Mariners Posted Impressive Comeback Win To Sweep Rangers

This game had it all!  By which I mean it had a lot of things.  For instance, it had speed at the top of the lineup manufacturing a run in the bottom of the first.

It had Hisashi Iwakuma absolutely fall apart after a nondescript first inning, giving up 6 runs while recording just the 9 outs.  110 more innings to go before Iwakuma’s 2018 option vests and we’re going to have to pay him upwards of $15 million next year.

I don’t hate the guy by any means, but I do think that he’s A) overpaid, and B) overrated.  I know I harp on this a lot, but if I don’t explain myself, it just looks like I have an irrational hatred of Japanese people or something.  He’s OKAY.  But, he’s pretty far removed from his best season in 2013, and even that year looks like an anomaly compared to every other year he’s been in the Major Leagues.  I get the feeling that people expect him to be great every time out, when in reality he’s good maybe half the time, and bad the other half.  As I sarcastically noted on Twitter yesterday, he was long overdue for a bad game considering he’d already given us two pretty okay starts in the first week.

What’s even more galling is that he’d yet to throw more than 90 pitches in either of his first two starts, then he had the off-day on Thursday, then he was pushed back a start so we could split up Paxton and Miranda (which, I don’t know why we didn’t do that to start the season, but whatever), so he had two extra days to rest up and still couldn’t give us much of anything against a fairly mediocre Rangers team.  Unless you want to say his timing was thrown off with the extra days in between starts, but he strikes me as a guy who needs that sort of careful handling to make it through the season.

Anyway, if I can get off my soapbox for a moment, there we were, down 6-1 heading into the bottom of the third inning.  This game had the feel of I want to say almost every single Sunday game from last year:  just a humdrum defeat where no one really shows up to play.  And then, in the bottom of the third, the two leadoff guys got on and Haniger muscled out a 3-run homer to left-center to put the Mariners right back in the game!

At that point, Servais went with the quick hook of Iwakuma, since he clearly didn’t have anything resembling “it”, and for once the bullpen was up to the task.

Recent call-up Evan Marshall went 2.1 perfect innings to bridge us over to the late-inning relief guys.  He was a quality reliever for Arizona in 2014, then hit the skids the last two seasons before being released.  He doesn’t look like anything special when you watch him, but he throws a lot of quality strikes and is obviously capable of going multiple innings in a pinch.  I don’t know necessarily where he stands with the ballclub once Cishek is ready to return from his rehab assignment, but assuming everyone stays healthy, and no one really falls apart with their mechanics (I’m looking at you, Altavilla), I’d have to think Marshall is the odd man out.  But, assuming he still has options, it’s nice to know we can count on him should the need arise for a long man out of the ‘pen.

James Pazos came in to strikeout the last two guys in the 6th inning, before walking the leadoff batter in the 7th.  Tony Zych made his 2017 debut by inducing a fly-out before giving up a single.  Scrabble was able to shut down that threat, as well as get the first two outs of the 8th (not without walking a batter).  That’s when Dan Altavilla came in and loaded the bases on back-to-back walks.

I should point out that the Mariners had tied the game by this point.  Cole Hamels got through five innings with a 6-4 lead, and for the third consecutive start to open the season, he watched his bullpen gag away the victory.  In the bottom of the sixth, Seager doubled to lead off, and Valencia of all people doubled him home.  Then, in the bottom of the seventh, Guillermo Heredia hit quite the crowd-pleasing solo homer to left to tie it at 6.  I couldn’t be happier for the kid, who had this look of pure joy as he hit it, and again as he was greeted at the dugout with a big bear hug by Cano.  The fact that he’s contributing and playing well in the early going is really awesome, both for him and the team, as we wait for the middle of the order to really get cooking.

So, when Altavilla looked like he was going to tear all that apart in the next half-inning, it was pretty demoralizing.  And yet, he finally got some pitches to enter the strike zone, which ultimately led to Elvis Andrus striking out on something low and in to end the threat.  Sighs of relief all around.

It would be short lived, though, as Edwin Diaz came in for the ninth inning and gave up a lead-off, go-ahead homer to put the M’s down 7-6.  All of that for NOTHING!  And, on just a terrible sequence of pitches, as he started off Nomar Mazara with a 2-0 count before grooving a fastball middle-in that Mazara was able to cheat on because he was expecting fastball all the way.  You hate to pull the Closer In Non-Save Situations card, but that was a real doozy.  Diaz was able to get through the rest of the inning unscathed, but the damage appeared to be done.

Until the Rangers brought in closer Sam Dyson (who might find this is his only mention on my website, with the way he’s going of late).  Dyson had been a pretty great closer for the Rangers last year, saving 38 games.  He’s actually been a solid reliever since 2014, so it’s not like we’re talking about a flash in the pan here.  But, in his first 6 appearances this season (including yesterday), he’s had 3 blown saves and another outright loss, with an ERA of 27.00.  It’s my understanding that he won’t be closing games for Texas for a while, which is too bad, but I’ll gladly take it because it means the Mariners overcame a 7-6 deficit in the ninth inning yesterday.

Jarrod Dyson pinch hit for Chooch and reached on an infield single.  He then proceeded to steal second base before we even had to bunt (God, I love Dyson’s speed!).  Leonys Martin then bunted him over to third, and was safe at first thanks to perfect bunt placement and poor pitcher defense.  Mike Freeman then pinch hit for Heredia, to give us another lefty hitter.  Martin stole second on his own, which led the Rangers to walk Freeman to load the bases and set up a play at any base.  This brought up Mitch Haniger, who worked one of the most impressive walks you’re ever going to see in a situation like that.  Tie game, no outs, with the heart of the order coming up.  SURELY we wouldn’t bungle this opportunity, would we?

Well, for starters, don’t call me Shirley (this joke really doesn’t work in print, but I’ll be damned if that’s ever stopped me from using it), but also the middle of the order has been pretty fucking far from intimidating this year.  Cano, Cruz and Seager have a combined 2 homers in the first two weeks.  I know it’s not all about homers with these guys, but they’re the same hitters who knocked out 112 dingers just last year.  Cano has one more extra base hit (4) than he does times he’s grounded into a double play (3).  Same with Cruz (3 extra base hits, 2 double plays).  So, you know, it absolutely wasn’t a given that the Mariners would come through in that situation.

