Remember This Day: The Mariners Are Alone In The Second Wild Card Spot

Remember it, because it probably won’t last.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, because I know the other shoe is about to drop, but this is unbelievably exciting.  The Mariners took down the A’s 6-3 yesterday to complete the 2-game sweep – a feat that should be appreciated with a golf clap rather than hyperbolic sycophantism, because given how terrible the A’s are now, that’s something the Mariners absolutely SHOULD HAVE accomplished – while the Royals and Rays both lost to fall a game behind the Mighty Mariners!

This might very well be the zenith of the Mariners’ season.  3 games over .500 for the first time all year.  All alone in that aforementioned second Wild Card spot.  Just completed a 6-3 road trip to get to within 2 games of .500 on the road on the season.  Heading back to Seattle for the only week’s worth of home games in August, with Paxton on the mound tonight followed by Edgar Martinez Weekend.  If this isn’t as good as it gets, then get the hell away from me because I must be dreaming and I don’t want to wake up!

It all started yesterday afternoon.  Kyle “Corey’s Brother” Seager jacked a 3-run homer in the first to get things going.  Then, Nelson Cruz followed with a 2-run homer in the third and a solo homer in the fifth.  Not for nothing, but Seager has climbed up to 17 homers on the season, 7 of them since the All Star Break.  And Cruz is up to 26 homers, 9 of them since the All Star Break.  Not a moment too soon for either of those guys to get hot, I tell you what.

Staked to 6 runs, what did the Mariners get out of Yovani Gallardo?  More of his same putrid bullshit.  He gave up some mighty solo homers in the first and third to keep the A’s in it, then started to give up a lot of hard-hit contact in the fifth.  A single, followed by a liner that was only caught at the wall because Ben Gamel is literally Superman, followed by a run-scoring double and that was the end of his day.  Luckily, Emilio Pagan bailed him out, as well as the rest of the Mariners, keeping the damage to just what Gallardo gave up.  Pagan went 2.2 innings of 1-hit shutout ball to record the victory.

You know, it’s pretty fucking sad when a guy given six runs of support from his offense can’t even qualify for the fucking win.  It’s 5 innings!  That’s all you have to do!  And Gallardo couldn’t even do that, against the fucking A’s of all teams.  What. A. Piece. Of. Shit.  He does all this good in the bullpen, enough to get his starting job back, and this is what he’s able to manage.  Fucking pathetic.

From there, Tony Zych was able to lock down the eighth, and Edwin Diaz was able to lock down the ninth for his 25th save.  Somewhere out there, some fantasy baseball player got a really good deal on Edwin Diaz right before the All Star Break, and that person has been rewarded with 12 saves against only 1 blown save in a little under 4 weeks.  Simply outstanding!

It’s pretty easy to get excited about this team right now, especially with James Paxton on the mound tonight against the Angels, but again we’re talking about everything riding on this start.  Because have you seen the fucking duds we’ve got going over the weekend?  Marco Gonzales, Erasmo Ramirez, and Ariel Miranda, in that order.  If we don’t win the Paxton start, again, I think you can kiss this series goodbye, as well as our lead in the Wild Card and everything else.

If Paxton wins, MAYBE you could envision the Mariners’ offense jumping all over the Angels on Friday or Saturday (while getting just enough out of our starter before pulling him after 5 innings), with an outside chance of Miranda having a quality bounce-back start on Sunday and taking 3 of 4.  But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we need Paxton to come through to make any of our dreams a reality.

I was going through the schedule the rest of the way, picking out the Paxton starts assuming nothing changes and we continue with the 5-man rotation.  I made the argument that if you moved Paxton around in the rotation, pitching him strictly every 5th DAY instead of every 5th game, you could get an extra start out of him, while at the same time slotting him into either pitching the final game of the regular season, or (if we’ve clinched), setting him up for the Wild Card game.  Whereas, if you just pitch him every fifth game as anticipated, he ends up missing a lot of important series against difficult teams, and may not be ready until the ALDS (if we get that far).

My argument is:  you need to maximize James Paxton as much as humanly possible, since he’s your only good starter.  Getting 1 more Paxton start, on what’s ostensibly regular rest (I’m not going crazy here and suggesting he pitch every fourth day or something), could make all the difference in what’s looking like a Wild Card race that’s destined to go down to the wire.

And I understand the arguments against it.  He’s pretty injury prone, so do you want to risk blowing up his arm in this all-important season?  Baseball is a slog!  It’s a marathon, not a sprint; but it’s also just a fucking slog through the muck for six straight months.  It’s punishing.  It’s obscene, really, how long it is, and the fact that they have to play everyday, sometimes going three full weeks without a day off.

But, I mean, do you want this or not?  The Mariners almost certainly won’t do it, because you’re not managing a fantasy baseball roster, you’re managing human beings with feelings and egos and you can’t just single out one starter like that without alienating the rest of the rotation (as shitty as those other guys may be).  But, I thought the motto was “Whatever It Takes”!  Seems to me, guys are going to have to swallow some pride if we want to get this done.  Just ask Danny Valencia, who was benched because the Mariners were scheduled to face a bunch of right-handed starting pitchers in a row.

