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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WRONG.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Mariners Season Suddenly Feels Pointless

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

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

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

2017 Mariners Misery Tracker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God I hate baseball.

Short-Handed Mariners Got Whomped In Toronto

I had a bad feeling about this game all day.  If I were a gambling man, near a gambling establishment, I would’ve made a significant bet on the Blue Jays to win it, and sure enough:  7-2 Toronto.

That, of course, was before I found out that Robinson Cano would sit due to that sore quad.  Oddly enough, though, it was AFTER I discovered that Justin Smoak was going to be the Blue Jays’ cleanup hitter.  He ended up going 3 for 3 with 4 RBI, because he’s a no-talent ass clown.

Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run bomb in the top of the first inning to put the Mariners in control, but obviously that wouldn’t be enough.  Chase De Jong did his part through four innings, but he fell apart after that, finishing with 5 innings, 6 runs on 7 hits & 3 walks, with only 1 strikeout.

More Mariners moves before the game.  Zac Curtis – who came over in the Walker/Segura trade – was called up from AA to replace Dan Altavilla (who was sent back to Tacoma to continue working on things).  Curtis pitched an inning of soft-landing relief, giving up 0 runs.  Sam Gaviglio – who was called up when Iwakuma went on the DL – pitched the last two innings, giving up a solo homer to Justin Smoak.

The Mariners also picked up reliever Casey Lawrence off waivers from Toronto and sent him to Tacoma.  To make room on the 40-man, Evan Scribner was put on the 60-day DL, so I guess we won’t have him to kick around for a while.

The bats were quiet yesterday, but there were also some lineup issues.  Cano, obviously, is a huge blow, since he’s really starting to heat up.  Also, Guillermo Heredia had visa issues because he’s Cuban and they played in Canada and Donald Trump is our president and everyone is dumb.  So, that forced Taylor Motter into the outfield and Mike Freeman to get the start at second base.  Motter got a walk and Freeman got less than that.  I don’t even know what Mike Freeman is doing up here, except yes I do, because apparently Shawn O’Malley hurt his shoulder and I still don’t know how, and because Mitch Haniger is still on the DL with that oblique.  GET WELL SOON, MITCH!  Freeman is still dining out on that 2-hit day in Houston where he hit his home run, and hasn’t done a God damn thing since.

Also, it stinks that Carlos Ruiz apparently can’t play on back-to-back days, because this Tuffy guy SUUUUUUUCKS.  God fucking dammit, whose dick do you gotta suck to get a good-hitting catcher on this team?

Here’s to hoping the lineup is rested and refreshed for the next three games, because I could see this 4-game series getting out of control with how bad our pitching looks.

Mariners Keep Losing Players To Injury, Somehow Still Kicking Ass

2017 Mariners Misery Tracker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Mariners Fingerblast Angels To Take The Series

See, now that’s what I’m talking about.  The Mariners don’t necessarily NEED a big, long, impressive winning streak.  Just win a bunch of regular ol’ series 2-1, and before you know it, you’re right back in this thing.

The key, of course, after winning this Angels series 2-1 is to NOT then go ahead and lose the weekend Texas series.  Let’s try to keep the momentum going!

Last night’s game was impressive on all fronts.  11-3 victory where the offense generated 16 hits and 4 walks.  The only homer was a solo shot by Valencia late in the game; otherwise the overwhelming majority of the scoring happened the old fashioned way:  hitting with runners in scoring position.  The Mariners were 6 for 15 in this regard.

Segura, Gamel, Cruz, Seager, Valencia, and Heredia all had multiple hits, including a 4 for 5 day for Valencia, as he starts to heat up.  Ben Gamel was on base 5 times, getting 3 hits and 2 walks, and he had a fabulous diving catch in the 9th inning.  Just an all out fantastic day from the offense.

