The Mariners’ Offense Caught The Red Eye To Atlanta Before The Finale Yesterday

What a waste of a perfectly good Yovani Gallardo start!  I mean, he won’t win any awards for going 6.1 innings and giving up 3 runs, but he pitched into the seventh inning for the first time in forever, and until that knockout 2-run homer, he was on a pretty good roll!

The offense just brought nothing to the table.  3 hits and 2 walks, that’s it.  0 for 1 with RISP, and just 4 LOB.  It obviously didn’t help that Seager got the day off, as he’s recovering from his stomach bug, but it’s just a bummer the team couldn’t complete the sweep when it was right there for the taking.

In other roster transaction news, Casey Lawrence was brought back up.  He was sent down for Sam Gaviglio the other day, but with Jarrod Dyson going on the DL, we were allowed to swap those pitchers right back.  Also, Taylor Motter made his return – starting for Seager yesterday – as it looks like we may have seen the last of Danny Espinosa.  Try to keep that name in mind, as he’s sure to be an occasional answer on those Lookout Landing Sporcle quizzes.  The Danny Espinosa Era consisted of 3 hits in 16 at bats across 8 games, 2 of them doubles, with 2 runs scored & 2 RBI.

In spite of the downer of an ending, the road trip overall is off to a fine start.  We put just a little bit of distance between us and the Rays, one of our competitors for that second Wild Card spot, and we’re still hanging in there overall, 1.5 games behind Anaheim.  Now we go to Atlanta, where quite frankly we should dominate.  Whether we will or not is, of course, anybody’s guess.  It’s going to be pretty fucking depressing if we go out and tank this series.

In Injured Pitching News, I heard that all our guys – Phelps, Paxton, Felix, and even Kuma – are on some sort of throwing programs and hence on the mend.  Some guys are closer than others, and I’m sure that will make itself known to me at some point soon.

The Mariners Need To Keep Winning These Close Games

As we dip our toes into August, things are starting to come into focus.  Whereas a month ago, you could argue each and every team in the A.L. had a chance at the Wild Card, now you can start to write some teams off.  The White Sox, the Tigers, the A’s, and I daresay even the Blue Jays and the Rangers, particularly with their trading of Yu Darvish to the Dodgers.  And, not far behind them, you’ve got teams like the Angels, Twins, and maybe even the Orioles, who just need another mediocre couple of weeks before you figure they throw in the towel and start playing their younger guys.

At that point, it’s almost easier to count the teams in the race.  The Astros, obviously.  With the Yankees winning the Sonny Gray sweepstakes, you have to like their chances.  The Red Sox will give them a run, of course.  In the Central, you’ve got the surging Royals and the steady Indians.  And, right there, tied with the Mariners, you’ve got the Rays at 54-53 with two full months to go.  We’re both of us 2.5 games behind the Royals for that second Wild Card spot; with the July 31st Trade Deadline come and gone, now it’s time to get to work.

As you know, I’m not very bullish on the Mariners’ chances.  Obviously, Paxton is one of the best pitchers in baseball right now, but after that it’s a wasteland.  Felix is on the decline (5.1 innings of 4-run ball last night; he was fortunate the offense and bullpen bailed him out — how many times could we have said THAT over the course of his career?), Erasmo Ramirez of all people is slated to take the hill tonight.  Then, we’ve got the poo-poo platter of Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo who will REALLY have to start picking up the slack the rest of the way if this team wants a shot at the post-season.

I dunno, I just can’t see it.  It would be a miracle of miracles.  The writing is already on the wall:  we’re going to look back on this season and realize we were out of it the day Drew Smyly injured his throwing arm.  Could we have withstood the decline of Felix, the injury of Iwakuma, and the disaster that’s been Gallardo?  Yes, yes, and yes; but it all hinged on getting a big bounceback season out of Smyly, and that absolutely did not happen.  If Smyly could’ve been 80% of what Paxton has been, combined with a fine season from Miranda, a bulldog season out of Felix, and whatever you could get out of the fifth starter carousel, MAYBE you could talk me into being confident in this team as it’s currently constructed.  But, the day they let the deadline pass without going out and getting a top shelf starter is the day they gave up on the season.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what David Phelps brings to this bullpen.  But, what use does this team have for an Erasmo Ramirez when it’s already got 4-5 of them in the organization?  What use does this team have for a Marco Gonzales when, again, it’s already got 4-5 of them in the organization?  These are half measures.  It’s making it look like you’ve done something when you’ve really done nothing at all.  These guys could’ve been gotten in the offseason just as easily, but instead they were acquired now; why?  To give the illusion that the team is trying to Win Now, when in reality this team – at the Major League level – is no better than it was before, and it could be argued they’re actually worse.  The lynchpin, of course, is Gonzales.  He’s “Major League Ready” and figures to be called up anytime now; if he comes up and does what he’s never done before (pitches well at the highest level), then I’ll happily eat all the crow you can shovel onto my plate.  But, it strikes me that we’ve heard this tune before.

Andrew Moore was Major League Ready.  Sam Gaviglio was Major League Ready.  Christian Bergman was Major League Ready.  Chris Heston was Major League Ready.  Chase De Jong was Major League Ready.  Dillon Overton was Major League Ready.  Rob Whalen was Major League Ready.  Where are they right now?

Like I said, it’s going to take some kind of miracle.  A big part of that would involve the Mariners winning more close games than they lose.  Like, A LOT more.  Like, an unsustainable amount of close games!  So far, they’re 16-10 in 1-run games, and 5-5 in extra innings games.  That needs to improve, bigly.  Especially against the teams ahead of us in the standings.

Last night wasn’t a 1-run game, but the Mariners still found a way to notch a save and come from behind.  Down 4-0 after two innings, it looked bleak.  Thankfully, the Mariners were able to take advantage of a whopping 4 errors and 2 balks, as the Rangers look like one of the sloppiest teams I’ve ever seen.  By the time Cole Hamels finished his six innings, the game was tied, and for a while there it looked like this game was destined for extras.

