Mariners Win In Texas For First Time Since April 2016

Due to a scheduling quirk.  And some focused ineptitude.

After a couple of shitbird 10-4 losses, the Mariners went up against Yu Darvish in the series finale.  While he’s been Ace-like for most of his career, the Mariners have had curious bouts of competence against him, and yesterday was no exception.  5 runs in 5 innings to put the M’s in the driver’s seat.  Then, Nick Vincent shut things down after some shaky bullpen work in the seventh, bridging it to the ninth.  By then, it was no longer a save situation, but Edwin Diaz still locked down the 7-3 victory to make things not so bad.

Kyle Seager had 3 doubles, 2 runs, and 3 RBI; Ben Gamel continues to hit everything in sight; and Danny Valencia had a 2-run homer in the first to really put the Mariners on solid footing.

Christian Bergman had his final start before both Felix and Iwakuma come off the DL for this weekend’s Astros series.  He went 5.2 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits, 2 walks, and 1 strikeout.  The question now is:  has he done enough to stick around in this rotation?

With Felix and Kuma back, with Miranda and Paxton being too good to take out of the rotation (recent starts notwithstanding), there are now three pitchers for one spot:  Bergman, Gaviglio, and Gallardo.  Gaviglio and Gallardo will both have starts in this upcoming Tigers series and then a decision will have to be made.

I’m already on record as stating Gallardo needs to go.  Of course, he’ll catch on with some other team and absolutely destroy his opponents for the rest of the year, but that’s just the way that goes.  If he stays, he’ll continue to suck; we just have to hope he goes to the National League and we get an Out of Sight/Out of Mind situation.

As for the Bergman vs. Gaviglio question, I’ll try to render an opinion after tonight’s start.  Oh yes, it’s really that close, and might come down to how Gaviglio looks in a Do Or Die situation.  Stay tuned.

In Long Relievers – They’re Just Like Us News:  Rob Whalen got the boot in favor of Max Povse (in the process, Dillon Overton got DFA’d to make room on the 40-man).  Povse has a ton of upside and is making the jump from AA, so this could be a little more interesting than someone set to eat up a few innings before an immediate demotion (in all likelihood, if Povse does well, I could see him replacing Altavilla, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here).

Starting tonight, the Mariners enjoy a stretch of 16 of the next 19 at home heading into the All Star Break.  For the first time in forever, the Mariners actually get to play a home series immediately preceeding those three days off, so it’s nice that they don’t have to travel if they don’t want to.  The time is now:  the Mariners REALLY need to do well to get back in this Wild Card hunt, or fucking lose me forever.

Probably not.  I’m a sucker for this stupid team.

The Mariners Are Finding Their Season Slowly Slipping Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Got Destroyed

Fuck it, who wants to talk about a 16-1 game?  Yovanni Gallardo sucked.  Dillon Overton sucked.  Mike Freeman sucked.  The rest of the hitters sucked.  I stopped watching this stupid fucking game 90 minutes into it, and if you lasted any longer than that (without drinking copious amounts of alcohol), then I feel sorry for you.

More bullshit today.  Will this life never end?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WRONG.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Mariners Season Suddenly Feels Pointless

I know, I know, what’s with this “suddenly” business?  Hasn’t it felt pointless all along?  Hasn’t this entire 21st century felt pretty pointless, from a Mariners fan perspective?

You can certainly make that argument.  But, I’ve just had this wide range of emotions this year, far surpassing any other season that I can remember.  Excitement, disappointment, elation, dread, anger, boiling anger, uncontrollable rage, sadness, on into lethargy.  Being a lethargic Mariners fan is nothing new; we tend to hit that point every year around this time, if not sooner.  When you realize contention is a pipe dream, and even if by some miracle they did make the playoffs, knowing they don’t have the horses to do anything about it once they get there.

But, this is a totally different sense of lethargy.  This is knowing the Mariners COULD be a good team, but they never will, because of the stacks on stacks on stacks of injuries that are relentless, debilitating, and come from out of nowhere.

2017 Mariners Misery Tracker

  • Drew Smyly – 60 day DL
  • Steve Cishek – started season on DL, just returned
  • Tony Zych – started season on DL, since returned
  • Shawn O’Malley – 60 day DL
  • Jean Segura – On DL for 2 weeks in April
  • Mitch Haniger – On DL for at least 1 month
  • Felix Hernandez – On DL, just had setback
  • James Paxton – On DL for at least 1 month
  • Evan Scribner – 60 day DL
  • Evan Marshall – 60 day DL
  • Hisashi Iwakuma – On DL for 4-6 weeks
  • Ryan Weber – On DL after very first start was cut short due to injury
  • Robinson Cano – On DL with quad injury

This was something we all saw coming.  Robbie had missed 5 games going into yesterday, and was no closer to returning, so might as well shut him down.  It’s bullshit that you can only make it retroactive to 3 days prior, but this is baseball, and baseball MUST have dumb rules that make no sense.

