The Mariners host the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend at Safeco Field. The team is coming off a road trip that included a lot of drama.
It’s the topic of this week’s conversation between KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel and Morning Edition Host Kirsten Kendrick.
'Remarkable' Road Trip
Thiel said the Mariners have their hands full with National League contenders the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend followed by a home series with the American League West-leading Astros, who they swept last weekend.
"The last 10 games they've played have been remarkable," Thiel said.
"They won six. They started off the series in Texas, losing two of three. Then they swept the Astros in Houston."
"That was not only the best series of the year, it might have been the best since the 2001 season because they beat all four of Houston's aces. And the Astros have the best pitching staff in baseball."
"And then they go to Oakland and lose two of three. But they lost two games by one run each. And then it took a home run by Dee Gordon Tuesday (his second of the season) - 165-lb. Dee Gordon - to end 11 shutout innings by both pitching staffs with a two-run homer."
"Now they've got nine games against the tough guys in baseball. So, if you're into high drama, this is your team."
Drama With Personnel
"Robinson Cano finally returned from his 80-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's performance-enhancing drug policy. He was taking a masking agent to hide is PED use."
"He returned Tuesday to the Mariners in Oakland. He played first base in his first base in his first game. Then second base. And he may even play a little bit of third base on occasion. They're going to try to fit him in."
"The other drama was on the pitching mound where Felix Hernandez was demoted to the bullpen. But then he's back in the rotation because James Paxton is now injured. He was hit with a line drive in his pitching arm. He's on the 10-day disabled list. So, guess who gets back in the rotation? Felix Hernandez."
"It's just been amazing. Felix pitched in relief of Paxton five-and-two-thirds innings. Gave up the winning home run in Oakland but still was creditable. Giving some hope."
Wild Card Chance?
Thiel said it's possible that the Mariners could make it into the playoffs as a wild card team.
"It's hard to remember what that looks like," Thiel said. "The Mariners have been without playoffs for 16 years."
"It's going to be difficult because the Mariners are winning so many close games. And they're not winning enough games with a little breathing room."
"That's tension. That's exhaustion. You're putting a real load on your bullpen. You're putting a real load on the hitters when they're not winning comfortably - at least once in a while."
"That has created what they call a negative run differential. They're giving up more runs than they're scoring."
"If they can turn that around and get consistently productive hitting to go along with the decent pitching, yeah, I think it's possble. But who knows if that happens?"
"But, whatever transpires, this has been a hugely entertaining team."