Scrabble was able to get out of a Felix jam in the sixth inning.  All five of Phelps’ outs were via the strikeout.  And meanwhile, this side-arming lefty reliever for the Rangers, Alex Claudio, was wiggling his way off the hook for over 2 innings of work, on a remarkably low number of pitches.

Scott Servais did something interesting in the last few days with the lineup; he’s finally gotten comfortable with Ben Gamel as an everyday hitter, even against left-handed starters.  So much so, in fact, that we’ve seen Gamel lead off the last few days, with Jean Segura batting second.  They’re both having phenomenal offensive seasons from a batting average standpoint, so they’re really pretty interchangeable at the top of the order.  But, it’s a dynamic shift where the Mariners are L-R-L-R-L-R through the first six hitters in the order.  Against teams with good lefty bullpen arms, this presents a conundrum:  do you swap your relievers out after each at-bat, or do you trust your lefty arm to pitch against, say, Jean Segura or Nelson Cruz?

Well, as we found out last night, with Claudio on the mound, the Rangers opted to pitch around those guys, intentionally walking Cruz twice and Segura once.  That put the onus on our left-handed hitters to get the job done.

It looked like it was going to work, too!  Claudio got out of a jam in the seventh when Seager hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice with runners on the corners.  He worked a very quick and efficient eighth inning to keep his pitch count low.  And, he ALMOST got through the ninth by using similar tactics as he did in the seventh.  Had he succeeded, the Rangers would’ve been in good shape heading into extras, while the Mariners would’ve used a couple of their best bullets in all likelihood just to get there.

The top of the ninth kicked off with a Chooch Ruiz single to right.  He was lifted for a pinch runner in Jarrod Dyson, who was cut down on a fielder’s choice when Gamel hit what looked to be a rally-killing double play.  However, the throw to first got past the bag and Gamel was able to reach second base with one out.  Segura drew the intentional walk, and both runners were balked over thanks to Claudio’s funky pre-pitch arm waggling.  Against lefty Cano, Claudio had been successful two innings prior, inducing a ground ball.  He busted him inside again, but Cano was able to stay on it and lined it over the right fielder’s head.  A perfect bounce to Shin Soo Choo allowed him to throw Cano out at second, but the damage was done.  The Mariners had a 6-4 lead and Edwin Diaz threw fire in the bottom half to close it out in regulation.

I’ll admit, it was an encouraging end to the month of July.  The Mariners went 14-12 to secure their second consecutive winning month.  Now it’s time to really turn it up a notch.

Mariners Finished Sour First Half On Upbeat Note

There’s a lot to like about yesterday’s 4-0 shutout of the A’s to salvage a split of the 4-game series.  Dyson and Ruiz – representing the bottom of the order – got 5 hits, with a run and an RBI combined.  Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run bomb to give him 3 homers in the last week, and 17 on the season.  Robbie Cano hit a double and scored a run.  Felix Hernandez pitched 6 shutout innings, giving up 2 hits, walking 3, and striking out 8.  Vincent and Zych finished a SUPERB first half with a couple scoreless innings.  And, Edwin Diaz bounced back after taking the L on Saturday, striking out 2 in his inning of work.

The win brought the Mariners to 43-47, with 72 games remaining in the second half.  We’re currently 4th in the A.L. West, a game behind both Texas and Anaheim (17.5 games behind the insane Astros).  Yet, we’re only 4 games back in the Wild Card race, right in the middle of the pack (even the worst A.L. team is only 7.5 games back, so it’s not like anyone is really “out of it”).  Once we get through the All Star Break, there will be two and a half weeks of baseball before the July 31st Trade Deadline.  Will the Mariners be buyers, sellers, or nothing?  Well, we’ll see.

Starting this weekend, the M’s go on the road to play the White Sox, where we ALWAYS LOSE.  Then, we face the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox; sissy-boy loser time is over.  Those are some serious opponents the Mariners are going to have to face to try to climb back over .500; if they continue to play like they have these last two weeks, I don’t see a lot of hope for this season (particularly when you consider the brutal stretch of road games in August).

The question we have to ask ourselves is:  can the Mariners do it as is?

I know Jerry Dipoto said he’s going to be listening to what’s out there offered in trades, but we have to assume for now that he won’t be able to get a deal done (otherwise the variables are just too vast; this blog post would be 50,000 words long).  I’m thinking, even if he does get a trade done, it won’t be for some huge piece.  We’re not going to see a Rent-An-Ace situation because A) I don’t believe we have the prospects to bring one to Seattle, B) I don’t think the M’s want to take on that kind of payroll, and C) I don’t think the M’s are in a Win-Now-At-All-Costs mode.  Now, whether they SHOULD be in that mode is another issue; I think they like the core they’ve got, and they think they can compete for years to come with some of the young talent they’ve brought in and developed.  At best, maybe the M’s bring in another under-the-radar reliever to help boost the bullpen, or maybe a solid, veteran, back-of-the-rotation starter to help shore up the rotation.

But, you know, like I said, for the sake of argument let’s hold off on speculating on that until it happens.  Let’s take a look at the roster as it is right now.

I thought Ryan Divish made a good point on the radio last week when he talked about how this pitching staff is holding this team back.  Pretty much, every game (save a dominant Paxton start here and there), you go into it expecting these starters to give up a minimum of 2-3 runs per outing.  That’s on top of whatever happens with the bullpen.  But, it’s like the hitters have to go into every game needing to score 4+ runs to win, and that’s got to be a mental drain after a while.

Yeah, sometimes these hitters look unstoppable; but sometimes these hitters look really bad, and it’s a rare instance where the entire pitching staff is capable of picking them up.

I think we’re all pretty happy with what Paxton has brought to the table this season.  Obviously, it wasn’t helpful that he missed damn near the entire month of May, and that was reflected in his sub-par June, but he’s looked a lot better in the last three starts, so hopefully he can keep that going the rest of the way.  Really, if this team is going to truly contend for a playoff spot, he’s going to NEED to keep this going the rest of the way.  He’s 7-3 with a 3.21 ERA at the break; just give me that (or maybe a little bit better) the rest of the way and I’ll be happy.