Indeed, with the infield pulled in, Cano hit a fielder’s choice to the second baseman to keep the bases loaded and the game tied.  With one out, the Rangers opted to play back for the double play, and boy did it look like Cruz would oblige!  He hit a sharp grounder to short that Andrus just couldn’t get a handle on, resulting in everyone being safe and ending the game 8-7 for the good guys.  But, damn, if he comes up with that ball, and is able to flip it to second, I think there’s a really solid chance they’re able to double up Cruz at first.  It would’ve been a bang-bang play at the very least, with CB Bucknor of all people bungling things up on that end of the field.

(Bucknor who, not for nothing, ejected Scott Servais earlier in the game for arguing about his idiocy at first base, as it seemed he defered to the Rangers’ first baseman on making a fair/foul call, but that’s neither here nor there).

I’ll tell you what, this was just what the doctor ordered for the Mariners.  Like I said yesterday, the series win was nice, but this really needed to be a sweep.  Now, the Mariners are finally out of the cellar in the A.L. West (5-8, a half game up on the Rangers, who had to have felt pretty good about themselves coming into this series).  A quick look of the standings sees the A’s at 5-7 and the Angels at 6-7.  The Astros, at 8-4, are the only team with a winning record, in other words.

Oh, is it too early to Standings Watch?  A thousand times no!

(although, maybe don’t look too hard at the Wild Card standings for a while.  At least until the Mariners are able to climb back to .500)

The Miami Marlins come in for three, before the M’s head out on a 10-game road trip (4 in Oakland, 3 in Detroit, and 3 in Cleveland).  Over/under on weather-related postponements is set at 2.5, and I’m inclined to bet the over.

Mariners Get Much-Needed Win On Griffey Statue Day

With the way this season’s gone so far, the Mariners should’ve lost last night’s game 9 ways from Sunday, but instead somehow pulled out the 2-1 victory.

Felix looked good, though still not quite his old dominant self, in going 7.1 innings, giving up 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 3 with 0 walks.  The fact that he’s still on 0 walks through three starts is about as amazing as it gets.  Last night, he pitched to contact well and for the most part was rewarded by his defense, aside from that Zunino bungle in front of home plate.

The King was still in great shape in the 8th inning, at around 80 pitches heading in.  But, a line-out to the short stop and a single to the next batter ended his day.  Scrabble came in and got the next two lefties out to end the threat.  From there, it was more or less a relatively pain-free save situation for Diaz, who watched a 2-out single scamper over to third base on a steal and a wild pitch before being stranded.

The Mariners kicked off the scoring with Nelson Cruz’s first homer of the season, a solo shot in the 4th, to go up 1-0.  It was an impressive liner to right-center field, and you know Cruz is going well at the plate when he’s going the other way with power.

Obviously, the offense isn’t going right when you only get 2 runs, but 6 Mariners managed to get at least 1 hit.  They’re just not getting these in succession, as they went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

Part of it wasn’t necessarily their fault though, as in the bottom of the 7th, Dyson reached on an infield single, and stole second before Heredia could bunt him over.  Heredia finally DID bunt him over, but it got away from the pitcher, ending up with runners on the corners and nobody out.  That brought up Mitch Haniger, who worked the count in his favor and hit a shot off the top of the wall that the idiot umpiring crew called a home run.  It was later ruled NOT a home run, but for some reason they put Haniger back at first base and Heredia back at second.  You can say Heredia mis-read the ball all you want, but with their speed, there’s no way they wouldn’t have gotten to second and third on that hit.  That sufficiently changed the course of the inning, but with the meat of the order coming up, you still had to feel good about our chances of playing a little add-on, right?

WRONG.  Cano popped out and Cruz hit into a double play.  I guess that solo homer back in the 4th didn’t cure all of Cruz’s ills quite yet.

Danny Valencia is still stinking up the joint.  So is Mike Zunino.  Valencia just looks as lost at the plate as I’ve seen anyone.  Zunino has a giant hole in his swing causing him to miss anything up in the zone.  A guy with his power and his youth should not be missing on this many fastballs in the zone, saying nothing of the times he goes chasing those breaking balls that fall out of the zone.  I’ve been doing a little work on updating my Worst Trades, Draft Picks, and Free Agent Signings page, and right now in my notes I’ve written “Mike Zunino?”  Well, we’re going on 5 years since he was drafted, and I’m just about to take that question mark off of his name and cement him in as yet another first round Mariners draft bust.  God damn you Jack Zduriencik, you worthless pile of crap.

Blowing A 5-Run Lead For The Mariners Is Child’s Play

Much like the night before, this game started off pretty promising.  The offense jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, Mike Freeman hit his first-ever Major League home run in the second inning, and Taylor Motter – the untamable beast – hit a 2-run homer in the third inning to really set things up nicely.  Yovani Gallardo was cruising along, so it should’ve been a cinch for him to go 6 innings and get that quality start.  And, from there, surely our finest bullpen arms would be able to put the game away easy peasy!

Except, starting in the fourth inning, Gallardo decided to give the whole lead away.  Two runs in the fourth & two more in the fifth made it 5-4 Mariners, but at least Gallardo got to qualify for the win!  Because that’s fucking important!  Not the fact that he clearly lost his command way back in the fourth inning and probably should’ve been pulled before he could do any more damage!

But, where would that get us?  As it was, we pulled him after five, and the bullpen STILL managed to more than give the game away.  Scrabble kept it tight in the sixth inning, but Dan Altavilla – ostensibly our best reliever after our closer – wiped away everything by giving up 3 runs in the seventh.  After that, I just turned the fucking game off.

I mean, the game was already a collosal bore, dragging on WAY too long thanks to both starters futzing around on the mound all damn day.  There was no way the Mariners were going to get that lead back.  When the dregs of the bullpen gave up 3 more runs in the eighth, let’s just say I wasn’t surprised.

The obvious point of contention is to look at the offense that didn’t do a God damn thing after the third inning.  That isn’t the way to put most teams away, let alone the Astros who are really fucking good and really have our fucking number.  But, it’s not like there were tons of opportunities.  After the third inning, the Mariners never had more than 1 baserunner in an inning, and all told spread out just three hits.

