Are The Seattle Mariners For Real?

Dustin Ackley and members of the Seattle Mariners celebrate after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 at Safeco Field on June 17, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Before the 2011 season started, few analysts thought the Seattle Mariners would do anything this year except pull up the rear of the AL West again. They lost 101 games last year, had the worst run differential in the American League in 2010 and their 513 runs scored was the fewest by a team since 1971, when the Angels scored 512.

And yet, on Saturday morning the Mariners sit half a game behind the defending AL champion Rangers in the AL West and have allowed the fewest runs of any AL team (12 fewer than the Yankees).

It's clear that pitching has been the key to Seattle success. Four of the five Mariners starters have ERAs under 4, led by 22-year-old rookie Michael Pineda's 2.64 mark. Friday night, Pineda held the big-bat Phillies lineup to two hits in six innings. The Mariners staff ERA+ is 110, third in the American League, and the bullpen has been solidified by setup man David Pauley, who has allowed just five runs in 39.1 innings and has a 0.81 WHIP.

Ah, the offense. There may be the rub. Dead last in the AL in runs, the Mariners are led by Justin Smoak, who may be fulfilling the promise he had when he was shipped to Seattle last summer in the Cliff Lee deal; Smoak has 12 HR, 39 RBI and an .824 OPS. The rest of the offense has been... well, bad; even Ichiro is having a down year, hitting just .275/.326/.334.

So what say you about Eric Wedge's crew? Can they stick with the big boys all year?
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