Mariners' streak gives fans 'hope for the future'
The Mariners are firing on all cylinders these days, with great starting pitching, clutch hitting and good fielding. They enter this weekend's big series with the Yankees on a hot streak. But how long can it last?
KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the Mariners' recent wins have had one major thing in common - outstanding pitching.
"This year they have starting pitching that borders on the phenomenal - right now. And they're starting to get a little bit of offense."
Art says the Mariners haven't had power hitting at the plate, but it's been just enough to support the stellar performances of their five starting pitchers: Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, Michael Pineda, Jason Vargas and Doug Fister.
If You Win It, Will They Come?
Is the Mariners' current hot streak enough to bring a lot of the fans back? Art says no - it's going to take some time.
"The Mariners really did break a bond with the fan base with two seasons in the last three of 101 losses, and a lot of people just washed their hands of the Mariners. And when a skepticism settles in like that in a fan base, it takes a long time for the re-embrace to occur."
Art points out that there are some 17,000 tickets available for each of the games in this weekend's series with the Yankees. Usually when the Yankees come to town there are nearly sell-out crowds at Safeco Field.
A comparison of the Mariners and Yankees is a good reason why Art doesn't think the Mariners can sustain their current level of success for very long. He says the M's practically have to play perfectly to win. Whereas the Yankees can have a bad game but still win with a three-run homer from someone like Alex Rodriguez.
"They have to have superb pitching followed by flawless defense and just enough offense to keep going and that's really a tightrope to sustain over 162 games."
Art says he doesn't see key hitters like Chone Figgins and Jack Cust stepping up to provide the strong offense needed to win big in the long run.
Enjoy the Ride
Still, Art says it's good to see the Mariners still being relevant in the American League West as we approach Memorial Day. In the recent past, that hasn't been the case. But what about the rest of the season?
"If it all hangs together, I see them in contention by Labor Day. I don't think that's going to happen but it's still exciting now and I think there is - finally - some respectable hope for the future."