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'This is just magic.' The Mariners have the best record in baseball

MarinersMitch2019.jpg
Orlin Wagner
/
AP Photo
Mitch Haniger is congratulated by teammates after his solo home run during the ninth inning of the team's game against the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, April 10, 2019. The Mariners defeated the Royals 6-5 and swept the series.

The Mariners return home to T-Mobile Park this weekend with the best record in Major League Baseball: 13-2. They're hosting the Houston Astros after sweeping the Kansas City Royals this week. The team won Thursday 7-6 in 10 innings.

KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about the team's unexpected and record-breaking start.'ASTONISHING'

"This is just magic," Thiel said.

"One of the most amazing things about this run is the Mariners lead the league in errors, too. But the offense has made everything well. It's astonishing.

"In their first 14 games, they've hit 34 home runs, which broke a record by the 1932 New York Yankees. And those Yankees were led by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. I cannot believe I am putting those guys' names in the same sentence as the Mariners, but that's how well they've hit out of the gate.

"Another amazing achievement: in winning 12 of their 14, they've had at least six runs in those wins. That's also an all-time Major League record. So, we're seeing things here that have not been part of MLB history ever."

'CAN'T EVEN LOSE RIGHT'

"This was supposed to be the season of stepping back. Jerry Dipoto, the general manager, said before the season, to try to tamp down expectations, they were going to take a step back this year and not necessarily be competitive for a playoff position in order to acquire prospects who are going to be seasoned at minor league baseball and then enter the lineup at 2020 or 2021.

"Well, if that's the plan, they can't even lose right!"

DISCIPLINED AT THE PLATE

"One of the subtle things that's happening here is they also lead the league in walks," Thiel continued.

"The Mariners have been emphasizing a point to their hitters and it's finally sinking in: control the zone, meaning the strike zone. It speaks to being disciplined at the plate. Don't swing at bad pitches. Take a walk.

"That's such an important thing in baseball because you force the starting pitchers to work harder. So, the fact that holdover players, such as Ryon Healy and Daniel Vogelbach and Dee Gordon, are now taking walks tells me that the teaching of club is sinking in and that's a credit to Dipoto and his staff for getting the message across and making these guys effective hitters."

PITCHERS DOING THEIR PART

Thiel also noted that the team has had great contributions from each of its starting pitchers. Felix Hernández is pitching in the No. 5 spot and had a good first outing. He was pulled after one inning in his second outing reportedly due to food poisoning.

And Thiel said the relief pitchers have been "at least adequate."

WHERE DO THEY GO FROM HERE?

"I think as the trading deadline approaches at the end of July, Jerry Dipoto told Larry Stone of The Seattle Times that they would add players if they are in contention but they will not subtract any of their prospects they acquired in the offseason," Thiel said.

"They do have the luxury at the trade deadline of moving Edwin Encarnación and Jay Bruce, two veteran hitters who could probably help a contender, and not touch the young guys.

"So, they will add players if this freak-out continues. I don't expect it to happen but I didn't expect this to happen so, who knows?"

Never miss an episode again. Subscribe to Sports With Art Thiel with iTunes or Google Play now. You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.

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."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between historylink.org and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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