Short-Handed Mariners Got Whomped In Toronto

I had a bad feeling about this game all day.  If I were a gambling man, near a gambling establishment, I would’ve made a significant bet on the Blue Jays to win it, and sure enough:  7-2 Toronto.

That, of course, was before I found out that Robinson Cano would sit due to that sore quad.  Oddly enough, though, it was AFTER I discovered that Justin Smoak was going to be the Blue Jays’ cleanup hitter.  He ended up going 3 for 3 with 4 RBI, because he’s a no-talent ass clown.

Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run bomb in the top of the first inning to put the Mariners in control, but obviously that wouldn’t be enough.  Chase De Jong did his part through four innings, but he fell apart after that, finishing with 5 innings, 6 runs on 7 hits & 3 walks, with only 1 strikeout.

More Mariners moves before the game.  Zac Curtis – who came over in the Walker/Segura trade – was called up from AA to replace Dan Altavilla (who was sent back to Tacoma to continue working on things).  Curtis pitched an inning of soft-landing relief, giving up 0 runs.  Sam Gaviglio – who was called up when Iwakuma went on the DL – pitched the last two innings, giving up a solo homer to Justin Smoak.

The Mariners also picked up reliever Casey Lawrence off waivers from Toronto and sent him to Tacoma.  To make room on the 40-man, Evan Scribner was put on the 60-day DL, so I guess we won’t have him to kick around for a while.

The bats were quiet yesterday, but there were also some lineup issues.  Cano, obviously, is a huge blow, since he’s really starting to heat up.  Also, Guillermo Heredia had visa issues because he’s Cuban and they played in Canada and Donald Trump is our president and everyone is dumb.  So, that forced Taylor Motter into the outfield and Mike Freeman to get the start at second base.  Motter got a walk and Freeman got less than that.  I don’t even know what Mike Freeman is doing up here, except yes I do, because apparently Shawn O’Malley hurt his shoulder and I still don’t know how, and because Mitch Haniger is still on the DL with that oblique.  GET WELL SOON, MITCH!  Freeman is still dining out on that 2-hit day in Houston where he hit his home run, and hasn’t done a God damn thing since.

Also, it stinks that Carlos Ruiz apparently can’t play on back-to-back days, because this Tuffy guy SUUUUUUUCKS.  God fucking dammit, whose dick do you gotta suck to get a good-hitting catcher on this team?

Here’s to hoping the lineup is rested and refreshed for the next three games, because I could see this 4-game series getting out of control with how bad our pitching looks.

Mariners Keep Losing Players To Injury, Somehow Still Kicking Ass

2017 Mariners Misery Tracker

  • Drew Smyly – 60 day DL
  • Steve Cishek – still on DL from offseason hip surgery
  • Tony Zych – starts season on DL, since returned
  • Jean Segura – On DL for 2 weeks in April
  • Mitch Haniger – On DL for approx 1 month
  • Felix Hernandez – On DL for approx 1 month
  • James Paxton – On DL for at least 10 days
  • Evan Scribner – On DL for who knows how long
  • Evan Marshall – 60 day DL
  • Hisashi Iwakuma – On DL with shoulder issues

Yes.  That’s Smyly, Felix, Paxton, and now Kuma all on the DL at the exact same time.  Having been replaced by Ariel Miranda, Chase De Jong, Christian Bergman, and TBD.

With this latest injury, we don’t really have a timetable on Kuma’s return, but at some point we’re running into a situation where the replacement players aren’t all that worse than the guys going down.  It’s one thing to lose Paxton for a spell, he’s been one of the very best pitchers in all of baseball this season.  But, it’s another issue altogether when you’re talking about Iwakuma’s 84 mph fastball going on the DL.  Is he remarkably better than whoever we call up to put in his spot in the rotation?  I doubt it.

But, at least Kuma is a known quantity.  Please, for the love of all that is holy, let some of these guys start coming back and playing well.

As has been the case for a while now, though, the offense has carried the mail.  This time, with 11 runs to beat the Phillies by 5 and sweep the 2-game series.

Cano and Valencia:  4 hits each, 1 homer apiece, with Valencia tacking on a double.  So much for Cano’s sore quad, I guess.  They combined for 5 RBI and 4 runs scored on the day.

Ben Gamel reached base 4 times, scoring twice.  Kyle Seager got on 3 times, scoring one and plating another.  Heredia added a couple more hits to the pile; Chooch had a hit and 4 RBI to please his adoring Phillies fans; and even Yovani Gallardo got a hit in his five innings of work.

I wouldn’t say Gallardo did anything of note; he gave up 3 runs in those five innings and ate a No Decision sandwich.  The Mariners didn’t really pour it on until the 7th and 8th innings, scoring 8 of their 11 runs in that span.  Zych and Scrabble worked scoreless innings apiece (Zych getting his second win of the season); Altavilla and Overton gave up 3 combined runs in their two innings to finish it out, ultimately not blowing the game, so good on ’em I guess.

Look, I’ll say it:  the Mariners are just flat out better than the Phillies, and anything less than sweeping this 2-game series was going to be a huge disappointment.  Particularly with how terrible the Mariners have been on the road.  Between them and the four games in Toronto starting today, the time to right the ship (as far as Road Record is concerned) is now.

Let’s face it, you’d never wish to see the grip of injuries the Mariners have had to endure at the moment, but if it HAD to happen, then A) why not let it all happen at once and get it out of the way (faulty logic, I know), and B) might as well be now, when we’re playing so many bad teams.  Starting with the Angels at the beginning of the month and running through the next homestand against the White Sox, there are (and have been) nothing but mediocre teams on the docket.  You never want to go out there as the Tacoma Rainiers, for all intents and purposes (at least, as far as the pitching staff is concerned), but since that’s the world we’re living in right now, at least we can still plausibly win a lot of these games.

The offense is going to have to keep showing up, though.  And the bullpen is going to have to continue to tighten its grip.  I’d like to see that unit really settle down and gel by the time we start getting our REAL starting pitchers back, so this team can go on a nice, long, protracted run of brilliance.