On the pitching side of things, Ariel Miranda was able to go 7 full innings, giving up just the 2 runs, sparing our bullpen and looking good doing it.  Everyone is marvelling at how we were able to fleece the Orioles by getting Miranda for Wade Miley last year, and believe me, I’m right there with you guys.  I would point out, however, that after a very rough 2016 season (both in Seattle and Baltimore), Miley has turned things around in a big way in the early going.  I’m not saying I’d rather have him back or anything; I’m plenty happy with Miranda’s youth and upside.  But, we shouldn’t dismiss the fact that Miley is having a nice bounceback year for himself, including an 8 inning/1 run/11 strikeout performance against the Reds a couple starts back.  His walk count is still too high to sustain these numbers, but the most runs he’s given up in any start this year is only 3, while the fewest innings he’s pitched is 5.  On the flipside, Miranda has had a couple duds this year, but also a couple really impressive 7 inning performances (including last night).

I think we all knew this team would need Miranda at some point this year.  Even before Smyly went down, I figured he’d be up in Seattle at some point (in an ideal world, taking over for an ineffective Yovani Gallardo).  But, it’s a little weird to know that we have to count on him THIS much; he’s essentially our 2nd-best starter right now behind Paxton!  I’ve always considered Miranda kind of a back-end of the rotation guy, where you’re happy if he just keeps you in the game and hope your offense has enough in the tank to carry the team over the top.  But, with Smyly and Felix down, with Kuma throwing 84mph fastballs, and with Gallardo being Gallardo, the Mariners really NEED Miranda to step up in a major way.  We need a lot more of these 7 inning starts out of him, if nothing else than to spare our terrible bullpen!

I do want to touch on one more thing before I get on with my day.

GOOD PROBLEM TO HAVE ALERT:  Ben Gamel has been fucking terrific since being called up!  Okay, so I understand why that’s good, but why is it also a problem?  Well, Guillermo Heredia has been fucking terrific all season!  And while the numbers aren’t super amazing, Jarrod Dyson has been a HUGE part of this team’s success (what mediocre amount of success this team has enjoyed, anyway).  So …

What do we do when Mitch Haniger comes back?

Again, don’t think I’m complaining about this, because I think it’s fantastic that Gamel is picking up the slack in Haniger’s absence.  I thought the offense was going to take a HUGE hit, and in fact it’s only improved as Gamel keeps up his part of the bargain, and everyone else gets hot around him.  But, we’re very much in a situation where this team has four outfielders worthy of starting, and only three places to play them.

I’d also like to appeal to the baseball gods, if I may:  please DON’T rectify this situation by injuring someone else upon Haniger’s return!  I BEG OF YOU, JUST LET US BE HEALTHY FOR A WHILE!

The way I see it, for now Gamel’s success affords the Mariners some luxury in bringing Haniger back.  They can wait until he’s 100%, give him as much rehab work in the minors as he needs, and probably wait until the last minute before calling him back up.  But, if Haniger returns to the Mariners hitting like he was before he went on the DL, you absolutely have to keep playing him every day.  So, that solves right field.

As much as I love what Heredia has done for the Mariners this year, with his speed, his defense, and some timely power hits, I think if Gamel keeps tearing the cover off the ball, you gotta keep him in your lineup.  What most likely happens is he and Heredia platoon, but it’s a strict platoon where Gamel only faces righties and Heredia only faces lefties.  It’s just the way it has to be, until another injury crops up, or until someone starts slumping.

I think you absolutely keep Dyson in the lineup everyday, and maybe spot him an off-day every 10 games or so to keep him fresh.

Something else I wonder about is:  what happened to Taylor Motter?

He fits into this outfield equation too, a little bit, and when Haniger comes back I think he REALLY gets the shaft, all things being equal.  That bumps him, for all intents and purposes, to this team’s 5th outfielder.  Of course, he’s also this team’s primary utility infielder, but really that’s kind of a joke.

How often do you ever see Cano get a day off that’s not also a day to rest some nagging injury?  When is Cano ever a healthy scratch?  Or Seager for that matter?  And, with the way Segura is playing, do you see him getting many days off?

