Wasting No Time: The Mariners Traded For Their New First Baseman

So, I guess the Danny Valencia/Yonder Alonso experiment is over.  They were both thrilling and aggravating, but ultimately not a very major reason why the Mariners failed to make the playoffs in 2017.  They’re now free to return to the Oakland A’s, or any other team they see fit.

Speaking of the Oakland A’s, the Mariners traded with them again.  To bring in another first baseman again.  For the third time in a row.  Ryon Healy is his name, which isn’t a totally annoying way to spell the name Ryan, but that’s neither here nor there.  He’ll be 26 years old in January and has spent the past season and a half in the Big Leagues.  In that time, he’s been solidly productive:

  • .282/.313/.475/.788 with 38 homers, 49 doubles, a whole mess of strikeouts and not very many walks

Without knowing how good he is defensively (I assume he’s fine), this feels like a quality addition to the right side of the plate.  More importantly, the Mariners don’t feel like they’ll have to platoon him, which should free up a roster spot on the bench.  I suppose that spells doom for Dan Vogelbach’s future in a Mariners uniform, but more than anything he feels like trade bait for one of the 50 other deals Jerry Dipoto is going to do between now and the end of the year.

Another cool thing about this deal is that Healy is still two full seasons away from being arbitration eligible.  The Mariners, if things go well, should have him for 5 full seasons before he’d earn any sort of significant money!  And, if he’s already flashing this type of power and batting average as a second year player, one would think the sky is the limit.

He’s going to fit in quite well in the 2018 batting order, too.  Check out my way-too-early projection:

  • Segura (SS)
  • Haniger (RF)
  • Cano (2B)
  • Cruz (DH)
  • Seager (3B)
  • Healy (1B)
  • Gamel (LF)
  • Zunino (C)
  • Heredia (CF)

I highly doubt that’ll be the Opening Day 9, but you get the idea.  Bank on the top 6 guys being THE guys.  Toss in Zunino in the bottom third with one, maybe two new outfielders, and you’ve got yourself a lineup.

I think my favorite part of this deal is that the Mariners won’t be subjected to a first base retread.  I don’t have to worry about the return of LoMo, for instance, who was a name being bandied about when people discussed possible solutions to this first base quandary.  Same goes for Justin Smoak (though, I have to figure Toronto is pretty happy with him after last year), Brad Miller, and the duo from last season.  Danny Valencia is a nice player, and it was awesome to have his defense over there, but he is who he is.  He’ll have hot streaks and cold streaks and he’ll struggle quite a bit against right handed pitching.  Yonder Alonso, I think, is more flash in the pan than player on the rise.  Before 2017, his season high in homers was 9; last year, he hit 28.  I’m not going to bring steroids into the conversation, because I think the league has done a pretty good job to test those drugs out of the sport, but it does feel like an unsustainable leap.  Also, not for nothing, but the bulk of his damage last year was done pre-All Star Break (where he made his first-ever All Star Game).  He fell off a pretty mighty cliff and never really righted the ship after he was traded.  His on-base ability was a breath of fresh air, but the M’s didn’t bring Yonder Alonso over to walk guys in.

And that’s where I think we get a little too in the weeds with on-base percentage.  Sometimes, you just want a guy to mash you a 3-run homer.  Yeah, if you can, get you a man who can do both, and hold onto him for the duration of his career.  But, if I had to choose what I want out of my first baseman, batting out of the 6-hole?  Give me doubles n’ dingers.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about who the Mariners gave up:  Emilio Pagan and minor leaguer Alexander Campos.  Pagan, you may recall, was a rookie last year and one of our very best relievers.  Long relief, late in games, high leverage situations, extra innings, you name it and more often than not he came through the trials with flying colors.  Considering how cheap he is, and how much team control he has left, that’s a guy you could see anchoring your bullpen for many years to come.  But, if he can get you a starting first baseman – and not just for a season or two, but for up to 5 years or more, if you opt to extend him long term – that’s a no-brainer.  I mean, let’s face it, odds are Emilio Pagan won’t be the next Mariano Rivera.  Duh.  I would also say the odds are we’re trading him at his very highest value.  If we’d kept him even one more year, and he struggled, he couldn’t be traded for much more than Jack Squat (see:  Vogelbach).

As for Campos, he’s a 17-year old infielder.  We almost certainly won’t read about him ever again.  And, if we do, it almost certainly won’t be for at least 3-5 years, and by that point I hope to be long dead, having probably never again seen the Mariners in the post-season.

