The Mariners Cling For Dear Life Against The Braves

Albers are off when you’ve got Andrew Albers on the mound!

The Mariners have used, what, 37 different pitchers this season?  35 if you take out the two position players who had to mop up in extreme blowout defeats?  And, in that, we’ve got 16 different pitchers who made at least 1 start this year.  We’ve had injuries, BOY have we had injuries!  And, beyond that, we’ve had a whole lotta ineffectiveness.  From De Jong to Bergman to Overton to Heston to Whalen to Gaviglio to Moore to Gonzales to Gallardo and so on and so forth.  Aside from the injuries, there really hasn’t been anything we could depend upon with this rotation besides Ariel Miranda, I guess.  And, while we’ve had to muddle through all these starts to get back to the brief healthy times we’ve enjoyed, I’ve been sitting here and waiting.  Waiting and hoping.  Hoping and praying that just ONE guy would come up to Seattle and blow us all away.  Even if it’s the most unsustainable, unrepeatable string of starts, I DON’T CARE!  All these Quad-A pitchers have absolutely lived up to their mediocre expectations; can I just get one guy to surpass them, even if it isn’t real?

Well, we’re only two starts in, but there’s a lot I’ve liked about those two starts with Andrew Albers on the mound.  He came over in a nothing trade with the Braves a couple weeks back and immediately gave us 5 innings of 1-run ball against the Orioles (one of the plethora of teams we’re in Wild Card contention with).  And then he followed that up with last night’s performance.

Through five innings, he’d only given up 2 runs.  His pitch count was low, and the M’s had a 6-2 lead, so he was allowed to pitch into the sixth.  An error and a single ended his night without getting another out, and both of those runners ended up scoring after Emilio Pagan cleared the bases by allowing a triple to center, but that’s just bad luck more than anything else.  I thought Albers looked fantastic last night!  Of course, that’s based on the lowest of expectations, particularly when you consider all those meatball pitchers I mentioned above, but nevertheless it’s nice to have someone finally come around and exceed expectations for a while.  I hope it lasts.

It was nice to see the offense jump out early and play add on throughout the game.  The Mariners managed a run in the second, then after falling behind 2-1, poured it on.  Another rally in the third produced a run, and the M’s put up a 3-spot in the fourth on hits by Alonso and Cano.  Alonso would double again in the sixth to knock in our final run, which ended up being huge considering all the damage the Braves were able to do with Pagan on the mound.

Also, don’t look now, but Yonder Alonso has been on fire after something of a quiet start since joining the club and taking over for Danny Valencia at first.  He’s rocking an 8-game hitting streak, going 13 for 30 with 4 extra base hits, 6 runs scored, and 8 RBI.  I know the Mariners’ offense was pretty good before he got here, but you’ll always take those kinds of numbers.  I think an infusion of production like that is just what this team needed.  Yesterday especially, what with Nelson Cruz riding the pine (and not even getting a pinch hit AB, due to circumstances of the game) in the National League park.  God the National League’s rules are stupid (hashtag Embrace The DH).

Quick shoutout to the rest of the bullpen.  After Pagan got knocked around (he’s been a little dicey the last couple times out), Scrabble, Vincent, and Diaz came in and locked it down.  That’s 28 saves for Diaz.  And Scrabble has been nails over the last week or so, and really for the entire month of August.  As for Vincent, he’s the MVP of this pitching staff, without question.

So, not too bad of a start to this road trip.  That victory puts the Mariners at 3-1 through the first third of this trip; which, if they could just match that for the next 2/3 of this trip, sign me up TODAY!  Yesterday’s win also brought their road record to 30-30 on the season, which is pretty insane when you consider they started out the year 8-20.  Since that nadir in late May, after the second game in Boston, the M’s have gone 22-10 on the road.  Unbelievable!

That victory also puts the Mariners at an even 1 game behind the Twins for the second Wild Card.  Predictably, the Angels fell back and are now just 0.5 games ahead of the Mariners.  The Royals are still lingering, 0.5 games behind the Mariners; and the Rangers are too, just a game back of the M’s (tied in the loss column).

Looking ahead, there are two more games down in Atlanta before another off-day, featuring the two worst Mariners pitchers currently in the rotation – Marco Gonzales and Erasmo Ramirez.  Gonzales has yet to pitch over 4.1 innings and I have to believe is one more poor start away from being sent back to Tacoma, so today will be REALLY interesting.  Erasmo, meanwhile, is on a 2-game hot streak, so you have to wonder how long it will take for that house of cards to topple over.

