The Mariners Blew It Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Impressed With Another Win Against The Rangers

That was one of the wilder games you’ll see.  When in Texas, I suppose.

Erasmo Ramirez got his first start in about a month and a half, and his first start in a Mariners uniform since August 27, 2014, at home against the Rangers.  In that game, he gave up 10 runs in 3 innings and spent the rest of his season in the bullpen.  The Mariners would go on to trade him in the offseason to the Rays for Mike Montgomery, who the Mariners would eventually trade for Dan Vogelbach, so not too sure about that one.  Anyway, last night, Erasmo fared somewhat better, but was on a pitch count, and started to falter one out into the fourth inning.  He ended up giving up 3 runs (2 earned) and was pulled after 58 pitches.  He was sort of cruising along up to that inning, though, striking out 5 and walking 0, but I’m not ready to anoint him the savior just yet.

Casey Lawrence came on in long relief, and he too had a couple of strong innings before faltering; he would give up a 3-run bomb in the sixth and ultimately couldn’t get out of the inning.  That’s a little earlier than I like to start Hang On Time, but you takes what you can gets.

It just so happened to be Hang On Time because the Mariners brought their big boy pants, and scored 8 runs in the first six innings of the game.  They also scored 8 runs in the first nine innings of the game, but that’s neither here nor there.  Cruz had a homer.  Cano had 2 doubles and 3 RBI.  Zunino and Seager each had doubles.  Leonys Martin had 2 different RBI singles for crying out loud!  Valencia and Dyson each had RBIs to round out the bunch.  After a pretty miserable offensive month of July, it was a VERY welcome coming out party for the offense on this first day of August.

Tony Zych got into some trouble in the seventh – a balk would later lead to an RBI single and a mere 1-run lead – but Nick Vincent was able to get out of the jam and bridge the game to the bottom of the ninth.  From there, Edwin Diaz threw more gasoline on the fire with 2 strikeouts in the perfect final frame.

The play of the game, though, belongs to Jarrod Dyson, back in center and hitting second in the order (as Jean Segura got the day off).  In the bottom of the eighth, Vincent on the mound, runner on first, Nomar Mazara hit a sinking line drive single into center.  The runner on first was motoring his way into third base as Dyson caught the ball on one hop and threw an absolute seed to Seager right at the bag.  The ball landed in Seager’s glove just as the runner was diving into it, and somehow Seager managed to palm the ball and hang onto it for the final out of the inning.  Just an absolute remarkable throw and just-as-remarkable a catch and hold; outstanding all around!

This is what the Mariners have to do, though.  That’s 4 wins in a row for the M’s, 12 wins in 18 games since the All Star Break.  The Mariners are now tied for their season high at 2 games above .500, just 1.5 games back of the second Wild Card.  Keep it going, keep it going, keep it going!

One more in Texas tonight before four HUGE games in Kansas City to close out the week.

The Mariners Need To Keep Winning These Close Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariners 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.

James Paxton Is Better At Baseball Than You

We’ve seen pitching dominance before, but not many better than last night.  ESPECIALLY this season.  Paxton went 7 innings of shutout ball, giving up 4 hits, 0 walks, and striking out 10.  The team combined for 9 innings of shutout ball, giving up 4 hits, 0 walks, and striking out 12, as Nick Vincent and David Phelps mopped up the final two innings.  Gamel had a couple hits, including a triple; Segura and Valencia each had RBI doubles; and Seager had a solo homer to kick everything off.  Badda bing, badda boom, 4-0 victory over the Red Sox.

Paxton has been on quite the tear since a dreadful month of June.  He’s given up 34 runs all season (32 earned), and 21 of those (20 earned) came in June.  In July, he’s got a record of 5-0 in five appearances, having given up 6 total runs in 33.1 innings, which is simply phenomenal.

The big story of yesterday had to do with:  What Would You Give Up To Bring In Sonny Gray?  Someone mentioned that any package would have to start with Kyle Lewis and Ben Gamel, among other prospects.  That sounds like a lot, particularly for a guy who was injured last year.  But, if I’m being honest, and I start to think about what this team might look like with a rotation that featured Paxton, Felix, Gray, Miranda, and whoever, I can actually get excited about this team again!

As it stands now, there’s just no shot.  You wouldn’t expect any more prolonged slumps out of Paxton, but everyone else certainly has the potential to melt down at any time.  I’m never CONFIDENT in a non-Paxton start, let me put it that way.  At best, you have to manage the rest of the rotation VERY carefully and, in turn, over-work your bullpen just to hope to eke out a victory.

