Seahawks/Cowboys Preseason Game 3 Takeaways

Well, it wasn’t quite the first-team drubbing I was expecting, but Russell Wilson & Co. put up 20 points in two and a half quarters en route to a 27-17 victory!

This was as Seahawky as a game gets, right on down to the slow start offensively!  You tend to expect a few things out of a Seahawks game.  The offense will be shaky early, with penalties and missed throws, then they ramp it up the closer it comes to the end of the game.  Well, for the #1’s, the end of the game was midway through the third quarter, so it’s not surprising in the least that they scored on 4 of their final 5 possessions.  Wilson finished with a couple awesome touchdowns – one on a deep crosser to Richardson, one on a scramble play to Lockett – and the defense firmed up after allowing the Cowboys to score the game’s first touchdown.

We knew going into the game that the Cowboys had one advantage:  offensive line.  It didn’t stop the Seahawks from knocking Tony Romo out of the game on the third play, on a vicious-yet-clean hit by Avril that dinged up his lower back.  But, with their backup in, they were able to protect well for the most part and establish a solid running game with their rookie phenom, Ezekiel Elliott.  As such, it’s difficult to pick apart the pass rush too much – they worked hard for everything they managed to get – but it doesn’t look like this team will be led by its front four this year.

Even though rookie Dak Prescott had solid numbers in relief of Romo, I didn’t see much in the way of breakdowns in the secondary.  He just had so much time to throw!  What may have been more surprising is that Russell Wilson did too.  Our offensive line is LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than it was this time a year ago!  Holy cow, were they good last night!  I’m not sure the Cowboys have much in the way of a pass rush themselves, but it wouldn’t have mattered with last year’s line.  Wilson had a grip of time to throw the ball last night, and it showed in how our offense performed once they cleaned up the penalties.

All in all, not much to hate on about last night’s game.  Also, not a ton of individual standout performances.  I saw a couple of effective corner blitzes, which isn’t something you see a lot of out of this defense.  No picks, but we were able to force a fumble with our backups.  The Seahawks still might be the deepest team in the NFL.  Get ready for the league to poach a bunch of our guys when it comes time to cut the team down to 53.

Kelcie McCray had an awesome game.  He might be the best third safety in the league right now!

Wilson crushed it, and Boykin had a nifty 16-yard touchdown run to conclude our scoring.

Christine Michael continued to show how difficult it’s going to be to NOT have this be a running back platoon.  If Thomas Rawls isn’t 100%, I wouldn’t be shocked if Michael takes the bulk of the reps in the regular season.

The top 4 receivers all made an impact (though, I’m catching just the SLIGHTEST whiff of Wilson trying to force it into Baldwin’s hands at times, when the play doesn’t necessarily call for it; that’ll be something to watch going forward).  No one really made a play on that 5th receiver job, though.  Next week will be HUGE for Lawler, Antwan Goodley, Kasen Williams, Kevin Smith, and the rest.

Defensively, I also liked Bobby Wagner’s game.  And Quinton Jefferson made some nice plays up the middle.  Too bad about Jarran Reed’s toe injury keeping him out.  Get well soon!

Next week, it’s all about the kids.  Time to fill out he back of this roster and get to work!  Everyone made it through Game 3 healthy, which is the biggest victory of all.

Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner

I saw another low snap on a punt, but Jon Ryan parlayed that into a 65 yarder, so maybe those low snaps aren’t all bad?  Still, it wouldn’t shock me in the least if Gresham returned.

Injuries Are Killing The Mariners This Year

I know nobody wants to hear it.  Teams are snakebitten every year; all teams have to deal with injuries at one point or another.  But, it’s also no secret that the teams you chronically see going on deep playoff runs tend to be the teams that are predominantly healthy.  Unsustainably healthy.  You won’t see this type of freaky health from year to year, but if you can get lucky in one season, you can go a long way with your primary guys avoiding stints on the DL.

The Mariners have been spectacularly unlucky in 2016.  There hasn’t been a single day this year where some key piece hasn’t been missing.  This team has never been complete!  And, it seems like just as soon as one guy gets healthy, another guy goes down.

