Mariners Kick Off Their Road Trip In Style

The Rays looked pretty mediocre yesterday, as the Mariners brought the whooping stick, beating them 7-1.  They couldn’t hit, they couldn’t pitch, I mean …

Funny Office Space quotes are funny …

Erasmo Ramirez, of all people, set the tone.  I wouldn’t say he looked particularly fired up, but he was able to get out of a massive jam in the second and only gave up 1 run across 6 innings for his second start in a row.  I don’t have the foggiest how few times a Mariners starter has gone 6 innings in recent weeks, but just try to cherish it while you can.

The offense was terrific.  Nelson Cruz went 3 for 5 with a double, a homer, 3 runs scored, and 2 RBI.  Mike Zunino went 2 for 3 with a double and 2 RBI.  Danny Valencia got the start in right field and had 2 hits and an RBI.  And Ben Gamel also chipped in with 2 hits, 1 RBI and a run scored.  But, all of our starting nine had at least one hit; it was really something special.

With the big lead, James Pazos did most of the bullpen’s heavy lifting, going 2.1 innings of shutout ball.  And Emilio Pagan cleaned up the final two outs in the ninth to preserve our really important guys.

All in all, a fantastic start to the road trip, especially coming off of the off-day the day before.

For you scoreboard watchers, with various losses in and around us, the Mariners have pulled to within 0.5 games of the second Wild Card, tied with the Royals, still behind the Angels.  Texas is right on our heels, a game behind us, and the rest are too far to mention right now.

Two more down in Tampa.  I don’t know why, but I’ve kinda sorta got a good feeling about this series.  That’s probably a huge mistake, but what are you gonna do?

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

Remember it, because it probably won’t last.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners’ Big, Weird Weekend

It started Friday night, which I alluded to in my last post:  Paxton leading the way to victory.  Considering we blew the game on Thursday, this one was a Must Win.  But, then again, pretty much every single Paxton start from here on out is a Must Win.  It was true before Felix went back on the DL with bicep tightness, and it’s even MORE true now.

So, yeah, that sucks about Felix.  It also sucks because we never bothered to go out and trade for a proper rotation arm, but here we go, let’s have a look at the two losers we brought in.

Saturday’s game was rained out, which I understand was quite the ordeal.  I spent Saturday afternoon at the Beer & Tater Tots festival in Beacon Hill, followed by Saturday evening drinking more beer and playing some Texas Hold ‘Em with my dad, so I’d say I really wasn’t missing the Mariners too much.

On the fun side, that meant a Sunday Double Header.  Marco Gonzales got the start in Felix’s spot, and frankly, I wasn’t impressed.  Of course, I fully expected to NOT be impressed, so it all ended up as I’d figured.  The Mariners, thankfully, jumped out to a huge 7-0 lead in the first two innings, thanks to a Valencia 2-run homer, a Seager solo homer, a wild pitch scoring a runner from second base, and a Cruz 3-run homer.  Gonzales got through 4 innings, giving up just the 2 runs, but then he let the first three runners on in the fifth inning before being pulled, and all three of those guys ended up scoring.  4 innings, 5 earned runs, a fastball around 91 mph, a change up that looked okay, but ultimately a guy who is going to get bashed around pretty good each and every time he makes a mistake.  Fucking brilliant.

From there, the bullpen had to work overtime.  Pazos got out of the fifth just giving up the Gonzales runners.  Zych worked a clean sixth.  David Phelps got one out in the seventh before leaving with an arm injury.  He’s headed back to Seattle to see what’s wrong exactly, but word is he hasn’t felt quite right the last few outings.  Then, I proceeded to mock the Mariners for trading Steve Cishek for Erasmo Fucking Ramirez (what’s that?  you traded from a position of quote-unquote STRENGTH?  uh huh).  Pagan and Scrabble were able to work their way out of the seventh inning, which took us to Nick Vincent’s wild adventure in the eighth.  Luckily Cruz hit his second homer of the day in the top of the seventh to give the Mariners 8 runs, because Vincent gave up a 2-run homer to make the game 8-7.  He proceeded to get out of the jam with the lead intact, and thankfully Edwin Diaz is still en fuego, so he was able to lock down his 23rd save of the season.