I will say that it’s a little scary to trade from a position of weakness (pitching) to further bolster a position of strength (hitting).  To say nothing of the issues with the rotation, how good will this bullpen be when you trade away arguably your 2nd most talented reliever after Edwin Diaz?  I know, Nick Vincent will likely start as your 8th inning guy, but I don’t know if I buy him having back-to-back amazing seasons.  And, besides that, you need more than two quality relievers to win games consistently.  Aside from David Phelps when he was healthy, and our lefties Pazos and Scrabble, I didn’t see a lot of uber-promising young talent coming through Tacoma into the Bigs last year.  With the minors as depleted as they are, I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of impact trades for pitching, unless you’re cool giving up on Ben Gamel (who I ASSURE you will not bring back the type of prize Mariners fans would expect from someone who looks like he could be a solid starter for many years to come; so be ready to be VERY disappointed at some point this offseason).

All that being said, I think this is a great trade, and it’s a deal I would do again and again in a heartbeat.  If I’m being perfectly honest, aside from maybe re-signing Jarrod Dyson, I don’t think I’d do very much to turn over the offense.  I like our outfield!  I like Haniger and Gamel and the combo of Dyson and Heredia!  That’s great defense across the board, with solid plate production and speed on the basepaths.  It’s unrealistic to believe that the hitting/defense side of the game is going to stay as is, especially with Dipoto running the show, and especially since we’re almost certainly going to have to trade from that position of strength (hitting) to improve our pitching.  But, whatever you do, you’ve got to keep that outfield defense as a strength, without sacrificing too much in the way of hitting.  Edgar Martinez can’t do it all!

The Mariners Unsurprisingly Win When It Does Them No Good

But don’t worry, next year when it matters again, they’ll get right back to the losing!

James Paxton got the start and did about as well as you’d expect:  5.2 innings, 3 runs, on 6 hits, with 5 strikeouts.  Suffice it to say, he’s still rounding into shape from his latest DL stint, and should be back to his old dominating self next week sometime.  Just in time to watch the playoffs from his couch.

The offense picked him up today, so at least he was able to salvage a no decision.  Gamel had 3 hits and an RBI in the leadoff spot.  Alonso and Valencia each had homers and combined for 5 RBI.  And, the Mariners’ bullpen did their job to round out the 6-3 victory.

It’s been a while since this team was able to go Pagan-Vincent-Diaz, with them all throwing shutout innings.  Brings back fond memories of better Mariner times.

This may or may not be James Paxton’s final start.  We know Felix is done, and we got word that Mike Leake is also being shut down to rest his arm or some damn thing.  We’ve got Erasmo going today, Marco Gonzales going Friday, and Andrew Moore going Saturday, with Sunday TBD.  Could be Albers, could be Paxton, could be a bullpen day.  I guess we’ll see.

If this was Paxton’s final start, we might as well congratulate him on his very best season as a Mariner.  Oh yeah, in spite of all the injuries, he’s hit career highs in appearances (23, all starts), innings (130), strikeouts (147), wins (12), and WAR (3.5).  This was, officially, the year that James Paxton became the Ace of the Seattle Mariners’ pitching staff.  And, if he hadn’t missed 10 starts, we might be talking about a really special season.

Look at it this way:  as it stands, the Mariners won a little over 60% of his starts.  If you tack on 10 more starts, and give the Mariners 6 more wins, BOOM, we’re right there in the thick of that second Wild Card spot.  And that’s not even taking into account how poorly he’s pitched in the first few games after returning from the DL those two times!  I mean, just this month alone he took two hard-luck losses because he was building up arm strength and therefore was stuck on a low pitch count.  Every time he came back from a leave of absence, he had to get his mechanics back in line; if he was just healthy all the way through, he never would’ve had those mechanical issues and a reduction in arm strength.  It’s not out of the question, with the way he was going, for the Mariners to win up to 70% of his starts if he’d been fully healthy all season!

You want a reason why the Mariners didn’t make the playoffs?  Well, there’s 1 of about a billion right there.

The Mariners have fallen to 16th in the draft order with last night’s victory, so that’s just fucking great.  There’s only one more game for the A’s to roll over and fucking die for us, then we go to Anaheim to close out the season.  Hopefully on a nice, fat, juicy 3-game losing steak streak.

Mariners Get Back To .500 Once Again; How Many More Times Can We Do This?