Look at this timeline of guys hitting the DL:

  • 4/3 – Furbush & Scribner (key bullpen pieces)
  • 4/25 – Benoit (had he been healthy all year, a guy you could expect would have been a lockdown 8th inning guy)
  • 5/3 – Zych (was dominating through the first month, has missed most of the season)
  • 5/22 – Marte (just when he was starting to assert himself as one of the better short stops in the American League)
  • 5/27 – Martin (Mariners have no competent backup defensive centerfielder on their roster; defense suffered accordingly while he was out.  He was also on a hot stretch offensively when he went down)
  • 6/1 – King Felix (I don’t need to tell you how huge this was)
  • 6/17 – Miley (he wasn’t good, but it further depleted a shaky starting rotation)
  • 6/24 – Sampson (he only made one start, but we never got to know his potential)
  • 6/29 – Vincent (further depleting our bullpen at the worst possible time)
  • 6/30 – Clevenger (was set for increased playing time, but ultimately worked out with Zunino’s return)
  • 7/6 – Walker (was supposed to be his breakout year, but the nagging foot issue inhibited his growth)
  • 7/23 – Marte again (mono, really)
  • 7/30 – Karns (never really popped this year, but again, lack of depth for our pitching staff)
  • 8/4 – Cishek (his injury might have been a key part of him blowing those saves and losing his closer’s job)
  • 8/16 – Paxton (just when he was starting to dominate the league)
  • 8/22 – Storen (just as the bullpen was starting to gel into a dominant unit)

And that doesn’t even factor in Kyle Seager, who’s missing games this week, as well as Cano and Cruz at times this year missing games due to minor injuries.  Suffice it to say, I’ve seen O’Malley and Freeman start more games than I care to see.

If the Mariners could just get their best 25 guys to stay healthy for any extended period of time, you’d be looking at a no-doubt playoff team!  Probably one giving the Rangers a serious run for their money!  As it is, it’s a miracle the Mariners have held in there as long as they have.

This Is Why You Can’t Blow 3-Run Save Situations, Mariners

You want to know why I was so irate about the Mariners losing to the Brewers on Sunday?  I mean, shit, look on the bright side, the M’s still won the series!

Yeah, except, you had to know the Mariners weren’t going to win every single series from here on out, right?  At some point, the Mariners were going to run into just a dud of an offensive night, against an aging-yet-at-times-effective veteran pitcher, and follow that up by being manhandled by that team’s ace.

C.C. Sabathia didn’t look anything remotely like the C.C. Sabathia of old last night, but he was able to change speeds and work the edges of the plate and just generally be a pain in the ass all night.  He was able to spread 3 hits and 1 walk across 7 innings while only giving up 1 run in a 5-1 defeat.  Indeed, this was his best performance in over 2 months, which makes it all the more galling, but that’s the whole point:  the offense isn’t going to dominate EVERY SINGLE GAME.  Sometimes, you’re just going to have an off night.  You just have to hope it doesn’t become a trend, but nothing about this season would suggest that’s happening.

What’s worse, and what makes Sunday’s abortion so unforgivable, is that today we have to go up against Masahiro Tanaka, who – in 4 career appearances – has manhandled the Mariners.  There’s no reason to expect that to change, which means we’re going to need Iwakuma to be at the very top of his game and hope for the best.

In reality, it means we’ve already lost this series.

This series loss could’ve been mitigated if the bullpen and the outfield defense didn’t completely fall apart on Sunday, but that’s baseball, I guess.

Losing this series isn’t the end of the world, of course.  But, for starters, it’s a bad sign that we can’t seem to play our best baseball against teams in contention.  If THAT continues, then you better get ready for Texas to eat our lunch in the next couple weeks.

Here’s where it really comes to bite us in the ass.  We hit the road this weekend for a 4-game series against the White Sox, where we have to see both of their studs in Sale and Quintana.  Then, guess what, in Texas next week, we have to face Darvish and Hamels, two MORE guys we have a whale of a time trying to hit!  If the Mariners don’t take advantage of these winnable games (like the one on Sunday!), then they have to work that much harder to try to get those games against the really good pitchers.

I mean, how many more miracle finishes could the Mariners possibly have left?

The Mariners Logged One Of Their Most Impressive Wins Of The Season

The Mariners have had a lot of impressive wins this year, actually.  Overcoming a 10-run deficit down in San Diego, the seven walk-off victories, the countless come-from-behind victories, including a special game earlier this month against the Red Sox where we erased a 4-run deficit in the bottom of the 8th to set up Edwin Diaz’s first career save.

I’d put last night’s game up there in the Unlikely Victory category.  Cody Martin, junkball artist, got the start and threw a bunch of 80-something miles per hour bullshit around the plate that was absolutely crushed.  If you’re not able to locate your pitches, you’re not going to last in this league, and sure enough, he kept letting his meatballs drift over the middle of the plate, where young Yankees phenoms were able to mash them for home runs.  4 in total, accounting for all 5 of the Yankees’ runs.