Quite frankly, this is the type of game I expected to see a lot of this season.  Crappy starting pitching followed by really sketchy bullpen pitching.  The offense did enough to win on many days, but obviously 5 runs isn’t going to cut it every time out for this pitching staff.

This thing sort of goes deeper though.  We’ve had to count on A LOT of young arms this year, less than two weeks in.  Altavilla is 24, having just made the jump from AA late last year.  Dillon Overton is 25 and has just 9 Major League appearances to his name.  Evan Marshall is 26, and has just one full Major League season under his belt.  James Pazos is 25 and had just 18 Major League appearances before this season.  Chase De Jong is just 23 and made his Major League debut in that extra innings Houston loss.  And, hell, our closer, Edwin Diaz is only 23 and is still more or less getting his feet wet as he made the jump from AA last year.  So, you know, don’t be shocked if you see these guys come up here and struggle from time to time.  Also, don’t be shocked if some or all of them ultimately flame out, because we simply don’t know how they’re going to respond when they get punched in the mouth like they’ve been recently.

Also, not for nothing, but the veterans we’ve sprinkled in around them haven’t exactly been world-beaters.  Aside from Scrabble – who’s pitched 2.1 innings in 4 appearances – we’re talking about Nick Vincent (very underwhelming), Evan Scribner (far from ideal), and Casey Fien (who was just outrighted to Tacoma to make room for Evan Marshall on the 25-man roster, and Boog Powell on the 40-man roster).

I’ll say this, the team could REALLY use Tony Zych and Steve Cishek back and healthy.

On the offensive side of things, I can’t help but be dazzled by Taylor Motter, who has 4 doubles and a homer in the last two days.  I said it before, kind of joking, but now I’m serious:  he NEEDS to be the everyday first baseman as long as he’s hitting like this.  Between him and Haniger, they’re in the early running for Biggest Pleasant Surprises (the Dae-ho Lee Award).  The longer Motter hits, the more the team is going to have to play him.  If he becomes a starter (either at first base or in the outfield), we’re going to be talking about this past offseason for many years to come.  Two very big black holes are currently being filled by Motter and Haniger, and if they continue to play well for a full season, it’s going to bode REALLY well for our chances down the stretch.

First thing’s first:  start taking care of business in the division.

Today is an off-day, which I’d say the Mariners desperately need.  Here’s to hoping this weekend goes better than last weekend.

The Mariners Opted To Shit All Over Opening Day With A 1-6 Road Trip

What’s the perfect capper to the worst opening week in Seattle Mariners history?  How about taking an 8-1 lead – including a 9-3 lead in the bottom of the 9th – and pissing it all away to blow a great Iwakuma start, the first really good offensive effort, and have it happen one day before the Mariners’ home opener?

Robinson Cano was the star of the day, breaking out of his slump with a 2 for 5 effort, including a 3-run homer and a 2-run bases loaded double.  But, he wasn’t the only guy on offense doing good work.  Mitch Haniger hit his third homer of the new season, Segura scored 3 runs and got his third stolen base of the year, and Carlos Ruiz had a couple hits, scoring a run and knocking one in.  The Mariners were a solid 3 for 8 with runners in scoring position and only left 3 runners on base.  I’ve had a lot of shit to say about the offense this first week, but they were absolutely NOT to blame for losing this one.

Hisashi Iwakuma also played a major part, going 6 innings, giving up just a solo homer in 89 pitches.  On the one hand, it’s a tad concerning Kuma has yet to throw more than 90 pitches in a game through two starts, but on the other hand he’s managed to go 6 innings both times while giving up 3 runs total this season.  If he’s going to do that for you on a regular basis, then I don’t think I mind keeping his arm fresh like we’ve been doing.  Of course, we’re going to need more out of our bullpen if that’s the case.

As soon as the Mariners went up 8-1 in the top of the 7th inning, Nick Vincent promptly gave up two runs in the bottom half of the inning to start the collapse.  He looked terrible as usual, and only got out of the inning because the last out got caught in a run-down between first and second after knocking the two runners in.  From there, Scrabble and Altavilla got through a scoreless 8th inning, while the M’s tacked on another run to make it a 6-run game.

No worries, then, right?  6-run lead, 3 outs to go in the game, why not bring Casey Fien in to get us through the garbage time?

Yeah, Casey Fien has to go.  As soon as Tony Zych is ready to return from his rehab assignment, Fien better be DFA’d, and in the meantime he better not show up in another fucking game unless it’s an absolute last resort.  At this point, I’d rather see any position player on the mound than Fien one more time.  Fuck that idiot.

Fien started off the 9th by giving up a solo homer to Albert Pujols.  He then walked a guy, gave up a single, and walked another guy before he was pulled, having gotten exactly zero outs.  Needless to say, all of those guys would go on to score.

With the game still 9-4, with the bases loaded (now technically a save situation), the Mariners had to scramble to get Edwin Diaz in the game.  I don’t know if he would ever give this as an excuse for his own poor outing, but I hardly think he had enough time to sufficiently warm up his arm prior to getting thrown in the fire.  Diaz induced a ground ball out that scored a run, 9-5.  He struck out the next guy, 1 out remaining in the game.  Then, Diaz went completely off the rails.  A double scored two, 9-7.  Two walks loaded the bases.  Then, Albert Pujols returned, this time to slap a game-tying single to right.  The final pitch Diaz threw went off the wall in right center to put everyone out of their misery.

I just don’t know what to say after a game like that.  I don’t even know what to say after a week like that!  Way to suck all the life out of Opening Day – today at 2pm – by starting off the season 1-6!  Even if this was just an ordinary year, we’d be talking about fans jumping into a pit of hot lava just to get the hell off of the bandwagon, but this is the year we’re supposed to be going back to the post-season!  On paper, we’re talking about the best team we’ve had around here since probably 2003, and you go out and shit all over everything by losing 6 of your first 7 games?  How are you going to get asses in the seats this season?  How are you going to keep fan interest alive when you’re COLOSALLY FUCKING THIS UP, DUDE!?

