Fucking Quintana, That Creep Can Roll, Man

I could rail on the offense for getting just one hit – a Danny Valencia triple that would score on a sac fly – in a 2-1 defeat in 10 innings; I could complain about a bullpen that just isn’t very good right now; I could lament this team squandering a massively impressive start out of Ariel Miranda (7 innings, 1 run, on 4 hits and 2 walks, with a career-high 9 strikeouts), when this team can ill afford to squander ANYTHING at this critical juncture of the season; but this boils down to running into the buzzsaw that is Jose Quintana:  a good pitcher who should probably be better, who seemingly destroys the Mariners at every turn (even though the numbers, in actuality, don’t bear that out), another lefty in a long line of lefties that have managed to confound our New & Improved offense this season.

It’s a bummer, but what are you gonna do?  This offense is absolutely capable of more against a guy like Quintana, but for whatever reason it just didn’t have it.  I blame Tuffy.

Edwin Diaz returned to the land of the living, pitching two very strong shutout innings in relief of Miranda, to get us to the aforementioned extra innings.  Tony Zych came in for the tenth, hit the first batter he faced, and wouldn’t you know it?  That guy came in for the game-winning run off of a double hit by Melky Cabrera.  Zych left a low and inside curveball to Melky, who didn’t whiff; very poor placement of a pitch to a left-handed hitter, if you ask me.  But, you know, that’s the story of this bullpen’s 2017.

That’s 3 out of 4 pretty good performances out of Ariel Miranda.  Last night, he got a little bit of the Felix treatment from this offense, but if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll be more than fine.

Mitch Haniger had a bit of a setback in his recovery and his rehab assignment is being pushed back.  We seem to be on track for James Paxton to head out after this weekend, which is encouraging.  I’m tired of seeing TBD show up in the upcoming probable starters.

The Mariners Were Able To Stop The Losing Streak Thanks To Their Best(asterisk) Starter

Ahh yes, Yovani Gallardo, the last man standing in a rotation filled with infants. Where would we be without his veteran presence? Without his hittable pitches? Without his ability to gobble up innings?

He gave up 3 runs (on 2 homers) in 6.1 innings, yet the Mariners still managed to use up 6 relievers to lock down this thing in regulation, so you could tell this one was important. I just can’t get over the fact that – going into the season – we were all on the same page about Gallardo: he’d stick in the rotation for as long as he was moderately effective, but at some point he’d be DFA’d in favor of Ariel Miranda, or someone else with more promise. Now, he’s got as much job security as he could ever want! All while doing a fairly mediocre job (except, at this point, “mediocre” is a fucking godsend when compared to what we’re getting from our replacement pitchers).

The Mariners jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks to some wildness by the A’s starter, plus a 2-run homer to center by Nelson Cruz. And, as is his wont, Gallardo gave almost all of it away by the time the fifth inning concluded. BUT, we hung in there and even added to our lead thanks to a Kyle Seager 2-run jack in the bottom of the eighth. 6-3: all the cushion in the world for closer Edwin Diaz!

And yet, after getting the leadoff hitter to foul out, Diaz proceeded to walk the next four batters, because of course. Thankfully, Scott Servais finally decided to do something about it, instead of hoping Diaz would work through it. THIS is what I’ve been asking for, pretty much, my entire baseball-watching life! The closer is treated like some savior who can’t be questioned, when in reality sometimes they just don’t have it! Just like ANY AND EVERY reliever sometimes just doesn’t have it. At which point, why force the issue? Why let them give away the entire game? If they don’t have it, they don’t have it. Let someone else get a shot at saving the fucking thing!

Enter Tony Zych, who did just that. He got the first batter to ground out, which still scored a run, intentionally walked the next guy to load the bases, and after running the count full, caught the final batter of the night looking to put everyone out of their misery.

Robinson Cano missed his fifth consecutive game after they thought for a minute that he might be able to play. That puts us halfway to the 10-Day DL minimum and I’ve gotta think the Mariners will need to pull that trigger if some other position player goes down.