It’s days like this, though, were we can really sit back and reflect a little bit.  Yeah, there’s a long way to go, and as we’ve seen thus far, just about ANYTHING can happen, but how crazy is it that the Mariners have been able to get back to .500 for the first time since they were 0-0 this season?  With all these injuries???  With a lot of this pitching staff really underperforming on top of that?

I think we’re starting to make good on some of that pre-season promise.  I know I’m not the only Mariners fan who came into this season believing they had a real shot at getting back to the post-season, and we’re starting to see that dream become more of a reality.  Again, super early and all that, but what did we say before the season?  The offense is legit, one of the best in the A.L.  The bullpen would be a big wild card.  And the rotation just needs to be good enough to keep us in ballgames and allow that offense to eventually take over.  You hope for things, like Felix bouncing back, Paxton taking the next step towards being this team’s future Ace, maybe Smyly making good on his early-career promise.  Well, the offense is there, the bullpen is very much a wild card, and the rotation so far gets an Incomplete as it’s been incomplete since Spring Training.

Nevertheless, this is the mark of a quality baseball team.  Just gotta keep going out there and taking care of business.

Mariners Make Something Good Out Of Chicken Salad

See, because to me, chicken salad and chicken shit might as well be the same damn thing, because mayonnaise is super disgusting.

What do you say about a 10-9 win, where your team comes back from an early 4-0 deficit to take a 5-4 lead, only to immediately gag it away in the bottom half of the inning to trail 9-5?  That’s as impressive a win as you’ll see!

Remember when an “ugly” game for the Mariners was some boring-ass 1-0 bullshit, where the Mariners couldn’t buy a hit to save their lives?  Now, we get these thrilling, over-scoring affairs!  If you can’t help but think, “That’s so 1997,” I’m right there with you.

Of course, we can’t EVER have nice things, and in this one the Mariners more or less had to do it the hard way.  Robbie Cano, after starting 2 for 3 with a 2-run homer in the third, had to leave the game with a strained quad (for now, it doesn’t look too serious; “day to day” being bandied about).  With the Mariners already rocking a short-handed bench thanks to the 8-man bullpen, that didn’t leave a lot of pinch hitting options for Servais, in this National League game with their stupid “pitchers have to bat” rules.

I’m all over the place here, so let’s go back to the beginning.  One of the main reasons for the 8-man bullpen is because of nights like this:

  • Ariel Miranda:  3.1 IP, 6 hits, 8 runs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, 2 homers on 69 pitches

Apparently, it’s too much to ask for Miranda to give us back-to-back quality starts when 3/5 of our starting rotation is on the shelf.  After just getting hammered in that first inning, he started to settle down a little bit, but by the time the Mariners took the lead in the fourth (on a 3-run homer by Ben Gamel, more on him in a bit), Miranda fell apart again.  A walk, an RBI double, a single, an RBI sac fly too the wall in left, and another single (all hard-hit balls) ended his day.

Of course, it didn’t help that Jean Machi came in and allowed all the inherited runners to score, along with one of his own.  Serves me right for jinxing the bullpen earlier in the day.

But, to his credit, Machi worked a scoreless fifth, and every bullpen guy after that (Altavilla to Pazos to Vincent to Diaz) worked a scoreless inning of their own to allow the Mariners to come back and ultimately win it.

The Mariners rallied for three more runs in the sixth (clutch RBI singles by Seager and Cruz – in pinch hit duty – along with some help by the Phillies’ defense) to pull to within 9-8, and tied it an inning later on an RBI double by Ben Gamel to score Jean Segura.

The only real scare for the Mariners came in Nick Vincent’s eighth, when he loaded the bases with one out.  But, a fly-em-out/throw-em-out double play by – YOU GUESSED IT – Ben Gamel got us out of a huge jam.

Then, a Segura single was moved along to second on a grounder by Gamel in the ninth.  With two outs, Taylor Motter (initially replacing Cano at second before moving to left after Jarrod Dyson was lifted for a pinch hitter) jacked a double down the line to give the Mariners the lead.  Edwin Diaz had just enough time to warm up before coming in and putting the Phillies to bed in order.

You have to start with Ben Gamel here in the Kudos Department:  4 for 5 with a walk, 4 RBI, 3 runs scored, and that HUGE outfield assist to keep the game tied in the eighth.  His double and homer also put him a triple away from the cycle, which would’ve been some sort of crazy icing on the cake.  Either way, WHAT A GAME!  He’s hitting .362 with an OPS of 1.051 on the season!

Must not forget Jean Segura, who was 3 for 6 with 3 runs scored, pulling his average up to .376 and his OPS up to .930 … for our LEADOFF hitter!  Are you joking me???

Cano, Seager, and Heredia all had 2 hits apiece.  Cruz had that pinch hit RBI single I mentioned earlier (he’s not starting in this series because his sore hamstring probably shouldn’t be tested in the outfield, particularly when he’s yet to do anything but DH this season).  Fortunately, this is just a 2-game N.L. series, and we’re able to pinch hit him as needed.

Honestly, I questioned Servais using him so early, with 2 outs in the sixth and runners only on first & second.  But, the Phillies had a lefty reliever in there, and I just don’t know if you would’ve had a better opportunity later in the game to be honest.  Either way, it worked out, so let those ends justify them means!

Finally, what can you say about Taylor Motter?  This kid has been a godsend!  I know I was harping about him losing all his playing time with The Rise Of Gamel, so I guess I quasi-got my wish (though, I hate that it’s at the expense of Robbie Cano).  But, we’re talking about a guy with 19 hits on the season, and FIFTEEN of them have gone for extra bases!  That’s to go along with 15 RBI and 13 runs scored; if he keeps this up, he’s going to pass Mark McLemore as this team’s best-ever utility man.  The fact that he can play every position but pitcher & catcher makes him, quite frankly, one of the most valuable players in the entire league!

The Mariners have scratched and clawed all the way back to 1 game under .500, with an early 10am start (Pacific time) this morning.  Things are getting REALLY interesting around here.

Are The Mariners Zeroing In On A Viable Bullpen?

