Mariners Beat Orioles To Take The Series

Well, a disaster of a homestand comes to an end.  On the Glass Is Half Full side of things, you can give the team props for beating the Orioles in the 3-game series.  But, the fact of the matter is, the Mariners went 2-5.  There’s no sugarcoating that.  They were swept by the Angels in a 4-game series and that’s the overwhelming takeaway from this homestand.

But, you know, it’s not like the Angels are really all that great.  They’re 1.5 games ahead of the Mariners right now, but I don’t get the sense that they’ll be running away with anything.  We play them 6 more times this year, in September, and hopefully by that point we’ll have some more help in the rotation.

As for yesterday’s game, what a wild affair!

I was at work, so I had to listen to most of it on the radio.  It started off pretty rough as the Mariners gave up yet ANOTHER leadoff homer in the first.  But, Marco Gonzales was able to settle down, as is the case sometimes with these 5th starter types.  The M’s were able to tie the game up on a Heredia double, then took the lead the very next inning on Yonder Alonso’s first homer as a Mariner (a 2-run job to take a 3-1 lead).

Then, the fifth inning rolled around, and like clockwork, Marco Gonzales turned back into a pumpkin.  Strike Out-Single-Single-Wild Pitch-Triple-Single-Single and that was it.  A 3-1 lead turned into a 4-3 deficit and Tony Zych was required to come in and clean up the mess.

Thankfully, he limited the damage to just that with a couple of fielder’s choices, then got through the sixth inning scoreless as well.  In the meantime, the Mariners’ offense went right back to work.  They re-took the lead in the bottom of the fifth, with four singles and a HBP to score three runs.  Then, Leonys Martin led off the sixth with a solo shot to make the game 7-4.

Emilio Pagan had the always-impressive scoreless inning on 3 pitches.  Nick Vincent locked down the eighth.  And Edwin Diaz was given a nice, cushiony 3-run lead to start the ninth.

Walk-walk-walk.  Bases loaded, nobody out.  Good grief.  Clearly Diaz didn’t have it, and most certainly should’ve been pulled right there, but, I mean, who do you bring in?  If David Phelps was still around, maybe we could’ve saved Emilio Pagan or Tony Zych for this situation.  But, other than Diaz, we had the two lefties, and I’m not sure Pazos is a guy I would trust with the bases loaded and nobody out with a 3-run lead.  Nevertheless, in the moment, I absolutely would’ve pulled Diaz right then and there.

He forced a liner to right field that Leonys Martin made a FABULOUS play on.  It still scored the runner from third, but it looked like that was going to be the key to saving Diaz’s bacon.  He even looked like he was settling down after that out!  Diaz got the next batter to strike out looking, and there we were, in pretty good shape.

But, that shit was FLEETING!  Diaz had his fastball running way too far inside, and it ultimately hit the next two batters to score another run and re-load the bases (even though on one of them, it looked like the hit batter swung at strike three on a check swing).

At that point, the team had no choice.  It helped that left-handed hitting Chris Davis was up next.  Scrabble pumped two 94 mph fastballs low and inside, then froze him with a third fastball right down the middle of the plate (when he was likely anticipating some sort of bendy pitch).

That was it!  It was exciting and enraging and relieving all at once.  By the time the top of the ninth rolled around I’d made it home, so I got to watch it on TV, and I was pretty sure I was going to have to label myself the Bad Luck Guy for busting up the sure thing.

Anyway, here we are.  The final two weeks of August.  The Mariners have today and the subsequent three Thursdays off, so it’s tough and it’s not.  Yeah, they’re on this huge East Coast swing, but that shouldn’t stop them from emptying out their bullpen whenever they need to salvage a close game.

Obviously, if I had my druthers, I’d have the M’s go 12-0 on this trip.  But, if I’m being more realistic, I’d like to see them win these first two series against the Rays and Braves, to go 4-2; then somehow split the next two series against the Yankees and Orioles to go 3-3.  If 7-5 can be achieved, I think we should all be fucking ecstatic.

That having been said, could I see 8-4 happen?  Only if they sweep the hapless Braves, which I feel should very much be on the table.  Go 2-1 against the Rays & Orioles, 3-0 against the Braves, and just try to fucking go 1-2 against the Yankees, and I believe you’ll see the Mariners back in that second Wild Card spot by the time they get back to Seattle.

