Ah, Mariners, how you tease me.
(Full disclosure: this post was written Monday afternoon and updated to include the results of Monday’s game. Be prepared for rapid changes of emotional overtones.)
Last Tuesday, I said that the Mariners could gain a measure of redemption for their embarrassing defeat in their previous game by beating the Red Sox on national television. That would put them back over .500 and provide a measure of hope for their ability to overcome adversity.
As it turned out, they did win that game. And the next one. They lost the final game of the series against the Red Sox, but then won three straight from the Angels, coming from behind in all three games.
5-1 is nice. Not a sign that they’ve turned a corner, much less that next year has arrived. But, combined with Houston’s 1-5 record over the same stretch, it put the Ms into second place in the division. Even more interesting, it means there’s only one team ahead of them in the fight for the second Wild Card. Amusingly, that’s the Red Sox.
But the thing is, the last fifteen years–and especially the last three–have conditioned Mariners’ fans to, as Mel Brooks put it, hope for the best, expect the worst. Before Monday’s games, the Mariners were three games behind the Red Sox in the standings, but they won’t play again this season*. Even if the Ms exceed that expectation of “the worst” they–and we, their fans–have to rely on others to beat the Red Sox.
* That’s “play each other,” naturally. If both teams were done for the year, there wouldn’t be much point in this post. That said, there’s always the chance of a one-game match-up if the two teams are tied for a playoff spot at the end of the season. But be honest: even though MLB would consider that a regular-season game, would you? I doubt I’m the only fan who would think of it as a playoff game.
That’s one way to look at it. Another is that we don’t care about how the Sox do; the important foe is the Tigers, who currently hold the second Wild Card slot. Since the Ms’ can’t control the Red Sox, ignore them and concentrate on beating the Tigers.
Guess who came to town last night? Yup. Detroit ambled in, owners of the best record in baseball since the All-Star Break, ready for a three game series. Since the Mariners were 3 1/2 games back, even sweeping the Tigers the same way they did the Angels wouldn’t put the Ms ahead. At most, it would close the gap while putting the Red Sox into the lead for that last playoff position. And–not-so-odd coincidence–this is the last time the Ms will face the Tigers this season, so they’d be depending on outside help to make up that last half game*.
* For the record, the Mariners have just three games remaining against the Blue Jays, the current first Wild Card team–and as of yesterday, the Ms were five games back. Help needed, no question. And, just to wrap up the possibilities, the Mariners are seven games behind the Rangers for the West title with (gee!) seven head-to-head games left. Help needed there, too.
But a sweep–or even just a series victory–against the Tigers would show that the Mariners are capable of continuing something they’ve started. Maybe it won’t show that they can finish what they start, but at this point, we’re not honestly thinking about anything as long-term as the end of the season. Show us they can put together a winning streak longer than three games*. Then we’ll talk.
* As of Monday, they’d won three in a row six times this season, including the weekend sweep of the Angels, and four in a row twice.
Any rational person would consider the Mariners’ playoff hopes dead along about now. But as Mel Brooks showed–yes, we’re back to him again–sometimes all it takes to bring the dead back to life is an abnormal brain and a bunch of leftover special effects. And you know what? A 5-1 record works just as well.
The preliminary results of the Mariners’ attempt at resurrection? A 3-0 victory. Can they make it a five-game winning streak and clinch the series win? Tune in tonight.