Well, that's not exactly the start we were all hoping for was it? For those keeping track at home, the last time we checked in with the Mariners they were sitting at 3-5. In the ten games since, they've only mustered a 4-6 record, bringing their overall record to 7-11. Leaving them in 4th place in the AL West, 4 games behind the division leading Houston Astros.
Over the last 11 days, the Mariners completed getting swept by the LA Dodgers. Won 2 of 3 games versus the Texas Rangers. Lost 2 of 3 to KnowDan's Astros. Finally, they ended Week 3 by losing 2 of 3 to the lowly Twins, blowing the last 2 games in the late innings, with Sunday's defeat coming in the 11th inning.
Now before we all start to overreact and dismiss this team as dead and throw them on the tire fire, it's important to remember it's still only April, and we have roughly 140+ games left to decide this thing. This should be an all too familiar narrative for Cyclones fans. Hype filled team starts the year by limping out of the gate causing fans to lose their minds prematurely, then seem to figure it out just at the right time, only for them to, well you know.....This is baseball though, it has to work out differently, right? *feel sudden urge to drink heavily*
However, it's not all doom and gloom. As I mentioned above, it's still extremely early in the season, and way to early to start jumping to conclusions. On top of that, this Mariners team has shown the ability to be extremely scrappy, and continue to fight no matter what the score. This becomes apparent when you look at the Mariners overall record, and take a closer look at the final box scores. With the exception of a 12-0 defeat to Oakland in game 4 of the season, the Mariners have lost their other ten games by less than 3 runs in each game. This shows they're in every single game, and refuse to get blown out. This type of resolve can go a long way in a 162 game season, many of which are decided by 1 or 2 runs.
On the flip side of the equation, the Mariners have yet to win a single game by more than 3 runs. They are actually being outscored 67-89, or a -22 run differential. Many would argue they're extremely lucky to even have the record they do, and It's hard to argue against that. I'd point to the fact that this team is being tested early, and to be 7-11 after playing 1/3 of your games against two of the best teams in baseball while also scoring 22 runs less than your opponents show a team that's going to continue to fight all year.
When looking at a team with a negative run differential, you immediately point to the offense, and in years past with the Mariners, you'd be right. However, this teams early problems don't seem to be much on the offensive side of the ball. Instead, it's their pitching and bullpen that have had trouble holding early leads. This is something Mariners fans are not used to seeing, as last seasons team featured the best bullpen in baseball, and one of the top overall pitching staffs. This year, anyone not named Felix Hernandez makes you hold your breath while they're on the mound. (speaking of Felix, he's been outstanding, more on that later.) Even last seasons leader in Saves, Fernando Rodney has allowed late leads to slip. The offense has shown an ability to score runs, both early and late in games, but if the bullpen can't keep those leads, it could be a very frustrating year in Seattle.
The Mariners still have plenty of time to right the ship, and can make up some serious ground over the next two weeks. Starting today, they play 13 games in the next 14 days, all of them are against division opponents. They start off spending the next 10 games on the road before returning home for 3 games against Oakland. They'll look to move out of the cellar of the AL West and climbing above .500 for the first time in over two weeks as they travel to Texas, Houston, and Anaheim.
Hands down Nelson Cruz, and it's not close. Hell, this guy might be the hottest player in all of baseball right now. He currently leads the majors in home runs and RBI's, and sits in the top 5 in OPS. He's been the heart and soul of the lineup to date and one of it's most clutch hitters. He's been worth all of the money the Mariners allegedly overpaid to get him, and if he keeps it up, could be in the MVP discussion come October.
Who else, Felix Hernandez. I sense this might become a theme as the season goes on, but it's hard to argue with his production to date. In 4 starts, he's 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA with a k/9 rate of 10.29. In his last two starts, he's pitched 16 innings, while only giving up 1 ER while striking out a whopping 21 batters. He seems to be pissed off that the writers gave the Cy Young to Corey Kluber over him last year, and on a mission to prove to everyone who the best pitcher in the AL is. Should be fun to watch.