That’s my two cents anyway.  The way this season is going, Paxton will probably blow out his arm tonight and the point will be moo.  You know, a cow’s opinion.  The single greatest line from the TV show Friends in its illustrious 10-season run.

My other two cents, before things completely fall apart, is that I agree with Mike Salk and Softy (among other local radio personalities, presumably) that Scott Servais should ABSOLUTELY be in the running for Manager of the Year.  I mean, I know nobody cares about those awards, and most people who vote for them are just checking the box of the team with the best record without giving it more than 2 seconds of thought, so, you know, bank on the guy who manages the Astros to win it this year.  But, has anyone done more with less than Scott Servais?  Has anyone had to juggle a pitching staff with so many injuries?  The answer is no, obviously, the Mariners have had the most snakebitten pitching staff in the history of baseball.  But, he’s got this team in contention by playing that rotation like a fiddle.  Sometimes, guys just have bad games and they have to wear it.  But, more often than not, he’s pulling starters at just the right time, squeezing as much as he can out of them before going to the bullpen.  And, for the most part, I’ve liked his bullpen decisions.  He’ll have a brain fart here and there, but who doesn’t?  I’ve honestly been REALLY impressed by how little I’ve complained about his bullpen usage.  Even when it doesn’t work out, I can almost always understand the rationale behind the move.  It’s refreshing, really, after Lloyd McClendon and some of the other doofus managers we’ve had here in recent years.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got today.  Voters, give Scott a chance!

Holy Schnikes The Mariners Are In A 3-Way Tie For The Second Wild Card!

Caveat:  it’s only August 9th.  But still.

The Seattle Mariners are 2 games over .500 for the fourth time this season, but this one was pretty special.

For starters, Jesus Christ God Dammit Ariel Miranda sure did suck again!  6 runs in 5 innings, including 2 more home runs to give him 29 home runs given up on the season, which is the MOST in the entire Major Leagues.  29 homers in 23 games for Christ’s sake!  29 homers in 131.2 innings!  Or a homer every four and a half innings.  That’s un-fucking-sustainable!  You can’t give up this many homers in a season and expect to keep your job!  I don’t care how low your WHIP is, or how many of those homers are solo homers, eventually that shit’s gonna catch up to you and you’re going to blow up spectacularly!

Take last night, for instance.  Bottom of the first inning, he gave up a double and a walk before Khris Davis’ 3-run bomb to put the Mariners in a HUGE hole.  I’ll accept watching a Miranda start where he battles, or where he looks great those few and far between times, but I absolutely will not accept watching a start where he looks like every other non-Paxton starter in this fucking organization.  No thanks.  Suffice it to say, I was pretty much done with the game after that (and, with my crazy schedule, that’s not a huge sacrifice, considering I would go to bed at 8pm anyway).

What I missed, apparently, was one for the ages.  The M’s got one back in the top of the third when Zunino scored from third on a groundout, but the damage was limited, and the deficit would increase in the bottom half by a couple more runs.  Dyson punched an RBI single to left to make it 5-2 in the fourth, but the A’s would extend it back to 6-2 in the fifth on a solo homer.

With Ariel Miranda sufficiently knocked out of the game (at 86 pitches no less, because he’s efficient even when he’s fucking terrible), that’s when the real fun began.  Gamel knocked in two runs on a double in the sixth, Cruz knocked in another run in the seventh, and Valencia hit a sac fly in the eighth to tie it up.  Along the way, the Mariners got some remarkable relief pitching from the likes of Casey Lawrence, Nick Vincent, and Scrabble to push this game into extras.

Then, in the top of the tenth (after the Mariners walked three times in the ninth and somehow still didn’t score), with two outs, Leonys Martin continued his hot streak since being called back up, jacking a solo homer to right field to give the Mariners the lead.  Edwin Diaz got into a little mini-jam, but got himself out of it for his 24th save on the year.  That puts him 18th all time in Mariners history in most saves in an individual season.  His 42 career saves over his two-season career is 12th on the Mariners’ all time saves list, just a hop and a skip behind the likes of Brandon League, Bobby Ayala, Eddie Guardado, and Fernando Rodney.  So, you know, if you’re expecting Edwin Diaz’s career to go up in smoke, just give him another month or so.  History dictates once a Mariners closer gets between 50-70 saves, he automatically forgets how to get guys out.

What a crazy, VERY important win!  I mean, with the way the A’s are giving up on this season, there’s absolutely no excuse to lose either of these games in this 2-game series.  I know it’s baseball, and anything can happen, but if the Mariners are going to somehow shock the world, they’re going to need to beat up on teams like the A’s.  This is where you EAT!

If it’s all right with you, I think I’ll close by stopping and smelling the roses a little bit.  It’s, frankly, mindblowing how the Mariners are still hanging around in this Wild Card race.  I know there have been other seasons where the Mariners have been in contention in recent years, but this one definitely feels more special given all the Mariners have had to overcome and all that they’ll continue to have to overcome.