It looked dire!  It looked like one of those games.  Not that Michael Pineda – New York’s starter last night – is any great shakes, but he’s a professional, with professional stuff.  When Cody Martin gave up a solo homer in the first, and another in the second, I knew I had no intention of sticking with this game.  I figured, on the bright side, maybe this was a day to go to bed early and catch up on some sleep.

Then, Martin settled down for a minute, and Kyle Seager rewarded us with a 3-run homer to take the lead, and this game had a new lease on life!  That lease was promptly torn to shreds in the top of the sixth, as the same guys who homered earlier that day did so a second time, to re-take the lead 5-3.  With two on and two out in the bottom of the sixth, with Mike Zunino at the plate, I was one out away from officially giving up on the game and hitting the sack.

Which is when Shades of ’95 crept back into our lives.  BOOM!  Zunino, with a 3-run opposite field home run on a full count to give the Mariners a 6-5 lead!  WHAT?!?!

This shit is starting to feel for real.  Nelson Cruz even muscled a solo homer out to left in the bottom of the 8th – on a pitch that broke his bat – to give us a very necessary insurance run.

With all of that adversity, there was still the matter of closing out the game.  A day after The Bartender & Friends blew a 3-run lead, Edwin Diaz was back in the fold.  He’d been given the last couple days off to keep his arm fresh and see if he could work out his fastball command that has eluded him of late.  No such luck on that account, as his first few fastballs were wildly off the plate.  He gave up a walk and a single around a strikeout, then balked the two runners over to make it even more interesting.  From there, he forced a weak fly ball to left to hold the runners, before getting their last guy to ground out to Cano to end it.

The Mariners could have lost that game a number of different ways, but in the end, they managed to pull it out, which is the mark of something special.  Underrated key to the game was putting in the defensive replacements as soon as we re-took the lead.  Aoki and Smith’s defense have held us back long enough, so it was nice to see Heredia and O’Malley out there holding the fort (O’Malley with one of the best defensive plays of the year, catching that ball as he fell into the stands down the first base line).  Between that, and the bullpen in manic mode (after a depressive Sunday afternoon), it all adds up to excellence.

More of the same, please!

Another Pointless Mid-Pre-Season Seahawks Roster Prediction

I’m not immune!  I rail against these things (particularly the regularity with which they’re produced) and laugh at people who take them too seriously.  That having been said, it’s Monday.  We’ve seen two pre-season games so far, and I don’t know any more than anyone else covering this team.  But, that also means I really don’t know that much less than anyone else, particularly when it comes to predicting the season-opening 53-man roster.

These things are, like, 85% duh, with another 13% educated guesses, and 2% batshit insanity so you can look back in a couple weeks and say, “See, I was crazy, but I was right!”  Or, with a laugh, go, “Hoo boy, what was I thinking, right folks?”  Sad!  Fun!  Sad!

Without further ado, feel free to pick it apart:

QB (2)

Russell Wilson
Trevone Boykin

Put this in the ol’ Duh category.  I think the ship has sailed on Tarvaris Jackson.  I mean, if we cut Clint Gresham to save a few sheckles at long snapper, there’s no reason to expect this team to shell out a million bucks just to have Tarvar calling the coin toss for us in overtime games.  They’ve given Boykin every opportunity to win the job, and so far he hasn’t really disappointed.  You don’t want him starting for you anytime this year (or next, or ever, really), and he doesn’t look like he could win you any games if you needed him in an emergency basis.  But, he’s the kind of guy who could grow into the role, learn behind Wilson, and build value over the next 3-4 years.  Plus, if Wilson ever was severely injured, guess what?  Nobody’s signing Tarvaris Jackson anytime soon, so you could very well see him back with the club if it came to that!  Win-win, everyone!

RB (5)

Thomas Rawls
Christine Michael
C.J. Prosise
Alex Collins
Will Tukuafu

I am … not confident at all in this grouping.  Prosise has yet to do much of anything since we drafted him; I keep getting an IR vibe off of him.  Collins has looked pretty bad in the first pre-season games, but I’m hard pressed to judge the kid based off of running with the reserve O-Linemen.  Tukuafu was just re-signed, so that seems like a no-brainer.  He knows the system and they obviously like what he brings to the table.  On my cut list, that ices out Brooks & Pope.  It’s a numbers game at this point, and I think one of these guys makes it on the practice squad.  With a VERY outside chance of Pope weaseling his way onto the roster outright, if he keeps looking amazing, and the team doesn’t want to risk losing him to another team.

TE (4)

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
Nick Vannett
Brandon Williams

Pretty easy, this one.  I guess you could consider me buying into all the Brandon Williams hype, as the best blocking tight end on the team.  His spot gets cemented even further the longer Graham sits out of practice.  And, this ankle sprain from Vannett is another nail in the coffin … of Williams’ continued good fortune!  Were the top three guys fully healthy, I could easily see the team only keeping three tight ends, but with each guy bringing something different to the table, I like going with the four.  For now.

