The Seattle Mariners just came off an eight game road trip, ranging from one side of the country to the other. They faced two teams that led their divisions, and one team that was getting hot. The thought going in was that if they could win three games, then it could be considered a good trip. With all the injuries, there was trepidation that the Mariners could even compete against these teams. Surprisingly, the Mariners pulled out a 4-4 record, ending the trip on a three game win streak.
June will Make or Break the Seattle Mariners Season
The Mariners come into the longest homestand of the season on a positive note. They began an 11 game schedule on May 31, one that will see them in Seattle for 12 days. They will be finishing the home/away series against the Colorado Rockies, then hosting the Tampa Bay Rays for a weekend series starting Friday. An off day on Monday will turn into a three game series against the Minnesota Twins, and they’ll finish with a second weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays. These teams, minus the Rockies, are a combined four games above .500.
They started with a solid 5-0 victory against the Rockies, where James Paxton returned and threw 5.1 scoreless innings. He was able to show that there was little rust from his month long stint on the DL for a forearm strain. His fastball ticked upwards of 98 mph, and his off-speed pitches had pinpoint accuracy. His line was about the best you could hope for in a returning starter: zero earned runs, three hits, six strikeouts, and zero walks. In fact, the bullpen that relieved him finished the night off allowing just one more hit and not giving up anything else. With solid contributions from Danny Valencia and Mike Zunino, it was an all-around good night to be a Mariners fan.
With Sam Gaviglio (1-1, 3.50 ERA) and Christian Bergman (2-2, 4.67 ERA) providing some solid backup for the injured rotation, there has been some real stability the last week for the pitching staff. Jerry DiPoto has created a bullpen that would be ideal for match-ups late in the game, and we are finally seeing the fruits of that. Over the current four game win streak, the bullpen has been used for 13.2 innings, given up two earned runs, seven hits, and struck out eight.
The Mariners are embarking on a crucial month for the season. June over the last few years has not been kind, with the team constantly performing at under .500. However, at 25-29, the Mariners sit only 4.5 games out of the second wild card spot. There is no team truly running away with a playoff spot, and the Mariners are facing teams that are ahead of them. If they can get some wins during this homestand, they would be able to inch closer to .500 and that elusive playoff spot.
The other importance of this month is that it is the final month before the trade deadline. This is the month that DiPoto and company will have to make the decision on whether to be buyers or sellers. Management has been understandably uneasy about going into full rebuild mode. There is still a solid core of controllable players. They do not have any true elite players in their system to take the place and would be looking at punting all the way to 2020 at the earliest if they decide to tear it down. Add to that, most of their best players are aging, and with large contracts, making moving them difficult. Think Felix Hernandez (31, three years, $55.7 million) and Robinson Cano (34, six years, $144 million), who both have full no trade clauses.
This would seem to be a make or break month for the Mariners and Jerry DiPoto. It is unlikely that all of these guys can stay healthy after growing a year older. Let us all sit back, and enjoy some June baseball in Seattle. When the sun finally peeking out from the clouds and providing us with some much needed warmth and Vitamin D. There is reason to be hopeful, but we need to see if that reasoning is going to come to anything.