My Oh My: What a Season for the Mariners and their Fans

In his first year as Mariners' Skipper, Lloyd McClendon, brought fun back to a ball club that was desperate for it. The M's played with enthusiasm in 2014, and the fans fed off that. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

In his first year as Mariners’ Skipper, Lloyd McClendon, brought fun back to a ball club that was desperate for it. The M’s played with enthusiasm in 2014, and the fans fed off that. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The 2014 season was a special one the Mariners and their fans, not only were the M’s competitive for the first time in eons, but they captured the hearts of Seattle. The Mariners were in the playoff picture until game 162 for the first time since 2001. Seattle is chalk full of sports teams, and good ones to boot, but in 2014 the M’s earned some respect in a highly competitive sports climate.

After the splash signing of superstar second baseman, Robinson Cano, in the offseason, people were cautiously optimistic about the M’s chances in 2014. Seattle was not firing on all cylinders early in the campaign, going 28-28 in April and May. But things began looking up and by July 1st the M’s had raced to 8 games above .500.

August 5th was one of the key turning points of the season. Coming into their game against the Atlanta Braves the M’s had a 57-54 record, and were fading fast in the playoff race. But Seattle played their best ball of the season, heck of the last 10 plus years in the month of August. The Mariners won 10 of their next 12 games after the 5th of August, and finished the month with 17 wins and 10 losses. Seattle sat at 73-62, and just half a game back in the American League Wildcard as the calendar turned to September.

The M’s won 6 of their first 8 games in the month of September, and their fast start only fanned the flames of fans’ excitement. On September 8th, Seattle had a 79-64 record, and were the leaders for the second wildcard spot and just 1 game back of the Oakland A’s for the first wildcard.

But the excitement was short lived, and the joy the team brought was quickly replaced with fears about the club’s suddenly shaky starting pitching. The wheels officially fell off the Mariners bandwagon when they lost 5 straight games from September 20th to 24th, hell even the horses ran off and left the M’s for dead. The vengeful Canucks exacted their revenge after getting swept in Seattle in August by taking the first 3 games of their 4 game series late in September, and taking the M’s to the brink of elimination. Following Seattle’s loss on the 24th, they had fallen to 3 games back in the wildcard with just 4 games remaining. The M’s were on life support and their chances of survival were diminishing by the minute.

A special Mariners fan once told me, “it’s always darkest before the dawn” and that was undoubtedly the case for the 2014 Mariners. Just when you thought it was over, it was in fact far from over. Seattle won the final game of the Toronto series, and headed back to the 206 with what still appeared to be a death sentence. The Mariners welcomed the Los Angeles Angels into town for a 3-game set that would decide the M’s season. Seattle needed to win at least 2 of their final 3 games, and Oakland had to lose 2 of their final 3 games for the Mariners to make the postseason for the first time in 13 seasons.

Amazingly, that is nearly what occurred. Seattle went on to sweep the Angels in a series filled with stressful moments, which included a walk off victory in game 161 that kept the M’s alive for one more night. The M’s entered game 162 trailing the A’s by just 1 game, simply put, a Mariners win and an Oakland loss would force a tie break game between the two squads. Unfortunately, that was as close at Seattle could get, as the A’s pulled out a victory on the final Sunday of September rendering the M’s corresponding win meaningless.

Ultimately, the M’s came up just short in their pursuit of the postseason. The Mariners were eliminated from playoff contention on September 28th. But, that hardly defines what was a truly enjoyable season to watch for fans.

After winning 87 games, and ending the season the way they did, the Mariners have nothing to hang their heads about in 2014.

There was a different feel to this club in 2014, and it was evident right from the get go in spring training. There was an excitement that had not been seen since the mid-2000’s when greats like Ichiro, Dan Wilson, John Olerud, and Bret Boone donned the uniform. Bringing in Robbie Cano gave the M’s instant credibility across the league.

The atmosphere in game 162 was magical, reminiscent of the glory days in the mid-90's. Hopefully, 2015 will bring many more important games to the fans in Seattle. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The atmosphere in game 162 was magical, reminiscent of the glory days in the mid-90’s. Hopefully, 2015 will bring many more important games to the fans in Seattle. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

To be a truly great baseball team I think you have to possess 2 traits: substance and personality.

The substance obviously has to do with how much success you have. One reason to love baseball is that the end goal of winning the World Series is only part of the dream. Most of the fun of baseball happens in the dog days of summer, and there are enough ballgames in a season for little moments of happiness throughout, if you are lucky enough to support a successful club.

There is a nothing less interesting than a ball club that plays uninspired, and limps towards the end of September. These are the types of teams Mariners fans have been subjected to for too long, but thankfully, 2014’s version bucked this trend. Seattle played with confidence this year, and never gave up on their season.

Baseball is not a game played by x’s and o’s on a chalkboard, it is a game played by people. Baseball is the only sport where there is enough down time in a game to feel a connection with the people playing the sport. A team has to have a charismatic personality to endear themselves to a fan base, and the M’s did a much better job reaching out to the community this season than in years past.

The 2014 Mariners lacked many things, but personality was not one of them. Between Fernando Rodney and his arrow, Logan Morrison and his curiosity, Robinson Cano’s wide grin, Felix Hernandez’s swagger, even Dustin Ackley’s rustic beard. The quirks make a team compelling to watch, and this Mariners squad definitely had some quirky guys.

In my article, SoDo NoGo, I discussed the lack of fan support the M’s received in Seattle this season. In the back of my mind whilst writing that piece, I could hear the booming voice of the timeless character, Terrance Mann, played by the spectacular, James Earl Jones, in the greatest movie of all time, Field of Dreams. Terrance Mann’s famous line from the film was, “people will come.” The people of Seattle must have been listening to Mr. Mann because they most definitely came and supported the Mariners for their last 6 games at Safeco Field this season. The Mariners averaged 25, 485 fans per game in 2014, but over their final 6 games they drew an average of 33,722 spectators. The atmosphere in those last few games was electric, and that support best describes what this season meant to the Pacific Northwest.

The season unfortunately ended too soon, but that is just about the only negative I can say about this club. The experience gained playing meaningful baseball down the stretch will only make these young men better ballplayers. Sometimes in sport, the journey is far more enjoyable than the final destination.

The Mariners 2014 season was fun, pure and simple. The fans, the players, the management, and the media all had fun this season. Watching the Mariners this summer brought me joy and hope, and as a long time M’s fan I have not been able to say that for many years.

The Mariners fought their way back into the realm of relevancy this season in Seattle. These young men forced their way into newspaper columns and stole radio segments from the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Mariners fought their way back into the realm of relevancy this season in Seattle. These young men forced their way into newspaper columns, and stole talk radio time from the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Mariners true victory came on September 28th in the final game of their remarkable campaign. On the final Sunday of the season, the M’s drew a boisterous 40,823 fans. Lest we forget that the Seattle Seahawks took home the Super Bowl last February, and although the Hawks were on a bye week, 40,000 plus people in Seattle opted to watch Mariners baseball instead of the NFL. It is easy to imagine Mariners legendary broadcaster, Dave Niehaus, smiling while watching the game on that brisk late September afternoon.

For the first time in over a decade, the Mariners and their fans go into an offseason with the expectation of competing for a playoff spot next season. How great is that? This is what success looks like people. I cannot wait till next spring.

The Future is Bright in the Emerald City

For the Mariners to tally 87 wins in 2014 they needed to get career years from journeymen, and get quality contributions from young players. The M’s received a great mix of both this season, and today we will focus on their talented youngsters.

Rookies played a huge part in the 2014 Mariners, particularly in the second half of the season. Today, I will highlight the top 5 Mariners rookie contributors in my opinion. Not all of these players made their debuts in 2014, but they were all technically still considered rookies.

Now let’s take a deeper look at the top 5 M’s rookies in 2014. These names are in no particular order.


SP James Paxton: 6-4, 3.04 ERA, 59 K, 29 BB

James Paxton had an incredible campaign fro Seattle in 2014, and if he can stay off the disabled list in 2015, he could be an All-Star. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

James Paxton had an incredible campaign fro Seattle in 2014, and if he can stay off the disabled list in 2015, he could be an All-Star. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The 25-year-old Canadian southpaw had a marvelous first full season in the Major Leagues in 2014. After starting the season brilliantly, winning his first 2 outings against the Los Angeles Angels, Paxton was bit by the injury bug. Pax injured his left lat muscle, an injury that would keep him out of the M’s rotation from April 8th until August 2nd, missing nearly 4 months of action.

When Paxton made is long awaited return to the rotation he was electric. Over 5 starts in August, Pax went 2-1 with a 1.65 ERA. September was not so kind to the young southpaw, as he went 2-3 with a 4.41 ERA. A beat down in Toronto on September 22nd in which Paxton lasted just 2.2 innings and allowed 8 runs skewed his numbers. He responded nicely however in his final outing of the season, allowing just 1 run over 5.1 innings of work in a must win game against the Angels.

The Ladner, British Columbia native was the second best starting pitcher for the M’s down the stretch, which is a quite a feat considering his company in the rotation. Paxton allowed more than 3 runs in just 1 of his 13 starts in 2014. If Paxton can stay healthy next season, he could make a big difference in Seattle. At this point, Paxton is penciled in as the club’s number 3 starter for 2015, but reports suggest that the front office in Seattle may be looking to add a veteran innings eater for the 3 spot. Either way, Paxton has a very promising future with the Mariners, and figures to play a key role as the M’s push for the postseason in 2015.

CF James Jones: 108 G, .250 AVG, .278 OBP, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 27 SB

James Jones made a big impact for Seattle, and he quickly became a fan favourite. His brand of baseball is an exciting one, and hopefully he will be wreaking havoc on the base paths for opponents in 2015. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

James Jones made a big impact for Seattle, and he quickly became a fan favourite. His brand of baseball is an exciting one, and hopefully he will be wreaking havoc on the base paths for opponents in 2015. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

James Jones made his Major League debut on April 18th in Miami, and in his first at bat he collected his first hit. Jones earned the everyday centerfield gig on May 11th and he quite literally, ran with the opportunity. Jones had a 14 game hitting streak from May 8th to the 24th. In May and June Jones hit a respectable .285 combined. Jones did a fabulous job utilizing his speed, both in the field and on the base paths.

Jones’ performance dropped off big time in July, as he hit just .196, and on July 31st the M’s traded for veteran centerfielder, Austin Jackson. Jones was sent down to Triple –A Tacoma on August 1st, but made a return later in the same month. Jones played a key role for Seattle down the stretch as their preferred pinch runner. Jones swiped 5 of his team leading 27 bags over the final month of the season, often times at critical situations late in the game.

Jones does not have a defined role with the club heading into the 2015 season, but his most likely role will be as a 4th or 5th outfielder who is called upon late in ballgames to pinch run. If Jones can comfortably play all three outfield spots, he will really help his chances of breaking camp on the 25-man roster at the end of March. The Brooklyn, New York native provided the 2014 Mariners with excitement and fun, and I hope there is a spot on the 2015 version of the M’s.