WR (5)

Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse
Tyler Lockett
Paul Richardson
Kenny Lawler

Here’s where I’m going to stick one of my batshit insane picks.  Receivers 1-4 are obvious no-brainers.  But, I get a sense everyone is jumping off of the Lawler bandwagon.  I see what you all see:  a VERY skinny kid who looks like he’s about to snap into a million pieces with the next stiff breeze that crosses his path.  But, he’s looked pretty resilient so far in the first couple games.  He definitely looks like one of those receivers who’s ahead of the game, compared to where he’s at in his career (rookie 7th rounder).  If he plays smart, avoids excessive contact, and stays healthy, I think he has as good a shot as anyone of making that 5th WR spot.  I also think that if he’s released, he won’t make it onto the practice squad; I bet some other team snaps him up in a heartbeat.  Kevin Smith is doing himself no favors by being injured all this time.  Kasen Williams has been out with injury for a while too (and already has experience being passed through to the practice squad).  4th quarter hero Tanner McEvoy is someone you’d think would be in the mix, but I don’t think he’s all that refined in his route running.  I do think teams are looking at him, but I also think he’s a year or two away from making any sort of impact at the NFL level.

OL (9)

Bradley Sowell
Mark Glowinski
Justin Britt
Germain Ifedi
Garry Gilliam
J’Marcus Webb
Joey Hunt
Rees Odhiambo
Will Pericak

The surprises here land in who gets left out.  No Patrick Lewis:  I think the team feels he’ll be available if/when they need him; and I think Hunt has the higher upside (with being more likely to be picked up by another team, and thus not on our practice squad).  Also, no Jahri Evans:  I think he came a little too late to the party, and I think the team likes the guards it has.  That having been said, not all the veterans are set for dispatch.  I think Sowell and Webb both stick, as this team is pretty thin at Tackle and needs all the quality depth it can get (I also think the younger tackles just aren’t ready yet, and have a higher likelihood of making the practice squad since they suck so bad).  I think Odhiambo will prove he’s able to play multiple spots on the line, as a rookie, which gives him HUGE value.  And, I think Pericak is one of those developmental guys the team keeps on the 53-man roster all year, but never plays.  Seems like there’s always one – too valuable to sneak onto the practice squad, but not quite ready to even be a 2nd stringer just yet – and this year, my money is on Pericak (just don’t ask me to pronounce his name … W-ill?).

That puts us at an even 25 for the offense, which is about what you should expect.  Save a wide receiver spot by having Graham (who is already a quasi-receiver), and hope at least one of those young running backs makes it onto the practice squad.

DE (4)

Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril
Frank Clark
Cassius Marsh

This part is tough sledding, because 3/4 of these guys play multiple spots (Bennett as end & tackle; Clark as end, tackle, and linebacker; Marsh as end & linebacker), but I’m going to put them here and call them “primary pass rushers”, and if you don’t like it, tough titty.

DT (4)

Jarran Reed
Ahtyba Rubin
Quinton Jefferson
Tony McDaniel

Reed and Rubin are both locks, barring injury.  Jefferson sure looks like a guy who can fit into our rotation right away.  Which leaves newly-signed McDaniel, who looks as good as ever, providing that veteran leadership.  If I’m off-base anywhere in this list, the number one spot is probably leaving off Jordan Hill.  As you’ll see, I ended up keeping 6 linebackers, which is probably a mistake.  But, I haven’t seen anything from Hill this pre-season, or at any point last year for that matter, that would justify he HAS to be a guy this team keeps.  I think Jefferson takes over his role, and he’s left either stashed on the IR-to-return list, or he’s just cut and replaced.

LB (6)

Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Mike Morgan
Kevin Pierre-Lewis
Brock Coyle
Eric Pinkins

Again, if I’m off-base, it’s here.  Pinkins feels like a stretch.  I think it’s going to take a monster final couple of games for him to win a spot, but I also think he has it in him.  He provides value on special teams and as a backup to Mike Morgan.  It just feels like it’s time to give him a shot and see what he can do in certain situations.

CB (6)

Richard Sherman
Jeremy Lane
DeShawn Shead
Tharold Simon
Marcus Burley
Tye Smith

If there’s anyone I’m not sold on, it’s Tye Smith.  Now, maybe we haven’t seen his name called much in the pre-season because he’s being quietly effective in pass coverage.  All I know is, he hasn’t stood out like you’d expect a young member of the L.O.B. to do.  Who HAS stood out is Marcus Burley.  He looked as good as I’ve ever seen him last week!  I know, I might be making too much out of a 2nd pre-season game, but he’s been with us a long time, he knows the system, and he’s probably the second-best nickel corner on the team (if we just keep Sherm on the outside and don’t have him following around the other team’s best receiver).

