Posts tagged Seattle Mariners
The Hunt for October

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks in the MLB.  A couple of teams have kicked their run into high gear, some are stuck in neutral, and others are hustling backwards.  Let’s start with one of the more memorable moments of the MLB season which took place on the North Side of Chicago.

Cubs leading a strong NL Central race
(CHC lead by four games)

The “David Bote Game” may be one that we look back on as a defining moment for the Cubs as well as a deathblow for the Nationals. Bote’s game-winning grand slam a few weeks ago was a good feeling, but the Cubs still have some work to do as the Cardinals (2.5 games back) have gone from .500 and selling off assets to a statement sweep of the Dodgers in a month, and the Brewers (three games back) hang around in the division as well.

The Cubs officially shut Yu Darvish down for the remainder of the season, but they added playoff nemesis Daniel Murphy for the stretch run. The Cardinals also added firepower to their lineup by way of first baseman Matt Adams.

Code Red in DC as the Braves separate themselves from the Phillies
(ATL leads NL East by 3 games)

The good news for the Nationals is they've won the first two games in their series with the Phillies, and they'll see Philadelphia and Atlanta for the final time in two weeks. The bad news is that they've already started their fire sale, sending both Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams to contenders, and pulling Bryce Harper back off waivers once the Dodgers claimed him. "Harper Watch" is officially underway.

Speaking of the Phillies, the question of their legitimacy away from Philly remains as they went 2-4 in Arizona and San Diego, and dropped their first two games in Washington. Philadelphia has to consistently beat the teams they’re supposed to beat as well as find success on the road.

The Braves had their own share of drama as young star Ronald Acuna Jr. was plunked by a Jose Urena fastball last week.  Acuna was RED HOT at the plate, homering eight times in eight games leading up to the incident.  Fortunately, Acuna did not suffer a significant injury. It will be interesting to see how things go this weekend when the Braves travel to play Urena’s Marlins.

Anyone’s Game in the NL West (ARI leads by 1.5 games)

While Arizona has been near the top of the division standings all season, the Rockies are the division’s hottest team. Colorado has won nine of its last eleven games, and welcome Matt Holliday into the lineup for the stretch run. The second half of their six-game homestand will be important as the Cardinals are playing great baseball as well.

Meanwhile, things haven’t gone as planned in Los Angeles. The Dodgers' slide continues as they were swept by St. Louis at home this week. Kenley Jansen's second appearance since coming off the disabled list was brutal as he surrendered the two-run homer that ended the game. LA is 4.5 games out of first, 3.5. games back of the second wild card.

RK-Oakland: A’s are AL West Contenders Out of Nowhere (HOU leads by 1 game)

In a way that would make WWE Superstar Randy Orton proud, the Oakland A’s have surprisingly found their way into the AL West race. Oakland’s success has been puzzling to just about everyone outside of the Bay Area being that they’ve entered the season in the bottom three of team payroll. Lately they’ve won their share of close games with the help of their retooled bullpen.  If they can keep this up, we might see the Oakland Coliseum being used for baseball past September.

Houston is trying to find their stride after a rough stretch which they lost three of their last ten. They took two of three in Seattle to push the Mariners down and stay atop the AL West. They'll host the A's in their final series of the regular season next week in Houston; one of the most crucial series left this year.

Seattle isn’t necessarily fading in the AL West; their play has been overshadowed by the two teams above them. So far, every time it looks like that playoff drought might live to see another year, the Mariners show that they still have life. Robinson Cano’s return to the team has been a plus in a variety of ways, although he’s ineligible for postseason play.  However, uncertainty surrounding Felix Hernández’s role on the pitching staff raises eyebrows.  “Will he go to bullpen?”, “Will he ever return to the starting rotation”, “Does he even have anything left in the tank?” are all questions the Mariners need to solve as soon as possible.

Elsewhere, the Boston Red Sox continue to play great baseball.  Since sweeping the Yankees they've gone 9-4, boosting them to a league-best 88 wins. They seem poised for a deep postseason run. Oh, and that JD Martinez guy?  He’s having an MVP-worthy season and very well could make the 50-home run mark this season.