RP Dominic Leone: 8-2, 2.17 ERA, 70 K, 25 BB

Dom Leone was a revelation for Seattle in 2014. His fastball is dominant, and his pitches get plenty of movement. 2015 could be a big year for the Connecticut native. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Dom Leone was a revelation for Seattle in 2014. His fastball is dominant, and his pitches get plenty of movement. 2015 could be a big year for the Connecticut native. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

In the Mariners Minute Pitching and Defense Awards released earlier in the week, Dominic Leone was named as a co-winner of the relief pitcher of the year. Obviously, I think he was indispensable for the M’s in 2014, and his numbers back that statement up. Over 66.1 innings, the Norwich Connecticut native, registered an impressive 2.17 ERA and tallied 8 wins for the M’s. He held opponents to a .217 batting average, struck out 70 hitters, and issued just 25 free passes. The former member of Red Sox Nation was wicked good for Seattle in 2014.

It’s hard not to describe Leone’s first season in the bigs as a rousing success. He was one of the main guys in the best bullpen in baseball, and he is just 22-years-old. After never pitching above Double-A prior to this season, Leone made a big impression in the spring, and flourished in the 7th inning role for Seattle all season.

I would venture a guess that next season the former 16th round pick will once again serve as the club’s 7th inning man. While becoming a Major League closer may not be in the cards, he could serve as a quality set-up man in the near future, possibly even next season. The Mariners will hope Leone can produce anything close to the performance he had this season in 2015.

SS Chris Taylor: 47 G, .287 AVG, .347 OBP, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 5 SB

Chris Taylor had his moments this past season, but improved glove work and hitting the gym should be top priories this offseason. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Chris Taylor had his moments this past season, but improved glove work and hitting the gym should be top priories this offseason. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Chris Taylor played over half of the 2014 season in Triple-A Tacoma, but when he finally got his shot in the Big Leagues he made a difference for the M’s. Taylor was called-up on July 24th to take the roster spot of Willie Bloomquist, and push the incumbent shortstop, Brad Miller. Turns out Taylor did more than just push Miller, as at one point in the season Taylor got the majority of the starts at short.

Taylor put up some decent numbers at the plate, batting .287 with no home runs and 9 runs batted in. Mariners manager, Lloyd McClendon, raved about Taylor’s defense all season, and Taylor definitely showed glimpses of his defensive prowess. Taylor certainly has his deficiencies as well however, as he displayed zero pop with the stick, never threatening the fences. Taylor also had some trouble with the leather, booting a few easy grounders. But this is balanced out by his strong arm and ability to make contact; Taylor is a career .320 hitter in the minor leagues.

It has already been suggested by the M’s front office that next spring will see a battle between Taylor and Miller for the everyday job at shortstop. McClendon has subtly suggested that Miller may be best suited as a utility player and Taylor is a natural shortstop. I happen to feel that Taylor’s light hitting nature and defensive miscues make him a better fit as a part time player, as he has posted a career .946 fielding percentage at short in the Minor Leagues, but alas I am not the manager. I have always felt that Taylor looks and plays more like a second baseman, and his .970 career minor league fielding percentage at second base supports that claim.

SP Taijuan Walker: 2-3, 2.61 ERA, 34 K, 18 BB

Taijuan Walker looked like a completely different pitcher after being re-called from Triple-A Tacoma on September 1st. Walker's new delivery has produced better command of his fastball, something the M's hope to see in 2015. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Taijuan Walker looked like a completely different pitcher after being re-called from Triple-A Tacoma on September 1st. Walker’s new delivery has produced better command of his fastball, something the M’s hope to see in 2015. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

A shoulder injury suffered in spring training delayed the arrival of Tai Walker to Seattle. Walker made his first start of the season for the M’s on June 30th against the Houston Astros. After struggling with his command, especially with his fastball, Walker was sent down to Tacoma on July 9th. Walker made a spot start on July 23rd with the big club against the New York Mets. I was in attendance that day, and Walker’s performance could only be described as inconsistent, but his potential was undeniable.

After being sent back to Tacoma following his outing against the Mets, Walker completely changed his delivery to the plate in an effort to improve his fastball control. Walker essentially eliminated the windup from his arsenal, as he now mimics David Price’s windup delivery. Walker’s new delivery involves more fancy footwork than a Dancing With the Stars Rumba, but it seems to work for the 22-year-old righty. Over Walker’s final 2 outings of the campaign, he went 1-1 with a 1.98 ERA, 13 strikeouts and just 3 walks. In Tai’s last start he hurled 8 innings and allowed just 1 run against the Toronto Blue Jays. If Seattle had somehow forced a game 163, Walker would have gotten the ball.

Walker is on track to occupy the final spot in the M’s rotation in 2015 if everything goes according to plan in spring training. Currently, Walker is scheduled to pitch a total of 30 innings in the Arizona Fall League this month. Tai has ace stuff, and it is not hard to imagine him making an All-Star game within the next 2 seasons.


Now let’s shift our focus to the Minor Leagues, and turn our attention to 5 prospects who could possibly make an impact for the Mariners during the 2015 season. Note that these players may not necessarily be the M’s top 5 prospects, but rather players who could contribute for Seattle next season. Again these names are in no particular order.


3B Patrick Kivlehan: 138 G, .295 AVG, .363 OBP, 20 HR, 103 RBI, 11 SB

Patrick Kivlehan tore up the Minor Leagues in 2014, and the co-player of the year in the Mariners system could make an impact as early as 2015. (Dylan Higgins/AFL)

Patrick Kivlehan tore up the Minor Leagues in 2014, and the co-player of the year in the Mariners system could make an impact in Seattle as early as 2015. (Photo by Dylan Higgins/AFL)

Patrick Kivlehan split the 2014 season playing for the High Desert Mavericks of the California League, and the Jackson Generals of the Southern League. Kivlehan played 34 games in High Desert this season, hitting .282 with 9 home runs and 35 RBI’s in Advanced-A ball. After being promoted to the Mariners Double-A affiliate in Jackson, Kivlehan hit .300 with 11 home runs and 68 RBI’s across 104 games. Kivlehan’s numbers improved after his promotion, which is a great sign for Seattle and Kivlehan.

The 24-year-old former Rutgers star was a co-winner of the Mariners Minor League player of the year in 2014. Entering this past season, Kivlehan was ranked as the M’s 19th best prospect according to MLB.com. After his impressive campaign Kivlehan is ranked as Seattle’s number 6 prospect on MLB.com.

Kivlehan is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League, and should get an extended look in spring training for the M’s. While breaking camp with the big club may too optimistic, I could certainly envision Kivlehan getting a June call-up if he continues to impress the Mariners brass. A right handed hitter with plus power is exactly what Seattle is looking for, thus the right handed Kivlehan is a name to keep an eye on in 2015. Kivlehan has the ability to play first base, and the athleticism to play a corner outfield spot, something he may have to utilize with All-Star third baseman, Kyle Seager, manning the hot corner for the foreseeable future in Seattle.

1B D.J. Peterson: 123 G, .297 AVG, .360 OBP, 31 HR, 111 RBI, 7 SB

DJ Peterson should start looking for an apartment in Seattle now, as he likely will be spending much of the 2015 season with the big club. Peterson is destined to get at bats next season at first base or designated hitter, as his bat is simply too good to stay in the Minors much longer. (Photo by Ted S. Warren/AP Photo)

DJ Peterson should start looking for an apartment in Seattle now, as he likely will be spending much of the 2015 season with the big club. Peterson is destined to get at bats next season at first base or designated hitter, as his bat is simply too good to stay in the Minors much longer. (Photo by Ted S. Warren/AP Photo)

D.J. Peterson had himself one hell of a season in 2014. Just like Patrick Kivlehan, Peterson started the season in High Desert and finished the campaign in Jackson. Peterson was in a class by himself in High Desert, hitting .326 with 18 long balls and 73 runs batted in over 65 games. Peterson’s numbers fell off slightly after the promotion, hitting .261 with 13 homers and 38 RBI’s across 58 games in Double-A Jackson.

Peterson won the other half of the Mariners Minor League Player of the Year award in 2014, and played in the All-Star Futures game this past summer in Minnesota. The 22-year-old Gilbert, Arizona native entered 2014 as the M’s number 2 rated prospect, and that’s exactly where he sits now according to MLB.com.

Mariners General Manager, Jack Zduriencik, has already stated that Peterson will get a long look in Peoria next spring. Just like Kivlehan, Peterson may not be destined to break camp with the M’s, but also mirroring Kivlehan, a mid-season call-up to Seattle would surprise no one. Peterson is currently strutting his stuff down in Arizona for the Fall League. His right-handed power bat is extremely intriguing to management in Seattle, and the former first-round pick should make his Major League debut sometime next season.

SS Ketel Marte: 128 G, .304 AVG, .335 OBP, 4 HR, 55 RBI, 29 SB

Ketel Marte has flown through the Mariners system, reaching Triple-A Tacoma at just 20-years-old. Marte is a speedy, slick fielding shortstop who could earn a September call-up. (Photo by Jeff Roush)

Ketel Marte has flown through the Mariners system, reaching Triple-A Tacoma at just 20-years-old. Marte is a speedy, slick fielding shortstop who could earn a September call-up. (Photo by Jeff Roush)

Ketel Marte was hotter than a boiling kettle this season, splitting his time between the Jackson Generals and the Tacoma Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League. Marte started the season with the Generals, and he excelled in the Southern League hitting .302 with 2 home runs, 46 RBI’s, and 23 stolen bases in 109 games. Although, Marte only played 19 games in Triple-A Tacoma, they were 19 impressive games. The switch-hitting shortstop hit .313 with 2 home runs, 9 runs batted in and 6 steals for the Rainiers.

Marte really improved in all aspects of his game in 2014, and he was rewarded for his efforts with the Mariners Heart and Soul Award. Ketel entered the season as the M’s 16th rated prospect on MLB.com, and he exited the 2014 season as the club’s number 8 prospect.

Marte is a nifty fielder with plus plus speed, and there is always an opportunity for theses types of players. I would anticipate another season in Tacoma for the 20-year-old, but he has all the makings of a top of the order bat for Seattle in the future. I think with the Mariners current situation at short, they have the luxury of being patient with Marte.

RP Carson Smith: 1-3, 2.93 ERA, 45 K, 13 BB

Carson Smith impressed management and fans alike in his brief Big League Experience in September. Smith's 3/4 delivery makes patches hard to pick up, and when you mix that with his plus stuff he is nearly unhittable. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Carson Smith impressed management and fans alike in his brief Big League Experience in September. Smith’s 3/4 delivery makes patches hard to pick up, and when you mix that with his plus stuff he is nearly unhittable. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Carson Smith really shined in 2014. Smith made his big league debut this season in Seattle, but he spent much of the season hurling in Tacoma for the Rainiers. Smith went 1-3, with a 2.93 ERA, 45 K’s and 13 walks across 43 innings of work in Triple-A. Those numbers were good enough to warrant a promotion to the M’s on September 1st, and Smith took full advantage of the opportunity. In 8.1 innings of work, Smith went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA, 10 strikeouts and 3 walks. Smith held opponents to a .077 batting average in Seattle.