We all know the pitching kind of stinks on this team.  The starters have an ERA of 3.76, but that’s mostly propped up by the amazing start of James Paxton.  The starters are also largely injured, so the hope is:  if we can weather the storm, get some guys back, then things look a lot better in the second half and beyond.  Even then, Miranda has just been sort of okay, Kuma and Gallardo have been less so, and Felix is a true wild card at this point in his career.  That’s not even getting into the fact that we don’t REALLY know if Smyly is ever going to return from injury this year, or if he’ll have setbacks and maybe this thing carries over into 2018 and beyond.

That’s sort of outside of our control right now, and quite frankly not something I want to think about until I have to.  Instead, I’d like to look at the bullpen, because I think there’s a slim chance for a turnaround, and I think that’s something that should be explored.

The bullpen, clearly, has been god awful.  Gun to my head:  I think it’s the team’s number one problem and main reason why we have such a mediocre record right now.  The numbers bear that out, as the Mariners are 13/15 in the American League in bullpen ERA at 5.43, just ahead of that atrocious Rangers bullpen, and the Tigers bullpen that’s dead last.  I don’t know if there’s any helping the Rangers or Tigers, but I think there’s reason for optimism for the Mariners.

Now, obviously, all of this could blow up right in my face as the team continues to meltdown in this all-important, make-or-break season, but hear me out.

If we’re going to continue on this path of an 8-man bullpen (which, I see no reason why we shouldn’t, given all the injuries to our starters), then let’s go down the line and count ’em out.

Edwin Diaz is what he is right now.  When he’s on, he’s lights out.  When he just doesn’t have it on a particular night, he’s really bad, and it’s doubtful we’re going to save that game.  My main issue with Diaz is an issue I have with all closers:  if, for whatever reason, their command is off or whatnot, DON’T LEAVE THEM OUT THERE TO GET POUNDED.  I’m tired of managers being afraid of taking out their closers when they’re walking the world and giving up lots of hard-hit balls.

The best part of Diaz’s game is his short memory.  He’s yet to really get bogged down in a prolonged slump.  Sure, he’ll blow a game here or there, but that has seemingly no bearing on what he’s going to do the next time out (unless he has to face Kole Calhoun, then all bets are off).  Until he does have that prolonged slump, he is our closer, and more often than not he’s good enough.

The best reliever this team has right now is Marc Rzepczynski (who I constantly refer to as Scrabble, because come on), with the caveat that he’s almost exclusively used against lefties, and more often than not is out there for less than 3 outs.  But, that’s his job, and he’s the best at it on this team.  Frankly, he might go down as the best LOOGY this team has ever had, and I don’t know if there will be a close second.

Nick Vincent would be the next-best reliever this team has right now; just don’t put him out there with inherited runners because I can’t vouch for him there.  He gets a remarkable amount of strikeouts for what kind of stuff he has, but I wouldn’t call him a “strikeout guy”.  Nevertheless, if you need a 6th or 7th inning shut down with as little damage as possible, he’s not a bad option.

What this team is genuinely lacking right now is a proper 8th inning set up guy.  Someone who can shorten the game up for you that much more.  Ostensibly, Steve Cishek will be that guy, if we can ever get him going.  He’s doing his rehab now, but had to come back to Seattle for bullpen work because his mechanics were out of whack, so that’s concerning.  Cishek can definitely have his issues at times, hence why he lost his closer’s job last year to a AA guy, but if anything he’s sort of the opposite of Scrabble; a ROOGY if you will.  Pair the two of those guys together in the 8th inning, mixing and matching righty vs. lefty (this is more down the line, in September or potential playoff situations; not on an everyday basis), and I think you’ve really got something.

So, right there, that’s half your bullpen.  I don’t think anyone’s comparing it to the 2016 Indians or Cubs, but it’s decent.  It’s good.  It’s okay.

Obviously need more than 4 quality pitchers in your bullpen, though, so what about the back-half?

Well, James Pazos has been a very nice surprise, and seems to be getting better as the weeks go on.  He’s got a dominating fastball, is crushing lefties right now, and isn’t too terrible against righties.  As he develops, I’ll be curious to see how he grows against right-handed bats.  He’s so young, and so good so far, that we might have a real diamond on our hands.

Tony Zych is another young pitcher with tons of upside.  He just got off the DL, but is already being thrust into pressure situations, and has so far come out just fine.  If this team finds itself in a lot of winning situations, it’s easy to see him holding down that 8th inning role.  If he fulfills his potential, that REALLY shortens the game for us, bumping Cishek/Scrabble back to the 7th and Vincent/Pazos to the 6th.

So, now we’re six relievers into this exercise and looking pretty solid in a couple weeks when Cishek returns from the DL.  What about those last couple spots?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I like what I’ve seen from Jean Machi so far.  Granted, we’re only three appearances in, and he’s already had to be pulled due to a nerve issue in his hand, but he stayed off the DL and was ready to roll on Sunday if need be.  He’s obviously not a power pitcher, and won’t strike out a ton of guys, but as potentially a 7th guy in your bullpen, what are you asking for?  Someone to keep you in the game when you’re losing?  Someone to eat up a couple innings when it goes to extras?  Like Vincent, he’s probably not someone you want to throw in there with runners already on base, but given a clean inning, you could do a lot worse than his veteran presence.

That just leaves the long reliever spot, of which there are about a billion candidates.  One of the very small advantages to having all these starting pitcher injuries is we’ve had a chance to get a really good look at a lot of these AAA guys, to see if they’ve got what it takes – not just in meaningless Spring Training situations – but in real, meaningFUL regular season ballgames.  I’m talking about Chase De Jong, Christian Bergman, Chris Heston, and Evan Marshall (before he hit the DL) on the right side, and Dillon Overton on the left side.  They’ve all shown you SOMETHING so far in the first five weeks of the season, which is better than just having the unknown of guys only starting games in Tacoma, or Spring Training.  If this team ever gets back to full strength, you’ve got some guys in this group you wouldn’t mind seeing in a spot start here and there.  Or, even better, you could build them up into some trade bait for a bona fide starter to help this team down the stretch.

