As Usual, Leave It To The Mariners To Suck All The Excitement Out Of Life

Riding high after a 6-3 road trip?  After taking hold of the second Wild Card spot?  After being one of the hottest teams since the All Star Break?

COME ON POOKIE, LET’S BURN THIS MOTHERFUCKER DOWN!!!

I mean, it’s the same shit/different day, isn’t it?  Starter can’t get out of the fifth inning because the manager has no confidence; reliever can’t stop the bleeding before giving up all the inherited runners; offense is okay, but not good enough to score 8 runs a motherfucking game; and another game the Mariners could’ve won – and by all rights probably should’ve won – turns into the fourth consecutive defeat in as many nights.

A 4-game sweep to the Anaheim Angels.  You know who owns that second Wild Card spot now?  The Anaheim Fucking Angels.  So, that’s fun.  I’m sure that’ll last.

At least Christian Bergman – recalled in place of Andrew Moore after his meltdown a couple nights ago – went four shutout innings to lower his ERA and give the Mariners a chance to try to come back late.  His reward will surely be a return trip to Tacoma, as we keep reloading our bullpen full of long relievers thanks to this stupid fucking rotation.

I don’t know what to tell you, the Mariners are who they are.  Last week, heading into this Angels series, it was the best it’s ever going to get.  3 games over .500, sole possession of the second Wild Card, with Paxton due up and the team looking to kick some ass at home.  Four days later, it feels like it’s over, all over again.  Of course, the team will probably bounce back, whenever they run into another hot streak offensively, and whenever their bullpen gets back on track, but it also wouldn’t surprise me to see this team go back in the tank for good.  Let’s face it, if it’s this exhausting for the FANS, then just imagine how exhausting it is for the players, to have to deal with this not-being-able-to-get-over-.500-for-good bullshit.

This week, right now, would be a good time for some of these fifth starters we have clogging up our rotation to nut up and get some shit done.  Get swept by the Orioles and that’s yet ANOTHER team we have to re-leapfrog over if we want to get back into the Wild Card spot.

You can put the final nail in the coffin of this season if that happens.

The Mariners Blew It Again

With Paxton on the DL, the Mariners brought up Andrew Moore, presumably to take his spot in the rotation, yet lo and behold there he was, coming on in long relief of Marco Gonzales (who, himself, was brought up with Felix on the DL, but that’s neither here nor there).

Gonzales couldn’t even get through 5 innings because Scott Servais rightly has zero confidence in his ability to get out of even the slightest jam in a tight game.  And so, Emilio Pagan came in to finish out the inning and we all thought he’d come back for another couple frames or so.  But, it turned out to be Moore, who got through one inning fine, but with two outs in the seventh, he ended up getting hit all around the stadium, giving up 4 runs to completely blow the lead.

The M’s put up 5 runs on the back of Nelson Cruz, Mike Zunino, and a clutch Jarrod Dyson.  With a 5-1 lead heading into the seventh.  Moore pissed that away, then in the ninth, Jean Segura – an inning after making a brilliant defensive play – booted a potential double play grounder to give up the go-ahead run.  And that was that.

The Angels are up 2-0 in this series, and get ready for more of the same because this Mariners pitching staff is fucking garbage.  The bullpen – which is decent – is overworked and becoming exposed.  Say goodbye to the Wild Card.

Seattle Mariners – Bend Over, Here It Comes Again

There’s an old timey military slang term for ANY Mariners occasion!

Yesterday, I told you to “Remember This Day” because in all likelihood, that was going to be as good as it got this season.  Later on in that post, I made the argument that the Mariners should use Paxton every fifth day as opposed to every fifth game, because the rest of our rotation is fucking God awful and we needed to maximize our lone quality starter as much as possible in this stretch run.  I would go on to say the team most certainly wouldn’t do that though, then added, “The way this season is going, Paxton will probably blow out his arm tonight and the point will be moo.”

DO I KNOW THESE SEATTLE MARINERS OR DO I KNOW THESE SEATTLE MARINERS???

Look, I’m not saying you should worship me as your lord and savior, but I am saying the end is fucking nigh and you might as well get a jumpstart on saying your prayers now.

I mean, can you even fucking believe this fucking season?  Can you even fucking believe these fucking Mariners?  As ALWAYS, the instant we get some positivity, some hope, some optimism for the future into our lives, the Mariners do literally everything in their power to rain diarrhea down all over our faces.

