For people my age, it’s kind of hard to believe the Seattle Mariners haven’t made the playoffs for a staggering 18 seasons. The Mariners of my youth were consistently among the strongest teams in the American League and from Ken Griffey Jr. to Ichiro, it felt like they always had a collection of exciting and enviable players.
These days? There’s not much to envy.
But even given the regular ineptitude of Seattle’s baseball club, it’s no small feat to pull off a clean season sweep against a major league baseball team. That’s exactly what the Cubs did, though, in sweeping a pair of two-game series against these Mariners in Seattle and most recently, at Wrigley Field. As we’ve seen so often from this year’s Cubs, wins are never a given, no matter the quality of the opponent.
With that in mind, it’s worth celebrating this sweep, even when it’s “just” the Mariners. A pair of wildly different wins allowed the Cubs to keep pace with the Cardinals and maintain their lead in the National League’s second Wild Card position.
You can forgive Cubs fans for their despair after the first six and a half innings of Monday’s series opener. Not only did the team fail to score, they stranded enough baserunners to fill next year’s Cubs Convention while doing so. The Mariners’ ability to quickly score a run on back-to-back doubles looked like it might have been the end of things en route to another frustrating loss.
Things can change in a hurry, though. Walks by Jason Heyward and Kris Bryant set the table for Anthony Rizzo to reverse the Cubs misfortune with one out in the bottom of the 7th inning. And wouldn’t you know it? The captain did just that.
Rizzo’s knock opened up the flood gates. The Cubs would score four more times in the inning, with Kyle Schwarber‘s RBI triple being the biggest blow of them all.
The second and final game of this abbreviated series carried considerably less stress. Bolstered by the returns of Ben Zobrist and Willson Contreras, Jon Lester and the Cubs walked on a tightrope all night but were largely able to escape the jams Lester got into.
Contreras created some real thrills by homering in his first at-bat off of the injured list, but the key moment of the game came in the 5th inning. Nicholas Castellanos put an exclamation mark on the Cubs lead with a three-run home run to extend the Cubs lead at the time to 5-0.
Schwarber also had himself quite a game hitting second. Channeling his old World Series spot in the lineup, he recorded multiple hits including a massive 7th inning home run. It capped off a great series for the young left fielder.
Those stress-free wins sure are fun, aren’t they?
- Despite a mid-season power outage that has become a bit more regular than Cubs fans would like, Rizzo has continued to put up one of his very best offensive seasons. Aside from being the hero on Monday, Tony is batting .341/.500/.636 over his last 15 games and is on track for yet another 4+ fWAR season.
- Castellanos continues to rake. He had another strong series including the aforementioned home run. Can you recall a better start to someone’s Cubs career? I don’t think I can.
- Reliever Brad Wieck has yet to allow a run as a Cub. That’s only a two-game sample, so no big deal, right? Maybe not, but he sure has looked impressive along the way. No moment impressed more than this doozy of a pitch in Monday’s game.
- Heyward continues to scuffle, failing to record a hit in the series. There’s not much else to say at this point except that you desperately hope he snaps out of this funk, because it was a heck of a lot of fun to watch his resurgent campaign.
The Cubs took care of business in an abbreviated series against a bad team. While you would’ve loved for it to come with a Cardinals loss or two so that the gap in the division could be narrowed a bit, that’s not always how the cookie will crumble.
As it is, all the Cubs can do is play the games in front of them and win as many of them as they can in the month of September. Despite dwindling odds in the NL Central race, the Cubs are in a very good position to reach the playoffs for the fifth straight year. While things have undoubtedly not gone quite how we’d like them to all year, the club is suddenly doing what it needs to do to give us a chance to see October baseball yet again.