A Roster Shake-Up & A Mariners Victory

One did not necessarily lead to the other, of course, unless you believe in the motivating factor of roster transactions.

The minor move is that Chase De Jong was sent back down to Tacoma – a day after going 4 scoreless innings in relief of Ariel Miranda – in favor of Chris Heston, another spot starter/long reliever type.  Obviously, this was through no fault of De Jong’s, but simply because after pitching 4 full innings, he wasn’t going to be available in relief again for a few days.  And, with this rotation (specifically with guys like Gallardo, who got the start in yesterday’s game), you never know when you’re going to need an extra reliever.

Also, not for nothing, but De Jong and now Heston are merely keeping this spot warm until Steve Cishek works his way back into MLB playing shape, which is probably a week or so away.

The major move made yesterday was the DFA of Leonys Martin.  That’s a pretty tough pill to swallow.  I wouldn’t say he was a fan favorite or anything, but I’m sure the fans liked him enough.  He played great defense and he had a good run at the plate just last season.  It seemed like just a matter of time before he’d pick it back up at the plate and at least be passable in the everyday lineup.  But, thanks to the Mariners losing 3 in a row in Oakland – and starting off the season 1-9 on the road heading into yesterday’s game – time is exactly something the Mariners DON’T have a lot of.  This season is going down the toilet in a hurry, and we can’t sit around waiting for all of our slumping hitters to get their collective shit together.  In that sense, you could say the DFA of Leonys Martin is just as much about the entire team as it is about Martin’s own deficiencies.  Which, I’m sure, made the move that much more hard to swallow.  Because, while the fans liked him enough, the players and the coaching staff adored this kid, and I’m sure the move was as painful as it gets.

The thing is, I’m not super convinced it’s a moved that needed to be made.  Right now, we’re a team with just three outfielders, that is, until Jean Segura comes back from the DL, which should be any day now.  When Segura returns, you’ve got Motter who can play there too, but he’s a utility guy who can play anywhere.  He’s also the only guy on the roster who can back up at any infield position (assuming Mike Freeman gets sent back to Tacoma upon Segura’s return).  For all intents and purposes, Danny Valencia becomes your traditional fourth outfielder, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him at first base either.

See, the corresponding move with the Leonys Martin DFA is the calling back up of Dan Vogelbach, who hit .309/.409/.473 in Tacoma, with 3 doubles and 2 homers in 16 games.  The talk is, for now, Valencia rides the pine while Vogelbach gets to start every day.  THIS is a move that’s been about a week overdue, but again, I don’t know if it needed to be made at the expense of Martin.

Here are my concerns:

  1. I’m not convinced Guillermo Heredia is an everyday player
  2. I’m not convinced Dan Vogelbach is ready (or will ever be ready) for the Major Leagues
  3. What do we do if Jarrod Dyson gets injured for an extended period of time?
  4. I also lowkey have my doubts about Taylor Motter, as it feels like the other shoe is about to drop anyday now, and we’re in for an extended stretch of no hitting and lots of strikeouts

The Heredia thing, I think, sort of goes without saying, but let me try to elaborate.  I think he’s okay.  I think he’s a fine fifth outfielder, maybe.  He’s been a big help in the early going, and right now I’d say he’s DEFINITELY playing better than Leonys Martin.  But, I think long-term, Heredia isn’t much more than a Quad-A player.  The speed is great, don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t seem to hit it out of the infield very much, and he can’t rely on infield base hits and bunts alone!  He walks about as often as Mike Zunino, which is to say hardly at all, and if he’s not pulling his weight in OBP, I don’t see him adding a whole lot of value with his bat.  He needs to be walking a ton and stealing a ton of bases for him to be an everyday outfielder for us.

The Vogelbach thing, I’ve been harping on for a while.  I just don’t know if he has it.  He’s still pretty young though, so I don’t know if it’s necessarily fair to expect him to have it right out of the gate.  I think he’s going to struggle at least in this early going, which means he’ll fall back into the platoon they’d planned for him and Valencia in the first place.  You gotta figure, at some point, Valencia is going to start hitting for us, and the more he does that, the more he’s going to see the field.  At which point, you’ve sort of got Vogelbach here as a lefty pinch hit bat off the bench.  Is that worth giving up on Leonys Martin?

Because, yeah, what if Dyson has to go on the DL for something?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have Martin there, with everyday playing experience?  Without Martin, I guess you slide over Heredia, and maybe call up Ben Gamel as an extra outfielder.  Is that a better situation than what you would’ve had with Martin?

