It’s quite a surprise for Mariners fans for the team to be close to first place in the American League West at this time of year. KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked with KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about what’s happened so far and what might be in store for the rest of the season.
Mariners In Contention
"Normally the Mariners are out of contention by Memorial Day," Thiel joked.
"Here they are challenging the Houston Astros for the lead in the American League West. It's a remarkable run that I don't think anybody foresaw. And it was even more remarkable because it was based on starting pitching."
"They were getting quality starts from almost everybody in the rotation. And the bullpen was backing it up with great finishes in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings."
"So it was a nice balance and then they lost a couple during the week to Texas and came back to earth a bit. But it did establish that they do have quality talent."
"They did put themselves into contention for the postseason."
Thiel pointed out it's been 16 years since the Mariners have appeared in the playoffs - the longest postseason drought in the four major professional sports.
"They made a great trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, who are in town this weekend," he continued.
"They acquired a relief pitcher, Alex Colome, who led the American League in saves last year. Colome will be pitching the eighth inning ahead of Edwin Diaz, their great closer. The combination there is probably as strong as the Mariners have had in 15 years."
"They also acquired Denard Span, a 34-year-old outfielder, who gives them a lot of depth and versatility that they lacked ever since the Ichiro episode exposed the fact that they don't have a solid backup in left field. They've needed one and Span, I think, is going to be a guy who can play all positions, including center."
"So, manager Scott Servais has a lot of options now with his outfielders. That's a long-term addition that will be helpful for the rest of the season. And I think Span is going to be a big help regardless of the position he plays in the outfield."
"I think Colome has a great opportunity here to create a dominant bullpen, as long as the other guys hold form."
"There's an opportunity here for this bullpen to stay sharp. And maybe the Mariners can actually get that fifth and final wild card (playoff) spot."
Trade Was A Reward
"I think Jerry Dipoto, the general manager, made this trade as something of a reward for these guys being as good as they are. That tells them that the management has faith in their ability to sustain and they made this move to try to create some momentum."
"That was a smart move by Dipoto. He gave up two minor league pitchers who weren't going to factor in the 2018 season for two players who are going to contribute this season."
"You can tell the urgency is upon Dipoto and the rest of the Mariners to get it done now. And I think they've given themselves a shot."