Mariners’ Bullpen Saved The Day Against The Twins

There were plenty of heroes in last night’s 6-4 Mariners victory.  Mitch Haniger banged a 2-run homer in the first.  Mike Zunino chipped in with a 3-run homer in the third (and has his average over .240 to boot).  Ben Gamel had 3 hits, 2 runs, and a MONSTER catch in foul territory in left field, crashing into the wall and coming down with the ball to get the second out in the eighth inning, with the Mariners only leading by 2.  Cano, Valencia, and Dyson all had multi-hit games to help keep the offense rolling along.

But, this one belonged to the bullpen.

Sam Gaviglio was so-so.  He was great through four innings, then gave up back-to-back solo homers in the fifth and downgraded to just good.  But, he could only manage one out in the sixth before giving up a 2-run homer and subsequently getting pulled.

James Pazos yanked his ass out of the fire by striking out the final two batters of the inning; but he wasn’t done there.  He erased a leadoff single with a double play, then walked a guy, allowed him to steal second, but got the next batter to pop out to end the inning.  It wasn’t the prettiest, but Pazos went 1.2 innings to bridge this game to the eighth, and that’s just fine in my book!

Nick Vincent came in, got the first two batters out, gave up a single to Minnesota’s best power hitter in Miguel Sano, then was pulled for Scrabble with a lefty coming up.  Scrabble walked the pinch hitter and was immediately replaced by Edwin Diaz for the 4-out save.

Diaz got the final batter in the eighth to strike out on three pitches.  He got the first batter of the ninth to fly out to left-center, walked a guy, gave up an infield single, struck the next guy out, let the tying runners steal their way into scoring position, and got Brian Dozier to fly out to center to end the threat.  I’ll admit, it looked pretty dicey there late in the game, but Diaz never looked like he was out of control and ultimately earned the skipper’s confidence in him.

In Long Reliever News, Casey Lawrence was sent back to Tacoma, this time replaced by our good buddy Chase De Jong.  Since being demoted, De Jong has been far from ideal in AAA.  In the first three starts, he got pretty well pounded, giving up 8 homers in 17 innings; his sterling April ERA with Tacoma took a fucking BEATING.  But, in his most recent start, he went 6 shutout innings.  I’ve got to think he’s only here on an emergency basis, until the Mariners have waited the requisite amount of time until Emilio Pagan is allowed to return, and they won’t put De Jong in any games unless they’re winning or losing big.

In other news, Hisashi Iwakuma pitched 4 shutout innings with the Modesto Nuts.  Felix is set to pitch one more time in Tacoma this weekend I think.  Jean Segura is making great progress and could be back as early as next week.  And Major League Baseball concluded its draft.  The Mariners picked a bunch of guys I’ve never heard of and probably will never hear of.  I’m being told that each of the Top 10 draft picks will sign with the team though, so that’s exciting.  REFILL THAT FARM SYSTEM!!!  Also, I heard Kyle Lewis returned from his ACL tear and is back playing some baseball again, so that’s fun.

The Mariners finish their season series with the Twins later this morning with a 10am local start time.  Ariel Miranda will try to help the M’s win this series 3-1 and get the team back to .500 overall.  Please God, let it happen.

Christian Bergman Is Either Really Good Or Really Bad

This thing was going pretty well for one and a half innings, then it completely went off the rails as the Twins racked up 28 hits in beating the Mariners 20-7.

Christian Bergman couldn’t get out of the third inning, giving up 9 runs in the process.  When you tack that onto the 4-inning, 10-run performance he had against the Nationals, that Thinking Face emoji starts to rear its insufferable head.  True, those are just two starts, but he’s seemingly made a career out of being fantastic in some appearances, and then outright abysmal in the rest.

This year, so far he’s had the 2 abysmal starts.  He’s also had 4 really terrific ones, with a couple other so-so performances that at least kept the Mariners in the ballgame.  So, most of the time, he’s good.  But, every so often, he’s the worst, and I feel like that’s a problem.

