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

June 6, 2007 at 10:10 AM

Time to get serious

Yes, believe it or not, Mariners fans, your baseball team is now just one game behind the Detroit Tigers in the wild card standings. Baseball purists will tell you that nobody looks at the wild-card race until late August or early September. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do it. Detroit’s bullpen wasn’t the culprit last night against the awful Texas Rangers. But is it any coincidence that the Tigers are looking a little more human without Joel Zumaya to rely on in the eighth inning? I don’t think so. Just as it’s no coincidence the Mariners, with eighth-inning horse Brandon Morrow extending his scoreless innings streak to 17 2/3 last night, are continuing to win largely because of their bullpen. Think about it. The starting pitchers have barely gone six innings per night. Seattle is 28-0 when leading after the seventh inning.
Sort of makes you think of the 2005 Chicago White Sox, or the 2002 Anaheim Angels, doesn’t it? Well, no. If this was September or October, maybe. I don’t know how long this bullpen can keep this up being forced to go three or four innings per night. If it does, if we’re still talking like this three months down the road, then wow, what an interesting season this will be.
The note from “Anna” last night got me thinking, as did a conversation I had on KJR’s “Mitch in the Morning” show a half-hour ago. This whole winning streak thing, how imperative is it for the M’s? I’d say very.
I told “Anna” that a six-game streak is the minimum any contender has to have. Don’t have time to crunch eight hours worth of stats this morning, so you’ll just have to trust me on this. But let’s look at the evidence. The Mariners have played well, but are still 5 1/2 games behind the Angels in the AL West. Los Angeles just won its fifth in a row last night. The Angels already have a six-game streak this season.
The Mariners? Now on a four-game win streak, their second of the season. Can the M’s afford not to extend it to five games today? Not really. With John Lackey going for the Angels against Minnesota, the Mariners would likely fall to 6 1/2 games out of the AL West race with a loss. Yes, winning streaks are important. Had the M’s not staged their two brilliant comebacks against Baltimore, they would be just about out of contention in the division by now.
Like I said, I’ve got to get out to the ballpark soon and can’t research all the numbers in one morning. But I’ve done this before and found that at least one six-game winning streak is the minimum any contender needs. Prefereably a longer one, but six seems to be the type that creates some big separation from .500. Separates contenders from pretenders, in other words.
Let’s look at last year and the streaks of at least six games by AL playoff clubs:
Detroit — 8 g, 7 g, 7 g, 6 g, 6g
Minnesota — 11g, 8g, 8g
Oakland — 10 g, 6 g, 6 g
New York — 6 g
Yes folks, the Yankees won the AL East while posting only one winning streak of at least six games. And a minimum six-gamer at that. But it should also be mentioned, the Yanks had five separate winning streaks of at least five games. So, streaks do matter. And the Mariners had best stay on one before the Tigers, or some other wild-card contender, beats them to the punch. Better starting pitching would help. It’s tough to win six in a row when you can’t go one turn through the starting rotation without a major meltdown.

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