With its blue all-capital letters on mustard yellow paper, it stood out amid the polished corporate signage that can be found in most spaces of T-Mobile Park.
The handwritten font and paper coloring were specific to match its inspiration. Even how it was mounted on the railing of the upper-deck bleachers in left field – slightly askew and not perfectly in line – was done with the purpose of imitation.
Taken from the popular TV show Ted Lasso, about an earnest American football coach being asked to coach soccer in England, the simple, but powerful one-word message that he places above his office door has now become mantra for the Mariners as they try to defy impossible odds and unfriendly projections to somehow sneak into a playoff party they’ve been absent from since 2001.
And for another day in a season where they’ve defied expectations and silenced doubters, the Mariners and their postseason-starved fans can believe that this team can be playing baseball when the 2021 regular season ends Sunday.
Despite getting a less-than-typical start from right-hander Chris Flexen, who gave up three runs in the first inning, the Mariners continued their domination of the Oakland A’s and starter Cole Irvin, used a pair of three-run homers from Mitch Haniger to roll to an easy 13-4 victory Monday night.
“That was pretty cool,” manager Scott Servais said. “You know every team’s got their thing. It’s the world we live in. And right now, it’s the Ted Lasso world. Our guys are having fun and we should all enjoy it because we’ve had some kind of season.”
Seattle’s 10th consecutive win over the A’s – a streak that dates back to July 23 –basically ended any of Oakland’s remaining hope of still finding a way into the postseason. With the loss, the A’s fell to 85-72 and two games back of Seattle. The 10 consecutive wins over one opponent ties a Mariners club record that was set against the Royals in 1985.
The Yankees (89-67), Red Sox (88-68) and Blue Jays (87-69) were all idle Monday, allowing the Mariners to move within 1.5 games of the second wild-card spot, which is currently held by Boston. Toronto sits a game back of Boston.
“We’ve got five games left, folks,” Servais said. “Here we sit. It’s been some kind of season we’ve had and we’ve still got a lot to play for. So we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
With five games left to play, the Mariners will likely have to win at least four of them, which would put them at 91 wins to even have a hope at a wild-card spot or forcing a play-in game with either Toronto or Boston.
When Flexen gave up a three-run homer to Seth Brown with two outs in the first inning, that BELIEVE sign and its message, which was strategically placed where the Mariners could see it from their dugout, were put to the test.
“That’s what is fueling and firing us,” Haniger said. “As a team, we want to win every single game the rest of the season. Just come in every day, prepare to win and that’s the goal. It’s just control what we can control when we go out there.”
But with Irvin on the mound for the fifth time against them this season, a team like the Mariners didn’t have any concerns about coming back.
“There’s no panic,” Haniger said. “We’ve had that vibe and energy all season. Get down 3-0 and we come into the dugout and were like, ‘We’re gonna score more than three runs so it’s no big deal.’ “
Seattle tied the game in the third inning on an RBI double from Ty France and a big two-out, two-run single off the bat of Luis Torrens.
When the A’s retook the lead on a Khris Davis run-scoring single in the top of the fourth inning, the Mariners answered with a five-run explosion in the bottom of the inning.
Irvin issued back-to-back walks to Jarred Kelenic and Tom Murphy to start the inning, which ended his outing. He was serenaded by boos and goodbye waves from many of the 11,169 fans in attendance as he exited the mound. After his May 25 start in Oakland, Irvin lamented his suboptimal performance against the Mariners where he gave up four runs on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings pitched, saying: “A team like that should not be putting up 10 hits against me or anyone.”
His replacement, Deolis Guerra, got Dylan Moore to pop out but then allowed back-to-back RBI singles to J.P. Crawford and France.
Both runs were charged to Irvin. His final line: three innings pitched, five runs allowed on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
In five starts against Seattle this season, he’s 0-5 with an 8.69 ERA, having allowed 19 earned runs in 19 2/3 innings pitched. It’s the highest ERA ever allowed by a pitcher in five starts against the Mariners in one season.
“Baseball has a way of humbling itself,” Irvin told Oakland reporters. “It goes back to the comments I made early in the season. They’re hungry every time they face me. They want to beat me into the ground, and they did that every time I faced them. I wasn’t good enough. It’s embarrassing.”
He has allowed 35 hits with 10 walks and 14 strikeouts in those five starts. Seattle has a .385/.451/.516 slash line against him.
Haniger broke the game open, hammering a 3-1 fastball from Guerra into the Mariners’ bullpen.
It was his 36th homer of the season and gave Seattle an 8-4 lead.
With a sizable lead, the Mariners didn’t push Flexen, who would start the final game of the season, deeper into the game. He finished with five innings pitched, four runs allowed on seven hits with a walk and six strikeouts to improve to 14-6 on the season. The Mariners have a 21-9 record in his 30 starts this season.
Haniger turned the game into a rout in the sixth inning, crushing a hanging breaking ball from James Kaprielian into to the Mariners’ bullpen again.
The six RBI in a game is a career high for Haniger, who now has 37 homers and 94 RBI in an outstanding comeback season.
Seattle pushed the lead 13-4 when France tallied his fourth run-scoring hit of the game — a two-run single that gave him four RBI on the night. France has raised his average to .295, giving him a chance to be a .300 hitter for the season.
Servais announced after the game that Tyler Anderson will start Tuesday night on short rest in place of Yusei Kikuchi, who will move to the bullpen for the time being. Anderson pitched just two innings, giving up nine runs Saturday against the Angels. He will be on a limited pitch count.