This weekend, the white-hot Seattle Mariners travel to Detroit, Rock City, to face the flailing Tigers in a critical, crucial series for the Second Wild Card in the AL and also Detroit’s hopes to be AL Central Champs. Seattle took round one yesterday, as the Tigers continued to reel.
Today’s game (Saturday) is THE highlight, with Felix Hernandez squaring off against new Tigers ace David Price. That matchup is a get-your-popcorn-and-beverage-and-don’t-move-from-the-couch classic on paper.
It is, as they used to say, nut-cutting time.
Despite their offensive torpor for most of the season, the Mariners are now tied for “the lead” for the second wildcard spot. Many critics, like yours truly, didn’t think their offense could sustain their pitching and they’d fall out of the race. Here they are, though, and their goal is simple. Score four runs a game.Â Achieving that seeming simple task (the league AVERAGE team scores 4.24 runs per game) portends victory; the M’s are 49-10 when scoring four runs.
The recent Mariners hot streak has now propelled them to an average runs per game of 3.97, as former millstones Dustin Ackley, Kendrys Morales and Logan Morrison have become productive. Ackley hit .365 with an .892 OPS in July, and still has an OPS+ under 100. So that should tell you how effective he was in the beginning of the year.
Seattle’s historic run prevention means they just need league average run production to excel – right now they’re doing that. They’re harvesting at just the right time.
The Tigers, proclaimed LORD GOD KING WINNERS OF THE TRADING DEADLINE QED, are (insert clever metaphor about a sinking ship or some other disaster). They made a mistake in thinking their competition was really Oakland in the ALCS, when instead they forgot they had to GET to the playoffs in order to beat Oakland and get to the World Series. Sure, they’ve had some key players get injured (Verlander, Sanchez and Soria all have owies), but they gambled to get the ace (Price) and not solidify their entire roster. Which means now, in the middle of a pennant race, tjhey have to trust guys like Robby Ray, Nick Castellanos and Austin Romine.
The fruit of their early labors, which looked so tasty and ripe a couple of weeks ago, may be taken away.
These games mean more for Detroit, since they have a series in Tampa next before heading to Minnesota, while the M’s go to Philadelphia and Boston for their next series. Detroit has to have these two games, else Seattle could build on their lead when they face the geezzers and gimps this next week.
Still, this being baseball, anything could happen. Tonight’s game could be 14-12, the M’s could get swept by the putrescent pair next week and Detroit could re-assert itself after the weekend.
This weekend, though, is critical. The team that handles the pressure, and can gather those
nuts wins will have the upper hand moving forward.