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 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.

Mike Zunino Smashed The Mariners To Glory

Not “Smashed” in the Jersey Shore sense, although in a way …

Also, what’s a Jersey Shore?

Mike Zunino has been on an incredible tear!  This is like nothing he’s ever put up before!  I’m not exaggerating; he’s never had a month as good as this June.  The closest is probably his April in 2014 when he had a slash line of:

  • .279/.306/.471/.776, with 3 homers, 4 doubles, 10 RBI, and 7 runs scored

Now, compare that to just the first 19 days in June of this year:

  • .385/.431/.885/1.316, with 8 homers, 2 doubles, 26 RBI, and 11 runs scored

The walks to strikeouts ratio hasn’t changed a whole lot, but he passes the eyeball test.  He’s putting himself in better counts, working his way back from 0-2 holes, and forcing pitchers to throw to him in the strike zone.  Even better, he’s actually HITTING those pitches instead of swinging through them like he was earlier this year (and for most of his career)!

Now, obviously, he could turn back into a pumpkin as early as tonight and go on another prolonged cold streak.  His actual June numbers by month’s end might not look so hot from a slash-line perspective (which, you would think will happen regardless, what with regression and all that), but the point is he’s never been nearly as good for nearly as long as he has through the first three weeks of this month.  No one is expecting Mike Zunino to compete for triple crowns (although, can you imagine?), but it’s comforting to know he’s got this in him.

I’ve said all along:  just give me a Mike Zunino who hits around .250.  With his power, with his pitch-framing ability and overall defensive ability, with the way he’s great with the pitching staff, with his leadership, that’s a guy I wouldn’t mind having at catcher for a good, long career.  Anything above and beyond that, hittingwise, is gravy.  And, in this month of June, we’ve been blessed with a whole shit-ton of gravy!

Last night, with the game tied in the bottom of the sixth, Mike Zunino cranked a 2-run home run to left field – over the bullpens – to put the Mariners ahead.  Then, in the bottom of the eighth, with the M’s still clinging to that 2-run lead, Mike Zunino ding-donged one to center to give the good guys a comfortable 4-run advantage (and thereby swipe a save opportunity from Edwin Diaz, who was already warming up in the ‘pen).  Not for nothing, but it was Z’s second multi-homer game of the month, but that probably doesn’t surprise you.

It might surprise you to see yet another fine pitching performance by this beleaguered bunch.  Sam Gaviglio gave the Mariners 5 solid innings of 2-run ball.  He got into a couple jams by giving up 3 hits and walking 4, but was able to greatly limit the damage thanks to some timely double plays.

Which brings us to the big question:  who will the Mariners keep in the rotation, Gaviglio or Bergman?

For what it’s worth, the organization might not have to make that decision just yet, as Iwakuma got a rehab start last night and could only make it through 2 innings.  He might need another outing or two (like Felix did) before bringing him back.  But, the question is looming regardless.

It could be further complicated if the Mariners decide to throw rationality to the wind and keep Yovani Gallardo on this roster.  I mean, look, he’s been ridiculously terrible this year.  If you go by the generous “Quality Start” definition in Major League Baseball (going at least 6 innings, giving up no more than 3 earned runs), he only has 4 in 14 total appearances.  He’s given up fewer than 3 runs only twice; for a so-called innings eater, he’s only gone 7 innings one time; and worst of all is he’s earning $11 million this year (with a $2 million buy-out next year).  It’s absolutely fucking shameful.

The primary argument for choosing Gallardo over the other two is that he’s got experience (Bergman had 14 starts over 3 seasons before this year; Gaviglio is a rookie).  He’s also a veteran, while I believe the other guys should have options (Bergman has less than 2 years of service time, so we should be good there).  Talentwise, Gallardo has a decent fastball, but he’s just been getting pounded.  There’s a slight argument in his favor that he usually only has 1 bad inning per start, and once he gets around that, he’s putting up zeroes.  But, that 1 bad inning is usually very early in the game, and it’s usually REALLY bad, putting the team in too big a hole to climb out of.  You’d think, if he could take better command of that 1 bad inning and at least limit the damage, he’d be an effective starter for this team.  But, you’d also think if he had that ability in him, he would have done it by now.

