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.

Short-Handed Mariners Got Whomped In Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariners Keep Losing Players To Injury, Somehow Still Kicking Ass

2017 Mariners Misery Tracker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariners Make Something Good Out Of Chicken Salad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are The Mariners Zeroing In On A Viable Bullpen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Aren’t Giving Up Without A Fight

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

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

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

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

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

Mariners Overcome A Bad Bullpen To Beat The Angels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariners Won Series In Detroit … Thanks To Their Pitching?

After that 19-9 massacre, you’d be hard-pressed to get me to believe the Mariners could come back and win this series on the back of their pitching.  But, there was Paxton’s gem in Game 2, and Iwakuma’s mystifyingly good start in the finale, followed by lockdown bullpen work the likes of which has been exceedingly rare thus far this season.

Kuma spun 5.2 innings of slowly-thrown gold, giving up 1 run (0 earned) thanks to a throwing error by Cano.  From there, Scrabble bridged us into the seventh, followed by Tony Zych getting us to the ninth.  Right now, it feels like open tryouts for that 8th inning bullpen role.  Dan Altavilla failed, Evan Scribner has been failing.  Nick Vincent would have to be in the running, but I like the idea of giving that job to Zych for as long as he’s mowing people down.  We still might be another week or so from Cishek returning, and I have to imagine he’s going to get somewhat of a soft landing upon his call-up, so if Zych could just continue to be amazing for a while, that’d be great.

Also, Edwin Diaz – on the second day of a back-to-back – was dominant in getting his third save of the season.

Offensively, both teams struggled, as Justin Verlander was throwing rocks as well.  The Mariners scored an unearned run of their own as Nelson Cruz got to second on an outfield error, then was scored by the return of Seager.  It remained tied at 1-1 until the ninth, when Seager doubled with one out and scored on an RBI single by Ben Gamel, who got a second straight start and ended the day with 2 hits.

You know, I’ve been really impressed with our younger players so far this year.  Obviously, Mitch Haniger has been a dream come true, but Heredia has been a disruptive force at the top of the lineup (with a little pop in his bat and a LOT of speed), Motter has been on the warpath, and now here we have Ben Gamel coming up right away and being instantly productive.  These are the types of players, in years past, who have been the so-called Quad-A guys (too good for Tacoma, not good enough for the Big Leagues) who have stunted this team’s growth.  You can’t fill your team with nothing but high-priced free agents; you need a good amount of homegrown guys to fill in the gaps.  This year, FINALLY (hopefully) the Mariners are on track with some of their younger guys.  Let’s face it, we’re going to need them to continue stepping up if we want to stay in contention.  So far so good.

The Mariners go to Cleveland for a weekend series.  I’ll have it on the 2nd TV as I watch the NFL Draft tonight on the main TV, so consider today a REALLY great day of sports.

God Dammit, Mariners

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

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

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

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

Of Course The Mariners Lost That Game To The A’s

The Mariners had everything going for them.  Best pitcher in the game through three starts going up against a guy who hadn’t cracked the Majors since 2010.  A quality lineup that had just put up a 10-spot the night before.  The overwhelming majority of the Athletics lineup being average-to-below-average thus far this season.  Everything about this matchup screamed a Mariners victory.

So, yeah, the M’s lost 9-6.  Makes sense.

I kinda want to just throw up my hands and say, “Hey, Paxton just didn’t have it!  It happens!”  But, the first time through the lineup, he actually DID have it.  His scoreless streak to start the season didn’t get snapped until the third inning.  From that point to the end of his night, he was rocked like we haven’t seen since last season.  Four hits in the third tied the game at 3-3, then Paxton settled back down to get out of the fourth inning 1-2-3, then three more hits, a 2-base error, a sac fly, and a walk into the bottom of the fifth inning and he had to be pulled.  The A’s had a 5-3 lead by that point, and cue the “That Escalated Quickly” memes.

But, it DID escalate quickly!  Going into the bottom of the third, the game was going according to plan.  Dyson led off the game with a single, tagged up on a deep fly ball to right, then scored on a Cano RBI single.  Then, in the second, a Motter leadoff double eventually came around to score on a Zunino double.  Leonys Martin, who got on with a fielder’s choice, ended up scoring on an RBI single by Dyson to make the game 3-0.  This was it!  We were exposing an over-matched career minor leaguer in Cesar Valdez, Paxton was dealing, and this game would slowly unravel as a dominating Mariners victory.

Flash forward what felt like 90 seconds, and there we were, down 5-3, needing a Monster Motter 2-run homer to tie the game back up.  From there, it felt like the game could’ve gone any number of directions.  Obviously, the offense was still humming along, and if the bullpen could just keep a lid on things, it was only a matter of time before the Mariners tacked on the game-winning run.

What it ended up being was only a matter of time before the A’s put the M’s away.  The very next half-inning, in fact, when Scribner let the leadoff man get to third base with one out, who ended up scoring on a sac ground out.  The game wouldn’t become out of reach until the next inning, when Dan Altavilla – after getting the leadoff out – walked two guys and surrendered a 3-run homer.  Altavilla, it would seem, has a lot of problems right now.  A lot of problems that will likely require a stint with Tacoma to rectify, because I don’t see how you can trust him in a close game right now, with how his last four appearances have gone.

I turned the game off and went to bed after that.  Sure it was a risk; it wasn’t IMPOSSIBLE that the Mariners would put up a 4-banger to tie the game back up, but I was tired and didn’t much feel like waiting around for that remote possibility.  So, I missed Evan Marshall’s scoreless inning of relief.  And I missed the little mini-rally started by Valencia’s double (who would go on to score to make the final 9-6) in the ninth inning.

The best part of baseball is that there’s almost always another game to play the very next day.  Well, I’ve got good news and bad news:  the good news is this holds true – there is another game tonight – but the bad news is that Felix and Paxton have already pitched the last two days, and we’re staring down the barrel of an Iwakuma-Miranda-Gallardo weekend.  In Oakland, who will probably sweep us right on out of town and into yet another shame spiral.

As it turns out, the worst part of baseball is that there’s almost always another game to play the very next day.  Who knew?