The reason the Mariners are just a half-game out of first place is because they never let bad morph into worse.
The sweep by the Twins was awful. The one by the Angels was, too.
And that five-game skid in early April was the point where hapless met humiliating.
There have been stretches this season — all of which seem to come at Safeco Field — in which the Mariners have been flat-out bad. But the reason they’re just a half-game out of first place is because they never let bad morph into worse.
If the past month and a half is indicative of what’s to come, Monday’s 9-3 victory over the Padres should set off a mini victory spree. Every time Seattle (29-21) has lost consecutive games this season, the next few days feature a music-filled clubhouse.
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After that five-game losing streak at the beginning of the year, the M’s won three in a row. After a two-game skid vs. the Yankees and Indians, they won six of their next seven. After the Angels sweep in mid-May, they took five of their next six.
And after the Twins sweep Sunday? Well, don’t let another surge surprise you.
“We handle adversity pretty well. We look at it right in the face and say ‘OK, here we go,’ ” Mariners manager Scott Servais said Monday. “There is no real doubt or people looking around going ‘Here we go again.’ This is a different team with a different feel about them.”
So far, the stop-the-bleeding victories have come either dramatically or emphatically. It’s been an extra-inning win over Texas, a 2-1 squeak-out vs. Cleveland, or a 10-0 blowout vs. Baltimore.
Monday’s game saw a two-run, sixth-inning homer by Kyle Seager that put Seattle up 4-2 , and then a five-run eighth that erased any doubt. This year’s Mariners don’t wallow in misery — they create it for their opponents.
But this year’s Mariners also stayed relatively healthy for the first quarter of the season while injuries ravaged their division rivals. Doesn’t take away from what they accomplished, but the bullpen excluded, little has tested their depth.
Now, however, they are in the midst of a stretch sans shortstop Ketel Marte and center fielder Leonys Martin, each of whom is on the 15-day disabled list. And while that’s a dicey situation under any circumstance, it’s particularly harrowing when you glance at the upcoming schedule.
Following three more games vs. San Diego, Seattle will head to Arlington for a three-game series with the Rangers. The results have the potential to substantially shape the landscape of the American League West.
We’ve seen what the Mariners are capable of with a full arsenal, but losing Marte’s and Martin’s skill sets could seriously hinder Seattle offensively and defensively.
In addition to finding players who “control the strike zone,” M’s general manager Jerry Dipoto also views speed and defense as cornerstones of success. Those two guys embodied that philosophy, and now — even if it’s just for a bit — they won’t be around.
So what’s the outlook?
“Those are two big pieces of our team, so that’s gonna be an adjustment there in itself. Any time you lose two guys that have such a positive influence on your team, it’s always going to be a blow,” Seager said. “But the guys that have come in there have stepped up. We don’t have them right now and now we have to make do, but the guys have been playing well in their absence.”
Questions still surround the Mariners despite what they’ve achieved over 50 games. ESPN lists their strength of the schedule as the second-easiest in baseball thus far, and there are still a host of players outperforming their career numbers.
Still, you can’t deny this team’s resilience. You can’t say they have folded or shown a sliver of mental fatigue.
Whether they pass the Rangers this week is still to be determined. But to this point, they’ve been passing every test.