Mariners Closing In On First Place…For Real

Franklin Gutierrez and Yuniesky Betancourt celebrate after the Mariners' win.
Franklin Gutierrez and Yuniesky Betancourt celebrate after the Mariners' win.

A weekend sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks has brought the Mariners within 2.5 games of first place in the American League West.

On top of that, the team is one game above .500 for the first time since May 7.

After enduring a stretch of games in which they appeared to be losing their early-season lustre, the M’s have climbed back to relevance and have timed their winning with losses by first-place Texas. At the same time, the Mariners have kept pace with second-place Anaheim. The Angels and Rangers are now tied for first, with Seattle lurking close behind.

Yesterday’s 3-2 victory over the D-Backs could be attributed to any number of factors, but perhaps none more so than Arizona first baseman Tony Clark. The veteran mishandled a routine throw from third baseman Mark Reynolds (after a ground ball to third by Franklin Gutierrez) with two out in the bottom of the ninth yesterday, allowing the M’s to score the winning run in the form of Ronny Cedeno.

Just as instrumental in the victory was the pitching of Felix Hernandez, who once again displayed true ace form. King Felix lasted 7 1/3 innings before relinquishing a two-run home run to Reynolds in the eighth. He tossed 112 pitches along the way, striking out eight in the process.

Garrett Olson (aka neo-Ron Villone) and Mark Lowe then came on to pitch 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, with Lowe earning the win in one inning of work.

Despite the fact that the trade deadline looms ever closer on the horizon, the Mariners continue to fancy themselves buyers, rather than sellers, with their inspired play. This next stretch of games will be critical in determining the true identity of this M’s ballclub for the rest of the season.

After a three-game set with San Diego at home, the good ship Mariner sets sail on a nine-game road trip, making stops in Los Angeles (to face the Dodgers), New York (for the Yankees), and Boston. All three teams have better records than Seattle, and all are fighting for playoff position in their respective divisions. Walking away from the trip 5-4 would have to be considered a major victory.

They may not win pretty, but they just keep winning and that’s all that matters. This Mariner ballclub has kept things interesting all season long, and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

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