First and foremost, it looks like Felix has the same injury he had earlier this year.  They’re saying he’ll be out 3-4 weeks, which puts us into September, but if it’s as bad as the last one was – where he ended up missing almost 2 full months – we might not see him again in the regular season, if at all this year.  I hope the rest of the team can pick him up and carry us into the playoffs, for Felix’s sake, but I’m going to be heartbroken for him if we FINALLY get there for the first time in his career and he ultimately can’t go.  From a psychological standpoint, that might actually be worse than not going at all.

We also got word that David Phelps will miss 2-3 weeks, so it sounds like he’s not as bad off as Felix.  I’m going to hold my breath if it’s all the same to you and hope we get him back on the shorter end of that range rather than the longer.

In Recent Transaction News, Yonder Alonso made his Mariners debut last night, going 1 for 5 with a single, batting in the 2-hole.  Many Yonder jokes were had by all on Twitter.

In Active Roster News, I couldn’t even begin to tell you when this started, but the Mariners are rolling with a 12-man bullpen again.  With Alonso and Valencia effectively platooning at first base, Danny Espinosa as our only utility infielder, and Leonys Martin as our fourth outfielder, the Mariners really can’t afford to go with anything less than a 4-man bench.  With 20 games left in the month – before rosters expand in September – look for the M’s to start shuttling relievers back and forth between Seattle and Tacoma.  At some point, they’re going to have to figure out how much more Erasmo Ramirez they want to see in the rotation; I think my breaking point happened about 3 years ago, but I’ll give the organization another start or two before I start taking bids from local pipe bomb makers.

Terrorism jokes are still funny in this day and age, right?

Seattle Mariners – Situation Unchanged: Still Fucked Up

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we’ve gone into a series – both this year and in the last decade plus – where we explicitly stated this would be the “most important series” of the year.  The turning point, if you will.  Obviously, there’s a little bit of hyperbole mixed in there, as there seems to be four or five “most important series” throughout any given season, but there we were heading into yesterday, 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, in a 4-game series against the very team who HAS that second Wild Card spot.  Tell me a series that’s been bigger than this one so far this year!  There may still be bigger series ahead, but we’re in the here and now, and the Royals got to get got!

So, yeah, of course, run Yovani Sighardo out there (5 innings, 3 runs, couldn’t get a single out in the sixth before being pulled at 84 pitches), have him give up leads in back-to-back innings, and then fuck it all away in relief.  Kyle Seager, while he hit a pretty meaningless solo homer, managed to go 0 for 2 with RISP a day after probably his worst offensive game of the year.  Mike Zunino is in another huge fucking slump and looks lost at the plate again.  Jean Segura and Ben Gamel are slowly frittering away their awesome numbers.  And, here we are, in a 1-game hole with three games to go.

I mean, what can you say that hasn’t already been said?  Just when you think MAYBE Gallardo has things all figured out for just one game, NOPE!  Instead of giving up all his runs in the first inning and then “settling down”, he started the game “cruising along” before hitting a bumpy patch or whatever the fuck euphemism you want to slap on his game.  Somehow, he always seems to do “pretty good” except for one bad inning or some shit.

But, I’m putting this one on the offense.  They really need to get their shit together and start picking this team up.  Not once in a while, not after breakfast, NOW!  And every game after that!

This loss sucks even more dick, because it puts impossible pressure on the next two days.  James Paxton absolutely HAS to have a dominating effort tonight.  You’d think that’d be simple enough, but it’s not July anymore.  I know calendar months are arbitrary units of measurement when it comes to a baseball season, but I’ve also been following the Mariners for 20+ years (God damn, has it really been THAT long?), and it always seems like guys will be hot for exactly one month, and then the calendar page flips and they revert back to whatever nonsense they were before.  Which, in this case, you’d have to think would still be pretty good, but we don’t know how he’s going to look tonight.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the Royals bashed him around but good.

That leaves the weekend half of the series with Felix and Erasmo.  If Paxton wins, fine, maybe you can hope for a split, but that’s still relying on the likes of Felix and Erasmo.  If Paxton LOSES, then guess what?  Say hello to a series sweep and another week of bitching about how these Mariners can fucking eat my ass cheese.

Have I told you how much I hate baseball?

The Mariners Need To Keep Winning These Close Games

As we dip our toes into August, things are starting to come into focus.  Whereas a month ago, you could argue each and every team in the A.L. had a chance at the Wild Card, now you can start to write some teams off.  The White Sox, the Tigers, the A’s, and I daresay even the Blue Jays and the Rangers, particularly with their trading of Yu Darvish to the Dodgers.  And, not far behind them, you’ve got teams like the Angels, Twins, and maybe even the Orioles, who just need another mediocre couple of weeks before you figure they throw in the towel and start playing their younger guys.

