Fucking Quintana, That Creep Can Roll, Man

I could rail on the offense for getting just one hit – a Danny Valencia triple that would score on a sac fly – in a 2-1 defeat in 10 innings; I could complain about a bullpen that just isn’t very good right now; I could lament this team squandering a massively impressive start out of Ariel Miranda (7 innings, 1 run, on 4 hits and 2 walks, with a career-high 9 strikeouts), when this team can ill afford to squander ANYTHING at this critical juncture of the season; but this boils down to running into the buzzsaw that is Jose Quintana:  a good pitcher who should probably be better, who seemingly destroys the Mariners at every turn (even though the numbers, in actuality, don’t bear that out), another lefty in a long line of lefties that have managed to confound our New & Improved offense this season.

It’s a bummer, but what are you gonna do?  This offense is absolutely capable of more against a guy like Quintana, but for whatever reason it just didn’t have it.  I blame Tuffy.

Edwin Diaz returned to the land of the living, pitching two very strong shutout innings in relief of Miranda, to get us to the aforementioned extra innings.  Tony Zych came in for the tenth, hit the first batter he faced, and wouldn’t you know it?  That guy came in for the game-winning run off of a double hit by Melky Cabrera.  Zych left a low and inside curveball to Melky, who didn’t whiff; very poor placement of a pitch to a left-handed hitter, if you ask me.  But, you know, that’s the story of this bullpen’s 2017.

That’s 3 out of 4 pretty good performances out of Ariel Miranda.  Last night, he got a little bit of the Felix treatment from this offense, but if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll be more than fine.

Mitch Haniger had a bit of a setback in his recovery and his rehab assignment is being pushed back.  We seem to be on track for James Paxton to head out after this weekend, which is encouraging.  I’m tired of seeing TBD show up in the upcoming probable starters.

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.

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.

The Mariners Were Able To Stop The Losing Streak Thanks To Their Best(asterisk) Starter

Ahh yes, Yovani Gallardo, the last man standing in a rotation filled with infants. Where would we be without his veteran presence? Without his hittable pitches? Without his ability to gobble up innings?

He gave up 3 runs (on 2 homers) in 6.1 innings, yet the Mariners still managed to use up 6 relievers to lock down this thing in regulation, so you could tell this one was important. I just can’t get over the fact that – going into the season – we were all on the same page about Gallardo: he’d stick in the rotation for as long as he was moderately effective, but at some point he’d be DFA’d in favor of Ariel Miranda, or someone else with more promise. Now, he’s got as much job security as he could ever want! All while doing a fairly mediocre job (except, at this point, “mediocre” is a fucking godsend when compared to what we’re getting from our replacement pitchers).

The Mariners jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks to some wildness by the A’s starter, plus a 2-run homer to center by Nelson Cruz. And, as is his wont, Gallardo gave almost all of it away by the time the fifth inning concluded. BUT, we hung in there and even added to our lead thanks to a Kyle Seager 2-run jack in the bottom of the eighth. 6-3: all the cushion in the world for closer Edwin Diaz!

And yet, after getting the leadoff hitter to foul out, Diaz proceeded to walk the next four batters, because of course. Thankfully, Scott Servais finally decided to do something about it, instead of hoping Diaz would work through it. THIS is what I’ve been asking for, pretty much, my entire baseball-watching life! The closer is treated like some savior who can’t be questioned, when in reality sometimes they just don’t have it! Just like ANY AND EVERY reliever sometimes just doesn’t have it. At which point, why force the issue? Why let them give away the entire game? If they don’t have it, they don’t have it. Let someone else get a shot at saving the fucking thing!

Enter Tony Zych, who did just that. He got the first batter to ground out, which still scored a run, intentionally walked the next guy to load the bases, and after running the count full, caught the final batter of the night looking to put everyone out of their misery.

Robinson Cano missed his fifth consecutive game after they thought for a minute that he might be able to play. That puts us halfway to the 10-Day DL minimum and I’ve gotta think the Mariners will need to pull that trigger if some other position player goes down.

Also, Tuffy Gosewisch went hitless again for the millionth game in a row. How much longer are we going to keep this farce going? I understand Mike Zunino needs a little time to get going, but why are we giving Tuffy the starting role in this catcher rotation? I think he has BEYOND proved that he’s not a Major League Baseball player by now. And I’ve yet to see anything even remotely remarkable about his defense. At least Zunino could slap you a single every now and then, or take a God damn walk once in a while. Tuffy is making me long for the days of Jesus Sucre for Christ’s sake!