And, if everything else works out, Vogelbach takes the first base job and runs with it, and the rest of our infield stays healthy, that means Motter effectively becomes your left fielder.  But, does increased playing time for Motter equate to decreased production at the plate? You figure pitchers are going to figure him out EVENTUALLY.  Does he have what it takes to re-adjust?  Or, will he flail along and watch his strikeouts skyrocket?

To counter all of my hemming and hawing, you’re probably right to ask:  what would I have done differently?

Well, for starters, do we REALLY need 8 relievers?  I think it was a smart idea to kick off the season, as the starters generally need some time to build their arms up and get their innings-counts up to snuff, but I feel like we’re there now.  Granted, Paxton and Miranda gave us some pretty shitty starts in that Oakland series, but it’s not like the bullpen has been notoriously over-worked or anything!  For the first three weeks of the season, they’ve split a pretty average workload among 8 people instead of 7 (more, really, when you count the guys coming and going from Tacoma).  There’s only been the one extra-innings game, in the third game of the season.  They had a huge homestand and one day off, with another off day scheduled today (and the next two Mondays to boot).  We could have EASILY made it through the next few days (or however long it will take for Segura to come off the DL) with just 7 relievers.  Then, when Segura is ready to return, we send Freeman down like planned, and keep going with a full bench and lots of different lineup options.

Facing a right-handed pitcher?  With Martin in the fold, you can go:  Segura, Haniger, Cano (L), Cruz, Seager (L), Vogelbach (L), Zunino, Dyson (L), Martin (L), with over half your lineup batting from the left side.  Facing a lefty?  You can go Segura, Haniger, Cano (L), Cruz, Seager (L), Motter, Valencia, Zunino, Heredia, with Heredia in center and Motter in left.  I dunno, I’m just spit-balling here, but with Martin you’ve got extra speed on your bench, another lefty hitter for late in games, and extra defense in case the unthinkable happens.  Instead, you waive him for nothing and hope no other team picks him up, and that he’s willing to play for you in Tacoma until it’s time to call him up again.  Seems like a longshot.

***

As for yesterday’s game, it was an 11-1 Mariners victory, to salvage at least not getting swept by the fucking A’s.  For what it’s worth, the Mariners are now 5-9 against the American League West, which obviously is far from ideal.  Also, the Mariners are tied for last in the division with the Angels at 8-12, good for third-worst in the entire league.

Motter hit a grand slam and Cruz hit a 3-run homer.  They combined for 9 of the 11 RBI.  Vogelbach had his first hit and RBI of the season, and played just fine at first base.  Seager had a minor hip issue that kept him from starting, but he was available to pinch hit if needed.  Considering he wasn’t, it’s nice that he has these back-to-back days off heading into the Detroit series.

On the pitching side of things, we finally got a good start out of Gallardo, going 6.1 innings, giving up 1 run on 4 hits, with 1 walk and 7 strikeouts.  Zych, Scrabble, and Scribner wiped out the later innings with no damage done.

So, the Mariners need to figure out how to win on the road.  Remember last year, when it was the opposite, and the Mariners had trouble winning at home in the early going?  They were 1-5 in their first home series last year, whereas they were 8-4 on the road and would go on into May 18-7 on the road before coming down to Earth.  How far down?  The 2016 Mariners finished 7 games over .500 at home, and only 3 games over .500 on the road.  That’s because most teams, by and large, are better at home than they are on the road.  So, you could sort of see a turnaround in the 2016 Mariners’ home record coming, even if it did take a while.  Which means the hot start on the road was VERY much to their benefit, and a big reason why they were able to stay in contention for so long.

This year, the Mariners are 6-3 at home, and now 2-9 on the road.  That’s pretty terrible, because while you would expect the Mariners to be good at home, it’s also not inconceivable that the Mariners might be this bad on the road.  In an ideal world, I think you want the Mariners to hover around .500 on the road, and be really good at home; in this world, it’s going to take A LOT of winning to get back to .500 on the road, and it’s going to take maintaining a lot of winning to stay really good at home.  None of this bodes well, and it’s starting to become clear to me that 2017 is going to be a lot like 2015, 2010, and 2008.  Recall those were all years where we were coming off of winning seasons, with heightened expectations, and collapsing under the weight of said expectations.  Same team, different GM/Manager combo.  God I hope I’m wrong.

