The first two weeks of the season seems like an eternity ago for the Mariners, whose 13–2 record in those 15 games was the best start in franchise history. What has happened since then is something the team will need to put behind them and realize that there is still a lot of baseball to be played this season. The cold streak for the club includes two separate six-game losing streaks, including going 0–6 during the second homestand of the season. The question now is, what was working so well for the Mariners during their hot start that is no longer happening?
The Mariners were hitting home runs with ease at first, but have since slowed down a bit. Homering in their first 20 games, they actually broke the Major League Baseball record for consecutive games with a home run — breaking the original record by six games. However, the streak ended April 17 in a 1–0 loss to the Indians, which also capped off their first of two six-game losing streaks.
Even with the recent losses, the Mariners have still exceeded the expectations they had entering the season, having been above .500 for most of the first two months and are only a few games back of the Houston Astros for first place in the American League West. If the team can have another power surge like they had out of the gates, they could find themselves back in first place.
One of the pleasant surprises of the year has been the breakout of first baseman and designated hitter Dan Vogelbach. In the months of March and April, Vogelbach hit .310 with a .462 on base percentage to go along with his eight home runs. On the opening day roster, the stout slugger was originally a bench player who saw minimal playing time — but after hitting a go ahead home run on April 2 versus Los Angeles, we began seeing his name in the lineup on a regular basis. Still just 26 years old, Vogelbach could see himself as an important component to the present and future plans of the team.
Along with Vogelbach, the future is looking bright with the crop of young talent who are currently thriving in either the majors or minor leagues. 19 year-old Jarred Kelenic, who was the main piece of the Cano/Diaz trade, has certainly been living up to the hype. He is currently playing in the A league, which is still two leagues away from the Majors — AA and AAA are next — but in his first month there he has batted .340 with six home runs. If he keeps hitting like this, he should be called up sooner rather than later.
Longtime Mariner Felix Hernandez has also had a promising start to the season. The last couple seasons have been down years for King Felix, but it seems he has found what works for him now, ultimately accepting that he is no longer the power-pitching ace we once knew, and adapted his approach to accomodate for the loss in his velocity. While addressing the media, Felix mentioned what he did in the offseason and how he handled the changes he had to make.
“I worked on everything,” Felix said. “My mind first. My mind, I was talking to some doctors, we still talk about it every day, that was the right move. Just be confident again. Just go out there and compete against anybody and you know you are going to be good because you have good stuff. That’s what happened right now.”
Looking from a broader perspective, the Mariners are what they are. There will be nights where they look like a World Series contender, and some nights they will look like the worst team in the league. Overall, the future is bright with this team and this season will be a roller coaster of success and failures.