But, throw Gray into the mix, now you’ve got two top-flight starters, and things start to look a little better.  You figure Felix probably has more good games in him than bad games at this point.  Miranda, if nothing else, will keep you in most games.  And, whoever else is whoever else; fifth starter gonna fifth starter, you know?

I know it sounds crazy, coming from the guy who flipped out when the Mariners traded Tyler O’Neill last week, but this is apples and oranges here.  O’Neill was blown on a AAA pitcher who will probably end up being nothing for the Mariners.  Kyle Lewis is ostensibly a better prospect, with a higher ceiling, who you’d hate to see do well with a divisional rival, but if he helps bring in a bona fide Major League pitcher, then HEY!  Sign me up!

The thing that gives me pause at this point is losing Ben Gamel, because I truly think he’s got a long and fruitful career ahead of him.  Particularly with the way Mitch Haniger has been struggling since his return from the DL.  If we can’t count on Haniger, and if Heredia/Dyson are just speedy slap hitters, then removing Gamel from the equation severely limits this offense’s potential.

But, here’s the deal:  this offense hasn’t been getting the job done as it is.  I know it sounds counter-productive to then remove one of its best hitters, but I think this team would gain more by having another top-shelf starting pitcher than it would having Gamel’s high batting average and long, flowing locks.

It’s either that, or we pretty much give up right now, because as this team is currently constructed, there’s no way we’re seeing the post-season.  There will be hot streaks and cold streaks and ultimately this team will finish right around .500 and ultimately that will be a few games short of our goal.  If that’s what you WANT, and you just want to pack it in and try to re-load for next year, then okay.  Let this next week go by and do nothing.  We’ll all go through the motions for a while, but I’m going to stop giving so much of a shit, because why bother?

This team does NOT have what it takes, and that’s all there is to it.

More than that, there’s no help on the horizon either.  We can’t look forward to a star returning from injury next season, because all the good injured players we have now are likely done for good.  And, all the “Major League-ready” players in AAA and AA are suck-ass and mediocre.  Better hope there’s a free agent or two available, otherwise the Mariners will have to continue trading from their so-called position of strength.  And keep trading from that so-called position of strength until it’s once again the biggest position of weakness on this team.

Super.

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.

The Mariners … Yeah I Dunno

It was an okay start by Andrew Moore (6 innings, 3 runs, 2 more solo homers); it was a similar okay start by Oakland’s guy (6 innings, 3 runs, just the 1 solo homer); the bullpen did their thing, but in the end Edwin Diaz tried to keep the game tied in the top of the ninth and ultimately failed.  He gave up the go-ahead run, and the Mariners could only muster a Haniger double in the bottom half, but that was it.

Couple of hits apiece for Segura and Dyson (who also hit the solo homer to tie it at 3), but overall just not enough hitting period.  The Mariners will try to avoid the shameful series loss this afternoon with Felix on the mound.  Here’s to hoping for the shameful series tie!

King Felix Returned & The Mariners Kicked Some Ass

This offense is an unstoppable killing machine right now, and it’s coming at you from all directions!

Last night, the Mariners overwhelmed the Astros 13-3 behind that awe-inspiring offense and some solid pitching from our Ace.  Felix went 6 innings, giving up 3 runs on 8 hits, 1 walk, and striking out 6.  That’s your run of the mill Quality Start, but against this Astros team it’s pretty impressive.  It’s like the equivalent of no-hitting the A’s or something.

This game was all about the bats, and they got started early:

  • Dyson RBI double in the second
  • Haniger RBI single in the third
  • Valencia 2-run single in the third
  • Zunino 3-run bomb in the third
  • Gamel & Seager solo bombs in the fourth
  • Valencia & Dyson scored on a 2-base wild pitch in the seventh
  • Motter scored on another wild pitch in the seventh
  • Cruz scored on a throwing error in the eighth

Every starter but Cano had a hit.  Segura, Gamel, Seager, Dyson, and Zunino each had 2 hits; Valencia went 4 for 5.  Like I said, it came from everywhere.

And, to top it off, we got to see Yovani Gallardo in relief with a huge lead under his belt.  He got the 3-inning save by sparing the rest of the bullpen, and to top it off he actually didn’t give up any runs.  WHAT A CONCEPT!

Of course, Gallardo is still with us because the Mariners sent Andrew Moore back to Tacoma.  I know it sounds crazy in a vacuum, but the team has 2 off-days next week and will have no use for a fifth starter.  They can give Moore a controlled start in Tacoma to keep him fresh, and bring him back after 10 days.

What this means for our bullpen at that point is anyone’s guess.  My thinking is that, with Gallardo essentially locking down that long relief role (taking it away from the revolving door from Tacoma), the M’s will make Altavilla the odd man out, to work on his mechanics in AAA.  Not the worst idea I’ve ever heard.