Right there, that’s the nuts of an 8-man bullpen, and I didn’t even mention someone like Evan Scribner, a veteran who was lights out in September last year, who obviously will have some kind of role on this team when he gets healthy again.  And Dan Altavilla, who started the season on the 25-man roster, and has since returned (due to all the injuries) after a short stint in Tacoma to work on his command.  Altavilla has all the upside in the world, if he can harness his pitches.  He’ll have to earn his way into staying on this team as guys start to get healthy again, but I wouldn’t put it past him to do so.  Even Emilio Pagan – who struggled in his first appearance, before getting the hard-luck shaft in his second appearance when he was the last guy in the bullpen in an extra innings game – has shown you he’s at least got quality stuff.  With the jitters out of the way of making his Major League debut, he can only go up from here, right?

Even if it doesn’t totally work out, and this bullpen unit doesn’t gel, I think there’s at least a skeleton of a good unit.  It definitely hinges on Edwin Diaz continuing to mature and improve his command.  If you can keep him on his game, and slot things down from there, this team does have some ammo to go out and trade for a dependable reliever at the deadline.  I wouldn’t mortgage the entire farm to do so, but I have the utmost confidence in Dipoto going out and making a deal for a quality reliever at some point in the next couple months.

The sky is the limit for this team if we can get this bullpen together.  With a top notch bullpen, you don’t NEED your starters to carry you.  With this offense as good as it is (hoping it can stay healthy), all you need is your starters to eat up enough innings, while keeping you in the game.  I have no problem with the way Servais has handled the rotation; he seems to have a pretty good handle on when it’s time to pull guys.  He’s not going to leave them out there for too long to get shelled the third time through the lineup.  If this bullpen can hold up its end of the bargain, and Servais eliminates some of the brain farts on his end, there’s no reason why the Mariners can’t jump back into contention and even get into the playoffs.

The Mariners Took The Series Against Texas, And I Don’t Know How They Did It

In the Famous Last Words department, I wrote this on Saturday morning:

And with Chase De Jong starting tonight, followed by TBD From Tacoma starting tomorrow, this weekend should prove to be as demoralizing as advertised.

You’ll forgive me if I was a little down in the dumps after James Paxton became the third Mariners starter to hit the DL at the same time, and the thought of two guys who should be nowhere near a Major League roster were set to make starts this weekend was just too much for me to bear.  On top of all that, the Mariners squandered the best start of the season out of Yovani Gallardo on Friday in extra innings, necessitating daily roster moves to replenish the bullpen with ready arms.

De Jong did his part on Saturday, and the Mariners’ offense did the rest as the series was evened at one win apiece.  The rubber match was yesterday afternoon, with Dillon Overton set to get the start, and Christian Bergman getting the call-up (Rob Whalen was sent back down, as his insurance arm wasn’t needed the night before) to be Overton’s bookend, as I don’t believe he was quite stretched out enough to go a full start’s worth of innings.

That was compounded by the fact that Overton needed over 50 pitches to get through the first two innings yesterday, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) in that span.  Things looked justifiably shaky at that point, and you’ll be forgiven if you had your doubts about the Mariners winning (I know I did).  He powered through, though, getting one out into the fourth inning before being pulled for the right-handed Bergman.

Bergman came to play, getting the Mariners through the seventh inning and giving up only 1 more run in his 3.2 innings of relief.  As a whole, I wouldn’t say either guy really dominated, but they both threw strikes, limited walks, and were able to get out of jams.  If you told me before the game started that the combination of the two pitchers would go 7 innings, giving up 3 runs on 5 hits, 2 walks, while striking out 4, I would’ve taken that all day and a bag of chips.

Still, at that point, it was 3-0 Rangers, with their starter sufficiently keeping us off balance through 6 shutout innings.  He came in to start the seventh, walked a guy, and was taken out.  From there, the Mariners’ bats decided to join the party.

Motter followed the Seager walk, but was taken out on a fielder’s choice.  Mike Freeman hit for Chooch and struck out, but Jarrod Dyson walked to load the bases and turn over the lineup.  Jean Segura did what he’s done all year (when healthy):  get on base.  This time, he walked in a run to put the Mariners on the board.  At that point, the Rangers brought in a side-arm lefty, which resulted in the Mariners smartly pinch hitting for Ben Gamel.  I know it sounds super obvious to do so, but the Mariners have a limited bench, and Danny Valencia had already been scratched before the game with a tight hamstring.  I know the team very much wanted to give him two days off (with the off-day scheduled for today); plus Gamel has been rock solid since replacing Mitch Haniger in the lineup.  Maybe I’m off-base, but I feel like many managers would’ve rolled the dice with Gamel.  And, who knows, maybe Gamel would’ve come through!  All I know is side-arm pitchers are super tough on same-handed batters, so the odds of Gamel doing anything but striking out were pretty slim.

Valencia, on the other hand, continued his torrid streak, dropping a single into center, bringing in the tying runs.  Cano grounded out to end the threat, but God bless the Rangers’ terrible bullpen!

Vincent and Scrabble worked a scoreless eighth inning, which took us to the bottom half, with erstwhile closer Sam Dyson trying to get his life back together.  Coming into the game, he’d blown three saves and had an 0-3 record, giving up runs in 6 of his 10 appearances, including the Mariners’ 8-7 come-from-behind victory in the bottom of the ninth on April 16th to sweep the series.  Well, you can adjust his numbers to 0-4, with him giving up runs in 7 of his 11 appearances, as Kyle Seager hit a 1-out bomb to right-center field to give the Mariners a 4-3 lead.  Edwin Diaz was on his game and got his 6th save of the season to finish things.

Major kudos to the whole pitching staff in this game, as we weathered the first Paxton-less start.  If we can somehow get through the next couple weeks without falling totally apart, it’ll be a miracle.

Huge kudos to Jean Segura, rocking the following line:  .368/.409/.517.  It’s so rare the Mariners bring in a big name and they continue to shine, but we’ve hit on Cano, Cruz, and now Segura over the last few seasons.  So necessary.