Also, Tuffy Gosewisch went hitless again for the millionth game in a row. How much longer are we going to keep this farce going? I understand Mike Zunino needs a little time to get going, but why are we giving Tuffy the starting role in this catcher rotation? I think he has BEYOND proved that he’s not a Major League Baseball player by now. And I’ve yet to see anything even remotely remarkable about his defense. At least Zunino could slap you a single every now and then, or take a God damn walk once in a while. Tuffy is making me long for the days of Jesus Sucre for Christ’s sake!

The Mariners Were Swept In Toronto

I mean, you knew the good times weren’t going to last, right?  Not with this rotation in the shambles it’s in.  All four starters in that series were destined to start out in Tacoma or worse before injuries set in, and while they’d all done pretty well in the previous turn through the rotation, odds were heavily against them replicating that sort of success a second time in a row.

What we probably didn’t see coming was the Mariners’ offense only scoring 6 runs in 4 games, particularly after how they mashed in Philly.  But, they too had been on a nice little roll recently, and were destined to come back to Earth at some point.

People are going to look back at the 2017 Mariners as the Great Lost Season.  This team had all the potential in the world to gel into something fantastic, but an absurd number of pitching injuries will ultimately torpedo all this promise.  We’ll have to look back and wonder what could have been, if all our key guys stayed healthy.

Or, if they’d stayed out of the WBC?

There have been a number of key injuries around Major League Baseball this year.  To be fair, there are a number of key injuries around Major League Baseball EVERY year, and they don’t do the WBC on an annual basis.  But, someone mentioned the WBC recently when talking about a lot of the players who are missing time, and I think it’s definitely worth exploring.

I’m not an anti-WBC zealot, by any means, but I think it’s misplaced on the schedule.  MLB players already play upwards of 162 games a year, plus playoffs if they’re so lucky, plus a bunch of Spring Training games to ramp up for the regular season.  That’s already TOO MUCH baseball; now you’re throwing in this meaningless tournament at the start of the season?  Forcing everyone to start getting in baseball shape sooner – and thereby reducing their recovery period in the offseason by however many weeks – just so they can, what, play for their countries?  Didn’t we have baseball in the Olympics for that?

I think the only way to have a viable WBC tournament is to have it during the middle of the MLB season.  The players will leave and go play for their national teams after they’re already sufficiently warmed up, and their MLB teams will just have to get by until they return.

Because this Doing It During Spring Training bullshit, I believe, is having an adverse effect on these players.

Drew Smyly was the obvious early example, as he didn’t look the same after his one start in the WBC.  But, there’s also Jean Segura – who was on the DL for two weeks – as well as Robbie Cano and Nelson Cruz, who have yet to hit the DL, but who have both had nagging leg injuries that have cost them a few games of late.  Then, of course, we have Felix Hernandez, who ALREADY had a billion miles on his throwing arm, and apparently thought it would be a good idea to throw a few more on there in a meaningless WBC tournament.

If you ask me, it’s only a matter of time before Yovani Gallardo and Edwin Diaz see time on the shelf, at which point that’ll account for just about everyone of import in the Mariners organization who played in the WBC.

I could be totally off base, and all these injuries could just be coincidences.  After all, Iwakuma didn’t play in the WBC.  Mitch Haniger didn’t play in the WBC.  A bunch of these other guys on the DL didn’t participate in the WBC either.  I dunno.  I’m just angry and sad and frustrated.  I always want the Mariners to do well, but I REALLY wanted this year to be the year we returned to the playoffs.  Mostly because it just made the most sense.  This is the most talented team we’ve had since 2003, and it’s just getting harder and harder to swallow.

I just can’t remember the last time I felt this beaten down.  It feels like, for the Mariners to win on a consistent basis, they have to average 8+ runs per game.  We’re never going to get those 2-1 or 1-0 wins.  Although, you could argue, yesterday’s game came the closest.

