The Mariners are currently hovering around 20 games over .500 and are competing with the Houston Astros for the lead in the AL West. What has the team done to this point to be in this situation, a situation that is drastically different from the last 15 years?
The Mariners have some interesting things going for them so far this season. They're equally as good on the road as they are at home, with a .636 winning percentage traveling and a .641 winning percentage at Safeco. In April the team went 15-10. They did even better in May, going 18-11. So far in June, they are 12-4. In April, despite being five games over .500, they allowed two more runs than they scored all month. A big reason for their success is their 23-10 record in one-run games. They're 6-0 in extra innings. Last season, the team lasted just three total games above .500, went 38-43 on the road, and finished 23 games behind the Houston Astros. Here are five reasons the team is in contention this season.
5. Dee Gordon
The Mariners are a completely different dynamic when Dee Gordon is in the lineup. He's no All-Star, or silver slugger, or gold glover, but this guy gets the job done when he needs to. When Gordon leads off the inning with a base hit, there's a good chance he will eventually come around to score, due to Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger usually hitting after him. He is a huge factor for the team's results every game. This season, in games the team wins, Gordon is hitting .317 with 10 doubles and 13 RBI. In losses, he's hitting .239 with one double and 2 RBI. Sure, the team has won more than they have lost (thankfully) and that will affect those stats, but the numbers still prove that he is a big reason the Mariners are a winning team this season.
4. Edwin Diaz
It was a big risk by the organization to bring up Edwin Diaz when they did in 2016, skipping AAA ball altogether. Look at where he's at now. He has a long way to go, but at 24, Diaz is looking like he could wind up being the greatest Mariners closer of all-time. You simply cannot get two strikes on you if you're trying to have a good at-bat against Diaz. In 93 batters that have had at least two strikes on them faced in his career, Diaz has struck out 62 of them. On a 0-2 count, he doesn't dance around; he goes right after the batter. Out of 17 career batters that ended their at-bat after the 0-2 pitch against Diaz, 11 of them struck out. Diaz is also on pace this season to get over 50 saves, a feat that no Mariner has done, not even Fernando Rodney... don't get me started there.
3. Starting Pitching
The starting pitching was a big question heading into the season, but so far, the Mariners starting pitching has been good enough to get us to this point. James Paxton is a guaranteed win almost every time he takes the mound and is looking like the next ace for the organization. Felix Hernandez is having a bad season but will go out and have a good game every once in awhile. Thankfully this year when Felix goes out and gives up four to six runs (almost every outing) the team still finds a way to win the game. Other than that, Marco Gonzales, Wade LeBlanc, and Mike Leake have been good pitchers to round out the rotation.
2. Jerry Dipoto/Scott Servais
Jerry Dipoto got a lot of slack from fans in the offseason for not picking up enough to get this team to the playoffs this season. All he has done so far is prove everyone wrong. He has created a lineup that is complete with speed at the top, power in the middle, and contact all-around. He has set up a stellar infield, and an outfield that leaves no blade of grass untouched. He has a starting pitching rotation that is not what everyone expected, a bunch of guys that are not superstar, household names, but that get the job done. He has also put together a great bullpen, led by the closer, Diaz, a product of the Seattle farm system. He has done everything correct to get this team into the playoffs and maybe even win the division this season. With that being said, you still need a coach that knows what the GM's visions are and work together to make it possible. Enter Scott Servais. Servais is not the typical hot-headed Mariners coach of past (i.e., Lou Piniella, Lloyd McClendon) but more of a humble leader. The team is playing for the coach this season and trusts Servais more than ever. In return, the team is winning games under coach Servais while he makes all the right moves bullpen and batting lineup wise, and also takes risks at the right moments.
1. The Baseball Gods
Need I say more? 23 one-run wins, and we are still a month from the all-star break. Some unknown void is giving the team luck this year, something they haven't had in years past. Maybe there's a curse on this team, and it's breaking. Maybe someone or something finally decided that we do deserve to go to the playoffs. Maybe... it's the baseball gods.
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