At that point, it’s almost easier to count the teams in the race.  The Astros, obviously.  With the Yankees winning the Sonny Gray sweepstakes, you have to like their chances.  The Red Sox will give them a run, of course.  In the Central, you’ve got the surging Royals and the steady Indians.  And, right there, tied with the Mariners, you’ve got the Rays at 54-53 with two full months to go.  We’re both of us 2.5 games behind the Royals for that second Wild Card spot; with the July 31st Trade Deadline come and gone, now it’s time to get to work.

As you know, I’m not very bullish on the Mariners’ chances.  Obviously, Paxton is one of the best pitchers in baseball right now, but after that it’s a wasteland.  Felix is on the decline (5.1 innings of 4-run ball last night; he was fortunate the offense and bullpen bailed him out — how many times could we have said THAT over the course of his career?), Erasmo Ramirez of all people is slated to take the hill tonight.  Then, we’ve got the poo-poo platter of Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo who will REALLY have to start picking up the slack the rest of the way if this team wants a shot at the post-season.

I dunno, I just can’t see it.  It would be a miracle of miracles.  The writing is already on the wall:  we’re going to look back on this season and realize we were out of it the day Drew Smyly injured his throwing arm.  Could we have withstood the decline of Felix, the injury of Iwakuma, and the disaster that’s been Gallardo?  Yes, yes, and yes; but it all hinged on getting a big bounceback season out of Smyly, and that absolutely did not happen.  If Smyly could’ve been 80% of what Paxton has been, combined with a fine season from Miranda, a bulldog season out of Felix, and whatever you could get out of the fifth starter carousel, MAYBE you could talk me into being confident in this team as it’s currently constructed.  But, the day they let the deadline pass without going out and getting a top shelf starter is the day they gave up on the season.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what David Phelps brings to this bullpen.  But, what use does this team have for an Erasmo Ramirez when it’s already got 4-5 of them in the organization?  What use does this team have for a Marco Gonzales when, again, it’s already got 4-5 of them in the organization?  These are half measures.  It’s making it look like you’ve done something when you’ve really done nothing at all.  These guys could’ve been gotten in the offseason just as easily, but instead they were acquired now; why?  To give the illusion that the team is trying to Win Now, when in reality this team – at the Major League level – is no better than it was before, and it could be argued they’re actually worse.  The lynchpin, of course, is Gonzales.  He’s “Major League Ready” and figures to be called up anytime now; if he comes up and does what he’s never done before (pitches well at the highest level), then I’ll happily eat all the crow you can shovel onto my plate.  But, it strikes me that we’ve heard this tune before.

Andrew Moore was Major League Ready.  Sam Gaviglio was Major League Ready.  Christian Bergman was Major League Ready.  Chris Heston was Major League Ready.  Chase De Jong was Major League Ready.  Dillon Overton was Major League Ready.  Rob Whalen was Major League Ready.  Where are they right now?

Like I said, it’s going to take some kind of miracle.  A big part of that would involve the Mariners winning more close games than they lose.  Like, A LOT more.  Like, an unsustainable amount of close games!  So far, they’re 16-10 in 1-run games, and 5-5 in extra innings games.  That needs to improve, bigly.  Especially against the teams ahead of us in the standings.

Last night wasn’t a 1-run game, but the Mariners still found a way to notch a save and come from behind.  Down 4-0 after two innings, it looked bleak.  Thankfully, the Mariners were able to take advantage of a whopping 4 errors and 2 balks, as the Rangers look like one of the sloppiest teams I’ve ever seen.  By the time Cole Hamels finished his six innings, the game was tied, and for a while there it looked like this game was destined for extras.

Scrabble was able to get out of a Felix jam in the sixth inning.  All five of Phelps’ outs were via the strikeout.  And meanwhile, this side-arming lefty reliever for the Rangers, Alex Claudio, was wiggling his way off the hook for over 2 innings of work, on a remarkably low number of pitches.

Scott Servais did something interesting in the last few days with the lineup; he’s finally gotten comfortable with Ben Gamel as an everyday hitter, even against left-handed starters.  So much so, in fact, that we’ve seen Gamel lead off the last few days, with Jean Segura batting second.  They’re both having phenomenal offensive seasons from a batting average standpoint, so they’re really pretty interchangeable at the top of the order.  But, it’s a dynamic shift where the Mariners are L-R-L-R-L-R through the first six hitters in the order.  Against teams with good lefty bullpen arms, this presents a conundrum:  do you swap your relievers out after each at-bat, or do you trust your lefty arm to pitch against, say, Jean Segura or Nelson Cruz?

Well, as we found out last night, with Claudio on the mound, the Rangers opted to pitch around those guys, intentionally walking Cruz twice and Segura once.  That put the onus on our left-handed hitters to get the job done.

It looked like it was going to work, too!  Claudio got out of a jam in the seventh when Seager hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice with runners on the corners.  He worked a very quick and efficient eighth inning to keep his pitch count low.  And, he ALMOST got through the ninth by using similar tactics as he did in the seventh.  Had he succeeded, the Rangers would’ve been in good shape heading into extras, while the Mariners would’ve used a couple of their best bullets in all likelihood just to get there.