Of Course The Mariners Lost That Game To The A’s

The Mariners had everything going for them.  Best pitcher in the game through three starts going up against a guy who hadn’t cracked the Majors since 2010.  A quality lineup that had just put up a 10-spot the night before.  The overwhelming majority of the Athletics lineup being average-to-below-average thus far this season.  Everything about this matchup screamed a Mariners victory.

So, yeah, the M’s lost 9-6.  Makes sense.

I kinda want to just throw up my hands and say, “Hey, Paxton just didn’t have it!  It happens!”  But, the first time through the lineup, he actually DID have it.  His scoreless streak to start the season didn’t get snapped until the third inning.  From that point to the end of his night, he was rocked like we haven’t seen since last season.  Four hits in the third tied the game at 3-3, then Paxton settled back down to get out of the fourth inning 1-2-3, then three more hits, a 2-base error, a sac fly, and a walk into the bottom of the fifth inning and he had to be pulled.  The A’s had a 5-3 lead by that point, and cue the “That Escalated Quickly” memes.

But, it DID escalate quickly!  Going into the bottom of the third, the game was going according to plan.  Dyson led off the game with a single, tagged up on a deep fly ball to right, then scored on a Cano RBI single.  Then, in the second, a Motter leadoff double eventually came around to score on a Zunino double.  Leonys Martin, who got on with a fielder’s choice, ended up scoring on an RBI single by Dyson to make the game 3-0.  This was it!  We were exposing an over-matched career minor leaguer in Cesar Valdez, Paxton was dealing, and this game would slowly unravel as a dominating Mariners victory.

Flash forward what felt like 90 seconds, and there we were, down 5-3, needing a Monster Motter 2-run homer to tie the game back up.  From there, it felt like the game could’ve gone any number of directions.  Obviously, the offense was still humming along, and if the bullpen could just keep a lid on things, it was only a matter of time before the Mariners tacked on the game-winning run.

What it ended up being was only a matter of time before the A’s put the M’s away.  The very next half-inning, in fact, when Scribner let the leadoff man get to third base with one out, who ended up scoring on a sac ground out.  The game wouldn’t become out of reach until the next inning, when Dan Altavilla – after getting the leadoff out – walked two guys and surrendered a 3-run homer.  Altavilla, it would seem, has a lot of problems right now.  A lot of problems that will likely require a stint with Tacoma to rectify, because I don’t see how you can trust him in a close game right now, with how his last four appearances have gone.

I turned the game off and went to bed after that.  Sure it was a risk; it wasn’t IMPOSSIBLE that the Mariners would put up a 4-banger to tie the game back up, but I was tired and didn’t much feel like waiting around for that remote possibility.  So, I missed Evan Marshall’s scoreless inning of relief.  And I missed the little mini-rally started by Valencia’s double (who would go on to score to make the final 9-6) in the ninth inning.

The best part of baseball is that there’s almost always another game to play the very next day.  Well, I’ve got good news and bad news:  the good news is this holds true – there is another game tonight – but the bad news is that Felix and Paxton have already pitched the last two days, and we’re staring down the barrel of an Iwakuma-Miranda-Gallardo weekend.  In Oakland, who will probably sweep us right on out of town and into yet another shame spiral.

As it turns out, the worst part of baseball is that there’s almost always another game to play the very next day.  Who knew?

Mariners Pound Marlins To Take The Series, Look Ahead To A’s

I was at work for most of this game, and for reasons too boring to go into, I was unable to listen to the online radio stream of the game, so I had to do the next-best thing:  follow along on Twitter.

Boy that first inning sure sounded like a mindfuck, huh?  After a very fine start last Friday to kick off this good run of baseball the Mariners have been on, it looked like King Felix just didn’t have it.  Four straight singles to lead off the game, then a sac fly-turned-double play on the arm of Jarrod Dyson, then another single and a hit by pitch before he was able to get out of it only down 2-0.

If ever there appeared to be a day where the offense would have to pick up its Ace, this was it.  And pick him up they did!

The top of the lineup absolutely did its job, as Dyson through Seager went a combined 10 for 18 with 8 RBI, 7 runs scored, on 7 walks, 3 doubles, and only 3 strikeouts.  They also went a combined 5 for 9 with runners in scoring position.  Just an awesome, awesome day from the guys you expect to regularly have awesome, awesome days.  That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve recognition for a job well done!