That leaves first base, which will be VERY interesting to watch over the next few weeks.  Since April 25 (or right after Dan Vogelbach was called up), Valencia has hit 10 for 24, with 3 homers, 1 double, 5 RBI, and 7 runs scored.  I’d say he responded to that Vogelbach challenge quite well!  Valencia has always been known as a streaky hitter, so you had to figure this type of a hot stretch would come eventually.  Here is his slash line going into the 25th vs. his slash line this morning:

  • Before:  .145/.217/.226/.443
  • Now:  .221/.284/.395/.679

He still has a ways to go to get back to his numbers of the last couple years, but that’s just it.  Before the whole Vogelbach mess, everyone expected Taylor Motter to take over as this team’s primary first baseman once Segura returned from injury.  Instead, Vogelbach got those opportunites, squandered them, and all the while Motter has been the forgotten man.

I wouldn’t say it’s 100% without merit; Motter is hitless in his last 10 at bats, over 5 games, but he really only started 2 of those games, and came in as a reserve/pinch hitter in the other 3.  The only reason you could say this is far and away the coldest stretch of his season is because he’s been so damn good to this point!

It also doesn’t help him that both he and Valencia are right handed, so a platoon there would be pointless.

I think the team is going to have to at the very least ride out this hot streak Valencia has been on, if nothing else than he WILL be needed if this team is to be successful.  And, while I still have my doubts about Motter’s viability over the long haul, I also can’t discount the possibility that he just might have fixed whatever was wrong with his swing in seasons past, and that he’s a new player now.  In which case, should this team be grooming him to be more than just a utility player?  It seems like a waste to keep his bat in mothballs, but, I mean, there are only so many spots you can fill in a lineup.  And I’m pretty sure he’s never played catcher in his professional career.

I dunno.  Like I said, these are all good problems to have, but it is sort of a bummer.  It is nice to know he’s there, though, in case injury strikes again.  I love not having such a significant drop off in production from starter to backup!  But, it just seems like Motter did nothing wrong, and yet he’s being punished in some unfair way.  That’s baseball, I guess.

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!

Mariners Got They Asses Whupped By The Indians

I don’t see the point in getting all up in this game, considering I’ve written a ton about the Seahawks’ draft (set to post Monday morning, bright and early).  A day after losing a squeaker – thanks to some amazing Indians pitching after the first inning – the Mariners brought out Chase De Jong to start in place of Felix, he and our defense got rocked, and we ultimately lost 12-4.

Word is, Felix will miss a minimum of 3-4 weeks.  I don’t know what that means as far as when he can start throwing again, but if he doesn’t respond well when he does, we could be in for a long absence.

Word is, also, that Haniger will miss a minimum of 3-4 weeks, but again, I don’t know what that means for when he can start swinging a bat and such.  If he has a setback, he too could be in for an extended DL stay.

But, right now, pitching is the primary concern.  True, De Jong didn’t get a lot of help out of his defense today, with various booted balls and sun triples allowed behind him, but he also doesn’t strike me as a Major League calibre starting pitcher.  I wonder if he’ll get another crack at starting in five days, though I don’t see there being many other better options under him in the minors.

Casey Fien returned to stink up the joint; 3 runs in a third of an inning.  He needs to be DFA’d; he obviously doesn’t have it.

Dillon Overton mopped up the final 5 innings of this thing, to at least save the rest of our guys in the ‘pen.  I don’t see him supplanting De Jong just yet, or really going anywhere at this point, considering we’ll need lots of long relievers in the coming weeks, with the way this rotation has played.  While Overton didn’t really “keep us in the game” per say, giving up 3 more runs (2 earned) in his 5 innings of work (after we’d just pulled the game to within 9-4 after the top of the 6th), he ate up a bunch of innings and didn’t walk anyone, so he gets a C grade from me for today.