This has thrust Taylor Motter back into an everyday role – almost immediately after I complained about his lack of playing time – and while I wouldn’t say he’s been bad (he’s still getting hits here and there), he hasn’t had an extra base hit since taking over for Cano, and his strikeouts are way up.  While guys like Seager, Cruz, Segura, and Valencia to a lesser extent are trying to keep this offense afloat, our younger players have cratered a little bit of late.  I’m looking at Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia, Jarrod Dyson, and the aforementioned Motter.  Which is understandable, because none of those guys have been everyday players until this season; you had to expect some rough patches.  Which makes losing Cano at this critical juncture all the more debilitating.

But, this is still an offense that COULD withstand the loss of someone like Cano for a short period, IF they had the pitching to pick up the slack.  Which gets back to my original point about this whole thing being fucking pointless, because they DON’T have the pitching.  I will regret to my dying day writing this post, because it couldn’t be further from the truth.  The Mariners are no closer to solidifying that bullpen, not one little bit.  In fact, you could say they’ve gotten REMARKABLY worse since I published that God-foresaken ode to the bullpen.  Partially, of course, you have to blame the starters for being inept, but blaming the starting pitching of the Seattle Mariners is starting to feel like blaming the offensive line of the Seattle Seahawks; at some point, you’ve beaten that dead horse so much it’s starting to turn into a warm, rancid paste.

Edwin Diaz just lost his closer’s job because he has no control of where his pitches go.  He has to totally rework his wind up to find his release point.  On the one hand, he should theoretically be able to control his pitches better, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t be shocked if he loses some MPH on his fastball.  At which point, are we trading one ineffective reliever for another?  Time will tell, I suppose.

The Mariners were going to go to a Bullpen By Committee, but since half the guys have been worked to death this week, we were left with the just-called-up Steve Cishek, making his second appearance in as many days, and his second appearance since being called up from the DL.  In other words:  his second appearance of the SEASON, for a guy who never really had a proper Spring Training, unless you count bouncing around between Arkansas, Tacoma, and some off-day bullpens in Seattle.

So, yeah, Cishek blew it.  The Mariners were down 4-1 for practically the entire game, managed to cobble together 3 runs in the seventh to tie it, and took the lead on a Seager solo blast in the eighth to give the team an opportunity for an unlikely win; all tossed aside as Cishek got clobbered by left handed hitting Matt Joyce.  He was eventually pulled for Scrabble, who got clobbered by right handed hitting Blah Blah Blah.  If there are two pitchers on this team who SHOULDN’T be facing opposite-handed hitters, it’s Cishek and Scrabble.  I’m sure there was a more appropriate way to handle that ninth inning last night, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to give any more thought to it.  The bottom line is, Nick Vincent and Tony Zych were both unavailable due to recent over-use.  And, is James Pazos really a better option?  I doubt it.

Regardless, Steve Cishek should be able to get three fucking outs without giving away a billion runs.  Marc Rzkciaydadsofnpzki should be able to get three fucking outs without giving away a billion runs.  Steve Cishek is making $6 million this season, the most money of any relief pitcher on the team, and fourth-most among all pitchers on this team behind Felix, Kuma, and Gallardo (for some reason making $11 million).  Marc Rzoiadnoiasdfnikai is making $5.5 million, or second-most of any relief pitcher on the team.  For your reference, the third highest paid reliever is Nick Vincent at $1.325 million (no one else is over a million), meaning the duo of Cishek and Rzadfoinoaidsfnki each make respectively over 4 times more than the third highest paid reliever on the team.

And they couldn’t get three fucking outs without giving up five fucking runs to close out the game.

That’s why this season suddenly feels so pointless.  Because you can do everything right; you can scrap and fight to get back into a game you’ve been dominated in for 2/3 of the time, you can even take the lead in regulation to steal a game you had no business winning, but you’ll still get fucked over trying to get those final three outs.

Where is the help?  Where’s assistance coming from?  I guess Edwin Diaz figuring it the fuck out will be a plus, but how long is that going to take?  And, like I asked before, will he even be the same guy?

And, from a starting pitching perspective, where do you look?  Sure, it appears as if James Paxton will be back soon, maybe even by the end of the month!  But, Iwakuma sure as shit won’t see the mound in Safeco until July at the earliest.  And who the fuck knows when Felix’s arm will allow him to pitch again.  I’m betting on both of those guys needing season-ending surgery at some point.  And don’t even get me started on Drew Smyly; I’m not even convinced that guy is a real person!