Smith entered 2014 as the club’s number 11 prospect, and exits the season as the number 14 prospect. His ranking seems strange because of his dominance at the big league level, but we must remember that in general relief pitchers are less valued than starting pitchers in these types of rankings. I don’t think Angels superstar centerfielder, Mike Trout, views his as the 14th best M’s prospect. Carson Smith dominated Mike Trout, making him look silly chasing a slider out of the zone on September 26th.

Smith appears to be a virtual lock to make the club next spring, and he could potentially earn a significant role in the pen with a strong March. His three quarters delivery causes hitters problems, as does his 95 mph fastball, and biting slider. Smith has future set-up man written all over him, and he could even get a look at being a closer at this level.

SP Danny Hultzen: Did not play in 2014.

Danny Hultzen has had an unfortunate last 24 months, but for the first time in nearly 2 years he enters spring training healthy. Hultzen has the ability to make the Mariners in 2014, and at the very least could see some spot starts as the season progresses. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Danny Hultzen has had an unfortunate last 24 months, but for the first time in nearly 2 years he enters spring training healthy. Hultzen has the ability to make the Mariners in 2014, and at the very least could see some spot starts as the season progresses. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The former no.2 overall pick from the University of Virginia missed the entire 2014 season after having major shoulder surgery on October 1st, 2013. Hultzen was billed as an advanced college southpaw, who should make the Majors quickly when he was drafted back in 2011. Hultzen was on schedule to make his big league debut last season, but his career has been derailed by injuries. Over 32 career minor league starts, Hultzen has gone 14-8 with a 2.82 ERA, but since the beginning of 2013 Danny has made just 7 starts.

Hultzen entered the 2014 season as the club’s number 14 prospect, and he ends the campaign as the number 13 prospect according to MLB.com. The torn rotator cuff injury has undoubtedly set him back a bit, but his talent is undeniable. Just 2 seasons ago he was on the cusp of making the big leagues, now he is rehabbing his way back into relevance.

Hultzen made a couple of appearances in September with the Mariners extended spring training group down in Peoria, and there were no signs of trouble. M’s General Manager, Jack Zduriencik, said Hultzen would be shut down for the winter and should be ready for Spring Training. This will be an important camp for the former top prospect, as his chances may be running out. Whether Hultzen’s destiny is to start games, or come out of the pen in relief is still to be determined. If the 24-year-old lefty can post a strong spring, it is conceivable that he could make an impact on the Mariners in 2015.


The Mariners and their fans will be hoping that Walker, Taylor, Paxton, Leone, and Jones can build on their strong rookie campaigns. There should be plenty of opportunities next season for playing time, with many positions still up for grabs.

Many of these young men played a big part in Seattle’s success in 2014, and provided the team and the fans with oodles of excitement. There is no doubt that many of the impact performers from the minor leagues this past season will have their day in the sun in the near future in the Big Leagues.

Up next will be the final installment of the season recaps (thank God). The final post will discuss the impact of the team on the fan base, and the city as a whole. Keep checking back as it should be up in the next few days.

Mariners Minute Awards: Pitching and Defense

This was a season for the ages in Seattle in regards to the pitching staff and the defense. Rarely do you see a staff dominate hitters as easily as the M's did in 2014. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

This was a season for the ages in Seattle in regards to the pitching staff and the defense. Rarely do you see a staff dominate hitters as easily as the M’s did in 2014. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Often times in baseball, the success of a pitching staff is tied to the effectiveness of the defenders behind them, and the 2014 version of the Seattle Mariners are a prime example of this.

This past season will go down as the greatest pitching staff, statistically, in the history of the franchise. The M’s registered the lowest ERA in the American League at 3.17 as a team. Seattle tallied the 3rd most saves in the AL with 51, and the 2nd best WHIP at 1.17. The Mariners led the league in runs allowed, earned runs allowed, and opponent’s batting average, holding hitters to a .230 average as a staff. The 1317 strikeouts recorded by the M’s pitching staff is a team record.

The M’s defense showed their class in 2014 by leading the American League in fielding percentage and committing the fewest errors in the league. The Mariners also led the league in defensive efficiency. No matter how you look at it, this was a very effective season for Seattle defensively and they really helped out this pitching staff.

Let’s hand out some imaginary hardware.


Best Starting Pitcher – Felix Hernandez

This is the easier award to give, who else could even be considered? Not only was King Felix Seattle's best hurler, he likely will win the American League Cy Young Award. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

This is the easier award to give, who else could even be considered? Not only was King Felix Seattle’s best hurler, he likely will win the American League Cy Young Award. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

2014 was the best season of Felix Hernandez’s career. It’s hard to argue with that statement. Hernandez went 15-9, with a 2.14 ERA this season. King Felix registered career bests in almost every stat measured this season, which is quite a feat considering his illustrious career.

Felix’s 15 wins are second only to the 19 he recorded in 2009. King Felix’s 2.14 ERA was the lowest of his career, and the lowest in baseball this season. The King bamboozled opposing hitters all season, allowing a career low .200 average, and another career low, 170 total hits. Felix registered 236 innings extending his streak of consecutive seasons with at least 200 innings pitched to 7. Hernandez struck out 248 hitters in 2014, again a career best for the King. His 46 walks tied his career low that he established last season. WHIP stands for walks and hits allowed per inning, in 2014 Felix recorded an incredible 0.92, again a career low, and again the best in the American League in that category.

After this past season, King Felix has etched his name in the annals of baseball history. This season Felix broke the record for consecutive starts with at least 7 innings pitched allowing 2 earned runs or less. The previous record was 13, held by New York Mets legend, Tom Seaver. The new record is a remarkable 16 consecutive outings. Felix’s streak extended for nearly 3 months of the 2014 season.

The start that exemplified the King’s season had to be his final outing of the campaign. In game 162, the King pitched against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field with a playoff spot on the line. Hernandez was electric against his American League West rivals, pitching 5.1 flawless frames, and recording 7 K’s in the first 3 innings alone. Unfortunately, the Texas Rangers were unable to pull out a victory against the Oakland A’s, and in the 5th inning it was confirmed that the M’s would not be making the postseason regardless of the outcome of their game. King Felix’s performance could have been truly epic had the Oakland Athletics lost, but it was still a heck of an outing from the Mariners ace in the biggest game of his career.

King Felix is the heavy favorite to take home the Cy Young award in the American League for the 2014 season. After yet another incredible season, one has to wonder if King Felix is already the greatest pitcher in the history of the Mariners organization at the age of just 28.

Best Relief Pitcher – Tie – Dominic Leone/Danny Farquhar

Our first tie, and really this award could have easily gone to the entire bullpen. As a unit, this was the best bullpen in baseball in 2014, and one of the best of all time. I cannot recall a time in which every M's fan had so much confidence in every one of the arms in the pen. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Our first tie, and really this award could have easily gone to the entire bullpen. As a unit, this was the best bullpen in baseball in 2014, and one of the best of all time. I cannot recall a time in which every M’s fan had so much confidence in every one of the arms in the pen. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Dominic Leone had a sparkling rookie campaign for Seattle in 2014. The 22-year-old, former 16th round pick in the 2012 draft, was one of the go-to guys in what can only be described as the greatest bullpen in franchise history. Leone was a relative unknown coming into spring training, but after a strong spring he earned the respect of his skipper. Leone generally was called upon to work the 7th inning of games, but occasionally was used in a set-up role.

Leone’s 8 wins led the M’s bullpen, and ranked him 2nd in the American League in that category amongst relief pitchers. Leone worked in 57 games this year pitching 66.1 innings. Leone’s 2.17 ERA was the second best on the squad, just 0.03 points behind Hernandez. Leone registered 70 strikeouts this season, averaging over a strikeout per inning.

Danny Farquhar was the Mariners closer in 2013, and he did a pretty nice job, registering 16 saves. After the M’s went out and signed, Fernando Rodney, Seattle made Farquhar their set-up man for the 2014 season. A role Lord Farquhar flourished in.

Farq finished this season with 66 appearances and 71 innings pitched. His 81 K’s were the most amongst Mariners relievers and his 1.13 WHIP was also tops in the pen. Farquhar did everything the M’s asked of him in 2014, and he should be very proud of his performance this season in Seattle.

Biggest Surprise – Chris Young

No body anticipated Chris Young's success for Seattle in 2014, and if they claim they did, they are lying. Young gave the M's a huge boost every 5 days, and in the clubhouse was one of the few experienced arms. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

No body anticipated Chris Young’s success for Seattle in 2014, and if they claim they did, they are lying. Young gave the M’s a huge boost every 5 days, and in the clubhouse was one of the few experienced arms. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Prior to signing with the Mariner just before the start of April, Young had not pitched in the big leagues since September 29, 2012, and had registered just 1 season with 100 innings pitched since 2008. The M’s got way more than they anticipated in 2014, and Young played a key role in making this Mariners rotation so great.

Signed to be Seattle’s number 5 starter, Young pitched more like a 2 or 3 for much of the season. Young’s 12 wins tied his career high, and his 165 innings pitched were his highest since 2007. Those innings seemed to catch up to the veteran right-hander in September, as he was held winless and posted an ERA of 8.59 over the final month of the season. But if you look past his vomit inducing September, Young went 12-6 with 3.17 ERA from April till the end of August.

I would not anticipate Young returning to the M’s in 2015. Unless Young is willing to accept a 1-year deal for low money, but that has less to do with his performance than it has to do with the young talent Seattle has in the pipeline. It would be a travesty if Chris Young does not win Comeback Player of the Year for 2014.

Best Moment from a Pitcher – Fernando Rodney’s Arrow

Fernando Rodney's arrow captured the Mariners fan base's imagination this season. This was never more clear than when the Mariners twitter feed began placing a cardboard arrow somewhere in the Pacific Northwest every morning following a Rodney save for fans to "find Rodney's arrow." (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Fernando Rodney’s arrow captured the Mariners fan base’s imagination this season. This was never more clear than when the Mariners twitter feed began placing a cardboard arrow somewhere in the Pacific Northwest every morning following a Rodney save for fans to “find Rodney’s arrow.” (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Fernando Rodney led the Major Leagues with 48 saves in 2014, and after every one of those saves Rodney celebrated by shooting an imaginary arrow into the sky. There is nothing about Rodney that is typical, from his askew hat to his Robin Hood esque celebration, but it’s hard to argue with his results. He get’s the job done, albeit sometimes it’s frightening.

Rodney’s arrow has become a fan favorite in Seattle, as it signifies another victory for the home team, but it seems to go deeper than just winning. The arrow symbolizes fun, and that is something everybody wants to see. Rodney is known for his quirks, but people rarely understand his levity and humor. He is well like in the bullpen because his eccentricities have a way of keeping things light, even in stressful moments.

Every team benefits from a group celebration, and in 2014 it was Rodney's arrow. Their play really seemed to pick up following LoMo's inclusion in Rodney's trademark arrow celebration. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

Every team benefits from a group celebration, and in 2014 it was Rodney’s arrow. Their play really seemed to pick up following LoMo’s inclusion in Rodney’s trademark arrow celebration. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

Without a doubt, I had my most fun watching Rodney shoot his arrow at the moon following a big win and, Logan Morrison, racing over from his spot on first base to admire it’s trajectory. I won’t soon forget the look on LoMo’s face as he admired the arrow, and the memory of the joy that scene brought will stay with me even longer.

