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May 1, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Mariners turned season around on this trip, but we’re about to learn a lot more about them

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There was a lot of post-game talk in the clubhouse about how the Mariners took a giant step forward on this road trip towards discovering what they can be.
Tough to argue when they just won five of six and came within a lost ball in the sun of perhaps an undefeated road trip. Ichiro said he never saw that ball once it came off the bat of Jed Lowrie.
He sure did get close to it, though, having it strike him in his hip before bouncing away for a triple. Carl Crawford then drove the winning run home with a single up the middle.
“Right when it hit the sky, I couldn’t see the ball at all,” Ichiro said, through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “It just disappeared.”
At that point, he added, he had a choice. He could have drifted back and allowed the ball to drop in for a single. Or, he could have tried to make a play on it and — at worst — have it hit him and then pick it up quickly.
He tried the latter.
“It was late in the ballgame, a tight ballgame,” he said. “You want to make that effort. You don’t want to let that ball fall in, make it look like you’re not trying. So, that’s what I tried to do. It didn’t work.”
No, it didn’t.
“I knew it was a tough sun just from being at first base,” Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. “When that ball was in the air, I was saying ‘Get in the sun!’ But I still didn’t think he would drop it.”
Anyhow, that part’s done. The M’s finish the trip 5-1.
But now comes the interesting part. Were the past week just a mirage for this 13-16 team. A five-day spurt to lighten the impact of what had been a woeful month? Or, are these Mariners on to something?
The pitching was stellar throughout the trip, including today when Felix Hernandez finally got a handle on a sinker that was moving all over the place and made it though seven innings. Nothing to complain about when it comes to the bullpen, either. The run allowed by Wright was the first by this bullpen after 15 consecutive scoreless innings.
So, what to make of the hitting? Well, it nearly came through again today. But it didn’t. And that will remain the wild-card.

For all of the good things to come out of the trip, the M’s did manage to score just nine runs total in three games at this hitter’s park. That’s three runs per game — right around where they were before heading off on the road trip.
So, we’ll see whether the good run continues.
Positive signs on that front include the Mariners continuing to take pitches and make shaky relievers look really bad. That’s good. They are letting opponents beat themselves when they show a willingness to do just that. In the past, that hasn’t been the case, as the M’s let plenty of bad pitchers off the hook.
Jack Cust appears to be finding a groove, getting another hit the opposite way to left field and taking his walks when he needed to.
Michael Saunders hit that ball really hard to left with the bases loaded in the seventh, only to have Carl Crawford catch it.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said as much afterward: his team had a solid approach and hit some balls hard — only right at people.
So, we’ll have to see whether the trend — and the results — can continue. The Texas Rangers come to town this week and it isn’t so much that the M’s have a chance to get right up there in the AL West race. The real key this week will beto see whether some of the stuff we saw the past six games was for real. Whether the M’s can show a real consistency on offense and in their bullpen to go along with strong outings from their starters.
Seattle just passed a key test on the road in two parks more favorable to hitters than Safeco Field. And in warmer weather too.
But now, they had back to Safeco, where the damp weather (forecasted, anyway) and the Rangers await. The Rangers will be a big test. We’ll soon know whether the M’s are up to the challenge.



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