Felix was able to settle down somewhat, but it looked like a battle all day.  He got into the seventh inning, going 6.1, with 12 hits, 1 walk, 4 runs, and 5 strikeouts.  Zych was able to get out of a little mini-jam in the seventh, by inducing a double play.  Vincent continued on his comeback trail by going a scoreless eighth.  And then something wonderful and annoying happened.

Evan Marshall came in to close out a 6-run lead in the ninth inning, and leading off – perhaps for the final time ever in Safeco Field – was Ichiro Suzuki.  I had made it home by this point, and had the television on for just an amazing sight:  Ichiro, drilling a homer into the right field stands to the astonishment and glee of Mariners fans (almost) everywhere.  I’ll admit, I let out a loud, “YEAH!” when I saw where that ball was about to land.

There aren’t many opposing players I’d openly cheer for over the Seattle Mariners, but Ichiro is definitely one of them.  Now, if the game were tied in this situation, I’d probably be a lot less thrilled, but as it was, Ichiro merely reduced the lead to 5 runs.  NBD, right?

Marshall walked the next guy, which is simply unforgivable in that situation, but he got the next two hitters to fly out.  It almost looked like he’d save face, but he gave up a single to the next guy and that was that.  Scrabble came in and one pitch later the game was over.

I know I called out the top half of the lineup for their good work, but individual kudos need to go to Seager for his 2-hit, 2-walk, 4-RBI day; as well as Haniger, for his 3-hit, 1-walk, 3-run, 4-RBI day.  Haniger now leads the team in average, homers, doubles, RBI, runs scored, OBP, and is second to Motter in slugging.  His RBI and runs scored numbers are 4th in all of baseball, and he’s up there in a bunch of other categories too.  That ROY award is practically all sealed up less than a month into the season!

***

Looking ahead, here are the pitching matchups for the A’s series:

  • Thurs:  Cesar Valdez vs. James Paxton
  • Fri:  Sean Manaea vs. Hisashi Iwakuma
  • Sat:  Jharel Cotton vs. Ariel Miranda
  • Sun:  Andrew Triggs vs. Yovani Gallardo

To say that I’ve never heard of any of these A’s pitchers would be an understatement!  Valdez looks like a journeyman minor leaguer who hasn’t appeared in a Major League uniform since 2010 with the Diamondbacks.  I’d say that game is safely the biggest mismatch of the weekend, with Paxton going for the Mariners.  The rest of those guys all had their Major League debuts in 2016, with Manaea being the youngest and the one with the most starting experience in the Bigs.  No doubt these guys must have some talent, but they’re definitely not bona fide regulars.

In three starts so far, Manaea has one okay start and two pretty bad ones.  Cotton pitched a gem against the Royals (7 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 3 walks, 6 K’s), but sandwiched around that one were two very crappy starts.  Triggs has looked the most impressive in the early going, giving up 0 earned runs (3 unearned) across 17.2 innings (3 starts), including just out-duelling Yu Darvish in his last outing.

The A’s bullpen has a 4.08 ERA, with 3 saves in 5 opportunities.  Doesn’t look like anything special, but we’ll see when we get out there.

As far as the bats go, Khris Davis has come to play this year, with 6 homers and leading the team in most offensive categories.  As for the rest of the regulars:  nothing too special.

On paper, this is a series the Mariners should win at the very least, and is probably a series they should sweep.  But, this is the Mariners, and those are the A’s, and it’s a divisional matchup and it’s on the road and I’m just sayin’ … don’t be shocked if things don’t exactly go our way.  I won’t be anyway.  I’ll be pretty pissed, but I won’t be shocked.

Mariners Wore Their Big Boy Pants, Beat Up Marlins

As I noted on Twitter last night, the Mariners’ hitting with runners in scoring position has gone up 40 points in the last two days.  Shocking, right?  They should change the sport’s name from Baseball to Regression To The Mean.

All it took was going 8 for 19 with RISP to bump it up from .157 to .197.  They still have a way to go to get back to league average, so it’s probably reasonable to expect many more fine offensive days to come.

I fully understand that nobody who’s anybody really cares about batting average with RISP as a stat, because they see it as just hitting.  Good hitters are going to be better with RISP than bad hitters, and it all evens out in the end.  But, I think it’s important.  We talk all the time about pitchers – particularly relievers – in high-leverage situations.  Well, what’s a batter walking to the plate with a runner on second or third base if not a high-leverage situation?

