A Major League Baseball season is one of many ups and downs , with good weeks and bad weeks. The Seattle Mariners have had several ups and downs as of late, and have had some very noteworthy wins mixed in there. Things definitely could be worse for the Mariners; they’re not doing great this year but also not bad, especially considering who they’ve been up against lately. They most recently played nine games on the road against the Angels, the White Sox, and the Rangers followed by a three game series at home against the best team in baseball, the Dodgers.
Last week, Seattle took two out of three games in Texas, including a 10-3 victory and ridiculous 21-8 blowout of the best team in their division. They then traveled to Chicago to play a red hot first place White Sox team that hadn’t lost a game in over a week. After Seattle got Felix off the hook and tied the first game in the eighth inning, Michael Saunders embarrassingly caught a fly ball with his face instead of his glove, which led to a three-run bottom of the eighth and the victory for Chicago. Despite a loss fueled by a routine play gone wrong, Seattle came back with a vengeance in the second game of the series. The Mariners ended the White Sox nine game winning streak with a victory that lasted over four hours and took twelve innings to complete. Ichiro homered twice in the game and Sanders and Smoak went deep as well for M’s. Seattle’s bullpen was superb, not allowing a run in the last four innings to insure a victory. The final game of the series, the rubber game, went to the Chicago fueled by Chris Sale’s five hit, two-run complete game. It was a rough loss for Seattle but once again, their bullpen didn’t allow a single run and did I mention the guy on the mound for Chicago has the lowest ERA in the American League? Seattle lost two out of three in the Windy City but they did end Chicago’s nine game winning streak and easily could have won the series had a couple plays gone differently.
Seattle really turned things around after Chicago by taking two out of three games from the rival Angels in Anaheim. After being swept in four games by the Angels earlier this year, the Mariners came out swinging in the first game. Seattle put up ten hits and eight runs against the Angels to help Jason Vargas cruise to another victory despite his mediocre pitching performance. The Seattle starter went 5.2 innings, giving up four runs on nine hits. Munenori Kawasaki’s three-run double in the fifth gave Seattle the lead and Tim Wilhelmson’s ability to get out Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo in the eighth sealed the deal. After losing the following game 6-1, Seattle came back swinging to take the three game series last Wednesday. The Mariners first four batters all had at least two hits each and Seattle came back from being down two runs twice to win the game 8-6. Seattle starter Hector Noesi put up another lackluster performance, but the Mariners offense made up the difference. This game was ultimately the rubber game of the series and the road trip for the Mariners.
By winning the last game in Anaheim, they took two out of three in the series and won five out of nine games on a tough road trip. That’s about as good as most teams could hope for on a road trip like that. Seattle’s success could be contributed to demoting Brandon League from the closer role and Justin Smoak starting to hit well for average for once. I personally think League should get sent down to Tacoma and really work on his control. He’s doing better in middle relief, but still lacks the control his team needs him to have. Smoak, on the other hand, is really coming around. He was named AL player of the week last week after having a .348 BA with 3 HR, 8 RBI, and 7 runs during a six-game span. After struggling earlier and becoming and unreliable hitter, a lot of hope in Smoak had faded. I even threw him under the bus a few weeks ago for being an overrated young power that can’t hit above the .220 mark, but hopefully he continues to mature and hit like he has been. I’m optimistic that this last week of good hitting is a sign of more things to come and I feel he can end the season batting around the .250 mark.
Seattle’s return to Safeco Field last Friday was a glorious one. They defeated the best team in baseball and made history all in one night with their 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Seattle starter Kevin Milwood pitched six innings of no hit baseball before leaving with a groin injury. The five relievers that followed Milwood also didn’t allow a hit and Seattle completed a six pitcher no-hitter of the Dodgers. Some great defense by Brendan Ryan and others, along with great pitching obviously, helped create this gem. It was the second no-hitter thrown in roughly a month at Safeco Field and the first no hitter thrown by a Seattle pitcher(s) in 19 years. Unfortunately for Seattle, the no-hitter really got to Don Mattingly’s Dodgers and it showed in the final two games of the series. Saturday’s game was 8-3 blowout and Sunday’s game was an even less competitive 8-2 game. The Dodgers are the best team in baseball however, so a response like this is expected. It was a pretty humbling return to Safeco for the Mariners ultimately, losing a series right after completing a very successful road trip.
I’d like to think as far as baseball is concerned, things aren’t so bad in the Emerald City. Hopefully a three game home series against the Padres will turn things around again for Seattle. I’m thinking the Mariners can be a .500 baseball team by the time the All-Star break rolls around. As long as there aren’t any three week long losing streaks this summer like the one last July, the M’s will be entertaining to watch. It’s been a pretty magical and unordinary season thus far, with a lot of good and bad surprises. Things aren’t going to always be pretty, but with impressive road trips and combined no-hitters, the Mariners will still be fun to watch all summer long.