Only for them to, you know, completely and totally disappoint us once again.  Because, that’s what they do.  They get our hopes up, and they dash them to bits.

On the flipside, I could also see the Mariners going 4-8 on this trip and completely falling out of the race.  Go 1-2 against both the Rays and Orioles, 0-3 against the Yankees, and still probably go 2-1 against the Braves.

The point is, these two weeks should very well make or break the season.  I remember being in a similar situation last year, where the Mariners were JUST trying to get to September for reinforcements to join the Big League club, and over the last 11 games of August (starting with that final home game against the Brewers, where Tom Wilhelmsen gave up 4 runs in the ninth to blow a 3-run lead), the M’s went 2-9.  They went into that series finale against the Brewers 10 games over .500, and they went into September 1st just 3 games over .500.

Last year’s Mariners also missed the Wild Card by 3 games.

So, yeah, a 2-week period at the end of August absolutely CAN make or break your season.  Will that be the case again this season?  We’ll find out, starting tomorrow afternoon.  Erasmo Ramirez on the hill against the team that just traded him.  I expect the additional adrenaline he’ll experience by facing his old team to have absolutely no impact whatsoever.

Then again, when he was on the Rays, he tended to really stick it to the Mariners, so who knows?

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.

Mariners Murder Mets; Paxton Goes 6-0 In July

One more time, the Seattle Mariners have scratched and clawed their way back to a .500 record, on the back of a 9-1 victory over the Mets.  That win gave them a 5-5 record on the homestand, so it’s kinda like the last 10 games didn’t even happen!

James Paxton looked phenomenal as usual, going 6 shutout innings, giving up 6 hits, 0 walks, and striking out 8.  He gave way to Emilio Pagan, who had another 2 shutout innings to throw onto his pile, as he starts to get more and more higher leverage situations to deal with.  And James Pazos closed it out by blowing the shutout in the ninth, looking no closer to being his usual awesome self, which is pretty concerning.

The real stars of this one were the hitters.  Nelson Cruz hit a mammoth 3-run home run.  Leonys Martin – in his first start since April 20th – had two hits, including a homer off of the Hit It Here Cafe.  I can’t tell you how fantastic it was to see that.  He’s been tearing it up in Tacoma, so it’s nice to have that sort of depth when a Mitch Haniger goes down.  Assuming Haniger is only gone for two weeks or so, I hope the team figures out a way to keep Martin on the roster through the month of August, until rosters can be expanded and I don’t have to worry about losing anyone of import.  It’s nice to be able to throw out three left-handed hitters in the outfield when we want to, if nothing else.

Also of note, Ben Gamel had 2 hits, 2 runs and an RBI.  Cano had 2 hits, a run and an RBI.  Seager had 2 hits, including a double.  Dyson, Segura and Danny Espinosa (who pinch hit for Segura late in the game) all chipped in with hits.  And Mike Zunino had a couple walks and a run scored.  Even Danny Valencia had a sac fly; literally everyone contributed SOMETHING to the cause.

Getting back to Paxton, he becomes the first Mariners pitcher to ever go 6-0 in a single month, raising his record from 5-3 to 11-3, which puts him tied for third in the American League for most wins (Chris Sale and Jason Vargas of all people are tied for first with 13 wins).  Also, among qualified pitchers, Paxton’s 2.68 ERA is second only to Sale’s 2.37.  Of course, Paxton is 3 starts and about 41 innings shy of Sale’s totals, what with landing on the DL for a month, but that’s still some good company.

Anyway, here we are.  The August death march unofficially starts today with a game down in Texas.  This is where we find out if the Mariners have what it takes or not.  I’d wager probably not.

Seattle Mariners – Situation Normal: All Fucked Up

Yovani Gallardo returned to the rotation yesterday, giving up 3 solo homers across 5 innings.  Yet, in spite of his very Gallardo-like start, he left the game with a 4-3 lead, thanks to the Mariners finally doing some damage against a Yankees starter.  That lead wouldn’t last much longer, as the bullpen – led by falling star James Pazos – gave up 3 runs in the sixth inning.