I think we’re all justifiably concerned with what we’ve seen from King Felix not just this season, but the last 2-3 years.  He still hasn’t quite morphed into that Pitch To Contact guy he probably needs to be to prolong the prime of his career.  No, the fastball isn’t ideal, but more than that he’s simply missing his spots.  Batters are less likely to chase his stuff out of the zone, and when he comes in for a strike it’s getting clobbered.  It’s taken him until July 9th – against a terrible-hitting A’s team – to finally throw an outing of all zeroes on the scoreboard.  These types of 6- or 7-inning, 0-run games used to be a much more regular occurrence; that one might be the only one we see all year and it wouldn’t shock me!  I just don’t know what to make of the King anymore.  It’s like he knows what he needs to become, but he’s fighting against it (fighting with himself).  At this point, it would be irresponsible to have high expectations for him the rest of the way.  I’m just hoping he can give us what Iwakuma gave us last year (which would be nice, since it looks like Iwakuma is going to be a longshot to return from injury after being shutdown in his rehab multiple times).

Up next, we’ve got Ariel Miranda; who expected him to be the second- or third-best starter in this rotation heading into the season?  At this point in his development, I just want him to continue doing what he’s been doing.  He’s not an Ace, but he’s been healthy and he’s been good more than not; just keep doing that!

In the 4-hole, there’s Andrew Moore, who is all of three games into his Major League career.  All three of his starts have been what you would call Quality Starts (at least 6 innings and 3 runs or less every time), but he’s also given up 5 home runs in those three games.  That is … less than ideal.  That also might just be his game.  He’s not what I would consider a phenom, even though he’s young and has shot through the minor league ranks; but he throws strikes, limits walks, and generally keeps the damage to a minimum.  How well will he continue to do once the league has a book on him and starts making their adjustments?  The Mariners can’t really afford to have a lot of growing pains out of him if they expect to make it to the post-season.

In the fifth starter spot, the Mariners have some options.  Sam Gaviglio has been the guy since being called up as an injury-replacement, but his last start was pretty bad, and really overall he’s Just A Guy.  Yovani Gallardo has been pretty fantastic in his long reliever role, which has a lot of people wondering if he’s destined to return to the rotation at some point.  Has he worked out – mechanically – what was so wrong with him early in games in his starts?  What if it’s just a matter of throwing more or less warm-up pitches before he goes out there?  Or what if we just don’t tell him which days he’s going to start, and spring it on him 30 minutes before gametime?

Overall, this is a far-from-intimidating rotation; really just an Ace with four #5 starters.  And, honestly, I don’t know if there would be much out there available in trade besides some other team’s #5 starter, so we is what we is.  And ultimately, that’s probably what’s going to keep us out of the post-season.

The bullpen has been pretty mediocre as well, but I don’t know if I would put as much of the blame on them.  There are plenty of bright spots, like Nick Vincent, Tony Zych, James Pazos, and Scrabble.  Steve Cishek looks like he’s rounding into form after coming back from injury.  Edwin Diaz has had some shaky outings, but looks like he’s getting a handle on things.  Right there, that’s six guys I’m more or less okay with.  Emilio Pagan hasn’t really gotten the chances I think he deserves, but he seems to be more steady than Dan Ayala-tavilla.  Then, there’s the revolving door of long relievers between Seattle and Tacoma who won’t make-or-break you.  I think that’s an okay unit!  Maybe even a good one if guys start getting on rolls!

Same thing can be said for the hitting and defense.  The outfield has out-performed even my wildest dreams.  Cruz and Cano are banged up but doing a pretty good job playing through it.  Valencia bounced back in a big way to play to the back of his baseball card.  Zunino had that insane month of June that might more-or-less salvage his season if he doesn’t backslide too far in July.  Seager is definitely taking a step back this season, but I have to believe he’s got a torrid streak in him coming up.  Overall, in the American League, the Mariners are in the Top 5 in runs scored, average, and on-base percentage.  They’ve taken a substantial step back in their power numbers from a year ago, but they’re also capable of making that up and getting into the upper half of the league by season’s end.

Ultimately, I think that’s what it’s going to take.  These Mariners need to have a power surge and carry this team offensively through the next two and a half months.  With that, an improved bullpen, and a carefully maintained starting rotation, this thing just might take us into the final weekend of the season with a chance.

That’s all I ask, Mariners.  Just give yourselves a chance in the final weekend.  Then, let the chips fall where they may.

Oh No, The Mariners Suck Again!

Any wealthy Mariners fans out there feel like doing a re-boot of the movie Major League featuring the Seattle Mariners?

Yes they are …

Sam Gaviglio had the worst game of his Major League career, but I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later.  He’d never had a start go fewer than 5 innings; last night he went 4.2.  He’d never given up more than 5 runs; last night he gave up 7.  His only real value to this team and this rotation is that he’d never had one of these meltdown performances; now that he has, it starts to shine a light on just how mediocre he’s been overall.  Not bad for a #5 starter, but right now it feels like the Mariners are running nothing BUT #5 starters out there.

Yovani Gallardo came in and mopped up the mess, going 4.1 shutout innings, two days after pitching 3 innings of relief.  One might believe we’ve found the perfect role for Gallardo, but I get the feeling that the team will inevitably put him back in the rotation before too long.  So be it, I guess.

Jean Segura had 4 hits; Cano and Haniger had 2 hits; Danny Valencia had a 3-run homer in the ninth to bring the score from 7-1 to 7-4.  But, overall, the M’s just weren’t able to cluster their hits together the way they need to in order to compete in these types of games.

That’s because A’s starter Paul Blackburn – who we traded to bring in the aforementioned Danny Valencia – went 7.2 innings of 1-run ball.  This is 5 days after making his Major League debut against the Braves, when he went 6 innings of shutout ball.  So, YAY, that’s super fun for everyone.  No way the Mariners could’ve used a starter that stellar.

I’m on a new work schedule right now that has me going to bed at 8pm and waking up at 4am, so this week has been a real treat.  But, one of the positives is that I get to completely miss out on watching these terrible baseball games.  Now, instead of completely ruining my weeks, the Mariners just get to ruin my weekends.