Then, in the Yankees series this weekend, the Mariners have – in theory – their three best healthy starters going (Miranda, then Gallardo, then Albers again).  But, the Bronx Bombers feature C.C. Sabathia (who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS fucking destroys us), Sonny Gray (the ex-A’s starter they traded for at the deadline), and Masahiro Tanaka (who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS – except last time – fucking destroys us).  It could be a really yucky, miserable weekend, is what I’m saying.

So, Mariners, let’s try REAL HARD to win these next two against the Braves, so we can justify what’s surely going to be a series sweep this weekend.

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.

The Mariners Picked The Worst Possible Time To Slump Offensively

The Mariners weren’t supposed to be this bad on offense.  Oh sure, even the best offenses have their bad days here and there.  But, over the last 8 games, the Mariners have scored 9 runs, and won only one of those games.  That’s obviously not going to get the job done.

With this pitching staff at its healthiest, there was never going to be a “good” time to slump offensively.  But, with how injured they are now, we all needed them to be abnormally productive offensively.  For this team to contend, the offense has to carry the load; we always knew that.  It was never going to make the Mariners a championship contender – because, as we all know, Pitching Wins Championships – but there have been plenty of teams throughout the years who have gotten pretty far on offense alone.  So, they better fucking snap out of it in a hurry!

Rob Whalen became the 12th different starting pitcher for the Mariners yesterday.  Like most of these guys, he ran into a big inning early, hung around, until they got to him again late in his appearance.  He went 5.1 innings, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits, 2 walks, and 0 strikeouts.  Casey Lawrence went the rest of the way, giving up 1 run to help save the bullpen some stress.

On the plus side, James Paxton returns on Wednesday.  So, one of these AAA fucks can go back to Tacoma.

In weird Mariners transaction news, Chris Heston and Mike Freeman were both claimed by the Dodgers.  I’m sure, now that they’re Dodgers, they’ll fucking kick ass, so congratulations to them.

In weird Red Sox transaction news, the guy who just shut us out yesterday, going the full 9 innings and all that, was sent down to AAA after the game.  So, WAY TO GO Mariners!  You got shut out by a AAA pitcher!  I hope you feel good about yourselves.

The M’s will see if they can get shut out for the full 3-game series later this morning.  I’m betting there’s a pretty good chance of it!

The Mariners Can’t Not Get Killed

I’ll be honest, I didn’t catch a single minute of this game.  I had other things going on, and before I knew it, the game was over in what has to be in the running for shortest game of the season.  Certainly the shortest game where one team scored 10 runs.

Christian Bergman followed up his best-ever start with his worst-ever start, so that’s neat.  4 innings, 10 runs, 14 hits, 2 walks, 0 strikeouts, and a whopping 4 home runs.  He apparently couldn’t get out of that fourth inning, where he gave up 8 of his runs.

Emilio Pagan – called up to replace Chris Heston – finished out the last 4 innings of the game, giving up 1 hit, no runs, and garnering 4 strikeouts.  After a couple of VERY shaky performances to start his Major League career, he settled down quite nicely it would seem.

Mike Zunino – putting that Tuffy nonsense to bed once and for all – returned to the Mariners, and in his first game back hit a solo home run to keep the M’s from being shut out.  He still struck out twice, but it’s a start.  Washington’s pitcher went 8 innings, giving up only the 5 hits and 0 walks, so it’s safe to say it was just his day.

Robinson Cano returned from the DL (Dan Vogelbach was predictably sent to Tacoma to make room) and went hitless in 3 at bats before being taken out of the game.  Probably shouldn’t expect him to be in mid-season form on his first day back from injury.

In the last three games, the Mariners have lost 16-1, 8-1, and now 10-1.  That’s -31 in run differential, bringing our season total to -29.  THAT’S how bad the Mariners have been the last three games.  The pitching has been a disaster, the hitting has been a disaster, and at some point you have to wonder if all this misfortune is sucking the Mariners’ collective will to live.  I know help looks like it’s on the horizon, but the Mariners are now 6 games under .500.  The hole they’re digging just gets deeper and deeper.

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.

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.