Gaviglio gets another start tonight against the best team in the league.  Our 6-game winning streak is in serious jeopardy.

Holy Mother Of God: The Mariners Are Over .500!

Look, I’m no hero.  I’m just a man.  A man who had an opportunity to go to a Mariners game last night, featuring the Major League debuts of starter Andrew Moore and reliever Max Povse, on a team that finally got back to .500 for the fourth time after falling to 33-37.  Do I hold a particular amount of good luck with my presence in the stadium?  Is there some magic elixir that permeates this organization when I stuff my face with beer and hot dogs and soft serve ice cream?  Like I said, I’m no hero; I’ll leave that conversation for someone else to have.

All I know is I was there!  And it was glorious!

It’s been extremely exciting and satifsying to have the full offense healthy and playing together for all of two days, and I hope to see it healthy and playing together for many, many more.  Jean Segura is the best leadoff man we’ve had since Ichiro.  Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger are quintessential 2-hole hitters, easily interchangeable depending on the handedness of the starter.  Cano, Cruz, and Seager are a legitimate, superstar middle of the order.  Valencia’s streakiness makes him frustrating, but also makes him dangerous when he’s on a heater.  Heredia and Dyson are speedy, disruptive manaces who seem to always do something positive in just about every game.  And we all hold out hope that Zunino has turned things around enough to maintain his status as an everyday catcher in this league.

The point is, there really aren’t any free at-bats in that lineup.  They’re going to work the count to death, they’re going to get guys on base, and they’re going to get guys home at a good-enough clip to be upper echelon in this league.  Even if you’re able to overpower this offense, it’s only temporary.  A few innings, or at most a few games, before they’re right back on the trolley.

Last night, this offense was a battering ram.  3 runs in the second to get things going.  2 more runs in the third to keep piling on.  An overwhelming 4 runs in the seventh to put the game away.  Just one smashing blow after another.  There was Gamel with the 2-RBI double off of a lefty pitcher.  There was Heredia following that up with an RBI single.  Then, a 2-run homer from Cano and a grand slam from Cano to put this one in the refrigerator.

I had a good feeling about Cano in this one, after I wrote yesterday that I thought he was starting to look dialed in at the plate.  I predicted three hits for him coming into the game, but I guess I’ll settle for the 2 homers and 6 RBI.  I’ll say this:  it’s not a moment too soon, with the Astros coming to town this weekend.  The Mariners are going to need all the help they can get.

The other big story of the game was Andrew Moore in his first Big League start.  We were in the club level, in the section right next to the press box on the first base side, and as such it wasn’t the greatest vantage point for noticing balls and strikes.  He seemed to have good-enough velocity, usually parked around 91 mph, but sometimes touching 93.  He obviously didn’t walk anyone, which is always big.  He seemed to get into a lot of deep counts – with Tigers hitters frequently fouling off pitches – and that looked like it inflated his pitch count a little bit.  He gave up a solo homer to Ian Kinsler in the third, and got into a little bit of trouble in the fifth, but he powered through the sixth and even the seventh inning while just giving up those 3 runs on 6 hits, with 4 strikeouts.  An outstanding debut for a highly-rated prospect, one of the last of the Jackie Z era.

With a 9-3 lead, Max Povse got to get his debut in as well, starting the eighth inning.  He looked like he threw pretty hard, but I didn’t get a sense that there was a ton of movement to his pitches.  Again, though, tough vantage to make a definitive call.  Anyway, he got two pretty quick outs, then apparently got overwhelmed by the moment:  a double, a homer to Miguel Cabrera, a double, and a single ended his night, giving up 3 runs in 2/3 of an inning.  Tony Zych cleaned up the mess and Steve Cishek worked the ninth for a quick and painless save (Diaz was unavailable after working 4 straight days); his first save since July 30, 2016, which had to feel nice after all he’s gone through since then.

All in all, a great team win, and a fabulous 4-game series sweep of the Tigers.  As noted above, the Mariners are over .500 for the first time all season, at 38-37.  They’re still 12.5 games behind the Astros in the A.L. West, but they’re only 1 game behind the Rays for the second Wild Card (behind the Twins, who are a half game back).

Felix comes back today, so we’ll finally learn the fate of Yovani Gallardo.  The Astros come to town; we haven’t seen them since the second week in April.  We’re a whopping 2-5 against them, and looked like the clearly inferior team in just about every game we played against them, so it would be nice to turn things around here while the going is good.  Let’s put some distance between us and .500 the other way, so it’s not as easy to get so buried like we were!