The fact of the matter is, Gallardo sucks at getting out of jams.  He’s been nothing but a liability for this team, and I don’t think we would’ve been any worse off if we’d given all of his starts to Chase De Jong all season.  Just because he’s been healthy all year and has made all of his starts is no feather in his cap.  If anything, he’s the ONE guy I WISH would’ve gotten injured, as opposed to the four guys who did.

If this is any sort of just and fair world, Gallardo gets hacked off this roster as soon as Felix returns on Friday.  Because, based on performance, Gallardo is severely lagging behind Bergman and Gaviglio.

Which gets us back to the aforementioned big question:  Bergman or Gaviglio?

Bergman has 3/9 quality starts; Gaviglio has 2/7 (with an asterisk, as one of those “quality starts” saw him give up 4 unearned runs in a loss).  By my own vague definition of starts where they kept the Mariners in the ballgame, I’ve got Bergman at 6/9 and Gaviglio at 4/7.  Bergman has a couple 7+ shutout inning performances under his belt and looks like a guy who will give you more quality innings; but he’s also got those two truly atrocious starts where he gave up 10 and 9 runs respectively.  Conversely, Gaviglio has gone between 5-6 innings in every start, giving up 0-5 runs.

Which leads to my thumbnail definition of each guy.  Bergman is more likely to eat more innings and look better doing it; but he’ll also have starts where he completely falls apart and looks like the most hittable guy on the planet.  Gaviglio is more likely to give you 5 innings and limit damage to 2-3 runs.

If I’m being honest, I think Bergman is the better, more talented pitcher right now, but I just flat out feel better when I see Gaviglio is on the mound.  There’s no way to explain it, because if these two guys pitched for the A’s or something, I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.  Frankly, I don’t know how BOTH of those guys aren’t getting destroyed every time they hit the mound.  Looks like a lot of smoke and mirrors, if you ask me.  I could be way off base, though, but I just feel like Gaviglio has a higher upside.  Maybe I’m just easily impressed by the “bulldog mentality”.  Of course, the last guy we had around here with a bulldog mentality was Erik Bedard, and he too was prone to the Five & Dive start.

I really don’t have a clue as to what the Mariners are going to decide.  I’m pretty confident they’ll let Gallardo go at some point.  Considering Bergman was called up before Gaviglio – meaning he was “ahead” of Gaviglio on the theoretical depth chart – if I had to guess I’d say they roll with Bergman for a while and let Gaviglio keep starting in Tacoma.  Of course, I doubt we will have seen the last of either of the guys who end up being sent down to Tacoma.  What, the Mariners are suddenly going to get and STAY healthy?  Poppycock!

As for the rest of last night’s game, kudos to Guillermo Heredia – getting the start for Haniger, who was given a rest day – who hit the game-tying 2-run home run in the fifth.

Big ups to James Pazos, who got the win with his 1.1 innings of shutout relief.

Bigger ups to Nick Vincent, who went 1.1 innings of shutout ball for the second day in a row.  As I was talking about on Twitter last night, that’s 13 consecutive appearances where he hasn’t given up a run.  He’s 8 for 8 in Hold opportunities in that span, going 11.1 innings, giving up 10 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 7.  He’s been an absolute beast all year and the only guy in the ‘pen (besides Pazos maybe?) who hasn’t really had any sort of prolonged slump.  He’s locked down that 8th inning role and is able to be used multiple innings on multiple days in a row, which is really important for a team that’s largely struggled with its bullpen for the season.

Also, a shout out to Jarrod Dyson, who is having his own fine month of June.  Ever since Mitch Haniger came back, and it looked like Dyson’s grasp of a starting job might be in jeopardy, he’s come out swinging like a big dog to fend off Heredia for now.  It’s a crowded outfield, with four guys playing really well, and I can’t remember the last time I was able to say that with a straight face.

This Tigers series continues with Ariel Miranda tonight.

The Mariners Continue To Be Terrible On The Road

Well, the good news is that James Paxton isn’t injured, or currently in pain (so says he), but the bad news is his mechanics and timing are off, and that’s resulting in some pretty shitty performances.

The Rangers put up 7 on him in less than 4 innings, and that was that.  Tony Zych gave up an inherited runner, but otherwise suffered no ill effects.  Zac Curtis was called up to replace Chase De Jong and went 3 innings, giving up 3 runs, so expect him to go back to the minors any minute now.