We were already in a position where Paxton had to win out.  That was always going to be the bare minimum to staying in legitimate contention (and not the “3 games out with 3 days to go” sort of contention the Mariners have been in in recent seasons, where everything had to go absolutely perfectly the final week of the season just to tie for a second Wild Card spot).  So, obviously, losing last night in a Paxton start is far from ideal.  As I got into yesterday, with the shit sandwich we’ve got going over the weekend in Gonzales-Ramirez-Miranda (where instead of a piece of shit in between two pieces of bread, the sandwich is concocted of three stacked pieces of shit), the odds of even winning just ONE of those games seems pretty remote.

But, then to lose Paxton to a pectoral injury (where he’ll have his MRI today and we’ll find out if he needs to go on the DL or not) is just the kind of ass raping Mariners fans should have come to expect not only from this season, but this lifetime of Mariners fandom.

The Seattle Mariners:  Stick Around Long Enough & You’re Guaranteed To Get Fucked In Your Tight Little Asshole.

There are simply no words to describe my emotional state exactly.  Numb is certainly high on the list, because who exactly could be shocked by this?  Rage, as well, not at any one person, but more at just life itself.  As the website motto states, “Why Do We Put Ourselves Through This?”  I’ll continue to ask that of myself to my final breath.  There’s sadness, of course.  Little bit of depression.  And just a pinch of lunatic hilarity, because come on, this isn’t REAL!  This isn’t a THING that HAPPENS!  Teams don’t just lose all their pitchers – except for their very WORST one in Gallardo – stay in contention, then climb into the driver’s seat when they get some of their pitchers back, only to lose those pitchers once again!  The film version of this season would be sent back for constant re-writes because there’s no way Hollywood could buy this kind of madness!

Oh, and get this!  The kicker!  Last night, Paxton was a little off and gave up 3 runs in his 6.1 innings of work (why the team would risk sending him out there again to blow past 100 pitches in the seventh inning is something to discuss another day).  The Mariners were pretty well shut down by Tyler Skaggs over the same number of innings, and the game went into the bottom of the eighth with the M’s still trailing 3-0.  Then, all of a sudden, Jean Segura hit a solo homer to get us on the board; Cano doubled to continue the rally; and Nelson Cruz blasted a 2-run home run to centerfield to tie the game up!  Here we go!

With Edwin Diaz coming in to pitch the bottom of the ninth (in a non-save situation, with no save situations forthcoming because the Mariners were at home and that’s not how saves work in extra innings, with the proper protocol being you use your best relievers in this situation, and Diaz is our best reliever, so there’s no point in saving him for later, please get that through your thick heads, you can’t just NOT pitch him in tie games because there’s not a save on the line, that’s fucking stupidity and you look like morons when you go on Twitter and complain about this; if it were a road game, you might have a case, but not in a home situation where the home team has final at-bats), it looked like things might turn out not so horrific, all things considered.

But, Diaz didn’t have it, the home plate umpire REALLY didn’t have it (and I don’t think he ever does, because that guy is the second-worst umpire in all of baseball; you know who #1 is), the bases were loaded with two outs for Mike Trout, and he did the rest, because that’s what he does.  He hunts down and slaughters Mariners FOR FUN!  Sure, he makes millions of dollars playing the game of baseball, but he would murder Seattle Mariners for free, that’s how much that sick fuck enjoys it.

So, here we are.  Remember last year, around this time, the Angels were in town for Ken Griffey Jr. weekend?  Remember how the crowds were electric?  Remember how I went to all three of those games that weekend, got all the free shit they gave away, and generally had a fantastic time getting day drunk and night drunk and day drunk again?

Also, remember how the Mariners won all three of those games, like it was fate?  They pulled themselves out from obscurity and made another run at “contention” and we, as Mariners fans, were on Cloud 9 for at least one weekend in August?

Well, here we are again.  The Angels are in town for Edgar Martinez weekend.  I won’t be there on Sunday, but I’ll be there tonight and tomorrow.  And, I’ve got a REALLY bad feeling that the Mariners are going to get swept, and we’re going to have last year to thank.

Oh, you don’t believe in karma?  That’s fine.  The Mariners are going to lose anyway.  Because that’s what they do.  And I’ll be right there, soaking it all in, day drinking and night drinking and day drinking again anyway.

Because that’s what I do!