Best Defensive Infielder – Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano makes playing second base into an art form. The man has a style that he brings to the position that is beautiful to watch. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Robinson Cano makes playing second base into an art form. The man has a style that he brings to the position that is beautiful to watch. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

This was a close call between Cano and Kyle Seager, but the grace that Robbie plays his position put him over the top. I have never seen a more natural second baseman than Robinson Cano. He makes it all look so effortless, sometimes it is hard to tell if he is even trying. I could watch him move to his left, reach down just in time to field a hard hit ground ball, spin, and flip the ball to first base all day.

Cano may not win the Gold Glove award this season, but he played the best second base in Seattle since Bret Boone manned the position in the early 2000’s. Boone played the position with power and aggression; Robbie plays with style and swagger. There is not a second baseman in baseball with a better arm than Cano, and his 103 double plays turned exemplify this. Robbie’s .987 fielding percentage was the 3rd best in the baseball amongst second baseman with at least 150 games played.

I have never seen a second baseman lead an infield the way Cano does. Normally, the shortstop can call off any infielder to make a play, this season it was the second baseman in Seattle with that privilege. Often Robbie would stride in to the mound to talk a pitcher through a stressful situation, always smiling and always instilling confidence.

Robbie has mastered his craft, and next year could be even better for the best second baseman in the sport.

Best Defensive Outfielder – Austin Jackson

Austin Jackson may not play centerfield with the flair of a Ken Griffey Jr, but in 2014 he solidified a shaky unit and took control of the outfield. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Austin Jackson may not play centerfield with the flair of a Ken Griffey Jr, but in 2014 he solidified a shaky unit and took control of the outfield. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Austin Jackson provided the M’s with a legitimate centerfielder that solidified their outfield the moment they traded for him on July 31st. Prior to acquiring Jackson Seattle did not have a Major League outfield, but with AJ patrolling centerfield every night, Seattle flourished. Jackson made everyone else in the outfield better. There was a noticeable uptick in Dustin Ackley’s performance following the trade, and it was clear Jackson was in charge of the outfield.

The numbers may not suggest that Jackson is an elite defensive centerfielder, but they do show his class. Jackson’s numbers are almost identical in 2014 to 3-time Gold Glove award recipient, Adam Jones. Jackson boasts a .985 fielding percentage, having committed 6 errors in 1326 innings this season. The throw tool is not Jackson’s strength, and his 4 assists attest to this, but he makes up for it with the 4th best range factor in the American League for centerfielders with at least 140 games played.

The Mariners are a better team with Austin Jackson in in the lineup, and they are positioned nicely for the 2015 season with a stud like Jackson roaming centerfield for 162 games.

Most Improved Defender – Kyle Seager

Nobody improved more defensively than Kyle Seager in 2014, maybe in the entire league. He turned into a Gold Glove calibre third baseman in just 12 months. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Nobody improved more defensively than Kyle Seager in 2014, maybe in the entire league. He turned into a Gold Glove calibre third baseman in just 12 months. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Kyle Seager has gone from an average third baseman to the odds on favorite to win his first Gold Glove in the span of just 12 months. Seager began his professional career as a second base prospect, and it was not until he reached the big leagues in the 2010 season that he began to hone his craft at the hot corner. Because of his experience as a middle infielder, Seags possess above average athleticism for the position, and a more accurate than strong arm.

Seager has been the most impressive defender at the hot corner in 2014, and he wins the argument by way of knockout. Seager has played 1402 innings this season, the most in the American League for third basemen in 2014. His 8 errors are a low for the position, with his next closest competitor registering 11 miscues. Seager turned 36 double plays, the second highest total in the American League. Seags has tallied 327 assists this season, just 1 back of the league lead. His .981 fielding percentage is the highest amongst qualifying third baseman. The numbers do not lie; Kyle Seager is the best third baseman in baseball.

Kyle Seager saw his fielding percentage improve by 17 points over the last year, and with his work ethic, the sky is the limit. Seager is an ascending superstar in this league, and the M’s better not let his talent go to waste. My advise to the Mariners front office, lock this guy up long term while you still can because he has the potential to be a special player.

Best Play – Dustin Ackley Robbs Travis d’Arnaud home run on July 21st against the Mets.

What a catch Dustin Ackely made on that hot summer night at Safeco Field in Seattle. Ackley legitimately robbed a home run, and at a key moment in the ballgame none the less. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

What a catch Dustin Ackely made on that hot summer night at Safeco Field in Seattle. Ackley legitimately robbed a home run, and at a key moment in the ballgame none the less. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Dustin Ackley is not known as a leather man, but on this night he looked more like the second coming of Ken Griffey Jr than the bearded yahoos from Duck Dynasty. I am lucky enough to say that I was in attendance and witnessed the Ackley grab first hand. I was standing on the first base line, about even with the bag. My brother and I were watching the game from the 100 level concourse, much to the chagrin of the elderly usher of section 121.

The first thing you hear is the sound of the bat meeting the ball. Dominic Leone’s 2-0 fastball was crushed by New York Mets rookie backstop, Travis d’Arnaud, and everyone in the ballpark knew it was trouble. The gasps were clearly audible as Dustin Ackley began sauntering back towards the left field wall. Ackley appeared to arrive early at the fence. Instead of scaling the fence with the traditional running approach, Ack simply stood at the base of the fence and jumped flat-footed. Ackley appeared to time the jump perfectly, but as an observer it was still unclear if he had made the catch. Ackley toppled over on the landing and lay on his back for a moment following the catch. From my position, I still could not see where the ball went and I immediately thought to myself, “there’s no way Ackley made that catch… is there?” The only tell I had at my disposal was the reaction of Willie Bloomquist, who was in my eye line. Bloomquist raised his hands in celebration, and I began hoping, then I glanced at Dom Leone who was pitching and he was pumping his fist. At this point I astutely said, “I think he caught it”, pretty sure I was the last person in the park to figure it out because the crowd had already erupted. Ackley rolled over, and stood up nonchalantly. Dustin pulled the ball out of his mit and tossed it back into Miller, at which time Safeco Field got louder than I can ever remember, and gave Ackley a deserving standing ovation for about 3 minutes.

Watch Dustin Ackley’s marvelous catch here.

Ackley’s catch was the greatest catch I have ever seen live, and it is without a doubt one of the best catches of 2014 across the entire league. Ackley seems to be getting a little bit better in leftfield every night, and on July 21st he made the play of his life. I know it was a moment I won’t forget.


Pitching and defense are the backbones of any successful baseball team, and without strong numbers in both areas, teams are doomed to exit early in October no matter how powerful their offense is. 2014 has proven this once again, with both the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals advancing to the American League Championship series.

It may have not been the flashiest way of playing ball, but excelling at pitching and defense proved to be the most effective style of play for the Mariners in 2014. The M’s won 87 games this year, the highest total for the club since 2007, and much of the credit goes to the defense and pitching staff.


Next up in this series will be a review of the Mariners rookies from 2014, and their top prospects in the minor leagues.

Mariners Minute Awards: Offense

The M's bats may not have been alive in 2014, but they were not dead. I guess that would make them zombies or something, regardless of the specifics, they were fun to watch this year. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The M’s bats may not have been alive in 2014, but they were not dead. I guess that would make them zombies or something, regardless of the specifics, they were fun to watch this year. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

This is the first of 4 special season recap articles I will be doing over the next week or so. Today, I will focus on the Mariners offense during the 2014 season.


Let me state the obvious right off the top, the 2014 Mariners were not the great hitting teams Seattle had in 1995 through 2002, but they did not need to be this year.

The 2014 version of the M’s utilized an underwhelming offensive attack. The Mariners finished with 634 runs scored in 2014, good for 11th in the American League. Seattle tallied 136 home runs as a team, the 10th highest total in the American League. The M’s registered the lowest on base percentage and the lowest OPS in the American League this season. The only offensive stat that Seattle finished in the top 5 of in the American League was triples, of which they hit 32. Describing this team’s offensive numbers as middling might be giving them too much credit.

Without further ado, if you all would like to take your seats we can start handing out the 2014 Mariners Minute Awards.


Offensive MVP – Robinson Cano

While it may not have been one of Robbie's better years statistically, for the first time in his career the Mariners were his team. Cano was the leader of the 2014 Mariners, and the he embraced the fans in Seattle in a big way in his debut season with the club. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

While it may not have been one of Robbie’s better years statistically, for the first time in his career the Mariners were his team. Cano was the leader of the 2014 Mariners, and the he embraced the fans in Seattle in a big way in his debut season with the club. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Robinson Cano sent a shockwave through the baseball universe when he signed a 10yr/240 million-dollar deal with the Seattle Mariners in December of 2013. The massive signing caused plenty of excitement, but it was also met with plenty of skepticism. People point to Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez as examples of these types of contracts failing. More often than not, players seem to take their foot off the petal following signing a big free-agent contract.

Cano hit .314 with 14 home runs and 82 runs batted in this season. His .314 average was slightly higher than his career .310 batting average. He tallied his lowest home run total since 2008, which tied his lowest total of his career. His RBI total was his lowest output since ’08, and the 4th lowest total of his career. It’s fair to describe this year as the second worst season statistically in Cano’s 10-year career, and yet his name was front and center in the mix for the American League MVP award at the beginning of September. How can this be?

The simple answer is that not everything Robbie brought to the squad was quantifiable. I am well aware that the baseball nerds believe everything in baseball can be measured, and intangibles make no difference to a team. But, I obviously disagree. Robbie taught these young men how to be professionals. He brought a confidence and swagger to a group of guys that had generally been overlooked by the national baseball media. Just imagine for a moment you are a young left-handed hitter like Kyle Seager or Brad Miller, and all of sudden the best left-handed hitter in the game is giving you pointers and complimenting you on your abilities, imagine how much more confident you would be.

There was never a more impactful free agent signing in the history of the Seattle Mariners. The ripples of the Cano signing were felt throughout the team and the city, as Robbie instantly became the go-to guy and teamed with Felix Hernandez as the faces of the franchise. Cano not only solidified the M’s lineup, but he also brought a confidence that only comes with experience and success.

If Seattle can add a legitimate cleanup hitter this offseason to slot in behind Robbie, the 2015 version of Cano could be leading the M’s to the postseason and taking home the AL MVP at seasons end.

Simply put, Cano made everyone on this team better, and without his presence, this team is not competing for a playoff spot in game 162. Robbie taught this team how to win.

Sparkplug of the Year – Kyle Seager 

Kyle Seager is an emerging superstar, and in 2014 he really sparked the M's offense. Seags led the club in home runs and RBI's, making his first All-Star appearance for Seattle. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Kyle Seager is an emerging superstar, and in 2014 he really sparked the M’s offense. Seags led the club in home runs and RBI’s, making his first All-Star appearance for Seattle. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Kyle Seager has had an impressive last 3 seasons, but 2014 was definitely his best. Seager really put it together this season, his .268 average, 25 home runs, and 96 RBI’s were all career highs for the 26-year-old. Seager led the club in long balls and runs batted in this season. Seags earned his first trip to the mid-summer classic this year, and he figures to be representing Seattle in many more All-Star games in the future.