The Mariners Were Swept In Toronto

I mean, you knew the good times weren’t going to last, right?  Not with this rotation in the shambles it’s in.  All four starters in that series were destined to start out in Tacoma or worse before injuries set in, and while they’d all done pretty well in the previous turn through the rotation, odds were heavily against them replicating that sort of success a second time in a row.

What we probably didn’t see coming was the Mariners’ offense only scoring 6 runs in 4 games, particularly after how they mashed in Philly.  But, they too had been on a nice little roll recently, and were destined to come back to Earth at some point.

People are going to look back at the 2017 Mariners as the Great Lost Season.  This team had all the potential in the world to gel into something fantastic, but an absurd number of pitching injuries will ultimately torpedo all this promise.  We’ll have to look back and wonder what could have been, if all our key guys stayed healthy.

Or, if they’d stayed out of the WBC?

There have been a number of key injuries around Major League Baseball this year.  To be fair, there are a number of key injuries around Major League Baseball EVERY year, and they don’t do the WBC on an annual basis.  But, someone mentioned the WBC recently when talking about a lot of the players who are missing time, and I think it’s definitely worth exploring.

I’m not an anti-WBC zealot, by any means, but I think it’s misplaced on the schedule.  MLB players already play upwards of 162 games a year, plus playoffs if they’re so lucky, plus a bunch of Spring Training games to ramp up for the regular season.  That’s already TOO MUCH baseball; now you’re throwing in this meaningless tournament at the start of the season?  Forcing everyone to start getting in baseball shape sooner – and thereby reducing their recovery period in the offseason by however many weeks – just so they can, what, play for their countries?  Didn’t we have baseball in the Olympics for that?

I think the only way to have a viable WBC tournament is to have it during the middle of the MLB season.  The players will leave and go play for their national teams after they’re already sufficiently warmed up, and their MLB teams will just have to get by until they return.

Because this Doing It During Spring Training bullshit, I believe, is having an adverse effect on these players.

Drew Smyly was the obvious early example, as he didn’t look the same after his one start in the WBC.  But, there’s also Jean Segura – who was on the DL for two weeks – as well as Robbie Cano and Nelson Cruz, who have yet to hit the DL, but who have both had nagging leg injuries that have cost them a few games of late.  Then, of course, we have Felix Hernandez, who ALREADY had a billion miles on his throwing arm, and apparently thought it would be a good idea to throw a few more on there in a meaningless WBC tournament.

If you ask me, it’s only a matter of time before Yovani Gallardo and Edwin Diaz see time on the shelf, at which point that’ll account for just about everyone of import in the Mariners organization who played in the WBC.

I could be totally off base, and all these injuries could just be coincidences.  After all, Iwakuma didn’t play in the WBC.  Mitch Haniger didn’t play in the WBC.  A bunch of these other guys on the DL didn’t participate in the WBC either.  I dunno.  I’m just angry and sad and frustrated.  I always want the Mariners to do well, but I REALLY wanted this year to be the year we returned to the playoffs.  Mostly because it just made the most sense.  This is the most talented team we’ve had since 2003, and it’s just getting harder and harder to swallow.

I just can’t remember the last time I felt this beaten down.  It feels like, for the Mariners to win on a consistent basis, they have to average 8+ runs per game.  We’re never going to get those 2-1 or 1-0 wins.  Although, you could argue, yesterday’s game came the closest.

Ariel Miranda threw five scoreless innings of relatively impressive baseball.  The Mariners were finally able to scratch across a run in the top of the fifth to take a 1-0 lead.  Then, Miranda walked the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the sixth and was pulled for James Pazos.  Of course, that run ended up coming around to score, along with one more, thanks to Justin Smoak jacking a 2-run bomb to center.  Because, yeah, fuck that guy.  That cunt couldn’t do shit when he was with the Mariners, but he’s sure as shit going to have his bloody revenge whenever he plays AGAINST the Mariners.  Go fuck yourself, Justin Smoak, you worthless knob.

Jarrod Dyson was able to tie the game with his first homer of the season, and that took us to the bottom of the ninth, where Edwin Diaz gave up the walk-off homer to Toronto’s punchless centerfielder.  I guess turnabout is fair play or whatever.

In the series, Mariners hitters were 4 for 35 with runners in scoring position, harkening back to the first week of this God-foresaken season.  The sweep dropped the Mariners’ road record to 7-16 and dropped our run differential to an even 0.  So, at least we’re no longer one of those shameful teams who have a losing record and a positive run differential, in defiance of all that is holy and right in the game of baseball.

No days off this week, but the Mariners are back home for seven games.  At least that’s something.  Nothing to get too excited about though.  You’re probably better off trying to binge-watch the first two seasons of Twin Peaks before its revival kicks off Sunday night.