This year’s motto is “Whatever It Takes”.  Apparently, that’s short for, “Whatever It Takes To Make Our Fans Miserable”.

The Mariners Finally Won A Game

Why do we put ourselves through this?

Why do we put ourselves THROUGH this?

WHY do we put ourselves through this?

I like to ask this on occasion – hell, it’s the motto of the fucking website you’re reading! – because sometimes I honestly don’t know why we put ourselves through this.  Boredom?  A need to live vicariously through genetically-superior wonders of human creation?  Sadomasochism?

Ultimately, it’s explained – waxing poetically – that we put ourselves through this because it’ll all be worth it when we reach the peak.  When the team we root for finally busts through and wins its respective world championship, then all the pain and suffering is worth it.

But, honestly, that’s just Cleveland talk, before the Cavs won.  That’s Buffalo talk.  That’s that sweet, sweet San Diego talk.  I’m a Seahawks fan, and the Seahawks won the Super Bowl recently, but I don’t feel fundamentally different as a fan.  I don’t feel more enlightened or more at peace.  I’m a junkie chasing after his next score!  I’m the son in Requiem For A Dream stealing his mother’s old tube TV to pawn for drug money!  Nevermind the fact mom’s got her own demons and my girlfriend’s getting fucked at parties with a double-ended dildo; THIS IS MY LIFE!  My life as a sports fan.  It’s a fucked up existence, but it’s all I know and I’m too far gone to quit now.

I shouldn’t BE this agitated in the first week of April, with the Mariners now improving to a whopping 1-3 on the season.  Yet, here we are.  My name is Steven, and I’m addicted to really mediocre and disappointing sports teams.

You know baseball season is getting into full swing when watching every minute of a game ceases to be of utmost importance.  Last night, instead of watching from first pitch, I made time to hit the gym.  When I got back, I checked the score, then I watched an old episode of the Simpsons as I ate dinner.  I flipped back and forth between watching the game and diddling around on the Internet.

For instance, I missed Ariel Miranda giving up the second leadoff homer to George Springer in four games, and I also missed Mitch Haniger’s first homer in a Mariners uniform.  But, I did see Marwin Gonzalez’s go-ahead solo homer, as well as Miranda load the bases with nobody out in the fifth inning.  I turned it off when I heard Altuve was coming up to bat, because I figured nothing good could come of me witnessing that, but how wrong I was!  He induced a miracle double play and got out of the jam completely unscathed!

From there, the Mariners found themselves in yet another bases loaded/no out situation in the top of the sixth, and once again could only muster a single run – on a fielder’s choice – to re-tie the game at 2-2.  It remained that way through the 8th inning, and it looked like the game was going to hit extra innings for the second day in a row.

Then, the top of the 9th happened.  A walk and a hit batter, with a couple of corresponding pinch runners, put speed on the basepaths with one out.  Jarrod Dyson then singled to give the Mariners the lead, and eventually Jean Segura also singled to put the Mariners ahead 4-2.  It was quite the relief (getting that second run), because we were bringing out Edwin Diaz – who’d just pitched two innings the night before – and you just never know what you’re going to get with a Diaz outing (sort of like you never know what you’re going to get with any closer).

I should also point out that we did this against Houston’s closer, Ken Giles, who collected saves in the first two games and looked damn near unhittable doing so.  Giles somehow avoided that 13-inning catastrophe the night before, so he should’ve been rested, but he ended up throwing an inordinate amount of off-speed pitches last night, which was a little odd because he didn’t really have amazing control of his off-speed pitches.  You would’ve thought he would go back to his fastball, which had been so dominant in his first two outings.  But, you know, I’m not complaining.

Diaz had no such struggles.  He set the Astros down in order, doing what De Jong failed to do the night before:  end the game by striking out Nori Aoki, thus preventing the lineup from turning over to master cocksmith George Springer again.

The offense for the Mariners obviously still isn’t where it needs to be, but I dunno, maybe we chalk that up to the Astros having a really fucking good pitching staff from top to bottom.  Maybe they bust out of the slump as early as tonight in Anaheim.  Really, the only guy who was worth a damn in that series was Segura, who currently leads the team in hits, average, RBI, and slugging.  Gonna need more than just him to step up here.

Great game from Haniger last night, with a homer, a single, a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored.  He also nailed an outfield assist on a hit and run where Nori Aoki got caught running with his head down.

Nevertheless, the Mariners were 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position, making them 3 for 36 on the series.  They also left 7 men on base, giving them a total of 35 on the series.  A series where they scored all of 8 runs in 4 games.

On the plus side, the pitching has been fine for the most part.  Ariel Miranda went 5 innings, giving up 2 runs, which is kind of a best-case scenario for a Major League team using it’s 6th starter.  James Pazos appeared in his third game of the series, going 2 shutout innings.  Dan Altavilla made up for his performance on Wednesday by going 1 scoreless.  And, that brought us to Diaz with his first save of the season.  All told, the Mariners only gave up 12 runs in 4 games, which:  sign me up for that for a full season!  Aside from De Jong’s blown save, the bullpen has gone 15 innings, giving up only 3 runs, which is pretty outstanding.  Keep it up, boys!

Can’t stop, won’t stop, as the Mariners head to Anaheim for a weekend series with the Angels.  Then, it’s the home opener on Monday.  Let’s have a better weekend, huh?

The Astros Are Better Than The Mariners At Baseball

If you learn one thing from this series, it’s that the Astros are destined for greatness and the Mariners are destined for something … less than.  You can tell me it’s early all you want, but this is a great Astros team, and they’re not even playing all that well right now!  Altuve has yet to do anything, the rest of their lineup has been spotty at best, and yet they’ve still been able to demolish the Mariners through three games, with the fourth coming tonight.  Just imagine what this team is going to look like when all elements are firing.

The enraging thing – the thing that’s bound to prove my point even further – is going to be when the Mariners sweep the Angels this weekend and everyone will say, “See!  Nothing to worry about!  It was just one series in early April!  These games CLEARLY don’t matter as much as the games in September!”  And for a while, people will relax, because it’ll look like the Mariners are back on track.  Except, here’s the thing:  I never said the Mariners are terrible; I just said that the Astros are really fucking good and there’s no way we’re going to top them this season, short of the Astros suffering a slew of key injuries while the Mariners from this day forward remain relatively healthy.

