Ten dates for Mariners fans to note during the second half of a season on the brink:
July 15: A Saturday night game in Chicago against the White (Flag) Sox, who this week traded left-handed ace Jose Quintana to the Cubs for a package of coveted prospects. The Mariners should be in position to win this three-game series against a team that’s already surrendered, but they haven’t exactly dominated inferior competition.
Seattle’s first-half record versus clubs that went into the break below .500 was 21-19. That’s called underachieving.
July 20: The opener of a weekend series aginst the Yankees and, more specifically, the legend that is Aaron Judge. It won’t be the slugger’s first visit to Seattle. A few days after his promotion from Triple-A last season, Judge played three late-August games at Safeco Field, where he went 2-for-10 and generally looked like a rookie not yet ready for prime time.
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Judge no longer resembles that person. If the weather conditions are right – hot, with a breeze to his back – it is conceivable he could become the first Major League hitter to blast a ball over the left-field bleachers at Safeco.
July 26: The Red Sox are in town, which means the Mariners get to play the role of visitors wearing home uniforms. They’re familiar with the drill, thanks to our dear friends from western Canada.
Last month, the ratio of Jays-to-M’s fans at Safeco Field was, oh, maybe 9-1. Although the Red Sox Nation takeover won’t be quite as pronounced, be prepared for the eerie sound of a crowd in Seattle booing the Mariners pitcher trying to keep a baserunner at first close to the bag.
July 31: The non-waiver trade deadline expires at 1 p.m. PDT. Because the Mariners’ farm system lacks the kind of trading chips the Cubs used to acquire Quintana, general manager Jerry Dipoto isn’t expected to swing a blockbuster trade for an impact starter.
Then again, Dipoto wasn’t expected to swing a blockbuster trade last Thanksgiving Eve, either.
August 1: First day of the most grueling month for the Mariners since their 1992 contract negotiations with some high school player named Alex Rodriguez.
The schedule is calling for a mere seven home games, sandwiched between a nine-game road trip (Texas, Kansas City, Oakland) and a 12-game road trip (Tampa Bay, Atlanta, New York, Baltimore). If the Mariners manage to stay in contention after surviving that obstacle course, all bets are off.
August 12: Edgar Martinez’s No. 11 jersey will be retired before the Mariners take on the Angels. The forecast is calling for a sellout crowd to chant “Hall of Fame! Hall of Fame!”
September 1: Call-up day, when the everyday rosters of MLB teams can be expanded from a maximum of 25 players to 40. For those who’ve put in their time in the minor leagues, a September call-up is the equivalent of Christmas morning.
For clubhouse attendants, it’s not so much of a thrill.
September 9: Bobblehead giveaway night featuring All-Star Game MVP Robinson Cano, recently identified in an ESPN.com headline as “Ex-Yankee Robinson Cano.”
Many Seattle fans saw that and gagged, but I’m inclined to cut ESPN some slack, as it wanted to connect the dots between Cano and home run derby champ Judge. Now, if Marshawn Lynch ever is selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and described by ESPN as “Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch,” those are fightin’ words.
September 10: The most intriguing box-score number from the Mariners’ Sunday matinee game against the Angels will be at the bottom: Attendance.
First pitch is set for 1:10. Fifteen minutes later, the Seahawks will open their 2017 season at Green Bay. I can’t envision a Safeco Field crowd in excess of 25,000, but if the Mariners are approaching a photo finish for a wild-card bid, I can’t envision a crowd below 35,000.
October 1: The Mariners season concludes not where it began, only sorta. They’ll be on the road against the Angels, whose ninth-inning comeback from a 9-3 deficit, on April 9, presaged a journey similar to a lost-in-the-woods trek.
There’s a trail, you take it, and the trail leads to...