Last year and the year before, it was clear that the Mariners were bought into a rebuilt system where they sought to seriously compete around 2022. 2021 was set to be just another building block as the young talent developed and eventually became a star-studded roster that could dominate the league for years.
Christmas came early for Mariner fans, as Seattle won four of their first five series, most recently splitting a two-game series with the Dodgers. They are 11-7, in sole possession of the first place in the AL West division, the second seed in the American League, and the fourth in the entire MLB. It is, of course, far too early in the season to consider them contenders, but they are at the very least showing us glimpses of what they can be.
The season started with a 2-1 series win over the San Francisco Giants, who are the third-best team by record in the MLB right now, including an absolute nail-biter of a season opener, with the Mariners staging a comeback from 6-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning to walk it off in ten. They then took two brutal losses to the Chicago White Sox before winning the third in the only series loss the Mariners have taken. Following a 2-10 loss to the Minnesota Twins, the Mariners bounced back with two close wins to take that series. A four-game series with Baltimore had two games delayed due to rain and instead consisted of two days of seven-inning double-headers. Seattle won three of them. The Mariners then came home on April 16 to host a devastating back-to-back set of five games between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros, off appearing in the final four in last season’s playoffs, could not take the series, falling 2-1. The world champion Dodgers followed suit, and the Mariners shocked the league by taking the first game 4-3. Los Angeles won the second game 1-0 but considering they’re the best team in baseball, the Mariners stood tall.
This Mariner squad is winning and doing so in an exciting fashion. Six of their 11 wins have been comebacks, a number of those being large. The Giants were up 6-1, the Sox up 4-1, the Twins up 6-0, and the Astros up 5-2. It is the absolute spark plug nature of the Mariner offense that keeps every game winnable. Mitch Haniger and Ty France are one of the strongest duos in the league, pounding out a combined seven home runs and 24 RBIs between the two. Any other Mariner in the lineup can show up at any given time as well. J.P. Crawford is a contact machine at times, and Kyle Seager occasionally shows shades of who he was earlier in his career. Evan White, Jose Marmolejos, and the rookie Taylor Trammell are huge power threats that can shift the sway of the game with one swing of the bat. Reigning AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis just returned from an injury and hasn’t even contributed yet. The upside is tremendous.
This doesn’t even touch on the defense. Crawford and White won gold gloves last year, and Seager has been a perennial gold glove candidate his entire career (but was perpetually snubbed by the existence of Matt Chapman). Haniger is exceptional, Lewis and Trammell can cover incredible distances. Dylan Moore has made some wizard-like highlight plays to cement himself as a core part of the team.
The pitching is the worst part of the team so far, and they’re not bad. Outside of losing James Paxton 24 pitches into his return to Seattle, the rest of the rotation has functioned marginally well. Yusei Kikuchi has shown signs of life the Mariners were looking for the last few years. Sheffield and Flexen can hold down the game for several innings at a time. Marco Gonzales has struggled so far but 2020 was a testament to who he can be, and he’s fresh off absolutely demolishing the Dodgers to the tune of one run over seven innings.
I’ve told this story before. The fun Mariner April gives way to the sad May and the sadder June, but I have hope regardless. The Mariners are playing like a team you can’t count out of any game, and they just came off a homestand where they went 3-2 against legitimate contenders. They’re the talk of the league, and deservedly so.