This series is the fork in our division-winning hopes.  The Mariners are simply worse than the Astros, and quite frankly they have been since the Astros joined the A.L. West.  Even when the Astros were fucking God awful, they were still better than the Mariners.  It is our cross to bear.

So, now we know, with 159 games to play, it’s Wild Card or Bust.  I just hope there aren’t many more teams like the Astros on the schedule to give us fits.  If we can’t figure out a way to win some divisional games – thank you Unbalanced Schedule – not even the Wild Card will be on the table.

Last night’s game might have changed my mind, had the Mariners scratched out the win, but instead it only reinforces my resolve that the Astros are the better team.  We had everything going for us in that game, and by “everything” I mean James Paxton.  He looked fucking phenomenal in throwing six shutout innings, while giving up 2 hits, walking 1, and striking out 5.  If he’d only been able to keep his pitch count under control, this really should’ve been a 7- or 8-inning performance.  But, it’s his first start of the season, so stopping him at 100 pitches is the right thing to do.

I’ll tell ya, though, Paxton was something else.  He was pounding the inside corner of the plate like I’ve never seen!   The Astros had, what I distinctly remember as an all-right handed lineup, and Paxton didn’t bat an eye!  He even managed to power through some of those unlucky Paxton-esque moments without allowing a run to score; like in the second inning, when a 1-out walk managed to reach third base on an out and a wild pitch; or when Springer reached on a strikeout in the dirt and advanced to third base on a double (he had to get through Altuve and Correa to get out of that jam unscathed!).  These are the kinds of minor inconveniences that – in the past – would somehow come around to destroy a Paxton start.  But, last night, he locked those shits down!

(of course, that isn’t to say those types of things won’t ruin him in future starts, but this was an encouraging way to bring in the new season for a guy known for his inconsistency)

The Mariners managed to not only score a run with a hit out of the infield, but they hit their first homer of the season!  Jean Segura hit an opposite-field 2-run homer that was remarkable in the way it kept carrying.  For such a little guy, he has a surprising amount of power.  On top of that, it was the Mariners’ first lead of the season!

It didn’t last long.

As I noted above, Paxton was finished after six innings, but the Mariners went right to their best set-up man, Evan Scribner … who promptly gave up back-to-back hits and was pulled for Scrabble (our next-best set-up man), who did his job and got the first out of the 7th inning.  That brought us to Dan Altavilla (our third-best set-up man), who gave up a single to load the bases and a double to tie the ballgame.  He ended up getting out of the jam after that with the tie intact, but the blown save damage was done.

From there, it was a comedy of poor clutch hitting through the 12th inning.  Pazos was brought in, even though their entire lineup was right-handed.  He gave up two hits before being pulled.  Casey Fien cleaned up the mess without incident.  Then, Edwin Diaz got his first action of the season, and was forced to go two scoreless innings as we plowed into extras.  That brought us to Nick Vincent, who somehow pitched out of a Runner On Third With Less Than Two Outs jam (of his own creation) and ended up going two more scoreless innings.

At that point, the only reliever left was Chase De Jong.  The Mariners, in the 13th inning, managed to eke out a run on four consecutive walks with nobody out, but could not play add-on, and thus you know how this game concluded.  With a tenuous 3-2 lead, Chase De Jong – who was making his Major League debut, who has all of 1 appearance in AAA (i.e. who was – for all intents and purposes – making the leap from AA to the Majors) – got one quick out, walked the next batter, induced the following batter to foul out, and gave up an opposite-field single to Nori Aoki.

That was the game.  It wasn’t the subsequent 3-run homer by George Springer; it was letting that snake in the grass Aoki, in the 9-hole, weasel his way on base to turn the lineup over.  You get Aoki, you win the game, you get your first career save, and they’re showering you with the Champagne of Beers in the locker room.  Instead, you leave one out over the plate, it gets crushed, and you’re living in your own personal Hell.  Welcome to the Big Leagues, son.

(also, not for nothing, but does this happen if Dillon Overton’s wife doesn’t have that kid this week?  Is it too much to ask to get the C-section a week early?  Okay, I’m horrible, I’ll move on)

I mean, what can you say?  I can’t get angry at De Jong; that’s an impossible situation to enter into as your Major League debut!  Yeah, it’s his fault, but it’s not really his fault.  He probably shouldn’t even be up here in the first place.  In a perfect world, Drew Smyly is healthy and Ariel Miranda is the 8th man in the bullpen.  But, I can’t even blame our own bad luck, because this offense is SERIOUSLY shitting the bed like I haven’t seen since 2010.  Except it’s a million times worse, because whereas the 2010 M’s had shitty hitters, the 2017 M’s have really good ones!  And they’re doing JACK SHIT right now.

Take a look at the blown scoring opportunities in this game alone:

  • 1st Inning – Haniger at 2nd with 1 out; Cano strikes out, Cruz grounds out
  • 2nd Inning – Zunino doubles with 2 outs; Dyson pops it up to the short stop
  • 4th Inning – Cruz leadoff double; stranded at second
  • 7th Inning – Martin walked & stole 2nd with 1 out; stranded at second again
  • 12th Inning – Dyson singled & stole 2nd with 1 out; stranded
  • 13th Inning – 4 walks to lead off the inning & score the go-ahead run; Valencia fly out, Zunino strikeout, Dyson strikeout

That’s just unforgivable.  The pitching this series hasn’t been perfect – not like it needs to be, apparently – but it’s been BEYOND good enough.  It’s even more aggravating because you know the pitching isn’t going to stay this good over the long haul.  We’re fucking SQUANDERING games that we should be winning!  And don’t tell me it’s early, because a loss is a loss is a loss; they all count the same fucking way regardless of whether they’re in April or September, so fuck off with that nonsense.

0-3 as we head into the next two days with our worst two starters.  Oh, this should be fun.

The Official 2017 Seattle Mariners Preview, Part II: The Pitchers

You can read Part I HERE.

There are two ways this thing can go down in 2017:  either the Mariners break the curse and make it back into the post-season, or they don’t and the pitching is entirely to blame.

