2019 Seattle Mariners
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2019 Seattle Mariners / Franchise: Seattle Mariners / BR Team Page
Managed by Scott Servais
The 2019 Seattle Mariners changed course after competing for a postseason slot during most of 2018, before a poor finish knocked them out of the picture, but still with 89 wins, the most for them since 2003. They went through a veritable fire sale after the season, dumping the majority of their front-line players. Gone were 2B Robinson Cano, SS Jean Segura, C Mike Zunino, OFs Guillermo Heredia and Denard Span, DH Nelson Cruz and Ps Alex Colome, Edwin Diaz, Juan Nicasio, James Paxton and James Pazos. In return, the Mariners received a lot of salary relief, some prospects, including a few top-tier ones like P Justus Sheffield and OF Jarred Kelenic, but also some unwanted veterans that teams dumped on them in order to take on other salaries, such as 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, OF Jay Bruce and P Anthony Swarzak. Overall, however, the picture was a gloomy one, and fans were certain that their major-league worst streak of 17 straight seasons without playing in the postseason was due to continue.
The Mariners started the season with a two-game series against the Oakland Athletics at the Tokyo Dome on March 20-21. This marked the return of OF Ichiro Suzuki to his native land, almost a full year after being let go a month into the previous season. It was sure to be an emotional occasion, but critics were quick to point out that it was a bit of a mockery to have the 45-year-old in the starting line-up for those games, even if his comeback was very unlikely to last beyond these two contests. In any case, Suzuki did start the two games, and Seattle won both, by scores of 9-7 and 5-4, the latter in 12 innings. Ichiro went a combined 0 for 4 with a walk, and announced after the second game that he was retiring for good. The M's newest Japanese star, P Yusei Kikuchi made his major league debut when he started the second game.
The Mariners then returned home for a four-game series against the defending World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox. To everyone's surprise, they pounded the Sox into submission, winning three of the four games while scoring at leas 6 runs in each game, and in double figures twice. They would have swept the series had closer Hunter Strickland not given up a three-run homer to Mitch Moreland in the 9th inning on March 29th to turn a 6-4 lead in to a 7-6 loss. It turned out Strickland was pitching hurt and he went on the injured list the next day with a lat strain, putting him on the shelf for a prolonged period. Thus, at the end of the season's first week, the M's were on top of the baseball world with a record of 5-1. They continued to win after that and on April 2nd, Marco Gonzales picked up his third win in as many starts when he defeated the Los Angeles Angels, 2-1. The Mariners' record was now 7-1, the first time they had ever started a season with seven win in their first eight games. With a 6-5 win over the Kansas City Royals on April 10th, they improved to 12-2 - by far the best record in the majors; Mitch Haniger hit the difference-making homer with two outs in the 9th, giving Seattle at least one long ball in each of its first 14 games. Only the 2002 Cleveland Indians had ever done that previously. They added another long ball, this one by Dee Gordon, the next day in a come-from-behind 7-6 extra innings win over the Royals, to take sole possession of the record. The home run streak ended after 20 games when the M's were shut out by the Indians, 1-0, on April 17th. This was only by the slightest of margins, though, as in the 3rd inning, Ryon Healy had hit an apparent homer down the left-field line, but it was overturned following a video review. By then, the Mariners had fallen to second place, a half-game behind the Houston Astros, with a record of 13-8. They finished April with a record of 18-14, and had set a major league record (later broken by the 2023 Tampa Bay Rays) by hitting at least one homer in their first 20 games. However, they then fell down to earth with a large thud in May, as they went just 7-21 during the month to land in last place in the AL West.
The consequence of the Mariners' poor month of May came quickly, as the team began to trade some of the veterans they had ended up with during their flurry of trades the previous winter. First to go was Jay Bruce, who was sent to the Philadelphia Phillies on June 2nd, in return for minor league P Jake Scheiner, although Anthony Swarzak had already been dealt as well, going to the Atlanta Braves on May 20th. Edwin Encarnacion, who was leading the AL in homers at the time, was also soon gone through a trade for prospects.
On July 12th and August 3rd, the Mariners were no-hit twice in less than a month. Both were combined efforts, and very lopsided games. In the first of these, the Angels defeated them, 13-0, behind the combined work of Taylor Cole and Felix Pena in a game in which their opponents were energized by their paying tribute to recently fallen teammate Tyler Skaggs; in the second, the Mariners were beaten by the Astros, 9-0, with Aaron Sanchez pitching 6 innings, and Will Harris, Joe Biagini and Chris Devenski an inning each.
Awards and Honors
- Associated Press: "Seattle Mariners season preview capsule", USA Today, March 18, 2019. 
- Greg Johns: "Mariners embark on new era driven by youth", mlb.com, March 5, 2019.