Can’t forget Danny Valencia, who was a major whipping boy through the first month of the season.  He came through with a season-defining game-tying hit to win back A LOT of this fanbase.  Here’s to hoping his injury isn’t too serious (who could’ve predicted I’d ever say that, when things were going bad for him?).

And, obviously, let’s not dismiss Kyle Seager’s game.  The winning homer brought his day to a 2 for 3, with a walk, 2 runs, and an RBI.  He’s slowly but surely working himself into a hot streak, going 12 for 40 (.300) with 1 double, 2 homers, 6 runs scored, and 5 RBI since he came back from that minor injury in late April.  It’s not a blinding pace, like we’ve seen from him before, but just you wait.  It’s coming.

This was a game where the Mariners easily could’ve rolled over and died.  The Texas starter was on top of his game, and the M’s really didn’t have a lot of answers.  But, they clawed their way back in it in the seventh, and brought the hammer down before this thing could get away from them in extras (like it did on Friday).  That’s a nice 4-2 homestand to bring the Mariners to 10-5 at Safeco Field on the year.  Indeed, if you take away the 1-6 road trip to start the season, the Mariners have been 14-11, which coincides with the vast majority of the Mariners’ injury woes.  Arbitrary start point all you want, it’s pretty impressive.

It’ll be more impressive, of course, if they manage to keep it up until guys start coming back.

The Mariners Aren’t Giving Up Without A Fight

This weekend was shaping up to be a real disaster.  And, while it’s not over, at least on Saturday the Mariners looked like the kind of team that can weather this storm.

Before the game, two MORE moves were made.  Evan Marshall was placed on the DL with the aforementioned hamstring strain.  And Emilio Pagan was sent back to Tacoma, mostly to give this team more pitchers to use for last night’s game, considering they were coming off of a 13 inning loss and Chase De Jong was getting just his second Major League start.  Back up, we have Dan Altavilla (who gave up a solo homer in one inning of mop up work last night) and Rob Whalen, who started the season on the DL before making one start in Tacoma.  He was an insurance long reliever that, thankfully, the Mariners didn’t need.

That’s because Chase De Jong went 6 innings, giving up only 1 run on 4 hits and 0 walks, with 3 strikeouts.  He only had 75 pitches to his name at that point, but I can see why we wouldn’t want to push it.  Unfortunately, he didn’t get the win, as he left with the game still 1-1, and the Mariners didn’t explode for 7 more runs until the bottom of the seventh.

The offense did some real damage once again, as every starter got a hit except for recently called up backup catcher Tuffy Gosewisch.  They gave James Pazos the win, with Tony Zych working a scoreless eighth.

We’re back at it again this afternoon, with what I’m told will be Dillon Overton getting the start.  Either him, or the other guy they’re talking about calling up.  I can’t get all the names straight.  I’ve never had to learn the names of so many Tacoma Rainiers before!

The 2017 Seattle Mariners Are The Unluckiest Team I’ve Ever Seen

I should point out the Mariners already lost before the game even started, with Paxton going on the DL and with uber-bust Mike Zunino getting sent to Tacoma (with Tuffy Gosewisch coming back to backup Carlos Ruiz).  Then, they lost to the Rangers in 13 innings, by a score of 3-1, after blowing SO MANY FUCKING SCORING OPPORTUNITIES.  And then they lost a third time when a couple more pitchers went down with injury, because this team hasn’t suffered enough.

Because this fanbase hasn’t suffered enough.

Apparently Paxton is only going to miss 2-3 starts, but I dunno.  Even if he comes back, I’m sure five more guys will go down.  When it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be.

Between all of those pre-game shenanigans and the thought of a Gallardo/Darvish matchup that evening, I’ll admit, the thought of putting much effort into watching the game didn’t appeal to me.  After the Mariners got burned by replay twice in the first inning, that sealed it.  I dipped in here and there, but went to bed after Gallardo finished his sixth inning.

For anyone looking for a silver lining, you could point to Gallardo having his best performance of the season.  6 innings, 1 run, 4 hits, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts.  He has one more impressive line than that this year, but that was in an 11-1 blowout; this was a game that was tied 1-1 after four innings, so obviously a lot more pressure.  It would remain 1-1 into the 13th inning, so another silver lining could be the bullpen.  But, again, back-to-back injuries in the 11th puts a huge damper on that.

Jean Machi has looked like the real fucking deal in his 3 appearances this week since being called up for I can’t even remember who.  Casey Fien, I guess.  But, he had to come out thanks to nerve damage in his pitching hand, causing him to be unable to grip the baseball (which, as far as pitching injuries go, seems like the worst one you can get; I mean, what does a pitcher do without hands?).  Evan Marshall was called in to replace Machi, and somehow blew out his hamstring after 2 pitches, recording no outs.  Recall he was last seen in that 19-9 disaster against Detroit, where he gave up 7 runs in 2 innings, so it’s safe to say Marshall was less tied into Mariners success this season.

Regardless, though, this shit is really starting to add up.

Last night’s game may have gone 13 innings, but it was lost in the bottom of the 10th.  Jean Segura led off with a double, and all Gamel had to do was get a fucking bunt down in fair territory.  He instead somehow managed to strike out looking, which likely would have put me in such a boiling rage (had I watched it live) that I may have died from a coronary, so probably better that I went to bed.  Cano ended up getting intentionally walked (which gave him 3 walks on the night, to go with 2 hits, including a solo homer back in the 4th), which brought us to Nelson Cruz, who flew out to center that – by all accounts – would have been deep enough to score Segura from third had Gamel done his fucking job.  Seager would ground out to end the threat, and from there it was all just a waiting game until the Rangers mashed a 2-run homer off of Emilio Pagan in the 13th to take the hard luck loss, because he was the last available reliever in the ‘pen.

Speaking of Gamel, he came up short on a fly ball down the right field line back in the first inning that – after review declared it to be fair – led to the Rangers scoring their only run in regulation.  So, in MANY ways, Gamel is the fucking goat of this game.  Thanks for nothing, dick.