James Pazos has been quietly wretched for the last month.  Over his last 9 appearances, he’s given up 13 runs (10 earned) in 6.0 innings.  Obviously, the defense let him down in a couple of those games, but for the most part he’s been terrible, getting knocked around the park.  I haven’t been watching him that closely, so I don’t know if he’s falling into hitter’s counts, or if they’re just jumping on him early, but either way I think it’s time that he starts to work through some of this in Tacoma, because he’s not doing us any favors up in Seattle right now.

One bright spot was another 3 shutout innings from Emilio Pagan to spare the rest of the bullpen.  He has been absolutely fantastic since his atrocious first two appearances back in early May and it looks like he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

The big hullabaloo out of this game happened in the ninth inning, against closer Aroldis Chapman.  Nelson Cruz smashed an infield single off the pitcher to lead off the inning, and was replaced by pinch runner Taylor Motter.  Motter proceeded to immediately get picked off in just the worst, most lackadaisical way possible.  Considering he’s been pretty awful since the league stopped feeding him fastballs on the inner half of the plate (and he’s never been able to adjust accordingly), during the game the Mariners signed utility infielder Danny Espinosa, which means Motter will be Tacoma-bound.  As such, his getting picked off wasn’t necessarily the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it was a pretty inauspicious way to close out his tenure with the Big League club (at least, for the time being).

On top of that, with the way things shook out in the ninth, he cost us at least 1 run, and really changed the complexion of the inning.  At worst, with Seager’s double, we would’ve had runners on 2nd & 3rd with no outs, which would’ve preceeded a run-scoring wild pitch.  Of course, as it stands, we still had a runner on third with one out and couldn’t get him home, so maybe it wouldn’t have mattered at all.  The point is, you want to see how guys react when confronted with such adversity, and Motter really let him off the hook.

Par for the course, though, if you’ve been following these Mariners.  Their baserunning blunders are commonplace at this point; they did not leave with the trading away of Ketel Marte.  Considering how veteran this team is, it’s VERY discouraging to see them make so many unforced errors, but what can you do?

That makes 3 of 4 lost to the Yankees, with the Red Sox coming to town for three games.  And, don’t look now, but that’s Chris Sale going against Andrew Moore on Wednesday, meaning these first two games are practically Must Wins.  Great.

Leave It To The Mariners To Suck All The Life Out Of A Winning Road Trip, Also Trade For David Phelps

Doesn’t it seem like every time we get super excited for a Mariners game, or just about the Mariners in general, they do everything in their power to let everybody down?

All day in the leadup to this game, the talk focused on the Mariners.  Back at .500, coming off of an incredible road trip, Yankees in town, Felix on the mound, and oh by the way help is coming in the form of reliever David Phelps.

Who is David Phelps?  Well, he’s a guy we got from Miami for 4 low-level prospects (guys who are far from the Major Leagues now; who are sort of high-risk, high-reward types; whose odds of panning out are pretty low).  He got his start with the Yankees before being traded to the Marlins before the 2015 season.  He was once considered a starter, who has converted to being a reliever full time, who some think could be converted back into a starter for next year should the organization deem it appropriate.  He’s earning $4.6 million this year, with one more year of club control next year (where he’ll look to earn probably $6-8 million if he continues on this course.  He was a very good reliever last year, and is having a pretty good year this year.  He had a few rough outings in April and June, but by and large he’s put up zeroes in his performances, which is all I ask.  He gained about 3 mph in his fastball when he converted to being a reliever, now throwing around the mid-90s, with a cutter and a curveball.

In other words, David Phelps steps in immediately as one of our very best relievers.  I imagine he’ll be slotted into a role backing up Nick Vincent – probably in the 6th or 7th inning – but could easily step in as an alternate 8th inning guy for when we want to give Vincent a blow.  I imagine he’ll be thrown into the fire as soon as possible, particularly since his last appearance was this past Monday.

The one knock against him is that he probably walks too many guys, so I get the feeling some of his appearances will be pretty adventurous and not good for the ol’ agita, but pobody’s nerfect.  He’s a clear step up from the guys we have in Tacoma and a good hedge against guys like Vincent and Zych, who have been on a remarkable tear this season and figure to be prone to some regression the rest of the way.  If and when that happens, it’s nice knowing Phelps is here to take charge until those guys find their ways again.