On the offensive side of the ball, Ben Gamel continues to be an on-base & run-scoring machine.  It’s clear that Gamel won the job over Guillermo Heredia, and with the run on right-handed starters we’ve faced, it appears center field is now a strict platoon between Heredia and Dyson.  Interesting.  Speaking of Dyson, he hit his 4th homer of the season, which is pretty insane for him.  In case it wasn’t clear, 4 is a high for him in a season; he came into this year with 7, over a 7-year career in Kansas City.  So, bully for him.

This game was a snooze from the jump, so I’m not going to give it too much thought.  Paxton needs to figure his shit out and do it in a hurry.  2pm game today with Gallardo, so I dunno, maybe skip it?  Maybe go outside and get some fresh air?  Maybe watch literally anything else that might be on TV?  Yeah, do that.  Fuck the Mariners.

The Mariners Had To Settle For A Split In Minnesota

What can you say?  Ariel Miranda had a clunker.  4 innings, 10 hits, 6 runs, 1 walk, and only 2 strikeouts.  Giving up 5 runs in the first really hurt him, loading the bases with nobody out in the second almost got him yanked even earlier, but, you know, credit where it’s due.  Aside from a solo homer in the third, he settled in just a little bit to at least give the Mariners half a game’s worth of pitching.  Considering it had been 7 starts since his last clunker, I’m willing to let this one slide.  Miranda has been a very valuable pitcher for the Mariners this year, so I’d think he’s earned it.

Didn’t help that the offense never really got on track.  Gamel had a solid game, with a couple hits, an RBI, and a run scored; Cano also had an RBI single; Seager had a couple hits including a double; and Motter had a single, but that was about it.  Considering the M’s were going up against the Twins’ ace in Jose Berrios, we were going to need better pitching than what we got.

However, don’t you dare lump Chase De Jong in with that group!  He was outstanding yesterday, going the remaining 4 innings, giving up just 1 hit, 0 runs, 2 walks, and 2 strikeouts.  I said yesterday that I didn’t think the Mariners had any intention of using him unless it was an emergency situation, so go ahead and put the blame on me for jinxing Miranda in this one.

With that fine outing under his belt, expect De Jong to get the Mariners Special:  a one-way ticket back to Tacoma, to be replaced by some other long-reliever type.  Round and round she goes, where she stops nobody knows!

Three game series in Texas this weekend; Paxton, Gallardo, and Bergman on the hill.  Will THIS be the series the Mariners finally get over .500?

Mariners’ Bullpen Saved The Day Against The Twins

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

But, this one belonged to the bullpen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Might Actually Salvage A .500 Road Trip Later Today

After losing 2 of 3 in Washington, and then 2 of 3 in Boston, you start to wonder, “What’s the point?”  Yet, here we are, one win away from a 2-game sweep of the Rockies, thanks to a hard-fought 6-5 victory yesterday.

The Mariners had hits up and down the lineup, even Sam Gaviglio with a single that would come around to score.  Ben Gamel had a couple hits and a couple runs scored, Danny Valencia had 3 hits and an RBI, Mike Zunino had a couple hits and a walk, Kyle Seager had a double and 2 RBI.  And, once again, the Mariners left a bunch of runs out on the table, going 2 for 13 with RISP.  I would anticipate a huge breakout any day now.

Gaviglio was more or less rolling, giving up 3 runs in 5 innings, with a very low pitch count, before coming back out for the 6th.  He gave up back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before being pulled; both would come around to score.  Nevertheless, the Mariners had already scored their 6 runs by this point, and the bullpen would prove masterful in locking down the victory.

Pazos went 1.1 innings, Zych went 0.2; Vincent, Scrabble, and Altavilla mixed and matched and each got an out in the 8th inning, and Edwin Diaz looked downright dominant in closing things out in the 9th.

After a promising start to the month, where the Mariners went 6-2, they’ve been in a nosedive, winning only 4 of their next 16 games.  The Mariners have won 2 in a row here and time will tell if it’s just a blip in a much longer, more painful losing stretch, or if this is the beginning of the Great Turnaround.