And with Chase De Jong starting tonight, followed by TBD From Tacoma starting tomorrow, this weekend should prove to be as demoralizing as advertised.  Thankfully, I’ll be nowhere near a television tonight, so I won’t have to be subjected to this nonsense.

2017 Mariners Misery Tracker

  • Drew Smyly – 60 day DL
  • Steve Cishek – starts season on DL from offseason hip surgery
  • Tony Zych – starts season on DL, since returned
  • Jean Segura – On DL for 2 weeks in April
  • Mitch Haniger – On DL for approx 1 month
  • Felix Hernandez – On DL for approx 1 month
  • James Paxton – On DL for at least 10 days
  • Evan Scribner – On DL for who knows how long
  • Evan Marshall – Blew out hamstring, will miss considerable time
  • Jean Machi – nerve damage in pitching hand

And we’re only one month and one week into the season.

Mariners Fingerblast Angels To Take The Series

See, now that’s what I’m talking about.  The Mariners don’t necessarily NEED a big, long, impressive winning streak.  Just win a bunch of regular ol’ series 2-1, and before you know it, you’re right back in this thing.

The key, of course, after winning this Angels series 2-1 is to NOT then go ahead and lose the weekend Texas series.  Let’s try to keep the momentum going!

Last night’s game was impressive on all fronts.  11-3 victory where the offense generated 16 hits and 4 walks.  The only homer was a solo shot by Valencia late in the game; otherwise the overwhelming majority of the scoring happened the old fashioned way:  hitting with runners in scoring position.  The Mariners were 6 for 15 in this regard.

Segura, Gamel, Cruz, Seager, Valencia, and Heredia all had multiple hits, including a 4 for 5 day for Valencia, as he starts to heat up.  Ben Gamel was on base 5 times, getting 3 hits and 2 walks, and he had a fabulous diving catch in the 9th inning.  Just an all out fantastic day from the offense.

On the pitching side of things, Ariel Miranda was able to go 7 full innings, giving up just the 2 runs, sparing our bullpen and looking good doing it.  Everyone is marvelling at how we were able to fleece the Orioles by getting Miranda for Wade Miley last year, and believe me, I’m right there with you guys.  I would point out, however, that after a very rough 2016 season (both in Seattle and Baltimore), Miley has turned things around in a big way in the early going.  I’m not saying I’d rather have him back or anything; I’m plenty happy with Miranda’s youth and upside.  But, we shouldn’t dismiss the fact that Miley is having a nice bounceback year for himself, including an 8 inning/1 run/11 strikeout performance against the Reds a couple starts back.  His walk count is still too high to sustain these numbers, but the most runs he’s given up in any start this year is only 3, while the fewest innings he’s pitched is 5.  On the flipside, Miranda has had a couple duds this year, but also a couple really impressive 7 inning performances (including last night).

I think we all knew this team would need Miranda at some point this year.  Even before Smyly went down, I figured he’d be up in Seattle at some point (in an ideal world, taking over for an ineffective Yovani Gallardo).  But, it’s a little weird to know that we have to count on him THIS much; he’s essentially our 2nd-best starter right now behind Paxton!  I’ve always considered Miranda kind of a back-end of the rotation guy, where you’re happy if he just keeps you in the game and hope your offense has enough in the tank to carry the team over the top.  But, with Smyly and Felix down, with Kuma throwing 84mph fastballs, and with Gallardo being Gallardo, the Mariners really NEED Miranda to step up in a major way.  We need a lot more of these 7 inning starts out of him, if nothing else than to spare our terrible bullpen!

I do want to touch on one more thing before I get on with my day.

GOOD PROBLEM TO HAVE ALERT:  Ben Gamel has been fucking terrific since being called up!  Okay, so I understand why that’s good, but why is it also a problem?  Well, Guillermo Heredia has been fucking terrific all season!  And while the numbers aren’t super amazing, Jarrod Dyson has been a HUGE part of this team’s success (what mediocre amount of success this team has enjoyed, anyway).  So …

What do we do when Mitch Haniger comes back?

Again, don’t think I’m complaining about this, because I think it’s fantastic that Gamel is picking up the slack in Haniger’s absence.  I thought the offense was going to take a HUGE hit, and in fact it’s only improved as Gamel keeps up his part of the bargain, and everyone else gets hot around him.  But, we’re very much in a situation where this team has four outfielders worthy of starting, and only three places to play them.

I’d also like to appeal to the baseball gods, if I may:  please DON’T rectify this situation by injuring someone else upon Haniger’s return!  I BEG OF YOU, JUST LET US BE HEALTHY FOR A WHILE!

The way I see it, for now Gamel’s success affords the Mariners some luxury in bringing Haniger back.  They can wait until he’s 100%, give him as much rehab work in the minors as he needs, and probably wait until the last minute before calling him back up.  But, if Haniger returns to the Mariners hitting like he was before he went on the DL, you absolutely have to keep playing him every day.  So, that solves right field.

As much as I love what Heredia has done for the Mariners this year, with his speed, his defense, and some timely power hits, I think if Gamel keeps tearing the cover off the ball, you gotta keep him in your lineup.  What most likely happens is he and Heredia platoon, but it’s a strict platoon where Gamel only faces righties and Heredia only faces lefties.  It’s just the way it has to be, until another injury crops up, or until someone starts slumping.

I think you absolutely keep Dyson in the lineup everyday, and maybe spot him an off-day every 10 games or so to keep him fresh.

Something else I wonder about is:  what happened to Taylor Motter?

He fits into this outfield equation too, a little bit, and when Haniger comes back I think he REALLY gets the shaft, all things being equal.  That bumps him, for all intents and purposes, to this team’s 5th outfielder.  Of course, he’s also this team’s primary utility infielder, but really that’s kind of a joke.

How often do you ever see Cano get a day off that’s not also a day to rest some nagging injury?  When is Cano ever a healthy scratch?  Or Seager for that matter?  And, with the way Segura is playing, do you see him getting many days off?