As for the deal itself, I don’t have a problem with it.  The outfielder looked like he could’ve been interesting, but he’s 19 years old, and somewhere around the 7th best prospect in the organization.  When you consider the dearth of talent in the Mariners’ farm system, I’m not sure that means a whole lot to me.  The Mariners HAVE outfielders right now, so I’m okay with getting rid of an iffy prospect who has a long way to go to be even a middling Quad-A type player.

That having been said, if Phelps is a bust, and one or more of those guys turn into superstars, you know I’ll be bitching HARD about this trade 3-5 years from now.  SUCK IT MARINERS, I’LL HAVE MY CAKE AND EAT IT TOO AND THEN COMPLAIN ABOUT HOW FULL I AM LATER AND YOU JUST HAVE TO TAKE IT!

So, there we were, thinking about the Mariners – in mostly a positive light – for a whole day.  I’ll be honest, while my new work schedule has me sleeping through most weekday West Coast games, I was strongly considering DVRing this one, waking up early, and watching sort of a fast-forwarded, Cliffs Notes version of the game.  But, now I’m kinda glad I didn’t.

It would’ve been cool to see vintage Felix spinning 7 innings of 1-run gold (on 3 hits & 2 walks, with 9 strikeouts), but unfortunately we also saw Vintage Rest-of-the-Mariners in how they treated a King Felix start:  namely, no run support and terrible defense and base running.  Pazos and Zych combined to work the eighth, giving up an unearned run; and Max Povse – called up earlier in the day as a temporary bullpen arm while Phelps flies to Seattle (he should be added to the roster today) – gave up 2 unearned runs in the ninth thanks to a Cano error with two outs.

It’s really unfortunate, though, about the offense.  They squirrelled away 8 hits and a walk against Yankees’ starter Luis Severino – who is good, but is by no means an unstoppable killing machine – but couldn’t push any runs across in his 7 innings of work (overall, 2 for 14 with RISP).  From there, with the Yankees leading by even just the 1 run, it was all academic, as Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman were due up in the eighth & ninth.  That can’t happen very much more this series if the Mariners expect to win some games.

In Rotation Shake-Up News:  Sam Gaviglio was predictably sent back to Tacoma, and Yovani Gallardo was announced as the starter on Sunday.  I like this, because it means Phelps takes over for Povse today, and the Mariners keep Emilio Pagan in the bullpen over Gaviglio in the rotation.  I think Pagan has earned an opportunity and could be a very good weapon for us down the stretch, in games where we need long relievers (for instance, in games where Gallardo gets the start).

Three days left in this series, and a pretty sour start.  I don’t have a lot of hope, but I guess we’ll see.

Mariners Win A Crazy One In Houston

When I turned this game off to go to bed, it was already pretty nutty.  Nick Vincent was on the mound to start the bottom of the eighth as the Mariners regained the lead, at this point 7-6.  Ariel Miranda had a decent start going through the first five innings of the game, giving up 2 runs through that point, and the rest of the Mariners did sufficient damage to knock out Lance McCullers in the top of the fifth, as we put up a 3-run lead on the board.

Then, after two quick outs in the sixth, Miranda fell apart, culminating with the game-tying 2-run home run by Carlos Beltran.  At that point, it started to feel like a normal Astros/Mariners game.  Oh sure, they were toying around with us, letting us feel some semblance of comfort with such a lead; then those alligator jaws snapped shut right on our dicks!  This line of thinking was further cemented when James Pazos had to relieve Miranda – still with two quick outs in the sixth – and proceeded to load the bases, necessitating another pitching change in the inning.  Tony Zych walked in the go-ahead run before getting out of the jam, and that was that.  Clap your hands and walk away, the Mariners were done for!

But, then something funny happened.  And it continued to happen.  Starting with the top of the seventh, Nelson Cruz homered to left to tie the game.  Then, in the top of the eighth, Mike Zunino homered to left to give the Mariners their 1-run lead!  Then, Nick Vincent took over and it all started to feel a lot better as I hit the sack.  Surely our best reliever this season would keep the game in check!

You know, I can hardly blame the guy.  It’s been a weird start to the second half; four days, four games where the Mariners have had a narrow lead in need of saving, four appearances by the likes of Nick Vincent.  Three singles and a strikeout before the sac fly (off of Steve Cishek, who had to come in to mop up) tied the game, ultimately sending it to extras.  That’s a lot of work for someone like Vincent; hell, he’s on pace to obliterate his season highs for appearances and innings pitched!

