Surprise! The Mariners Are In The Playoff Hunt

Sep 15, 2016

The Mariners host the Houston Astros at Safeco Field this weekend as the pennant race heats up. The Mariners have won eight games in a row, including all of the games on their latest road trip.

Sports commentator Art Thiel says it's a very exciting time for the team and their fans.

'Remarkable'

With sweeps of the Athletics and Angels, the Mariners completed the third perfect road trip in team history this week.

"It is remarkable," Thiel said. "These guys were deader than dead at the end of August with a long losing streak. It seemed like it was all over. Writers and radio talk show hosts and fans were already into their obituaries.

"And look what we have here — a pennant race!"

Rare Road Trip

"The remarkable thing is that 6-0 road trip," Thiel continued. "I hope fans understand how rare that is. The Mariners have only done it two other times.

"The main reason [for the road trip success] is the starting pitching has really developed the way I think that General Manager Jerry Dipoto would have liked to have seen in April. 

"The recovery of Taijuan Walker [who pitched his first career shutout and third complete game Tuesday] along with the steady performances from Hisashi Iwakuma, Felix Hernandez and now a young guy, Ariel Miranda, picked up in midseason, is very exciting for Mariner fans.

"And that does bode well for the rest of the season."

Big Hitters Come Through

On the hitting side, the Mariners have been getting consistent production from Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.

"Those big hitters are actually doing what they were paid to do," Thiel said. "They are meeting expectations. Not to say that that is bad or wrong, it's just that that's why they were here.

"The thing that makes this team exciting is not only because they can win late and come from behind and do a lot of dramatic things. The thing that surprised me most was Edwin Diaz, the 22-year-old closer.

Diaz: Exciting Surprise

"He was a minor league AA starting pitcher who was converted to relief in just about a month in June. And he was so good, the Mariners brought him up to the big club.

"And now this guy has saved 15 of his 16 save opportunities. And he has the most saves in baseball since Aug. 1.

"It's a remarkable thing for someone so  young to come up here and solve a vulnerability with the Mariners."

$8 Seats for 8-Game Streak

In honor of the eight-game winning streak the Mariners had going into this weekend, new lead owner John Stanton says view reserved seats will only cost $8 all weekend. The goal is to pack Safeco Field for the important series with the Astros.

"How about that?" Thiel mused. "That is something the old regime would've never thought of. But Stanton is savvy about retail. Stanton has said 'I want this place packed.'

"He understands this is a football town with the Seahawks doing well, the Huskies doing well. And the Seattle Storm are in the playoffs.

"There are a lot of things to keep everybody's interest but he wants it focused on the Mariners in a September pennant race.

"This is a big deal. I know that it's so novel here that people may have a hard time knowing how to act."

A Run For the Playoffs

The Mariners have 16 games left in the regular season. Thiel said they have a good chance to make the playoffs.

"This schedule is very favorable to the Mariners," he said. "They have 10 [games] at home. Besides the three against Houston, they have three more next week against Toronto [which has lost 10 of 14 entering the weekend].

"They go on the road for six against Minnesota for three and Houston for three. And then they close with four against the A's [at home].

"None of those teams are playing very well right now. So the chances of success, really, are in the Mariners' favor.

"They are just a little ways behind the last playoff position. The schedule is working in their favor. And they finally got a rotation, a bullpen and a lineup that are all clicking simultaneously. It is hard to believe."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.