Always remember the beginning.
On Tuesday, April 12th of 2016, in front of just over thirteen thousand at Safeco Field, the Seattle Mariners lost to the Texas Rangers. The game took just over two and a half hours. It was early in the season, just the eighth game of the year. The score was 8-0. An absolutely lifeless affair seen by a mid-Spring crowd from a team that was limping out of the gates to celebrate its home-opening series. I am sure most of you remember the game, but maybe you purposefully forgot it. It was, for me, the absolute low point of the season so far. The M's had just lost five in a row and plenty of folks were ready to call the season finished with a record of 2-6. It was, by far, the angriest I have ever seen the Mariner community.
Between that game and now is what feels like a lifetime of baseball seasons. I suppose one-hundred and three games is a fair amount of distance. There was the Dae-Ho Lee walkoff the very next game, Adam Lind leaving the yard, and Leonys, both twice. Chris Iannetta walked us off, too, since that 8-0 loss on a Tuesday. There was a time where the M's were given 80% odds to go to the playoffs, 70% to win the AL West outright. Then there was June. A hard plummet from a cliff we felt so freshly firm upon. The injuries, the one-run losses, they piled up and up until ten games over five-hundred became one game below. All that time, at varying levels for each of us, the idea of postseason baseball floated around our imaginations. The image dimmed somewhat heading into the All Star Break. For some, I'm sure, it almost completely died. The Astros had finally mounted their rightful place above us, Texas was impervious to the forces of the universe.
It goes without saying, but one-hundred and sixty-two games is an impossibly large amount of games. Yet, baseball is full of so many chances, that it's sometimes difficult to call a single season a reasonable sample. It has to be, though. The team changes beyond recognition every time Spring rolls around again. Within the half-year it takes to complete a baseball season, as we have all felt more than ever this year, there are crests and waves of emotion that feel miles apart. Nathan beautifully summarized what, for many, was an emotional boxing match of a weekend that just concluded. I missed every moment of it working. The experience of this season has been different for every fan.
We have all, I believe, fallen in love with this particular team in this particular season. The emotion demanded of them has been too extreme to not call it love. There are so many characters in the play, all with their own lines, measured and mounting suspense. The high times of May lead to the dark valley of June and the aimless wandering of July. But now, now that has all changed, again.
Depending on your belief system, the second wildcard will be won at either 88 or 89 games. Hell, maybe you're really crazy and think it's 87 or 90. I won't speak for you. Going with 88/89 games, however, let's play that out. Fifty-one games remain on the Seattle Mariners schedule before the postseason begins in earnest. Of the remaining teams to be played, only five have winning records. That includes six games remaining against the Astros, three with the Blue Jays, the Yankees, and two remaining against the Tigers. The rest of the teams in the remaining schedule, the A's, Angels, Brewers, White Sox, and Twins, lay about like so many sticks of kindling near a great and growing fire. They are to be eaten, not to be fed.
Fifty-one games remaining, with a need to achieve 88/89 wins. That's either a 30-21 or 31-20 record from here on out. It's not an outrageous streak, it's playing either .588 or .607 ball to close the year against the cannon-fodder of the AL West (the M's have ten remaining against both the Angels and A's) and other assorted trash. Not counting the recently-gutted Yankees, twenty-nine of the remaining games are against basement-quality opposition.
Meanwhile, the Mariners have done nothing but return to their talent level. A .588 ball club, even a .600 club doesn't feel too far-fetched for a team still waiting for Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano to heat back up. Mike Zunino has come in, taken the starting catcher job by the throat, and improved the position over an already passable Chris Iannetta. Guillermo Heredia has made starting Norichicka Aoki no longer necessary. Shawn O'Malley is riding a hot streak well-above his pay grade. The rotation, while needing bolstering, is steady with the likes of Felix, Kuma, Paxton, Ariel Miranda, and Wade LeBlanc. Out of the blue, Jerry Dipoto has created a flame-breathing monster of a bullpen, an ancient demon that is only getting stronger with the likely returns of Steve Cishek and Charlie Furbush. This is still the second-best offense in the entire league by wRC+. The pitching staff is still league-average in FIP.
For a brief moment, I want to go back to the beginning, perhaps a false one. The night that Robinson Cano hit that seventh-inning home run in mid-September to tie the game at two. If you can't remember the night exactly, look a little harder. The packed house, the black shirts waving. Safeco absolutely about to explode in anticipation of what looked like the only outcome. Of course, we remember the real outcome. The King would eventually walk off his thrown, cap held towards the full house standing to thank him. One game short. Then there was last year, full of false promise. We weren't sure about this season. The odds were long, the division strong. Yet, here we are, under a new regime, in a year we weren't given much chance, knocking down the door.
It is time to shrug off the chains of the past fifteen years. The Kid told them just as much in front of more than one-hundred thousand on-lookers this weekend.
I'm not sure this all began when Fernando Rodney walked in the winning run on Night Court, but I'm also not sure it didn't.
One more thing, I haven't mentioned until now. Scroll up to the current division standings. Seven games between us and the top.
The Seattle Mariners have seven games remaining against the Texas Rangers.
There was a time to plant. Now it is time to pluck up what has been planted.