Remember This Day: The Mariners Are Alone In The Second Wild Card Spot

Remember it, because it probably won’t last.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, because I know the other shoe is about to drop, but this is unbelievably exciting.  The Mariners took down the A’s 6-3 yesterday to complete the 2-game sweep – a feat that should be appreciated with a golf clap rather than hyperbolic sycophantism, because given how terrible the A’s are now, that’s something the Mariners absolutely SHOULD HAVE accomplished – while the Royals and Rays both lost to fall a game behind the Mighty Mariners!

This might very well be the zenith of the Mariners’ season.  3 games over .500 for the first time all year.  All alone in that aforementioned second Wild Card spot.  Just completed a 6-3 road trip to get to within 2 games of .500 on the road on the season.  Heading back to Seattle for the only week’s worth of home games in August, with Paxton on the mound tonight followed by Edgar Martinez Weekend.  If this isn’t as good as it gets, then get the hell away from me because I must be dreaming and I don’t want to wake up!

It all started yesterday afternoon.  Kyle “Corey’s Brother” Seager jacked a 3-run homer in the first to get things going.  Then, Nelson Cruz followed with a 2-run homer in the third and a solo homer in the fifth.  Not for nothing, but Seager has climbed up to 17 homers on the season, 7 of them since the All Star Break.  And Cruz is up to 26 homers, 9 of them since the All Star Break.  Not a moment too soon for either of those guys to get hot, I tell you what.

Staked to 6 runs, what did the Mariners get out of Yovani Gallardo?  More of his same putrid bullshit.  He gave up some mighty solo homers in the first and third to keep the A’s in it, then started to give up a lot of hard-hit contact in the fifth.  A single, followed by a liner that was only caught at the wall because Ben Gamel is literally Superman, followed by a run-scoring double and that was the end of his day.  Luckily, Emilio Pagan bailed him out, as well as the rest of the Mariners, keeping the damage to just what Gallardo gave up.  Pagan went 2.2 innings of 1-hit shutout ball to record the victory.

You know, it’s pretty fucking sad when a guy given six runs of support from his offense can’t even qualify for the fucking win.  It’s 5 innings!  That’s all you have to do!  And Gallardo couldn’t even do that, against the fucking A’s of all teams.  What. A. Piece. Of. Shit.  He does all this good in the bullpen, enough to get his starting job back, and this is what he’s able to manage.  Fucking pathetic.

From there, Tony Zych was able to lock down the eighth, and Edwin Diaz was able to lock down the ninth for his 25th save.  Somewhere out there, some fantasy baseball player got a really good deal on Edwin Diaz right before the All Star Break, and that person has been rewarded with 12 saves against only 1 blown save in a little under 4 weeks.  Simply outstanding!

It’s pretty easy to get excited about this team right now, especially with James Paxton on the mound tonight against the Angels, but again we’re talking about everything riding on this start.  Because have you seen the fucking duds we’ve got going over the weekend?  Marco Gonzales, Erasmo Ramirez, and Ariel Miranda, in that order.  If we don’t win the Paxton start, again, I think you can kiss this series goodbye, as well as our lead in the Wild Card and everything else.

If Paxton wins, MAYBE you could envision the Mariners’ offense jumping all over the Angels on Friday or Saturday (while getting just enough out of our starter before pulling him after 5 innings), with an outside chance of Miranda having a quality bounce-back start on Sunday and taking 3 of 4.  But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we need Paxton to come through to make any of our dreams a reality.

I was going through the schedule the rest of the way, picking out the Paxton starts assuming nothing changes and we continue with the 5-man rotation.  I made the argument that if you moved Paxton around in the rotation, pitching him strictly every 5th DAY instead of every 5th game, you could get an extra start out of him, while at the same time slotting him into either pitching the final game of the regular season, or (if we’ve clinched), setting him up for the Wild Card game.  Whereas, if you just pitch him every fifth game as anticipated, he ends up missing a lot of important series against difficult teams, and may not be ready until the ALDS (if we get that far).

My argument is:  you need to maximize James Paxton as much as humanly possible, since he’s your only good starter.  Getting 1 more Paxton start, on what’s ostensibly regular rest (I’m not going crazy here and suggesting he pitch every fourth day or something), could make all the difference in what’s looking like a Wild Card race that’s destined to go down to the wire.

And I understand the arguments against it.  He’s pretty injury prone, so do you want to risk blowing up his arm in this all-important season?  Baseball is a slog!  It’s a marathon, not a sprint; but it’s also just a fucking slog through the muck for six straight months.  It’s punishing.  It’s obscene, really, how long it is, and the fact that they have to play everyday, sometimes going three full weeks without a day off.

