Barring a disaster of epic proportion over the next month and a half, the Texas Rangers will likely win the A.L. West division. But there is a team hanging around that could still cause some trouble, and it’s not the Houston Astros.
The Seattle Mariners have been flying under the radar since the first month of the season. But here they are, seven games back in the division and two and a half games out in the wild card race.
The Rangers opened the season against the Mariners at the friendly confines of Globe Life Park, and the Mariners took two of three in Arlington. It was still early, but Seattle looked like a real threat.
After the month of April, you really didn’t hear much out of Seattle until last week. The Mariners took full advantage of the Rangers beating up the Astros down in Houston, seizing the opportunity to make the jump to the second spot in the division.
The Mariners lineup is one of those that always seems to give the Rangers pitching staff issues, and the middle of their lineup is crushing it this season. Former Ranger slugger Nelson Cruz continues to do what he does to the tune of 27 home runs and 71 RBI. And don’t you know that All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano is hitting .295 with 24 home runs and 70 RBI. Third baseman Kyle Seager, who always hits well against the Rangers, has 21 home runs and leads the team with 72 RBI. Another former Ranger, Leonys Martin, adds a little more pop when in the lineup with 13 home runs in 95 games.
Of course, the real “king” of Seattle continues to be Felix Hernandez. The numbers don’t jump off the page considering the former Cy Young Award winner has missed time this season due to a calf injury. King Felix is 6-4 with a 3.55 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 14 starts, but is still one of the best in the business and a dangerous pitcher in big games. However, Texas has had some success against Hernandez this season. He was outdueled by Rangers lefty Cole Hamels on Opening Day, giving up three runs, one earned, in the Rangers’ 3-2 win. Something to remember if things get wild down the road.
But the Mariners most consistent pitcher this season has been Hisashi Iwakuma. The righty just has filthy stuff and the numbers back it up, going 13-7 with a 3.79 ERA and 111 strikeouts. James Paxton has been solid at times as the number three in the rotation, posting a 3.53 ERA in 13 starts despite a 4-5 record.
The bullpen has been a question mark all season in the Emerald City. Drew Storen is considered the closer after being acquired from the Blue Jays last month, but has yet to get back on track. Storen has just three saves and an ERA north of six, but did piled up 95 saves during his six previous seasons with the Washington Nationals.
The Mariners found themselves in an interesting position at the trade deadline. They were hovering around .500 but still had some life left. So Seattle was faced with the decision of either being buyers or sellers. They decided to keep the parts in place and see if they could make a run at the postseason.
The Rangers are currently the gold standard in the division and among the best in baseball. But if things fall into place, the Mariners could possibly find themselves in the playoff picture towards the end.
Hang around and see what happens. That’s just how they do it in Seattle.
Written by C. James