It’s still early, and if I had to guess – if the Mariners were forced to make a decision today – they’d stick with Gallardo over Bergman.  We’re still probably a week or so away from Felix returning, and with this start against the Twins fresh in their minds, I have to think that now it’s a contest between Bergman and Gaviglio (who gets the start tonight).

Of course, knowing the Mariners, just as soon as Felix comes back, someone else will get injured, making this a pointless exercise.  The point is:  if you would’ve asked me yesterday morning at this time who the Mariners SHOULD keep:  Bergman or Gallardo, I would’ve said Bergman 100 times out of 100.  Now?  Ehh, I have doubts.

It wasn’t just his fault that the Mariners gave up 20.  The bullpen decided to shit the bed all at once, as opposed to slowly, over the course of many days, which I appreciate.  Casey Lawrence didn’t have it, which leads me to believe Emilio Pagan is about 8 or 9 days away from getting called back up again.  Scrabble REALLY didn’t have it, but at this point, who cares?  He’s been great when it’s mattered.  We even saw Chooch Ruiz pitch an inning of relief, giving up just a solo homer.

The offense did enough to win on most nights, but this obviously wasn’t most nights.  They also had their opportunities, but couldn’t cash in, going 5 of 19 with RISP (whereas the Twins were 12 of 21).

Probably the weirdest thing about this game is that the Mariners only gave up 2 walks, and they were both given up by our catcher in the 8th inning.  Meaning, the Twins scored their runs by and large by pounding the everloving shit out of the Mariners.  You don’t see blowouts like that very often.

But, it’s over and done with; now it’s time to move on to the next one tonight.

The Mariners Pounded The Twins And Also Made Two Draft Picks

The Mariners beat the Twins 14-3.  The Mariners scored in 6 of the 9 innings, and every batter had at least one hit.  Mitch Haniger busted out with 4 hits, 4 runs, and 2 RBI; Nelson Cruz had 2 hits, 2 runs, and 4 RBI; Ben Gamel had 2 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs; Seager, Valencia, Zunino, and Tyler Smith all had multi-hit games as well.

Yovani Gallardo, after being given a 2-0 lead in the first inning, gave up 2 runs in the bottom half to sicken me to my core.  But, to his credit, he managed to settle down and went 6 innings, giving up 3 runs, 7 hits, and walked only 1, while striking out 5.  He had a lot of wait time between innings, which couldn’t have been easy, so it was nice of him to look semi-competent in a laugher.

The real news of the day belongs to the MLB draft.  The first two rounds took place last night and the Mariners made two selections.

  • First Round, 17th Pick – Evan White, 1B
  • Second Round, 55th Pick – Sam Carlson, RHP

White is a college kid with good offensive numbers, great defensive abilities, and an all-around great attitude according to everyone who talks about him.  Someone had mentioned his defensive abilities could translate to the outfield – which would obviously give him a lot more value as an overall baseball player – but the Mariners are saying he could have Gold Glove defensive ability at first base, so that’s where he’ll start out.  It also doesn’t hurt that he’s going to sign right away and join up with the Everett Aqua Sox.

John Olerud is probably the lazy comparison, but I dunno, I’m not really a guy who focuses too hard on the minor leagues.  Was Olerud an athletic marvel coming out of college?  I always assumed he was a plodder from the get go.  Either way, if White turns into Olerud, I would absolutely take that in a heartbeat.

I understand the thought process behind moving a guy to a more premium defensive position, like centerfield for instance, which is what people have said about White.  But, just look at the Mariners:  how long have we been trying to fix the first base position?  How many years have we just been getting by with 1-year deals on guys we’re hoping will have bounce-back seasons?  First base is an absolute need position for this team, so I’d really rather they not screw around with switching positions and whatnot.

I don’t know if the power numbers are super there, so I wouldn’t expect this kid to be a pure slugger.  But, it’s promising to hear he’s gotten better every year.  First base doesn’t have to be a 40-homer a year target; I’d gladly take half of that with a good batting average and great defense.  Either way, we’ll likely know more about him in three years or so.

