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June 30, 2007 at 10:27 PM

M’s win streak at 7

If this keeps up, I may have to re-evaluate everything I thought about this team. That’s a big “if” but I’m more impressed with Seattle taking this series from Toronto than I was when the M’s won the first two games against some Class AAA Red Sox fill-in pitchers. That might be a bit harsh on Julian Tavares, but the fact is, he walked in a pair of Seattle runs. How often does that happen? Oh wait, it happened the next night when Kason Gabbard did it. See my point?
Anyway, Miguel Batista outduels Roy Halladay tonight. Halladay throws a “quality start” of six innings and three runs allowed in an 8-3 win bySeattle. But Batista once again employs his “bend but don’t break” strategy (one that “Kyle” alludes to) of allowing a ton of baserunners but only one run against in going 6 1/3 frames. He is the prototypical No. 3 starter right now. Nothing more. If he could go seven innings, we would talk about more. But nothing wrong with what he is giving as a No. 3. Good enough to beat a true ace on this night. Halladay only went six tonight and his bullpen imploded after that. The reason Toronto’s bullpen is so good isn’t because of the mop-up guys who worked this game. But you go only six innings, you take your chances with middle relief. Seattle deserved this game. Outhit the Blue Jays across the board and out-pitched them as well.
Now four back of the Angels. No, they haven’t caught them. Four games is still formidable when you consider one team (Seattle) is on its hottest streak all year, while the other (Los Angeles) is on its worst. But I will say, being a game out in the wild card picture — when the Detroit Tigers are the ones leading — is none too shabby. The M’s have one more test to pass in my book before I consider them true July 31 trade deadline “buyers”. Don’t get mad. It has nothing to do with sweeping Toronto. Winning this series was enough for me.
But I want to see how the M’s do on the road first before I am seriously convinced this team has turned a corner and should think seriously about selling the farm to take a playoff run. Don’t forget, the M’s are 0-5 in their last five road games. We’ll see how they do away from pitching friendly Safeco Field (though KC and Oakland are quite similar for pitchers). We’ll see how they do when they aren’t so comfortable. In front of hostile fans. Not just a few Canucks and Red Sox Nation stragglers. Remember, when this two-week stretch began with Boston, I told you the next two weeks will determine what Seattle management has to do.
Well, going 5-0 in the first five of a dozen-game stretch over those two weeks is the best start possible. But there are seven games left. Remember, being a game out of a playoff position in mid-July is much different than being five out. The M’s have to keep this up and stay reasonably close before the break. If they do that, the pressure will be on team management to make a deal. Possibly for a starting pitcher, possibly for a set-up man. Fall five back and that pressure eases considerably. It’s up to the M’s to keep up that pressure on the guys paying their salaries. So far, so good. Watching the M’s this week, they have looked like a playoff team.
No, J.J. Putz can’t keep bailing them out. But he didn’t have to tonight and got a needed rest. The more he isn’t needed, the more time this team buys itself to right its eighth inning woes. We’ll talk about the M’s “contending” for the playoffs in late August. For now, they are setting themselves up to be trade deadline “buyers” and that’s quite different from last year’s 78-win season. This season is far more legit. The M’s are staying with the favored teams on a consistent basis. They may only win 78 games (most likely will outdo that) but it will be more legit than the teams that play sub-.500 until the pressure’s off then pad their record.
The Mariners are playing with the pressure of these games meaning something. And they are doing rather well. That truly does mean something. If they keep it up, it will mean even more. For “Resin”, all I’m saying is that Mike Hargrove has earned this season. At 11 games over .500, how can anyone argue otherwise? There’s a time to fish or cut bait and that time has just about passed. If this team was going to fire Hargrove, it had chances to two weeks ago and during a six-game losing streak in April. That didn’t happen. He’s since righted the ship and if this team is to have a shot at winning anything, there has to be some stability in the dugout. Why fix what — for whatever reason, it doesn’t have to make sense — is working right now?
At the end of the season, if the M’s fall back to .500, we can re-evaluate. But stuff changes. Stuff happens. Hargrove is winning right now. Maybe you never dreamed it possible, maybe I never did either. But you can’t ignore success when it happens. And for now, I think the short-term success has at least bought Hargrove the chance to finish the season. Not to be manager for life. Just to finish what he started.
Enjoy the night folks. Your team is very much in the playoff picture. Every day means something now. When’s the last time that happened? I know I like it.

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