Ariel Miranda threw five scoreless innings of relatively impressive baseball.  The Mariners were finally able to scratch across a run in the top of the fifth to take a 1-0 lead.  Then, Miranda walked the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the sixth and was pulled for James Pazos.  Of course, that run ended up coming around to score, along with one more, thanks to Justin Smoak jacking a 2-run bomb to center.  Because, yeah, fuck that guy.  That cunt couldn’t do shit when he was with the Mariners, but he’s sure as shit going to have his bloody revenge whenever he plays AGAINST the Mariners.  Go fuck yourself, Justin Smoak, you worthless knob.

Jarrod Dyson was able to tie the game with his first homer of the season, and that took us to the bottom of the ninth, where Edwin Diaz gave up the walk-off homer to Toronto’s punchless centerfielder.  I guess turnabout is fair play or whatever.

In the series, Mariners hitters were 4 for 35 with runners in scoring position, harkening back to the first week of this God-foresaken season.  The sweep dropped the Mariners’ road record to 7-16 and dropped our run differential to an even 0.  So, at least we’re no longer one of those shameful teams who have a losing record and a positive run differential, in defiance of all that is holy and right in the game of baseball.

No days off this week, but the Mariners are back home for seven games.  At least that’s something.  Nothing to get too excited about though.  You’re probably better off trying to binge-watch the first two seasons of Twin Peaks before its revival kicks off Sunday night.

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.

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 Beat Indians Behind Great Pitching

Ariel Miranda went 5.1 innings, giving up 1 run on 2 hits and 2 walks, with 7 strikeouts.  James Pazos brought the heat, going 2.1 innings in relief, striking out 4 and really looking dominant.  And, true to his word, Scott Servais has jacked up the usage on Edwin Diaz, sending him in there for the 4-out save (where he struck out 3).  Diaz also appeared for the third straight day, so I have to wonder what his availability will be over the weekend.

The Mariners won 3-1, thanks to a 2-run homer by Cano and a solo homer by Gamel.  Gotta say, Gamel has been mighty impressive in the early going.

Nelson Cruz was held out of the game with a hamstring issue.  I don’t know what that’s all about, but Jesus Fucking Christ, can the Mariners ever catch a fucking break?

Gallardo on the hill today.  Early games today and tomorrow.  All of it, unfortunately, overshadowed by the NFL Draft.

A Roster Shake-Up & A Mariners Victory

One did not necessarily lead to the other, of course, unless you believe in the motivating factor of roster transactions.

The minor move is that Chase De Jong was sent back down to Tacoma – a day after going 4 scoreless innings in relief of Ariel Miranda – in favor of Chris Heston, another spot starter/long reliever type.  Obviously, this was through no fault of De Jong’s, but simply because after pitching 4 full innings, he wasn’t going to be available in relief again for a few days.  And, with this rotation (specifically with guys like Gallardo, who got the start in yesterday’s game), you never know when you’re going to need an extra reliever.

Also, not for nothing, but De Jong and now Heston are merely keeping this spot warm until Steve Cishek works his way back into MLB playing shape, which is probably a week or so away.

The major move made yesterday was the DFA of Leonys Martin.  That’s a pretty tough pill to swallow.  I wouldn’t say he was a fan favorite or anything, but I’m sure the fans liked him enough.  He played great defense and he had a good run at the plate just last season.  It seemed like just a matter of time before he’d pick it back up at the plate and at least be passable in the everyday lineup.  But, thanks to the Mariners losing 3 in a row in Oakland – and starting off the season 1-9 on the road heading into yesterday’s game – time is exactly something the Mariners DON’T have a lot of.  This season is going down the toilet in a hurry, and we can’t sit around waiting for all of our slumping hitters to get their collective shit together.  In that sense, you could say the DFA of Leonys Martin is just as much about the entire team as it is about Martin’s own deficiencies.  Which, I’m sure, made the move that much more hard to swallow.  Because, while the fans liked him enough, the players and the coaching staff adored this kid, and I’m sure the move was as painful as it gets.