This has been one seriously overworked bullpen coming out of the break, and one that – by and large – has gotten the job done.  Even Yovani Gallardo – who kicked off the bottom of the ninth, hoping to keep the game tied – managed to do his job (though, with a LOT of help from the defense of Jean Segura).  Segura had probably two of the best defensive plays I’ve ever seen out of him in this game, including a dive in the hole and throw to first base from his knees.  Between that, his two hits, and his run scored, there’s a good argument he was your player of the game.

But, really, there were a ton of heroes in this one.  Kyle Seager hit the go-ahead homer in the tenth, followed immediately by the insurance homer from Danny Valencia to give the Mariners their eventual 9-7 victory.  Or, how about Edwin Diaz, who has also pitched in the last four games, getting his fourth save in four days to give him 17 on the season and put him in the Top 10 in the A.L.

There’s the aforementioned homers by Cruz and Zunino, or the earlier 2-run double by Zunino, or the earlier RBI double by Valencia, or the Seager bunt against the shift (who came around to score on that Valencia double to the left field corner), or the other Seager infield single that allowed Gamel to score from third.  And on and on and on.

All in all, it was a fantastic win, but it’s also not time to rest your laurels.  This win doesn’t mean much if we go out and lose the next two.  The last time we beat the Astros, it was at the end of a 6-game winning streak back in late June; the Mariners would go on to lose the next four (including two to the hapless Phillies) and 10 of their next 13, so you see how quickly this thing can turn on you.  The time to get back over .500 for good is NOW, so let’s do this thing!

In case you were wondering, for posterity, the Mariners are back to 2nd place in the A.L. West (15.5 games behind the Astros), and 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the second Wild Card.  Soak it in!  Just in case this is as good as it gets.

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.

Of Course The Mariners Were Swept By The Phillies

And Yep, Drew Smyly Needs Tommy John Surgery, Will Be Out 12-15 Months.

I’m in the middle of a big move, I’ve got a fuck-ton of shit to do, so I’m not going to sweat this one too hard.  Felix started, pitched okay, got the Quality Start, and left the game with a 4-3 lead.  Then, Pazos and Vincent carried the game to the ninth inning for Edwin Diaz to blow it.  That’s two crap performances in back-to-back days, but again, whatever.

Remember when the Mariners used to hit dingers?  It was only a year ago, they hit about a million of ’em, it was a lot of fun.  Well, yesterday they tried to do their best impression of that – with Seager, Valencia, and Cano all going deep – but they were each solo jobs.  With RISP, they were 1 for 5, with an RBI single by Cruz.  Remember when Nelson Cruz used to hit dingers?  He’s had 40 or more the last three years!  Remember when I almost made that futures bet on Cruz leading the league in dingers in 2017?  Boy, was I WAY OFF!  I mean, 14 is okay and everything, but he is LONG overdue for one of his torrid homer streaks.

And, yeah, getting back to the lede, Drew Smyly is officially done for the season.  And, in all likelihood, done with the Seattle Mariners.  He’s making nearly $7 million this season and has yet to throw a single meaningful pitch (fuck the WBC).  He has one more Arb year left where he would surely make at or over $7 million if the Mariners decided to retain him, but why would they?  If, indeed, it’s 12-15 months before he’s pitching again, what, we get MAYBE half a season out of him next year?  For upwards of $14 million in total?

In reality, I don’t see how he comes back next year.  The Mariners would be idiots to do so, unless they bought out his Arb year and loaded his contract with incentives.  But, he might be better off rehabbing on his own, working his arm back into shape, and signing a Prove It deal before the 2019 season (which will still be insanely high, because this is baseball).

I just can’t fucking believe how hard this backfired.  If any of the three guys we sent to the Rays to bring Smyly in here turn out to be anything, this will be one of the bigger busts in franchise history (which is really saying something).

The M’s get another off-day to sleep in the shit bed they’ve made, then they go to Anaheim for a 3-game road trip over the weekend.  It’s literally the cutest little thing.

The Seattle Missed Opportunities Blew Another One Against The Astros

On Saturday, the Mariners literally dropped the ball, resulting in the exact difference in the final game score.  On Sunday … I don’t even know.

