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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WRONG.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Mariners Season Suddenly Feels Pointless

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

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

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

2017 Mariners Misery Tracker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God I hate baseball.

The Mariners Were Swept In Toronto

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

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

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

Or, if they’d stayed out of the WBC?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At This Point, If The Mariners Want You To Start For Them, I Would Take It As An Insult, Because Obviously They Want To See You Injured

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
  • Shawn O’Malley – 60 day DL
  • Jean Segura – On DL for 2 weeks in April
  • Mitch Haniger – On DL for approx 1 month
  • Felix Hernandez – On DL, just had setback
  • James Paxton – On DL for at least 3 weeks
  • 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

Now our replacement starters are getting injured.  They’re also getting injured in their very first starts with the Mariners, so it looks like the curse is getting stronger.  This is some Final Destination shit right here!  Pretty soon, everyone on the Mariners will be dead by some gruesome “accident” and there will be no more baseball in Seattle.  Hell, at this point, I have to wonder if Seattle will be a place that exists!  If North Korea ever drops the bomb, it’s surely going to land on Safeco Field as the Mariners warm up in batting practice.  What The ‘Pen bros will do that night is anyone’s guess, but that’s a problem for another day.

The bats are still quiet in Toronto.  Cano has missed his third straight game.  Hitting with runners in scoring position has taken a major hit this series.  If I were still keeping track with my spreadsheet, I’d be interested in these results, but I gave up that dream a while ago.

Another morning game today.  Yay?

Mariners Drop A Deuce In Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Are The Mariners Zeroing In On A Viable Bullpen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!