The fact of the matter is, every hitter has the same goal:  get on base.  Take what the pitcher gives you and work a walk, bloop a single, line a double, or destroy a homer.  But, there are always variables.  What’s the score?  A guy is apt to try a little harder in a 0-0 game than he is in a 10-0 game, regardless of whether his team is winning or losing.  Is a runner on base?  Well, that’s an RBI opportunity!  Say what you will about baseball players, but they love batting runners in.  Is that runner on second or third base?  Well, shoot, then all the batter needs to do is hit a single into the outfield to get him home!  Your approach changes depending on the situation.  And, factoring in game score, time of the year, whether your team is in contention for the playoffs or not, the pressure is ramped up.

On the flipside, the pitcher doesn’t want to give up those runners in scoring position!  They’re trying to preserve their ERAs!  So, they’re going to bear down, so to speak.  They’re going to focus a little bit harder on making good pitches to get the batter to do what they want them to do.

And, since the name of the game is to score more runs than your opponent, I’d say hitting with RISP is a pretty important aspect to the game of baseball.  So, I think keeping track of the day-to-day on this thing brings value.  If nothing else, I hope to gain a little more understanding about the game I’ve been following for so long.

Last night, the Mariners came to play from the jump.  Dyson walked to lead off and Cano ended up bringing him home with a 2-run moon shot to right-center.  Cruz followed that up with a blast of his own to make it 3-0.  Thankfully, the Mariners were able to add on, with two more runs in the fourth and one more in the fifth.

In the fourth, Martin got a single and stole second, before advancing to third on a poor pick-off move by the pitcher.  From there, Dyson hit a double down the line the other way, then proceeded to score on a double by Cano that was very close to being his second homer of the night.

In the fifth, Taylor Motter joined the party with a towering homer to left field in the upper deck.  Good golly Miss Molly is this kid fun to watch.

On the pitching side of things, Ariel Miranda had his best outing of the season.  He was perfect into the fourth inning, got into a little bit of a jam with 2 outs in the sixth (giving up back-to-back singles), but got out of it and made it through seven scoreless innings, with 5 strikeouts and 0 walks, on only 4 hits.  Outstanding!

It’s too early to get too excited about Miranda’s performance last night, particularly after his first two underwhelming starts.  But, he’ll be one to watch going forward.  With Smyly injured, with Iwakuma hit or miss, and with Gallardo not likely to impress too much, it’ll be important for Miranda to pick up some of the slack.  For what it’s worth, he looked as good as I’ve ever seen him last night.  Fastball touched 95, he was locating well, and for the most part he kept his off-speed stuff down in the zone.  The key is to do that every time, or most every time.  Up next for him is a game in Oakland; they don’t strike me as an offensive juggernaut.

Nick Vincent and Evan Scribner each got an inning of work.  They were the only two bullpen guys not to appear on Sunday, so that’s fine.  Scribner gave up a hard-luck homer the opposite way in the 9th.  I thought his stuff looked good, I just thought the guy hit a quality pitch out of the park.

I hope the offense continues its hot streak tonight, with Gallardo on the mound.  I’ll never know what to expect from him, but hopefully he’s able to get on track a little bit.

Mariners Posted Impressive Comeback Win To Sweep Rangers

This game had it all!  By which I mean it had a lot of things.  For instance, it had speed at the top of the lineup manufacturing a run in the bottom of the first.

It had Hisashi Iwakuma absolutely fall apart after a nondescript first inning, giving up 6 runs while recording just the 9 outs.  110 more innings to go before Iwakuma’s 2018 option vests and we’re going to have to pay him upwards of $15 million next year.

I don’t hate the guy by any means, but I do think that he’s A) overpaid, and B) overrated.  I know I harp on this a lot, but if I don’t explain myself, it just looks like I have an irrational hatred of Japanese people or something.  He’s OKAY.  But, he’s pretty far removed from his best season in 2013, and even that year looks like an anomaly compared to every other year he’s been in the Major Leagues.  I get the feeling that people expect him to be great every time out, when in reality he’s good maybe half the time, and bad the other half.  As I sarcastically noted on Twitter yesterday, he was long overdue for a bad game considering he’d already given us two pretty okay starts in the first week.

What’s even more galling is that he’d yet to throw more than 90 pitches in either of his first two starts, then he had the off-day on Thursday, then he was pushed back a start so we could split up Paxton and Miranda (which, I don’t know why we didn’t do that to start the season, but whatever), so he had two extra days to rest up and still couldn’t give us much of anything against a fairly mediocre Rangers team.  Unless you want to say his timing was thrown off with the extra days in between starts, but he strikes me as a guy who needs that sort of careful handling to make it through the season.