But, I mean, do you want this or not?  The Mariners almost certainly won’t do it, because you’re not managing a fantasy baseball roster, you’re managing human beings with feelings and egos and you can’t just single out one starter like that without alienating the rest of the rotation (as shitty as those other guys may be).  But, I thought the motto was “Whatever It Takes”!  Seems to me, guys are going to have to swallow some pride if we want to get this done.  Just ask Danny Valencia, who was benched because the Mariners were scheduled to face a bunch of right-handed starting pitchers in a row.

That’s my two cents anyway.  The way this season is going, Paxton will probably blow out his arm tonight and the point will be moo.  You know, a cow’s opinion.  The single greatest line from the TV show Friends in its illustrious 10-season run.

My other two cents, before things completely fall apart, is that I agree with Mike Salk and Softy (among other local radio personalities, presumably) that Scott Servais should ABSOLUTELY be in the running for Manager of the Year.  I mean, I know nobody cares about those awards, and most people who vote for them are just checking the box of the team with the best record without giving it more than 2 seconds of thought, so, you know, bank on the guy who manages the Astros to win it this year.  But, has anyone done more with less than Scott Servais?  Has anyone had to juggle a pitching staff with so many injuries?  The answer is no, obviously, the Mariners have had the most snakebitten pitching staff in the history of baseball.  But, he’s got this team in contention by playing that rotation like a fiddle.  Sometimes, guys just have bad games and they have to wear it.  But, more often than not, he’s pulling starters at just the right time, squeezing as much as he can out of them before going to the bullpen.  And, for the most part, I’ve liked his bullpen decisions.  He’ll have a brain fart here and there, but who doesn’t?  I’ve honestly been REALLY impressed by how little I’ve complained about his bullpen usage.  Even when it doesn’t work out, I can almost always understand the rationale behind the move.  It’s refreshing, really, after Lloyd McClendon and some of the other doofus managers we’ve had here in recent years.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got today.  Voters, give Scott a chance!

Holy Schnikes The Mariners Are In A 3-Way Tie For The Second Wild Card!

Caveat:  it’s only August 9th.  But still.

The Seattle Mariners are 2 games over .500 for the fourth time this season, but this one was pretty special.

For starters, Jesus Christ God Dammit Ariel Miranda sure did suck again!  6 runs in 5 innings, including 2 more home runs to give him 29 home runs given up on the season, which is the MOST in the entire Major Leagues.  29 homers in 23 games for Christ’s sake!  29 homers in 131.2 innings!  Or a homer every four and a half innings.  That’s un-fucking-sustainable!  You can’t give up this many homers in a season and expect to keep your job!  I don’t care how low your WHIP is, or how many of those homers are solo homers, eventually that shit’s gonna catch up to you and you’re going to blow up spectacularly!

Take last night, for instance.  Bottom of the first inning, he gave up a double and a walk before Khris Davis’ 3-run bomb to put the Mariners in a HUGE hole.  I’ll accept watching a Miranda start where he battles, or where he looks great those few and far between times, but I absolutely will not accept watching a start where he looks like every other non-Paxton starter in this fucking organization.  No thanks.  Suffice it to say, I was pretty much done with the game after that (and, with my crazy schedule, that’s not a huge sacrifice, considering I would go to bed at 8pm anyway).

What I missed, apparently, was one for the ages.  The M’s got one back in the top of the third when Zunino scored from third on a groundout, but the damage was limited, and the deficit would increase in the bottom half by a couple more runs.  Dyson punched an RBI single to left to make it 5-2 in the fourth, but the A’s would extend it back to 6-2 in the fifth on a solo homer.

With Ariel Miranda sufficiently knocked out of the game (at 86 pitches no less, because he’s efficient even when he’s fucking terrible), that’s when the real fun began.  Gamel knocked in two runs on a double in the sixth, Cruz knocked in another run in the seventh, and Valencia hit a sac fly in the eighth to tie it up.  Along the way, the Mariners got some remarkable relief pitching from the likes of Casey Lawrence, Nick Vincent, and Scrabble to push this game into extras.

