With a 6-3 win against the Oakland Athletics last night, as well as losses by the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays, the Seattle Mariners moved into playoff position all season. The year has been quite a struggle, with injuries to multiple key contributors and a string of seemingly unbreakable bad luck, but the Mariners have continued to find ways to win games and keep themselves in the playoff hunt. And even though Felix Hernandez and David Phelps, two key components of the pitching staff, have somehow ended up on the disabled list again, the Mariners finally look like a team that knows how to win games.
To be a true playoff contender, any MLB team needs two definable strengths. The Seattle Mariners teams of the past, held back by their seeming inability to find any good hitting talent, were forced to rely on defense and pitching to win games, something that proved increasingly challenging. However, the Mariners of 2017 are the Mariners of years past. They finally have an offense to rely on, led by sluggers Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, bolstered by the speed of young players like Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia, and propped up with some veteran presences like Kyle Seager, Danny Valencia, Jarrod Dyson, and new acquisition Yonder Alonso.
On the pitching end of things, James Paxton has taken the place of Felix Hernandez as the de-facto “ace” of the pitching rotation, and though the pitchers behind him are shaky at best, the Mariners bullpen seems to have transformed into a strength of the team. Nick Vincent has been superb in the role of 8th inning set-up man, and David Phelps and Tony Zych, two of the power arms of the bullpen, have been consistently good in their various roles. Though Edwin Diaz has struggled slightly with his walk rate, he has still saved 12 of the Mariners’ 16 wins since the All-Star break, and continues to (mostly) look like a dominant presence in the 9th inning.
The Mariners did just drop the first two games of a crucial four game weekend series against the division rival Anaheim Angels, but they remain just a half game out of the wild card race. Their below average starting pitching is going to make a playoff run slightly more difficult, but they certainly have the offensive firepower and bullpen depth to make it happen. That’s not even mentioning the outfield defense, led by Jarrod Dyson, that’s been superb all season long. The 2017 edition of the Mariners certainly hasn’t been short of talent, but they’ve only just started to look like they can turn the talent they do have into a legitimate run at the playoffs.
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