Pat Sullivan/Associated Press
On April 22, the Seattle Mariners lost their fourth consecutive game. This one, in particular, was an indictment for a franchise that signed Robinson Cano and Fernando Rodney last winter in an effort to post a winning season for the first time since 2008.
After the 5-2 loss at the hands of the lowly Astros, the Mariners sat at 7-13 and were eerily similar to the listless clubs that have occupied Safeco Field for the last half decade. Since that moment, however, things have changed.
At 47-38, the Mariners are in postseason position in the American League. Thanks to a 40-25 run since the start of play on April 23, Seattle is playing like a team that is ready to make major noise in the second half of the season. With an impressive plus-70 run differential, this group isn't simply winning by luck or smoke and mirrors.
At the start of play on July 3, Seattle's run differential was the second-best in all of baseball, trailing only the Oakland Athletics. To put that number in perspective, the four teams (Boston, Detroit, Atlanta and St. Louis) with a plus-70 mark on that date last season all went on to win at least 93 games and qualify for the playoffs.
Led by Cano's bat (138 OPS+), Felix Hernandez's arm (177 ERA+) and manager Lloyd McClendon, the Mariners are for real. Hernandez, a 10-year-veteran who has seen many teammates and managers come and go in Seattle, recently raved about the chemistry of this group and the Cano-McClendon factor, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
"The chemistry is the best it's ever been in here," Hernandez said. "Everyone is so happy. Lloyd McClendon and Cano are the biggest reasons."