Mike Leake is going to be a legend in this fucking town if he keeps this up!

Three starts, three games where he’s at least pitched into the sixth inning, while giving up 3 runs or less.  Yesterday, it was a 5.2 inning affair, with just the 1 run given up on 5 hits, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts.  He’s 3-0 with the Mariners, with a 2.41 ERA!  I don’t know when the other shoe is gonna drop, but I hope to Christ I never have to see that shoe ever again.  What’s that shoe’s deal anyway?  Fuck that shoe!  Stop dropping all over the place!

This was a fun one, no doubt about it.  Zunino homered to kick off the scoring in the fifth, and a few batters later Segura hit a 2-run home run to make it 3-0.  The Rangers got one back in the bottom of the sixth, just in time for all hell to break loose in the top of the seventh.

Segura walked and Haniger doubled to put runners on second & third.  Cano was called out on a check swing by the home plate umpire, and after Cano – seemingly calm and rationally – asked why he didn’t check down with the third base umpire, he was ejected from the game.  It was apparently his first career ejection, which sounds kind of amazing, 13 years in.  With a lefty on the mound, Cruz was intentionally walked to load the bases for Seager, who worked a solid count and hit a good pitch the other way for a 2-run single.  Cruz ended up hustling into third when their third baseman was caught off the bag, then a bad throw allowed Cruz to rumble home and Seager to slide into third.  Valencia then hit a sac fly to score Seager, and Zunino concluded the scoring that inning with another solo blast, this time the opposite way.  Just like that, 3-1 turned into 8-1, and the rest was academic.

I keep saying it, and he keeps doing it:  Mitch Haniger is on a ROLL!  Two more hits, including that double; he is CRUSHING the month of September.  His line, through 12 games:

  • .451/.451/.745/1.196, with 4 doubles, 1 triple, 3 homers, 9 runs, and 8 RBI

If you tack on the last game in August for shits n’ gigs, his line looks like this:

  • .472/.472/.836/1.308, with 6 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homers, 11 runs, and 11 RBI

This is fun!  For context, his season numbers have climbed back up to this:

  • .282/.359/.485/.844, with 21 doubles, 2 triples, 12 homers, 50 runs, and 41 RBI

Oh man, I gotta tell you, that’s not bad.  Not bad at all, considering he missed about half the season to various injuries.  I don’t want to give him that out, because if he comes back next year and misses another half season to injuries, then he’s labelled Injury Prone and his numbers don’t mean jack shit; but I will say I’m cautiously optimistic for his future.

While we’re on this train of thought regarding the youth movement on this team, I’d like to call out Mike Zunino for really turning his season around and (hopefully) his career as well!  He’s hit career highs in doubles and homers this season, with 22 and 23 respectively.  More importantly, his slash line is almost EXACTLY where I’ve always said I wanted it to be:  .246/.327/.507/.834.  With his throwing arm, his pitch framing, his blocking ability, and his rapport with the pitching staff, I will take those numbers all day every day!  Now if he can just manage to not completely fall apart these last two weeks, we’re really talking about a season you can be proud of, and certainly something to build upon going forward.

I don’t want to spend all day going up and down the lineup, but I’ll toss in one more kudos to Kyle Seager.  That at bat in the seventh inning was truly remarkable.  Cano had just been thrown out, Cruz had just been intentionally walked, so I’m sure his emotions were all over the place.  He had this hot-head umpire behind him, and a difficult-looking lefty on the mound (who actually legitimately struck Cano out on that check swing; the issue there is – why not just check with the third base ump; it takes two seconds).  Seager got ahead in the count right away, took a vicious crack at an inside fastball that he pulled foul, the count worked its way full, and then the single the other way.  It wasn’t just a lucky swing, where a guy flails at something out of the zone and it accidentally hits the end of the bat and bloops into the outfield; this was a determined strategy and a purposed swing to line drive that ball the opposite way to bring in a couple of runs!  Seager is notorious for pulling the ball – it’s where he generates the overwhelming majority of his power – and he has one of the more pronounced defensive shifts to prove it.  The Rangers weren’t shifting on this play, with the bases loaded, but he still managed to hit it over the short stop’s glove on a line.  I mean, this is like something you’d see out of Ichiro in his prime!