The victory secured at least a series tie, and from the looks of the second game of the doubleheader, the Mariners were happy to just get out of there with the split.

Erasmo Ramirez followed up his previous garbage start with one that was even worse.  5 innings, 5 runs, including 3 homers.  The M’s could only muster 1 run on 4 hits, so the rest of the game was handed over to our loser relievers Casey Lawrence and Cody Martin.  Martin gave up the other 4 runs in this 9-1 debacle.  The only good thing you could say about this one is that it was over after 2 hours and 39 minutes.

The Mariners have an off-day today, thank Christ, followed by a mini 2-game set in Oakland before a week’s worth of games at home (the only home games all month).

At the start of the day on Sunday, the Mariners also made a couple post-July trades.  The first one was for Yonder Alonso, a first baseman and an All Star this year.  He has 17 doubles and 22 homers in what has been a breakout season for the veteran, from a power perspective.  As he bats left-handed, he figures to go into a time-share with Danny Valencia.  I don’t know if I saw first base as a HUGE area of need for this team (it’s not like it’s Starting Pitcher or anything), but if Alonso can give us an offensive boost, I’m all for it.  I appreciate the fact that Valencia has given us the back of his baseball card as far as his production this year – in other words, he didn’t fall off a cliff as soon as he became a Mariner; he’s essentially been what he’s been the last two years, which is fine – but I think it’s pretty clear this team could use a little more out of its offense, what with the struggles our pitching staff has given us.  In a way, it’s easier to just pump up the bats even more than to go out and find a competent starting pitcher, so that’s what the M’s have done.

In exchange, the A’s get Boog Powell, so no big loss.  It’s unfortunate that Yonder Alonso is only on a 1-year deal, but if he likes it here and we like him, I don’t see why we couldn’t re-sign him to a modest 3-year deal at the end of the year.

The other move was for some AAA guys.  Ryan Garton is a relief pitcher who was sort of okay in 2016 (his first year in the Bigs), but has been pretty dreadful in 2017 in 7 games.  He’s been putting up some fantastic AAA numbers the last couple years, so obviously there’s something there.  I wonder how long he’ll be in Tacoma, what with this David Phelps injury hanging over us.  The other guy the Mariners brought in from this trade with the Rays is Mike Marjama.  He’s yet to crack the Majors, but in his first year in AAA this year, he’s doing pretty well.  He looks like an upgrade over Tuffy Gosewisch – who was waived to make room on the 40-man – so that’s not so bad.  The Mariners gave up 2 low-minor league guys and a player to be named later, so we won’t know if we’ve screwed ourselves over for at least a few years.

All in all, a real mixed bag of a weekend, in what’s been a real mixed bag of a season.  The pull of the impending football season grows ever stronger.

The Mariners Impressed With Another Win Against The Rangers

That was one of the wilder games you’ll see.  When in Texas, I suppose.

Erasmo Ramirez got his first start in about a month and a half, and his first start in a Mariners uniform since August 27, 2014, at home against the Rangers.  In that game, he gave up 10 runs in 3 innings and spent the rest of his season in the bullpen.  The Mariners would go on to trade him in the offseason to the Rays for Mike Montgomery, who the Mariners would eventually trade for Dan Vogelbach, so not too sure about that one.  Anyway, last night, Erasmo fared somewhat better, but was on a pitch count, and started to falter one out into the fourth inning.  He ended up giving up 3 runs (2 earned) and was pulled after 58 pitches.  He was sort of cruising along up to that inning, though, striking out 5 and walking 0, but I’m not ready to anoint him the savior just yet.