Three more to go against the A’s before the All Star Break.  That makes 9 losses in 11 games, including 8 in a row at home.  Am I going to have to attend one of these games in person just to break the streak?

Also, in Hisashi Iwakuma news, Hisashi Iwakuma has been shut down in his throwing program and given an injection into his shoulder.  Feels to me like he’s done, both for this year and probably his Mariners career.  If so, it was … interesting to say the least.

It Was Absolutely Okay For Jarrod Dyson To Bunt To Break Up The Perfect Game

Don’t come in here with your macho headgames; this is baseball – ostensibly a kid’s game – there are no points for winning or losing with honor.  To put it another way, you’re no more or less of a man for bunting to get on base as you are clubbing a ball into the outfield.

The unwritten rules of baseball are among the stupidest things in all of sports.  Chief among them is this concept that you shouldn’t try to bunt to break up a perfect game or a no-hitter.  And I’m not buying this whole “grey area” that people are trying to amend to this thing.  What’s the difference between the first batter of a game bunting for a base hit, followed by the pitcher getting 27 consecutive outs, and the last batter of a game bunting for a base hit to break up a perfecto?

The job of a hitter in baseball is to help in the facilitation of scoring runs, by any means necessary.  Obviously, in a close game, people feel it’s perhaps more justified to bunt to break up the no-no than if it were, say, 10-0 in the bottom of the ninth.  But, you know what?  This isn’t Brett Favre giving Michael Strahan a record-breaking sack; as the opposing hitter, you don’t have to lay down and die just so someone else can make history.  If speed is a big part of your game – the way you make your LIVING, by the way – then obviously the bunt is always going to be on the table.  And, if the opposing defense is going to give you this HUGE opening in front of first base – with Miguel Cabrera playing insanely deep against someone known to bunt from time to time – then it’s absolutely your right to do so.  First inning, sixth inning, or last inning.  Having someone throw a perfect game on you in your own stadium?  That’s embarrassing!  Way more embarrassing than the temporary “shame” of bunting to get a hit; even if it’s 10-0 in the bottom of the ninth.

Last night, Justin Verlander was rolling.  He’s usually been really good against the Mariners throughout his career, but this was another level.  16 guys put down to start off the game; 6 of the first 9 hitters struck out and 9 of the first 15.  Good life on his fastball, good movement on his breaking pitches, outstanding command.  It really did look like it was going to take a miracle just to get a guy on base.  I’ll admit, I almost went to bed after the fourth or fifth inning.  I turned the game off, I picked up a book to do some pre-bedtime reading, and right before I considered shuffling off to bed, I checked Twitter.

By this point, the Mariners were down 4-0.  James Paxton looked moderately better than he did last time, but by no means his usual dominant self from before the injury.  With the way Verlander was going, there was just no way this Mariners team could come back!

But, I checked Twitter maybe 30 seconds after the bunt, and immediately flipped over to the game.  I saw Zunino walk, I saw Segura bloop a single in no man’s land that the short stop somehow overran, I saw Gamel continue his torrid June with an RBI single to center, and I saw Robbie Cano strike out.

For what it’s worth, that was a great Cano at bat, but an even-better Verlander sequence.  That strike three was, as Aaron Goldsmith described, vicious.  Unhittable.  But, I also saw a Cano in that at bat who looked remarkably dialed in.  He was JUUUUST missing, but his timing was getting awfully close.  Close enough that it would only be a matter of time before he started making a huge impact offensively.

That put the M’s at two outs in the inning, though, with only 1 run to show for their rally.  Forget the bunt, forget the perfect game and all that, the Mariners had an opportunity here!  But, they couldn’t let having men on second and third – with the heart of their lineup at the plate – go by without scoring more than just the 1 run.  Thankfully, Nelson Cruz got ahold of a curveball and roped it into left field.  To my horror, it looked like Justin Upton might come up with the diving catch to rip our collective guts out, but he came up empty and the Mariners got to within 4-3, with three full innings left to play (and knocked Verlander out of the game in the process).

Mitch Haniger – dropped to 7th in the lineup, with the return of Jean Segura from the DL (the Mariners opted to keep Ben Gamel’s .350+ batting average in the 2-hole, at least against righties, and at least for the time being) – led off the seventh with solo blast to tie the game.  With the Tigers’ bullpen sucking all ass around town, this thing felt attainable!  They got a couple quick outs, but then the rally train started chugging down the tracks again.

Segura walked and Gamel singled to set the table for Cano.  Yep, that Cano.  The one who, quite frankly, hasn’t been all that good lately.  Coming into the game, he had all of 2 extra-base hits in the month of June, and I don’t know if he’s been all that right since he went on the DL back in May.  Obviously, he’s getting his hits, and he’s playing through some pain, and you commend him for that, but he hasn’t been that dynamic superstar we’ve seen him be, at least for the last few weeks.

But, he was due, and he made good on that by lining a double into the gap in right-center field to score Segura and Gamel and give the Mariners an improbable 2-run lead.  Cruz would subsequently single in Cano to give the M’s a 3-run cushion, and the damage was done.

Of course, I don’t know if the Mariners would’ve been able to salvage this game without some excellent bullpen work.  Tony Zych came into the game in relief of Paxton, with 1 out and 2 on.  They’d JUST scored two runs to give them their 4-run lead.  But, Zych not only shut them down, he went another inning on top of it without giving up a run.  Then, after finally getting a day off the night before, Nick Vincent kept the Tigers off the scoreboard in the eighth.  And, in a somewhat questionable move, Scott Servais opted to throw Edwin Diaz out there for a fourth consecutive day.  He looked a little wild, and grooved a solo homer to Ian Kinsler; things got really interesting when Cabrera walked to the plate with a runner on first in a 7-5 ballgame.  Cabrera is always an MVP-type threat – even if he’s not having that sort of season this year – but that’s not what really terrified me.  I was worried what would happen if Cabrera simply singled or walked or otherwise got on base for J.D. Martinez, because HE’S the real killer on that team right now.

