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Mariners 'Very Entertaining' To Watch Right Now

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
Mike Zunino, right, is embraced by Leonys Martin after Zunino's sacrifice fly that gave the team a victory over the Detroit Tigers in the 15th inning Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, in Seattle. The Mariners won 6-5.

The Mariners take their six-game winning streak on the road this weekend. They're playing the Athletics in Oakland.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel talked about the Mariners' back-to-back sweeps of the Angels and Tigers and how that has helped position the team for a playoff run.

Something Special Happening?

"I can't quite say it's time to get excited like it's 2001 again or 1995," Thiel said. "But what I can say is that this is an extremely entertaining baseball team."

"They play a lot of close games. They have a lot of drama in each game. And they're winning more than their share.

"Sure, winning makes everything exciting. We all understand that. But the way they can win has added some juice to this season that I can't remember — since probably 2001.

"They lead the Major Leagues in three-run home runs. That's a big deal. They've done it 12 times [this season].

"What that means is that they are playing close games that can be won on a single swing of the bat. That means you're paying attention because you never know with this team what they might do.

"This [week's] series against Detroit was a great example. The game Tuesday night that went 15 innings that was really compelling theater included in the eighth inning, when the Mariners were trailing 4-1, a three-run homer by Kyle Seager. It tied it up.

"And it stretched into seven more innings of taut, quality baseball. The managers were making moves and expending the bullpen," Thiel said.

Wildcard Shot?

"They wound up sweeping the series. They won six in a row. Eight of nine. And the home stand was 8-2. Really a tremendous boost for the Mariners right now — in August.

"And this winning streak has gotten them to the edge of playoff contention when seemingly they were out of it just a few weeks ago."

The Most Fun To Watch

"There have been three guys who've developed in this season that you couldn't have anticipated, I think," Thiel continued.

"One is James Paxton, who is a starter now finally hitting his stride as a 100 mph lefty.

"The other guy who has really been remarkable is catcher Mike Zunino. He might have been the worst-hitting player in baseball last year. They demoted him to Triple-A. They worked on his swing. They emphasized a team-wide mantra of controlling the strike zone.

"And Mike Zunino now swings at fewer bad pitches and makes better contact with strikes. He's becoming what everybody had hoped when he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2012.

"The third guy is 'Mr. Electricity' Edwin Diaz - the reliever who's only 22 years old. He was in Double-A as recently as May. He's made the leap to not only the Major League roster but he's now the closer.

"He seems to have this steely, unflappable demeanor. He's seen Mike Trout and Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera in this last week and he's stared down them all!"

'Sick To Death' Of Missing Playoffs

"There's an overwhelming urgency [on the part of the new management] to win this season," Thiel said.

"They are sick to death of having the longest absence from the playoffs in Major League baseball — 15 years.

"As a partial consequence, General Manager Jerry Dipoto has had 28 pitchers so far this season. The next new guy will be 29 — breaking the club record.

"They're willing to tell any player, 'If you're not delivering, you're going to go down or you're going to go on the bench or we're going to get rid of you.'

"That kind of pressure is making this team entertaining and successful. And I think fans are in for six weeks of very compelling baseball."

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

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
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