Casey Lawrence came on in long relief, and he too had a couple of strong innings before faltering; he would give up a 3-run bomb in the sixth and ultimately couldn’t get out of the inning.  That’s a little earlier than I like to start Hang On Time, but you takes what you can gets.

It just so happened to be Hang On Time because the Mariners brought their big boy pants, and scored 8 runs in the first six innings of the game.  They also scored 8 runs in the first nine innings of the game, but that’s neither here nor there.  Cruz had a homer.  Cano had 2 doubles and 3 RBI.  Zunino and Seager each had doubles.  Leonys Martin had 2 different RBI singles for crying out loud!  Valencia and Dyson each had RBIs to round out the bunch.  After a pretty miserable offensive month of July, it was a VERY welcome coming out party for the offense on this first day of August.

Tony Zych got into some trouble in the seventh – a balk would later lead to an RBI single and a mere 1-run lead – but Nick Vincent was able to get out of the jam and bridge the game to the bottom of the ninth.  From there, Edwin Diaz threw more gasoline on the fire with 2 strikeouts in the perfect final frame.

The play of the game, though, belongs to Jarrod Dyson, back in center and hitting second in the order (as Jean Segura got the day off).  In the bottom of the eighth, Vincent on the mound, runner on first, Nomar Mazara hit a sinking line drive single into center.  The runner on first was motoring his way into third base as Dyson caught the ball on one hop and threw an absolute seed to Seager right at the bag.  The ball landed in Seager’s glove just as the runner was diving into it, and somehow Seager managed to palm the ball and hang onto it for the final out of the inning.  Just an absolute remarkable throw and just-as-remarkable a catch and hold; outstanding all around!

This is what the Mariners have to do, though.  That’s 4 wins in a row for the M’s, 12 wins in 18 games since the All Star Break.  The Mariners are now tied for their season high at 2 games above .500, just 1.5 games back of the second Wild Card.  Keep it going, keep it going, keep it going!

One more in Texas tonight before four HUGE games in Kansas City to close out the week.

Mariners Murder Mets; Paxton Goes 6-0 In July

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Paxton Is Better At Baseball Than You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Super.

Mariners Win A Crazy One In Houston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Swept The White Sox, Just In Time To Get Swept By The Astros

The Mariners took advantage of a team that just gave up on its season.  They weren’t easy wins – Friday required a big hit by Cano and a lot of great pitching, Saturday required a big hit by Cruz and a perfect four innings from the bullpen, Sunday required many big hits and many more perfect innings from the bullpen – but the better team prevailed, and I guess that’s all that matters.

Yesterday was looking pretty dire, with the White Sox jumping out to an early 5-0 lead.  Seager hit a solo homer to get the Mariners on the board, then after a Segura sac fly, Danny Valencia brought the M’s all the way back with a 3-run home run.  We were able to knock Derek Holland out of the game in the sixth inning while scoring the go-ahead run on a wild pitch to take the lead.

The bullpen, which had been as good as can be, got dinged for the tying run in the bottom of the seventh, but were able to hold things off until we got to extras.  In the top of the tenth, Cruz came back to smash a solo homer to take a 1-run lead, which brought in Edwin Diaz for his third save in three days (arguably his best appearance, striking out the side in order).

This series brought the Mariners back to 1 game under .500, and within 2.5 games of the Wild Card, but it isn’t going to mean a damn thing if we go to Houston and lay down for three straight games.  If we can’t figure out how to beat the best, we’re never going to break this streak of seasons without a playoff appearance.

So, forgive me if I’m not jumping for joy at the latest Mariners sweep.  Do it when it matters; don’t just immediately start another losing streak to kill all your momentum.