Anyway, if I can get off my soapbox for a moment, there we were, down 6-1 heading into the bottom of the third inning.  This game had the feel of I want to say almost every single Sunday game from last year:  just a humdrum defeat where no one really shows up to play.  And then, in the bottom of the third, the two leadoff guys got on and Haniger muscled out a 3-run homer to left-center to put the Mariners right back in the game!

At that point, Servais went with the quick hook of Iwakuma, since he clearly didn’t have anything resembling “it”, and for once the bullpen was up to the task.

Recent call-up Evan Marshall went 2.1 perfect innings to bridge us over to the late-inning relief guys.  He was a quality reliever for Arizona in 2014, then hit the skids the last two seasons before being released.  He doesn’t look like anything special when you watch him, but he throws a lot of quality strikes and is obviously capable of going multiple innings in a pinch.  I don’t know necessarily where he stands with the ballclub once Cishek is ready to return from his rehab assignment, but assuming everyone stays healthy, and no one really falls apart with their mechanics (I’m looking at you, Altavilla), I’d have to think Marshall is the odd man out.  But, assuming he still has options, it’s nice to know we can count on him should the need arise for a long man out of the ‘pen.

James Pazos came in to strikeout the last two guys in the 6th inning, before walking the leadoff batter in the 7th.  Tony Zych made his 2017 debut by inducing a fly-out before giving up a single.  Scrabble was able to shut down that threat, as well as get the first two outs of the 8th (not without walking a batter).  That’s when Dan Altavilla came in and loaded the bases on back-to-back walks.

I should point out that the Mariners had tied the game by this point.  Cole Hamels got through five innings with a 6-4 lead, and for the third consecutive start to open the season, he watched his bullpen gag away the victory.  In the bottom of the sixth, Seager doubled to lead off, and Valencia of all people doubled him home.  Then, in the bottom of the seventh, Guillermo Heredia hit quite the crowd-pleasing solo homer to left to tie it at 6.  I couldn’t be happier for the kid, who had this look of pure joy as he hit it, and again as he was greeted at the dugout with a big bear hug by Cano.  The fact that he’s contributing and playing well in the early going is really awesome, both for him and the team, as we wait for the middle of the order to really get cooking.

So, when Altavilla looked like he was going to tear all that apart in the next half-inning, it was pretty demoralizing.  And yet, he finally got some pitches to enter the strike zone, which ultimately led to Elvis Andrus striking out on something low and in to end the threat.  Sighs of relief all around.

It would be short lived, though, as Edwin Diaz came in for the ninth inning and gave up a lead-off, go-ahead homer to put the M’s down 7-6.  All of that for NOTHING!  And, on just a terrible sequence of pitches, as he started off Nomar Mazara with a 2-0 count before grooving a fastball middle-in that Mazara was able to cheat on because he was expecting fastball all the way.  You hate to pull the Closer In Non-Save Situations card, but that was a real doozy.  Diaz was able to get through the rest of the inning unscathed, but the damage appeared to be done.

Until the Rangers brought in closer Sam Dyson (who might find this is his only mention on my website, with the way he’s going of late).  Dyson had been a pretty great closer for the Rangers last year, saving 38 games.  He’s actually been a solid reliever since 2014, so it’s not like we’re talking about a flash in the pan here.  But, in his first 6 appearances this season (including yesterday), he’s had 3 blown saves and another outright loss, with an ERA of 27.00.  It’s my understanding that he won’t be closing games for Texas for a while, which is too bad, but I’ll gladly take it because it means the Mariners overcame a 7-6 deficit in the ninth inning yesterday.

Jarrod Dyson pinch hit for Chooch and reached on an infield single.  He then proceeded to steal second base before we even had to bunt (God, I love Dyson’s speed!).  Leonys Martin then bunted him over to third, and was safe at first thanks to perfect bunt placement and poor pitcher defense.  Mike Freeman then pinch hit for Heredia, to give us another lefty hitter.  Martin stole second on his own, which led the Rangers to walk Freeman to load the bases and set up a play at any base.  This brought up Mitch Haniger, who worked one of the most impressive walks you’re ever going to see in a situation like that.  Tie game, no outs, with the heart of the order coming up.  SURELY we wouldn’t bungle this opportunity, would we?

