Seattle Mariners lead AL West, win first district title in 22 years [SS Spotlight]

Of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball, there’s only one that hasn’t even made it to the World Series, let alone won it. The Seattle Mariners.

Founded in 1977, Seattle has produced the likes of Ken Griffey Jr, Randy Johnson, and Ichiro Suzuki. In the last 45 years, they’ve won the district three times. They were in 1995, 1997, and 2001. Two wild cards. 2000 and 2022. Last year was the first time in 22 years that they played fall ball since 2000. It’s the longest absence from the postseason in MLB.

먹튀검증Last year, they made it to the wild card and swept the home-field advantage Toronto Blue Jays in two games to reach the divisional series, but were unfortunately knocked out in three games by the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros.

After failing to hold on to a 7-3 lead in Game 1, they gave up five runs in the eighth and ninth innings to lose the series 7-8. The hero of the division series was Houston Astros slugger Jordan Alvarez. He hit a game-winning three-run homer in the ninth inning of Game 1 and a two-run shot in the sixth inning of Game 2. The series itself ended up being one-sided with three wins, but it was tight in content.

Before the 2023 season, I predicted that Seattle would be fine for the Wild Card, even if they didn’t win the District (Houston is strong). But when the lid was lifted, they were a shadow of last season’s form, falling four games and barely making it back in five. Fortunately, they finished the first half with a 45-44 record.

Then, at the trade deadline, President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto made a somewhat surprising move. He traded closer Paul Seawald to the Arizona Diamondbacks for prospects outfielder Dominic Canzoni and infielder Ryan Bliss. The trade came at a time when bolstering the bullpen wouldn’t have made much of a difference, so it seemed like a season-ending seller. Seattle’s starting pitching, bullpen are excellent.

Seattle swept a three-game series from the Kansas City Royals over the weekend, finally taking sole possession of the AL West lead for the first time this season (74-56). The perennial leaders, the Texas Rangers (73-57) and defending champion Houston (74-58), remain 1.0 game back.

Seattle Mariners take sole lead Seattle Mariners second-year MLB outfielder Julio Rodriguez celebrates with a trident after hitting a home run against the Royals on Sunday. AFP

Since July 1, they are an MLB-best 36-14 (.720 winning percentage). The offense is a perfect combination of 5.4 runs per game, an .818 OPS, a 3.47 ERA in the starting rotation and a 2.81 ERA in the bullpen. In particular, second-year MLB outfielder Julio Rodriguez heated up in August, marking the beginning of Seattle’s high-flying season. Other players have been at their best, but Rodriguez has been the driving force behind the upswing. Teams need a superstar to play. The San Diego Padres, this season’s World Series contenders, are suffering because they don’t have one.

In August, Rodriguez is batting .410 (41-for-100) with six home runs, 27 RBI, 11 doubles, and a 1.139 OPS. The pitching staff is also solid in both the starting and bullpen. After the Seawolves trade, Matt Brash is the closer.

Seattle’s run differential this year is +102. It’s third in the AL behind the Tampa Bay Rays (+174) and Houston (+172). Last year, when they went 90-67 and made the postseason as a wild card, they were +67. The offense is much stronger this year. Outfielder Teoscar Hernandez (.262-222-home run-76 RBI), who was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays last offseason, has been key.

Teoscar Hernandez is greeted by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the first inning against the Royals on Monday. AFP

Seattle’s last district title came in 2001, Ichiro’s rookie year. He won 116 games, the most in MLB history. After reaching fall baseball for the first time in 22 years last year, it will be interesting to see if Seattle can win a district title again this year.

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