Why This Year Is Different

Jose Lopez
I am not sure what to say about today's game. I'm just sure that I need to say something. It was over five hours long, but thrilling throughout. The Mariners had to come back multiple times, and somehow did. Jason Vargas earned his first MLB win since 2007. Both Kenji Johjima and Mike Sweeney hit their first home runs of the season. Gio Gonzalez threw 108 pitches for the A's...in relief. In the end, it was Jose Lopez getting the game-winning hit yet again, this time on a blooper that Rajai Davis would have caught if he had not taken a few steps back before charging. Lopez should have drawn a walk Friday night instead of fouling off all those pitches, so he arguably should not have had a game-winning hit that night, as well as today.

In the end, Lopez's series symbolizes the Mariners season so far. He probably shouldn't have had either of his game-winning hits in this series, but he got both. Should the Mariners be 15-10, with Griffey and Beltre struggling? With an assortment of pitchers on the DL? With career reserves Russell Branyan and Endy Chavez in the lineup every day? It seems improbable, but here they are.

Things are going the Mariners way. The Angels' injuries are unfortunate, but have left the division wide open. The Rangers still lack some pitching, and the A's are still young. The Mariners find themselves in a very fortunate situation. There is no doubt that this division is weak.

Still, the Mariners are seizing an increasingly golden opportunity. They are coming up with big hits. They are making big pitches. They have a flair for the dramatic, and they are clearing pulling for each other to come through. This is a team that believes in itself, even when it gets down 3 runs in the 13th inning. Belief is never enough to win a game. Winning still takes execution, and a little luck from time to time. However, teams that do not believe in themselves rely on other teams completely blowing it to "win". Belief is the first, and in some ways most necessary, step towards winning. The 2008 Mariners rarely believed in themselves, especially by the end of the year. The 2009 Mariners emphatically do.

The Mariners are not good enough to dominate, but they are good enough to compete with anyone most nights. As the season has unfolded, it's becoming apparent that this team has a competitive spirit that most teams do not have. Some players treat the sport as their profession, but everyone on the Mariners treats it like a game. Their collective, team-first competitive attitude shined through today and throughout the series. In a division as wide-open as the AL West, it will serve them well. This team's steadfast belief in itself is making a believer out of me.