Everyone keeps saying Doug Fister isn’t really an option, because if he was good, he’d be signed by now.  And, even when he does sign, he’ll need time to build his arm back up.  But, you know what?  If we’d gone and signed Fister when this first became an issue, his ass would be plenty warmed up by now!  Is he an ideal option?  Of course not.  But, is he better than Chase De Jong (10 runs in 11 innings over his last two starts), Christian Bergman (3 runs in 5 innings in his only start), Dillon Overton (2 runs in 3.1 innings in his only start), or Whoever The Fuck (TBD runs in TBD innings)?  I’d have to think so.

Then again, what’s the point, right?  Fister, no Fister; returning starters, Tacoma guys, it’s all the same.  If they don’t reinjure themselves, someone else will fall in his place, and we’ll continue scrambling to fill the void.

God I hate baseball.

Mariners Drop A Deuce In Toronto

See, because it means turd, but also 2, in that they’ve now lost 2 in Toronto … I’ll see myself out.

Like I was saying yesterday, I’ve just got a bad feeling about this series.  This is one of those teams the Mariners probably SHOULD handle with ease.  Sure, the Mariners have a lot of pitchers on the DL, but the Blue Jays have a lot of hitters on the DL.  Good ones.  As I mentioned before, Justin Smoak is their fucking cleanup hitter for Christ’s sake.  I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy!

Also, not for nothing, but Toronto really doesn’t have much to write home about on the pitching front.  Yet, after giving up a 2-run homer to Nelson Cruz in the first inning of Thursday’s game, they’ve managed to hold the Mariners scoreless, including a 4-0 snoozefest on Friday.

The M’s were once again without Robbie Cano, which feels like a bigger deal because of the way he was kicking ass and taking names before he went out.  I don’t know if his presence alone would be enough, but it feels like he’d at least make these defeats more respectable.  He’d probably be the one taking advantage with runners in scoring position, anyway.

Christian Bergman got the start, giving up 3 runs in 5 innings, which is about all you can ask for.  You can try to ask for more, but that’s being selfish.  Dude just wants his rug back and all that.

As for today, I’m being told Ryan Weber will get the call-up from Tacoma.  I don’t know if that’s to start, or to back up Dillon Overton, but either way it’s going to require a corresponding 40-man roster move.  Considering Evan Scribner has already been bumped to the 60-day DL – and I don’t know if we have the luxury of anyone else being ready to go on the shelf for that amount of time – there could be a difficult move coming.

On the injury front, Felix tried throwing and didn’t respond well, which is terrifying news.  He’s the one with the shoulder injury, and as a result he’s being backed off of the throwing program.  Which certainly takes the month of May off the table, at the very least.  We might be into mid-to-late June at this point, because remember:  the longer he’s on the DL, the more rehab assignments he’ll have to do to get warmed back up.  If you want my opinion, I think this puts his entire season into doubt.  I think we’ll be LUCKY to get Felix back sometime after the All Star Break, and it wouldn’t shock me if that’s just him gutting through an injury that will ultimately require surgery.

In happier news, James Paxton has done some throwing, and the team tentatively expects him back around the next road trip.  Mitch Haniger is going to swing the bat in some tee-ball practice later today; if all goes well, he could be back in a couple weeks as well.  Steve Cishek is about one more rehab outing away from returning to the Mariners, so we could see him in the bullpen anyday now.  And … still no word on Iwakuma, which I feel like the longer this goes without word, the worse his injury actually is.  God help us all.

UPDATE:  Kuma’s out 4-6 weeks.  Carry on with the God helping us all thing.

EARLY 10am game today and tomorrow.  Get into it, it’s gonna get a little weird around here.

Mariners Keep Losing Players To Injury, Somehow Still Kicking Ass

2017 Mariners Misery Tracker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are The Mariners Zeroing In On A Viable Bullpen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Took The Series Against Texas, And I Don’t Know How They Did It

In the Famous Last Words department, I wrote this on Saturday morning:

And with Chase De Jong starting tonight, followed by TBD From Tacoma starting tomorrow, this weekend should prove to be as demoralizing as advertised.

You’ll forgive me if I was a little down in the dumps after James Paxton became the third Mariners starter to hit the DL at the same time, and the thought of two guys who should be nowhere near a Major League roster were set to make starts this weekend was just too much for me to bear.  On top of all that, the Mariners squandered the best start of the season out of Yovani Gallardo on Friday in extra innings, necessitating daily roster moves to replenish the bullpen with ready arms.