Then, in the top of the tenth (after the Mariners walked three times in the ninth and somehow still didn’t score), with two outs, Leonys Martin continued his hot streak since being called back up, jacking a solo homer to right field to give the Mariners the lead.  Edwin Diaz got into a little mini-jam, but got himself out of it for his 24th save on the year.  That puts him 18th all time in Mariners history in most saves in an individual season.  His 42 career saves over his two-season career is 12th on the Mariners’ all time saves list, just a hop and a skip behind the likes of Brandon League, Bobby Ayala, Eddie Guardado, and Fernando Rodney.  So, you know, if you’re expecting Edwin Diaz’s career to go up in smoke, just give him another month or so.  History dictates once a Mariners closer gets between 50-70 saves, he automatically forgets how to get guys out.

What a crazy, VERY important win!  I mean, with the way the A’s are giving up on this season, there’s absolutely no excuse to lose either of these games in this 2-game series.  I know it’s baseball, and anything can happen, but if the Mariners are going to somehow shock the world, they’re going to need to beat up on teams like the A’s.  This is where you EAT!

If it’s all right with you, I think I’ll close by stopping and smelling the roses a little bit.  It’s, frankly, mindblowing how the Mariners are still hanging around in this Wild Card race.  I know there have been other seasons where the Mariners have been in contention in recent years, but this one definitely feels more special given all the Mariners have had to overcome and all that they’ll continue to have to overcome.

First and foremost, it looks like Felix has the same injury he had earlier this year.  They’re saying he’ll be out 3-4 weeks, which puts us into September, but if it’s as bad as the last one was – where he ended up missing almost 2 full months – we might not see him again in the regular season, if at all this year.  I hope the rest of the team can pick him up and carry us into the playoffs, for Felix’s sake, but I’m going to be heartbroken for him if we FINALLY get there for the first time in his career and he ultimately can’t go.  From a psychological standpoint, that might actually be worse than not going at all.

We also got word that David Phelps will miss 2-3 weeks, so it sounds like he’s not as bad off as Felix.  I’m going to hold my breath if it’s all the same to you and hope we get him back on the shorter end of that range rather than the longer.

In Recent Transaction News, Yonder Alonso made his Mariners debut last night, going 1 for 5 with a single, batting in the 2-hole.  Many Yonder jokes were had by all on Twitter.

In Active Roster News, I couldn’t even begin to tell you when this started, but the Mariners are rolling with a 12-man bullpen again.  With Alonso and Valencia effectively platooning at first base, Danny Espinosa as our only utility infielder, and Leonys Martin as our fourth outfielder, the Mariners really can’t afford to go with anything less than a 4-man bench.  With 20 games left in the month – before rosters expand in September – look for the M’s to start shuttling relievers back and forth between Seattle and Tacoma.  At some point, they’re going to have to figure out how much more Erasmo Ramirez they want to see in the rotation; I think my breaking point happened about 3 years ago, but I’ll give the organization another start or two before I start taking bids from local pipe bomb makers.

Terrorism jokes are still funny in this day and age, right?

The Mariners’ Big, Weird Weekend

It started Friday night, which I alluded to in my last post:  Paxton leading the way to victory.  Considering we blew the game on Thursday, this one was a Must Win.  But, then again, pretty much every single Paxton start from here on out is a Must Win.  It was true before Felix went back on the DL with bicep tightness, and it’s even MORE true now.

So, yeah, that sucks about Felix.  It also sucks because we never bothered to go out and trade for a proper rotation arm, but here we go, let’s have a look at the two losers we brought in.

Saturday’s game was rained out, which I understand was quite the ordeal.  I spent Saturday afternoon at the Beer & Tater Tots festival in Beacon Hill, followed by Saturday evening drinking more beer and playing some Texas Hold ‘Em with my dad, so I’d say I really wasn’t missing the Mariners too much.

On the fun side, that meant a Sunday Double Header.  Marco Gonzales got the start in Felix’s spot, and frankly, I wasn’t impressed.  Of course, I fully expected to NOT be impressed, so it all ended up as I’d figured.  The Mariners, thankfully, jumped out to a huge 7-0 lead in the first two innings, thanks to a Valencia 2-run homer, a Seager solo homer, a wild pitch scoring a runner from second base, and a Cruz 3-run homer.  Gonzales got through 4 innings, giving up just the 2 runs, but then he let the first three runners on in the fifth inning before being pulled, and all three of those guys ended up scoring.  4 innings, 5 earned runs, a fastball around 91 mph, a change up that looked okay, but ultimately a guy who is going to get bashed around pretty good each and every time he makes a mistake.  Fucking brilliant.

