Scraping, clawing, and fighting, the Seattle Mariners despite a rash of injuries reached the .500 mark for the second time this season on Wednesday, before losing 2-1 to the Minnesota Twins to fall back to 30-31 last night. Still, considering this team is still missing three-fifths of their starting rotation and has Jean Segura serving his second stint on the D.L., it’s a positive for the Mariners to be treading water. And the Mariners won their last three series against teams with winning records: the Rockies, the Rays, and the Twins. They haven’t been feasting on lesser competition. If the Mariners can keep this up with Toronto coming to town, they could top the .500 mark for the first time this season. I look at three reasons Seattle has been good lately.
1 – The Offense Delivered. When the Mariners slid through an awful stretch vs. the White Sox, Nationals, and Red Sox, it was because the bats were ice cold. In their sweep of the Rays last weekend, the Mariners scored 12, 9, and 7. In their last nine wins, the lowest run total the Mariners put up was five runs. The importance of the abundance of runs has been to give a cushion to a pitching staff riddled with injuries. During the Rays series, Danny Valencia tied a club record with nine hits in nine consecutive at-bats and raised his average from .247 at the beginning of the series to .283 at the end of it. Despite missing Segura, the bats have heated up leading to this most recent surge.
2 – Mike Zunino. Zunino was sent down to Tacoma after May 4th, batting .167 on the season. The Mariners, desperately needing production from the catcher spot, needed to try something else. He got called back up May 23rd, and he has produced for the Mariners. So far in June, he is batting .381 topped off with his game Wednesday against the Twins where he hit two home runs including the game-winner. He also had a monster game against the Rays over last weekend, hitting one HR and seven RBI. A productive Zunino is important for Seattle who wasn’t getting production out of the catcher spot before Zunino’s hot play.
3 – Ariel Miranda. Who leads the Mariners in wins, ERA, and strike outs? That’s right: Ariel Miranda. Miranda, who had a bad Spring Training, was going to start the season in Tacoma, but an injury to Drew Smyly pressed him into the rotation. He was my Mariners pitching MVP in May going 3-0, and he started June by throwing the first complete game of his career: allowing four hits and one ER in a win over the Rays while striking out nine. In a season where Mariners’ starters are dropping like flies, Miranda’s surprising 2017 has kept the team near the .500 mark.