The top of the ninth kicked off with a Chooch Ruiz single to right.  He was lifted for a pinch runner in Jarrod Dyson, who was cut down on a fielder’s choice when Gamel hit what looked to be a rally-killing double play.  However, the throw to first got past the bag and Gamel was able to reach second base with one out.  Segura drew the intentional walk, and both runners were balked over thanks to Claudio’s funky pre-pitch arm waggling.  Against lefty Cano, Claudio had been successful two innings prior, inducing a ground ball.  He busted him inside again, but Cano was able to stay on it and lined it over the right fielder’s head.  A perfect bounce to Shin Soo Choo allowed him to throw Cano out at second, but the damage was done.  The Mariners had a 6-4 lead and Edwin Diaz threw fire in the bottom half to close it out in regulation.

I’ll admit, it was an encouraging end to the month of July.  The Mariners went 14-12 to secure their second consecutive winning month.  Now it’s time to really turn it up a notch.

Mariners Murder Mets; Paxton Goes 6-0 In July

One more time, the Seattle Mariners have scratched and clawed their way back to a .500 record, on the back of a 9-1 victory over the Mets.  That win gave them a 5-5 record on the homestand, so it’s kinda like the last 10 games didn’t even happen!

James Paxton looked phenomenal as usual, going 6 shutout innings, giving up 6 hits, 0 walks, and striking out 8.  He gave way to Emilio Pagan, who had another 2 shutout innings to throw onto his pile, as he starts to get more and more higher leverage situations to deal with.  And James Pazos closed it out by blowing the shutout in the ninth, looking no closer to being his usual awesome self, which is pretty concerning.

The real stars of this one were the hitters.  Nelson Cruz hit a mammoth 3-run home run.  Leonys Martin – in his first start since April 20th – had two hits, including a homer off of the Hit It Here Cafe.  I can’t tell you how fantastic it was to see that.  He’s been tearing it up in Tacoma, so it’s nice to have that sort of depth when a Mitch Haniger goes down.  Assuming Haniger is only gone for two weeks or so, I hope the team figures out a way to keep Martin on the roster through the month of August, until rosters can be expanded and I don’t have to worry about losing anyone of import.  It’s nice to be able to throw out three left-handed hitters in the outfield when we want to, if nothing else.

Also of note, Ben Gamel had 2 hits, 2 runs and an RBI.  Cano had 2 hits, a run and an RBI.  Seager had 2 hits, including a double.  Dyson, Segura and Danny Espinosa (who pinch hit for Segura late in the game) all chipped in with hits.  And Mike Zunino had a couple walks and a run scored.  Even Danny Valencia had a sac fly; literally everyone contributed SOMETHING to the cause.

Getting back to Paxton, he becomes the first Mariners pitcher to ever go 6-0 in a single month, raising his record from 5-3 to 11-3, which puts him tied for third in the American League for most wins (Chris Sale and Jason Vargas of all people are tied for first with 13 wins).  Also, among qualified pitchers, Paxton’s 2.68 ERA is second only to Sale’s 2.37.  Of course, Paxton is 3 starts and about 41 innings shy of Sale’s totals, what with landing on the DL for a month, but that’s still some good company.

Anyway, here we are.  The August death march unofficially starts today with a game down in Texas.  This is where we find out if the Mariners have what it takes or not.  I’d wager probably not.

Time To Lose Today: Yep, The Mariners Are Back To .500

Is that any way to talk about a team that just beat the Red Sox in 13 innings to win the series with one game to go?  Yes, yes it very much is.

What a game, huh?  It ended up a lot different than I thought it would when I went to bed after the second inning.  Heredia hit his 3-run bomb, Felix was doing okay, seemed like maybe this one would come easy to the Mariners.  Then, it looks like the King ran into a bit of a buzzsaw in the sixth inning, but the teeth of the Mariners’ bullpen limited the damage to 4 runs through 12 innings (Mike Zunino hit a home run somewhere in there to tie the game back up and take Felix off the hook).

In the top of the 13th, Zych – in his second inning of work – gave up a leadoff single who eventually advanced (with 2 outs) to second base on a wild pitch, before scoring the go-ahead run on a single to left.  He managed to get out of it, but I suppose it was looking pretty grim at that point.  One might’ve even felt appreciative for not staying up until all hours of the night.

Besides that, I’m pretty sure there was just one man left in the bullpen by that point, Emilio Pagan, who has been on a tear of late, but has also had to be used quite a bit.

So, 13 innings felt about right.  But, then something magical happened.  Seager struck out, Haniger walked (at least his plate discipline doesn’t slump), and Gamel hit into a fielder’s choice.  Two outs, runner on first, so what, right?  A Heredia single to right moved Gamel to third base, who would go on to score on a wild pitch to tie the game.  The key to that whole thing was that Heredia advanced two bases on the wild pitch, otherwise who knows?  Maybe they’d still be playing right now!  Anyway, Zunino walked, and Jean Segura hit a seeing-eye single up the middle of the infield and EASILY beat the throw to first base for the game-winner.  Bingo bango bongo!