Seager put on a show this season for the Safeco Field faithful. Seags hit .300 with 16 bombs and 53 runs driven in at the corner of Edgar & Dave. Seager has really developed into a quality player for the M’s, and should take up a middle of the order spot for many years to come.

Seager’s 25 long balls ranked 3rd amongst third baseman in the Major Leagues, and his 96 runs batted in are ranked 2nd for the position. Seager has been extremely consistent at the hot corner for the Mariners over the past 3 seasons, and if he can string another season like this together; a contract extension may be waiting for him.

Breakthrough Hitter – Mike Zunino

Mike Zunino flexed his muscles at the plate this season, smashing 22 home runs. Zunino has the most raw power not he team, and it should be fun watching him refine his approach at the dish next season. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Mike Zunino flexed his muscles at the plate this season, smashing 22 home runs. Zunino has the most raw power not he team, and it should be fun watching him refine his approach at the dish next season. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

In his first full season in the Major Leagues catcher, Mike Zunino, turned some heads. Zunino set the team record for home runs in a season for a catcher in his first season as the Mariners backstop. His 22 home runs were the good for 2nd in the American League amongst catchers this season.

If Zunino can build on this season and raise his batting average to somewhere in the .230 to .240 range, he could easily hit 25 plus dingers and drive in 80 runs next season. Zunino has all the makings of the best offensive catcher in the history of the organization, and at just 23-years-old he should continue to improve. I believe that Zunino will be making his first All-Star team within the next 2 seasons.

Best Bearded Batsman – Dustin Ackley

Dustin Ackley was everything Mariners fans were hoping for in 2014 and more. There were more than a few AckAttack's this year, as he led the club in slugging percentage the second half of the season. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Dustin Ackley was everything Mariners fans were hoping for in 2014 and more. There were more than a few AckAttack’s this year, as he led the club in slugging percentage the second half of the season. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

After two straight seasons underperforming, the former no. 2 overall pick in the 2009 MLB finally lived up to the hype. Last season, Ackley hit poorly enough that he warranted a demotion to Triple-A Tacoma. But he found his stroke in the minors, and this season, especially this summer; he contributed in a big way to the M’s.

Ackley set career highs in home runs and RBI’s for Seattle in 2014, and in July and August you would be hard pressed to find a more productive outfielder. Ackley performed best in the summer heat, hitting .280, with 6 home runs and 24 RBI’s in the month of August alone. Ackley changed the complexion of the M’s lineup when he moved up to the no. 2 hole in late July, adding another dimension that made the M’s much more dangerous.

If Ackley can develop a more consistent approach at the dish, he could be an all-star next season for Seattle. Apart from the Ackley’s terrible months of June and September this season, in which Ack hit a combined .158, he hit a combined .284, with 11 home runs and 52 RBI’s in the months of March, April, May, July, and August.

Biggest Disappointment – Corey Hart

Corey Hart has had a pretty nice career, and he was a not a bad signing by the Mariners this past offseason. But injuries, age, and bad luck all seemed to combine for a horrible season for the veteran big man. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Corey Hart has had a pretty nice career, and he was a not a bad signing by the Mariners this past offseason. But injuries, age, and bad luck all seemed to combine for a horrible season for the veteran big man. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

At 6’10 Corey Hart is quite literally the biggest disappointment on the team. Hart signed a 1-year deal in the offseason after missing all of last season with the Milwaukee Brewers because of injuries. Hart was acquired to serve as the club’s designated hitter, and part time outfielder. Hart was a great buy low signing with great bounce back potential, but unfortunately for the Mariners, the gamble did not pay off this year.

Over Hart’s last 3 seasons in Milwaukee he averaged 29 dingers, with 83 runs batted in, with a batting average of .279. In his first, and only season in the 206, Hart managed just 6 home runs and 21 RBI’s, sporting an average of .203 across 68 games.

The M’s designated Hart for assignment on September 30th, thus severing any ties with the club. Unfortunately for Corey Hart, it appears his baseball playing days are behind him.

X-Factor – Logan Morrison

Logan Morrison was the heart and soul of this team over the last month of the season. Not only did he contribute with big hits in big spots, but his attitude and effort made the difference for the M's in 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Logan Morrison was the heart and soul of this team over the last month of the season. Not only did he contribute with big hits in big spots, but his attitude and effort made the difference for the M’s in 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Mariners acquired Logan Morrison on December 13, 2013 from the Miami Marlins. Morrison fell out of favor in Miami in part due to his popularity on twitter, something I can relate to. His fellow players and the city of Seattle immediately embraced LoMo’s outgoing personality.

There was a time when pundits were questioning whether the Mariners would offer Morrison arbitration this winter. After the last 2 months LoMo had, it seems rather silly his future with the M’s was ever in doubt. Morrison hit .321 with 6 home runs and 20 RBI’s over the final 2 months of the campaign.

Morrison finished the season, hitting .262, with 11 home runs and 38 RBI’s. LoMo’s ordinary numbers hide his true value. Whenever the Mariners needed a big hit in September, it was LoMo who provided it. When the Mariners were tied in the 9th inning on September 18th in Anaheim, it was LoMo who clubbed a 3-run blast to win the game for Seattle. The Mariners had lost 5 straight games entering their late September contest in Toronto. LoMo put an end to the losing streak, willing the team to a victory on the strength of his 2 home runs and 4 RBI’s. When the M’s had their backs against the wall, needing a victory to stay alive in the postseason race on September 27th, it was LoMo who laced a game tying RBI double into the right-centerfield gap in the 7th inning. The double re-invigorated the fans, and inspired the team to a critical victory.

Watch Morrison’s clutch double and witness the Safeco Field crowd get whipped into a frenzy.

LoMo did a lot of things this year for Seattle, playing multiple positions, coming through with clutch hits in key situations, and most notably, admiring Fernando Rodney’s archery skills. Everything Morrison did in 2014 was for the Mariners, and every team needs a guy like Morrison. LoMo has carved out a place in the hearts of M’s fans, and hopefully he has carved out a place in the Mariners lineup in 2014.

Best At Bat – Endy Chavez

Endy broke into the Bigs back in 2001, and he utilized his wealth of experience this season with a relatively young ball club. Chavez was a steading force for Seattle, and played some nice ball, contributing at the plate and in the field for the M's. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Endy broke into the Bigs back in 2001, and he utilized his wealth of experience this season with a relatively young ball club. Chavez was a steading force for Seattle, and played some nice ball, contributing at the plate and in the field for the M’s. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The 36-year-old outfielder came out of nowhere to contribute to the M’s in 2014. Not only did Chavez play a great right field in Seattle, but he also provided a veteran presence in the locker room and at the plate. Chavez was one of the few guys on the team that really worked his at bats.

The most memorable at bat of the season for Seattle in 2014 came on August 22nd in Boston, when Chavez battled Koji Uehara and earned a 10-pitch walk. Uehara got ahead early, putting Chavez on his heels with a 2-1 count, but then the tables began to turn. Chavez fouled off 4 tough pitches before working the walk. The M’s were down by 3 runs at the time, and Chavez’s walk sparked the Mariners 5 run 9th that led to another Mariner victory. Chavez was mature enough to not panic after getting down early in the count, and aware enough to aniticpate Uhehara’s pitches.

Best Moment – Austin Jackson

No matter what anybody says, acquiring Austin Jackosn was critical for this club. Jackosn solidified the outfield and gave Seattle a legitimate leadoff man. AJ came through with the everything on the line, and hopefully he excels next season in hi first full season with the M's. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

No matter what anybody says, acquiring Austin Jackosn was critical for this club. Jackosn solidified the outfield and gave Seattle a legitimate leadoff man. AJ came through with the everything on the line, and hopefully he excels next season in hi first full season with the M’s. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Austin Jackson was acquired on July 31st from the Detroit Tigers in a 3-team trade that saw middle infielder, Nick Franklin, going to Tampa Bay. Jackson led off for Seattle in every game since being dealt for, and played a very effective centerfield for the M’s. The downside with Jackson has always been his hitting and usually his struggles revolve around two main issues, his inconsistency and strikeouts. Some fans did not fully appreciate Austin Jackson until the fateful 11th inning on September 27th.

It was win or go home for the M’s on the 27th of September, as they would have been eliminated from postseason contention with a loss. Jackson was not having a good game offensively, in fact when he had the bases loaded in the 9th inning he popped out to right field ending the Mariners threat. So when he stepped into the batters box with the winning run just 90 feet away and 1 out, many fans were trepidatious.

The infield was pulled in and the Angels brought in a 5th infielder to defend Jackson, this plenty of green available in the outfield. Speedy, Brad Miller, lead off from third base, and, Chris Taylor, took his lead at first. All Austin had to do was hit the ball into the outfield. Instead, AJ hit a 2 hopper to the second baseman who promptly flipped the ball the shortstop covering second to get Taylor. At the same time, Brad Miller was breaking for home representing the game-winning run. Jackson was busting it down the line as the shortstop made the return throw to first base to try and complete the double play. The ball had nearly arrived at its final destination of first base, when AJ extended his leg for what had to be the longest stride of his career. Jackson beat the throw and the Mariners won; mayhem ensued.

Watch the magical moment in the 11th. 

The Mariners season was extended, and game 162 meant something for the first time in 13 years. Austin Jackson was officially welcomed into the Mariner family on September 27th, and I cannot wait to see him bat leadoff and play centerfield for Seattle in 2014.


By no means was Seattle an offensive juggernaut this season, but it is hard to say they were not a special team. The M’s were special in the sense that for the first time in many years Seattle was an opportunistic team. Now the stats do not necessarily back up my position, but it always seemed like when the M’s need a big hit or run they got it. Whether it was James Jones wreaking havoc on the basepaths late in a ball game, or LoMo tying the game on a double in the gap, or Austin Jackson hitting into a game winning fielder’s choice, the M’s always seemed to find a way to get the job done.

There were obvious highs and lows for the M’s offensively in 2014, and I think it would be fair to say fans will hope for more production next year. But in a season where 4 runs was often enough to secure victory due the Mariners amazing rotation, this mediocre offense provided plenty of drama and excitement.

Speaking of the M’s pitching rotation, coincidentally, that is the facet of the Mariners season I will be reviewing in my next piece.

The Brooklyn Dodgers had a Saying…

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Seattle fans came out in droves to cheer on their home side in game 162. Today’s win wasn’t enough to get the M’s into the postseason for the first time since 2001, but it was enough to earn back fan support. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners (87-75) cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels (98-64) on Sunday afternoon in the final game of the 2014 regular season. Unfortunately, the M’s came up just short in their pursuit of game 163, but you would never have known it based on the 40,823 fans in attendance at Safeco field today. Felix Hernandez (15-6, 2.14 ERA) was sparkling in his final outing of the season, earning the win for Seattle. Cory Rasmus (3-2, 2.57 ERA) took the loss for the Angels on Sunday.

