Seattle Mariners: Michael Saunders and Kyle Seager Form Solid 1-2 Punch
It's funny, just when you think the Seattle Mariners are about to sink into the abyss, they somehow manage to piece together a solid stretch of baseball.
While it still may seem a bit premature to get too excited about the team's recent upswing, it's nice to see that players other than pitchers Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are playing with a fair degree of consistency.
Two players that I'm particularly pleased to see come to life during this recent stretch are outfielder Michael Saunders and third baseman Kyle Seager.
To think that for all the time and energy we've spent worrying about Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak, not to mention all the wishing, hoping and praying for the likes of Danny Hultzen and Mike Zunino, we've ignored two potentially solid building blocks for the franchise.
Maybe Seager and Saunders weren't as highly rated as the aforementioned mix of former and current prospects, but right now the two of them certainly seem keen on proving the skeptics wrong.
Honestly, going into this season I wasn't quite sure what to make of either and whether they would follow up on the success of their first full seasons as starters in the majors.
Making matters worse, both struggled in spring training with the M's and didn't do themselves any favors early on during the regular season, as Seager scuffled at the bottom of the lineup while Saunders ended upon the DL after injuring his shoulder.
Not that anyone really noticed as the rest of the team, both hitters and pitchers, young and old, failed to carry the positive momentum of spring training with them into the regular season during the month of April.
Yet oddly, or perhaps innocently, enough, even while the winds of chaos swirled around the Mariners, Seager slowly but surely started to hit. Just as he did last year, Seager thrived amidst the mediocrity surrounding him, while raising his average from the Mendoza line to nearly .300.
Meanwhile, after recovering from his shoulder injury for the better part of April, Saunders returned to the lineup early last week and has picked up where he left off last season, including a two-home run performance in Toronto Saturday afternoon.
Granted, it's only been a month, and in Saunders' case barely two weeks' worth of games, but so far so good with both Seager and Saunders atop the M's batting order.
While it's still hard to judge whether either one, let alone both, will project as major contributors long-term, I like to think that what we are seeing thus far can dispel any notion that last year was a fluke for either player.
If we wish to take that thinking a step further, perhaps we can also take some small comfort in knowing that the Mariners this year have two young table setters capable of helping offset the disappointment of other prospects who have yet to play up to their potential.
Are Seager and Saunders long-term solutions?
For the time being, Seager and Saunders should enjoy hitting ahead of veterans Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales, but how long that will last and whether anyone else will join the hit parade is the big question moving forward.
Ever since the M's returned from their disastrous road trip to the state of Texas a little more than a week ago, they've managed to win seven of nine games. While most of those wins can be attributed to solid pitching, is it a coincidence that the offensive output of the past week has increased since Saunders returned?
Over the course of the next two-plus weeks, as the Mariners weave their way across the country with a trip to Pittsburgh up next, followed by a three game set against Oakland at Safeco, only to then embark on a brutal stretch in New York, Cleveland and Los Angeles, we should get some answers.
Fingers crossed that things continue to click, especially with Saunders and Seager providing a solid one-two punch to get things started each night, because sooner or later, depending on how things shape up, they may, for the second straight year, be the only two hitters we can rely on to deliver with any consistency.
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