On the plus side, James Paxton returns tomorrow.  The rotation for the next five days looks like this:  Miranda, Paxton, Gallardo, Bergman, and Gaviglio.  That’s obviously far from ideal, but Miranda has made great strides this year, as has Paxton before he got hurt (and Paxton was starting much further ahead than Miranda to boot, so it’s really saying something to say that Paxton has made a lot of strides); and Bergman and Gaviglio have looked semi-competent at times this season.  It’s encouraging to see Felix start to throw the ball pain-free (it’s less encouraging to see Iwakuma not-so-pain-free; and I’ll believe it when I see it for Smyly).  I don’t want it to sound like I’m getting my hopes up here or anything.  The REAL Great Turnaround for this season might not hit its stride until July or August, at which point it might be too late to mean anything as far as the playoffs are concerned.  I’m just looking for baby steps right now.  I’m looking for this team to not have to make daily roster moves between Seattle and Tacoma.  Then, I’ll be happy if Scott Servais can simply settle on a back-end of the bullpen that’s based on merit, and not based on whose arm is the freshest.  It’s got to be discouraging for someone like Jean Machi – who was solid for Seattle before he had to be sent back down, only to never get a repeat opportunity – or someone like Pagan, who had a wonderful 4-inning scoreless outing before going back to Tacoma.

Then, once we’re able to lock down the bullpen, wouldn’t it be nice to start getting guys back from injury without immediately seeing other guys have to go on the DL?  The Mariners will never be at 100% full strength, but wouldn’t it be nice to see them at 90 or 95% full strength, for like a full month or more?  I KNOW, look at the big dreamer over here; next thing I’ll be asking for is fresh air and clean drinking water!

This is why I don’t feel even remotely sorry for Angels fans for Mike Trout going on the DL for 6-8 weeks.  Talk to me when you’ve had to start Chase De Jong FOUR TIMES.

The Mariners Are Finding Their Season Slowly Slipping Away

Chris Heston got the start yesterday; the 11th starter the Mariners have used through 7 weeks of the season.  You might remember him from that 19-9 shellacking against the Tigers back in April.  That was the game where Felix Hernandez left early with his shoulder injury; in that game, Heston gave up 5 runs in 2 innings.  He was immediately sent down to Tacoma.  Well, desperate times call for desperate measures, so he was called up for Sunday to get the spot start (Dillon Overton had appeared the night before, going 4.1 innings of relief, giving up 5 runs in the process, and was forced back down to make room; thanks again Yovani Gallardo).

Heston, in his start yesterday, went 3 innings and gave up 7 runs, as the Mariners would go on to get destroyed again, this time 8-1.  I don’t anticipate Heston will be long for this rotation; how could he?  Two appearances, 5 total innings, 12 total runs?  In case you were wondering, that’s very BAD on the Chase De Jong scale; at the very least, I’d think you’d have to bring him back before you gave Heston another start, but what do I know?

I didn’t watch this game, because fuck that noise.  I’m tired of watching these garbage pitchers.  I don’t understand how people who attend these games aren’t constantly throwing garbage on the field, because I’d be pissed if I paid to watch these Mariners play baseball.

Dan Vogelbach got a temporary call-up to start in place of Danny Valencia (Mike Freeman was sent down to make room).  He got a hit, but I wouldn’t get used to him being around, because I hear he’s going right back to Tacoma.  Sounds like Valencia’s hand injury isn’t serious and will just be shot up full of drugs, so that’s neat.

The Mariners get a day off before an east coast swing through D.C. and Boston.  Robbie Cano will be back.  And, by all accounts, Mike Zunino will be returning, so the long national Tuffy-mare is finally over.

Considering the Phillies, Blue Jays, Athletics, and White Sox are all god-fucking-awful, yet the Mariners could only manage a record of 5-8 against them the last two weeks; and considering the Nationals, Red Sox, and Rockies are all pretty-fucking-great, it would only stand to reason the Mariners will literally be murdered in the next week and a half.  But, since this is baseball, and baseball makes no fucking sense ever, watch the Mariners come out swinging and actually manage a winning record in this impossible stretch.

What a dumb, dumb game.  I’ll be happy to have the next day off of thinking about this stupid team.

Mariners Bullpen Blows It, Offense Walks It Off In The Ninth

Yeah, I don’t care, I’m bringing back the phrase Walk Off, even if the winning team doesn’t walk in the winning run!  COME AT ME BRO!

Sam Gaviglio got the start yesterday, and like Christian Bergman the day before, he was greatly effective.  Five shutout innings, on 3 hits and 1 walk, with 2 strikeouts.  Considering it sounds like he wasn’t TOTALLY stretched out – I kept hearing about how the Mariners were only expecting to get four innings out of him – that was quite the amazing performance.  Once again, someone else who has leapfrogged Chase De Jong on my Chase De Jong scale.