Well, for starters, don’t call me Shirley (this joke really doesn’t work in print, but I’ll be damned if that’s ever stopped me from using it), but also the middle of the order has been pretty fucking far from intimidating this year.  Cano, Cruz and Seager have a combined 2 homers in the first two weeks.  I know it’s not all about homers with these guys, but they’re the same hitters who knocked out 112 dingers just last year.  Cano has one more extra base hit (4) than he does times he’s grounded into a double play (3).  Same with Cruz (3 extra base hits, 2 double plays).  So, you know, it absolutely wasn’t a given that the Mariners would come through in that situation.

Indeed, with the infield pulled in, Cano hit a fielder’s choice to the second baseman to keep the bases loaded and the game tied.  With one out, the Rangers opted to play back for the double play, and boy did it look like Cruz would oblige!  He hit a sharp grounder to short that Andrus just couldn’t get a handle on, resulting in everyone being safe and ending the game 8-7 for the good guys.  But, damn, if he comes up with that ball, and is able to flip it to second, I think there’s a really solid chance they’re able to double up Cruz at first.  It would’ve been a bang-bang play at the very least, with CB Bucknor of all people bungling things up on that end of the field.

(Bucknor who, not for nothing, ejected Scott Servais earlier in the game for arguing about his idiocy at first base, as it seemed he defered to the Rangers’ first baseman on making a fair/foul call, but that’s neither here nor there).

I’ll tell you what, this was just what the doctor ordered for the Mariners.  Like I said yesterday, the series win was nice, but this really needed to be a sweep.  Now, the Mariners are finally out of the cellar in the A.L. West (5-8, a half game up on the Rangers, who had to have felt pretty good about themselves coming into this series).  A quick look of the standings sees the A’s at 5-7 and the Angels at 6-7.  The Astros, at 8-4, are the only team with a winning record, in other words.

Oh, is it too early to Standings Watch?  A thousand times no!

(although, maybe don’t look too hard at the Wild Card standings for a while.  At least until the Mariners are able to climb back to .500)

The Miami Marlins come in for three, before the M’s head out on a 10-game road trip (4 in Oakland, 3 in Detroit, and 3 in Cleveland).  Over/under on weather-related postponements is set at 2.5, and I’m inclined to bet the over.

Mariners Get Much-Needed Win On Griffey Statue Day

With the way this season’s gone so far, the Mariners should’ve lost last night’s game 9 ways from Sunday, but instead somehow pulled out the 2-1 victory.

Felix looked good, though still not quite his old dominant self, in going 7.1 innings, giving up 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 3 with 0 walks.  The fact that he’s still on 0 walks through three starts is about as amazing as it gets.  Last night, he pitched to contact well and for the most part was rewarded by his defense, aside from that Zunino bungle in front of home plate.

The King was still in great shape in the 8th inning, at around 80 pitches heading in.  But, a line-out to the short stop and a single to the next batter ended his day.  Scrabble came in and got the next two lefties out to end the threat.  From there, it was more or less a relatively pain-free save situation for Diaz, who watched a 2-out single scamper over to third base on a steal and a wild pitch before being stranded.

The Mariners kicked off the scoring with Nelson Cruz’s first homer of the season, a solo shot in the 4th, to go up 1-0.  It was an impressive liner to right-center field, and you know Cruz is going well at the plate when he’s going the other way with power.

Obviously, the offense isn’t going right when you only get 2 runs, but 6 Mariners managed to get at least 1 hit.  They’re just not getting these in succession, as they went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

Part of it wasn’t necessarily their fault though, as in the bottom of the 7th, Dyson reached on an infield single, and stole second before Heredia could bunt him over.  Heredia finally DID bunt him over, but it got away from the pitcher, ending up with runners on the corners and nobody out.  That brought up Mitch Haniger, who worked the count in his favor and hit a shot off the top of the wall that the idiot umpiring crew called a home run.  It was later ruled NOT a home run, but for some reason they put Haniger back at first base and Heredia back at second.  You can say Heredia mis-read the ball all you want, but with their speed, there’s no way they wouldn’t have gotten to second and third on that hit.  That sufficiently changed the course of the inning, but with the meat of the order coming up, you still had to feel good about our chances of playing a little add-on, right?

WRONG.  Cano popped out and Cruz hit into a double play.  I guess that solo homer back in the 4th didn’t cure all of Cruz’s ills quite yet.