The Oakland Athletics beat the Texas Rangers 4-0 today in Arlington, eliminating the M’s from postseason contention. The Mariners finished the season just 1 game back of the Oakland Athletics for the final wildcard spot in the American League. It was a disappointing end to the 2014 season for the M’s, but still, it was an incredible season. With the win, Seattle moved to 12-7 against the Angels in 2014, not bad considering the Angels hold the best record in the Major Leagues.

It was a touching scene Sunday when the fans gave King Felix a standing ovation after he was taken out in the 6th inning. Felix has been amazing this year, and seems destined to win his second Cy Young. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

It was a touching scene Sunday when the fans gave King Felix a standing ovation after he was taken out in the 6th inning. Felix has been amazing this year, and seems destined to win his second Cy Young. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Felix Hernandez was sharp today in what was undoubtedly the biggest outing of his career. Hernandez hurled 5.1 shutout innings allowing just 1 hit Sunday against the Angels. King Felix was pulled after 5.1 innings because by that time the Oakland game was a final, and there was no need to jeopardize his health. The King was filthy today at the Safe, collecting 7 strikeouts in the first 3 innings. Felix appears primed to take home his second American League Cy Young award in 2014, and after today’s impressive showing he now has the lowest ERA in the AL at 2.14. When Mariners manager, Lloyd McClendon pulled the King in the 6th inning, the Safeco Field faithful erupted and gave him an emotional standing ovation. Felix was truly touched by the crowd’s gesture of gratitude, and appeared to be fighting back tears as he approached the M’s dugout.

Michael Saunders led the way offensively for the M's with 2 doubles. The Condor made a big difference for Seattle since returning from the disabled list a couple weeks ago. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Michael Saunders led the way offensively for the M’s with 2 doubles. The Condor made a big difference for Seattle since returning from the disabled list a couple weeks ago. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Mariners got on the board early today, scoring 4 runs over the first 4 innings. Right fielder, Michael Saunders, got the scoring started when he drilled an RBI double over the outstretched glove of Mike Trout in centerfield. Saunders doubled his efforts in his next at bat, where delivered his second RBI double of the ballgame. Catcher, Mike Zunino continued to build on what can only be described as a great first full season in the Major Leagues, delivering a 2-run single in the 4th inning. Zunino finishes the year with 22 home runs and 60 RBI’s. First baseman, Logan Morrison is quickly becoming an impact bat for the Mariners, and today he delivered 2 hits in 4 trips and scored twice in the victory. LoMo carried this team down the stretch, and hopefully with extended playing time he can produce even more next season. Centerfielder, Austin Jackson won the game last night when he grounded into a fielder’s choice, and today he looked confident at the plate. In his first at bat Jackson popped out, but it took 7 pitches to retire him. AJ finished the season on a high note, going 2 for 4 on Sunday.

Cory Rasmus struggles on Sunday seemed intertwined with his drop in velocity. When Rasmus faced the M's last week in Anaheim he his fastball was in the 95 mph range, today it was 90-92. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Cory Rasmus struggles on Sunday seemed intertwined with his drop in velocity. When Rasmus faced the M’s last week in Anaheim he his fastball was in the 95 mph range, today it was 90-92. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Angels starter, Cory Rasmus, never looked comfortable today, falling behind hitters and struggling with his velocity. Rasmus is not likely to see any starts in the postseason, but the starting rotation has to be the top concern for Los Angeles heading into the playoffs. The Angels went with their regular lineup on Sunday, but following the announcement of the A’s victory, almost everyone was taken out in the 5th inning. It took till the 9th inning to crack the run column for the Angels, when veteran infielder, John McDonald, doubled home Brennan Boesch. Angels fans will brush off this sweep as being meaningless, but this weekend had to plant the seed of doubt in their minds.

The Brooklyn Dodgers had a saying, wait till next year. That motto seems to fit for the 2014 Mariners, as their best baseball appears to ahead of them. This team made believers out of baseball fans in Seattle this year, and I cannot wait to see what happens over the next few seasons.

Be sure to checkout my Mariners season review article, which will be posted this week.

It All Comes Down to 162

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Game 162 matters, what a thought. I’ve been waiting 13 years for this day, Felix has been waiting 8. The Mariners need some help this afternoon in Texas, but they have a legitimate shot at reaching the postseason for the first time since 2001. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Seattle Mariners (86-75) will take on the Los Angeles Angels (98-63) for the final time of the regular season on Sunday afternoon. First pitch today will be at 1:10 from the corner of Edgar & Dave. Mariners ace, Felix Hernandez (14-6, 2.18 ERA), will be on the hill for Seattle and the Angels will counter with, Cory Rasmus (3-1, 2.20 ERA).

The M’s won in dramatic fashion last night, plating the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning. The Oakland Athletics lost Saturday night in Texas against the Rangers. This was the perfect storm for the Mariners, as they are now just 1 game back of the A’s for the final wildcard spot in the American League. The Mariners can force a game 163 with a win and an Oakland loss, so you can bet there will be some scoreboard watching today. Everybody say it with me, “let’s go Texas!”

When asked last night by a Mariners reporter if he was ready for today's game, Felix looked him dead int he eye and simply said, "hell yeah". Sounds good to me. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

When asked last night by a Mariners reporter if he was ready for today’s game, Felix looked him square in his eyes and simply said, “hell yeah”. Sounds good to me. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Felix Hernandez has been waiting for a start in the postseason for 8 seasons, and today he’s gets his shot in the next best thing with the season hanging in the balance. Sunday will be Hernandez’s 34th start of the season, and his 5th of the campaign against the Angels. King Felix has found success when facing Los Angeles in 2014, going 2-0 with a 0.94 ERA. The King has ruled in his castle this year, going 9-3 with a 2.16 ERA across 16 outings at Safeco Field. Hernandez has shined in the sunlight as well, posting a record of 4-0 with a 1.51 ERA in day games this season. Hopefully these great numbers carry over into today’s ballgame for Felix. Who else would you rather have on the mound in the biggest game for Seattle in over a decade?

Cory Rasmus has made 5 starts this season for the Angels since being moved from the bullpen into the starting rotation. Rasmus is still not stretched out as a starter, and thus is still limited to a pitch count. Rasmus has not pitched more than 4 innings in any outing this season. His ERA is 1.69 as a starter, and on the 16th of September Rasmus hurled 4 shutout innings against the Mariners in Anaheim.

Cory Rasmus will likely be limited to 50 pitches and  max of 4 innings in this one. The M's need to jump on him early, and push a run across in the first 3 innings. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Cory Rasmus will likely be limited to 50 pitches and max of 4 innings in this one. The M’s need to jump on him early, and push a run across in the first 3 innings. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Mariners skipper, Lloyd McClendon, has released the following lineup for today’s ballgame:

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Dustin Ackley, LF
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Kendrys Morales, DH
  5. Kyle Seager, 3B
  6. Logan Morrison, 1B
  7. Michael Saunders, RF
  8. Mike Zunino, C
  9. Chris Taylor, SS

First baseman, Logan Morrison, has made the difference this month, and last night was no different. Morrison went 2 for 4 last night lacing an RBI double to tie the game for Seattle in the 7th inning. LoMo is batting .333 with 5 home runs and 11 runs driven in since September 1st. Designated hitter, Kendrys Morales, has finally started to hit the ball hard over the last 2 games. Morales has had mixed results, but it’s a positive sign that he is having better at bats and squaring pitches up. Kyle Seager is a critical cog in the Mariners lineup, and today would be a good time for him to come through. Seager is the M’s leader in home runs and RBI’s, and at Safeco Field in 2014 he is batting .304 with 16 dingers and 53 RBI’s. This pressure packed game is precisely the reason Seattle lured, Robinson Cano, away from the New York Yankees in free agency. Cano has plenty of postseason experience and today he has to step up for the M’s.

Logan Morrison has become the heart and soul of this team. His double last night swung the momentum in the Mariners direction and gave them the boost they needed to stay alive in the playoff race. LoMo reminds me so much of Mariners great, Jay Buhner. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Logan Morrison has become the heart and soul of this team. His double last night swung the momentum in the Mariners direction and gave them the boost they needed to stay alive in the playoff race. LoMo reminds me so much of Mariners great, Jay Buhner. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Angels manager, Mike Scioscia, has released the following lineup for today’s season finale:

  1. Kole Calhoun, RF
  2. Mike Trout, CF
  3. Albert Pujols, DH
  4. Howie Kendrick, 2B
  5. Erick Aybar, SS
  6. David Freese, 3B
  7. Efren Navarro, LF
  8. C.J. Cron, 1B
  9. Hank Conger, C

The Angels have not lain down in this series with the Mariners, and judging from their lineup today, they want to win this game. Apparently the Angels have no interest in playing the Mariners in the postseason. However, I suspect that just like last night, the Angels will pull most of their starters in the 6th or 7th inning today to keep them healthy for October. There are plenty of names to fear in this stacked lineup, but Mike Trout is a man among men. Trout is the heavy favorite to take home the American League MVP award at season’s end, and with good reason. Trout enters today’s game batting .288 with 36 home runs and 111 RBI’s.

Mike Trout is the best player in baseball and he is just 22 years old. Trout has the best combination of power, speed, fielding, hitting, and throwing I have ever seen. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Mike Trout is the best player in baseball and he is just 22 years old. Trout has the best combination of power, speed, fielding, hitting, and throwing I have ever seen. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Mariners have a chance to finish the season with a winning record at home in 2014, as they currently sit at 40-40 when playing at the Safe. The Angels are a great road team this year, going 46-34 away from Angels Stadium in Anaheim in 2014. The Mariners hold an 11-7 lead in the season series between these two clubs.

I expect the green boat to come out victorious in the prestigious jumbotron hydro boat race in the 6th inning. For the jumbotron hidden ball game, hat number 1 will house the ball.

The M’s have a shot today to make the postseason for the first time in nearly 13 seasons. If you had told me at the beginning of March that this team would be competing for a playoff spot in game 162, I would have called you a looney tune. Seattle still needs some help today from the Texas Rangers, but they cannot focus on that because they also have a job to do. Last night was hella fun and hopefully that spirit and emotion carries over and the M’s come out on fire in this one. Whatever happens today, it’s been a fun ride and I won’t soon forget last night’s histrionics. It should be a packed house today at the corner of Edgar & Dave to watch the Mariners continue their pursuit of game 163.

I cannot help thinking about Dave Niehaus the past couple of nights. The Man was Mariners baseball for so many years, and I could almost hear his famous “My Oh My” call as Brad Miller crossed the plate for the Mariners last night. I know he will be watching today, and hopefully he will be broadcasting on some heavenly frequency as the M’s plunge into the postseason.

Safeco Field of Dreams

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It was magical Saturday night in Seattle, with Austin Jackson playing the role of Hero for the Mariners. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

I think I should preface this post by saying that I am still under the influence of pure happiness, and may still be felling the effects of shock following tonight’s incredible game. I literally have not stopped smiling since Brad Miller crossed home plate. I feel as though nothing I write tonight will do this game justice, but what the hell, I gave it a shot.