That leaves first base, which will be VERY interesting to watch over the next few weeks.  Since April 25 (or right after Dan Vogelbach was called up), Valencia has hit 10 for 24, with 3 homers, 1 double, 5 RBI, and 7 runs scored.  I’d say he responded to that Vogelbach challenge quite well!  Valencia has always been known as a streaky hitter, so you had to figure this type of a hot stretch would come eventually.  Here is his slash line going into the 25th vs. his slash line this morning:

  • Before:  .145/.217/.226/.443
  • Now:  .221/.284/.395/.679

He still has a ways to go to get back to his numbers of the last couple years, but that’s just it.  Before the whole Vogelbach mess, everyone expected Taylor Motter to take over as this team’s primary first baseman once Segura returned from injury.  Instead, Vogelbach got those opportunites, squandered them, and all the while Motter has been the forgotten man.

I wouldn’t say it’s 100% without merit; Motter is hitless in his last 10 at bats, over 5 games, but he really only started 2 of those games, and came in as a reserve/pinch hitter in the other 3.  The only reason you could say this is far and away the coldest stretch of his season is because he’s been so damn good to this point!

It also doesn’t help him that both he and Valencia are right handed, so a platoon there would be pointless.

I think the team is going to have to at the very least ride out this hot streak Valencia has been on, if nothing else than he WILL be needed if this team is to be successful.  And, while I still have my doubts about Motter’s viability over the long haul, I also can’t discount the possibility that he just might have fixed whatever was wrong with his swing in seasons past, and that he’s a new player now.  In which case, should this team be grooming him to be more than just a utility player?  It seems like a waste to keep his bat in mothballs, but, I mean, there are only so many spots you can fill in a lineup.  And I’m pretty sure he’s never played catcher in his professional career.

I dunno.  Like I said, these are all good problems to have, but it is sort of a bummer.  It is nice to know he’s there, though, in case injury strikes again.  I love not having such a significant drop off in production from starter to backup!  But, it just seems like Motter did nothing wrong, and yet he’s being punished in some unfair way.  That’s baseball, I guess.

Mariners Overcome A Bad Bullpen To Beat The Angels

Just one night after Scott Servais made a mind-bogglingly stupid bullpen decision, he did it again.  Long story short:  Hisashi Iwakuma was rolling through five innings.  With a low pitch count, and no runs allowed, it only made sense for him to go back out for the sixth.  Then, he gave up a double to Calhoun, a homer to Trout, and a single to Pujols, and it only made sense at this point to pull him for a reliever.  In general, I trust Hisashi Iwakuma as far as I can throw him, but I REALLY distrust him the third time through a lineup (where they showed on the broadcast that he’s giving up a batting average well over .400 this season).

With a man on base and nobody out, in a game the Mariners were leading 4-2, Servais apparently thought this would be the perfect spot to introduce Emilio Pagan to his Major League debut.

I should point out that before Tuesday’s game, the Mariners made some more moves.  Casey Fien was once again DFA’d, and he once again passed through to Tacoma, where I feel like it needs to be a good, long while before he’s called back up again, because it’s getting pretty ridiculous at this point.  Also, Dan Vogelbach was optioned back to Tacoma, because he was a disaster in his brief stint in the Majors (only fuelling my fire that he’s another in a long line of first base busts for this team).  When I hear things like he’s getting down on himself for a few botched plays in the field, and that it’s carrying over into his at-bats, it leads me to believe he’s not emotionally stable or mature enough for the Majors, and likely never will be.  It’s not all going to be roses and sunshine; you’re going to have to push through some hardships!  If an error here and there is going to so devastate you, then maybe baseball’s just not your game.  I know!  Let’s have a spelling contest!

In their place, the aforementioned Emilio Pagan was called up, along with another right-handed reliever, veteran Jean Machi (to make room on the roster, Shawn O’Malley was placed on the 60-day DL).  Machi went 2 shutout innings on Tuesday, in between Diaz’s blown save and Pazos’ loss, and put in another shutout inning last night to get the win.  But, before we get to that, let’s go back to Pagan’s eventful debut.

I really want to kill Servais for putting Pagan into a situation like this, like I did yesterday when he went directly to Diaz even though he had a lefty in the ‘pen all warmed up, but I don’t know if it’s as egregious.  I mean, yeah, it’s pretty shitty to put a 26 year old rookie into a game like this, but what else was he supposed to do?  Who else was he supposed to turn to?  Dan Altavilla was sent to Tacoma, Evan Scribner is on the DL, James Pazos and Tony Zych both threw over 30 pitches the night before.  I mean, you could argue that, had Servais handled the bullpen situation correctly on Tuesday, we wouldn’t have been in such a mess on Wednesday.  Pazos likely would’ve faced just the one batter on Tuesday and would’ve had plenty of arm to go again last night.  But, with the batters coming up, I don’t know if you wanted to have a lefty reliever in there.

Still, I might’ve gone straight to Nick Vincent, who only threw two pitches on Tuesday, so you figured he had at least 2 innings in him last night.  As it turns out, that’s pretty much what he had to do anyway (1.2 innings), because Pagan could only get the one out, and that one out was a miraculous catch by Heredia robbing the Angels of a home run in left field.

Pagan gave up Iwakuma’s third run, to really sour his night, and one of his own before being pulled.  Vincent came in and surrendered a double that cost Pagan a couple more runs on the ol’ ERA, but eventually got out of the jam.  However, the damage was done, as a 4-0 lead turned into a 6-4 deficit.

The bullpen held it down after that, just long enough for the Mariners to put up a 4-spot in the bottom of the eighth inning.  With one out, Seager and Valencia singled.  Heredia’s groundout moved them up 90 feet, and Motter (pinch hitting for Zunino) walked to load the bases.  That led to Dyson’s 2-out double to right field, tying the ballgame, followed by Segura’s bouncing single through the hole between third and short to take a 2-run lead.  Edwin Diaz, this time on for just the 3-out save, gave up another homer to Kole Calhoun (his second against Diaz in as many nights), but other than hitting Trout, he struck out the side to get the save and give the Mariners a much-needed 8-7 victory.

