After a 13-2 start to the season, the Seattle Mariners have since gone 5-13 to enter a 10-game road trip 3 games above .500 at 18-15.
The much-touted offence of March and early April has scored 3 or fewer runs in 10 of the 33 games played, while scoring 10 or more runs in 6 of those 33. Pretty much feast or famine in half the games played.
When the season began, Fangraphs projected the Mariners to win 78 games. Heading into the looming road trip, that same projection system sees the Mariners as a 79-win team. Baseball has a very long season, which seemed to be lost on some after the hot start.
Preseason projections are by no means infallible. For years both Fangraphs and Pecota underestimated the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles. One team was constructed unconventionally and the other was incredibly lucky. But, for the most part, this early in the season the projections are more reliable than the actual record on the field. That observation doesn’t bode well for the Mariners as they head first to Cleveland to face the Indians for 3 games, then to the Bronx to face the New York Yankees for 4, and then finally to Fenway to play 3 against the Boston Red Sox.
Coming into the season, most projection systems had the Indians and the Yankees winning their divisions and the Red Sox making the playoffs as the first wild-card. While all three teams have been off to rocky starts due to inconsistent play and a slew of injuries in the case of the Yankees, all three teams are still projected to make the postseason, albeit now Boston as the second wild-card behind the Tampa Rays.
The Mariners will take a 4-game losing streak into Progressive Field with Yusei Kikuchi and his 4.54 ERA facing off against Shane Bieber with a 3.68 ERA. In Saturday’s matchup, Mike Leake takes a 4.98 ERA to the mound to duel with Carlos Carrasco, who is off to a rocky start to 2019 with a 5.86 ERA. The series wraps up Sunday with Erik Swanson, who sports a 6.62 ERA and should face off against early Cy Young candidate Trevor Bauer who has struck out 55 batters in 47.2 innings and is the owner of an impressive 2.45 ERA. The Mariners must win at least one to remain above .500 before travelling to the Bronx.
At Yankee Stadium, the Mariners should start Felix Hernandez in game one but all pitching matchups after that are tentative. The Yankees currently have a mind-boggling 14 players on the IL, including Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. It’s not clear If the Yankees will get any players back on the field prior to the Mariners series.
The Mariners then conclude their road trip in Boston against a Red Sox team that will be coming off its own 7-game road trip against the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles. If ever the Red Sox are going to get rolling, feasting on the White Sox and the Orioles may be the catalyst.
To remain above .500 the Mariners can go no worse than 4-6. Any fewer wins than 4 and they come home .500 or below. Again, baseball is a marathon, not a sprint, but the next 10 games should give Mariners fans a little better idea of who this team really is.