Mediocre Baltimore Pitcher Shuts Out Mariners

Dylan Bundy.  Grandmaster D.  Plenty of teams have scored off of him.  In fact, in MOST GAMES teams have scored off of him.  But, with the Mariners in town – CLEARLY exhausted from this punishing road trip in this ridiculous August schedule – he was able to shut us out over 9 innings, allowing one infield hit, walking 2, and striking out 12.

Overused memes are overused …

I’m sure having Bundy throw 116 pitches will have no effect whatsoever on his arm, given his extensive injury history.

Yeah, I just think the Mariners are tired.  I think a 2-week East Coast road trip for a team from Seattle this late in the season is patently absurd and Major League Baseball should be ashamed.  Say what you want about the NFL, but at least they go to great pains to try to make a fair schedule for everyone; this bullshit where the Mariners have to play 21 out of 28 games on the road is some fucking next-level schedule trolling.

Still, the M’s picked a pretty shitty time to waste a quality start.  Erasmo Ramirez is on the roll of his life, with this his fourth game where he’s gone 6 innings while giving up 3 runs or less.  To wit:  6 innings, 5 hits, 2 walks, 2 runs, 7 strikeouts.  I don’t want to know how the sausage is made; I don’t want to hear about how unsustainable it is; I just want to sit here and enjoy it.  Obviously, it won’t last, but given the state of this rotation – where we’re about to go a full turn without a win – you have to try to appreciate the little things or you’ll lose your fucking mind.

But look, the pitching staff is what it is.  I hate to give another spin to this broken record, but this team is obviously only going to go as far as the offense will take it.  I get that sometimes you just don’t have it, but this is absolutely a game the Mariners should have won.  You’re telling me you can’t get three runs across on Bundy?  I know the game ended up 4-0 in favor of the Orioles, but if you push across three runs in six innings, then you’re looking at the teeth of the Mariners’ bullpen, not the likes of James Pazos and Casey Lawrence.  This is absolutely a missed opportunity, and one of the many games we can all look back on when the M’s miss out on the second Wild Card by a single game.

The Mariners try to salvage a 6-6 road trip this afternoon with Ariel Miranda going on get-away day.  Ubaldo Jimenez is as bad as it gets, so if the M’s can’t score any runs today, then I fucking quit.

One Of These Days I’ll Stop Getting Excited Over Every Little Mariners Hot Streak

Well, that’s the second time in three days that the Mariners’ offense has been completely and totally shut down by an inferior starting pitcher.  That’s … less than ideal.

I won’t put the blame entirely on Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger, but it certainly doesn’t help that they’ve dropped a combined 150 points from their batting averages at their peaks earlier this season.  Haniger, particularly, hasn’t been the same hitter since he went on the DL the first time back in April.  I still don’t think he’s totally healthy, and I don’t think he ever will be the rest of this season, which is a shame.  He’ll certainly be a bounce-back candidate for 2018.  As for Gamel, I don’t want to say the league has figured him out, but it feels like he’s gone from being unsustainably lucky at the plate to being unsustainably unlucky.  He has nevertheless been on a down streak since his insane month of June, hitting .255 in July and hitting .159 so far in August.  That, quite frankly, is unacceptable, and I think it’s time for Guillermo Heredia to start playing a more everyday role for this outfield.

On the mound, Marco Gonzales got the start and was pretty good through four innings, giving up just the 1 run.  But, then the fifth inning rolled around, and you know the story.  By getting two quick outs to start the inning, it became the longest outing of his Mariners career, but then he gave up a walk and a single and that was that.  Of course, James Pazos came in and immediately gave up one of the inherited runners – because that’s what this bullpen does all the time, apparently – so Gonzales got stuck with a second run.  I don’t think it’s enough to cost him his rotation job just yet, but I do think he’s still treading on very thin ice and his next start – if it’s bad enough – could be his last.

Two more unearned runs followed, as the Braves shut out the Mariners 4-0.  The Mariners’ defense has been a fucking circus, with 6 errors over the last two games.  And it’s not like we have any one guy giving us fits; these bone-headed plays are thoroughly spread around the entire team.

Nelson Cruz got the start in right field yesterday and apparently the rest of the offense took that as a sign that they could take the day off.  Well, he went 0 for 4, but he didn’t injure himself, so I guess that’s a plus.  It makes no sense whatsoever to keep him out of the lineup because his defense is sub-par, because the rest of this defense has been a fucking disaster!  I wouldn’t want to press my luck here, so the smart thing to do is probably sit him later today.  However, losing this series to the Braves might just be this team’s breaking point this season, what with the Yankees on the horizon this weekend.

In Oh Yay More Injuries news, Tony Zych is on the DL with a flexor bundle or some damn thing.  Dan Altavilla was brought up, and pitched a couple quality innings last night (giving up just the one unearned run), so at least we were able to save the good arms in our bullpen.  David Phelps had a good pitching session the other day, and could be back as early as today, or as late as two days from now, so that’s a positive at least.  I don’t know the extent of Zych’s injury, but with the way he throws and with the way his arm keeps betraying him, he may have some mechanical issues that he needs to fix if he wants to keep playing the game of baseball long term.

It’s all on Erasmo’s shoulders tonight, as he goes up against R.A. Dickey.  I could see the Mariners’ offense exploding for double-digit runs, or I could see them totally handcuffed and unable to score at all.  This might be a game to avoid, all things considered.

Mariners Kick Off Their Road Trip In Style

The Rays looked pretty mediocre yesterday, as the Mariners brought the whooping stick, beating them 7-1.  They couldn’t hit, they couldn’t pitch, I mean …

Funny Office Space quotes are funny …

Erasmo Ramirez, of all people, set the tone.  I wouldn’t say he looked particularly fired up, but he was able to get out of a massive jam in the second and only gave up 1 run across 6 innings for his second start in a row.  I don’t have the foggiest how few times a Mariners starter has gone 6 innings in recent weeks, but just try to cherish it while you can.

The offense was terrific.  Nelson Cruz went 3 for 5 with a double, a homer, 3 runs scored, and 2 RBI.  Mike Zunino went 2 for 3 with a double and 2 RBI.  Danny Valencia got the start in right field and had 2 hits and an RBI.  And Ben Gamel also chipped in with 2 hits, 1 RBI and a run scored.  But, all of our starting nine had at least one hit; it was really something special.

With the big lead, James Pazos did most of the bullpen’s heavy lifting, going 2.1 innings of shutout ball.  And Emilio Pagan cleaned up the final two outs in the ninth to preserve our really important guys.

All in all, a fantastic start to the road trip, especially coming off of the off-day the day before.

For you scoreboard watchers, with various losses in and around us, the Mariners have pulled to within 0.5 games of the second Wild Card, tied with the Royals, still behind the Angels.  Texas is right on our heels, a game behind us, and the rest are too far to mention right now.

Two more down in Tampa.  I don’t know why, but I’ve kinda sorta got a good feeling about this series.  That’s probably a huge mistake, but what are you gonna do?

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.