Now, there are also two ways that previous sentence can go down in 2017:  either I’m right, or the Mariners will find another way to screw both me and the entire fanbase by having good-enough pitching and yet still not making the playoffs somehow, but that’s neither here nor there.

It’s already starting, if I’m being honest, with all this Drew Smyly stuff (UPDATE:  out 6-8 weeks).  Why is it, in sports, that it always seems like teams suffer the most injuries at the spots they can least afford to suffer injuries?  It’s like the man with one leg who sprains his good ankle.  I mean, seriously, what the fuck?

It’s unfair to pin your hopes on one guy, but I have a feeling Smyly was going to be a key cog in our rotation.  Obviously, our chances start with what we get from Felix.  He needs to bounce back in a major way and be that Ace we’ve seen from him before.  Then, you figure the next guy up – the guy who has the biggest opportunity to really explode (in a good way) and possibly climb into that Ace realm – is James Paxton.  The variance on that guy ranges from Top End Starter all the way to Injured Waste of Space, with a lot of options in between.  Then, I always figured Smyly had the next-highest variance of possibilities on the team.  He was an erstwhile top prospect who has had success in this league, and it wasn’t hard to picture it all coming together for him.  If you could work out a Big Three of sorts in our rotation with Felix, Paxton, and Smyly, with those guys carrying the major load, you’d take what you could get out of Kuma and Gallardo and probably walk away with something resembling 90+ wins (depending on how the bullpen shakes out).

Kuma and Gallardo, by the by, have the least amount of variance on the team.  You know what you’re going to get with those guys, and as long as it’s something approaching .500 ball, you’ll take it and you’ll fucking like it.

But, now this Smyly thing happened, and we’ve already got to dip into our starting pitching reserves.  The only question now is, how long until disaster strikes again, and will Smyly be back in time to pick up the slack?

As for the bullpen, buckle up buckaroos!

There’s actually a lot to like about this unit, all things considered, but a lot of things would have to break right to expect these guys to be totally lockdown.  Edwin Diaz, for as talented as he is, is still going to be something of a rollercoaster.  Looking beyond just the Opening Day roster, Steve Cishek figures to have a major role in the back-end of the bullpen when he gets fully healthy and ready to fire, and we’ve all seen the kinds of meltdowns he’s capable of.  I look forward to Evan Scribner being a calming, dominant presence – based on his September last year and his Spring Training this year – but we don’t really know!  We’ve yet to see him when the games REALLY start to matter (while the Mariners were still “in contention” last September, it was going to take a minor miracle for them to claw all the way back into post-season play).  We better hope Scribner has what it takes, because Nick Vincent has looked like warm, hittable garbage this spring, and his stuff wasn’t all that good to begin with.  I have a feeling Vincent won’t be on the team by season’s end.  That Scrabble guy was our major bullpen free agent signing, to be our primary lefty reliever, and he’s certainly had his ups and downs.  You don’t sign a guy like him for 2 years and $11 million just to be a fucking LOOGY, so he better figure the fuck out how to limit the damage from right-handed hitters, because so far this spring they’re responsible for ALL of the runs he’s given up.

On the plus side, some of the younger guys look better than expected.  Dan Altavilla has all but won himself a spot on the team.  Tony Zych is also working his way back from injury, and should play a big role in this bullpen when he’s ready.  James Pazos is another lefty the team is looking at long and hard, though he’s suffering many of the same complications as Scrabble, with right-handed hitters bashing the shit out of him.  With someone like Pazos, though, I don’t think you mind as much letting him be a LOOGY for a while, to get his feet wet and build his confidence (especially if this team goes with 8-man bullpens for various stretches of the season).  Beyond that, you’ve got any number of non-roster guys who are doing great, but I’m having a hard time figuring out who’s slated to be in a minor league rotation vs. who’s fodder for our bullpen should the need arise.

Bottom line with these guys, I think the bullpen is good enough to get us there.  I would be legitimately surprised (and yet, as a longtime Mariners fan, not surprised whatsoever) if the bullpen totally fell apart like it did in 2015.

What is a concern is not just the rotation underperforming, but their underperformance having a drastically negative impact on our bullpen.  A dominant bullpen can carry the load for a short period of time, if the rotation goes into a slump (which always happens, at one point or another, on every team).  But, if the bullpen is expected to carry this pitching staff over a super-long stretch of games, it’s ultimately going to get over-worked and severely lose its effectiveness.  So, yeah, the bullpen COULD struggle when all is said and done, but you have to look at the whole picture and decide:  are these guys just duds, or did the rotation totally screw them over?

I keep going back and forth with my predictions for this team.  I know when I was in Reno, I thought the bet of over 85.5 wins was pretty solid.  But, I didn’t think it was solid enough to actually put my own money on it, so do with that what you will.  My feeling on the Mariners seems to change with my mood.  When I’m happy, I can see this team winning over 90 games and going pretty far.  When I’m unhappy, work is getting to me, and I’m obsessing over the 5,000th consecutive overcast day in fucking SEATTLE GOD DAMN WASHINGTON FUCK ME WHY DON’T I MOVE TO SAN DIEGO AND GET AWAY FROM ALL THIS BULLSHIT … my outlook on the Mariners’ prospects tends to swirl down the toilet along with my disposition.

I WANT to believe!  But, I’ve been burned time and time and time and time again.  Sometimes I think it’s safer just to predict another 80-something win season where the Mariners fall oh so short of the Wild Card.  I also think it’s safer because I worry if I predict a World Series championship, I’m jinxing the team, because I’m clinically insane.  Besides, if I go with everyone else and just say the Mariners will win 85 games, I can be pleasantly surprised if I’m wrong and they win more.

Well, I’m not going to do that this year.  THIS time, I’m actually going to go out on a ledge and risk looking QUITE the fool!  95 wins!  I say this not with excitement for what’s about to happen, or with the blind enthusiasm of a mental patient, but with terse resentment and overwhelming expectations.