Not to be outdone by Boston, the Indians have quietly put together a solid run of their own winning eight of their last ten. The Indians are the only division leader with a double-digit lead as they’re up twelve and a half games over second place Minnesota.  Looking at the state of the other four teams in the division, Cleveland very well could have the AL Central locked up by the third week of September.

Inside the 2018 MLB Playoff Race

It’s August and the games are starting to matter in the Major Leagues. One bad stretch of games in August could leave you on the outside looking in come playoff time. Let’s look at the close divisional and wild card races still going on.

Rex Sox rising, Yankees folding in AL East

For a team that boasts one of the deepest lineups 1-through-9 in the league, the loss of Aaron Judge (wrist injury) has really hurt the Bronx Bombers.  Entering Monday, the Yankees have lost five straight, including a four-game sweep to the rival Red Sox, who now hold a 9 and a half-game lead in the AL East.

Keep in mind that the Red Sox did all of this without the help of ace Chris Sale, who is expected to return from shoulder inflammation this weekend in Baltimore.

 

Second half magic puts Oakland in the thick of the Wild Card hunt

The Oakland Athletics keep winning, I don’t know how… but they just keep winning. The A's took off in June and July to push them right in the middle of the American League Wild Card hunt.

If you look at their roster, your kneejerk reaction is probably “Who are these guys???”. Their rotation consisting of guys who have bounced all around the league (I’m talking about you, Edwin Jackson), their starting lineup can flat out MASH, like Khris Davis (the major league leader in home runs since 2016) and the two Matts (Chapman and Olson). If the A’s find themselves in the Wild Card game, they will be the reason why.

Are the Phillies for real?

There’s a lot of winning going on in Philadelphia this year (shoutout to Meek) and surprisingly the Phillies have kept the trend going. They’ve won five straight and have a game and a half lead over the Atlanta Braves.

Most of their damage has been done at home, with a NL-best 37 wins at Citizens Bank Park. If they want to hold off the Braves and Nationals (there’s still hope for Bryce Harper and Washington), they’ll have to improve on that 25-30 record away from Philly.

The Cubs are finally playing to their potential

The Chicago Cubs hold the best record in the National League, despite missing key members for long periods of time (Kris Bryant, Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow). They're only a game ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central coming into Monday, but even without those stars they're playing to everyone's expectations.

The Cubs were relatively quiet at the trade deadline, acquiring Cole Hamels and a few relievers to add the pen. The Brewers have been a nice story, but it’s going to be a tough task matching wins late in the season with a team as good as the Cubs. Milwaukee may eventually have to turn its focus on maintaining its lead in the wild card race.

How the (NL) West is won

On paper, the Dodgers are the clear favorite to win the NL West for a sixth straight year, but it’s still wide open out west. They're tied atop the division with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have been solid behind MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt. The Colorado Rockies have also managed to hang around behind their star Nolan Arenado. Even the Giants sit five games back in the West.

There can only be one division winner, but the added incentive for these teams is to avoid that one game playoff. This race will certainly come down to the last week of the regular season.

Key series to watch

Philadelphia Phillies (62-48) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (62-50)
August 6th-8th

The margin for error for both teams is extremely slim. Can the Phillies get some wins on the road?

Los Angeles Dodgers (61-51) @ Colorado Rockies (58-52)
August 9th-12th

The Dodgers have a chance to distance themselves from the Rockies in a packed NL West.

Milwaukee Brewers (65-49) @ Atlanta Braves (59-48)
August 10th-12th

A potential preview of the NL wild-card game.

What's Going On In "The Show"?

If you’ve been locked in on the NBA playoffs like most of the world has been, there was quite a bit you’ve missed in the MLB. With the Memorial Day checkpoint in the rearview mirror, we’ve had our fair share of surprises (both good and bad) to start off the season.  Here’s what has stood out so far.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves are ahead of schedule

People didn’t have very much expectation for Atlanta this year. The Braves organization is the top ranked minor league system entering this season, so it was assumed that this team is still in its rebuild phase. However, the mix of young talent led by second baseman Ozzie Albies (pictured above) and seasoned veterans have surprisingly put the Braves in National League East and Wild Card contention.

