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First-place(!) M's begin homestand on a roll

It was looking bleak for Your Seattle Mariners not too long ago. On a Sunday afternoon in Detroit, Robinson Canó was hit by a pitch and left the game with a broken hand, and fans began to wonder how the M's would manage without him for perhaps a month or more. Then it was revealed that Canó had also flunked a PED test, so he'd actually miss half the season. Their third-place hitter and MVP candidate gone for half the year?! How could they survive?!

Just fine, as it turns out. Since Canó went down on May 13, the Mariners have gone 19-7. That's a .730 winning percentage. Who knew Robbie Canó was so irrelevant?

OK, maybe it's not fair to diminish Canó's presence; offensively, the M's have scuffled without him. With Canó, Seattle put up a cumulative slash line of .258/.325/.423; since he went down, the line has been .249/.305/.388, and too many players are getting by with .300 or worse on-base percentages. Even Dee Gordon is down to a .306 OBP, which is concerning, and yeah, some of that collective fall may be due to a lack of Canó in the three-hole.

So it's not that Robbie Canó is irrelevant, it's that other things matter more. To wit: pitching and defense.

In the four weeks post-Canó, Mariner starting pitchers have gone 11-2 with a 2.75 ERA. The defense has been outstanding, with runners thrown out on the bases seemingly every day and highlight-reel play a common occurrence, especially from Kyle Seager. Even Ryon Healy, someone I expected little to nothing from in terms of glovework when the year began, has been impressive lately. There's not one weak spot on the diamond, even when the bench gets into action, and that has been key.

The bullpen hasn't been quite as awesome, with some of the guys there seemingly under the impression that every win must be by a single run only and part of their job is to turn comfortable leads into nailbiters. But even with that hiccup, there is no quit in these Mariners.

Their resolve might get tested this week, though, as after the homestand gets underway with three against the suddenly less-intimidating LA Angels the M's get their first looks at the two powerhouses of the American League East, Boston and New York. Can they sustain the stellar pitching and magic gloves against the beasts of the east? It'll be fun to find out.

First Place

When you hear the phrase "First-Place Seattle Mariners," what best describes your reaction?

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