I don’t know what you say about a game like this.  Probably don’t win it without Heredia, but I have to think he would’ve started even if Dyson was healthy, what with Boston starting a lefty.  The bullpen, obviously, is the real hero of this one.  Six shutout innings from the 7th through the 12th, with everyone getting a taste.  When you factor in how awesome Boston’s offense is (or at least, has the potential to be), it’s all the more impressive.

Day game today, with Chris Sale on the mound against Andrew Moore; if the Mariners win THIS one I’ll eat my fucking hat.  So, let’s take a quick look at the standings before we all get depressed again.

By virtue of losing three of four to the Yankees, followed by beating Boston twice in a row, we’ve officially brought the Bronx Bombers to within 1 game of the A.L. East (indeed, putting them 1 game ahead in the loss column).  Getting back to .500 puts the Mariners back to 2.5 games within the second Wild Card spot (with the Rays in between, 1.5 games ahead of us).  The Royals – currently holding that second Wild Card spot – are on a 7-game winning streak, so they’re due to come back down to Earth anytime now.  Also, the Rays?  Please.  GTFO of here.

Okay, I’ve done everything I can to jinx the Mariners.  I’m sufficiently prepared for them to lose today.  Someone find my bookie!  Time to bet Steven Jr.’s college fund again!

James Paxton Is Better At Baseball Than You

We’ve seen pitching dominance before, but not many better than last night.  ESPECIALLY this season.  Paxton went 7 innings of shutout ball, giving up 4 hits, 0 walks, and striking out 10.  The team combined for 9 innings of shutout ball, giving up 4 hits, 0 walks, and striking out 12, as Nick Vincent and David Phelps mopped up the final two innings.  Gamel had a couple hits, including a triple; Segura and Valencia each had RBI doubles; and Seager had a solo homer to kick everything off.  Badda bing, badda boom, 4-0 victory over the Red Sox.

Paxton has been on quite the tear since a dreadful month of June.  He’s given up 34 runs all season (32 earned), and 21 of those (20 earned) came in June.  In July, he’s got a record of 5-0 in five appearances, having given up 6 total runs in 33.1 innings, which is simply phenomenal.

The big story of yesterday had to do with:  What Would You Give Up To Bring In Sonny Gray?  Someone mentioned that any package would have to start with Kyle Lewis and Ben Gamel, among other prospects.  That sounds like a lot, particularly for a guy who was injured last year.  But, if I’m being honest, and I start to think about what this team might look like with a rotation that featured Paxton, Felix, Gray, Miranda, and whoever, I can actually get excited about this team again!

As it stands now, there’s just no shot.  You wouldn’t expect any more prolonged slumps out of Paxton, but everyone else certainly has the potential to melt down at any time.  I’m never CONFIDENT in a non-Paxton start, let me put it that way.  At best, you have to manage the rest of the rotation VERY carefully and, in turn, over-work your bullpen just to hope to eke out a victory.

But, throw Gray into the mix, now you’ve got two top-flight starters, and things start to look a little better.  You figure Felix probably has more good games in him than bad games at this point.  Miranda, if nothing else, will keep you in most games.  And, whoever else is whoever else; fifth starter gonna fifth starter, you know?

I know it sounds crazy, coming from the guy who flipped out when the Mariners traded Tyler O’Neill last week, but this is apples and oranges here.  O’Neill was blown on a AAA pitcher who will probably end up being nothing for the Mariners.  Kyle Lewis is ostensibly a better prospect, with a higher ceiling, who you’d hate to see do well with a divisional rival, but if he helps bring in a bona fide Major League pitcher, then HEY!  Sign me up!

The thing that gives me pause at this point is losing Ben Gamel, because I truly think he’s got a long and fruitful career ahead of him.  Particularly with the way Mitch Haniger has been struggling since his return from the DL.  If we can’t count on Haniger, and if Heredia/Dyson are just speedy slap hitters, then removing Gamel from the equation severely limits this offense’s potential.

But, here’s the deal:  this offense hasn’t been getting the job done as it is.  I know it sounds counter-productive to then remove one of its best hitters, but I think this team would gain more by having another top-shelf starting pitcher than it would having Gamel’s high batting average and long, flowing locks.

It’s either that, or we pretty much give up right now, because as this team is currently constructed, there’s no way we’re seeing the post-season.  There will be hot streaks and cold streaks and ultimately this team will finish right around .500 and ultimately that will be a few games short of our goal.  If that’s what you WANT, and you just want to pack it in and try to re-load for next year, then okay.  Let this next week go by and do nothing.  We’ll all go through the motions for a while, but I’m going to stop giving so much of a shit, because why bother?

This team does NOT have what it takes, and that’s all there is to it.

