Thursday, June 24, 2010

MARINERS: 8-1 Victory Shows What Could Have Been

Let’s do a thought experiment for one second. Close your eyes and imagine that the Mariners’ 8-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs in Seattle is not a microcosm, but an example of how the season truly went. Imagine that the timely hitting, powerful pitching and unbending defense didn’t start off slower than an Edgar Martinez stolen base.

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For right now, we can see the season that could have been. The Mariners’ six-game win streak has been bolstered entirely by some of the most impressive starting pitching in baseball. The Mariners’ fourth and fifth starters—Jason Vargas (2.66 ERA) and Doug Fister (2.45 ERA)—are ranked sixth and second in earned run average in the American League.

And in first place? The impressive, untouchable, unflinching Cliff Lee. His 2.39 ERA is tops in the AL and is coupled with only four walks in the entire season. That’s right: the season. Even the venerated Stephen Strasburg has given up more than that—in a game. Lee’s one-run, complete game performance was not his best work (he allowed nine hits), yet he still dominated hitters. He managed nine strike outs over the evening.

Offensively, the Mariners impressed, as well. Continually they strung together hitting that came with runners in scoring position. In the fourth inning, a one-out single by Jose Lopez became a bases loaded situation two infield singles later. Casey Kotchman’s single scored the first run, while a bases-loaded walk to Michael Saunders scored the second. Ichiro hit a two-run single to cap off the scoring for the inning and put the Mariners up for good.

Saunders, quickly becoming a name for the Mariners and showing them how to produce runs, also had a double in the sixth to score Rob Johnson and capped off his night with a two-run home run to right center in the eighth, scoring Rob Johnson again.

The offensive explosion coupled with the shutdown pitching that the Mariners have demonstrated over this six-game winning streak is how the team was designed to work over the entire season. Return to the thought experiment one last time and imagine that games like tonight—streaks like the last week—are commonplace. Imagine that is what they’re working toward.

Tomorrow, Felix Hernandez (5-5, 3.39 ERA) steps into action against Ted Lilly (2-6, 3.42 ERA) to finish out the interleague series. The afternoon game starts at 12:40pm and gives Seattle a chance to sweep the series and win their seventh in a row.

Reach M Wend at