To everyone's likely surprise, the Seattle Mariners have managed to stay right in the thick of the race for the American League West crown. Coming into today, they were only two games back of the first-place Texas Rangers.
That seems all the more incredible considering that Ichiro Suzuki is having an un-Ichiro type of year (.279 batting average), two rookies (Carlos Peguero and Dustin Ackley) are in the starting lineup and Seattle's regular closer (David Aardsma) has been out all season. (Though, to be fair, Brandon League has done a stupendous job in his place, leading the league with 20 saves.)
So how can the Mariners possibly keep this up? What do they need to do to stay in contention?
There is never just one answer, of course, but one of the more significant players to associate with the cause is starting pitcher Erik Bedard.
To say Bedard has been a disappointment since coming to Seattle in 2008 would be a grave understatement, mostly because of how very little time he's actually been healthy. This season, however, Bedard has been able to make his starts, and he has been refreshingly productive.
Bedard currently sports a 4-4 record with a 3.16 ERA. Here is why he will continue to be a major factor in determining the Mariners' 2011 fate.