Sam Carlson is an interesting pick for us, as many had projected him to be a first rounder.  Some even projected him over Evan White!  He’s a high schooler out of Minnesota who already throws in the mid-90s, so that’s pretty freakin’ sweet.  It appears a lot of teams were wary of picking him, as he agreed to go to the University of Florida, so it looks like it’ll take a little extra money to get him to sign.  We’ll see.  The team is confident they’ll get him, but I guess they have to be.  He most likely didn’t say he was a lock to go to college, so I figure there has to be some wiggle room there.

The question that has to weigh on his mind is whether or not he can improve his draft stock by going to college for a year or two.  There’s a big risk there, considering he can go and look pretty bad and fall way down in the draft.  But, there’s also a chance to get back in that first round and maybe even into the Top 10.  Those are the chips he’s holding in negotiations.

All in all, an interesting day for Mariners fans.  Rounds 3-10 happen today, followed by the rest taking place tomorrow.  I can’t imagine I’ll get much more in depth on the topic, considering I know nothing about high school or college baseball players.  I just hope there are some future quality Major Leaguers in there.

It’s Looking Like Key Arena Or Bust

It’s been pretty quiet on the Seattle arena front ever since the City Council denied the street vacation.  Since then, Chris Hansen has taken another stab at trying to get things to go his way by making his arena deal fully privately financed.  Again, seems like a deal he could’ve brought to the table initially to get this thing going – just like he could’ve offered above-and-beyond what the Kings were worth, when they were on the open market, to force everyone’s hand in backing down – but I guess I sort of understand.  You hold some concessions back in the event your opponent asks for a little more, so they can feel like they got one over on you.  But, again, feels like it’s too little, too late for Hansen.

The city has opted to go another direction; they want a renovated Key Arena.  It’s a city asset, and they want to maximize its potential financially, so you can see where they’re coming from.  Is it good for the local sports fans?  Absolutely not.  Is it good for the neighborhood – already maxed to a breaking point with residents and traffic congestion?  Absolutely not.  Is it even good for the city?  That remains to be seen.  But, the city went and solicited plans to renovate the Key, and they’ve sided with the Oak View Group.

OVG is saying all the right things, of course.  They’re going to build a world-class arena.  It’ll be top notch as far as acoustics are concerned, which is a good thing, because the Key is severely lacking at the moment.  They’re also going to make it work with the current roof – being protected as a historical landmark or some damn thing – by digging down into the Earth to retrofit it for the NBA and NHL.  And, good news!  They’ve already got a potential ownership group ready and willing to bring the NHL to Seattle.

This is absolutely critical to the whole thing; of course, I’ll believe it when I see it.  OVG is supposedly building this thing to be a concert venue first and foremost; that’s how they can justify starting with construction without an anchor tennant attached.  This thing will apparently be financially viable even if there’s no NBA or NHL team.  That scares me a little bit.  Because where is their motivation?  Is OVG going to be part-owners of any team we bring in?  I’m not totally sure I know all the ins and outs of this thing, because I know the city gets a slice, and the prospective team ownership group gets a slice, and now OVG gets a slice; how many ways can you slice this thing to where it’s profitable for all parties involved?

The only thing that matters to me is getting the ol’ foot in the door.  Let’s get a winter sport attached to this thing and go from there.

If I had my choice, if it were all up to my decision, obviously I’d do away with this Key Arena nonsense, approve the SoDo plan (and its fucking street vacation), and work things out so if the NHL has to be first, then so be it.  With SoDo, there’s no wait; with the Key, I believe they won’t be able to start construction until 2019 or 2020.  With SoDo, we’ll be able to build the type of palace that the leagues can be proud of; with the Key, it’s still going to be one of the smallest buildings in either league, and it’ll likely be out-dated as soon as it opens.  What happens when we have to renovate the Key yet again in another decade, to put in more suites or seats or a bigger jumbotron or whathaveyou?  On top of that, the SoDo area can handle the traffic; the new Key will absolutely cripple South Lake Union on gamedays.  In SoDo, you’ll be able to take a bevy of public transportation options; in SoDo, you can actually park if you want to drive.  At the Key, you can really do neither.  There are bus lines, but no light rail.  The Monorail is a stupid joke that the Seattle Times is trying to pass off as viable (even though, DUH, there’s nowhere to park in downtown Seattle either).  Also, don’t be surprised if the average fan is priced out of the Key; how else are they going to recoup costs and what will almost certainly be construction cost overruns?