S (5)

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Kelcie McCray
Brandon Browner
Tyvis Powell

Is 11 DBs too many?  Feels like it’s too many.  Feels like I’m short 1 DE and 1 DT.  Anyway, Kam, Earl, and McCray are all locks.  I’m hopeful Browner makes the team, but could easily see the Seahawks walking away if it comes to a numbers game (injuries at other positions might dictate we need to keep extra resources elsewhere).  Powell has been the hotshot of camp and pre-season so far; I think the team figures out a way to keep him.  Since both he and Browner can play CB, maybe the team skimps there?  Or, maybe it comes down to Browner vs. Powell, at which point I bet the team goes younger and cheaper.  We’ll see.

That puts us at 25 defenders.  Again, I’m not married to this, but it’s just my feeling for today.  Obviously, a lot is going to change.  Up to and including:

Special Teams (3)

Steven Hauschka
Jon Ryan
Clint Gresham

You’re damn right!  I think Nolan Frese’s days are numbered!  I think the flaws in his young career become too many to overcome in these last couple pre-season games, when the pressure is increased.  I think the Seahawks figure out a way to find the money to pay a pro like Gresh, and I think we move on from this nightmare once and for all.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The Mariners Are Playing Well & They’re Blowing It

In the last week, the Mariners have lost two games they should have won, and if I’m being overly critical, I’d say they lost three games they should have won, because God damn are the Angels and Brewers terrible.

In the last week, the Mariners have gone 4-3, but they’ve also won 12 of their last 16 and have gone 14-6 in the month of August, either winning or tying every series, as they clawed their way back to within a single game of the 2nd Wild Card spot.

The Mariners are playing well, AND they’re fucking leaving wins on the table.

In the 4 wins this past week, the bullpen pitched 11.2 innings and gave up only 4 runs, all of which were inconsequential (though, some of them were scary, as Edwin Diaz has barely gotten his last two saves, which would make it appear that his first blown save is creeping right around the corner).

In the 3 losses this past week, the bullpen pitched 7.1 innings and gave up a whopping 11 runs, including meltdowns by Vincent, Caminero, Vincent, and Wilhelmsen.

Part of this, I guess, you could argue is on the offense not taking advantage of earlier scoring opportunities.  But, in the three losses, the Mariners are averaging over 5 runs per game.  That SHOULD be enough!

Likewise, some of this also has to do with our rotation being in shambles again.  I love what Ariel Miranda has brought to the table since the Wade Miley trade, but he has yet to throw over 86 pitches in any of his starts, and seems to turn into a pumpkin in the 6th inning.  When you combine him with Wade LeBlanc (meh) and now Cody Martin (SUPER meh), you end up putting too many games in the hand of a bullpen that has proven to be shaky at best.

Yeah, Felix and Iwakuma have been great this year!  But, it would be nice to have Paxton and Walker healthy and pitching effectively.  Maybe, oh, I dunno, have a prolonged stretch where all four of those fuckers are healthy and we are able to slot LeBlanc into the #5 role where he belongs, as opposed to the #3 role he’s been thrust into!  Could that fucking happen for one fucking month of the season, please?

There are still a lot of games with a lot of beatable turds on the schedule, so we gotta stop gagging these things away!  It would be foolish to expect a bullpen to be perfect, but it is abso-fucking-lutely acceptable to expect to save every 3-run lead in the 9th!  I’ll tell you that for one!  Tom Wilhelmsen, you save that shit for when you’re employed by the Texas Rangers!  You keep that bullshit out of our locker room!  And Leonys Martin?  Nori Aoki?  Let’s work on our defense and catch the fucking balls we’re supposed to catch, huh?  You blew that just as much as The Bartender, so don’t think you’re getting off easy.

Focus!  6 weeks to go!  I want playoff baseball and I want it right fucking now!

Seahawks/Vikings Preseason Game 2 Takeaways

You know what was ultimately my biggest takeaway from that game?  The Seahawks are going to fucking DESTROY Dallas next week.

I came away predictably impressed by Minnesota’s defense.  That unit as a whole is no joke.  I don’t know if, ultimately, their secondary is better than ours, but their front seven is pretty savage, from both run and pass rush perspectives.  I also erroneously came away frustrated, thinking that we’d have to play them again in the regular season, but it turns out they’re not actually on the schedule, and we won’t have to play them again until the playoffs.