Atlanta has been one of the best hitting teams in baseball so far this season. They have also pitched very well behind their second and third starters, Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb.  The Braves have been very fun to watch, but can they hold off the Nationals all summer?

No Cano, No Problem for Seattle

Here’s something that even I didn’t see coming. The Mariners lost star second baseman Robinson Cano on May 16 to not only a hand injury but also an 80-game suspension for violating the leagues drug policy.  Surprisingly since then, the Mariners have been on a roll behind their starting rotation.

Like Atlanta, Seattle has a daunting task of holding off a World Series contender in their own division, the defending champion Houston Astros. Not only do the Mariners have the Astros to deal with, they also have a very solid Angels team lurking in the American League West. It’s still early, but this Mariners team is showing potential to be the one to end the longest playoff drought in the four major sports.

The Dodgers stumble out of the block… and get injured

Mark J. Terrill-AP

Mark J. Terrill-AP

Anything and everything that could go wrong for the defending National League champion Dodgers has gone wrong so far. This team just cannot seem to stay healthy. The team started off the season without third baseman Justin Turner due to a wrist injury he suffered in spring training. Then they lost up and coming shortstop Corey Seager for the year with an elbow (UCL sprain) injury.

Now they’re dealing with the uncertain health of ace Clayton Kershaw (pictured right). A back injury may keep Kershaw off the mound until early July.  With the Rockies and Diamondbacks battling atop the division, the Dodgers hope that they can get healthy before either team runs away with the division.

Another Rough Year for the “Comedy Central”

For years the American League Central has been the division where only the division winner makes the playoffs.  So far this year, there’s only one team over .500 in the division: the prohibitive favorite Cleveland Indians. 

What’s shocking about this is that the Indians have not managed to pull away from the other teams.  Their bullpen, which had been a strength of the team in previous years, has been awful.  Their closer, Cody Allen, is the lone reliever with an earned run average under 4.00.  Although the Indians have disappointed so far, they still have the talent to be a dangerous team if they put it all together by season’s end. 

Robinson Cano gets caught up, suspended 80 games for PEDs
Duane Burleson, Getty Images

Duane Burleson, Getty Images

Major League Baseball suspended Seattle Mariner star second baseman Robinson Cano for 80 games without pay after he tested positive for a banned substance - a diuretic called Furosemide. According to a statement by Cano, the diuretic is not a performance enhancing substance, but it used to treat “various medical conditions”. Cano has accepted the suspension and will begin serving it right away.

This news comes as Cano just underwent surgery for the fractured fifth metacarpal he suffered after being hit by a pitch in a series against the Detroit Tigers. The Mariners placed the 35-year-old All-Star on the disabled list following surgery. It's a devastating blow to the Mariners, who have goten off to a solid start as they contend for the AL West crown.  While there is not very much good news about this story, one positive about it if you’re a Mariners fan is that Cano will be eligible to return in August (although he won't be eligible for the postseason due to his suspension.)

Seattle’s offseason acquisition of former Miami Marlin Dee Gordon now looms large.  Gordon has played centerfield for the Mariners this season, but a return to second base is likely. Speaking of Gordon's, former White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham is another option up the middle for the Mariners.

Cano’s suspension hurts the Mariners offense most of all. It will be extremely difficult for the replacement players to match Cano’s production at the plate. Cano’s absence also means less protection for his teammates in the middle of the order, particularly Jean Segura and Nelson Cruz.

This news must be devastating to playoff-hungry Mariner fans in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle hasn't made the postseason since 2001, the longest playoff drought in the four major North American sports leagues. Entering play on May 15th, the Mariners are a game-and-a-half out of first place behind the Angels and Astros, who are tied atop the division. It's tough to imagine the Mariners keeping pace with those two teams without Cano in the lineup.