It’s frustrating because the city of Seattle is, once again, making the wrong choice.  The Seattle Way is also The Way Of The Moron.  Seattle loves to look a gift horse in the mouth while it’s getting buttfucked by an STD-riddled Trojan Horse.  I can’t wait for this to blow up in everyone’s faces so all of us fans of the SoDo Arena can tell these cunts, “I Told You So!”  Except, of course, by that time, the SoDo land will have been sold for office buildings and condos, and we STILL won’t have the fucking Sonics back in Seattle.

It’s really starting to dawn on me that I’m never going to have the Sonics back in my lifetime.  Even if I have a good 30 years left in me, which is probably being pretty generous, where is the path to getting the NBA back?  Getting the NHL will be cool, and I’m sure I’ll embrace it wholeheartedly once it comes, but does that mean an NBA team isn’t far behind?  I wonder.

I keep hearing about how the NBA wouldn’t want to be a second-class citizen in a town that got the NHL first.  I don’t think that’s necessarily true, because I think this is a Sonics town through and through, but you could understand why they’d think that.

The fucked up thing is that Seattle is growing like crazy.  It’s got all these tech dollars here just burning holes in pockets!  These leagues should be busting down the doors to come to Seattle!  And, quite frankly, with how this city is pricing out the common man, thanks to the growth of Amazon, among others, we DESERVE to have these sports in this city.  We should get SOMETHING for how our city is being overwhelmed by the elites.

But, in the end, we’ll probably just get screwed over like we always do.  If you ask me, THAT’S the real Seattle Way.

The Mariners Lost The Blue Jays Series Because We Can’t Have Nice Things

Oh .500, how we hardly knew ye …

Coming off of Friday’s impressive win, I actually allowed myself to have some high hopes.  Ariel Miranda on Saturday, James Paxton on Sunday:  our two best pitchers going up against what should be an uninspiring Blue Jays lineup.

So, yeah, of course the Mariners lost both games.  Of course.  Of.  Course.

For the second consecutive start since coming off the DL, Paxton stunk.  Last time, it didn’t really matter, because the Mariners put up 12 runs, so it was okay for Paxton to leave after five, giving up the 3 runs.  But, yesterday he went 4, giving up 4, and didn’t really look all that sharp ever.  This is somewhat understandable, considering how long he was on the shelf, but the Mariners are going to need him to return to form pretty soon here.

A couple of roster moves made their impressions felt in this one.  For starters, Mitch Haniger returned from the DL (forcing Boog Powell back down to Tacoma).  Haniger went 0 for 4 with a walk, but he got his hacks in there, and hopefully he’ll also quickly return to form.

Following Paxton’s brief outing, we saw the return of Emilio Pagan, who was brought back up in favor of Tyler Cloyd.  Pagan went 4 innings of his own, giving up 0 runs, 0 hits, and walking just 1.  This is on the heels of his last Major League appearance, where he also went 4 shutout innings of relief.  Here’s to hoping he doesn’t get immediately rewarded with a Tacoma demotion, because he’s seriously looking like a guy we can count upon in this role going forward.

As for the offense, what can you say?  0 for 10 with RISP.  J.A. Happ got to be everything he WASN’T when he was in a Mariners uniform, again.  And Josh Donaldson got to make us his bitch.

The Blue Jays dominated the crowds this weekend just like they dominated this series.  I’m glad we don’t have to play them again for the rest of the season.

The Mariners hit the road with a 4-spot in Minnesota starting tonight.  Then, it’s on to Texas this weekend, before it’s right back here again, where hopefully the stands will have more Mariners fans than not.

Former Mariners Defeated Current Mariners

How fucking weird is this shit?  The Blue Jays hit three homers yesterday, by three different people who spent significant time in the Mariners organization, scoring all four of their runs in a 4-2 Blue Jays victory.