I also think, yeah, the Vikings are GOING to make the playoffs.  Unless that defense suffers no less than 7 major injuries, they should easily carry what should be another pretty anemic offense.

One final bit on the Vikings:  I thought it was a real chickenshit move to not start Bridgewater.  Given their head coach’s non-answer to why he didn’t play, I can only assume it was because he was afraid that we’d further stunt his limited growth by making him look bad.  I mean, it’s not like he’s reached Adrian Peterson status where he can sit out the entire pre-season and then perform at an All Pro level in Week 1.  Since Bridgewater played in the first pre-season game, we know THAT level of insanity hasn’t been breached.  So, what else could it be?  If he was being disciplined for some team violation, the coach could have just said that, and left unsaid what the violation was.  But, no, this was a coach’s decision, and I think it was a mistake.  That kid needs reps against a legit defense if he’s ever going to grow.

Onto more Seahawky things, I thought Christine Michael looked legit.  As a personal philosophy, I don’t like the Running Back By Committee, but as a Marshawn Lynch fanatic, I like the idea that it takes two quality running backs to compensate for the loss of Beastmode.  The Seahawks’ running game is in good hands this season.

Knowing full well Minnesota’s defense is great, I thought it was disappointing that we couldn’t score on them in the first half.  There are other great defenses on our schedule this season – like the Rams in Week 2, for instance – and it’s disheartening to see us struggle so mightily against these stout front sevens.  Of course, penalties and other mistakes don’t help matters much.  Russell Wilson looked like he reverted a little bit when the pressure was on – resulting in him taking a couple of sacks he probably shouldn’t have.  I was also a little scared to see Wilson get chopped down a couple times where – in seasons past – I remember him being able to get away from such forces.  Is he losing a step?  Maybe too early to go to that extreme, but he certainly wasn’t doing the type of Russell Wilson things we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.

Regarding the offensive line, I thought the interior played another fine game.  But, both the left and right tackles were DISASTERS.  The more I think about it, the more we’re going to need to rely on the quick-strike passing game.  Teams already want to do everything they can to keep Wilson in the pocket, to prevent him from doing those aforementioned Russell Wilson things.  But, that’s made MUCH easier if our tackles are going to give defenders the edge on a constant basis.  Bradley Sowell is not a starter in this league, period.  Webb’s injury has forced the team to revert Gilliam back to the right side, which has to be fucking with his development like crazy.  Don’t expect the tackle positions to be even remotely competent anytime soon.

On defense, we still haven’t seen them play to their full potential.  Michael Bennett’s reps have been scaled back, what with it being the pre-season, and what with him being amazing.  I don’t know how much we’ve actually seen with Bennett, Avril, and Clark all rushing the quarterback at the same time, but it really hasn’t been a lot (if any).

I thought it was weird that Brandon Browner didn’t get any play with the starters.  If he’s supposed to have this “special role” with us, where we use him against opposing tight ends, then how about we at least TRY it in the pre-season to see where and how he fits in?!  Like usual, the middle short of the defense, as well as the tight end position, were the areas where we struggled.  That offense, with Shaun Hill and no AP, should have looked as inept as can be, but they ultimately managed to move the ball a little bit, to my dismay.  And score on us, where we were unable to score on them.

DeShawn Shead looked like the real deal.  So did Kelcie McCray.  This secondary is in good hands.

Still no sign of Tye Smith having any impact whatsoever.  To think, I had such high hopes in his Year 2.

Frank Clark continued to be Mr. Pre-Season, which is fun.  Jarran Reed looked strong up the middle, which is also fun.

Boykin almost led us to another second half comeback, then got smacked with a Pick Six, then almost led us to another MIRACLE second half comeback.  That kid’s got Quality Second Stringer written all over him (I just hope we don’t have to use him as a rookie, when the games start to mean something).

Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner

So, not a great week for Nolan Frese.  I saw at least two bad snaps to the punter (maybe three?) and one VERY high snap on a field goal opportunity, that messed with Hauschka’s timing, ultimately causing him to leave a long field goal a few yards short.  That also happened while some fans were passing around a video on Twitter of Clint Gresham on YouTube doing his long snapping magic.  Gresh is still out there, looking for work.  I’d consider it, if I were running the Seahawks …

The Mariners Are Really Putting Me Through The Wringer

Tasked with the second inexperienced starter in two days, the Seattle Mariners had to put on their big boy pants to beat the Angels last night.  So, it was really a perfect time for the power in the bats to completely disappear.

