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Mariners blog

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

August 29, 2007 at 4:44 PM

Swept away

NOTE: I know you’re all upset about what happened today. Here’s something to lighten the mood up a little. Just when I worry that some of my viewpoints on the Adam Jones situation, young relief pitchers, or Richie Sexson are being misconstrued, I realize that I’ve been preoccupied with all the wrong things. This voicemail left for me back in Seattle by a local baseball fan reminded me that sometimes, it’s just all about writing clearly. Reminds me of some of my English teachers back in Chomedey (near Montreal). Believe me, some of those line drives we saw off Angels bats were “screamers” but this message just put a smile on my face here in lonely old Cleveland. Makes me want to do better for all of you.
On to the post…
This is what I was afraid of after Monday night’s series opening loss for the Mariners. Having to play the next two contests as a night game followed by an early afternoon contest, with the stakes as high as they were for the Mariners, was a recipe for potential disaster. That disaster happened this afternoon, when an 8-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels severely curtailed any chance Seattle has of winning the AL West. Last night’s crushing defeat could not have been far from the team’s mind as it took the field today.
Hey, these guys are only human. Any of us would have been replaying stuff over and over again if our high school, company softball, Little League or junior college team blew a game the way the M’s did last night. Imagine how they felt afterwards. I know that I was still stunned today when I woke up. The team never really had time to absorb what happened. That can work in either a good or a bad way. It’s all about momentum. Had the Mariners come out and roughed up Jered Weaver early, then Seattle would have potentially had the momentum on its side to try to push last night out of the players’ minds.
But instead, eight of the first 16 batters managed hits off Felix Hernandez and the M’s never had a chance.
I’d like to say I saw the entire game, but I did not. I had to fly out to Cleveland, where it’s 90 degrees and muggy out as the evening sun sets. I’ll be here for this entire road trip, which is still important as far as the team’s playoff chances are concerned. I know it’s tough to imagine now. I know many of you have written the team off already. In the division, the M’s are pretty much cooked. But they are leading the wild-card race. That’s what makes this past series seem so surreal. It feels like the season is over, but the truth is, if it was, the M’s would be in the playoffs.
Where to go from here?
This will be a true test of John McLaren’s managerial skills. McLaren has to find a way to settle this team down and end the streak right here. Every day that goes by without that happening is another nail in Seattle’s playoff coffin. The starting pitchers are not as bad as they looked in this series, the relievers have done a much better job all year and the hitters will start to connect again as they’d been doing a week ago. McLaren has to find a way to get some swagger back in these guys.
Merely “surviving” the next 10 games with a 5-5 record probably is no longer enough. A 7-3 mark is probably more along the lines of what will be needed to keep Seattle ahead in the wild-card race. Like I said, this club does not do things the easy way.
That old sports saying about taking things “one game at a time”? It truly does apply here. Forget about dissecting the bits and pieces of today’s game. The M’s were still reeling from last night and were finished the moment they fell behind. Happens a lot in these situations.
There is still a month of baseball to be played. Seattle could help its cause by whittling a game off the Angels’ lead before Sept. 1. But it’s largely all about the wild card right now. Actually, it’s all about winning right now. This team has undone the damage of some pretty bad losing streaks by going on winning tears right afterwards. That’s exactly what it needs right here. A road trip of 7-3 would not hurt at this stage. The players’ must put their noses to the proverbial grindstone and work their way out of this thing.
I’m sure we’ll hear lots of quotes coming from these guys the next few days about how the season isn’t over, there’s still a month to go, etc…that’s great. That’s what any team in this situation should be doing. And the M’s should still try to catch the Angels. We talked about a “pace car” benefit of trying to catch something in front of you in order to stay ahead of the things — teams — behind you.
In other words, if this was my team, I’d be focused on:
1. Ending the streak
2. Winning the next series
3. Winning two of three in New York at a minimum
4. Finish the road trip strong instead of letting up
Do that and the M’s just might find themselves within three or four games of the Angels with three weeks to go. That would still leave them with an outside shot at the AL West, but, perhaps more importantly, keep them onm a pace to claim the wild-card. Especially with a heavily-weighted home schedule after that.
Sounds easy, but it wont be. One step at a time. After this week’s performance, the M’s have little else to fall back on.
What do you think? What does this team have to do?

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