It’s true. The Mariners have won four shutouts this season; the first three of them were on the arm of James Paxton. Yesterday? The pitcher of record was … Christian Bergman?
This was Bergman’s third appearance for the Mariners this season. In his first outing, he piggy-backed on a Dillon Overton start, outshining the lefty by going 3.2 innings, giving up just 1 run. He got the start five days later against Toronto in a losing effort, going 5 innings and giving up 3 runs (in a game where the Mariners were shut out). So, you’ll be forgiven if you didn’t really know what to expect out of him against the A’s last night. Of the mediocre Quad-A starters/long relievers the Mariners have employed this season (De Jong, Overton, Weber, Marshall, and Heston), Bergman has looked the most reliably effective. But, again, VERY small sample size.
Regardless, I don’t think anyone expected Bergman to go 7.1 innings of shutout ball, giving up 2 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 9. Those are elite starter’s numbers by a guy whose fastball is Jamie Moyer-esque!
I won’t say “the pressure was on” or anything ridiculous like that, because all of these games are equally meaningful (in spite of the fact that they feel less important with each passing Mariners defeat), but I will say that he picked a great time to have the best game of his career. I know I keep harping on the 8-man bullpen thing, but those guys have been seriously over-worked lately! You wouldn’t think it’d be possible, but you also have to take into account the fact that the Mariners have to hold back some of these long relievers so they can be spot starters later (when the next injury inevitably crops up), so it’s not like the Mariners actually have an 8-man ‘pen at all. So, for Bergman to pitch into the eighth inning, and for James Pazos to go the rest of the way (without the need for someone else to start warming up behind him), it was just what the doctor ordered.
In “The Mariners Make A Transaction Every Day” news: Chase De Jong was sent back to Tacoma in favor of an extra reliever, Casey Lawrence. Lawrence was recently DFA’d and looks pretty terrible, but it also seems like he’s just here temporarily until we can replace him with someone better. De Jong wasn’t really making any progress as a starter, and it’s safe to say Bergman has officially lapped him on the depth chart, so to speak. James Paxton is up and throwing again, with no ill effects so far, so the hope is he goes out on a rehab assignment and returns to the Mariners by month’s end. As for who starts for De Jong in the next turn in the rotation, I haven’t the foggiest, but the tea leaves are pointing to Dillon Overton again.
With Cano still on the shelf, it’s nice to see Cruz and Seager step up of late. And Jean Segura has been a godsend at the top of the order (which makes me uncomfortable when people talk about him being trade bait later this summer, when the Mariners officially give up on the season). Ben Gamel got back on the horse with 2 hits last night (including a triple in the first) and a run scored. Boog Powell and Guillermo Heredia also got in on the act last night, which was nice to see.
The White Sox come to town for a 4-game set, starting tonight. Sam Gaviglio will make his first-ever start in the Major Leagues a week after making his Major League debut in relief against the Blue Jays, going 2 innings, giving up 1 run.
The Mariners apparently traded for Gaviglio last year with the Cardinals, for infielder Ty Kelly. He worked his way from AA to AAA, putting himself in a position to get the start tonight. I hardly remember what his stuff looks like from a week ago, because all of these guys are starting to look the same to me, but considering he’s the TENTH different starter the Mariners will have used (a mere 6.5 weeks into the season), I don’t have the highest of hopes for his success. The bar for me right now is Chase De Jong. If he’s better than De Jong, we’ve got a shot. If he’s worse than De Jong, it’s going to take a heroic effort from our offense. And, considering good ol’ TBD is scheduled to start for the Mariners on Sunday, I’ll repeat myself: Christian Bergman couldn’t have picked a better time to save this bullpen.
Every Mariners victory this month feels like five, because they’re so unexpected and so unlikely. The mantra continues to be: hang in there until guys come back, and I don’t think that’s going to change at least until the July trade deadline. But, that mantra also dies a little more with every new injury and I don’t know how much more I can take of this tug o’ war with my soul. It’s probably too much to ask for a nice, long winning streak, or for guys to return from injury without other guys immediately going down, but I’d sure like to rest easy for a spell.