The Mariners’ offense did some work early, with Dyson pulling a solo homer in the third, and with Segura jacking a 3-run homer in the bottom of the fifth.  They turned things over to the bullpen with a 4-0 lead, and I dunno, maybe I’m shortsighted.  I figured a day after Bergman spun his magic, and Pazos cleaned up after him, we’d have a more available bullpen with which to work.  But, apparently the plan was to get whatever they could out of Gaviglio, and then immediately turn the ball over to Casey Lawrence for something resembling long relief.

I would argue, once you get five innings out of the 10th starter you’ve used this season, and once your offense gives you a 4-0 lead, you don’t mess around.  By all means!  Use Casey Lawrence!  You brought him into the organization, you called him up, it’s the least you can do.  When you’ve got four full innings of relief to spread around, the bottom man in the bullpen is good enough to throw in there in the sixth inning.  And, to his credit, Casey Lawrence did a fine job.  Other than an infield single, he got the White Sox out in order.  Bingo bango bongo.

So, WHY would you bring him back out for the seventh???

Double to left, homer to left, 4-2 Mariners.  I don’t get it.  Everybody should’ve been fresh-enough!  You go one inning per reliever, use up four relievers, and you worry about Friday on FRIDAY!

Thankfully, Lawrence was able to settle down and finish out the seventh, but it could’ve gotten REALLY hairy there if he didn’t.  At that point, still with the 2-run lead going into the eighth, I was at least moderately confident we could get this thing to the ninth with a lead.

WRONG.

I don’t really blame Servais for using Altavilla in this spot, though I understand if you do.  He was coming off of a real bonzer outing two days earlier, but before that he’s been inconsistent as the day is long.  In gratitude for Servais’ confidence in him, Altavilla got the first two outs of the inning, then gave up back-to-back solo homers to tie the game.  Just brutal.

But, you know, what can you do?  Edwin Diaz was just demoted and is working on his mechanics; I think they’re looking for a softer landing for him than eighth inning set up man.  Steve Cishek just came off the DL and he too just blew a game recently.  Tony Zych is apparently also being handled with kid gloves.  Even though he was used three straight days from May 13th through the 15th, I guess he needs three full days off to recover?  I dunno.

What I do know is that it was pretty clear they were saving Nick Vincent for the ninth.  With Overton being saved for Sunday in all likelihood, that only left Scrabble as a possible eighth inning guy, but there were a bunch of right-handed bats coming up that inning, so Altavilla was the guy.  Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just telling you my theory on this whole thing.

Still doesn’t totally forgive putting Lawrence out there for a second inning, because that guy was already terrible when we got him, and it’s not like joining the Mariners is going to magically fix all his issues.

Anyway, Vincent got through the ninth inning without incident, and there we were, the bottom of the ninth.  I was tired, hoping to get to sleep in the near future; I’m sure the Mariners were tired; it was a long, cold night.  The bottom of the order got things going.

Taylor Motter’s leadoff single was erased by a subpar sac bunt by Dyson, but in a way if you had to choose who you want standing on first, you certainly would rather have Dyson there via the fielder’s choice.  Obviously, in an ideal world, the bunt would’ve worked and they both would’ve been safe, but that’s neither here nor there.  Unfortunately, with a lefty on the mound, Dyson couldn’t steal second.  He did run on a 3-2 count to Ruiz, who grounded out, thus allowing Dyson to advance to second.  With two outs, they walked Jean Segura, because that guy is a machine; plus I’m sure they liked the lefty/lefty matchup with Gamel coming to the plate.

Except, Guillermo Heredia was still on the bench (getting a rest day, with Boog Powell getting the start), so he came out to pinch hit.  Blowers noted that the White Sox had a righty warming up in the bullpen, so I figured it was academic:  they’d bring him in to face Heredia, and we’d go from there.

Instead, they left the lefty in there, Heredia knocked a single to right-center, and Dyson came flying around to score the WALK OFF run.  Just like Servais drew it up, right?

All in all, a nice little win for a desperate team.

In Injuries Rule Our Lives news, Paxton, Felix, Kuma, and Smyly all threw baseballs this week.  Paxton actually threw a legit bullpen, and is looking to do a rehab start in the near future.  Mitch Haniger is setting out for a rehab assignment of his own this weekend, with the hope that maybe he’ll be able to return during the next road trip.  As always, I’ll believe it when I see it.