Some people were getting on the Mariners for not doing enough on offense to this point, and in many ways I’m coming around to that thinking.  I mean, let’s face it, the way this pitching staff is going, it shouldn’t surprise anyone.  Maybe some of the injuries we wouldn’t have foreseen, but we knew coming into this season that this team’s pitching would be the weak link.  We KNEW that the offense was going to have to bring its lunch pail on many occasions like last night.  It seems like the Mariners are doing a good job, when you hear about how they’re near the top in the A.L. in runs scored, but a lot of the reason for that is due to blowouts.  8-0 and 11-1 victories are nice and all, but this team is going to need a hearty collection of 8-7 wins if it’s going to try to stay in contention.

At this point, I’d gladly settle for being a .500 ballclub by the time the month of May comes to a close.  That means going 16-12.  Obviously, playing .500 ball isn’t going to get you in the post-season, but it buys the Mariners some time until guys can start getting healthy again.  If we can scratch and claw our way to .500 by the time Felix and Haniger come back, it would set us up for a nice stretch of games in June and July.  The Mariners are REALLY going to have to get hot in the summer months if they want to crash the playoffs; between May 31 and July 30, the Mariners play 37 of 53 games at home.  It’s honestly like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and if they don’t take advantage, this season could really go sideways, as from July 31 through August 30, the Mariners are on the road for 21 of 28 before September call-ups.  I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, looking at the calendar, but I’m just trying to illustrate how important these next four weeks are.

The Mariners don’t need to destroy the month of May (though, I’d gladly accept it, of course).  They just need to win more series than they lose.  I’m not asking a lot, just a record of 16-12.  Or, rather, going forward, a record of 15-11.  Slow and steady, people!

What The Hell, Scott Servais?

I don’t rail against the manager very often, because honestly the manager doesn’t have that great of an impact on the game.  He sets a lineup, and he manages the bullpen.  Everything else is on the players themselves, the GM who brought us these players, and the umpires – who are really more of a constant than a variable – who generally do a good job, but tend to fuck up more than robots would.

So, when Scott Servais does something dumb with his ONE JOB, I’m going to say something about it.  Because Jesus Fucking Christ.

Top of the 8th inning, Mariners up 3-2.  Paxton did a pretty good job, but let his pitch count get the better of him thanks to some bad home plate umpiring and a lack of command of his fastball.  The combination of Nick Vincent and Scrabble got us to the 7th, and Tony Zych got us a couple outs into the 8th.  He hit the leadoff hitter, though, and after getting the two outs, left-handed bat Kole Calhoun stepped to the plate.  Lefty reliever James Pazos had been warming up since way back in the 7th inning (or maybe earlier, who can recall?), and was sufficiently ready to go.  Makes perfect sense, no?

Apparently fucking not, as Scott Servais had the brilliant fucking idea of bringing in our closer to get the 4-out save.

Let’s start here.  I think we all understand why someone would bring in a lefty reliever to face a lefty batter, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  Scott Servais has this bug up his ass about getting Edwin Diaz more work.  He’s a young guy and therefore his arm is ready for a bigger workload.  People have taken this to mean that the Mariners are going to use Diaz like the Indians use Andrew Miller – not necessarily to get the final 3 outs of the ballgame, but to come in during the most important late-game situations, regardless of whether it’s a save situation or not.  But, that’s false.  Servais just has no confidence in this bullpen (because why should he?) and knows he’ll need to lean on the guys he can trust to work more than just the one inning per appearance.  Diaz is still this team’s closer, but now he’s going to have to get more than three outs to get his saves.  It’s still all catering to the save statistic, so this isn’t fresh or new thinking whatsoever!

Edwin Diaz has done nothing to deserve this type of confidence, by the way.  Maybe if we were talking about Mariano Rivera in his prime, we could discuss bringing him in to work multiple innings.  But, so far, Diaz hasn’t even worked a full season’s worth of games in the Majors yet!  He won the closer job because his first month or so was electric (and Cishek really screwed the pooch), but guys know how to hit him now!  He’s not throwing 100 mph anymore.  He’s still wild, but not effectively wild like he was when the league was still getting to know him.  And, quite frankly, he’s blown too many saves to be considered an elite closer.  He’s no different than Fernando Rodney, Brandon League, Steve Cishek, David Aardsma, Tom Wilhelmsen, or any of these other jokers who have yet to be good for more than one season for the Mariners.

So, of course Edwin Diaz gave up the go-ahead 2-run homer to Kole Calhoun!  And of course the Mariners tied it up in the bottom of the 9th to send it to extras!  And OF COURSE James Pazos came into the game in the 11th inning – about 4 innings after he’d started warming up in the first place – and WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, the first batter he faced was the very same Kole Calhoun!  Did he give up a homer to the man?  NO!  He struck him out!  Because he’s a left-handed pitcher facing a left-handed batter, and that’s generally what tends to happen in those situations, SCOTT SERVAIS, YOU PUTZ!

Granted, Pazos would go on to give up two runs in the 11th inning to lose us the ballgame, but that’s not on him.  If he were used properly, in the top of the 8th, when he was warmed up and fresh, his command may have been a little more on par with the rest of his appearances this season.

Also, not for nothing, but if Pazos was brought in for just Calhoun in the 8th inning, THAT WOULD’VE BEEN THE ONLY BATTER HE WOULD’VE FACED, BECAUSE HE WOULD HAVE STRUCK THAT MOTHERFUCKER OUT!

I have no idea what Diaz would’ve done if he’d just come in fresh for the 9th inning with no runners on base, but that’s a hypothetical for another time.  In this universe, Scott Servais botched the fuck out of this one, and cost the Mariners a win they desperately needed.

Repeat after me:  Edwin Diaz is NOT the be-all, end-all of this bullpen.  He’s probably not all that much better than anyone else down there, if we’re being honest.  His consistency leaves a lot to be desired.  He’s trying to get away with just his natural gifts, and that’s not going to fly in the MLB, because those hitters have a lot of natural gifts too, and they tend to expose pitchers who throw it up there without knowing where it’s going.

God damn this season is frustrating as fuck.