In the fourth, the Mariners nursing a 1-0 lead, Kendrys Morales hit a 2-run homer.  Those would be Ariel Miranda’s only 2 runs allowed, in his 6.1 innings (2 hits, 5 walks, 2 strikeouts) as he continues his fine sophomore campaign.

Then, in the eighth, after the Mariners tied it at two on a Jarrod Dyson stolen base followed by two errors (on a bad throw from the catcher to second base, allowing Dyson to take third; and on the centerfielder over-running said bad throw, allowing Dyson to take home), Ezequiel Carrera hit a solo homer to right.

Carrera, you might remember, was thrown into that massive 3-team deal back in December of 2008 that brought the Mariners Guti, Vargas, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp, among others (in the height of the Jackie Z era).  Carrera never got a call up to Seattle – making it as high as Tacoma in 2010 – before being traded to Cleveland that same year in June for the return of Russell Branyan.  Remember when the Mariners were so bad on offense they had to go back to the Branyan well and STILL set records for fewest runs scored in a season?  Yeah.

Anyway, I wouldn’t say Carrera has been some All Star or anything since we gave him away, but he’s been a nice little player for a few teams, including Toronto.

Finally, in the ninth, Justin Smoak smacked a homer off of Steve Cishek, because of course he did.

I know the bullpen did us no favors last night, but they’ve been the best bullpen in baseball for a little while now, so I’m down to give them some slack.  Where I think the Mariners were really lacking is on offense, and I attribute this one to not having Jean Segura.

I obviously misjudged Taylor Motter’s abilities when he got off to his hot start this season, but he’s been remarkably bad at the plate ever since.  All you gotta do is pitch him away – which is sort of the defacto strategy for most pitchers anyway – and he’ll roll over on it and die on his feet.  He’s been able to scratch out some singles here and there, but his power is GONE.  He’s hit 1 homer since April 23rd; he’s hit 0 doubles since May 9th.  Suffice it to say, this stint making up for Segura has not gone as well as the first one.

The Mariners had the double-whammy of having to start Tyler Smith at short stop (bumping Motter to first base) because Danny Valencia needed a day off to rest some nagging injuries.  Valencia still came in to pinch hit, but didn’t do anything.  Tyler Smith, I know is a rookie, but he doesn’t appear to have it at the Major League level.  Sucks we had to lose Mike Freeman, because it feels like he could be a real asset right now.

It seems like most everyone is dealing with one nagging injury or another, but since this is the stupid sport of baseball, there’s yet another game today.  I guess that’s what you get with all these fully-guaranteed contracts:  no fucking days off.  Maybe they can work that into the next collective bargaining agreement.

Mariners Survive Game 1 Against Seattle Blue Jays

My absolute favorite Mariners moment of the last five years (dating back to the King’s perfect game in 2012) happened last September 21st.  Top of the seventh, on his 112th pitch of the game, Felix Hernandez got Michael Saunders to ground out to second base to preserve a 1-0 lead (Diaz would go on to blow that save in the top of the ninth, but the Mariners would ultimately prevail 2-1 in 12 innings) and as the King walked off the mound – most certainly knowing that would be his final pitch of the ballgame – he screamed out for the world to hear, “THIS IS MY HOUSE!”

The opponent:  The Toronto Blue Jays.  The location:  Seattle, Washington.  The stands:  nearly 40,000 people, the vast majority of which were Canadian Blue Jays fans.

These games are an affront to common decency!  For starters, if the Mariners are supposed to be the regional team, why are all these people from Western Canada still fans of the Blue Jays?  Get out of here with your Canadian pride!  And, while I’m sure all these businesses along the I-5 corridor appreciate the influx of Cana-dough whenever these people come here, I still think the Mariners should be ashamed of themselves for marketing these games to Blue Jays fans.  And the area merch stores should be DOUBLY ashamed to stock their shelves with so much Blue Jays crap!

THIS IS OUR HOUSE, GOD DAMMIT!  HAVE A LITTLE FUCKING PRIDE!