The thing is, I’m not super convinced it’s a moved that needed to be made.  Right now, we’re a team with just three outfielders, that is, until Jean Segura comes back from the DL, which should be any day now.  When Segura returns, you’ve got Motter who can play there too, but he’s a utility guy who can play anywhere.  He’s also the only guy on the roster who can back up at any infield position (assuming Mike Freeman gets sent back to Tacoma upon Segura’s return).  For all intents and purposes, Danny Valencia becomes your traditional fourth outfielder, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him at first base either.

See, the corresponding move with the Leonys Martin DFA is the calling back up of Dan Vogelbach, who hit .309/.409/.473 in Tacoma, with 3 doubles and 2 homers in 16 games.  The talk is, for now, Valencia rides the pine while Vogelbach gets to start every day.  THIS is a move that’s been about a week overdue, but again, I don’t know if it needed to be made at the expense of Martin.

Here are my concerns:

  1. I’m not convinced Guillermo Heredia is an everyday player
  2. I’m not convinced Dan Vogelbach is ready (or will ever be ready) for the Major Leagues
  3. What do we do if Jarrod Dyson gets injured for an extended period of time?
  4. I also lowkey have my doubts about Taylor Motter, as it feels like the other shoe is about to drop anyday now, and we’re in for an extended stretch of no hitting and lots of strikeouts

The Heredia thing, I think, sort of goes without saying, but let me try to elaborate.  I think he’s okay.  I think he’s a fine fifth outfielder, maybe.  He’s been a big help in the early going, and right now I’d say he’s DEFINITELY playing better than Leonys Martin.  But, I think long-term, Heredia isn’t much more than a Quad-A player.  The speed is great, don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t seem to hit it out of the infield very much, and he can’t rely on infield base hits and bunts alone!  He walks about as often as Mike Zunino, which is to say hardly at all, and if he’s not pulling his weight in OBP, I don’t see him adding a whole lot of value with his bat.  He needs to be walking a ton and stealing a ton of bases for him to be an everyday outfielder for us.

The Vogelbach thing, I’ve been harping on for a while.  I just don’t know if he has it.  He’s still pretty young though, so I don’t know if it’s necessarily fair to expect him to have it right out of the gate.  I think he’s going to struggle at least in this early going, which means he’ll fall back into the platoon they’d planned for him and Valencia in the first place.  You gotta figure, at some point, Valencia is going to start hitting for us, and the more he does that, the more he’s going to see the field.  At which point, you’ve sort of got Vogelbach here as a lefty pinch hit bat off the bench.  Is that worth giving up on Leonys Martin?

Because, yeah, what if Dyson has to go on the DL for something?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have Martin there, with everyday playing experience?  Without Martin, I guess you slide over Heredia, and maybe call up Ben Gamel as an extra outfielder.  Is that a better situation than what you would’ve had with Martin?

And, if everything else works out, Vogelbach takes the first base job and runs with it, and the rest of our infield stays healthy, that means Motter effectively becomes your left fielder.  But, does increased playing time for Motter equate to decreased production at the plate? You figure pitchers are going to figure him out EVENTUALLY.  Does he have what it takes to re-adjust?  Or, will he flail along and watch his strikeouts skyrocket?

To counter all of my hemming and hawing, you’re probably right to ask:  what would I have done differently?

Well, for starters, do we REALLY need 8 relievers?  I think it was a smart idea to kick off the season, as the starters generally need some time to build their arms up and get their innings-counts up to snuff, but I feel like we’re there now.  Granted, Paxton and Miranda gave us some pretty shitty starts in that Oakland series, but it’s not like the bullpen has been notoriously over-worked or anything!  For the first three weeks of the season, they’ve split a pretty average workload among 8 people instead of 7 (more, really, when you count the guys coming and going from Tacoma).  There’s only been the one extra-innings game, in the third game of the season.  They had a huge homestand and one day off, with another off day scheduled today (and the next two Mondays to boot).  We could have EASILY made it through the next few days (or however long it will take for Segura to come off the DL) with just 7 relievers.  Then, when Segura is ready to return, we send Freeman down like planned, and keep going with a full bench and lots of different lineup options.

