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

May 23, 2007 at 11:05 AM

How “sweep” it could be

Got an email this morning from a very polite, interested fan who disagreed with my contention that the Mariners have placed themselves in a good position to sweep their first three-game series of the season. Told me my words were akin to setting the team up for failure.
A little earlier, a less-than-courteous telephone caller left a message at my Seattle office accusing me of hating the Mariners simply because I wrote that they avoided a setback by winning Tuesday night.
First, I’ll deliver the news to the latter baseball fan: losing to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with arguably your best pitcher on the mound — who took a 9-2 record against Tampa Bay into last night — would have been a setback. Falling 6 1/2 games behind the Angels before June, with a chance to be finished off by them next week in Anaheim, rates as a setback.
No, the setback did not occur. The Mariners managed to tread water in the division race by beating the D-Rays. But it is time for some fans out there to wake up. You can bury your heads in the sand if you want, but very few teams are able to make up a half-dozen game deficit in the standings once the first third of the season is done. Please do not point out the handful of teams that have done so in recent years. Because I can point out more than 10 times as many that did not. And the Mariners, trust me, do not have the horses some of those comeback teams did.
Which brings us back to the “sweep” argument and the first fan I spoke about. I don’t believe anybody is setting the Mariners up for failure by stating the obvious. They need to start sweeping teams and getting on a winning streak of their own or the Angels and the best AL Central teams are going to blow them out of both the division and wild card races before the all-star break. There will be few chances better to get that initial three-game sweep than right now. Yes, the M’s are sending Miguel Batista and Horacio Ramirez to the mound. But the Devil Rays are countering with Casey Fossum and Jae Seo. No other active starters have a worse earned-run average than those two. There is no use waiting to see whether some better Seattle pitchers can pull off a sweep in Kansas City. The time to take advantage is right now.
Sweep the series here and a 6-0 or 5-1 record coming out of Kansas City becomes a very real possibility. Those are the kind of streaks that help real contenders stay in races. Sure, the M’s can go 4-2 and still claim to have won both series. And they’ll be lucky not to lose any ground to the streaking Angels if that happens. Or maybe tread water some more. But then they fly to Anaheim and things don’t get any easier. So, why not make life easy on themselves by taking care of business right here, right now?
If that’s setting the M’s up for failure, then I’ll tell you what, they are doomed to fail. Falter against a pair of pitchers with a 7.80 ERA and a team that can’t score runs of late and has no middle relief to speak of and the Mariners can probably write this season off. Sure, it’s early. But not that early. This team needs to start winning in bunches and the Devil Rays have left that path wide open to them. Let’s see if the Mariners have what it takes to do something about it. If not, we’ll know a lot more about this team than its near-.500 record indicates.
That’s my take. If you disagree, have at it.



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