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 Get Much Needed Shutout Victory After The Previous Night’s Agony

Well, Game 21 was about as bad as it gets, with the 19-9 defeat, and with Felix and Haniger hitting the DL with potential lengthy-from-which-to-recover injuries to their shoulder and oblique respectively, but Game 22 was nearly the exact opposite!  Actually, I don’t know if that’s the case; I would assume the exact opposite would entail quality reinforcements RETURNING from injury, but I digress.  In Game 22, the Mariners shut out those very same Tigers 8-0.  A day after giving up 19 runs on 24 hits, the Mariners gave up 0 runs on 4 hits.  Progress!

Before the game, a grip of moves were made.  As noted, Felix and Haniger are on the DL.  In Felix’s place, Chase De Jong was called back up (which you can do this close to sending him down because there is the injury emergency) and he will get the start in place of our ace this Saturday at home against the Rangers.  YUP, you read that right: 23 year old Chase De Jong, ostensibly making the jump from AA (he has all of 3 appearances at the AAA level), whose Major League career consists of the 2 relief appearances you know and love this season in a Mariners uniform, will be making his first-ever start in the Bigs, against a hard-hitting divisional rival, in place of our #1 pitcher and potential future Hall of Famer, King Felix.  You got it!  No pressure or anything!

In place of Haniger, the Mariners called up Ben Gamel, who went 0-4 but walked in a run in his start last night.  You figure when Seager returns from his hip issue, Gamel will likely share time with Heredia and Motter in the corners, but I think he’s solidly behind both of those guys for the moment and will have to work really hard (and have a lot of success) to crack the lineup on a regular basis.

For what it’s worth, in 18 games with Tacoma this year, Gamel is hitting .288/.419/.390.  Obviously, the power is lacking, but you like that he can take a walk.  Indeed, he’s walked more than he’s struck out this year, so consider his Z C’d.

The Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich of Game 21 – Chris Heston and Evan Marshall (who gave up a combined 12 runs in 4 innings of relief) – had their asses sent back down to Tacoma to think about what they’ve done.  In their place, Dillon Overton and Casey Fien have returned, so I guess we call that a net even?  Overton, you may recall, is the lefty whose wife gave birth during the first week of the season, resulting in his absence, which led to De Jong gagging away that 13th inning in Houston as the team’s last available reliever of the night.  Overton eventually returned to the Mariners, had one good game, and one terrible game, and was sent down to Tacoma.  While in Tacoma, Overton had one great 3 inning relief appearance and one fucking awful sub-3 inning start.  So, yay?  Fien, you may recall, was with the club out of Spring Training, has appeared in 5 games, and gave up runs in 3 of them (including the 0-inning appearance in that Anaheim game where we blew the 6-run lead in the 9th, with him giving up 4 of those runs).  In Tacoma, Fien has appeared in 4 games and has given up 1 run, so yay.

Thankfully, we weren’t subjected to either of them last night, though you’d think with an 8-run lead, that’s just the sort of soft landing you’d like to give to a couple of recent call-ups whose confidence may be a little wavering.

James Paxton did the heavy lifting in this one, in case it wasn’t abundantly obvious by just looking at the starters we have left in this rotation.  7 shutout innings, making this his FOURTH appearance giving up 0 runs out of five, which is mind boggling!  Oh yeah: 4 hits, 1 walk, and 9 strikeouts, on just 103 pitches.  He is just dripping with Cy Young potential this year!

32.1 innings, 39 strikeouts, 6 walks, 21 hits, and 5 runs for a 1.39 ERA.

Nick Vincent followed, with his sixth consecutive hitless & scoreless appearance.  I just have to marvel at this guy, whose fastball isn’t anything special, but he goes out there, gets swinging strikes, keeps guys off balance, and gets the job done!  Aside from Scrabble, he’s been this team’s best reliever, and who would’ve put money down on THAT after he gave up 3 runs and 6 hits in his first three games?  Especially after Spring Training, where he looked like decomposing diaper shits!

And, Edwin Diaz came out for the 9th, because the Mariners are a fucking embarrassment and haven’t managed enough save situations to give him enough work in the early going.  Only his 7th appearance in 22 games!  I don’t want the kid’s arm to fall off or anything, but this team needs to start winning a bunch so he can get in there more often and do his thing!