Facing a right-handed pitcher?  With Martin in the fold, you can go:  Segura, Haniger, Cano (L), Cruz, Seager (L), Vogelbach (L), Zunino, Dyson (L), Martin (L), with over half your lineup batting from the left side.  Facing a lefty?  You can go Segura, Haniger, Cano (L), Cruz, Seager (L), Motter, Valencia, Zunino, Heredia, with Heredia in center and Motter in left.  I dunno, I’m just spit-balling here, but with Martin you’ve got extra speed on your bench, another lefty hitter for late in games, and extra defense in case the unthinkable happens.  Instead, you waive him for nothing and hope no other team picks him up, and that he’s willing to play for you in Tacoma until it’s time to call him up again.  Seems like a longshot.

***

As for yesterday’s game, it was an 11-1 Mariners victory, to salvage at least not getting swept by the fucking A’s.  For what it’s worth, the Mariners are now 5-9 against the American League West, which obviously is far from ideal.  Also, the Mariners are tied for last in the division with the Angels at 8-12, good for third-worst in the entire league.

Motter hit a grand slam and Cruz hit a 3-run homer.  They combined for 9 of the 11 RBI.  Vogelbach had his first hit and RBI of the season, and played just fine at first base.  Seager had a minor hip issue that kept him from starting, but he was available to pinch hit if needed.  Considering he wasn’t, it’s nice that he has these back-to-back days off heading into the Detroit series.

On the pitching side of things, we finally got a good start out of Gallardo, going 6.1 innings, giving up 1 run on 4 hits, with 1 walk and 7 strikeouts.  Zych, Scrabble, and Scribner wiped out the later innings with no damage done.

So, the Mariners need to figure out how to win on the road.  Remember last year, when it was the opposite, and the Mariners had trouble winning at home in the early going?  They were 1-5 in their first home series last year, whereas they were 8-4 on the road and would go on into May 18-7 on the road before coming down to Earth.  How far down?  The 2016 Mariners finished 7 games over .500 at home, and only 3 games over .500 on the road.  That’s because most teams, by and large, are better at home than they are on the road.  So, you could sort of see a turnaround in the 2016 Mariners’ home record coming, even if it did take a while.  Which means the hot start on the road was VERY much to their benefit, and a big reason why they were able to stay in contention for so long.

This year, the Mariners are 6-3 at home, and now 2-9 on the road.  That’s pretty terrible, because while you would expect the Mariners to be good at home, it’s also not inconceivable that the Mariners might be this bad on the road.  In an ideal world, I think you want the Mariners to hover around .500 on the road, and be really good at home; in this world, it’s going to take A LOT of winning to get back to .500 on the road, and it’s going to take maintaining a lot of winning to stay really good at home.  None of this bodes well, and it’s starting to become clear to me that 2017 is going to be a lot like 2015, 2010, and 2008.  Recall those were all years where we were coming off of winning seasons, with heightened expectations, and collapsing under the weight of said expectations.  Same team, different GM/Manager combo.  God I hope I’m wrong.

God Dammit, Mariners

Predictably, Ariel Miranda stunk yesterday, giving up 4 runs in 3 innings.  Also predictably, Oakland’s starter gave them a quality start.  And, once again, the Mariners’ offense didn’t have it, leading to a 4-3 loss.

Chase De Jong was called up to replace Dan Altavilla, who as I noted before really needed to be sent down to Tacoma to get right.  De Jong – who was the hard luck loser in that extra innings game in the first series of the year in Houston – rebounded nicely, going 4 shutout innings of relief yesterday to at least keep the team in it.  Alas, it wasn’t enough.

I heard Dan Vogelbach was pulled from the game yesterday, so we might be seeing him come up to replace someone!  Someone who has been stinking up the joint at first base, no doubt!  I’m looking at you, Danny Valencia, you turd!

Yovani Gallardo, who’s terrible, is going for us today, against probably Oakland’s best healthy starter in Andrew Triggs.  So, go ahead and bet the farm on the Mariners somehow winning this one, because that’s just how stupid baseball works.