From there, the bullpen had to work overtime.  Pazos got out of the fifth just giving up the Gonzales runners.  Zych worked a clean sixth.  David Phelps got one out in the seventh before leaving with an arm injury.  He’s headed back to Seattle to see what’s wrong exactly, but word is he hasn’t felt quite right the last few outings.  Then, I proceeded to mock the Mariners for trading Steve Cishek for Erasmo Fucking Ramirez (what’s that?  you traded from a position of quote-unquote STRENGTH?  uh huh).  Pagan and Scrabble were able to work their way out of the seventh inning, which took us to Nick Vincent’s wild adventure in the eighth.  Luckily Cruz hit his second homer of the day in the top of the seventh to give the Mariners 8 runs, because Vincent gave up a 2-run homer to make the game 8-7.  He proceeded to get out of the jam with the lead intact, and thankfully Edwin Diaz is still en fuego, so he was able to lock down his 23rd save of the season.

The victory secured at least a series tie, and from the looks of the second game of the doubleheader, the Mariners were happy to just get out of there with the split.

Erasmo Ramirez followed up his previous garbage start with one that was even worse.  5 innings, 5 runs, including 3 homers.  The M’s could only muster 1 run on 4 hits, so the rest of the game was handed over to our loser relievers Casey Lawrence and Cody Martin.  Martin gave up the other 4 runs in this 9-1 debacle.  The only good thing you could say about this one is that it was over after 2 hours and 39 minutes.

The Mariners have an off-day today, thank Christ, followed by a mini 2-game set in Oakland before a week’s worth of games at home (the only home games all month).

At the start of the day on Sunday, the Mariners also made a couple post-July trades.  The first one was for Yonder Alonso, a first baseman and an All Star this year.  He has 17 doubles and 22 homers in what has been a breakout season for the veteran, from a power perspective.  As he bats left-handed, he figures to go into a time-share with Danny Valencia.  I don’t know if I saw first base as a HUGE area of need for this team (it’s not like it’s Starting Pitcher or anything), but if Alonso can give us an offensive boost, I’m all for it.  I appreciate the fact that Valencia has given us the back of his baseball card as far as his production this year – in other words, he didn’t fall off a cliff as soon as he became a Mariner; he’s essentially been what he’s been the last two years, which is fine – but I think it’s pretty clear this team could use a little more out of its offense, what with the struggles our pitching staff has given us.  In a way, it’s easier to just pump up the bats even more than to go out and find a competent starting pitcher, so that’s what the M’s have done.

In exchange, the A’s get Boog Powell, so no big loss.  It’s unfortunate that Yonder Alonso is only on a 1-year deal, but if he likes it here and we like him, I don’t see why we couldn’t re-sign him to a modest 3-year deal at the end of the year.

The other move was for some AAA guys.  Ryan Garton is a relief pitcher who was sort of okay in 2016 (his first year in the Bigs), but has been pretty dreadful in 2017 in 7 games.  He’s been putting up some fantastic AAA numbers the last couple years, so obviously there’s something there.  I wonder how long he’ll be in Tacoma, what with this David Phelps injury hanging over us.  The other guy the Mariners brought in from this trade with the Rays is Mike Marjama.  He’s yet to crack the Majors, but in his first year in AAA this year, he’s doing pretty well.  He looks like an upgrade over Tuffy Gosewisch – who was waived to make room on the 40-man – so that’s not so bad.  The Mariners gave up 2 low-minor league guys and a player to be named later, so we won’t know if we’ve screwed ourselves over for at least a few years.

All in all, a real mixed bag of a weekend, in what’s been a real mixed bag of a season.  The pull of the impending football season grows ever stronger.

Seattle Mariners – Situation Unchanged: Still Fucked Up

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we’ve gone into a series – both this year and in the last decade plus – where we explicitly stated this would be the “most important series” of the year.  The turning point, if you will.  Obviously, there’s a little bit of hyperbole mixed in there, as there seems to be four or five “most important series” throughout any given season, but there we were heading into yesterday, 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, in a 4-game series against the very team who HAS that second Wild Card spot.  Tell me a series that’s been bigger than this one so far this year!  There may still be bigger series ahead, but we’re in the here and now, and the Royals got to get got!

