The home stand that begins tonight against Baltimore will see Seattle play six times, hit the road for a week and then return for the three games that will end the 2012 season.
Sitting at 70-77, the Mariners have 14 games left to improve upon a record that’s already better than their 67-95 mark a year ago – but not where anyone wants to see them finish.
The same could be said for every player on the team.
Goals? Felix Hernandez is at 13 wins with the chance to win 16 games – if he can turn around his September struggles. Jason Vargas leads the team with 14 wins, a career best, and has another three starts, at least.
Closer Tom Wilhelmsen needs three saves to reach 30, and while that’s well short of the team record (45), it would be quite a milestone for a man who didn’t have the job until early June.
Offensively, the final 14 games rank as a challenge to any Mariner with a bat. Can Michael Saunders (.249) hit better than .250? Can Kyle Seager (81 RBI) get to 90 RBI – the last Seattle player to do so was Jose Lopez in ’09.
Can Justin Smoak (.199) get over the Mendoza line and stay there? Will John Jaso become the seventh Mariner this season to hit at least 10 home runs? He has eight, and 50 RBI in 263 at-bats.
Pick a favorite Seattle player, there are still milestones they can reach this season, although no Mariners hitter will bat .300, hit 25 home runs or drive in 100 runs. As much as anything, what matters most to this team now is wins.
They’ve surpassed 2011, but face four teams the rest of the way that are all still in a push for October: Baltimore, Texas, Los Angeles (twice) and Oakland. Their record against those four teams thus far: 20-31.
If that .392 winning percentage held, the Mariners would end this year 75-86.
They also open this home stand .500 at home (36-36), and would love to at least finish even or better. Here’s today’s starting lineup:
Dustin Ackley 2B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Kyle Seager 3B
Jesus Montero C
John Jaso DH
Michael Saunders LF
Justin Smoak 1B
Eric Thames RF
Brendan Ryan SS
Hector Noesi P