De Jong did his part on Saturday, and the Mariners’ offense did the rest as the series was evened at one win apiece.  The rubber match was yesterday afternoon, with Dillon Overton set to get the start, and Christian Bergman getting the call-up (Rob Whalen was sent back down, as his insurance arm wasn’t needed the night before) to be Overton’s bookend, as I don’t believe he was quite stretched out enough to go a full start’s worth of innings.

That was compounded by the fact that Overton needed over 50 pitches to get through the first two innings yesterday, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) in that span.  Things looked justifiably shaky at that point, and you’ll be forgiven if you had your doubts about the Mariners winning (I know I did).  He powered through, though, getting one out into the fourth inning before being pulled for the right-handed Bergman.

Bergman came to play, getting the Mariners through the seventh inning and giving up only 1 more run in his 3.2 innings of relief.  As a whole, I wouldn’t say either guy really dominated, but they both threw strikes, limited walks, and were able to get out of jams.  If you told me before the game started that the combination of the two pitchers would go 7 innings, giving up 3 runs on 5 hits, 2 walks, while striking out 4, I would’ve taken that all day and a bag of chips.

Still, at that point, it was 3-0 Rangers, with their starter sufficiently keeping us off balance through 6 shutout innings.  He came in to start the seventh, walked a guy, and was taken out.  From there, the Mariners’ bats decided to join the party.

Motter followed the Seager walk, but was taken out on a fielder’s choice.  Mike Freeman hit for Chooch and struck out, but Jarrod Dyson walked to load the bases and turn over the lineup.  Jean Segura did what he’s done all year (when healthy):  get on base.  This time, he walked in a run to put the Mariners on the board.  At that point, the Rangers brought in a side-arm lefty, which resulted in the Mariners smartly pinch hitting for Ben Gamel.  I know it sounds super obvious to do so, but the Mariners have a limited bench, and Danny Valencia had already been scratched before the game with a tight hamstring.  I know the team very much wanted to give him two days off (with the off-day scheduled for today); plus Gamel has been rock solid since replacing Mitch Haniger in the lineup.  Maybe I’m off-base, but I feel like many managers would’ve rolled the dice with Gamel.  And, who knows, maybe Gamel would’ve come through!  All I know is side-arm pitchers are super tough on same-handed batters, so the odds of Gamel doing anything but striking out were pretty slim.

Valencia, on the other hand, continued his torrid streak, dropping a single into center, bringing in the tying runs.  Cano grounded out to end the threat, but God bless the Rangers’ terrible bullpen!

Vincent and Scrabble worked a scoreless eighth inning, which took us to the bottom half, with erstwhile closer Sam Dyson trying to get his life back together.  Coming into the game, he’d blown three saves and had an 0-3 record, giving up runs in 6 of his 10 appearances, including the Mariners’ 8-7 come-from-behind victory in the bottom of the ninth on April 16th to sweep the series.  Well, you can adjust his numbers to 0-4, with him giving up runs in 7 of his 11 appearances, as Kyle Seager hit a 1-out bomb to right-center field to give the Mariners a 4-3 lead.  Edwin Diaz was on his game and got his 6th save of the season to finish things.

Major kudos to the whole pitching staff in this game, as we weathered the first Paxton-less start.  If we can somehow get through the next couple weeks without falling totally apart, it’ll be a miracle.

Huge kudos to Jean Segura, rocking the following line:  .368/.409/.517.  It’s so rare the Mariners bring in a big name and they continue to shine, but we’ve hit on Cano, Cruz, and now Segura over the last few seasons.  So necessary.

Can’t forget Danny Valencia, who was a major whipping boy through the first month of the season.  He came through with a season-defining game-tying hit to win back A LOT of this fanbase.  Here’s to hoping his injury isn’t too serious (who could’ve predicted I’d ever say that, when things were going bad for him?).

And, obviously, let’s not dismiss Kyle Seager’s game.  The winning homer brought his day to a 2 for 3, with a walk, 2 runs, and an RBI.  He’s slowly but surely working himself into a hot streak, going 12 for 40 (.300) with 1 double, 2 homers, 6 runs scored, and 5 RBI since he came back from that minor injury in late April.  It’s not a blinding pace, like we’ve seen from him before, but just you wait.  It’s coming.

This was a game where the Mariners easily could’ve rolled over and died.  The Texas starter was on top of his game, and the M’s really didn’t have a lot of answers.  But, they clawed their way back in it in the seventh, and brought the hammer down before this thing could get away from them in extras (like it did on Friday).  That’s a nice 4-2 homestand to bring the Mariners to 10-5 at Safeco Field on the year.  Indeed, if you take away the 1-6 road trip to start the season, the Mariners have been 14-11, which coincides with the vast majority of the Mariners’ injury woes.  Arbitrary start point all you want, it’s pretty impressive.

It’ll be more impressive, of course, if they manage to keep it up until guys start coming back.