After digging a hole early, Cody Martin somewhat settled down to go 4.1 innings while giving up only 2 runs.  Given our placement in the standings and how important all of these games are, combined with the fact that the Mariners just took the lead in the top of the 4th to go up 4-2, Scott Servais wasn’t taking any chances.  It was the prudent play.

The bullpen rebounded in a big way over the previous night.  Storen went 1.1 scoreless, Nuno got the final out of the 6th, Caminero made it through a scoreless 7th, and Wilhelmsen did the same in the 8th.  Perfect.  Bring on the Sugar!

Texas Tea ... Sweetener!

Texas Tea … Sweetener!

Who almost fucking blew it.

ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME???

A single and a wild pitch put the leadoff batter in scoring position.  For the most part, like the night prior, the Angels hitters were cheating, going up there looking fastball all the way and swinging accordingly.  That’s what happened with the first batter.  So, Diaz turned to his slider, and almost exclusively his slider, the rest of the way.  I didn’t understand at first, as the next batter whiffed twice at it before laying off the next two balls outside, before putting the final slider into centerfield to make the game 4-3.  After the game, I discovered he’d lost confidence in his fastball command, but either way, it was SCARY for a while there!

Diaz got a strikeout from an overly-aggressive Kole Calhoun, but then Trout singled and advanced to second on the throw as Leonys Martin tried to cut down the runner going to third.  With two runners in scoring position, and only one out in the inning, Diaz intentionally walked Albert Pujols to load ’em up.  From there, he got another strikeout before running into the final batter of the night, who hit a hard ground ball towards the bag that Seager dove on.  He was able to throw out the final runner by a half step to save the game, in what has to be the best defensive play made by a Mariners fielder all year.  Hell, it might be the play of the decade, given the circumstances (but, my memory ain’t what it used to be).

Just an unbelievable sense of relief after that.  We wrap up the 4-game series tonight, with Iwakuma on the mound.  Let’s do this thing!

The Mariners Screwed The Pooch Last Night

Blowers and Goldsmith were having a discussion during the broadcast last night about how great it is to have a lockdown closer like Edwin Diaz.  He helps the rest of the bullpen slot into place, he gives everyone the confidence that by shortening the game – just getting through the 8th inning with the lead – everything will be all right.

But, what happens if you can’t even do that?  Well, you get what we had here last night.

You could only expect them to win one of these two games started by Miranda yesterday and Cody Martin tonight; the Mariners blew a HUGE opportunity to take this series by the balls.  I will say it again:  the Mariners have NO business losing to this team, in any capacity.  The Angels have one and a half hitters who can beat you, and sure as shit, they got the better of us again.  It’s like this pitching staff and this coaching staff simply wipes their asses with the scouting reports they get!

Have you heard of the phrase, “I’m not going to let so-and-so beat us,”?  Well, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols – he of the 92 RBI and the unimpressive batting average – should NOT be beating us like they are!  You’ve got to be more careful with them!  You absolutely can NOT be floating meatballs for them to crush!  And you can’t be fucking walking guys ahead of them!

The bullpen shit the bed, you know?  What can I say?  They had an awesome run, but they really fucked up bad last night.  Nick Vincent was God damn worthless, and Arquimedes Caminero suffered his first blown save in a Mariners uniform.  This isn’t on the hitters (6 runs should be MORE than enough to win every game), this isn’t on the starter (who pitched very well until, again, he faltered in the 6th inning and couldn’t get an out).  This is on those two bullpen guys who fucked it up for everyone.

Now, we have to win the next two games in the series to be where we want to be.  You can’t be losing a series to a team that’s 20 games under .500!  Not if the post-season is on your mind!  So, get your shit together and get this fucking thing done!

Mariners Get Crucial Series-Opening Win Against Angels

Earlier in the day, news broke that James Paxton would not, in fact, get the start on Tuesday.  Indeed, he’s looking closer to hitting the DL (retroactive to August 8th), with a probable return of next Monday, the 22nd, than he is getting a start at any point this week.  It’s just so Paxton, and just so MARINERS for him to get injured in the way he did, and have it linger as long as it is.

What that means:  Ariel Miranda gets the start later today.  And Joe Wieland likely gets the start tomorrow.

What THAT means:  with Iwakuma set to start the finale on Thursday (also a must-win), the Mariners absolutely HAD to take the King Felix start, if they had any hope of winning the 4-game series.

As it stands, they’re going to have to gut out one of the next two games, and then hope Kuma is on his game, to get 3 out of 4.  Sack up, boys.