Honestly, if Cabrera would’ve gotten on base, I would’ve chosen to walk Martinez.  If I’m being REALLY honest?  I might have intentionally walked both of those guys to load the bases for Justin Upton; but I guess that’s why they don’t pay me the big bucks to manage a Major League Baseball team (yes, THAT is the reason).

Instead, Diaz worked ahead in the count to Cabrera, and got him to roll over on one to short stop to end the game.

I’m not gonna lie to you, that game was one for the ages.  An Instant Classic, at least from a Mariners perspective.  I have no idea what it’ll all mean in the grand scheme of things, but isn’t it funny how it took all of that for the Mariners to get back to .500 again, this time at 37-37?

Isn’t it ALSO funny that in today’s slot in the rotation, we were due to start Yovani Gallardo?  Our WORST starting pitcher?

Well, it’s like Dipoto and Company knew I’d be freaking out today, because we’ve got moves!

The first, I’ve already alluded to:  Jean Segura returned, with Tyler Smith going back to Tacoma.  Thanks for the memories Smith, but your services will no longer be required.

The second was an absolute shocker:  hotshot prospect Andrew Moore was called up, with Christian Bergman being sent down (and Tyler Cloyd being DFA’d to make room on the 40-man).  I talked about it yesterday, and it looks like the Mariners and I were simpatico on the whole Bergman vs. Gaviglio argument, because Gaviglio keeps his spot in the rotation (set to start this Saturday) at least until Iwakuma returns from his rehab assignment.

Andrew Moore was a second round pick in 2015, and one of the top prospects in the Mariners’ farm system.  He apparently throws in the low-90s, but has great command of the strike zone, doesn’t walk many guys, and has excelled at every level.  In his first professional season, he dominated in Everett.  In 2016, he split time between high-A ball and AA.  Then, this year, he appeared in 6 games in AA before being promoted to AAA.  He appeared in 8 games in Tacoma and now he’s here.  Not only is he here, but his Major League career is getting STARTED.  He’s not up for a spot start, or to help out in the bullpen in long relief like most of these jokers we’ve brought up from Tacoma; Andrew Moore is getting the start TONIGHT, in place of one Yovani Gallardo.

SQUEE!!!

Sorry, not sorry, but once I realized he last started for Tacoma last Thursday, I was able to put 2+2 together and come to the hypothesis that he was going to take Gallardo’s job.  Bergman goes to Tacoma, because apparently he was always going to go to Tacoma regardless, but if my hypothesis holds true, the Mariners will hold onto Gallardo through tonight’s game – in case Moore’s jitters get the better of him and he’s overwhelmed by the Tigers – and then they’ll DFA him when they officially bring Felix back onto the roster.

In other words, unless something crazy happens, we officially have one more day with Yovani Gallardo in our lives.

And I know what you’re thinking, sour grapes and all.  Normally, I don’t root for people to lose their jobs, but he’ll be fine.  He’s a fucking multi-millionaire who will DEFINITELY get another shot with some other team.  So, don’t cry for Gallardo; it’s what’s best for everyone.

I mean, this has to be what’s happening, right?  They’ve already officially named Gaviglio the starter for Saturday; I don’t think they’re just going to change their minds and send him down when Felix returns on Friday.  The only other move is to keep Gallardo in the bullpen and send someone like Altavilla down to continue to work on his game.  At this point, I’d say it’s 50/50 between those two things, but I’ll say this:  if Gallardo’s main problem has been giving up too many runs early in games (18 of the 54 runs he’s given up this year – or a full 33% – have been in the first innings of his starts; he’s got a first inning ERA of nearly 11!), what makes you think we can trust him in a relief role?  As a reliever, you have to be able to shut guys down RIGHT AWAY!  There isn’t time to have one big inning, settle into a game, and make it up by throwing 4-5 shutout innings after that.

So, I dunno.  All I know is I’m going to the game tonight with my brochachos and I have the good fortune of witnessing Andrew Moore’s Major League debut and NOT Yovani Gallardo’s final start in a Mariners uniform.  Yep, I’m pretty pumped.

Mike Zunino Smashed The Mariners To Glory

Not “Smashed” in the Jersey Shore sense, although in a way …

Also, what’s a Jersey Shore?

Mike Zunino has been on an incredible tear!  This is like nothing he’s ever put up before!  I’m not exaggerating; he’s never had a month as good as this June.  The closest is probably his April in 2014 when he had a slash line of:

  • .279/.306/.471/.776, with 3 homers, 4 doubles, 10 RBI, and 7 runs scored

Now, compare that to just the first 19 days in June of this year:

  • .385/.431/.885/1.316, with 8 homers, 2 doubles, 26 RBI, and 11 runs scored

The walks to strikeouts ratio hasn’t changed a whole lot, but he passes the eyeball test.  He’s putting himself in better counts, working his way back from 0-2 holes, and forcing pitchers to throw to him in the strike zone.  Even better, he’s actually HITTING those pitches instead of swinging through them like he was earlier this year (and for most of his career)!

Now, obviously, he could turn back into a pumpkin as early as tonight and go on another prolonged cold streak.  His actual June numbers by month’s end might not look so hot from a slash-line perspective (which, you would think will happen regardless, what with regression and all that), but the point is he’s never been nearly as good for nearly as long as he has through the first three weeks of this month.  No one is expecting Mike Zunino to compete for triple crowns (although, can you imagine?), but it’s comforting to know he’s got this in him.

I’ve said all along:  just give me a Mike Zunino who hits around .250.  With his power, with his pitch-framing ability and overall defensive ability, with the way he’s great with the pitching staff, with his leadership, that’s a guy I wouldn’t mind having at catcher for a good, long career.  Anything above and beyond that, hittingwise, is gravy.  And, in this month of June, we’ve been blessed with a whole shit-ton of gravy!

Last night, with the game tied in the bottom of the sixth, Mike Zunino cranked a 2-run home run to left field – over the bullpens – to put the Mariners ahead.  Then, in the bottom of the eighth, with the M’s still clinging to that 2-run lead, Mike Zunino ding-donged one to center to give the good guys a comfortable 4-run advantage (and thereby swipe a save opportunity from Edwin Diaz, who was already warming up in the ‘pen).  Not for nothing, but it was Z’s second multi-homer game of the month, but that probably doesn’t surprise you.

