M's Continue Solid Play, Adrian Beltre Will Be Missed

Pete TreperinasCorrespondent IJune 30, 2009

LAS VEGAS - MARCH 30:  Adrian Beltre (L) #29 of the Seattle Mariners is congratulated by teammate Ichiro Suzuki #51 after Beltre hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning of an exhibition game against the Chicago Cubs at Cashman Field March 30, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The pitching staff has been pulling it together, and surprisingly, the Mariners are hitting.

Run support has been the biggest issue for Seattle this year with the exception of Ichiro and Russell Branyan, but since the beginning of inter-league play, things have been looking up.

A 10-6 record in inter-league play has the Mariners only three games off the Angels in the AL West. The division is somewhat wide open at this point, with Texas cooling off quite a bit of late.

On Friday, the Mariners started what many have called the team's toughest road trip of the season. Three against the MLB's best, the Dodgers, then they head East for three with the Yankees (42-32) and three with Boston (46-29).

Going into the trip, I figured a .500 trip would be nothing short of successful, but after taking two of three from LA, it seems the M's have something brewing.

On Sunday afternoon, Garrett Olson went five innings of four-hit, two-run ball while Jose Lopez continued a good series with two RBI and three hits. The bullpen then gave up just one hit in the last four innings and David Aardsma picked up his 16th save of the season.

Remember last year when Jarrod Washburn was a waste of a spot on a lame staff? Those days are over.

His consistent 3.22 ERA has been a pleasant surprise for the M's, and his 4-5 record is only a result of low run support. Take that away and I think Washburn makes a decent All-Star case.

The next two series will be an incredible test for Seattle, and after that we'll be able to tell what caliber team this really is. Unfortunately for the next six to eight weeks, Seattle will have to do it without third basemen Adrian Beltre.

Beltre will have surgery to remove bone spurs, and decided to play his final game with the team on Sunday. Manager Don Wakamatsu informed Beltre that he didn't have to play, but he said he owed it to his teammates to play one more.

Beltre drove in a run and helped the M's to victory. Seattle will need to turn to reserves such as Mike Sweeney and Ronny Cedeno to pick up the slack in Beltre's absence, or this little run the team has had could stay little.

The majority of the Mariners' recent success has happened with Erik Bedard on the DL, and the pitching staff will only get better when he returns.

Younger pitchers like Brandon Morrow, Olson, and Justin Vargas have had a shot to make their way into the rotation while Bedard has been getting healthy. This has also been a bit of an indicator of what the future of the staff could be.

Only time will tell how the absence of Beltre and the tough upcoming schedule will affect this seemingly streaky Mariners team.