When a series win instills the air of defeat
The M's beat the Orioles two out of three, but it was painful
The Mariners just finished a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles, winning two of the contests and finishing the season series with the Orioles at 6-1. Pretty good, right? A series win after some trying times in this second half is something one might think would lift the flagging spirits of Mariner fandom.
Instead, these three games with the Orioles feel like the death knell for a once-promising season of excitement and hope. Baltimore is the worst team in the Majors, on pace for a 115-loss campaign and at or near the bottom of the pile in most team batting and pitching statistical categories, the very definition of a "soft opponent." They were starting one pitcher that had one Major League appearance to his credit after a middling Triple-A career, a struggling veteran with a 5+ ERA that the M's beat handily earlier in the year, and an "ace" with 13 losses.
A Mariner club that was confident, that was feeling good about themselves, that had the attitude of, say, the June 2018 Seattle Mariners, could have scored 30+ runs in this series. But the team is not confident. They are frustrated and fighting in the clubhouse, and the sour attitude has carried over onto the field with sloppy play.
The final scores of the Baltimore series were 2-1, 3-5, and 5-2. Ten runs scored in total, or less than two-thirds of what Oriole opponents average in three games. Plus 25 runners left on base, five errors committed, and more really bad—obviously bad, definition-of-insanity bad—managerial moves with pitchers, all of which combined to paint a picture of a team crashing and burning rather than one fighting for a postseason berth.
It wasn't all doom and gloom—Erasmo Ramírez, Wade LeBlanc, Mike Leake, and Eddie Díaz all pitched very well in the three games; Robbie Canó got some big hits even though he proved a liability at both first and third defensively; and Ben Gamel put on a defensive clinic in right field. Enough is still right that recovery is conceivable.
Today was an offday, as well-timed a breather as could possibly have been scheduled, at home, giving the M's a chance to relax, regroup, and recharge. With the Yankees coming in tomorrow, a day to hopefully exorcise the bad juju and recover at least some of that June demeanor was beyond welcome.
The season's not over yet; 22 games remain and the distance between the M's and teams ahead of them is 5½ games (Oakland) and nine games (Houston, New York). Hope still mathematically remains. They did, ultimately, win two of those ugly games with the Orioles, and all remaining games on the schedule are against either teams the club is chasing or teams under .500. The Mariners would need help from others—those three teams ahead of the M's don't play each other at all from here on—but if the M's right the ship and just one of those three teams goes into a skid... well, maybe.
It's not impossible, just unlikely. But in the words of everyone's favorite scruffy-looking nerf-herder, "Never tell me the odds."