The Mariners Won Their First Non-Paxton Shutout Of The Season

It’s true.  The Mariners have won four shutouts this season; the first three of them were on the arm of James Paxton.  Yesterday?  The pitcher of record was … Christian Bergman?

This was Bergman’s third appearance for the Mariners this season.  In his first outing, he piggy-backed on a Dillon Overton start, outshining the lefty by going 3.2 innings, giving up just 1 run.  He got the start five days later against Toronto in a losing effort, going 5 innings and giving up 3 runs (in a game where the Mariners were shut out).  So, you’ll be forgiven if you didn’t really know what to expect out of him against the A’s last night.  Of the mediocre Quad-A starters/long relievers the Mariners have employed this season (De Jong, Overton, Weber, Marshall, and Heston), Bergman has looked the most reliably effective.  But, again, VERY small sample size.

Regardless, I don’t think anyone expected Bergman to go 7.1 innings of shutout ball, giving up 2 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 9.  Those are elite starter’s numbers by a guy whose fastball is Jamie Moyer-esque!

I won’t say “the pressure was on” or anything ridiculous like that, because all of these games are equally meaningful (in spite of the fact that they feel less important with each passing Mariners defeat), but I will say that he picked a great time to have the best game of his career.  I know I keep harping on the 8-man bullpen thing, but those guys have been seriously over-worked lately!  You wouldn’t think it’d be possible, but you also have to take into account the fact that the Mariners have to hold back some of these long relievers so they can be spot starters later (when the next injury inevitably crops up), so it’s not like the Mariners actually have an 8-man ‘pen at all.  So, for Bergman to pitch into the eighth inning, and for James Pazos to go the rest of the way (without the need for someone else to start warming up behind him), it was just what the doctor ordered.

In “The Mariners Make A Transaction Every Day” news:  Chase De Jong was sent back to Tacoma in favor of an extra reliever, Casey Lawrence.  Lawrence was recently DFA’d and looks pretty terrible, but it also seems like he’s just here temporarily until we can replace him with someone better.  De Jong wasn’t really making any progress as a starter, and it’s safe to say Bergman has officially lapped him on the depth chart, so to speak.  James Paxton is up and throwing again, with no ill effects so far, so the hope is he goes out on a rehab assignment and returns to the Mariners by month’s end.  As for who starts for De Jong in the next turn in the rotation, I haven’t the foggiest, but the tea leaves are pointing to Dillon Overton again.

With Cano still on the shelf, it’s nice to see Cruz and Seager step up of late.  And Jean Segura has been a godsend at the top of the order (which makes me uncomfortable when people talk about him being trade bait later this summer, when the Mariners officially give up on the season).  Ben Gamel got back on the horse with 2 hits last night (including a triple in the first) and a run scored.  Boog Powell and Guillermo Heredia also got in on the act last night, which was nice to see.

The White Sox come to town for a 4-game set, starting tonight.  Sam Gaviglio will make his first-ever start in the Major Leagues a week after making his Major League debut in relief against the Blue Jays, going 2 innings, giving up 1 run.

The Mariners apparently traded for Gaviglio last year with the Cardinals, for infielder Ty Kelly.  He worked his way from AA to AAA, putting himself in a position to get the start tonight.  I hardly remember what his stuff looks like from a week ago, because all of these guys are starting to look the same to me, but considering he’s the TENTH different starter the Mariners will have used (a mere 6.5 weeks into the season), I don’t have the highest of hopes for his success.  The bar for me right now is Chase De Jong.  If he’s better than De Jong, we’ve got a shot.  If he’s worse than De Jong, it’s going to take a heroic effort from our offense.  And, considering good ol’ TBD is scheduled to start for the Mariners on Sunday, I’ll repeat myself:  Christian Bergman couldn’t have picked a better time to save this bullpen.

Every Mariners victory this month feels like five, because they’re so unexpected and so unlikely.  The mantra continues to be:  hang in there until guys come back, and I don’t think that’s going to change at least until the July trade deadline.  But, that mantra also dies a little more with every new injury and I don’t know how much more I can take of this tug o’ war with my soul.  It’s probably too much to ask for a nice, long winning streak, or for guys to return from injury without other guys immediately going down, but I’d sure like to rest easy for a spell.