The Mariners’ resilience has been commendable. It’s nearly September, and they’re still playing meaningful games despite the absurd amount of injuries to their starting rotation. But 16 years into this playoff drought, playing meaningful games doesn’t cut it.
It’s hard to be too tough on the Mariners, given everything they’ve endured this season. Not sure the trainer’s table has seen this much action in the franchise’s history.
Whether it’s James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Dyson or whomever the injury bug decides to feast on, there have been a slew of key players absent every time this team opens a series.
You wouldn’t rip a sprinter who lost a race on a broken leg, so if you’re looking for an excuse, there’s a built-in one for this baseball team.
But at the same time … good Lord. This is becoming maddening.
It would appear that the Mariners are addicts and .500 is their drug. They’ll creep over the mark for a bit, then dip under it for a stretch, but no matter what, always find their way back to the epitome of mediocrity.
Monday’s loss to Baltimore put Seattle at 66-66 and two games back of Minnesota for the final American League wild-card spot. It was another grab-the-lead, lose-the-lead heart pounder that the M’s have grown accustomed to lately.
Does that mean doomsday for this team? Of course not. The Mariners have made a habit of clawing their way back to relevance all season long. It just seems that every ostensible “breakthrough” they have is followed by a breakdown.
It was just four days earlier, remember, when the M’s pulled off what might have been the biggest win of the year. Riding what has become one of the best bullpens in baseball, they beat the Yankees 2-1 in 11 innings after a Yonder Alonso home run.
Just like that, Seattle was a half-game out of that last wild-card spot and on track to win its fourth consecutive series. But all the momentum disappeared instantly.
This three-game losing streak is a familiar feeling for Mariners fans this year. It’s hardly the first time positivity was immediately replaced with pessimism. Do you recall the Aug. 9 win over Oakland that put Seattle three games above .500 and into that last wild-card spot for the first time all year?
Yeah, well, they lost their next five games — all of which were at home.
There was a similar stretch before the All-Star break. In late June, the Mariners strung together six consecutive victories, including a 13-3 win over Houston. The fifth victory during that streak put them above .500 for the first time all year.
Paxton was showing Cy Young form. Hernandez looked solid after returning from the disabled list, and players such as Ben Gamel and Mike Zunino were stunning fans with their offensive production.
Then the Mariners lost their next four games — including two to the Phillies, owners of the worst record in MLB. They went on to drop five of their next seven after that, and then put together an eight-game home losing streak.
Hope followed by hell. Success followed by sadness. And though that’s the nature of baseball to a certain extent, only the M’s can find a way to take it to this extent.
The temptation in this circumstance is to try to place the blame on someone, but that’s difficult. Perhaps you can call out general manager Jerry Dipoto for not acquiring an impact starting pitcher for this final stretch, but beyond that, there’s not an obvious scapegoat.
Baseball Reference’s win estimator predicted the M’s would be five games under .500 before Monday’s loss, so by that standard, Seattle is actually overachieving.
But that doesn’t make any of this easier to watch. That won’t calm fans’ emotions when an ice bucket is poured over every hot streak.
This town wants to believe — it really does. But it’s hard to do that when winning games becomes the equivalent to crying wolf.
The Mariners’ resilience has been commendable this year. Seems every time the spotlight fades, they surge back into contention. It’s nearly September, and they’re still playing meaningful games despite the absurd amount of injuries to their starting rotation.
But 16 years into this playoff drought, playing meaningful games doesn’t cut it. Only winning them does.
The M’s have been .500 addicts for most of the season. Time to kick the habit.