So, yeah, of course, run Yovani Sighardo out there (5 innings, 3 runs, couldn’t get a single out in the sixth before being pulled at 84 pitches), have him give up leads in back-to-back innings, and then fuck it all away in relief.  Kyle Seager, while he hit a pretty meaningless solo homer, managed to go 0 for 2 with RISP a day after probably his worst offensive game of the year.  Mike Zunino is in another huge fucking slump and looks lost at the plate again.  Jean Segura and Ben Gamel are slowly frittering away their awesome numbers.  And, here we are, in a 1-game hole with three games to go.

I mean, what can you say that hasn’t already been said?  Just when you think MAYBE Gallardo has things all figured out for just one game, NOPE!  Instead of giving up all his runs in the first inning and then “settling down”, he started the game “cruising along” before hitting a bumpy patch or whatever the fuck euphemism you want to slap on his game.  Somehow, he always seems to do “pretty good” except for one bad inning or some shit.

But, I’m putting this one on the offense.  They really need to get their shit together and start picking this team up.  Not once in a while, not after breakfast, NOW!  And every game after that!

This loss sucks even more dick, because it puts impossible pressure on the next two days.  James Paxton absolutely HAS to have a dominating effort tonight.  You’d think that’d be simple enough, but it’s not July anymore.  I know calendar months are arbitrary units of measurement when it comes to a baseball season, but I’ve also been following the Mariners for 20+ years (God damn, has it really been THAT long?), and it always seems like guys will be hot for exactly one month, and then the calendar page flips and they revert back to whatever nonsense they were before.  Which, in this case, you’d have to think would still be pretty good, but we don’t know how he’s going to look tonight.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the Royals bashed him around but good.

That leaves the weekend half of the series with Felix and Erasmo.  If Paxton wins, fine, maybe you can hope for a split, but that’s still relying on the likes of Felix and Erasmo.  If Paxton LOSES, then guess what?  Say hello to a series sweep and another week of bitching about how these Mariners can fucking eat my ass cheese.

Have I told you how much I hate baseball?

You Can’t Win ‘Em All, Mariners

I guess it’s only natural to want a little more.  When things have been going so well, you’re on a nice little tear since the All Star Break, and you win the first two games in the series down in Texas, you hope to get over that hump and get the sweep!  Boy, a sweep would’ve been nice heading into the series in Kansas City.  Of course, at this point, wins are the most precious things we have; the Mariners need as many as they can get.

But, you’re not going to win too many games when you go 1 for 9 with RISP, and leave 9 runners on base.  I know Ariel Miranda gave up a whopping 3 homers, and 5 runs total in his 5.2 innings of work, but I think I have to blame Kyle Seager just as much for this loss.  Why single out one batter?  Well, the other two studs on this team – Cano & Cruz – got on base a combined 6 times.  If Seager had only shown up to play in this one – in a stadium he usually does well in – the Mariners almost certainly would’ve scored more than 1 run, and could’ve made a game out of it.

In the top of the first, with Andrew Cashner teetering, having already given up 1 run, with 2 more on and only 1 out, Seager lined out to center to help take him off the hook.  Then, in the top of the third, with two more on and two out, Seager lined out to left field to once again let him off the hook.  Finally, in the top of the eighth, with two on and nobody out, Seager lined out to center again.  If any of those line outs were homers, the Mariners would’ve been within 1 run.  If Seager has a night to remember, maybe the Mariners win that game.  I know there were other hitters with other chances to bring home runs, but those guys aren’t currently in the middle of a $100 million contract.  Not that I’m knocking it or anything, but I think it’s reasonable to expect more out of your $100 million guys.

Anyway, I checked out of this one after it was 5-1 and they had the rain delay.  Obviously, the offense was held in check the rest of the way.  On the plus side, they’ve got a bunch of old episodes of Cheers on Netflix, and I got to bed at my regular time.

I dunno, I should probably say something about Ariel Miranda, but he is who he is.  He came into this year as the team’s sixth starter, and that’s about what he is.  He’s definitely cooled off from that run he was on earlier this year, and sort of settled into this Whatever he’s become.  At least he’s still better than Wade Miley.

The Mariners will have Yovani Gallardo take the mound tonight and try to avoid falling right back to .500.  Then, it’s Paxton, Felix, and Erasmo the rest of the weekend, as the M’s try to overtake the Royals for the second Wild Card.  A 4-game sweep should almost certainly get the job done.  A 3-1 series win will put us right in the thick of it, percentagewise.  A 2-2 tie and we’re kissing our sister.  Anything worse than that is incest, and you know how I feel about that.

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.