While the Mariners continue to play solid baseball, they have yet to be seriously tested and haven't seen a road trip that has spanned longer than a week.
That's about to change.
Seattle began on the road in grand fashion, taking two from the struggling Kansas City Royals. They'll continue on the 13-day, 12-game road trip with a four-game series versus the American League's hottest team, the Minnesota Twins.
Following the series at Minnesota the M's will begin interleague play with a 3-game set at upstart Philadelphia on Tuesday, June 3rd. They'll then head north to Flushing, NY for three more against the withering Mets at Shea Stadium before returning home on June 10th.
Though these 12 games may be the toughest challenge Seattle has had to face thus far in 2003, it could very well serve as a positive in the grand scheme of things. The M's are one of baseball's best road teams overall and the unfriendly confines have seemed to awaken the Mariners' bats in the past. As a team, the respectable .266 average at home pales in comparison to the .293 average away from Safeco Field.
Only SS Carlos Guillen (.349), 1B John Olerud (.299), and both catchers, Ben Davis (.281) and Dan Wilson (.281), have a higher average at home than on the road among the regulars. The "road warriors" began with CF Mike Cameron who is hitting .308 on the road as opposed to just .222 at home. Cameron's power numbers away from home are vastly better as well, hitting 3 of his 5 homeruns and 8 of his 12 doubles in 5 less games on the road. Randy Winn and Bret Boone both have significant increase in average and power in road games. Edgar Martinez even has a 62 point increase on the road, hitting .338 away from home.
Maybe there is something in the Safeco air. Or maybe the park is just too cavernous. After all, it is bigger than 12 of the other 13 parks in the American League. Or maybe, just maybe, Safeco is a fair park and the majority of the parks in baseball are hitters' parks. Yeah, we'll go with that theory, mostly due to the fact that the Mariners hitters aren't the only ones that seem to struggle at Safeco. Their opponents are hitting just .246 at Safeco. Seems fair to me.
The Mariners arrive home in 12 days to play a surprising Montreal team. Will they still be atop the standings by the time the Expos are in town, or will they be road weary and struggling for wins? A difficult 10-game stretch still stands in their way, and will tell the tale.
Jason resides in North Tacoma, Washington where his father is his best friend, his mother has a better fastball than he does, and his nephew is the only person better suited for stardom. Feedback is always welcome at JasonAChurchill@cs.com.