Originally written July 02, 2013 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
What Can We Expect With the final days of June behind us, the Seattle Mariners are 35-47 and 13 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers.  After their tough opening schedule, it looked like the team was poised to make up some ground in the standings, but instead, have fallen even further behind. With time on the season dwindling, July will dictate exactly where this team is heading.  By the end of this month, the Mariners will have to decide whether or not they can get any trade value in Hisashi Iwakuma.  They will also have to decide whether or not they are looking to keep Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse beyond this year. They will have to decide which young prospects will actually be able to contribute in 2014 and beyond.     The M’s have a decision to make on the long-term option of Michael Morse. (Photo: themlbnation.com) Finally, the team will have to figure out if Manager Eric Wedge and General Manager Jack Zduriencik are the right people to guide the franchise.  With all that said, let’s take a look at where the team may be at by the July 31 trade deadline. Mariners’ Schedule July starts off with a three-game road set against the division leading Rangers.  This is probably the most important series of the month for the Mariners because they have to make some headway. It’s unlikely they sweep the Rangers, but they do need to win the series. They should have both Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma pitching; however, my guess is they only win one of the three games. After the Texas series, Seattle stays on the road for a three-game set against the NL Central Cincinnati Reds.  Currently ten games above .500, they will be a formidable opponent.  With our aces spent in the previous series, winning one game against the Reds is all that should be expected. The next series doesn’t get any easier, except for the fact the Mariners get to come home.  However, facing off against the AL best Boston Red Sox will be a challenge.  I do think the team will surprise the fans and take three of four because really, the team is better than its 2-4 July record would dictate. Going into the All-Star break, Seattle stays home and faces the Los Angeles Angels.  With confidence high after winning the Boston series, a mini-vacation coming up, and some good home cooking against a division rival, I think the team shows some heart and sweeps the series, bringing its first half record in July to 8-5. After the All-Star break, the Mariners hit the road back to Texas for a three-game series against the Houston Astros, in which a 2-1 record can be expected. A series sweep would really set things off nicely, but for some reason, the team seems to struggle more than it should against its new division rival. The M’s follow up the short trip by coming home for a seven-game stretch.  The first three games are against the Cleveland Indians, where I think the Mariners will likely only win the last game of the series.  Then finally, a four-game series split against the Minnesota Twins will end the home stand. July actually finishes with a road series against the Red Sox, but by that point, the team will have a firm grasp of where they are in the standings. As a result, it can start positioning itself to start answering some of the questions posed earlier. So if the Mariners go 13-10 in July, how much will that gain them in the standings? The Rest of the Best Texas Rangers, 14-12: They have some difficult games against the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles in July. Unfortunately, it won’t be enough for Seattle to make any real headway toward a division title or a Wild Card. Will Kendrys Morales be a Seattle Mariner past the trade deadline? Oakland Athletics, 15-10: With more winnable games in July, and just simply being a better team, look for the A’s to take a hold of the division lead by the end of July. Baltimore Orioles, 12-11:  Currently 9.5 games ahead in the Wild Card race, the Mariners will only make up a game. New York Yankees, 15-9: Currently 7.5 games ahead in the Wild Card race, the Mariners will actually fall back a game or so. The Others: With Cleveland, TampaBay, Toronto, Kansas City, Los Angeles and Minnesota currently all ahead of the Mariners, they will have no shot at a Wild Card. The End [Result] While July will show improvement, promise and a winning record, it won’t be enough.  Look for youngsters to still be a mixed bag, Iwakuma and Morales to be traded, Morse resigned at a team-favorable deal and a lot of hot-seat talk for the manager/general manager. August and September will all be about continuing progress for the youth movement if Wedge and Zduriencik are to keep their jobs.  I think they do, and by the end of the season, fans will be looking forward to a more well-rounded, youth-infused dynamic ball club going into 2014. CLICK HERE CHECK OUT THE SEATTLE MARINERS CLUBHOUSE AT NWSB!
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