More than that, there’s no help on the horizon either.  We can’t look forward to a star returning from injury next season, because all the good injured players we have now are likely done for good.  And, all the “Major League-ready” players in AAA and AA are suck-ass and mediocre.  Better hope there’s a free agent or two available, otherwise the Mariners will have to continue trading from their so-called position of strength.  And keep trading from that so-called position of strength until it’s once again the biggest position of weakness on this team.

Super.

Mariners Burn My Ass By Trading Tyler O’Neill, Also Fucking Stink Against The Yankees

It’s getting to be pretty hard to “trust the process” when it looks like the Mariners are no closer to the post-season than they’ve ever been.  When it looks like every trade for a pitcher brings in Chase De Jong.  When it looks like this year’s Mariners team might be worse than last year’s variety, in spite of all the offensive upgrades we’ve made in just a year’s time.

Look, I get the whole argument that fans over-value their own prospects.  But, I also see what Tyler O’Neill has done throughout his minor league career:  he’s gotten consistently better each and every year.  And, I see all these other deals go down around the league, some of which a team gets obviously fleeced, and its trade partner gets good value for its fucking high-ranked prospects (even in a farm system that isn’t exactly overflowing with high-ranked prospects).

I just think it’s stupid to trade someone so good – who can potentially be an All Star – for a pitcher so mediocre, in Marco Gonzales.  A pitcher who missed all of 2016 with Tommy John surgery to his elbow.  A pitcher who has done NOTHING at the Major League level but suck total ass in 12 games over 3 seasons.  A pitcher who was drafted in the first round, but whose only claim to greatness has been half a season in AAA this year; 11 games.  A pitcher who I’m hearing might be out of options after this year?  Which, if that’s the case, is the biggest slap in the face of them all, because these guys (out of options, out of their team’s future plans) are supposed to come at a DISCOUNT; they’re NOT supposed to cost you your best minor league prospect!

Oh, and not only is he not here to help out the Mariners THIS YEAR – you know, when we’re in this playoff race and actually need the starting pitching help – but who’s to say he’ll be ready next year?  If he doesn’t have some injury setback (which, yes, is a real concern now and forever), will he be able to win a spot in this rotation?  Odds are, the Mariners are STILL going to have to bring in other starters to compete!  What happens if we have to settle for Gonzales being a reliever?  THEN what have we done???

And the company line continues to be:  trading from a position of strength to fill a position of weakness.  BULLSHIT!  Even if I believe in Ben Gamel (which, we’re talking about half a season or so), Mitch Haniger has NOT been the same since he returned from his injury (as I predicted), and Guillermo Heredia has been slumping pretty hard since he was effectively put in this centerfield platoon.  How is that a strength?  How would the Mariners not be better served with more competition?  Especially considering how Boog Powell isn’t worth a shit, and Taylor Motter has been figured the fuck out.  If OF is such a position of strength, then where’s the DEPTH???  Tell me that, you company man!  You fucking Mariners sycophant!

In other Mariners Trade News:  they gave Mark Lowe and Jean Machi away to the White Sox for cash.  This allows them to potentially continue their Major League careers, and makes the Mariners look enticing to the next batch of over-the-hill veterans who might sign on for minor league deals.  We hardly knew ye or some shit.

In actual Mariners Baseball News:  they got destroyed by Aaron Judge and the fucking Yankees last night.  Andrew Moore gave up 5 runs in 6 innings, Emilio Pagan went the rest of the way shutting them out, and the offense could only muster 1 run, as they went 3 for 12 with RISP.  C.C. Sabathia got the win, because of course he did.  He kills us when he’s great, he kills us when he’s shit, he kills us when he’s young, he kills us when he’s old.  On a related note, Masahiro Tanaka goes tonight, so get ready to be swept in this stupid fucking series.

New day, more Mariners bullshit.  I hate this fucking team.

The Mariners Wrapped Up A 5-1 Road Trip

Yesterday was very encouraging.

The Mariners had an opportunity to win a series against the Astros, and the Mariners made good on that opportunity.  James Paxton led the way with his seven strong innings, giving up 1 run on 6 hits and 1 walk, with 7 strikeouts, to run his record to 9-3.  Ben Gamel got back on the trolley with a 2-run homer, Jean Segura had 2 more hits, and Mike Zunino had an RBI double.  Vincent and Scrabble got through the eighth inning unscathed, and Edwin Diaz got his fifth save since the All Star Break (or, his 5th save in 6 days, if we want to be more accurate).

This sets up the Mariners very well going forward.  At 48-48, we’re still 15.5 games behind the Astros, but we’re back to 1.5 games back in the Wild Card chase.  And, as chance would have it, we come home to play 4 games against the team currently residing in that 2nd Wild Card spot, the New York Yankees (who haven’t won a series since June 9th-11th against Baltimore, so on the one hand we’re catching them at the right time, but on the other hand watch them sweep us right out of the race).

