The Mariners lost yesterday, 4-3. It was a disappointing loss in a few ways. First, losses are always disappointing. Second, watching Felix continue to fight Father Time and his historical first inning struggles is not exactly my idea of a great time. Third, and I don’t have the stats in front of me to back up this claim, but losing to a team on their bullpen day probably isn’t the expected result.
But there’s one more reason to be disappointed, and that’s the lack of a series sweep. Despite the myriad of injuries, lack of pitching depth, and the loss of their best position player for 80 games, the Mariners at this point are, from all indications, still focused on making the playoffs this year. And they’re running up against a hidden deadline.
Since the introduction of the second wildcard in 2012, 60 teams have made the playoffs (for the purposes of this article, we are considering the second wild card a playoff spot, despite it being closer to the March Madness First Four than what I’d consider a real playoff spot, but that’s another article for another day). Of those 60 teams, 44 of them, or 73%, had completed a three or four game sweep by the end of April. Another 12 had done so by the end of May (which puts us at 93%), leaving only four teams. Let’s examine those four.
2016 Blue Jays – First 3-game sweep completed: June 1. OK, technically not May, but close enough.
2012 Giants – First 3-game sweep completed: June 4. Also pretty damn close to May, plus this could easily be a side effect of those strange odd year/even year spells and incantations they were performing during the early part of this decade.
2012 Athletics – First 3-game sweep completed: June 14. This version of the A’s caught fire in the second half, playing .671 baseball in their last 76 games. This is your outlier.
2014 Pirates – First 3-game sweep completed: July 6. Do you remember this team? Cause I don’t. Plus they got blasted in the play-in game getting 4-hit by Madison Bumgarner and losing 8-0. Yikes. I don’t think this is the team we want the M’s to emulate.
I’m not the first person to point out that June has the potential to be a brutal month for the M’s (let’s not talk about August yet, either). After feasting on the soft underbelly of the AL Central, June sees the M’s get seven games against a frisky Rays team, and ten games against the Yankees and Red Sox, the teams with the two best records in baseball. Not to mention two games in Houston, and three against the team that looks to be the M’s main competition for the second Wild Card, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County of the great state of California, USA. If the M’s are going to sweep a team, they need to do it now, at home against a Twins team missing a few key pieces of their own (Mauer, Castro, Polanco, and Santana).
Most preseason predictions had the Mariners missing the playoffs. Despite a strong first two months, those projections still have the team on the outside looking in. If they want to finish the Cinderella story they’ve begun writing these first two months, they’ll need to start the same way Cinderella did.
Get to sweeping, M’s.