The Seattle Mariners (86-75) caught Saturday Night Fever and stayed alive in the race for October tonight by beating the Los Angeles Angels (98-63) by a final score of 2-1. It took 11 innings to get the job done tonight, but nearly every one of the 32, 617 fans at Safeco Field stayed to watch the dramatic walk off. Dominic Leone (8-2, 2.17 ERA) picked up the win for the M’s, and Mike Morin (4-4, 2.90 ERA) took the loss for Los Angeles.

Everything went right for the Mariners on Saturday night, with Texas Rangers winning against the Oakland Athletics. Rangers ace, Derek Holland, was a last minute scratch but former Mariner, Scott Baker, got the job done for Texas. The A’s are just 1 game in front of Seattle for the final wildcard spot in the American League with just 1 game remaining in the season. The Mariners need to win tomorrow afternoon, and the A’s have to lose for Seattle to force a 163rd game. It’s worth noting that if the M’s can force a game 163 against Oakland, it will be played at Safeco Field in Seattle.

James Paxton did his job tonight keeping Seattle in the ballgame by allowing just 1 run. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

James Paxton did his job tonight keeping Seattle in the ballgame by allowing just 1 run. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

James Paxton started the game for the M’s, and he fared pretty well in the biggest outing of his young career. Pax pitched 5.2 innings, allowing 1 run on 4 hits. The Mariners bullpen tonight was remarkable once again, as 7 relievers combined to pitch 5.1 shutout innings. Fernando Rodney came in to pitch the 9th inning in a tied game, something he has had trouble doing recently, but tonight he was in total control. Rodney pitched 1 inning, allowing 1 hit and striking out 3 Angels. Dominic Leone pitched a scoreless 11th inning for Seattle en route to earning his 7th win of the season. The bullpen has been the backbone of this team all season, and it’s fitting that they shined as a unit when it mattered most.

Kyle Seager crossed the plate in the 7th inning on Logan Morrison's double. Seager scored all the way from first base on the play. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Kyle Seager crossed the plate in the 7th inning on Logan Morrison’s double. Seager scored all the way from first base on the play. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Mariners offense was by no means impressive, but they ultimately got the job done tonight. First baseman, Logan Morrison, led the way for the M’s again on Saturday night. Morrison is willing this team into the postseason, and tonight he came through with a game tying RBI double in the 7th inning, literally seconds after it was announced at Safeco Field that the Rangers beat the A’s in Texas. LoMo has been the go-to guy over the last month, and has endeared himself to this community. The Mariners had the winning run in scoring position in 4 of the last 5 innings before finally breaking through in the bottom of the 11th. Brad Miller laced a double down the right field line to get the rally started for the Mariners in the 11th. Shortstop, Chris Taylor, moved Miller over to third base with a bloop single to centerfield. With 1 out Mariners centerfielder, Austin Jackson, stepped into the box with the go ahead run just 90 feet away. Jackson hit what appeared to be a sure double play ball, but hustled down the line and beat the return throw from second base. Miller came in to score on the play for Seattle and Safeco Field erupted. Jackson was mobbed at first base, and hope was once again restored to the team and fans alike.

What a moment it was when Miller scored the winning run in the 11th inning. It was one of those great feelings where nothing else in the world mattered. You gotta love these guys. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

What a moment it was when Miller scored the winning run in the 11th inning. It was one of those great feelings where nothing else in the world mattered. You gotta love these guys. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

C.J. Wilson’s numbers were extremely misleading tonight in his start for the Angels. Wilson pitched 6 innings of 1 run ball, striking out 2 and walking 3, but just 46 of his 85 pitches were strikes. Wilson’s success was unconventional, but I cannot take away the fact that he did shut down the M’s bats for much of the first 6 innings. Former Pittsburgh Pirates closer, Jason Grilli, got himself in trouble in the 9th, but tight roped out of out bases loaded jam. Designated hitter, C.J. Cron had the lone run batted in on Saturday for the Angels. Cron plated David Freese on an infield single that ricochet off a diving Kyle Seager’s glove at third base. Howie Kendrick was the only Angel to record more than 1 hit, but many of the regulars were pulled in the 7th inning to rest before the postseason.

C.J. Wilson shut down the M's for the second straight time tonight. Although his command was shaky, he nearly got the job done for Los Angeles. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

C.J. Wilson shut down the M’s for the second straight time tonight. Although his command was shaky, he nearly got the job done for Los Angeles. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

I lost whatever journalistic credibility I had tonight when I let out a high pitched squeal and starting pumping my fist so hard I think I may need Tommy John surgery following Jackson’s game winner. The Mariners provided their fans with the rare opportunity to feel that childlike joy that makes one feel like they are 8 years old again. It was an incredible atmosphere tonight at Safeco Field, and the memories of 1995 came flooding back. It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball.

The M’s still need some help, but game 162 matters. First pitch is set for 1:10pm on Sunday afternoon from the corner of Edgar & Dave. Cory Rasmus (3-1, 2.38 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Angels in the finale. Felix Hernandez (14-6, 2.18 ERA) will be on the mound for Seattle in their biggest game in over a decade. Hopefully the Safe will be rocking for what is sure to be a fun game.

Mariners Need Some Magic Tonight

James Paxton will get the nod for Seattle in the biggest game of their season to date. The Mariners will need a lot of things to go their way tonight, not the least of which is their game tonight versus the Angels. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

James Paxton will get the nod for Seattle in the biggest game of their season to date. The Mariners will need a lot of things to go their way tonight, not the least of which is their game tonight versus the Angels. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners (85-75) will host the Los Angeles Angels (98-62) Saturday night at Safeco Field in Seattle for game 2 of the 3-game series. First pitch will be at 6:10 tonight, at which point the M’s will continue their push for game 163 with rookie southpaw, James Paxton (6-4, 3.16 ERA), on the hill for Seattle and veteran lefty, C.J. Wilson (13-10, 4.61 ERA), going for Los Angeles.

The Mariners come into tonight’s game trailing the Oakland Athletics by 2 games for the final wildcard spot in the American League. With just 2 games reaming the M’s have to win both of their final games against the Angels, and the A’s have to lose their final 2 games against the Texas Rangers. You can bet that there are more than a few Mariners fans rooting for the Rangers tonight. Unfortunately, the Mariners destiny is not in their own hands, but they cannot afford to dwell on that fact. The only thing Seattle can control is how they perform tonight, so that is the only thing they need to devote their time thinking about.

James Paxton will make his 13th start of the season Saturday night for the M’s, and Paxton has arguably been Seattle’s second best pitcher over the last 2 months. Pax was roughed up for the first time in his career last week in Toronto, allowing 8 runs on 7 hits over just 2.2 innings. Prior to that poor outing however, the Canadian southpaw was 4-3, with a 2.18 ERA since returning from injury on August 2nd. Paxton has been brilliant pitching at Safeco Field in 2014, going 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA. James has had success against the Angels this season, going 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA. Tonight’s game is a big opportunity for Paxton to make a name for himself in Seattle, and across the league.

C.J. Wilson will look for a repeat performance of last week's dominant outing against Seattle. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

C.J. Wilson will look for a repeat performance of last week’s dominant outing against Seattle. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

C.J. Wilson has had a very inconsistent season for Los Angeles in 2014, and his last 2 outing are prime examples of this. Last week in a start at home against the M’s Wilson pitched marvelously, hurling 7 shutout inning and allowing just 1 hit. But in his next outing against the A’s, Wilson allowed 4 runs on 2 hits lasting just 2/3’s of an inning. Tonight’s start will be the 31st of the season for the veteran, and his 4th of the campaign against Seattle. Over his first 3 outings against the Mariners this season Wilson is 1-2 with a 3.98 ERA. The Road has not been kind to the Head and Shoulders spokesman, going 4-8 with a 5.62 ERA across 15 starts away from Angels Stadium in Anaheim.

Mariners manager, Lloyd McClendon, has released the following lineup for tonight’s critical game:

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Dustin Ackley, LF
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Kendrys Morales, DH
  5. Kyle Seager, 3B
  6. Logan Morrison, 1B
  7. Chris Denorfia, RF
  8. Mike Zunino, C
  9. Chris Taylor, SS

The Mariners had the home run stroke working last night, as they clubbed 3 dingers that accounted for all 4 Seattle runs. The Mariners have become much more reliant on the long ball lately, some might argue they are too reliant, but on Friday nobody was complaining. Tonight, Seattle needs second baseman, Robinson Cano, to step up and carry this club. Cano is the star of this team, and for much of the season he played like it, but over the last couple weeks he has not looked like the same hitter. Cano is batting .316 overall, but just .250 over his last 10 ballgames. Cano has hit 14 home runs and driven in 82 M’s this season, but he has not hit a big fly since September 13th, and has driven in just 5 runs over his last 13 games. Third baseman, Kyle Seager, has been pressing lately, and tonight he needs to just take what Wilson gives him. Seager appears to be trying to hit a home run every time he steps into the box, and the result has been a ton of strikeouts, 18 in September alone, and more pop outs to right field than I can count.

Kyle Seager leads the M's in home runs and RBI's this season. A big game from Seags could spell victory for Seattle on Saturday night. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Kyle Seager leads the M’s in home runs and RBI’s this season. A big game from Seags could spell victory for Seattle on Saturday night. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Angels skipper, Mike Scioscia, has released the following lineup for tonight’s game:

  1. Kole Calhoun, RF
  2. Mike Trout, CF
  3. Albert Pujols, 1B
  4. Howie Kendrick, 2B
  5. David Freese, 3B
  6. Erick Aybar, SS
  7. Chris Iannetta, C
  8. J. Cron, DH
  9. Collin Cowgill, LF

The Mariners obviously have to be weary of, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, but in last week’s series, third baseman, David Freese, and designated hitter, C.J. Cron, did a lot of damage. Freese is a very streaky hitter, and has cooled off considerably since the middle of last week, but he has still tallied a hit in 9 of his last 10 games. Freese is also much more adept at hitting southpaws this season, as he enters tonight batting .316 with 2 home runs and 19 RBI’s. Cron provided the big blow in Paxton’s last start against the Angels, when he crushed a, Danny Farquhar, fastball fro a 3-run home run. Cron is not a complete hitter yet, and is hitting just .125 over his last 10 games.

David Freese is a former World Series MVP, and is known as a clutch hitter for the Angels. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

David Freese is a former World Series MVP, and is known as a clutch hitter for the Angels. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The M’s enter play tonight still below sitting .500 in games played at Safeco Field this season, going 39-40 at home in 2014. The Angels have fared nicely away from home this year, going 46-33 away from Angels Stadium in 2014. Seattle holds a slim lead in the season series against Los Angeles, having won 10 of the first 17 games this year.

Obviously, it goes without saying that the M’s need to win tonight. But what does not go without saying is just how fun this season has been. Hopefully the Mariners can get a great performance tonight from James Paxton, and an equally great performance from Rangers starter, Scott Baker. It’s a tad bit ironic that Baker was cut from the Mariners at the end of spring training this season, and now he carries Mariners fans’ playoff dreams on his right shoulder. Regardless of what happens tonight, it has been a hell of a year, and this team has captured the imaginations of baseball fans in the Pacific Northwest.

