"SEA 'EM RISE"

For the past couple of decades, the Seattle Mariners have been... woeful. Cursed by finishing a game out of the playoffs at best, the M's have been cursed to an incredible degree. There are many reasons for their pathetic past, including Howard Lincoln's incompetence and horrible signings. Take your pick from the numerous failures bestowed upon Emerald City baseball: Richie Sexson, Russell Branyan, Chone Figgins, Jack Cust... The laundry list for awful Mariner signings runs a mile deep.


Such failures have led the M's to become a forgotten franchise, which is tragic. In 2001, Seattle was the best team attendance-wise and record-wise in baseball. They had stars like John Olerud, Edgar Martinez, and Ichiro Suzuki. Sadly, they got eliminated by the Yankees, who had extra motivation after 9/11 to make the World Series. The Mariners haven't experienced October baseball since, falling off the baseball map completely.


However, the tide appears to be turning in the Emerald City. The M's have won 16 of their past 19 and are on an eight-game winning streak. Having swept Toronto out of town, Seattle currently sits in the final playoff spot. How has Seattle risen to the playoff picture?


Obviously, you have to look at Julio Rodriguez, who is the game's newest five-tool player. The All-Star outfielder (15 HR, 44 RBIs, .811 OPS, 21 SB) has provided a blend of speed and power for the M's, jumpstarting the offense in the leadoff spot. It also helps when you have J.P. Crawford (.741 OPS, .266 BA) and Ty France (.306 BA, 10 HR, 45 RBIs, .840 OPS) contributing to the lineup.


But there's a surprising contribution to the M's. His name is Carlos Santana (.282 BA, three HR, six RBIs, .943 OPS with the M's) has made an immediate impact in Seattle, reminding baseball fans of his power days in Cleveland. Santana has given the Mariners life, turning them into a playoff force.


Another major reason for Seattle's torrid streak has been from starting pitching. Robbie Ray has been stellar in his past six starts, throwing for an ERA of 0.91 with 11 walks and 46 strikeouts. His slider has been extremely effective, causing an array of swing-and-misses from opposing batters.


Logan Gilbert has also been a great starter for the M's, with his four-seam baseball fooling batters. He has an ERA of 2.80 along with a K/9 of 8.5 and a WHIP of 1.17, making him a great emerging pitcher for the Mariners' rotation.


In fact, pitching has been a strong point for the M's, with the team ranking sixth in ERA (3.56), seventh in WHIP (1.21), and tied for eighth in opponent's batting average (.235). The Mariners might not strike out too many batters besides Ray and Gilbert. However, their slowed-down style of pitching causes problems for their opponents by disrupting timing and causing weakened contact.


Will the M's make the postseason? It remains to be seen especially since we have another half of baseball. However, there are many benefactors for Seattle to look forward to. For one, the AL West is weak aside from the Houston Astros. Even with the 'Stros being strong, Seattle has had success against the defending AL champs; the Mariners are tied in the season series against Houston (6-6) with just seven games left between the two. Both series will be played in the latter half of July, leaving Houston off the schedule for Seattle.


Going further, the M's have six games against the torrid New York Yankees in early August, and home series against Atlanta and San Diego. The rest of the matchups are against teams currently below .500, with a chunk of matchups coming against the bottom half of the AL West and the AL Central.


With the Seahawks falling to the wayside and the Kraken building a foundation, it's a tough time to be a Seattle sports fan. However, a surprising team has entered the fold for Emerald City sports fans, with the Mariners becoming competitive. Stay tuned in early October to see if this good feeling will last.