They did last night, anyway.  Felix let a run pass in the 2nd inning, but was otherwise in good shape most of the game.  He held it together long enough for Lind and Zunino to push a couple runs across with singles, followed by Nelson Cruz with a moon shot to complete our scoring in the 5th.  The fact that he gave up a meatball to Trout in the bottom of the 5th was a mere trifle in the grand scheme of things (but, at the time, after he’d walked Trout – the ONLY guy on their team who can beat us right now – the previous two at bats, I gotta say it was more than a little aggravating).

Felix ended up going 6.2 innings before giving way to Wilhelmsen with 2 runners on and Trout back at the plate.  With first base open, Wilhelmsen did the unthinkable and hung a curve.  I had that pegged as a goner, along with the Mariners’ chances of winning that game, but somehow it stayed in the park for the final out of the 7th.  Wilhelmsen put their scrubs down in order in the 8th before Edwin Diaz finished it off with a 5-pitch 9th (that somehow also included a strikeout, so you do the math).

HUGE win!  The Mariners are 9 games over .500 for the first time since June 2nd.  They’ve only been 10 games over .500 for a single day back in May, and they’ve yet to be 11 games over .500, so pretty big week ahead of us potentially.

The Mariners are now only 5.5 games behind Texas in the A.L. West (and 2.5 games ahead of Houston, for what it’s worth), as well as only 2 games behind Boston for the 2nd Wild Card (leapfrogging the Tigers tonight by a half game).  It’s all there in front of us, for the taking!

A few random thoughts:

The Mariners need to figure out how to get Ketel Marte’s bat going.  I know we all love the Shawn O’Rally story, but Marte is still a clear upgrade defensively, and with all offensive things being equal, the defense gives Marte the edge.  However, with Marte in a 1 for 19 slump since returning to action, we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul here between the two.

Cruz hit his 30th home run of the season, and now has 74 homers with the Mariners in his first two seasons. It’s so nice having that middle-of-the-order production in between the likes of Cano and Seager.

Speaking of:  you gotta like what Seager has brought to the table this year, particularly with his offense.  He doesn’t appear to be faltering late like he has every year prior.  He also had a nifty opposite-field hit with an 0-2 count last night.  It’s not often, but he’s been going the other way more this year than ever before, and it’s paying dividends with his batting average.

I was going to save this for its own post, but I think I’ll close with this thought:  where would the Mariners be right now without Mike Zunino?

In years like this – special years, where your team contends for meaningful baseball in August and (hopefully) beyond – there are always a smattering of unlikely heroes.  With the Mariners, you have to look at Diaz (making the leap from AA to win our closer’s job), Wilhelmsen (starting the year with Texas, and being a dumpster fire to boot, he’s given up all of 3 runs in 14 innings so far with the Mariners to really help bolster the back-end of the bullpen), Caminero (acquired in trade from Pittsburgh after the July 31st trade deadline; he’s already solidified himself as our primary 8th inning guy behind Diaz), Dae-ho Lee (off to a critically important start – with Lind struggling early – even though he’s been in a slump of late), and the aforementioned heroics of O’Malley.  But, I just can’t say enough about how Mike Zunino has lifted this team with his bat and his solid pitch framing over the last month or so.

Chris Iannetta was a valuable addition to this team coming into 2016.  The Mariners needed to give Zunino some more seasoning in the minors, they needed a veteran presence guiding this pitching staff, and they needed someone who wasn’t a black hole like Jesus Sucre (besides, Sucre started the season on the 60-day DL).  And, aside from a few mishandled relay throws to the plate, Iannetta didn’t disappoint.  I’m not going to say he was some great wizard with the bat or anything, but he was providing steady production from the catcher position (particularly through the first month of the season).  The only problem that I could see was that the team was grossly over-using him in the first half, and it ultimately caught up to him.  Steve Clevenger was NOT a bad backup option, but he got hurt and that opened up the spot for Zunino’s return.

Not only has Zunino held his own, but he’s overtaken Iannetta for the starting job.  What’s even more important is that it was actually EARNED this time, as opposed to when he was first rushed up, because we had no one competent at that spot ahead of him.  22 games into this season, Zunino already has 6 homers and 3 doubles.  But, he’s also hitting for a solid average (.267), he’s walking WAY more than I thought possible (.400 OBP), and with that slugging where it is (.617), he’s not just an improvement over Iannetta, or over the previous incarnation of Mike Zunino, but he’s a legitimate threat at or near the bottom of the lineup for this team.

See, since we’ve got Cano/Cruz/Seager, along with Lind/Lee, you really don’t have to bat Zunino until 7th or 8th, depending on the lineup.  Pressure’s off, allowing him to just go up there and hit.  And he’s really taken to the instruction the organization has given him.  I couldn’t be happier, and I hope like hell I haven’t jinxed him.