The Mariners return home from their 6-3 road trip having eliminated the "ifs".
In my mind, it's no longer a matter of "if the Mariners do this or that then they have a good chance to play in October" or even "if team X or Y does this or that then the Mariners have a chance to make the postseason." No, it's completely in the Mariners' hands at this point and they seem well equipped to take this to the next level.
The moves have been made, help has been acquired, the offense is producing and the pitching remains stellar. The schedule, while daunting both in opposition and travel, provides the Mariners with the opportunity to go straight at the division competition. You couldn't ask for more when it comes to September baseball.
The Mariners passed yet another hurdle in Boston Sunday, overcoming the adversity of Hisashi Iwakuma faltering and Robinson Cano taking himself out of the game. An early three-run lead was quickly erased, but no worries there as the Mariners have all sorts of new offensive tricks up their sleeves. After surviving the hiccup coming out of the All-Star break where the team struggled mightily to score three runs per game for two weeks, Seattle is now averaging five runs per game in August.
Along with the new additions, the incumbents have improved. No one is looking over their shoulder wondering when these runs are going to stop coming. All year long they have believed in their pitching. It appears now they believe in their ability to put runs on the board, too. No one seems less surprised about this recent turn of events than the Mariners themselves. It is not a case of "Why not us?" but rather, "Damn straight us." They are walking the walk right now.
It struck me after the win Friday night that while the team was happy, the celebration was not quite as raucous as one might expect. It was a big win. A huge ninth-inning comeback. The best of the year and in recent memory, but on the field and in the clubhouse the celebration was not unlike any other post-win celebration I have seen in recent weeks. "Damn," I thought to myself, "they are acting like they have been here before."
This isn't like previous years where losing teams were dumping Gatorade on players who accomplished some impressive feat in the weekly win. No, this is all about "we got the job done and have another game tomorrow." A game that means something. It's not entirely businesslike; it's light in the clubhouse. But I can't stress enough that these guys are acting like they feel they belong here. There is no surprise whatsoever. This confidence is real.
The Mariners return home for a six-game homestand having completed their first three-game sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park and equaling last year's win total of 71. It has been a month since they lost back-to-back games. They are scoring runs and survived seeing their top three starters give up early runs in Boston. They are answering questions and passing tests. They have shown what they can be and have been that for the better part of a month. They have been the team that – according to a number of people in the game I've talked to in the last week – no one wants to face.
It has been a season-long climb to get here and now it's a matter of playing good baseball. Something they are now equipped to do every time they take the field.