.44 ERA, just 70 Ks, and a 1.38 WHIP in 15 starts.

However, Mike Leake, Marco Gonzales, and Wade LeBlanc have picked up the slack for King Felix, delivering numerous quality starts. In the their previous 7 starts:

  • Before Sunday’s 9-3 loss against the Red Sox, Leake was 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA, 48 IP, and a 1.00 WHIP.
  • Gonzales is 4-1 with a 3.42 ERA, 61.2 IP, and a 1.28 WHIP
  • LeBlanc is 2-0 with 2.63 ERA, 36.1 IP, and a 1.10 WHIP

The bullpen deserves its fair share of credit as well. Diaz, Colome, Pazos, and Altavilla have all made valuable contributions–recording hold after hold and save after save, in large part contributing to the Mariners’ 21-10 record in games decided by one run.

Consistent and timely batting has been another reliable area for the Mariners who are now approaching a challenging end to June. Jean Segura, Nelson Cruz, Mitch Haniger, and Ryon Healy are the major reason for this offensive success, although Kyle Seager and Guillermo Heredia show signs that they may heat up as well.

Segura, in particular, has put in an All-Star caliber first half, boasting an MLB second-best .340 batting average. Since May 29, Cruz has a .342 batting average, 8 homers, 16 RBIs, and a .870 slugging percentage in his last 7 games. Haniger is batting over .270 on the season, with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs, and has been the hero in three walk-off wins for the Ms.

Dee Gordon is batting .290, has AL-best 19 stolen bases, and continues to shine as second basemen in Cano’s suspension. Ryon Healy is batting .257, with 13 homers, and 32 RBIs and a .485 slugging percentage during this stretch. Adding to this hot offense, Ben Gamel continues his own excellent season, going into tonight’s game with a .300 batting average.

Boston presented the latest threat to the Ms’ success, as they defeated them yesterday in Seattle to tie the series 2-2-. However, the Ms have a chance to bounce back and cruise past the elite Yankees before facing the sub .500 Orioles and Royals at the end of the month.

Questions remain for the Mariners. Even with Cano eventually returning to a healthy, productive roster, they will be without him for postseason play. Will all this be enough? Will Seattle fans see their team break the wretched 16-year playoff drought ended finally?

If the remainder of their season resembles their hot months of May and June, the Mariners will most definitely play in the postseason once again. A long-awaited playoff run is theirs’ for the taking.