Seattle Mariners: 6 Keys to Winning Homestand vs. Rangers and Angels
With a win today in Denver, the Mariners finished their 10-game road trip with a record of 4-6.
Sure, the Mariners handled a nearly 40-year-old Andy Pettitte and swept through the Rockies, but let's not forget they lost by four runs or more at least five times and saw a potential win against Cleveland turn into a loss in extra innings.
On the bright side, the Mariners did manage to save face on the final leg of their journey. Winning the series in Colorado helped salvage the trip, as their once-dormant bats came to life with an offensive explosion over the weekend.
Before heading out on this trip, I outlined a few key points the M's needed to follow in order to have a successful trip. By the end, they managed to pull through on a few, but it came down to the wire in some cases.
Getting Felix and Jesus Back on Track
When the likes of Felix Hernandez and Jesus Montero aren't producing, you know it's been a long trip.
Prior to Saturday in Colorado, when Montero put together a solid day at plate, helping the Mariners win 10-3 over the Rockies, the rookie had struggled during this road trip. To that point, the lone highlight for Montero was a solo home run against the Yankees during the opening game of the trip.
During the week between those two games, Montero saw his average drop by more than 20 points. It's got to be expected of a rookie, especially at catcher, to endure some ups and downs.
Manager Eric Wedge smartly took note of this and gave him a "rest" Thursday and Friday. Returning Saturday and Sunday with a sound mind and body, Montero once again began to hit with authority. The Mariners will need his bat to continue making contact against the Rangers and Angels in order to win this homestand.
While it's no surprise that Montero struggled a bit, watching Felix Hernandez look human, not once, but twice, on this trip served as an eye-opener.
In his first outing against the Yankees, he made a few bad pitches in what started out as a tight game, but against the Indians, he looked a bit lost from the start. Fortunately, Felix is a gamer and should rebound in short time. Fact is, he will need to with Yu Darvish set to face him Monday night to open the homestand.
This should certainly be an excellent, if not entertaining, matchup. It's also one that Felix will need to be in prime form from beginning to end in order to win and hopefully set the tone of the series.
More Vintage Millwood
Go figure. Kevin Millwood?
In two starts during the Mariners' recent road trip, he earned two wins with solid performances in the most unlikely of places. Just when it seemed he had one foot out the door, it turned out all he needed was a trip to Yankee Stadium and Coors Field.
Believe me when I say that no one saw that coming.
Can he keep it up?
If the M's plan on winning this homestand, they certainly could use another stellar outing in the mix.
Kyle Seager Excceds Our Expectations
Seager is the only player who, for the better part of this season, has managed to perform consistently.
In just a few weeks time, he's gone from potentially starting the season in Tacoma to the upstart runt of the litter, to hitting cleanup.
Not even in my wildest dreams had I envisioned Seager putting together a season like this.
While it may not be comforting to think of Seager as the team's cleanup hitter long-term, for now, it's working, as he's hitting for average with some pop.
Against the Rangers and Angels, I'm fairly confident that Seager will continue leading the way.
And by the Way...
In case you missed it, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak may not be living up to expectations quite yet, but they're not quite lost causes either.
Over the weekend, we saw a few sparks from both, especially on Sunday, with Ackley stealing home in the first inning and Smoak responding to Jesus Montero's home run with one of his own in the third.
It's not much, yet at the same time, any positive steps forward for these two should bode well for the team in the short-term during this homestand and hopefully lead to bigger and better things down the road.
Which brings me to my next point...
Play the Kids
I'm still not sure what to make of Michael Saunders and have a feeling that I won't for any time in the foreseeable future.
With that said, I think we all need to find out. The easiest way is to let him play every day.
Same goes for Mike Carp, Alex Liddi, Casper Wells, etc.
Play the kids. I'm not the first person to say this and probably won't be the last, but the vets on this team are beyond bad at this point.
While I fully understand there are only so many spots in the lineup, I'd rather see these guys get a shot instead of Brendan Ryan and Chone Figgins. Yes, Ryan has played well the past few games, but he's still hitting well below .200.
It seems that Eric Wedge is starting to catch on to this thinking, as we saw very little of Figgins the past week, but continue to get a steady dose of Ryan and Munenori Kawasaki at shortstop. I'd imagine that won't change much in this homestand, but at some point, you have to consider the alternatives.
A League of His Own
It would seem that Brandon League has hit a bit of a rough patch.
Between the blown save in Cleveland on Thursday and the nail-biter on Sunday in Colorado, League can't quite make things easy on anyone of late.
If the M's intend on winning this homestand, he needs to shut the door consistently and effectively.