Something like three hours ago we all felt the same disappointment. The Seattle Mariners will not be playing baseball tonight. I remember times, just last year, where off-days felt like a sort of mercy. The M's played the night that Jack Z was fired. We had to play ball that night! Every morning in August, as a staff we would, nearly in disbelief, remark the same thing, "I can't believe they're playing again." It was a shell-shocking season.
Back in those times, Colin O'Keefe, our former writer turned Mariners spy, would need consolation quite often. You see, Colin took this all considerably harder than anyone I've ever met. It affected his hour-to-hour mood. In those times, I had a simple numeral I would repeat to him every time I knew he was about to lose it again. It became something of a mantra for all of us, I think. It was nothing fancy, nothing smart or original. It was just "2016".
Well, here we are. At 28-18, ten games over, we could cite an entire list of "the last time the M's..." and "it has been since..." that would all go back to at least 2003. The team is rolling over inferior opposition, and maybe most encouragingly, there isn't a single player that you could single out as over-performing. There's plenty of room to believe that the ceiling is well above us. As a team, the Mariners are 5th in the MLB in wRC+ at 112, and by many accounts, the bats aren't fully heated up. But, it's time to get real with what's to come. May should have been easy and they treated it as such. For the M's, coming soon is a flurry of tests and tough teams.
To end May we get three games against an absolute rock-bottom Twins team, four against a really, very strange Padres squad, and then the road gets rocky. Following the Padres split-series four-game home and away, the M's will fly straight to Texas to take on the Rangers, come home late Sunday night, and the next morning start a seven-game homestand including a four-game series with Cleveland and another three games against the Rangers. Six games in two weeks against who appears to be the main rival for the division throne. It's six games that just might determine pole-position for the rest of the year.
The Mariners will then, after a travel day, land in Tampa Bay, fly directly to Boston, and finish an eleven-game road trip with four games in Detroit. To end June, they'll play two of the best teams in the National League at home in the Cardinals and the Pirates. It's a tough schedule against mostly teams in the hunt. It's time to get to business. The lead they've built, it just might need to be as lofty as possible to make it through the month.
There's good news, though. Supposing the M's can close out May on a strong note, let's say 4-2 against the Twins and the Padres, they'll find themselves going into June at 32-20. That's better than last year's Astros. Hell, that's better than every single team in the MLB last year except the Cardinals on the same date.
The M's are coming up on a tough month. They just might be tough enough for it.