I don’t really have a baseball team that I loathe more than the others.  It used to be the Yankees, but that was when the Mariners were making the playoffs more than once a generation.  I sort of have equal disdain for all the other A.L. West teams (though, the Astros are starting to nose ahead in that horse race).  But, I think I have the most fire pumping through my veins whenever Toronto comes to town and it sounds like a Blue Jays home game in Safeco Field.  This aggression will not stand, man!

Last night’s game wasn’t quite as satifsying as that Felix moment from last year, but it’s close.  Toronto jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, scoring 1 in the second when Gaviglio got himself into a jam, and another in the third when Jose Bautista hit a solo homer to left.  The M’s got one back in the bottom of the third when Dyson’s speed turned a single into a run with a stolen base, a wild pitch, and a Gamel single to right.

And 2-1 it stayed, with the Blue Jays starter cruising with a low pitch count into the seventh inning, when FINALLY the Mariners rallied.  Cano doubled, Seager walked, and Valencia hit one in on a single.  Zunino walked to load the bases, and up came Dyson again.  With the infield drawn in, he laced a single to center that scored the go-ahead run (while leading to Valencia getting throw out at the plate).

Gaviglio had another fine outing, going 6 innings, giving up the 2 runs (one unearned, thanks to a Zunino passed ball), giving up 6 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 5.  He struggled early in the game, but really settled into a nice groove over his final couple of innings.

Tyler Cloyd had his first appearance, taking over for Gaviglio in the seventh, after being called up from Tacoma a while ago.  He got the first two outs of the inning okay, but gave up a single and a double to the next two guys, getting out of the inning with a crazy-awesome relay from Dyson to Motter to Zunino.  For his efforts, he got his first Major League win since 2013 with the Phillies.

After snatching the lead from the Blue Jays, Nick Vincent was called in to handle the eighth.  He gave up a couple of singles, but ended up striking out the side (including a couple of really impressive at-bats against Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak – who knew what Vincent was going to do to him, watched Vincent do just what he expected, and still swung through the inside cutter for the frustrating-for-him-but-not-me-because-fuck-Smoak strike three).  I know Vincent has been pretty great all year, but this was as good as I’ve ever seen him!

Then, in the bottom of the eighth, with runners at first & second and two outs, Kyle Seager had as professional of an at-bat as you’ll ever see, as he lined an RBI single the other way off of a pretty tough-looking lefty reliever.  Just an outstanding piece of hitting for a guy who has a valid reputation as a pull hitter.

With the 2-run cushion, Edwin Diaz came in throwing flames.  He touched 101mph on multiple occasions, including the final strike of the inning to blow it past Kevin Pillar.  Again, it wasn’t quite the Felix moment from last year, but Diaz climbing the ladder and hitting 101 for the game-ending strikeout was pretty boss hoss.

This win is doubly huge because it sets the Mariners up well for the rest of the series, with Ariel Miranda going tonight, and Paxton going tomorrow.  Here’s to hoping he won’t take it easy on his Canadian brethren.

The 2017 Mariners Have Still Never Been Over .500

That was as unlucky of a 2-1 defeat as you’ll ever see.  Down 1-0 on a solo homer in the fourth, Christian Bergman was working around a moderate jam in the fifth.  With two outs, he got Joe Mauer to bounce one to second base.  At the time, you could’ve made an argument that they would’ve given Bergman a shot at going six innings in this one.  But, not so fast, because the ball booted off the heel of Robinson Cano’s glove to put runners at the corners.  The lead runner was past third base enough for the M’s to potentially have a shot at picking him off, but Cano couldn’t get a clean grip on the ball.  By the time he did, it was too late and he should’ve eaten it.  Instead, he tried to rush the ball to third, saw it skip past Kyle Seager, allowing the runner to turn around and score.

Two errors, one play, by a guy who had one error all season.