It might surprise you to see yet another fine pitching performance by this beleaguered bunch.  Sam Gaviglio gave the Mariners 5 solid innings of 2-run ball.  He got into a couple jams by giving up 3 hits and walking 4, but was able to greatly limit the damage thanks to some timely double plays.

Which brings us to the big question:  who will the Mariners keep in the rotation, Gaviglio or Bergman?

For what it’s worth, the organization might not have to make that decision just yet, as Iwakuma got a rehab start last night and could only make it through 2 innings.  He might need another outing or two (like Felix did) before bringing him back.  But, the question is looming regardless.

It could be further complicated if the Mariners decide to throw rationality to the wind and keep Yovani Gallardo on this roster.  I mean, look, he’s been ridiculously terrible this year.  If you go by the generous “Quality Start” definition in Major League Baseball (going at least 6 innings, giving up no more than 3 earned runs), he only has 4 in 14 total appearances.  He’s given up fewer than 3 runs only twice; for a so-called innings eater, he’s only gone 7 innings one time; and worst of all is he’s earning $11 million this year (with a $2 million buy-out next year).  It’s absolutely fucking shameful.

The primary argument for choosing Gallardo over the other two is that he’s got experience (Bergman had 14 starts over 3 seasons before this year; Gaviglio is a rookie).  He’s also a veteran, while I believe the other guys should have options (Bergman has less than 2 years of service time, so we should be good there).  Talentwise, Gallardo has a decent fastball, but he’s just been getting pounded.  There’s a slight argument in his favor that he usually only has 1 bad inning per start, and once he gets around that, he’s putting up zeroes.  But, that 1 bad inning is usually very early in the game, and it’s usually REALLY bad, putting the team in too big a hole to climb out of.  You’d think, if he could take better command of that 1 bad inning and at least limit the damage, he’d be an effective starter for this team.  But, you’d also think if he had that ability in him, he would have done it by now.

The fact of the matter is, Gallardo sucks at getting out of jams.  He’s been nothing but a liability for this team, and I don’t think we would’ve been any worse off if we’d given all of his starts to Chase De Jong all season.  Just because he’s been healthy all year and has made all of his starts is no feather in his cap.  If anything, he’s the ONE guy I WISH would’ve gotten injured, as opposed to the four guys who did.

If this is any sort of just and fair world, Gallardo gets hacked off this roster as soon as Felix returns on Friday.  Because, based on performance, Gallardo is severely lagging behind Bergman and Gaviglio.

Which gets us back to the aforementioned big question:  Bergman or Gaviglio?

Bergman has 3/9 quality starts; Gaviglio has 2/7 (with an asterisk, as one of those “quality starts” saw him give up 4 unearned runs in a loss).  By my own vague definition of starts where they kept the Mariners in the ballgame, I’ve got Bergman at 6/9 and Gaviglio at 4/7.  Bergman has a couple 7+ shutout inning performances under his belt and looks like a guy who will give you more quality innings; but he’s also got those two truly atrocious starts where he gave up 10 and 9 runs respectively.  Conversely, Gaviglio has gone between 5-6 innings in every start, giving up 0-5 runs.

Which leads to my thumbnail definition of each guy.  Bergman is more likely to eat more innings and look better doing it; but he’ll also have starts where he completely falls apart and looks like the most hittable guy on the planet.  Gaviglio is more likely to give you 5 innings and limit damage to 2-3 runs.

If I’m being honest, I think Bergman is the better, more talented pitcher right now, but I just flat out feel better when I see Gaviglio is on the mound.  There’s no way to explain it, because if these two guys pitched for the A’s or something, I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.  Frankly, I don’t know how BOTH of those guys aren’t getting destroyed every time they hit the mound.  Looks like a lot of smoke and mirrors, if you ask me.  I could be way off base, though, but I just feel like Gaviglio has a higher upside.  Maybe I’m just easily impressed by the “bulldog mentality”.  Of course, the last guy we had around here with a bulldog mentality was Erik Bedard, and he too was prone to the Five & Dive start.

I really don’t have a clue as to what the Mariners are going to decide.  I’m pretty confident they’ll let Gallardo go at some point.  Considering Bergman was called up before Gaviglio – meaning he was “ahead” of Gaviglio on the theoretical depth chart – if I had to guess I’d say they roll with Bergman for a while and let Gaviglio keep starting in Tacoma.  Of course, I doubt we will have seen the last of either of the guys who end up being sent down to Tacoma.  What, the Mariners are suddenly going to get and STAY healthy?  Poppycock!

As for the rest of last night’s game, kudos to Guillermo Heredia – getting the start for Haniger, who was given a rest day – who hit the game-tying 2-run home run in the fifth.

Big ups to James Pazos, who got the win with his 1.1 innings of shutout relief.

Bigger ups to Nick Vincent, who went 1.1 innings of shutout ball for the second day in a row.  As I was talking about on Twitter last night, that’s 13 consecutive appearances where he hasn’t given up a run.  He’s 8 for 8 in Hold opportunities in that span, going 11.1 innings, giving up 10 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 7.  He’s been an absolute beast all year and the only guy in the ‘pen (besides Pazos maybe?) who hasn’t really had any sort of prolonged slump.  He’s locked down that 8th inning role and is able to be used multiple innings on multiple days in a row, which is really important for a team that’s largely struggled with its bullpen for the season.

Also, a shout out to Jarrod Dyson, who is having his own fine month of June.  Ever since Mitch Haniger came back, and it looked like Dyson’s grasp of a starting job might be in jeopardy, he’s come out swinging like a big dog to fend off Heredia for now.  It’s a crowded outfield, with four guys playing really well, and I can’t remember the last time I was able to say that with a straight face.

This Tigers series continues with Ariel Miranda tonight.

Mariners Win In Texas For First Time Since April 2016

Due to a scheduling quirk.  And some focused ineptitude.