There are some interesting (to me) numbers as we head into our last homestand before August.  The victory against Houston – while bringing us back to .500 – put us at +1 in run differential.  So, really, there isn’t a whole lotta good or bad luck at play here in that regard.  The 5-1 road trip also brought the Mariners to 21-26 on the year, which is a little more appropriate (and a far cry from how terrible we started out).  Also, through 96 games last year, the Mariners were 49-47.  I can’t tell you if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I can tell you that at this time last year, the Mariners never fell below .500 the rest of the way.  Remember, those Mariners ended up 10 games over .500 and were 3 games back in the Wild Card race.  I know this year it looks pretty grim in the American League, and that a not-so-great team or two might squeak into the post-season, but I’m also a firm believer that at least a couple teams (not necessarily named the Astros or Red Sox) are going to go on a run, and it’s going to take a record right around 90 wins to get into this thing.  For the Mariners, they’d have to go 42-24 the rest of the way to get to that point.

I could be wrong, and the A.L. could remain mediocre the rest of the way, but I’m not going to hold my breath.  The time to strike is right fucking now.

The rest of the way, the Mariners play 7 games against the Yankees, 3 against the Red Sox, 4 against the Royals, 6 against the Orioles, 3 against the Rays, 3 against the Indians, 10 against the Rangers, and 10 against the Angels.  46 of our 66 remaining games are against teams right there in the thick of the playoff hunt (not counting the Astros, who are just in, no questions asked; though if you’re asking, we play them only 6 more times thank Christ).  46 games against our direct competition; we are going to have to MOW through those teams in a big way if we want to be in there at the end!

It starts with Felix tonight, then continues with our three worst starters the rest of the weekend.  Yippie skippy doo.

Mariners Win A Crazy One In Houston

When I turned this game off to go to bed, it was already pretty nutty.  Nick Vincent was on the mound to start the bottom of the eighth as the Mariners regained the lead, at this point 7-6.  Ariel Miranda had a decent start going through the first five innings of the game, giving up 2 runs through that point, and the rest of the Mariners did sufficient damage to knock out Lance McCullers in the top of the fifth, as we put up a 3-run lead on the board.

Then, after two quick outs in the sixth, Miranda fell apart, culminating with the game-tying 2-run home run by Carlos Beltran.  At that point, it started to feel like a normal Astros/Mariners game.  Oh sure, they were toying around with us, letting us feel some semblance of comfort with such a lead; then those alligator jaws snapped shut right on our dicks!  This line of thinking was further cemented when James Pazos had to relieve Miranda – still with two quick outs in the sixth – and proceeded to load the bases, necessitating another pitching change in the inning.  Tony Zych walked in the go-ahead run before getting out of the jam, and that was that.  Clap your hands and walk away, the Mariners were done for!

But, then something funny happened.  And it continued to happen.  Starting with the top of the seventh, Nelson Cruz homered to left to tie the game.  Then, in the top of the eighth, Mike Zunino homered to left to give the Mariners their 1-run lead!  Then, Nick Vincent took over and it all started to feel a lot better as I hit the sack.  Surely our best reliever this season would keep the game in check!

You know, I can hardly blame the guy.  It’s been a weird start to the second half; four days, four games where the Mariners have had a narrow lead in need of saving, four appearances by the likes of Nick Vincent.  Three singles and a strikeout before the sac fly (off of Steve Cishek, who had to come in to mop up) tied the game, ultimately sending it to extras.  That’s a lot of work for someone like Vincent; hell, he’s on pace to obliterate his season highs for appearances and innings pitched!

This has been one seriously overworked bullpen coming out of the break, and one that – by and large – has gotten the job done.  Even Yovani Gallardo – who kicked off the bottom of the ninth, hoping to keep the game tied – managed to do his job (though, with a LOT of help from the defense of Jean Segura).  Segura had probably two of the best defensive plays I’ve ever seen out of him in this game, including a dive in the hole and throw to first base from his knees.  Between that, his two hits, and his run scored, there’s a good argument he was your player of the game.

But, really, there were a ton of heroes in this one.  Kyle Seager hit the go-ahead homer in the tenth, followed immediately by the insurance homer from Danny Valencia to give the Mariners their eventual 9-7 victory.  Or, how about Edwin Diaz, who has also pitched in the last four games, getting his fourth save in four days to give him 17 on the season and put him in the Top 10 in the A.L.

There’s the aforementioned homers by Cruz and Zunino, or the earlier 2-run double by Zunino, or the earlier RBI double by Valencia, or the Seager bunt against the shift (who came around to score on that Valencia double to the left field corner), or the other Seager infield single that allowed Gamel to score from third.  And on and on and on.

All in all, it was a fantastic win, but it’s also not time to rest your laurels.  This win doesn’t mean much if we go out and lose the next two.  The last time we beat the Astros, it was at the end of a 6-game winning streak back in late June; the Mariners would go on to lose the next four (including two to the hapless Phillies) and 10 of their next 13, so you see how quickly this thing can turn on you.  The time to get back over .500 for good is NOW, so let’s do this thing!

In case you were wondering, for posterity, the Mariners are back to 2nd place in the A.L. West (15.5 games behind the Astros), and 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the second Wild Card.  Soak it in!  Just in case this is as good as it gets.