In the bottom of the fifth, Jarrod Dyson led off with a triple.  One out and a Boog Powell walk later, Ben Gamel hit a sac fly to score Dyson.  Guillermo Heredia hit a single to right to put runners on the corners, which brought up Robbie with a chance to atone for his sins in the top half of the inning.  He hit a screaming liner to center that looked like it was going to score the go-ahead runs for the Mariners, but Byron Buxton made a crazy leaping catch to end the inning.

There’s probably only a small handful of guys who are able to track that ball and make that catch.

The bullpens kept the game the same on into the bottom of the eighth, with the heart of the order coming up.  Cano and Seager singled to put runners at first and second; with one out, the hero of the previous night – Mike Zunino – stepped to the plate.  He didn’t have a particularly good game in this one heading into the at bat, but all of that would’ve changed had he gotten ahold of one.  On a 1-0 pitch, Zunino smashed a liner right at the pitcher that almost certainly would’ve scored the tying run.  But, he hit it right into the pitcher’s glove, who was able to easily double off Cano at second to end the threat.

There would be no blown save for Minnesota’s closer on this night, as he came into the ninth and went 1-2-3.

What can you do, you know?  The confluence of events to get that game to go in Minnesota’s favor was pretty astounding.  Bergman once again pitched good enough to keep the Mariners in the ballgame (funny how he rarely seems to have Gallardo’s problem of The Big Inning, but that’s neither here nor there) and the bullpen pitched good enough to give the Mariners the win.  Four shutout innings by Pazos, Cishek, Scrabble, and Altavilla.

Offensively, we’re talking about 0 for 7 with RISP, which obviously won’t get the job done on many nights.  The Mariners will try again to get back to .500 (and maybe over .500) against the Blue Jays this weekend.  Sam Gaviglio goes tonight, which is cause for concern.  The fact that the Blue Jays have practically everyone back and healthy is another cause for concern, considering they were pretty beaten down by injuries the last time we played them last month, and they still managed to sweep the M’s in a 4-game series.  On top of all of that, we have to deal with a park full of insufferable Blue Jays fans.  Part of me wants to go to Safeco this weekend and mix it up, but the rest of me knows the Mariners are just going to lose anyway, because we always fucking lose to Toronto.

On a minor positive note, both Drew Smyly and Hisashi Iwakuma threw off of a mound yesterday.  It’s not much, but it’s an important next step.  Also, Mitch Haniger had a good game down in Tacoma, drawing the game-winning walk.  And, word around the team is that Nelson Cruz should be back tonight, but we’ll see.

Mike Zunino Walked ‘Em Off

It didn’t look promising for a while there.  Yovani Gallardo – in spite of getting through 7 innings – still had that One Big Inning, where he gave up 4 in the fifth (including a 3-run home run to help gag away the lead).  The Mariners were able to hit a couple solo homers in the third to take a temporary 2-1 lead, and eventually got to within 5-4 after the sixth, but the Twins’ bullpen was able to hold that narrow margin into the bottom of the ninth.

The Twins brought out their closer, Brandon Kintzler, who had as good lookin’ a sinker as I’ve seen in a while.  He was keeping the ball down, plus he had late downward movement on top of that to really get guys to roll over on it.  Seager grounded out to second base to lead off the ninth, and my heart sunk.  Motter grounded out to short stop and I said to myself, “This is over!  The Mariners are meat right now!”  I mean, we’ve seen this team and how it performs when sinkerballers are able to pound the bottom of the strikezone; it’s not pretty.

Then, Ben Gamel came up and chopped a single up the middle.  It looked like it was slow enough to be playable, but fortunately the Twins weren’t lined up in a way to make a play defensively.  That brought Mike Zunino to the plate, and a little tickle went off in my brain.

He had one of those solo homers back in the third (the other belonged to Chooch Ruiz, who was our DH as Nelson Cruz rests his bum calf).  He’s also been on a tear the last 8 games, since the start of that first Colorado series:  going 14 for 30 with 4 doubles and now 3 homers with his game-winning bomb to center last night.  He took a pitch on the outer half and bashed it the other way; it was a sight to behold and literally had me jumping out of my chair!

