If you learn one thing from this series, it’s that the Astros are destined for greatness and the Mariners are destined for something … less than. You can tell me it’s early all you want, but this is a great Astros team, and they’re not even playing all that well right now! Altuve has yet to do anything, the rest of their lineup has been spotty at best, and yet they’ve still been able to demolish the Mariners through three games, with the fourth coming tonight. Just imagine what this team is going to look like when all elements are firing.
The enraging thing – the thing that’s bound to prove my point even further – is going to be when the Mariners sweep the Angels this weekend and everyone will say, “See! Nothing to worry about! It was just one series in early April! These games CLEARLY don’t matter as much as the games in September!” And for a while, people will relax, because it’ll look like the Mariners are back on track. Except, here’s the thing: I never said the Mariners are terrible; I just said that the Astros are really fucking good and there’s no way we’re going to top them this season, short of the Astros suffering a slew of key injuries while the Mariners from this day forward remain relatively healthy.
This series is the fork in our division-winning hopes. The Mariners are simply worse than the Astros, and quite frankly they have been since the Astros joined the A.L. West. Even when the Astros were fucking God awful, they were still better than the Mariners. It is our cross to bear.
So, now we know, with 159 games to play, it’s Wild Card or Bust. I just hope there aren’t many more teams like the Astros on the schedule to give us fits. If we can’t figure out a way to win some divisional games – thank you Unbalanced Schedule – not even the Wild Card will be on the table.
Last night’s game might have changed my mind, had the Mariners scratched out the win, but instead it only reinforces my resolve that the Astros are the better team. We had everything going for us in that game, and by “everything” I mean James Paxton. He looked fucking phenomenal in throwing six shutout innings, while giving up 2 hits, walking 1, and striking out 5. If he’d only been able to keep his pitch count under control, this really should’ve been a 7- or 8-inning performance. But, it’s his first start of the season, so stopping him at 100 pitches is the right thing to do.
I’ll tell ya, though, Paxton was something else. He was pounding the inside corner of the plate like I’ve never seen! The Astros had, what I distinctly remember as an all-right handed lineup, and Paxton didn’t bat an eye! He even managed to power through some of those unlucky Paxton-esque moments without allowing a run to score; like in the second inning, when a 1-out walk managed to reach third base on an out and a wild pitch; or when Springer reached on a strikeout in the dirt and advanced to third base on a double (he had to get through Altuve and Correa to get out of that jam unscathed!). These are the kinds of minor inconveniences that – in the past – would somehow come around to destroy a Paxton start. But, last night, he locked those shits down!
(of course, that isn’t to say those types of things won’t ruin him in future starts, but this was an encouraging way to bring in the new season for a guy known for his inconsistency)
The Mariners managed to not only score a run with a hit out of the infield, but they hit their first homer of the season! Jean Segura hit an opposite-field 2-run homer that was remarkable in the way it kept carrying. For such a little guy, he has a surprising amount of power. On top of that, it was the Mariners’ first lead of the season!
It didn’t last long.
As I noted above, Paxton was finished after six innings, but the Mariners went right to their best set-up man, Evan Scribner … who promptly gave up back-to-back hits and was pulled for Scrabble (our next-best set-up man), who did his job and got the first out of the 7th inning. That brought us to Dan Altavilla (our third-best set-up man), who gave up a single to load the bases and a double to tie the ballgame. He ended up getting out of the jam after that with the tie intact, but the blown save damage was done.
From there, it was a comedy of poor clutch hitting through the 12th inning. Pazos was brought in, even though their entire lineup was right-handed. He gave up two hits before being pulled. Casey Fien cleaned up the mess without incident. Then, Edwin Diaz got his first action of the season, and was forced to go two scoreless innings as we plowed into extras. That brought us to Nick Vincent, who somehow pitched out of a Runner On Third With Less Than Two Outs jam (of his own creation) and ended up going two more scoreless innings.
At that point, the only reliever left was Chase De Jong. The Mariners, in the 13th inning, managed to eke out a run on four consecutive walks with nobody out, but could not play add-on, and thus you know how this game concluded. With a tenuous 3-2 lead, Chase De Jong – who was making his Major League debut, who has all of 1 appearance in AAA (i.e. who was – for all intents and purposes – making the leap from AA to the Majors) – got one quick out, walked the next batter, induced the following batter to foul out, and gave up an opposite-field single to Nori Aoki.
That was the game. It wasn’t the subsequent 3-run homer by George Springer; it was letting that snake in the grass Aoki, in the 9-hole, weasel his way on base to turn the lineup over. You get Aoki, you win the game, you get your first career save, and they’re showering you with the Champagne of Beers in the locker room. Instead, you leave one out over the plate, it gets crushed, and you’re living in your own personal Hell. Welcome to the Big Leagues, son.
(also, not for nothing, but does this happen if Dillon Overton’s wife doesn’t have that kid this week? Is it too much to ask to get the C-section a week early? Okay, I’m horrible, I’ll move on)
I mean, what can you say? I can’t get angry at De Jong; that’s an impossible situation to enter into as your Major League debut! Yeah, it’s his fault, but it’s not really his fault. He probably shouldn’t even be up here in the first place. In a perfect world, Drew Smyly is healthy and Ariel Miranda is the 8th man in the bullpen. But, I can’t even blame our own bad luck, because this offense is SERIOUSLY shitting the bed like I haven’t seen since 2010. Except it’s a million times worse, because whereas the 2010 M’s had shitty hitters, the 2017 M’s have really good ones! And they’re doing JACK SHIT right now.
Take a look at the blown scoring opportunities in this game alone:
- 1st Inning – Haniger at 2nd with 1 out; Cano strikes out, Cruz grounds out
- 2nd Inning – Zunino doubles with 2 outs; Dyson pops it up to the short stop
- 4th Inning – Cruz leadoff double; stranded at second
- 7th Inning – Martin walked & stole 2nd with 1 out; stranded at second again
- 12th Inning – Dyson singled & stole 2nd with 1 out; stranded
- 13th Inning – 4 walks to lead off the inning & score the go-ahead run; Valencia fly out, Zunino strikeout, Dyson strikeout
That’s just unforgivable. The pitching this series hasn’t been perfect – not like it needs to be, apparently – but it’s been BEYOND good enough. It’s even more aggravating because you know the pitching isn’t going to stay this good over the long haul. We’re fucking SQUANDERING games that we should be winning! And don’t tell me it’s early, because a loss is a loss is a loss; they all count the same fucking way regardless of whether they’re in April or September, so fuck off with that nonsense.
0-3 as we head into the next two days with our worst two starters. Oh, this should be fun.