You fucking owe this to us, Mariners!  I’m tired of pussy-footing around and blindly hoping for a “fun summer” or whatever.  I don’t just want you to keep things interesting until football season rolls around.  Fuck football season!  It’s not like the Seahawks are elite anymore anyway!  We’re all deluding ourselves in believing this team’s championship window is still open; they’ve been on a downward spiral since they beat Denver 43-8.  The Seahawks are old news; it’s the Mariners’ time now!

And we’ve put up with too much of your bullshit to let this thing go on one more season.  You better be great, you better take care of business in this division, and you better deliver the fucking goods come playoff time!  Because I’m sick and tired of carrying a torch for this team!  I want lots of wins and lots of success!

And baseball gods, if you’re listening, you can eat all the world’s dicks, because you fucking owe us too!  The Mariners have been baseball’s whipping boys since forever.  Even when we were good, we were morbidly unlucky!  It’s about time the Mariners defied all expectations, guys out-performed projections, and the team stayed mostly-healthy.  This Smyly shit will not stand!  I want GOOD luck from here on out!

I think I’m losing my mind, you guys, so I’m going to wrap this up.  Just a couple things to keep an eye on before I go.

The current odds for the Mariners to win the World Series is 30 to 1.  I think the odds were lower when I was in Reno (maybe 20 or 25 to 1).  I was thinking, with the way I like to throw money around when I’m down there, of putting $1,000 on this, just to see if I could see a miracle in my lifetime.  I didn’t, of course, but that’ll be something to look back on should something wonderful happen in 2017.

Also, the odds for Nelson Cruz to hit the most home runs in the Major Leagues was a whopping 20 to 1.  Last year, Cruz was second with 43, behind Mark Trumbo’s 47.  The year before that, Cruz was second with 44, behind Chris Davis’ 47.  The year before that, Cruz was first with 40.  Again, we’re talking among the entire Major Leagues!  He’s been 2nd, 2nd, and 1st in the last three years.  This spring, he looks just as good as ever, if not even better somehow.  Would THAT have been a good bet to throw $1,000 on?  I think it’s infinitely more likely to happen than the Mariners winning the World Series, so you could say I’ve been kicking myself for the last two weeks for not throwing money down on Cruz.  We’ll just see, I guess.

There was also a bet to see who could get more combined hits, home runs, and RBIs between Kyle Seager and his brother.  I think the younger Seager is a lock on that one; easiest money I ever left on the table.

Ariel Miranda & Dan Vogelbach Will Start The Season In Tacoma

The end of Spring Training is nigh, and as such, the Mariners are whittling their roster down to what will become the Opening Day 25.  In that hullabaloo, some interesting decisions have been made.

From the beginning, most of the beat writers and such have been predicting that Ariel Miranda would start the season in the Mariners’ bullpen, as a second – or even a third – lefty.  This was before his last three starts, where he gave up a combined 10 runs (9 earned) in 8.2 innings, with 7 walks and 7 strikeouts.  The spin is the organization wants to keep him starting, in case he needs to come up and replace someone in our rotation, but the fact of the matter is the Mariners were planning on taking the best pitchers regardless of whether they started or not.  Ariel Miranda isn’t pitching like one of the top 12 or 13 pitchers on this roster, so he gets to go to Tacoma for a while to figure it out.  A promising start early in Spring Training comes to a disappointing close.  Hopefully he gets back on track pretty quickly, because I know we’re going to need him at some point.

The other surprise move is Dan Vogelbach being optioned to Triple-A.  He had been pencilled in as the team’s starting first baseman; the only concern the team had was whether or not he could handle the defensive duties.  From the sounds of things, he’s been okay, but could probably use a little work.  The spin is the oranization is treating this like a James Paxton/Mike Zunino situation from last year:  they want him to work on improving his game in the comfort and anonymity of Tacoma, until the time is right and he’s called back up.  The fact of the matter is, his defense is probably good enough, but after the first week or so of Spring Training, his hitting has gone down the toilet.  Which is kinda what I predicted all along:  something always suffers when you’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Dan Vogelbach isn’t a natural first baseman.  He’s really just a DH that the team needs to shoehorn into a defensive spot to justify having him on the roster.  So, he’s been scrambling to work on the ins and outs of the first base position, and as a result his hitting has taken a backseat.

Like I’ve always said, it’s so much easier to bring up a prospect if he’s got the defensive part down pat.  Because, even if you’re a supposed natural at the plate in the minor leagues like Vogelbach is, there’s ALWAYS going to be a learning curve when you make the jump to the Majors.  Guys who only have to worry about one part of their games always have an easier go of it than guys who have to worry about both.

It’s too early to pull out the Bust label, but this is definitely an opening salvo.  Something tells me the first base position is going to be another need going into 2018.

With Shawn O’Malley having recently had an emergency appendectomy, it’s looking more and more like Taylor Motter will be the utility infielder (including backup first baseman).  As Motter and starter Danny Valencia are both righties, we lose that first base platoon, so I hope Valencia gets good at hitting right-handed pitching in a hurry.

This feels like a setback, but a minor one that we should have no trouble overcoming.  I always kind of expected Valencia to play closer to an everyday role anyway; I just thought he’d split more time between first base and right field.  Our depth takes a bit of a hit, but that just means guys like Motter, Haniger, and maybe Heredia have to pick up the slack.  I’m going to be REALLY interested to see how those guys perform if they make the Opening Day roster.

In other news, the Mariners say they’re going with an 8-man bullpen to start the regular season, and we’re all having a tough time predicting who those guys will be.  Particularly with guys like Cishek and Zych coming back from injury, and with Miranda and a few others already getting demoted to Tacoma.

  1. Edwin Diaz
  2. Evan Scribner
  3. Nick Vincent
  4. Marc Rzepczynski
  5. Dan Altavilla?
  6. James Pazos?
  7. Casey Fien?
  8. Some guy on another team we acquire in trade?

Yeah, I dunno.  I guess we’ll see.

How Are The Mariners’ Pitchers Looking Thus Far?

In case you missed it yesterday, here are some random thoughts on some random hitters.  Today, we’ll dig into some random thoughts on some random pitchers, which is significantly more problematic, because we’re talking about an even smaller sample size.  Also, not for nothing, but this WBC thing is throwing everything off.  I mean, go Dominican Republic and everything, but tell me when this is over so we can focus on getting the Mariners back into the post-season!