2017 might go down as a bit of a disappointing year for fans when they think about Kyle Seager, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that he’s legitimately gotten better each and every season of his career.  So, to hold steady, or take a step back in a couple areas, it’s tough to swallow.  But, I’ve noticed this year more than any year before, a determined effort by Seager to hit more balls the other way.  To be a more complete hitter, as they say.  I don’t think he’ll ever have really tremendous power the opposite way – particularly with how Safeco is constructed, it’s REALLY hard for lefties to hit them out over the left field fence – but a Kyle Seager who can spray balls to all fields is a dangerous weapon.  Over time, I don’t think it’s crazy to think he could hit more doubles the other way, off the Safeco manual scoreboard and the like.

I dunno.  I’m just happy for him, I guess.  That must take just a ton of work to get better at when you’re at the Major League level.

If you haven’t heard it already, let me be the first to say Happy Felix Day!

Mariners Gag Away A Heartbreaker As Marco Gonzales Pitches Himself Out Of A Job

You can’t say the kid was robbed of his opportunity.  After getting his feet wet in Tacoma, the Mariners called him up at the beginning of the month; he’s had 5 starts in the month of August.  In exactly 0 of those starts did he go a minimum of 5 innings.  His ERA is 7.40 in that span, he’s averaged almost a homer-allowed per start, he gives up a ton of hits and for a guy who’s supposed to be known for his control, he sure does walk a lot of guys.  His change-up is supposed to be his best pitch, but boy do I see him leave that hanging out over the middle of the plate more than I see him striking guys out with it.

With his latest huge embarrassing failure yesterday – 3.1 innings, 5 runs – I think we’ve finally seen the last of him in the rotation.  It’ll be September the next time his turn comes up in the rotation, which means rosters will expand and we can bring up someone from Tacoma like Sam Gaviglio, who can at least get us through five fucking innings.

And yet, in spite of all that, the Mariners managed to scratch and claw their way to a 4-3 lead at one point, as well as a 6-6 tie after Gonzales was pulled.  Ben Gamel was the big stud of the day, with 2 hits (including a homer) and 5 RBI.  Valencia, Seager, and Cruz all chipped in on the day as well.  Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn’t be perfect.  The Mariners NEED the bullpen to be perfect if they’re going to win games like these, but it’s just not realistic to see that come to fruition.  Christian Bergman did a yeoman job getting through 2 innings, giving up just the one run (particularly getting out of the jam Gonzales put him in in the bottom of the fourth).  Emilio Pagan got through the final 2.2 innings to save the rest of the bullpen, but he too gave up a run, and that ended up being the decider.  The Mariners put the first two runners on in the top of the eighth, but couldn’t push either of them home and that was that.

What was once a tremendous start to this road trip as late as last Friday, has suddenly taken a sour turn over this 3-game losing streak.  The Mariners need to win one of the next two games to ensure at least a .500 road trip, which I think we all would’ve taken around this time two weeks ago.  But, considering the M’s started out 5-2, ending up with a 6-6 or 5-7 road trip would be a collosal disappointment.  Here’s hoping Erasmo Ramirez and Ariel Miranda can work some magic to right the ship.

To Save Time: We Should Just Consider Everyone In The Mariners Organization As Day-To-Day

On the day when the Mariners DFA’d Leonys Martin for the second time this season, this time to call up David Phelps from the DL, Robinson Cano pulled up gimpy on a double with hamstring tightness (will have an MRI in New York today) and Guillermo Heredia had his wrist smashed in with a fastball (will have x-rays in New York today).  Both are considered Day-To-Day, of course pending their diagnostic exams.

The only good thing to come out of yesterday was the Mariners winning another series.  That brings them up to 4-2 on the road trip and if they can duplicate that next week, sign me up!

Erasmo Ramirez out-pitched R.A. Dickey.  I know, I’m as shocked as you are!  It didn’t look like that was going to be the case early, as Erasmo got into some first inning trouble (where have I seen that before?  Oh, that’s right, from every single other Mariners starter save Paxton) (no, really, someone, please save Paxton!!!).  He gave up a leadoff infield single, thanks to the ball hitting off of his glove that he feebly tried to field.  Segura was in position to make the out, which sets us up for the rest of the inning.  The next hitter singled to put runners on first & third, then a double scored the guy from third as the runner from first over-ran the bag at second and had to go back and touch it before moving on.  Erasmo got a grounder back to himself for the first out of the inning, which probably should’ve been the second out of the inning.  As such, the subsequent sac fly made the game 2-0 when it should’ve been 1-0 (or, maybe even 0-0, if what’s his name had the same trouble rounding second in this hypothetical situation).