Mariners Make Something Good Out Of Chicken Salad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are The Mariners Zeroing In On A Viable Bullpen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners 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.

Mariners Overcome A Bad Bullpen To Beat The Angels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What The Hell, Scott Servais?

I don’t rail against the manager very often, because honestly the manager doesn’t have that great of an impact on the game.  He sets a lineup, and he manages the bullpen.  Everything else is on the players themselves, the GM who brought us these players, and the umpires – who are really more of a constant than a variable – who generally do a good job, but tend to fuck up more than robots would.

So, when Scott Servais does something dumb with his ONE JOB, I’m going to say something about it.  Because Jesus Fucking Christ.

Top of the 8th inning, Mariners up 3-2.  Paxton did a pretty good job, but let his pitch count get the better of him thanks to some bad home plate umpiring and a lack of command of his fastball.  The combination of Nick Vincent and Scrabble got us to the 7th, and Tony Zych got us a couple outs into the 8th.  He hit the leadoff hitter, though, and after getting the two outs, left-handed bat Kole Calhoun stepped to the plate.  Lefty reliever James Pazos had been warming up since way back in the 7th inning (or maybe earlier, who can recall?), and was sufficiently ready to go.  Makes perfect sense, no?

Apparently fucking not, as Scott Servais had the brilliant fucking idea of bringing in our closer to get the 4-out save.

Let’s start here.  I think we all understand why someone would bring in a lefty reliever to face a lefty batter, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  Scott Servais has this bug up his ass about getting Edwin Diaz more work.  He’s a young guy and therefore his arm is ready for a bigger workload.  People have taken this to mean that the Mariners are going to use Diaz like the Indians use Andrew Miller – not necessarily to get the final 3 outs of the ballgame, but to come in during the most important late-game situations, regardless of whether it’s a save situation or not.  But, that’s false.  Servais just has no confidence in this bullpen (because why should he?) and knows he’ll need to lean on the guys he can trust to work more than just the one inning per appearance.  Diaz is still this team’s closer, but now he’s going to have to get more than three outs to get his saves.  It’s still all catering to the save statistic, so this isn’t fresh or new thinking whatsoever!

Edwin Diaz has done nothing to deserve this type of confidence, by the way.  Maybe if we were talking about Mariano Rivera in his prime, we could discuss bringing him in to work multiple innings.  But, so far, Diaz hasn’t even worked a full season’s worth of games in the Majors yet!  He won the closer job because his first month or so was electric (and Cishek really screwed the pooch), but guys know how to hit him now!  He’s not throwing 100 mph anymore.  He’s still wild, but not effectively wild like he was when the league was still getting to know him.  And, quite frankly, he’s blown too many saves to be considered an elite closer.  He’s no different than Fernando Rodney, Brandon League, Steve Cishek, David Aardsma, Tom Wilhelmsen, or any of these other jokers who have yet to be good for more than one season for the Mariners.

So, of course Edwin Diaz gave up the go-ahead 2-run homer to Kole Calhoun!  And of course the Mariners tied it up in the bottom of the 9th to send it to extras!  And OF COURSE James Pazos came into the game in the 11th inning – about 4 innings after he’d started warming up in the first place – and WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, the first batter he faced was the very same Kole Calhoun!  Did he give up a homer to the man?  NO!  He struck him out!  Because he’s a left-handed pitcher facing a left-handed batter, and that’s generally what tends to happen in those situations, SCOTT SERVAIS, YOU PUTZ!

Granted, Pazos would go on to give up two runs in the 11th inning to lose us the ballgame, but that’s not on him.  If he were used properly, in the top of the 8th, when he was warmed up and fresh, his command may have been a little more on par with the rest of his appearances this season.

Also, not for nothing, but if Pazos was brought in for just Calhoun in the 8th inning, THAT WOULD’VE BEEN THE ONLY BATTER HE WOULD’VE FACED, BECAUSE HE WOULD HAVE STRUCK THAT MOTHERFUCKER OUT!

I have no idea what Diaz would’ve done if he’d just come in fresh for the 9th inning with no runners on base, but that’s a hypothetical for another time.  In this universe, Scott Servais botched the fuck out of this one, and cost the Mariners a win they desperately needed.

Repeat after me:  Edwin Diaz is NOT the be-all, end-all of this bullpen.  He’s probably not all that much better than anyone else down there, if we’re being honest.  His consistency leaves a lot to be desired.  He’s trying to get away with just his natural gifts, and that’s not going to fly in the MLB, because those hitters have a lot of natural gifts too, and they tend to expose pitchers who throw it up there without knowing where it’s going.

God damn this season is frustrating as fuck.