It’s also difficult to formulate an opinion on the pitchers because by and large the pitchers getting the most appearances are the guys least likely to stick with the Big League club.  I’m more interested in the guys who will actually be Mariners this year, so let’s talk about some of them.

Probably the guy generating the most interest is Felix.  This is also probably the guy who will be toughest to predict heading into the regular season.  The King is the epitome of a veteran just getting his work in.  He got a jump on matters, as he was preparing to play in the WBC this year.  His two spring starts were pretty mediocre, and he followed that up with a mediocre start in his first WBC appearance for Venezuela, going 2.2 innings, giving up 2 runs, 1 earned, while striking out 3 and walking 2.  Tough to say if the lack of command is a holdover from a year ago, or just part of ramping up for the season ahead, but you can’t say he was “just getting his work in” in this case.  I have to imagine if Felix is going to participate in the WBC, he’s going to be trying his hardest.  In which case, maybe we should be a little nervous?  We’ll see how he looks in his next outing.  For what it’s worth, there’s been a slight uptick in his velocity by about 1 mph, which would be great if that continues, as he generally sees his velocity increase as the season goes along.

Sticking with the WBC guys, let’s look at Yovani Gallardo next.  His first appearance in Spring Training was something of a disaster, giving up 4 runs in 1 inning of work, but he followed that up with a nice 3-inning, 1-hit, no-runs appearance before going off to play for Mexico.  In his lone start in the WBC, he went 4 innings, giving up 4 runs on 3 homers.  He did strike out 5 while walking 0, so while it’s not anything to write home about, I’m also not ready to write him off either.

It’s my understanding that Drew Smyly hasn’t appeared in the WBC yet, but he’s set to go this week.  Either way, in two Spring Training starts, he’s yet to give up a run over 5 innings, so that’s really promising.  Paxton’s numbers are a little less encouraging from a pure runs perspective, but he’s got 7 K’s to 1 walk in his 5 innings of work thus far.  He also looks better than he did at this time last year, which is important because he started out the regular season last year in Tacoma.

Of course, I had to pick today to write about the pitchers, a day after the single worst pitching performance of the entire spring in losing 24-3 to the Brewers.  Hisashi Iwakuma was no small part in yesterday’s “effort”, giving up 7 runs in 2.2 innings.  One start prior to that, he gave up 0 runs in 2 innings.  And, in his first spring start, he gave up 1 run in 2 innings.  All in all, I don’t think you take much away from a start like yesterday’s or Spring Training in general when it comes to Kuma.  He is who he is.  Sometimes that’s dominating, sometimes that’s terrible.

As for the bullpen, Edwin Diaz has yet to give up a run in 2 appearances with the Mariners and 1 with Puerto Rico.  A lot of the younger guys slated to start in the minors are putting up some bonkers numbers as well.  That’s probably important, because some of our veteran guys are looking pretty crappy thus far.  Nick Vincent has given up runs in each of his three appearances so far.  Marc Rzepczynski had a disasterous first appearance before settling down for 3 scoreless appearances.  Dan Altavilla’s overall numbers are hampered by one bad inning as well.  And, Ariel Miranda was cruising right along until he hit a speedbump over the weekend.  There is a lot to like about what Scribner has brought to the table, though.

Again, you really can’t learn a whole lot about a pitching staff after 3 appearances apiece, so consider this to be a VERY premature look at some of the guys we’ll be counting upon in the regular season.  By the end of the month, hopefully things will round into shape and we’ll have a good idea of what we’ve got with this team.

Very Important Mariners Of 2017: Edwin Diaz

Click HERE for the list of other Very Important Mariners Of 2017.

One way to mitigate the damage of a shaky starting rotation is to be smart about it.  Don’t leave ’em in there too long!  Maybe don’t pull them at the very first sign of trouble, but once you get through the 4th or 5th inning, tighten up that leash.  A top-notch bullpen can cover up A LOT of warts on a pitching staff.

Edwin Diaz is the key to the whole thing, but consider this post a catch-all for the entire bullpen.  Now, obviously, it’s early February, and therefore it’s too early to make any sort of valid prediction as to what the Opening Day bullpen is going to look like.  For starters, it’s highly likely Steve Cishek starts off the regular season on the DL, and doesn’t come back until mid-April (if not later).  There are guys we can be pretty confident about – Scrabble, Scribner, Vincent – but the only guy who has a guaranteed spot on this roster (barring injury) is Diaz.

Yes, he’s the closer.  Yes, he’s got the best arm on the team.  But, he’ll also only be 23 years old this spring, and he’s coming off of a little over half a season of Major League experience.  AND, not for nothing, but he really struggled those last two months as his fastball lost a bit of velocity and as the rest of the American League figured him out.  He was over-used and his command really faltered by season’s end.  Not enough to lose him his job, but enough to leave a pile of doubt in my mind.

I don’t expect him to be perfect, but I do need him to be dominant.  If we have to waste time with a switch at the closer position, that’s a hassle that’s going to doom this team.  As it stands, the bullpen is far from a strength.  Ideally, we’ll see Diaz, Cishek (when he returns) and Scribner all pitch really well from the right side, with Scrabble doing his thing from the left side.  If those four guys pan out in a big way, I can see this team going pretty far.

What I do like about this bullpen as it’s currently constructed is its depth.  We’ve got those top four guys, then we’ve got Vincent, Zych, Altavilla, and a bunch of other guys we’ve either traded for or brought up through the farm system.  Guys with Major League experience and guys with tons of potential.

A bullpen is generally 7 pitchers deep, but over the course of a full season, you might burn through twice or three times that number!  Guys get injured, guys perform poorly, guys get over-used and you’re forced to bring in fresh arms to get you through a rough patch.  You’re only as good as your depth, as far as pitching is concerned, until September, when you’re only as good as your team’s health dictates.

The worst case scenario for this team is having its starters middle their way through the season, with the bullpen a total disaster.  The Mariners have a lot going on as far as hitting and defense is concerned, but they don’t have enough to overcome what very well could be a trainwreck pitching staff.  So, you know, let’s shock the world, huh?  One way to do that:  have the bullpen come out of nowhere to lead this team to the promised land.