The Mariners loaded the bases in each of the first two innings; they knocked the starter out of the game after those first two innings; yet they managed to only scrape across two runs in those first two innings, and then zero runs the rest of the way.  The Astros’ bullpen had to account for 7 innings of relief and they combined to give up a whopping 3 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 7.

The Mariners obviously couldn’t compete with that, because these are the fucking Astros.  They’re GOING to score more than 2 runs, and it’s not even going to be that difficult.

To be fair, the umpires both in Seattle and at the head office in New York, fucked up yet another replay challenge.  In the second, with the bases loaded, Robbie Cano hit a would-be bases-clearing double.  Two runs scored easily, with the third called out after a slide at the plate.  Initially, he did look out, but upon replay, he pretty clearly looked safe.  I think you have to work harder to make an argument that the replay was inconclusive than you do to get the fucking call right.  You’re supposed to be allowed to use multiple different angles to get to the correct decision, and yet, Major League Baseball seems to throw all of this out the window and simply side with the Umpires on the field.  I mean, how do you explain it when everyone at home, on Twitter, can see clear as day that the guy was safe; but the people in charge – who are supposed to have the same angles and the same ability to slo-mo the shit out of it – see something completely different?

I’d like to see the version of this game where Cano plated 3 runs and was standing at second base with Nelson Cruz coming to home plate and the Astros going out to make a pitching change.  Maybe nothing would’ve changed; but relievers are different animals with inherited runners than they are coming into a clean inning.

Ariel Miranda – after being rock solid the first time through the lineup – got Astro’d in the fourth inning.  A George Springer solo homer.  A Jose Altuve infield single-turned-double on a throwing error.  A Carlos Correa double to right to tie the game.  A couple promising outs to hopefully limit the damage, but then a Yuli Gurriel 2-run bomb to left to put the game out of reach.

Miranda settled down to go 7.1 innings, while giving up just those 4 runs, which for him (and against the Astros) is pretty fucking good.  But, obviously, he got no help from his offense.

James Pazos had a giant meltdown in the ninth, but it didn’t really matter.  This Astros bullpen is apparently untouchable, so the game was beyond out of reach with them leading by 2 runs.

In Nagging Injury news, Danny Valencia has been out of the lineup the last couple days with a bum wrist.  Also, Ben Gamel was given yesterday off after his 15-game hitting streak was snapped.  He’s apparently got some kind of groin thing bothering him, which is supposed to be minor.

Thankfully, the Mariners get 2 whole days off this week, including one today, followed by a 2-game series against the Phillies, followed by an off-day Thursday, followed by a 3-game trip to Anaheim, followed by another 7-game homestand next Monday, followed by the All Star Break.  Here’s to the Mariners taking advantage.  It didn’t hit me – what with all the home games this month – but the M’s just finished up 20 games in 20 days.  So, yeah, I’m sure these guys are beat up and sore as all get-out.  It’s nice they get this comfortable stretch, especially with the month of August looming on the horizon.

Also, not for nothing, but I’m happy I get a couple days off this week from writing about baseball.

The M’s are back to .500.  Here’s to getting back over the hump again against the hapless Phillies.

Dan Altavilla Sure Looks Like The Second Coming Of Bobby Ayala

This one looked like a picture-perfect, textbook Mariners victory.  Ariel Miranda coughed up a couple of solo homers in the first couple innings before settling down to go 7 innings, giving up just those 2 runs, on 4 hits, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts.  Nelson Cruz jacked a 2-run homer in the bottom of the first, Taylor Motter hit a solo homer out to left in the bottom of the second, and Ben Gamel added to the Mariners’ lead with a solo homer of his own to dead center in the bottom of the seventh.  All we needed was someone to bridge the game from Starter to Closer.

The tricky part was that Nick Vincent – our usual bridge guy – was unavailable, due to his back-to-back 1.1 inning performances the last two days.  Tony Zych was unavailable due to what we would later learn to be an illness.  I have to believe they wanted to save James Pazos unless it was an absolute emergency, considering he too had pitched the previous two days.

Which meant that the only right-handed relievers available for that eighth inning were Dan Altavilla, Steve Cishek, or Max Povse.  It would be pretty fucked up to make Povse’s Major League debut a tense eighth inning affair with a narrow lead, and Cishek is another guy who pitched the previous two days.