After a couple of shitbird 10-4 losses, the Mariners went up against Yu Darvish in the series finale.  While he’s been Ace-like for most of his career, the Mariners have had curious bouts of competence against him, and yesterday was no exception.  5 runs in 5 innings to put the M’s in the driver’s seat.  Then, Nick Vincent shut things down after some shaky bullpen work in the seventh, bridging it to the ninth.  By then, it was no longer a save situation, but Edwin Diaz still locked down the 7-3 victory to make things not so bad.

Kyle Seager had 3 doubles, 2 runs, and 3 RBI; Ben Gamel continues to hit everything in sight; and Danny Valencia had a 2-run homer in the first to really put the Mariners on solid footing.

Christian Bergman had his final start before both Felix and Iwakuma come off the DL for this weekend’s Astros series.  He went 5.2 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits, 2 walks, and 1 strikeout.  The question now is:  has he done enough to stick around in this rotation?

With Felix and Kuma back, with Miranda and Paxton being too good to take out of the rotation (recent starts notwithstanding), there are now three pitchers for one spot:  Bergman, Gaviglio, and Gallardo.  Gaviglio and Gallardo will both have starts in this upcoming Tigers series and then a decision will have to be made.

I’m already on record as stating Gallardo needs to go.  Of course, he’ll catch on with some other team and absolutely destroy his opponents for the rest of the year, but that’s just the way that goes.  If he stays, he’ll continue to suck; we just have to hope he goes to the National League and we get an Out of Sight/Out of Mind situation.

As for the Bergman vs. Gaviglio question, I’ll try to render an opinion after tonight’s start.  Oh yes, it’s really that close, and might come down to how Gaviglio looks in a Do Or Die situation.  Stay tuned.

In Long Relievers – They’re Just Like Us News:  Rob Whalen got the boot in favor of Max Povse (in the process, Dillon Overton got DFA’d to make room on the 40-man).  Povse has a ton of upside and is making the jump from AA, so this could be a little more interesting than someone set to eat up a few innings before an immediate demotion (in all likelihood, if Povse does well, I could see him replacing Altavilla, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here).

Starting tonight, the Mariners enjoy a stretch of 16 of the next 19 at home heading into the All Star Break.  For the first time in forever, the Mariners actually get to play a home series immediately preceeding those three days off, so it’s nice that they don’t have to travel if they don’t want to.  The time is now:  the Mariners REALLY need to do well to get back in this Wild Card hunt, or fucking lose me forever.

Probably not.  I’m a sucker for this stupid team.

Mariners’ Bullpen Saved The Day Against The Twins

There were plenty of heroes in last night’s 6-4 Mariners victory.  Mitch Haniger banged a 2-run homer in the first.  Mike Zunino chipped in with a 3-run homer in the third (and has his average over .240 to boot).  Ben Gamel had 3 hits, 2 runs, and a MONSTER catch in foul territory in left field, crashing into the wall and coming down with the ball to get the second out in the eighth inning, with the Mariners only leading by 2.  Cano, Valencia, and Dyson all had multi-hit games to help keep the offense rolling along.

But, this one belonged to the bullpen.

Sam Gaviglio was so-so.  He was great through four innings, then gave up back-to-back solo homers in the fifth and downgraded to just good.  But, he could only manage one out in the sixth before giving up a 2-run homer and subsequently getting pulled.

James Pazos yanked his ass out of the fire by striking out the final two batters of the inning; but he wasn’t done there.  He erased a leadoff single with a double play, then walked a guy, allowed him to steal second, but got the next batter to pop out to end the inning.  It wasn’t the prettiest, but Pazos went 1.2 innings to bridge this game to the eighth, and that’s just fine in my book!

Nick Vincent came in, got the first two batters out, gave up a single to Minnesota’s best power hitter in Miguel Sano, then was pulled for Scrabble with a lefty coming up.  Scrabble walked the pinch hitter and was immediately replaced by Edwin Diaz for the 4-out save.

Diaz got the final batter in the eighth to strike out on three pitches.  He got the first batter of the ninth to fly out to left-center, walked a guy, gave up an infield single, struck the next guy out, let the tying runners steal their way into scoring position, and got Brian Dozier to fly out to center to end the threat.  I’ll admit, it looked pretty dicey there late in the game, but Diaz never looked like he was out of control and ultimately earned the skipper’s confidence in him.

In Long Reliever News, Casey Lawrence was sent back to Tacoma, this time replaced by our good buddy Chase De Jong.  Since being demoted, De Jong has been far from ideal in AAA.  In the first three starts, he got pretty well pounded, giving up 8 homers in 17 innings; his sterling April ERA with Tacoma took a fucking BEATING.  But, in his most recent start, he went 6 shutout innings.  I’ve got to think he’s only here on an emergency basis, until the Mariners have waited the requisite amount of time until Emilio Pagan is allowed to return, and they won’t put De Jong in any games unless they’re winning or losing big.

In other news, Hisashi Iwakuma pitched 4 shutout innings with the Modesto Nuts.  Felix is set to pitch one more time in Tacoma this weekend I think.  Jean Segura is making great progress and could be back as early as next week.  And Major League Baseball concluded its draft.  The Mariners picked a bunch of guys I’ve never heard of and probably will never hear of.  I’m being told that each of the Top 10 draft picks will sign with the team though, so that’s exciting.  REFILL THAT FARM SYSTEM!!!  Also, I heard Kyle Lewis returned from his ACL tear and is back playing some baseball again, so that’s fun.

The Mariners finish their season series with the Twins later this morning with a 10am local start time.  Ariel Miranda will try to help the M’s win this series 3-1 and get the team back to .500 overall.  Please God, let it happen.

The 2017 Mariners Have Still Never Been Over .500

That was as unlucky of a 2-1 defeat as you’ll ever see.  Down 1-0 on a solo homer in the fourth, Christian Bergman was working around a moderate jam in the fifth.  With two outs, he got Joe Mauer to bounce one to second base.  At the time, you could’ve made an argument that they would’ve given Bergman a shot at going six innings in this one.  But, not so fast, because the ball booted off the heel of Robinson Cano’s glove to put runners at the corners.  The lead runner was past third base enough for the M’s to potentially have a shot at picking him off, but Cano couldn’t get a clean grip on the ball.  By the time he did, it was too late and he should’ve eaten it.  Instead, he tried to rush the ball to third, saw it skip past Kyle Seager, allowing the runner to turn around and score.

