The Seattle Mariners ended the first half of the season on a high point, earning their first series sweep of the season. Overall, July has been a very good month for the Mariners going 8-5 against Texas, Cincinnati, Boston, and the Angels. Texas, Cincinnati, and Boston would all be in the playoffs if the season ended today. The schedule gets kinder starting the second half with a trip to last-place Houston followed by another home stand, this time against the Indians and Twins. Are the Mariners going to have a second half surge?
Offense. Seattle went 8-5 because the young bats are finally producing to the level that Mariners’ fans thought they would be seeing all season. Kyle Seager has gotten a hit in every Mariner game in July, riding 14 game hit streak into Houston tomorrow. Seager is batting .293 on the season, a blistering .458 for July. If you throw out the Reds series, Justin Smoak has been almost as hot as Seager, getting a hit in nine out of ten July games. Smoak is now batting .272, forty-one points above his career average and fifty-five points above his 2012 average (.217). Hitting must be contagious because Michael Saunders also got a hit in every game of the recent seven game home stand. Saunders drove in seven in seven game, and he raised his average from .207 to .225. Combined with the RBI prowess that has been shown from Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales, a surging offense has led to an 8-5 July and could mean a strong second half for Seattle.
Starting Rotation. Felix Hernandez has snuck into Cy Young talk, being mentioned as right behind the Tigers Max Scherzer. He leads the Mariners in wins, ERA, and strikeouts, and Mariners fans know they can count on him for a strong second half. The rest of the rotation has been streaky. Joe Saunders has a hot hand winning his last three starts, including two road starts in Cincinnati and Texas, but finished the first half 8-8 with a 4.24 ERA. Hisashi Iwakuma made the All-Star team, but he finished the first half icy going 1-3 in his last six starts. The Mariners are hoping his first-half finisher, a win over the Angels, will mean a strong second half. Aaron Harang showed some first-half highlights, throwing two complete game shut outs, but he went 4-8 with a 5.38 ERA. And, the fifth spot has been a revolving door that looks to now be going to Erasmo Ramirez, who was hammered in his first start by Boston. For a second half surge, there needs to be more stability behind Felix.
Bullpen. Tom Wilhelmsen is back in the closer’s role, having converted 19 saves in the first half for Seattle. Oliver Perez, Yoervis Medina, and Charlie Furbush have all done great jobs setting-up or covering the closer’s role when Wedge went with a closer by committee. Outside of those four, though, the Mariners’ bullpen hasn’t been reliable. With the extra innings the starters usually go, maybe four will be enough. But the rest of the relievers, Lucas Luetge, Blake Beavan, Carter Capps, and Danny Farquhar, have ERAs over 6.00. From what we saw in the first half, you can only count on about two innings out of the bullpen. For a second half surge, I would like to see more reliability out of the bullpen to pick up a starter who is having a down night.