2018 Seattle Mariners
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2018 Seattle Mariners / Franchise: Seattle Mariners / BR Team Page
Managed by Scott Servais
One of the early-season stars for the 2018 Seattle Mariners was pitcher James Paxton. In two consecutive starts on May 2nd and May 9th, he recorded 16 strikeouts against the Oakland Athletics and then threw a no-hitter over the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-0, to confirm his place among the most dominant pitchers in the majors. The no-hitter was pitched at the Rogers Centre and was only the second ever by a Canadian pitcher - and the first by a Canadian pitcher on Canadian soil. Another big story in the early going was that of team icon Ichiro Suzuki, who returned in the off-season as a free agent at the age of 44. He was a starter in left field on opening day, March 29th, filling in for an injured Ben Gamel and continued to play regularly the first couple of weeks of the season. He was hitting just .205 in 15 games, with no extra-base hits, when on May 3rd he was released as a player but was offered a job in the front-office, as a special assistance to the team chairman and as a special instructor. For his part Ichiro said that he was not contemplating retirement and planned to try again to make the team the following season. On May 12th, he added another title to his resumé when manager Scott Servais took the day off to attend his daughter's graduation. Bench coach Manny Acta took over as manager for that day's doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers, and Ichiro replaced Acta.
The Mariners' chances of finally making it back to the postseason were dealt a huge blow because of back-to-back events involving their highest-profile player, 2B Robinson Cano. On May 13th, Cano broke a bone in his hand when hit by a pitch from Blaine Hardy of the Tigers, putting him out of action for four to six weeks. That was nothing compared to the bombshell that dropped on May 15th, when it was announced Cano had tested positive for a banned substance, a masking agent used by PED consumers, and was handed a suspension of 80 games. He claimed he had taken the substance inadvertently as part of some medicine, but this was met by overt skepticism from most quarters. Consideration was now being given to move Dee Gordon, an off-season trade acquisition and a former Gold Glove-winner at second base, back to his original position from center field during Cano's prolonged absence. Gordon was making a nice transition to the outfield however, and it was still Seattle's long-term plan to have him stay there, but immediate necessity was likely to dictate otherwise. These plans had to be rethought on May 22nd, went Gordon went on the disabled list too, with a fractured toe, now leaving two holes in the line-up. The Mariners were playing well, with a record of 29-20 on May 25th, and decided to address the situation aggressively, with a big trade. They sent two pitching prospects, Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero, to the Tampa Bay Rays in order to acquire a couple of veterans, CF Denard Span and P Alex Colome.
On June 8th, the Mariners defeated the Rays, 4-3, for their 16th win in 20 games. They had reached 1st place on June 2nd and were now 40-23. Among the emerging stars responsible for this good performance were P Marco Gonzales who improved to 7-3 with that win, RF Mitch Haniger, who was among the league leaders in RBI, and closer Edwin Diaz, who had already recorded 20 saves. Of their first 40 wins, 20 were by only one run. They finished the first half at 58-39 after being headed for an outstanding first-half record before losing 8 of their last 11 games before the All-Star break. They were 5 games back of the division-leading Houston Astros, but only 3 ahead of the surprising Oakland Athletics. That pointed to a tight second-half race, as there likely would only be one wild card spot up for grabs, since the loser of the expected race-to-the finish between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the AL East was almost certain to grab the other wild card.
Awards and Honors
- Associated Press: "What will Mariners be? Much depends on pitching staff", USA Today Sports, March 22, 2018. 
- Gary Belleville: "May 8, 2018: Seattle's ‘Big Maple’ James Paxton throws a no-hitter on Canadian soil", SABR Baseball Games Project. 
- Greg Johns: "Servais excited by club's 'awesome first half'", mlb.com, July 15, 2018.