Refuse to Lose, Pt. 2

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The Mariners came out on top Friday night, extending their magical season for at least one more night. There will be a strong contingent of Rangers fans in the Pacific Northwest tomorrow night, as a win from Texas combined with a Mariners win will keep the dream of game 163 alive. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners (85-75) are still alive in the hunt for the postseason following their 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels (98-62) on Friday. The atmosphere tonight at Safeco Field was absolutely electric, as Seattle came out in full force to support their M’s in pursuit of game 163. Hisashi Iwakuma (15-9, 3.52 ERA) was very effective tonight earning the win for the Mariners, and snapping his 3-game losing skid. Jared Weaver (18-9, 3.59 ERA) took the loss for Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, the M’s did not receive any aid from the Texas Rangers or the Chicago White Sox on Friday night, as both the Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals were victorious. With the win, the Royals clinched a spot in the postseason for the first time since 1985. The A’s remain 2 games up on the Mariners with just 2 games remaining. Simply put, 1 Oakland win or 1 Seattle loss will eliminate the Mariners. The M’s have to win their last 2 games and Oakland has to lose their last 2 games to force a 1 game playoff for the final wildcard spot in the American League.

It was great to see Iwakuma bounce back after a number of rough outings lately. Kuma had it working on Friday night, locating his pitches with ease and providing Seattle with the kind of start they needed in the biggest game of the season. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

It was great to see Iwakuma bounce back after a number of rough outings lately. Kuma had it working on Friday night, locating his pitches with ease and providing Seattle with the kind of start they needed in the biggest game of the season. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Hisashi Iwakuma had a brilliant bounce back performance for Seattle on Friday night, pitching 6.1 innings, and allowing 2 runs on 4 hits. Iwakuma looked much more Kuma-ish tonight, his command was back and apart from the 2 home runs he was dominant. Tonight’s outing against the Angels was the best Kuma has looked since August 19th in Philadelphia when he hurled 8 shutout innings. The Mariners bullpen performed admirably once again, pitching 3.2 innings of 1 run ball. Rookie reliever, Carson Smith, pitched just 1/3 of an inning, but it was memorable. Smith struck out the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, on a filthy slider that made Trout look silly. The Fernando Rodney rollercoaster continued tonight when he entered in the bottom of the 9th. Rodney allowed a 1-out RBI double to shortstop, Erick Aybar, shrinking Seattle’s lead to just 1 run. Thankfully Rodney recovered and retired the final to Halos to record his 48th save of the season, and by far his biggest.

Kendrys Morales broke out of an awful slump tonight collecting 2 hits, and hitting his first home run since September 12th. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Kendrys Morales broke out of an awful slump tonight collecting 2 hits, and hitting his first home run since September 12th. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The M’s had a huge 2nd inning tonight, scoring 3 of their 4 runs during the frame. The scoring got started when former Angel, Kendrys Morales, hit his 8th home run of the campaign. Morales’ homerun was of the solo variety, and really gave the crowd a shot in the arm. Shortly thereafter, right fielder, Michael Saunders, stepped up with Logan Morrison on first base and promptly deposited a 2-run homer into the right field seats. Saunders blast gave the Mariners a 3 run lead. Dustin Ackley provided what was ultimately the winning run when he hit a solo home run in the 5th inning. The dinger was Ackley’s 14th of the season, and was by far the most important homerun of his career. Shortstop, Chris Taylor really stepped up his game tonight, going 2 for 3 and adding 2 stolen bases. Taylor also made some really nice plays at short, showing why manger, Lloyd McClendon, has so much faith in him. The M’s utilized the long ball on Friday night, and they will hope to replicate tonight’s performance on Saturday.

Jared Weaver did not have his bets stuff tonight in Seattle, and the M's took advantage of this, homering 3 times off the veteran right-hander. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Jared Weaver did not have his bets stuff tonight in Seattle, and the M’s took advantage of this, homering 3 times off the veteran right-hander. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Angels starter, Jared Weaver, was shaky early, and things did not get much better as the game progressed. Weaver lasted 6 innings, but allowed 4 runs on 9 hits. Weaver had command issues all night, missing his spots with his fastball and leaving pitches elevated in the strike zone. Weaver could not have gained much confidence in his final tune up before heading into the postseason next week. Centerfielder, Mike Trout, made one the best catches of the season tonight, and hit his 36th homerun. Trout is an amazing athlete, who probably could have excelled at any sport he wanted to; thankfully for baseball fans he chose baseball. Right fielder, Kole Calhoun, yanked a solo shot in the 6th inning for Los Angeles. Calhoun now has 17 homers this season.

Tonight brought back memories of the ’95 season, and just like back then, it was fun to watch. I found myself wondering what Mariners Hall-of-Fame broadcaster, Dave Niehaus, would have said. Something tells me we would have heard 1 or 2 “My Oh My” calls tonight. For the first time since my childhood this M’s team makes people feel something, and if that’s all they have accomplished after this weekend, they should walk off the field with their heads held high. Cano and the boys have brought baseball back to Seattle, and it’s about time. First pitch Saturday night will be at 6:10 from the corner of Edgar& Dave in Seattle. Rookie southpaw, James Paxton (6-4, 3.16 ERA), will start for Seattle on tomorrow night and veteran southpaw, C.J. Wilson (13-10, 4.61 ERA), will toe the rubber for Los Angeles.

Hit the SoDo MoJo Button Seattle

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The Seattle Mariners will need a great start from Hisashi Iwakuma on Friday night with the season on the line. Kuma has pitched very poorly over his last 6 starts, but hopefully he can return to his dominant form tonight at Safeco Field. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners (84-75) welcome the Los Angeles Angels (98-61) into town for the opener of their 3-game set. This will undoubtedly be the biggest series for the Mariners and their fans in over 10 seasons, with the M’s playoff chances hanging in the balance. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 on Friday night from the corner of Edgar & Dave in Seattle. Hisashi Iwakuma (14-9, 3.54 ERA) will be on the mound for Seattle, and Angels ace, Jared Weaver (18-8, 3.52 ERA), will start for Los Angeles.

The Mariners will be scoreboard watching this weekend at Safeco Field, as their playoff aspirations hinge on the outcomes of the Kansas City Royals games in Chicago, and the Oakland Athletics games in Texas. Entering tonight’s game the M’s are 2 games back of the A’s for the final wildcard spot in the American League. The Royals currently hold a 3-game lead over Seattle for the first wildcard. With just 3 games left, the M’s will need to win a minimum of 2 games this weekend, and receive plenty of help form the Rangers and White Sox to reach the postseason.

Hisashi Iwakuma will be making his 28th start of the season tonight for Seattle, and they will be hoping for a dramatic turnaround from Iwakuma. Kuma has struggled mightily over his last 6 starts, posting an astronomical ERA of 9.36. Kuma has lost his last 3 outings, failing to make it out of the 5th inning in any of those starts. Perhaps most disturbing is Iwakuma’s recent lack of command; over his last 6 starts, he has allowed 9 of his 21 walks over that span. Iwakuma was roughed up last week in Los Angeles, allowing 7 runs on 6 hits over the course of 3.1 innings. Iwakuma has had success pitching at Safeco Field this season, going 7-6 with a 3.03 ERA. The Mariners season is on the line tonight, and a strong start from Kuma could really give the M’s and their fans hope.

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Jared Weaver has paced the Angels starting rotation all season. Tonight will be a tune up for the playoffs for Weaver, so it’s expected he will not pitch too deep into tonight’s ballgame. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Jared Weaver has added another great season to his already impressive resume in 2014. Weaver has made 33 starts this season for the Angels, and tonight will be his 4th start against the Mariners in 2014. Over Weaver’s 3 outings against the M’s he has gone 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA. These numbers give Seattle fans hope, however over Weaver’s last 10 starts overall, he has been very impressive going 7-2 with a 3.29 ERA. Weaver has had problems on the road this year, posting a 4.62 ERA in 15 starts away from Angels Stadium in Anaheim. The start will serve as Weaver’s tune up before the postseason, and he likely will only pitch 6 innings.

Mariners manager, Lloyd McClendon, has released the following lineup for tonight’s opener:

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Dustin Ackley, LF
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Kyle Seager, 3B
  5. Kendrys Morales, DH
  6. Logan Morrison, 1B
  7. Michael Saunders, RF
  8. Mike Zunino, C
  9. Chris Taylor, SS

First baseman, Logan Morrison, has been on a tear for nearly 2 months, but his last 10 games have been particularly impressive. LoMo is hitting .371 with 3 home runs and 7 runs batted in over his last 10 games. Catcher, Mike Zunino, has caught his second wind over the past 8 games, hitting .259 with 2 home runs and 6 runs batted in. This weekend’s series is precisely the reason the Mariners paid the money to sign superstar second baseman, Robinson Cano. Cano is the 6th leading hitter in the Major Leagues, carrying a .318 average into tonight’s affair with the Angels. Cano has seen his numbers drop over the past 10 days however, hitting just .270 with no home runs and 5 RBI’s over that stretch. Robbie has won a World Series title, and has more playoff experience than the entire team combined, so he will set the tone for the M’s during this critical series.

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Logan Morrison was the hero yesterday, clubbing a pair of homers and driving in 4 runs for Seattle in their win against Toronto. M’s fans will hope for a repeat performance tonight versus Los Angeles. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Angels skipper, Mike Scioscia, has released the following lineup for tonight’s game:

  1. Kole Calhoun, RF
  2. Mike Trout, CF
  3. Albert Pujols, 1B
  4. Howie Kendrick, 2B
  5. Erick Aybar, SS
  6. David Freese, 3B
  7. Brennan Boesch, DH
  8. Chris Iannetta, C
  9. Efren Navarro, LF

Mike Trout is the odds on favorite to take home the American League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2014, and deservingly so. Trout was quite a catch for the Angels when they snagged him at the end of the first round in the 2009 MLB draft. Trout has a .290 average, with 35 home runs and 110 RBI’s this season, to go along with 16 stolen bases. Second baseman, Howie Kendrick, has been a really nice supporting cast member for the Angels over his career, but in 2014 he has transformed into a leading man. Kendrick has hit cleanup for much of the season, and is hitting .292 with 7 home runs and 75 RBI’s. The national media overlooks Kendrick, but you can guarantee the Mariners will not be overlooking him tonight.

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Howie Kendrick is the unsung hero of the Angels offense in 2014. Kendrick not only plays a demanding position in the field, but in 2014 he has seen a lot of time int he cleanup spot. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Mariners have had trouble playing at Safeco Field all season dragging a sub .500 record at home into Friday’s opener. Seattle is just 38-40 playing at the corner of Edgar & Dave in 2014. The Angels have been impressive playing on the road this year, going 46-32 away from Anaheim. Seattle owns the season series, entering play with a 9-7 record against the Angels in 2014.

Every game is a “must win game” at this point for Seattle. The M’s have painted themselves into a corner after going 4-7 over their last 11 games. How the M’s perform over the next 3 games is the only thing Seattle can control, and thus it is the only thing they should be focusing on. At 2 games out with 3 games remaining, the deck is stacked against Seattle. The M’s must refuse to lose on Friday night.

The Mariners have a legitimate shot at playing in the postseason for the first time since 2001, what more could you ask for?