Mariners Finished Sour First Half On Upbeat Note

There’s a lot to like about yesterday’s 4-0 shutout of the A’s to salvage a split of the 4-game series.  Dyson and Ruiz – representing the bottom of the order – got 5 hits, with a run and an RBI combined.  Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run bomb to give him 3 homers in the last week, and 17 on the season.  Robbie Cano hit a double and scored a run.  Felix Hernandez pitched 6 shutout innings, giving up 2 hits, walking 3, and striking out 8.  Vincent and Zych finished a SUPERB first half with a couple scoreless innings.  And, Edwin Diaz bounced back after taking the L on Saturday, striking out 2 in his inning of work.

The win brought the Mariners to 43-47, with 72 games remaining in the second half.  We’re currently 4th in the A.L. West, a game behind both Texas and Anaheim (17.5 games behind the insane Astros).  Yet, we’re only 4 games back in the Wild Card race, right in the middle of the pack (even the worst A.L. team is only 7.5 games back, so it’s not like anyone is really “out of it”).  Once we get through the All Star Break, there will be two and a half weeks of baseball before the July 31st Trade Deadline.  Will the Mariners be buyers, sellers, or nothing?  Well, we’ll see.

Starting this weekend, the M’s go on the road to play the White Sox, where we ALWAYS LOSE.  Then, we face the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox; sissy-boy loser time is over.  Those are some serious opponents the Mariners are going to have to face to try to climb back over .500; if they continue to play like they have these last two weeks, I don’t see a lot of hope for this season (particularly when you consider the brutal stretch of road games in August).

The question we have to ask ourselves is:  can the Mariners do it as is?

I know Jerry Dipoto said he’s going to be listening to what’s out there offered in trades, but we have to assume for now that he won’t be able to get a deal done (otherwise the variables are just too vast; this blog post would be 50,000 words long).  I’m thinking, even if he does get a trade done, it won’t be for some huge piece.  We’re not going to see a Rent-An-Ace situation because A) I don’t believe we have the prospects to bring one to Seattle, B) I don’t think the M’s want to take on that kind of payroll, and C) I don’t think the M’s are in a Win-Now-At-All-Costs mode.  Now, whether they SHOULD be in that mode is another issue; I think they like the core they’ve got, and they think they can compete for years to come with some of the young talent they’ve brought in and developed.  At best, maybe the M’s bring in another under-the-radar reliever to help boost the bullpen, or maybe a solid, veteran, back-of-the-rotation starter to help shore up the rotation.

But, you know, like I said, for the sake of argument let’s hold off on speculating on that until it happens.  Let’s take a look at the roster as it is right now.

I thought Ryan Divish made a good point on the radio last week when he talked about how this pitching staff is holding this team back.  Pretty much, every game (save a dominant Paxton start here and there), you go into it expecting these starters to give up a minimum of 2-3 runs per outing.  That’s on top of whatever happens with the bullpen.  But, it’s like the hitters have to go into every game needing to score 4+ runs to win, and that’s got to be a mental drain after a while.

Yeah, sometimes these hitters look unstoppable; but sometimes these hitters look really bad, and it’s a rare instance where the entire pitching staff is capable of picking them up.

I think we’re all pretty happy with what Paxton has brought to the table this season.  Obviously, it wasn’t helpful that he missed damn near the entire month of May, and that was reflected in his sub-par June, but he’s looked a lot better in the last three starts, so hopefully he can keep that going the rest of the way.  Really, if this team is going to truly contend for a playoff spot, he’s going to NEED to keep this going the rest of the way.  He’s 7-3 with a 3.21 ERA at the break; just give me that (or maybe a little bit better) the rest of the way and I’ll be happy.

I think we’re all justifiably concerned with what we’ve seen from King Felix not just this season, but the last 2-3 years.  He still hasn’t quite morphed into that Pitch To Contact guy he probably needs to be to prolong the prime of his career.  No, the fastball isn’t ideal, but more than that he’s simply missing his spots.  Batters are less likely to chase his stuff out of the zone, and when he comes in for a strike it’s getting clobbered.  It’s taken him until July 9th – against a terrible-hitting A’s team – to finally throw an outing of all zeroes on the scoreboard.  These types of 6- or 7-inning, 0-run games used to be a much more regular occurrence; that one might be the only one we see all year and it wouldn’t shock me!  I just don’t know what to make of the King anymore.  It’s like he knows what he needs to become, but he’s fighting against it (fighting with himself).  At this point, it would be irresponsible to have high expectations for him the rest of the way.  I’m just hoping he can give us what Iwakuma gave us last year (which would be nice, since it looks like Iwakuma is going to be a longshot to return from injury after being shutdown in his rehab multiple times).