So, that left Altavilla, who was rested, but also fresh off of a 3-homer performance down in Texas on Saturday.

This really hasn’t been Altavilla’s season.  I don’t know what to make of his total and complete lack of command.  He got the late-season call up last year and was dominant.  But, this year, he’s been all over the place.  Sometimes, he looks unhittable, and zips through these innings no problem; other times, he falls apart and gets pounded into submission.  In his 25 appearances this year for the Mariners, he’s given up runs in 10 of them; that’s unacceptable.  He’s got the live fastball; he’s got the slider that has righties swinging for the dirt.  But, he leaves too many balls in the middle of the zone (when he’s not entirely missing the zone and walking a bunch of guys).

I didn’t see what he looked like on Saturday, but I watched him last night.  His first sin was walking the leadoff hitter, Ian Kinsler.  Kinsler was able to steal second on the perfect pitch (a slider low and away), but Altavilla really wasn’t doing a whole lot to keep him close to the bag at first.  He was able to strike out the next couple guys, but then did an ATROCIOUS job of keeping Kinsler close at second, who was allowed to have a huge lead to steal third base easily.  The fact that the pitch on that steal was another slider that got away from Zunino was also pure Altavilla.  I know you want those strikeout pitches buried in the ground, but he was spiking those fucking things five feet in front of home plate!

The subsequent solo homer to J.D. Martinez, though, that was pure Ayala.  Just a fat middle-middle meatball that he crushed to the opposite field seats.  I mean, I don’t understand how you go from absolutely OWNING Miguel Cabrera in the previous at-bat (utilizing your live fastball, brushing him off the plate, only to get him to watch your slider cover the outside corner for strike three) to being so careless with a guy like Martinez, who is another premiere slugger in this league.  It’s what made Bobby Ayala so maddening back in the day.  He had a plus fastball and a devastating splitter that could’ve laid waste to the American League.  But, all too often, as he fell off the left side of the mound, he’d leave those pitches up and out over the plate to get crushed.

Is it a concentration thing?  Or, are they just not able to control where their pitches go?  Either way, it’s something that needs to be fixed in a hurry, because I don’t really see a ton of other options in the minors with the kind of upside Altavilla demonstrates.  Who knows, maybe Max Povse will be the guy, but it’s way too early in his career to put that on him.

The Mariners squandered a 2-on, 1-out situation in the bottom of the eighth, with the heart of the order at the plate, and after that I went to bed.  Granted, they got good and Bucknor’d on that strikeout to Jarrod Dyson to end the inning, but all three of the guys who made outs in that inning (including the also-hot-hitting Nelson Cruz and Danny Valencia) were letting juicy sliders waft past them for strikes without even offering a swing.  One of the more frustrating half-innings I’ve seen in a while that didn’t involve the Mariners leaving someone on third base with less than two outs.

Edwin Diaz and Steve Cishek each worked scoreless innings to get us to the bottom of the tenth, where the Mariners scored the game-winning run on a Kyle Seager double (Tyler Smith pinch ran for Cruz and scored from second after a wild pitch).  I guess the joke is on me that the Mariners did all these cool things after I went to bed; I’ll somehow have to console myself with the good night’s sleep I enjoyed.

In the Kudos Department, Gamel had 3 more hits (including the aforementioned homer), Cruz was on base 4 times (with the aformentioned 2-run homer), Zunino had another hit to keep the good times rolling, Motter had a couple hits as Jean Segura works his way back in his rehab assignment (with a probable return tomorrow or Friday), and Seager had the heroics in extras.

I’d also like to circle back to Ariel Miranda, who got short shrift with all this Altavilla talk.  That’s an amazing bounce-back performance after his dud in Minnesota last week.  No hits after the third inning!  I would’ve complimented him on saving the bullpen in this one, but obviously what happened was outside of his control.

It does beg to wonder what things will look like tonight if the Mariners are in a position to win.  That’s three straight days with an appearance for Diaz and Cishek, so I have to believe those guys are sitting.  That most likely slots Vincent as our closer, with some combo of Zych and Pazos in the eighth.  Here’s to hoping Paxton has his mechanics working again, because we’re gonna need him.  Here’s also to hoping the offense gets on its horse so we don’t have to sweat one out in the late innings.