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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

May 7, 2007 at 11:07 AM

Mariners need this one

Hard to believe the Mariners sit just one game out of first place in the AL West. That speaks more to the mediocrity of this division than it does the Mariners actually achieving very much despite a .500 record. I would really like to say something good about this team. I really would. I don’t like the negative-sounding tone of some of my posts, given that this is a club that has won as many as it has lost. That is the thing about a .500 team. It always leaves you feeling unsatisfied, wanting for more.
During an interview on KJR’s “Mitch in the Morning” show today, I could hear the pessimism in my tone as the words parted from my lips. And as I said, this team is a game out of first place. I’ve learned over the years to avoid being too pessimistic, too early with teams good enough to win as many as they lose. So, why the pessimism?
I guess it comes from watching a Mariners team beat up on a bunch of injury-plagued, severely hampered opponents, but then do next to nothing against the clubs everyone expects to contend.
The M’s are 4-1 against the Oakland A’s, who are missing two key starters and most of their offensive clout because of injuries.
They are 3-1 against the last-place Texas Rangers.
They are 2-0 against a Chicago White Sox team with an offense possibly even worse than the A’s have.
And they are 2-1 against a Kansas City Royals team that is arguably the worst in baseball.
That’s an 11-3 record against teams that were either pretty bad or woefully deprived due to injury when they faced the Mariners. Not one of those clubs has a winning record heading into today, though two are at .500.
Now, let’s take a gander at the teams giving the Mariners fits.
Seattle is 0-3 against the Minnesota Twins.
They are 0-3 against the division-leading Los Angeles Angels.
Seattle is 1-2 against the Boston Red Sox, winning on Felix Hernandez’s one-hitter.
The M’s are also now 1-2 against the New York Yankees and their mostly Class AAA caliber pitching staff. This guy is the latest emergency replacement being trotted out. Seattle won its only game here by beating up on Kei Igawa, a guy soon destined for the bullpen, after trailing 5-0. They did their biggest damage off some poor stiff named Colter Bean, who hadn’t even finished gawking at the Monument Park plaques at Yankee Stadium by the time the Class AAA call-up was sent to the mound.
So, get out the trusty calculator and that’s a 2-10 record against teams with winning records, save for the 14-15 Yankees and I doubt anyone believes New York will finish with a record inferior to Seattle’s once it can send major league pitchers to the mound.
So, there’s the pessimistic part. It gets worse when you contemplate the team’s upcoming schedule and the fact Seattle avoided playing four games at Jacobs Field in Cleveland back in April. The Indians are 11-3 at home so far and were a pitch away from no-hitting the Mariners in the opener of that series that was eventually snowed out.
So, am I surprised the team is still at .500? Yes, I am. The M’s have played three weeks without Hernandez in the rotation and have seen Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre both go AWOL in the early going as they so often have. The starting rotation can barely be counted on for five innings per night and this tired bullpen is headed for disaster come June. So, yes, .500 is a very good place for this team to be. A game out of first place is almost inconceivable given how unconvincing the club as a whole has looked.
But then you consider the snowouts, the quality of the injury-hampered opposition and it all starts to make sense. Not forever, though. Will this club have a .500 record on June 1? Not if it keeps playing like this. The backloaded Indians games, their opponents getting healthier, a streaky offense and the lack of innings delivered by starters is bound to catch up.
That’s why the Mariners need to keep padding on the wins against teams not at their best. They can start tonight against the Yankees and their latest Class AAA mound call-up. It won’t get any easier after that, heading to Comerica Park against a Tigers team that has won seven in a row. Julio Mateo could not have picked a worse time to leave his team hanging in the bullpen.
Look out, Seattle, it’s crunch time for the Mariners. Right here, right now.

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