I mean, check it, in his last 8 games vs. the other 29 games he’s played in this year, Zunino has 14 of his 27 total hits, 4 of his 9 total doubles, 3 of his 4 total homers (all 4 homers have come since his call-up from Tacoma, about a week before that Colorado series), and 14 of his 17 total RBI.  His batting average has jumped 81 points and his slugging has gone up 168 points.  He’s been a completely different player, is what I’m getting at, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Obviously, we can’t just clap our hands and pronounce him cured, but a hot streak is better than nothing (which is what we were getting from him before he was sent down).  You can’t help but feel great for him.  He always puts in so much work on his game, he’s got all the potential in the world, and his career has been so maligned that he really deserves to have the success he’s having.

Also, not for nothing, but the Mariners deserved this win.  I know things have been pretty cushy lately – this puts them at 9 wins in their last 10 games, to bring them back to .500 at 30-30 – but this season has been an emotional drain for most of the first two months.  For most of these wins in this current hot streak, the Mariners have been about as complete as you can be:  good pitching, great hitting, solid defense, just beating teams into submission in every facet of the game.  Well, last night, the pitching wasn’t so hot, and the hitting wasn’t much to speak about (3 hits and 4 runs heading into the ninth inning), but with two outs and the game seemingly in the bag for the Twins, the Mariners were able to pull a little magic out of their asses.  It’s nice to see.

Bergman gets the start tonight to try to steal another sweep, then Toronto and all the Blue Jays fans come to town for the weekend.

The Mariners Chopped The Twins Up With An Axe

It was a 12-3 win for the Mariners that was about 95% impressive hitting performance and 5% solid pitching.  12 runs on 12 hits and 5 walks, 7 for 12 with RISP; homers from Cano and Seager, doubles from Valencia and Seager.  Heredia had 2 hits and 2 runs scored; Valencia had a bases-clearing 3-run double; Cano had 3 RBI and 3 runs scored; Seager had 4 RBI; Motter had a couple of hits and a really impressive sac fly.  Just about everyone had a say in this, and the best part is that the Mariners racked up all their runs by the fourth inning, so it was a nice, relaxing coast to the finish line.

James Paxton was rock solid through the first three innings, but as the Mariners offense did their thing, leaving Paxton with longer and longer between-innings breaks, he got tripped up.  He ended up going 5 innings, giving up 3 runs to get the win, but as I alluded to before, not a start to write home about.

Zych, Altavilla, and Vincent combined to go the final four innings, keeping the Twins off the board, which is all you could really ask for.  The best part of this game, honestly, is how the Mariners forced them into using 5 relievers of their own.  Here’s to hoping that sets things up poorly for them these next two games.

Nelson Cruz was pulled from this one pretty early with a tight calf – the same one that’s been nagging him for a while now.  Considering the Mariners had amassed such a powerful lead, it didn’t bite us in the ass, but here’s to hoping he’s able to come back tonight.

The M’s are now 29-30, which is pretty great, all things considered.  They’re 13 games behind the Astros – who are keeping pace with the 2001 Mariners of all teams, for Christ’s sake – but they’re just 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot.  Remember when they were down around the Royals for last in the American League?  Now there are only two teams between us and the Baltimore Orioles.  Thankfully, like last year, the A.L. East has a lot of good teams, which means they should spend the majority of the season beating up on one another.  You gotta figure one of those teams will take the brunt of the pounding, opening up that second Wild Card for a plucky little team from the Central or West.  Why not us, right?

Well, Felix made his first rehab start in Tacoma last night and got pounded in his two innings of work.  So … that’s neat.  Mitch Haniger also DH’d for the first time in Tacoma and went 1 for 4 with a run scored.

In further good news, Jean Segura is improving by leaps and bounds.  He might start doing baseball-like things in the next week or so!  On top of that, there were reports all over Twitter last night that Segura is going to sign a 5-year, $70 million deal (effectively buying out his final Arb year next year), with a possible sixth option year for $17 million.  Given the way contracts go in baseball, that’s a VERY reasonable figure for a guy with his skillset.  So much for the idea of selling at the trade deadline, I guess.