A definite goal this season for the Seattle Mariners was to get to .500 or possibly over. However, after another confusing home series loss, this one a sweep to the last place Houston Astros, Seattle can finish no better than .500 this season. And, that will be a stretch, because they would have to win their last sixteen games in a row. Seattle has only won one of their last six home series, and they have been swept in three of team. Four of those five series losses were to teams under .500: Toronto, Milwaukee, the Angels, and Houston. After a hot July, Seattle could not take advantage of an easier schedule. So, as the Mariners put a bow on 2013, what is there to look forward to this season?
The Young Starters. I said earlier this season that I envisioned there being two spots in the rotation open for 2014. It might be three now, if the team doesn’t bring back Joe Saunders. Saunders has cooled down the stretch, going 2-6 in his last ten starts. With a poor start against the Astros last Tuesday, his ERA climbed to over 5.00 on the season at 5.18, the highest it has been since June 3rd. Mariners fans will get a good look at the possible future down the stretch with starts by Erasmo Ramirez, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton. Ramirez has worked his ERA down from 13.50 after a bad first start against Boston to 4.57. In 11 starts, Ramirez has gone 5-1. Taijuan Walker is done for the season after making three starts at the professional level. Seattle is playing it safe with Walker, shutting him down to preserve his arm not because of an injury. Walker went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 15 IP, striking out 12 batters and walking four. Taking his spot will be James Paxton. Paxton had an impressive debut, beating the Wild Card leading Rays limiting them to four hits and two runs, one earned, in six innings of work.
Spoilers. Although the Mariners won’t be in the playoff race, they will have a hand in it. Seattle tightened the Wild Card race in the American League last weekend taking two of three from the Rays, the current leader of the second spot. Thirteen of their remaining sixteen games are against teams in the playoff picture: the Cardinals, the Tigers, the Royals, and the A’s. It’ll be good for a young team to face that caliber of competition.
Finish the Season Strong. Last year’s Mariner team finished 75-87. To match that, Seattle would have to finish 10-6. So, there is a chance that the Mariners won’t even match their 2012 record. But, is this a better team than last year? Yes, I believe it is. Seattle can finish the season strong, and they can take that momentum into 2014. It has been one of those years that the American League was loaded, you can see that from all the close playoff races going down the stretch. This team is in great shape going into 2014. The young bats have begun to produce, and the Mariners’ offense isn’t as bad as it was to end the 2012 season. The rotation, already top heavy with Hernandez and Iwakuma, might become dynamite if Ramirez, Walker, and Paxton bloom. This team has taken a step forward; it just may not have the record to match.