M's win another series, stay in 1st
Mitch Haniger is greeted in the Mariners' dugout after scoring a run today against the Astros
April 18, 2021
Yes, yes, it's early—really early—but at 10-6, Your Seattle Mariners are tied for the best record in the American League and second only to the juggernaut Dodgers for best record in the Majors. The M's are finding their identity, gelling together as a team of patience and determined tenacity, and have been unperturbed by some problem areas of the roster. In the words of one long-suffering Seattle fan, "these M's are fun to watch!"
The just concluded three-game set with the Houston Astros—a 6-5 comeback win, a 1-0 loss to a dominant Zack Greinke, and a relatively easy 7-2 victory today—gives Seattle four series wins out of five, including two against contending clubs (the Twins and Astros). They're doing it with contributions from more than just the usual suspects, with J.P. Crawford really turning it on lately, Evan White delivering some key hits, and—most surprisingly—pain-free relief from the bullpen. Even manager Scott Servais' pitching moves haven't been the head-scratchers we became accustomed to last season and before, at least not lately.
But the big three at the top of the lineup have been setting the tone. Mitch Haniger is crushing it, Kyle Seager has been having the best April of his career, and then there's Monsieur France. Ty is never going to make anyone forget Edgar Martínez—no one will make us forget Edgar Martínez—but he might turn out to be the best right-handed hitter the Mariners have had since Edgar. What a swing. What tenacity. After today's 2-for-3 with a home run performance, France is batting .305/.400/.525. Others may have better individual numbers on the slash line, but in combination? France is l'homme.
A little over two weeks of games isn't much to go on. It's just 10% of the season. But right now it appears the the Mariners have strengths at the top of the lineup—Haniger, France, Seager for now (kind of expecting a fade there, but maybe he'll stay hot)—and most everywhere defensively, though that gets murkier with José Marmolejos or Dylan Moore in the outfield. The starting pitching we knew was going to be solid coming out of spring training, and it has been save for Marco Gonzales' bumpy first couple of starts. Even Chris Flexen has pitched a couple of under-the-radar gems, though he doesn't have much to show for it yet. The bullpen remains a crapshoot, frankly, but every pitcher there has been better than expected.
The problem areas still have plenty of time to sort themselves out. Center fielder Taylor Trammell has a bright future, but right now he belongs in Triple-A and will likely get sent there once injured outfielders Kyle Lewis and Jake Fraley come off the injured list (Lewis is expected to be activated on Tuesday). Tom Murphy isn't hitting, but give him time; besides, his value is behind the plate. There is the issue of Moore, who has regressed to form after his where-did-that-come-from 2020 season; it may just be early for him as well, but perhaps utilityman Sam Haggerty should get some starts in place of Moore at second base soon. Haggerty's numbers aren't any better right now, but he has less than half as many plate appearances. The thin bench is the detriment it was expected to be, and that's one area for which there seems no possibility of improvement. Servais and GM Jerry Dipoto appear committed to carrying 14 pitchers(!), so we're going to be stuck with not much to work with when a substitution is called for.
How long can it last? Is this the real face of the M's or just an early-season illusion? Let's be optimistic—and remember, if nothing else, these M's are fun to watch.