Two errors, one play, by a guy who had one error all season.

In the bottom of the fifth, Jarrod Dyson led off with a triple.  One out and a Boog Powell walk later, Ben Gamel hit a sac fly to score Dyson.  Guillermo Heredia hit a single to right to put runners on the corners, which brought up Robbie with a chance to atone for his sins in the top half of the inning.  He hit a screaming liner to center that looked like it was going to score the go-ahead runs for the Mariners, but Byron Buxton made a crazy leaping catch to end the inning.

There’s probably only a small handful of guys who are able to track that ball and make that catch.

The bullpens kept the game the same on into the bottom of the eighth, with the heart of the order coming up.  Cano and Seager singled to put runners at first and second; with one out, the hero of the previous night – Mike Zunino – stepped to the plate.  He didn’t have a particularly good game in this one heading into the at bat, but all of that would’ve changed had he gotten ahold of one.  On a 1-0 pitch, Zunino smashed a liner right at the pitcher that almost certainly would’ve scored the tying run.  But, he hit it right into the pitcher’s glove, who was able to easily double off Cano at second to end the threat.

There would be no blown save for Minnesota’s closer on this night, as he came into the ninth and went 1-2-3.

What can you do, you know?  The confluence of events to get that game to go in Minnesota’s favor was pretty astounding.  Bergman once again pitched good enough to keep the Mariners in the ballgame (funny how he rarely seems to have Gallardo’s problem of The Big Inning, but that’s neither here nor there) and the bullpen pitched good enough to give the Mariners the win.  Four shutout innings by Pazos, Cishek, Scrabble, and Altavilla.

Offensively, we’re talking about 0 for 7 with RISP, which obviously won’t get the job done on many nights.  The Mariners will try again to get back to .500 (and maybe over .500) against the Blue Jays this weekend.  Sam Gaviglio goes tonight, which is cause for concern.  The fact that the Blue Jays have practically everyone back and healthy is another cause for concern, considering they were pretty beaten down by injuries the last time we played them last month, and they still managed to sweep the M’s in a 4-game series.  On top of all of that, we have to deal with a park full of insufferable Blue Jays fans.  Part of me wants to go to Safeco this weekend and mix it up, but the rest of me knows the Mariners are just going to lose anyway, because we always fucking lose to Toronto.

On a minor positive note, both Drew Smyly and Hisashi Iwakuma threw off of a mound yesterday.  It’s not much, but it’s an important next step.  Also, Mitch Haniger had a good game down in Tacoma, drawing the game-winning walk.  And, word around the team is that Nelson Cruz should be back tonight, but we’ll see.

Valencia & Motter Bombed The Rays Into Oblivion

While I was at Clusterfest, watching comedians ranging from Kevin Hart to Sarah Silverman to Chris Hardwick to Natasha Leggero to Moshe Kasher to T.J. Miller (while still being able to catch a hip hop set from Ice Cube), the Mariners back in Seattle played a baseball game.

Taylor Motter hit a grand slam in the first, Danny Valencia had 5 RBI (including a 3-run homer in the third), and the Mariners ran away with it against the Rays, 12-4.

Funny coincidence alert:  Motter came from the Rays organization; he was beyond pleased with how this game went.

Also:  Danny Farquhar now pitches for the Rays’ bullpen, and gave up 4 runs.

Also:  Brad Miller had an error while playing second base, in the first inning, that led to 5 of those runs being unearned.

In Neverending Mariners Injury News:  Nelson Cruz was back and IN the lineup, with just a bruised hand, in spite of some dude on Twitter trying to tell me he broke his hamate bone and would be out 4-6 weeks.  Weird that a guy with 17 Tweets since December of 2016 and 9 total followers wouldn’t have the pulse of the Mariners clubhouse!

In Real Neverending Mariners Injury News:  Jean Segura is on the DL with a high ankle sprain.  It’s just the 10-day variety, but Dipoto is saying this could go as long as 2 months.  Meaning Segura likely won’t be back until August.  Which, if you’re keeping score, means AFTER the Trade Deadline.  Of course, miracles do happen from time to time, so maybe he comes back early.  Either way, I highly doubt Segura gets traded this season.

So, in a flurry of moves made yesterday, Casey Lawrence was rewarded for his masterful 5-inning relief performance of Yovani Gallardo by being sent back to Tacoma.  What a dick move!  First with Emilio Pagan (after his 4-inning relief performance a little while back) and now this!  Lawrence, to his credit (because he didn’t look like much of anything of value when we brought him in), has been a fabulous innings-eating long reliever this season, and I hope he gets a chance to come back up.

To make up for the losses, the Mariners called up a couple of Tylers.  Tyler Cloyd (a relief pitcher who is the epitome of a 30 year old journeyman, having bounced around 4 different organizations, as well as a brief stint in Korea) and Tyler Smith (an infielder who made his Major League debut last night, subbing in for Cano when the game was out of reach; he hit a double in his only at bat).

To make room on the 40-man, the Mariners moved Ryan Weber to the 60-day DL, and DFA’d someone named Andrew Alpin.

Getting back to that Casey Lawrence thing, and how much of a drag it is, because it’s all Gallardo’s fault that he was needed to go five innings in that game and save the rest of the bullpen in the first place, Christian Bergman went 6 innings last night, giving up just 2 runs.  He’s looking more and more like a guy we can keep around in this rotation if/when everyone else gets healthy.  And, you know Miranda and Paxton aren’t going anywhere.  Felix is set to do a rehab assignment on June 6th, so he’s close to being back; that’s four pitchers.  If we can get Kuma or Smyly going, I think it’s adios to Gallardo!  Unfortunately, we’re at least another month away from that, so don’t get too excited.

Gaviglio goes tonight.  He can make the Gallardo situation go away even sooner with some more quality outings.  Pray for Gaviglio.  Pray for us all!