More so than in any recent season, this was a mystery Mariners team, by virtue of the drastic makeover undertaken by general manager Jerry Dipoto.
Six games in, the outline is starting to come into focus. And you’ve got to admit, it’s a much prettier picture so far than anyone expected.
Oh, there’s a distorted Picasso element to it, by virtue of a ragged defense and a white-knuckle bullpen. But when you can bash like this ballclub has, you’re going to get big, bold brushstrokes such as Sunday’s 10-8 victory over the Red Sox.
Scott Servais’ first words to the media after the game were, “I told everybody last night to hang in there, didn’t I? Hang in there and watch all nine innings. You’ll never know what you’ll see.”
You’ve got to give that to these Mariners. They might not sustain their success – a 5-1 start against two teams that combined for 205 wins last year – but they look like they’re going to be a kick.
That can be a good thing, synonymous with thrills and delights, or it can be a kick in the teeth, which almost occurred for the second time in three games. The Mariners are one injured closer meltdown on Friday night from being undefeated, but they nearly coughed up another one Sunday in the ninth inning on a cascade of walks.
It ended well, with Chasen Bradford bailing out Cory Gearrin to earn his first career save, and an ice-cream and chocolate sauce celebratory bath from teammates afterward. With Hunter Strickland out for at least a couple of months, and Servais in mix-and-match mode, you can plan on any late lead to be an exercise in cardiac inducement.
Everyone in the Twitter world seemed to simultaneously come to the same conclusion – the Mariners should go out and get Craig Kimbel, the still unemployed relief ace. But it’s hard to imagine Dipoto abandoning his step-back principles on the basis of six games, as productive as they’ve been.
It was Dee Gordon who issued the first cautionary note Sunday when he sensed the questions were getting a little too laudatory.
“It’s early,’’ he said. “You can’t win the World Series right now. We’re going to continue to play hard, continue to get better. We have a young ballclub. We make a lot of mistakes. We’ve just got to start cleaning them up, start playing better, and the sky’s the limit after that.”
How far after? Noting that the team is rebuilding, Gordon said the team needs to clean up its game and “a few years from now, we’ll see what happens.”
For now, what we’ll see is a team that is scoring runs at a remarkable pace, which covers up a multitude of sins. Yes, the Mariners might be on pace for 243 errors, but they’re also on pace for 405 home runs. The first seven batters in their order Sunday each had slugging percentages over .500, three of them over .700 – and that’s without Edwin Encarnacion, one of MLB’s leading power hitters.
The Mariners have the most extra-base-hits (30) through six games in club history. Only once before have they homered in each of the first six games. Only once in the history of Safeco/T-Mobile have they scored more runs in a four-game series than the 34 they just had against the Red Sox.
Every Red Sox starter – a touted bunch — gave up at least six runs, and none made it beyond the fifth. As a team, the Mariners have a .919 OPS, or pretty much a Paul Goldschmidt season.
“Confidence is really growing amongst guys in the lineup,’’ Servais said. “No matter where we put them in the lineup, they’re having good at-bats. I mean, you go up and down the lineup, everybody’s contributing. That’s what it takes to put big numbers up against a team like this.”
It’s all led to a loose, boisterous ballclub, at least on offense.
“Right now, we have a really good confidence and we know what we can do,’’ said catcher Omar Narvaez. “We’re basically enjoying the game, laughing, a smile on our face.”
It’s different when the gloves go on, or when there’s a lead to protect. The renderings been more like chicken-scratchings than masterpieces, but it’s impossible to argue with the standings, which are a sight to behold.
“We’re just having fun,’’ Bradford said. “That’s it. Everyone just shows up every day and says, ‘What cool thing can we do today?’ And they do it.”