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End Draws Near

The Mariners are 12-6 so far in September, and oddly enough seem poised for their best month of the year. They are winning "when it counts" - the only problem is that they didn't win enough the other five months (when wins don't count?) So these game don't matter because the games that didn't matter were lost too often. It's as if winning is always a good idea.

Anyway, on one hand the M's run seemed inevitable with the talent they have, but on the other is quite improbable. It has come with a roving platoon at center field featuring two career infielders, Brad Miller and Shawn O'Malley. Every now and then Lloyd McClendon sprinkles in a surprise, such as Stefen Romero today. The Mariners started winning once they stopped playing a center fielder in center field. Of course. We should have all seen the wisdom in this.

Also, say what you want about Mike Zunino, but his replacements are far from lighting the world on fire. John Hicks and Steve Baron are a combined 1 for 35 with 1 walk and 16 strikeouts. In fairness to Baron that is mostly Hicks's flailing away at the plate. In fairness to Hicks this whole disaster is not really his fault. There was a reason I never called for Mike Zunino to be demoted. I watch enough Rainiers games in person. Hicks and Baron can both defend, but their hitting was suspect at best. Catcher was a known hole that Zduriencik failed to address - or did, with Wellington Castillo, and promptly ditched because he couldn't resist Mark Trumbo. Regardless, now that the Mariners have eliminated any semblance of production at catcher, they are finally winning. Sure. Why not?

Maybe this is just how the 2015 AL West works. The Rangers lead the division despite a negative run differential and crippling injury luck. In fact, most of the season Texas has had a worse run differential than the basement-dwelling Athletics (and might again after today's drubbing). Nothing has been all that predictable in this division.

The Mariners have four series remaining, at the Royals, at the Angels, versus the Astros, and versus the Athletics. That very last series against Oakland will likely be a dud. Both the Mariners and Athletics should be mathematically eliminated from contention by then. The Royals series might be rather boring too because Kansas City is close to clinching, although one would think they would like to pluck home field advantage from the surging Toronto Blue Jays. Those Angels and Astros series look pretty interesting right about now though.

The Mariners have the look of a spoiler. All of a sudden they are looking much more like the team that many though would win the AL West this year. The Angels and Astros increasingly find themselves fighting for one playoff spot. Both of them must play the Mariners. The Mariners are 4-1 against the Angels and Astros this month, by the way, and all five of those games took place on the road too.

I have gone quiet on the blog because my school year started up again, but I have been listening to the Mariners. I am at the odd emotional moment where I realize that these games are pointless for the Mariners. Let's be honest, Lloyd McClendon understands how meaningless these games are too. Why else would Stefen Romero start in center field?

However, meaningless baseball is still baseball. Moreover, baseball is about to be over for the long, dark winter. Paradoxically, as the games have become increasingly meaningless, I find myself more intent on tuning in. The lure of baseball is just too strong for me, and it only beckons louder with every Mariners victory.

Now, with the way things are unfolding, the Mariners just might play some meaningful baseball next week - not for them, but for someone else. None of these games will leave an imprint like the crazy 11-inning game they played last year to make game 162 matter, but not every game is destined to be so great. A fun game with playoff implications is still worth paying attention to though. These last few weeks could be fun. I, for one, would take some pleasure in keeping the Angels out of the playoffs.