There are only so many ways you can describe a baseball team’s style of play, and at their core they all fall into a few classic tropes. You’ve got the classic underdogs, the Chaos Ball-ers, the overwhelmingly dominant, the plays-up/plays-down to their opponents, etc. The 2022 Mariners are strange in that they’ve flirted with so many different identities already this season - and are sure to tangle with more in the coming months.
They’re not a traditionally star-studded team, nor are they a jarring dichotomy of stars and scrubs. This team feels...equal. Balanced, even, when they’re firing on all cylinders. Until they break their drought, the Seattle Mariners will always have something to prove, but what’s most striking this season is that the players aren’t just out to prove the worth of the franchise they represent, they each have something to prove themselves.
Julio Rodríguez is the rookie phenom, working to live up to the hopes and dreams of a franchise, a nation and his own.
Eugenio Suárez, Jesse Winker and Adam Frazier all had stellar standalone seasons, and are trying to show that those seasons weren’t anomalies.
Carlos Santana and Justin Upton are fighting Father Time and the ageism of the league.
J.P. Crawford continues to battle against his top prospect disappointment in Philadelphia - and his All-Star snub last year.
Abraham Tor, Luis Torrens, Sam Haggerty and Dylan Moore are each eschewing years of doubt, striving to show how past organizations were foolish to have jettisoned them.
Cal Raleigh is reminding Mariners fans that Mike Zunino isn’t the only, inevitable ending to a homegrown catcher’s story.
Ty France has been overlooked by the entirety of southern California.
The starting rotation features a bizarre assortment of young, homegrown talent proving they belong; crafty soft-tossers proving that strikeouts are overrated; and an ace proving he’s worth the money.
The bullpen is a series of names only a Mariners fan could love (or really recognize).
And tonight, with the background noise of inexplicable “overrated” chants, this team with something to prove proved it once again.
For most of the game, it seemed like the Mariners were cooked.
Every winning streak has its inevitable end, and after an unexpected doubleheader and late-night arrival in Texas it wasn’t surprising that Seattle was dragging. Marco Gonzales had an uncharacteristically difficult night, but managed to hold the Rangers to five runs despite giving up 11 hits and, most crucially, gutted it out for six full innings.
Up until the top of the seventh, the lone offensive highlight had been upstart Sam Haggerty’s inside-the-park home run - the first Mariner to accomplish the feat since Willie Bloomquist in 2007.
But in the seventh, Haggerty lit the spark again. He and Julio singled back-to-back and drove former Angels nemesis Garrett Richards from the game. An egregious called third strike on France made things look dour, but then Santana walked to load the bases with two outs for the third time this game. And, unlike the previous two times, they managed to drive in some of those waiting runners with a Suárez two-run single.
Down two in the eighth, back-to-back-to-back singles from Frazier, Toro and Haggerty brought the M’s All-Star to the plate. A hit-by-pitch wasn’t the ideal PA, but it still pulled the Mariners within one. Then, jilted All-Star France crushed his signature line drive to score two and suddenly Seattle had the lead. Diego Castillo closed out the bullpen’s third scoreless inning, and it was all done in such a targeted, competent fashion that it felt silly we had ever even doubted them.
Perhaps that’s the lesson to depart from this season thus far: Do not doubt the Seattle Mariners.