It's official: The lovable losers from Seattle have dropped 15 straight games. The American League record for consecutive losses is 21 (Baltimore Orioles in 1988), and the overall record is 24 (Cleveland Spiders in 1899).
I think it's fair to say that everyone outside Seattle is rooting for the Mariners to make this one interesting. To tie the American League record, they'd simply have to get swept by the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays this week. On paper, the task looks easy. Both opponents are well above .500, and have the pitching talent to shut down baseball's worst offense. But a closer look at the schedule reveals some potential speed bumps.
Let's take a look at the probable starters and chart the obstacles standing in the way of Seattle's quest for the cruel kind of history.
Game 1: Yankees. Jason Vargas vs. Freddy Garcia
Shouldn't be a problem. Garcia has allowed only 11 runs in his past 38.2 innings, which means he'll likely throw a no-hitter against Seattle. (Unless they bunt every time.)
Game 2: Yankees. Doug Fister vs. CC Sabathia
With a 3.30 ERA and the 12th-best FIP in the league, Fister is probably the greatest 3-11 pitcher in history. Sabathia has pitched his way into the Cy Young race in the past month though, and Seattle might choose to not play offense this game.
Game 3: Yankees. Felix Hernandez vs. Phil Hughes
BIG TROUBLE. Despite a slight drop-off from last season, Hernandez is still a defending Cy Young award winner. Hughes, meanwhile, recently came off the DL and has made it into the 6th inning just once in six starts this season. This is where the nation's dream might end.
Game 4: Rays. Blake Beavan vs. Jeff Niemann
Beavan has looked solid in his first four major league starts, but how will he deal with the raucous Tampa Bay crowd?
Game 5: Rays. Michael Pineda vs. Alex Cobb
Cobb might be a newcomer to Tampa Bay, but he allowed just three hits over six innings last week against the Yankees, and he's coming off seven scoreless innings Sunday against the Kansas City Royals. And after a scorching start, Seattle's Pineda is on a bit of a cold streak, with 19 runs allowed in his past three starts. The only drama here is whether a Mariner will cry on camera.
Game 6: Rays. Vargas vs. ???
The Rays rotation is in a slight state of flux, so the starter is unknown. The unpredictable Vargas can be great (four complete games on the year, including one against the Rays) or terrible (he lasted only three innings in his last start). I'll take Tampa's unidentified pitcher, even if it turns out to be an actual manta ray.
The suspense mounts. Here are some other happenings from the weekend:
- Sources indicate that owners and players have reached a deal to end the NFL lockout. The last and most contentious issue was reportedly resolved when both sides agreed that Tom Brady will wear a toy space helmet and huge leather boots during games.
- Cadel Evans became the first Australian to win the Tour de France. To celebrate in true Aussie style, Evans stripped down to an undershirt, shouted unnecessarily, and ignored or degraded every aspect of French culture.
- Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez led the magnificent Uruguayans to the Copa America title, beating Paraguay, 3-0. The win is a big step forward in Uruguay's ongoing quest to distinguish itself from Paraguay, whose similar name can lead to confusion. Unfortunately, the celebrations became muddled when Paraguayan lawmakers called a special session to change the country's name to "Uruguay" and issue itself a congratulatory citation for winning the Copa America.
- Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Blyleven, who was rejected in each of his first 13 years of eligibility, changed voter perceptions with a strong 0.00 ERA this season. His hard work and determination increased his status in the minds of the same writers who had previously dismissed his résumé over and over. Pete Rose greeted the news with joy, reminding everyone that he had 15,000 hits and never gambled much beyond an occasional friendly game of marbles.
- The Philadelphia Phillies pushed their winning streak to five games behind Roy Halladay's eight-inning performance against San Diego on Sunday. He now shares the National League lead for wins with teammate Cole Hamels and Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens, and vaults into sole possession of first place among pitchers whose names don't sound like they belong in a terrifying nursery rhyme.
- The White Sox took advantage of three Cleveland errors to post a 4-2 win. The Indians are now a game and a half behind Detroit in the AL Central, while the White Sox have crawled back to two games under .500. Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen told reporters that he thinks his team is poised for a playoff run, and that when it happens, he promises to say something really, really offensive.
- The increasingly insane NL Central race stands in a dead heat. Pittsburgh beat St. Louis, and Milwaukee lost to the Giants, creating a three-way tie atop the division. Pittsburgh's dream of ending a streak of 18 consecutive losing seasons remains alive, just like my dream of not going to the gas station to buy a Chipwich for the 18th straight day remains alive. Hey, I'll be right back.
- OMM NOM NOM THIS CHIPWICH IS SO GOOD NOMM NOMMMMMM.
- The scrappy Los Angeles Dodgers took two from the Washington Nationals over the weekend. On Friday, the team's proposed bankruptcy financing plan with a hedge fund was rejected in court, meaning the Dodgers have to take a loan from Major League Baseball to remain operational. When owner Frank McCourt goes in to collect the money, commissioner Bud Selig will likely press a button that opens a trap door in the floor of his office, releasing McCourt into a pit containing 200 snakes and the skeleton of Marge Schott.
- Mets pitcher Johan Santana's recovery began in earnest with a bullpen session Sunday. Team owner Fred Wilpon told fans that if all goes well, Santana could be ready to be misused and traded in less than a month.
Shane Ryan is a staff writer for Grantland. Follow him on Twitter at @SCurrySavesDuke.