Cruz and Heredia continued their torrid hitting.  Segura, Gamel, Cano, and Seager all did a little bit.  Vogelbach looks completely inept at the plate (and worse in the field, letting a pop up drop in foul territory).  The fact that the Mariners have gotten exactly nothing from their catcher and first base positions is a fucking travesty (only mitigated by the fact that the young outfielders are all doing great jobs).  Boog Powell got his first Major League start (in left field) while doing nothing at the plate but ground into a double play, so we’ll see how he bounces back from that.  I wouldn’t expect him to play a lot unless we have more injuries.  He was spelling Dyson, who got a much-needed day off (pushing Heredia to center).  Considering Powell mostly just walks and slaps singles around, he’s probably more of a backup/pinch runner in late innings than anything else.

As I noted above, the Mariners had a chance to plow right back into this thing.  It was looking bleak going into the sixth, down 9-1, but the first six batters got hits, pulling the game to within 9-4 with the bases loaded and nobody out.  Taylor Motter pinch hit for Worthless Vogelbach, and I couldn’t help thinking, “If he can get a hold of one, it’s 9-8 and we’re back in this thing!  But, Motter struck out instead.  Chooch Ruiz was up next, but he lined it right at the short stop, who threw to second to pick off Kyle Seager to end the inning.  After that, the Indians put the game away in the bottom of the seventh with three more runs, and that was that.

Off-day tomorrow, then the Mariners go home to play Anaheim and Texas for six games.  As we’re STILL in last place, having a 5-1 homestand would seem to be of utmost importance.  So, get ready for a 1-5 homestand, because Mariners.

Mariners Won Series In Detroit … Thanks To Their Pitching?

After that 19-9 massacre, you’d be hard-pressed to get me to believe the Mariners could come back and win this series on the back of their pitching.  But, there was Paxton’s gem in Game 2, and Iwakuma’s mystifyingly good start in the finale, followed by lockdown bullpen work the likes of which has been exceedingly rare thus far this season.

Kuma spun 5.2 innings of slowly-thrown gold, giving up 1 run (0 earned) thanks to a throwing error by Cano.  From there, Scrabble bridged us into the seventh, followed by Tony Zych getting us to the ninth.  Right now, it feels like open tryouts for that 8th inning bullpen role.  Dan Altavilla failed, Evan Scribner has been failing.  Nick Vincent would have to be in the running, but I like the idea of giving that job to Zych for as long as he’s mowing people down.  We still might be another week or so from Cishek returning, and I have to imagine he’s going to get somewhat of a soft landing upon his call-up, so if Zych could just continue to be amazing for a while, that’d be great.

Also, Edwin Diaz – on the second day of a back-to-back – was dominant in getting his third save of the season.

Offensively, both teams struggled, as Justin Verlander was throwing rocks as well.  The Mariners scored an unearned run of their own as Nelson Cruz got to second on an outfield error, then was scored by the return of Seager.  It remained tied at 1-1 until the ninth, when Seager doubled with one out and scored on an RBI single by Ben Gamel, who got a second straight start and ended the day with 2 hits.

You know, I’ve been really impressed with our younger players so far this year.  Obviously, Mitch Haniger has been a dream come true, but Heredia has been a disruptive force at the top of the lineup (with a little pop in his bat and a LOT of speed), Motter has been on the warpath, and now here we have Ben Gamel coming up right away and being instantly productive.  These are the types of players, in years past, who have been the so-called Quad-A guys (too good for Tacoma, not good enough for the Big Leagues) who have stunted this team’s growth.  You can’t fill your team with nothing but high-priced free agents; you need a good amount of homegrown guys to fill in the gaps.  This year, FINALLY (hopefully) the Mariners are on track with some of their younger guys.  Let’s face it, we’re going to need them to continue stepping up if we want to stay in contention.  So far so good.

The Mariners go to Cleveland for a weekend series.  I’ll have it on the 2nd TV as I watch the NFL Draft tonight on the main TV, so consider today a REALLY great day of sports.