Self-inflicted wounds.  Knowing where your defense is set up and letting your defense do its job.  This is all part of the over-arching problem with this team:  too many fucking brain farts!

Anyway, the M’s got it going in the second, with a Heredia sac fly and an Erasmo Ramirez RBI single down the right field line.  That wouldn’t be the only time Erasmo got a hit, either.

Those first inning runs wouldn’t be it for Erasmo either, as he gave up another run in the bottom of the second, but then he settled down splendidly.  He gave up all of 2 base runners over the next four innings to lock down the quality start.  After throwing a bunch of pitches the first couple innings, he left the game having only thrown 90; indeed, he was all set to come in for the seventh inning (a thought so foreign-sounding to this club, I didn’t think it was actually allowed in the game of baseball anymore), but the offense in the top of the seventh managed to put two runners on with two outs.  Rather than give Erasmo his fourth at-bat (remember, he was 2 for 3 on the day with an RBI), Servais opted to let Nelson Cruz pinch hit.  He would dribble a grounder to the pitcher for the final out of the inning.

Still, helluva game for Erasmo!  I don’t want to alarm anyone (are you sitting down for this?), but Erasmo Ramirez has three quality starts in his last three appearances.  I KNOW, RIGHT?!  That’s clinically insane.  I can unequivocally say that Erasmo Ramirez is the best healthy starter on this team right now.  The odds of me ever saying that EVER was about as remote as you can imagine, but there we have it.

Also, not for nothing, but isn’t it sad that I’m sitting here jerking myself off over a guy with three straight 6-inning starts?  I mean, look at what this pitching staff has reduced all of us to!

I assume you’re sitting there jerking yourselves off over this too, right?

In the bottom of the seventh, it looked like the decision to pinch hit for the pitcher was gonna backfire like a motherfucker, as the bullpen really didn’t have a lot going on.  Scrabble gave up an infield single, then his God-awful pickoff move allowed him to go to third base.  He walked the next batter before getting a strikeout and getting pulled from the game.  Servais opted to go to David Phelps, which seemed a bit rash, having this situation be his first appearance coming off of the DL, but with Zych gone beggars can’t be choosers.

At this point, the Mariners had long ago re-taken the lead at 4-3, thanks to some clutch hitting in the third inning.  But, since we failed to drive the final nail into Dickey’s coffin at the time, the game was still 4-3 when Phelps came in.  He ended up giving up a single to tie the game at 4, then a fielder’s choice gave the Braves a 5-4 lead.  At that point, with two innings to go, I was prepared for the worst.

Playoff teams CAN’T lose two of three to the lowly Braves; they just can’t!  Thankfully, the lineup answered the call.  Jean Segura busted out of a slump with a leadoff double.  Yonder Alonso followed that with a walk and both runners advanced on a wild pitch.  Then, Taylor Motter – hitting for Robbie, who left the game back in the third – dumped a 2-RBI single to left-center to allow the M’s to re-take the lead at 6-5.  Danny Valencia, getting the start in right field and batting cleanup, hit a single, followed by Kyle Seager’s mammoth 3-run home run to center to finally put this one to bed.

Nick Vincent started the eighth and got himself into a bit of a jam, and almost got himself out of it.  But, after giving up an RBI single with two outs, Edwin Diaz was called in for the 4-out save.  He would only need 12 pitches (11 strikes) to get the four outs (3 strikeouts) for his 29th save on the season (16 since the All Star Break).

So, yeah, that was huge.  Just as huge was the fact that the Twins and Angels both lost (the Royals won, however).  So, we’ve got the Twins still in the second Wild Card spot, the Angels and Royals a half game back, and the Mariners a full game back (with the Rangers two games back, and everyone else too far away to matter).

Today is another much-needed off-day (at this point in the season, they’re ALL “much-needed”).  We’ll also probably hear about Robbie’s hamstring and Guillermo’s wrist.  You have to figure more moves are going to be made (we’ll need another infielder if Cano is bound for the DL; the outfield is probably okay considering Valencia can play in right, so he can at least hold the team over for another week until September rolls around).

The first half of this road trip has been a huge boon for the Mariners, but the second half could still make or break it.  If the Mariners fall apart over the next six games – all against Wild Card opponents – it could get pretty dicey.

Please, dear God, don’t let Cano’s injury be too serious.

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.

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.