Photo courtesy of USA Today
By: Ross Sutton
FIrst off, I would like to apologize to the Mariners and their fans if I jinx the team by writing this blog like I did when I declared Didi Gregorius the most underrated player in baseball at the end of April. That being said, the Mariners are killing it right now. Not only have they won five in a row and eight of their last ten games, but they have also gotten a little lucky as their hot streak has coincided with the Astros playing the Yankees and Red Sox, leading to a three-game losing streak. Houston has also lost seven out of their last ten games, so the Mariners have taken advantage, and taken over first place in the AL West. This isn’t a measly half game lead either, as the Mariners currently lead the Astros by a respectable two games. So how have the Mariners seemingly come out of nowhere to take possession of the AL West? I believe the three players that deserve the most credit for the M’s spectacular play are Dee Gordon, James Paxton, and Mitch Haniger.
Since losing Robinson Cano to suspension on May 15th, the Mariners are an impressive 15-5, including a 7-1 win over the Astros last night. I think that Dee Gordon deserves a lot of credit for willingly transitioning back to second base after Cano’s suspension and not missing a beat. Gordon has played seven games at second and has not made an error yet (not trying to jinx him) and has been extremely efficient at the plate and on the bases as he is currently hitting .296 and leads the MLB with 19 stolen bases.
James Paxton has had a breakout season so far in 2018 as he has shown just how good he truly is. Paxton currently owns a 2.95 ERA over 82.2 innings with a 5-2 record. These great numbers include the no-hitter Paxton threw against the Blue Jays on May 8th, in Paxton’s home country of Canada. Every great team needs an ace that they can rely on to at the least keep them in the game and Paxton has certainly been that ace for the Mariners.
Much like the Mariners team as a whole, Mitch Haniger has also been very under the radar this season, but has been fantastic. So far this season, Haniger is batting .265 with a .856 OPS and has blasted 12 home runs and driven in 43 runs. Another key element to any great team is having a guy in the middle of the order that can always do damage and drive in runs, and Haniger has been great at that this season. I think the Mariners are for real this season and if they can get another starting pitcher at the deadline, maybe they can make the playoffs and possibly even make some noise there.
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