Mariners' win streak hits 8: 'Now it's happening'

Seattle pounds 3 homers vs. Orioles, maintains red-hot clip in Wild Card hunt

August 12th, 2023

SEATTLE -- Jerry Dipoto’s phone buzzed a little over two weeks ago with a text message from Mariners manager Scott Servais that gave Seattle’s president of baseball operations more reassurance than at any point all year that their season was still salvageable.

“We got the vibe back,” it read.

As weeks stretched into months and the Mariners hovered at .500 all the way to the 100-game mark, Dipoto began to bluntly bear the criticism that his front office didn’t do enough last offseason. A talented lineup was mightily underachieving, and belief was turning to doubt.

In baseball’s marathon season, it can sometimes take a hot stretch to get good vibes back. And if Friday’s environment at T-Mobile Park was any indicator, it most certainly has returned.

Seattle surged to a resounding 9-2 victory over Baltimore, a statement win against the team with the American League’s best record. It was the Mariners’ eighth consecutive victory, and pulled the club to within a half-game of the final AL Wild Card spot – behind Toronto.

The Mariners and Blue Jays split the season series at 3-3, after which the tiebreaker goes to intradivision record. The Mariners are 19-11 against the AL West with 22 games remaining against the division, while the Blue Jays are 11-23 against the AL East with 18 such games left.

The win streak is the club’s longest since its well-chronicled 14-gamer last summer, and only four other teams have had longer win streaks this season.

“I don't think we're hot,” Julio Rodríguez said. “I just feel like we are playing the baseball that we all knew we could play ... because we have the talent. It just wasn't happening. But now it's happening.”

Pitching has been the catalyst during this turnaround run, but on Friday, it was the lineup that was so wildly inconsistent in the first half that propelled the club to perhaps its most dominant victory in the context of the time of year and opponent.

Cal Raleigh homered again, following his 450-foot, go-ahead shot on Wednesday. So did Rodríguez, who inside-outed a three-run blast with the raw opposite-field power that’s mostly eluded him this year. Ty France added a solo shot for good measure.

Beyond the streak, the Mariners have won 16 of their past 20 games and outscored their opponents, 105-66. As has been well-chronicled, they have MLB’s best record since July 1, at 25-10. 

On Friday, eight of Seattle’s nine batters tallied at least one hit, for a dozen in total, backing Luis Castillo in an outing where he flashed elite stuff but struggled with pitch efficiency.

And on a day where the Mariners lost their most consistent hitter, J.P. Crawford, to the seven-day concussion IL, there was still Joy in Mudville. 

“I feel that there was a lot of trust in us, and we also have that trust in ourselves, too," Rodríguez said. 

The Mariners’ path to the postseason was always going to hinge on their hitters figuring things out. Dipoto’s front office didn’t add a blue-chip free agent last offseason. And of its external additions, only Teoscar Hernández remained after the Trade Deadline -- as Kolten Wong (released), AJ Pollock (traded to Giants), Cooper Hummel (optioned to Minors) and Tommy La Stella (released) have all since departed. 

Moreover, the only bats they acquired were Arizona’s Josh Rojas, whose production has been below average (but better than Wong's), and Dominic Canzone, who has upside but only debuted last month.

“We didn't make a ton of moves at the Trade Deadline because we believed in the group and we believed we had a good stretch in us,” Servais said. 

As for last winter, the calculus in not adding more was rooted in Rodríguez mirroring his elite rookie season, Raleigh maintaining the big power step forward he took in 2022, France remaining an above-average contact hitter, Eugenio Suárez continuing to crush 30-plus homers and the rest of their young roster taking a step forward. That, and Seattle’s conviction that its premium pitching was built for October.

“We didn't play well in the first half of the season,” Dipoto said recently. “We really struggled, especially offensively, to gain any traction. I said this publicly, our pitching is good enough -- more than good enough -- that if we can find our way onto that [postseason] dance floor, we can do some real damage.”

Since that text message from Servais to Dipoto, on July 26 after a series win in Minnesota, the Mariners are hitting .279/.348/.475 (.823 OPS) in 14 games, compared to the .232/.312/.396 (.708 OPS) clip in the 102 games prior. 

The “vibe” that the Mariners had long been seeking appears to be back.