The Mariners have punched expectations in the kisser. They have twisted doubts into balloon animals. They have sparked belief among the ever cynical public — and they’ve made sure to do it in style.
It just keeps happening.
Nice as this planet may be, the Mariners are refusing to come back to earth.
Sorry, but I gotta ask: Just who the hell are these guys?
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At 21-13, Seattle has the second-best record in the American League and third best in MLB. Since their five-game losing streak at the start of the year, the M’s are 19-7 with a +40 run differential.
They have punched expectations in the kisser. They have twisted doubts into balloon animals. They have sparked belief among the ever cynical public — and they’ve made sure to do it in style.
Chris Iannetta’s home run in the bottom of the 11th marked the ninth time Seattle had a game-winning RBI in the seventh inning or later this year. That leads all of baseball.
Iannetta’s blast also gave the Mariners their seventh straight victory in one-run games, and improved their 2016 record to 5-1 in extra innings.
The sun has been blazing these past few days in Seattle, but it hasn’t melted the ice in the Mariners’ veins. So do you believe yet? Because the guys in uniform certainly do.
“Everyone has confidence right now,” said Wednesday’s starting pitcher Taijuan Walker, whose team beat Tampa Bay 6-5. “Everyone is picking each other up. Everyone is swinging the bat. We’re playing all-around good baseball.”
Through 34 games, the Mariners’ weaknesses have donned invisibility cloaks. A depleted bullpen devoid of star power has collectively clobbered opposing hitters.
Steve Cishek, Nick Vincent, Mike Montgomery and Vidal Nuno aren’t names that reverberate across the country, but they’re all part of a relief unit that has the best opponent batting average (.186) and second-best ERA (2.34) in baseball.
Wednesday, right-hander Steve Johnson decided he wanted to be among the anonymous aces, too. So in the top of the 10th, he came into the game with the bases loaded and nobody out — then retired the next three Tampa Bay batters. The journeyman reliever had pitched just 3.1 innings this season before that performance, but ended up picking up his first win since May 29, 2013.
That’s the kind of season it has been thus far for Seattle, which is 7-1-1 in series since April 15. It has gotten lifts from heavyweights such as Robinson Cano (12 home runs, 33 RBI) and Felix Hernandez (2.27 ERA), but has also gotten game-saving and game-winning contributions from the likes of Johnson, Iannetta and burgeoning fan-favorite Dae-Ho Lee.
“Honestly, that’s the way it should be,” Iannetta said after the game. “If you lean on guys, you get one dimensional. We know we can with any guy in our lineup — and that builds confidence.”
Don’t underestimate confidence in Major League Baseball. When you repeatedly win the close ones, as the Mariners have been doing, there comes a palpable belief that you’re going to win the next one as well.
It doesn’t mean it will last all season. It doesn’t even mean it will last through this homestand. If the law of averages is still alive and kicking, these extra-inning and one-run games won’t keeping going the Mariners’ way.
But until then, you should appreciate the pixie dust that’s been sprinkling onto Safeco Field. You should embrace the clutch hits, key pitches, and late-game heroics. This hasn’t just been a surprising season, it’s been a season handing out surprises every day.
After Wednesday’s game, M’s manager Scott Servais was noticeably tired. His team had been playing every day since April 29, and while it had gone 10-3 over that stretch, a break seemed welcome.
“We really need an off day,” Servais said. “All the guys are looking forward to it.”
No doubt a break is well-deserved. But the fans likely feel otherwise.
Right now, they can’t get enough.