Seattle Mariners remain in playoff contention despite end to winning streak

The Seattle Mariners’ six game win streak finally came to an end Saturday with a 5-2 loss against the best team in baseball, the Houston Astros. Against one of the best pitchers in baseball, Lance McCullers, the Mariners previously potent offense was able to manage only one run on Robinson Cano’s RBI single in the sixth inning. Though their starting pitcher, Sam Gaviglio, only allowed a two run home run to Josh Reddick in the third inning, he still took the tough luck loss. The Mariners actually had a chance to win the game in the ninth inning, when a base hit and three walks in a row brought in a run and loaded the bases for Carlos Ruiz. Unfortunately, he struck out looking. The win streak was fun while it lasted, but even though it’s over the Mariners have definitely showed the rest of the league that their blend of offensive firepower and decent starting pitching should keep them in playoff contention for the rest of the year.

For a long time, the Mariners have been known as one of the more offensively inept teams in baseball. Going into 2017, they were certainly supposed to be better than inept, but there were no special expectations for a lineup that looked pretty bare beyond Jean Segura, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager. But the Mariners’ surge back into contention has been mirrored by a huge increase in offensive production. Two of the Mariners’ most criticized hitters, Danny Valencia and Mike Zunino, have each raised their batting averages above .250. Valencia had a great month of May hitting the ball, and Zunino has been special to watch in June, hitting .348 with nine home runs and 30 RBIs (a Mariners catcher record for June). Ben Gamel, who started the season in Triple-A, has been a revelation, and with a few more at-bats will qualify to be one of the leagues’ leaders in batting average with a BA of .346. Finally, two important pieces of the Mariners offense, Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura, are both back healthy and have picked up right where they started the season with batting averages of .318 and .338, respectively. For the first time in quite a while, the Mariners appear to be dangerous at every spot in the lineup.

Seattle should get an additional boost with the return of their starting pitching staff. The King, Felix Hernandez, made his return Friday, pitching six innings and earning a win thanks to an offense that scored 13 runs. Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly, the two final components to a completely healthy Mariners team, are both working their way back to full health, with Iwakuma scheduled to make one more rehab start before rejoining the team. Even if the Mariners should suffer more injuries to their pitching staff in the months to come, they look to have several serviceable spot starters in Gaviglio, recent call-up Andrew Moore, and Christian Bergman. With the team almost back to full health, and the offense producing at an extremely high level, the Mariners look to be firmly in the wild card race.

Yardbarker: MLB

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