The hitters really came to play in this one (just like they did the night before, when again, they scored NINE FUCKING RUNS AND LOST BY TEN), with everyone sans Gamel getting at least one hit (and, as I noted earlier, Gamel had that bases loaded walk).  Segura had 3 hits, including a double, with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored.  Heredia, in the 2-hole in place of Haniger, had 2 hits, including a 2-run homer.  Cano had a double; Cruz had 2 hits, including a 2-run homer.  Motter and Valencia each had 2 hits, including a double apiece; Zunino had a hit and a run scored; and Dyson had 2 hits, a run scored, and 2 stolen bases.  All around fantastic job for an offense that’s really starting to come together.  Once we’re able to get Seager going, watch out!

Getaway day in Detroit today with a 10am start (Pacific time), so there won’t be any Mariners to get in the way of everyone watching the first round of the NFL draft tonight.  Iwakuma vs. Verlander which strikes me as … worrisome.  Please just figure out a fucking way to win, huh?

Yesterday Was A Disaster For The Mariners. Also The Mariners Are A Disaster

“(So and so) just didn’t have it today,” is pretty much the motto for the 2017 Seattle Mariners, whose season died on the operating table on April 25, 2017.  The season – now just a rotting slab of stinking, lukewarm hamburger, attracting flies and rabid dogs – has been a perfect definition of Worst Case Scenario.  Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong?  Multiply that by a hundred thousand, then shoot it in the fucking face.

It’s not just the Jean Segura DL stint (he who made his semi-triumphant return last night at the expense of Mike Freeman), though that’s part of it.  It’s not just the nagging hip issue for Kyle Seager, as I’m told that’s not something that should keep him out of the lineup for very long.  It’s not the fact that none of the starting pitchers can be trusted, least of all the so-called “ace” of the staff, Felix Hernandez, who lasted all of 2 innings last night, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks, before being pulled at a measly 48 pitches, because again, he “just didn’t have it” (or his fucking shoulder is injured, or whatever).  It’s not a bullpen overflowing with too-young power arms and too-useless wastes of spaces.  It’s not the Drew Smyly DL stint for the first 2+ months, or the unceremonious dumping of Leonys Martin, or the lost cause that is Danny Valencia, or Robbie Cano playing like an old & slow turd, or Dan Vogelbach playing like a fat & slow turd, or Mike Zunino being just the latest in an endless string of first round FUCKING busts.  Nor is it just the impending DL stint for Mitch Haniger, who suffered a strained oblique and is set to miss extensive time.  It’s all of that, combined, to capsize what absolutely NEEDED to be a successful baseball season for the Seattle Mariners; and the only way you could define this season as even a remote success is if they made the post-season.  They won’t, so it’s not, and everyone’s to blame, because life is utter horseshit and I wish everyone was dead.

Somebody bookmark this page and save it for later.  Save it for when Mitch Haniger comes back from the DL.  Gaze upon it when we’re all excited to have our rookie phenom back in the fold.  Pull it back up … oh maybe a month or so after he’s returned.  I want you to take a look at his numbers pre-DL:

  • .338/.442/.600, 7 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homers, 16 RBI, 20 runs scored in 21 games played

I want you to really take a good, long look at those numbers, because when he returns, you can kiss those sterling numbers goodbye.  I guarantee you when he comes back, he absolutely won’t be the same player we had pre-injury.  He will be significantly worse, and we’ll all wonder just what in the fuck happened to him.

You know what happened?  He joined the Seattle Fucking Mariners.  Where everything good and happy in this world goes to get collectively buttfucked.

So, who else didn’t have it yesterday?  Well, Chris Heston – who was just called up in favor of Chase De Jong (who just threw 4 innings of shutout ball before being sent back down, mind you) – was supposed to be our long reliever for just this occasion:  he gave up 5 runs in 2 innings.  Then, there was Evan Marshall, another potential long reliever type:  he gave up 7 runs in 2 innings.  And, after Pazos threw a scoreless seventh inning, Evan Scribner came in and allowed 3 more runs in the eighth.  That’s a 19-9 loss, for those doing the math at home.

The hitters did their jobs, but what are you going to do when you score 9 runs and still lose by 10?  And, not for nothing, but Detroit’s pitching staff is the worst in the American League, so it’s not like this was some out-of-nowhere offensive explosion.

This is just a dark day.  A dark day in a dark lifetime of being a Mariners fan.  141 more of these fucking things to go.  God, I hate baseball so fucking much.

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.