The month of July brought winning ways to the Seattle Mariners, as they played their way to a 15-11 record for the month, the only one this season in which they've had a winning record.
The club did exceptionally well following the All-Star break, winning 13 out of 19 ballgames, including six straight to end the month.
While the M's have yet to return to their winning form in the month of August, some light can be shed on July and what the strong second half of the month means for the Mariners going forward.
The Mariners are currently a rebuilding franchise, so nothing is more encouraging than the sight of young players developing a chemistry with one another and playing well together.
Following the Ichiro trade, Seattle went on to win seven of their final nine games in July, and the team has an overall record of 11-9 without the future Hall of Famer.
Ichiro may have been a distraction in the clubhouse, and ultimately his departure will help both sides in the long run. His position in right field is now freed up for young players to rotate in and out of, and we've already seen the likes of Carlos Peguero, Trayvon Robinson and recently-acquired Eric Thames platooned in right. Giving young players big league experience now is a plus in terms of building towards the future.
During their seven-game winning streak at the end of July and beginning of August, several players stepped up and showed vast improvements in their games, from Jesus Montero to Kyle Seager to Michael Saunders, as well as the resurgence of starter Blake Beavan.
Felix Hernandez contributed to Seattle's success in July as much as anyone on the roster. King Felix worked his way to a 3-0 record in six starts with a 2.03 ERA. Felix won his three decisions in consecutive starts and pitched at least seven innings in five of six outings.
He looks like he's back to Cy Young-winning form, and on August 4th against the Yankees he tossed his third complete game shutout of the season.
If there were any ideas of dealing Felix at the trade deadline, he all but rejected them with his performance.
Through the first three months of the season, catcher/DH Jesus Montero wasn't quite playing well enough to live up to the hype. But since late July he's been the Mariners' best hitter.
During Seattle's seven-game winning streak, Montero raised his batting average from .258 to .263 and recorded two multi-hit games. Through the first two weeks of August, he's built on those numbers. Montero has upped his average to .269 which is good for second-best on the team. He's also hit safely in six out of 10 games, each of those six being multi-hit games.
His most impressive feat though, was belting two home runs off Cy Young candidate Jered Weaver in a Seattle win on August 12th. Montero is now second on the team in batting average, hits, home runs and RBI, and is batting .361 in August, appearing to be on his way to a successful big league career, knock on wood.