The Mariners continue their freefall in astonishingly embarrassing fashion since they were 24 games over .500 in July and led Oakland by 7.5 games. Now they trail the Athletics by three games. Seattle hasn't slowed down during Oakland's pursuit so much as it has pulled up lame.
You ever been at a blackjack table where you knew you were gonna bust no matter what you were holding? Or that your stock was going to drop before you even checked the Dow?
I imagine that’s what it must feel like being a Mariners fan these days. There’s no real need to turn the game on or look up the score — you already know the result.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what choking looks like. This is disgrace under fire — a storm without the calm.
The Mariners’ website says the team “supports thousands of organizations through donations and fundraising events.” It neglects to mention that sending Oakland to the playoffs is their chief philanthropic cause.
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It was just July 5 when Seattle sat 24 games above .500, held a 7.5 game-lead over the A’s in the wild-card standings, and, according to FanGraphs, had an 88 percent chance of making the playoffs. Thirty four days later, they are 15 games above .500, three games behind the A’s, and have a 29.6 percent chance of making the playoffs.
To ignore Oakland’s 34 wins over its past 45 games is to deny credit where it is deserved. But if the A’s do end up reaching the postseason, omitting the M’s from their acceptance speech would be downright rude.
Seattle has lost 18 of its past 27 games and seven of its past nine. It hasn’t slowed down during Oakland’s pursuit so much as it has pulled up lame.
The nature of the defeats have been embarrassing. The stars’ plummeting production astonishing. They’re basically playing like a bunch of…Mariners.
All-Star Mitch Haniger slugged .502 and had an OPS of .859 through the first three months of the season. He slugged .265 and had an OPS of .618 in July.
All-Star Nelson Cruz slugged .568 and had an OPS of .928 through the first three months of the season. He slugged .412 and had an OPS of .745 in July.
All-Star Jean Segura hit .336 and had an OPS of .841 through the first three months of the season. Before Wednesday, he had hit .217 with a .544 OPS since.
It’s no wonder the Mariners just came off a stretch in which they scored three runs or fewer in 18 out of 23 games. And those three guys above? They’re not even the rich ones.
None of them commanded $18.5 million this year like Kyle Seager, who, in addition to committing three errors in the past two games, allowed a base hit Wednesday when he stepped on third without realizing there was no force out.
None of them commanded $26 million this year like Felix Hernandez, who has allowed seven earned runs in two of his past three starts while watching his ERA skyrocket to 5.73.
None of them commanded $24 million this like year like Robinson Cano, who has been unable to help amid his 80-game PED suspension.
Ask an octopus to point to all the disappointments over the past month and it would just shrug its tentacles in bewilderment.
Ryon Healy’s OPS has dipped 44 points since the Fourth of July. Dee Gordon had a combined WAR of 8.2 in his last two full seasons, but is at just 0.4 in 2018.
Zach Duke’s ERA in 45 relief appearances for Minnesota this year? 3.62. His ERA in five relief appearances for Seattle this year? 32.4.
You can also point to manager Scott Servais, who, before burning through seven relievers Monday, yanked Wade LeBlanc in the seventh despite LeBlanc having allowed no runs and two hits on 82 pitches. And you could certainly point to general manager Jerry Dipoto, who has yet to add a much-needed starting pitcher. Even the increasingly reliable Marco Gonzales gave up seven runs and 12 hits through five innings Wednesday, thus paving the way for the last-place Rangers to win the series.
Give the Mariners credit. They’ve certainly been working as a team.
Thursday, Seattle begins a four-game series in Houston vs. the first-place Astros. It then heads to Oakland for three games with the A’s. A poor showing in those two series, and a 17th straight playoff-free year morphs from likely to almost certain.
Analysts can point to an array of problems the Mariners need to shore up. Hitting, pitching, game management — you name it. Some might even think Dipoto can maneuver his way to another key asset.
Personally, there’s only one maneuver I would suggest. The Heimlich.