Up next, we’ve got Ariel Miranda; who expected him to be the second- or third-best starter in this rotation heading into the season?  At this point in his development, I just want him to continue doing what he’s been doing.  He’s not an Ace, but he’s been healthy and he’s been good more than not; just keep doing that!

In the 4-hole, there’s Andrew Moore, who is all of three games into his Major League career.  All three of his starts have been what you would call Quality Starts (at least 6 innings and 3 runs or less every time), but he’s also given up 5 home runs in those three games.  That is … less than ideal.  That also might just be his game.  He’s not what I would consider a phenom, even though he’s young and has shot through the minor league ranks; but he throws strikes, limits walks, and generally keeps the damage to a minimum.  How well will he continue to do once the league has a book on him and starts making their adjustments?  The Mariners can’t really afford to have a lot of growing pains out of him if they expect to make it to the post-season.

In the fifth starter spot, the Mariners have some options.  Sam Gaviglio has been the guy since being called up as an injury-replacement, but his last start was pretty bad, and really overall he’s Just A Guy.  Yovani Gallardo has been pretty fantastic in his long reliever role, which has a lot of people wondering if he’s destined to return to the rotation at some point.  Has he worked out – mechanically – what was so wrong with him early in games in his starts?  What if it’s just a matter of throwing more or less warm-up pitches before he goes out there?  Or what if we just don’t tell him which days he’s going to start, and spring it on him 30 minutes before gametime?

Overall, this is a far-from-intimidating rotation; really just an Ace with four #5 starters.  And, honestly, I don’t know if there would be much out there available in trade besides some other team’s #5 starter, so we is what we is.  And ultimately, that’s probably what’s going to keep us out of the post-season.

The bullpen has been pretty mediocre as well, but I don’t know if I would put as much of the blame on them.  There are plenty of bright spots, like Nick Vincent, Tony Zych, James Pazos, and Scrabble.  Steve Cishek looks like he’s rounding into form after coming back from injury.  Edwin Diaz has had some shaky outings, but looks like he’s getting a handle on things.  Right there, that’s six guys I’m more or less okay with.  Emilio Pagan hasn’t really gotten the chances I think he deserves, but he seems to be more steady than Dan Ayala-tavilla.  Then, there’s the revolving door of long relievers between Seattle and Tacoma who won’t make-or-break you.  I think that’s an okay unit!  Maybe even a good one if guys start getting on rolls!

Same thing can be said for the hitting and defense.  The outfield has out-performed even my wildest dreams.  Cruz and Cano are banged up but doing a pretty good job playing through it.  Valencia bounced back in a big way to play to the back of his baseball card.  Zunino had that insane month of June that might more-or-less salvage his season if he doesn’t backslide too far in July.  Seager is definitely taking a step back this season, but I have to believe he’s got a torrid streak in him coming up.  Overall, in the American League, the Mariners are in the Top 5 in runs scored, average, and on-base percentage.  They’ve taken a substantial step back in their power numbers from a year ago, but they’re also capable of making that up and getting into the upper half of the league by season’s end.

Ultimately, I think that’s what it’s going to take.  These Mariners need to have a power surge and carry this team offensively through the next two and a half months.  With that, an improved bullpen, and a carefully maintained starting rotation, this thing just might take us into the final weekend of the season with a chance.

That’s all I ask, Mariners.  Just give yourselves a chance in the final weekend.  Then, let the chips fall where they may.