Danny Valencia is still stinking up the joint.  So is Mike Zunino.  Valencia just looks as lost at the plate as I’ve seen anyone.  Zunino has a giant hole in his swing causing him to miss anything up in the zone.  A guy with his power and his youth should not be missing on this many fastballs in the zone, saying nothing of the times he goes chasing those breaking balls that fall out of the zone.  I’ve been doing a little work on updating my Worst Trades, Draft Picks, and Free Agent Signings page, and right now in my notes I’ve written “Mike Zunino?”  Well, we’re going on 5 years since he was drafted, and I’m just about to take that question mark off of his name and cement him in as yet another first round Mariners draft bust.  God damn you Jack Zduriencik, you worthless pile of crap.

Haniger Giveth and Haniger Taketh Away

Mostly … mostly taketh away.

There’s infinite possibilities of how that game last night could’ve gone, so who’s to say what would’ve happened if Mitch Haniger had made that diving catch in right field in the top of the 6th.  We know one thing though!  We know the Astros wouldn’t have scored 4 runs in that inning, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 lead for the bad guys!

We can also be pretty sure that we wouldn’t have seen Nick Vincent or Casey Fien, unless of course the save would have eventually been blown, but who has the time or the energy to get into all of that?

The Mariners lost.  Again.  Stop me if you heard this one before:  Ariel Miranda was cruising along until the top of the 6th inning … finish it.  I mean, he was by no means perfect, but getting through five innings, having given up only 2 runs, is pretty good for your 6th starter.  Then, in the 6th, he walked back-to-back batters before being taken out of the game, and that was that.  85 pitches thrown.  What’s up with that?  What’s up with these pitchers who tucker out well BEFORE they get to 100 pitches?  Is that what baseball is coming to?

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN???

Fielding aside, Haniger had another fine day at the plate.  He had an RBI double, scored for the 8th consecutive game, and walked 3 times!  His batting average is creeping up there, his on-base percentage if near .400, and he’s leading the team in slugging with exactly .600.  This is quite a player we’ve got our hands on.

Nominal kudos all around.  Dyson used his speed to score from first on that Haniger double.  Cano had 2 RBI.  Chooch Ruiz took a nasty hit off the arm and came around to score.

Jean Segura landed on what’s now the 10-Day DL with that hamstring issue.  I, for one, LOVE that they changed the DL from 15 days to 10, mostly because I was sick and tired of the Mariners keeping guys active even though they were hurt, and fiddling with the roster to make sure we had enough backups to survive a few days.  This way, Segura gets to rest up and fully heal, while also not missing a full 2 weeks’ worth of games.  Mike Freeman was called up and got some pinch hit duty in the 9th inning, coming around to score.

Taylor Motter started at short for Segura and was far and away the offensive star of the night.  He went 3 for 4 with 3 doubles, scoring once.  It’s going to be REALLY helpful if he can be good, because I don’t know how much more I can watch of Danny Valencia.  On top of being just the God damn worst at the plate, Valencia dropped a foul ball pop up that could’ve spared us this game lasting until almost fucking 11am.  People are praising his defense like it’s anything special and not absolutely replacement level.  In which case, how fucking terrible is Dan Vogelbach?

I’m having a hard time blaming the offense for this one.  But, again, 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position, including 1 for 4 out of Cano.

But, yeah, this one is on the defense, at least for me.  It was a tough play, but Haniger has to make that catch.  If you’re going to base your entire outfield philosophy on Defense First, then those guys have to make the defensive plays most other outfielders can’t.  They have to make the amazing, Sportscenter Top 10-type plays.  Otherwise, what are we doing here?  Yeah, it’s nice that Haniger is doing so well at the plate, but that doesn’t mean he can contribute to giving away a lead because he can’t catch a ball that hit him square in the glove!

Everyone just needs to be better, starting right now.  Also, rejoice in the fact that after tonight, we don’t have to play the fucking Astros again until late June.  Maybe by then half their roster will be dead.  Particularly the George Springer half, because fuck that guy.

The Mariners Finally Won A Game

Why do we put ourselves through this?

Why do we put ourselves THROUGH this?

WHY do we put ourselves through this?

I like to ask this on occasion – hell, it’s the motto of the fucking website you’re reading! – because sometimes I honestly don’t know why we put ourselves through this.  Boredom?  A need to live vicariously through genetically-superior wonders of human creation?  Sadomasochism?

Ultimately, it’s explained – waxing poetically – that we put ourselves through this because it’ll all be worth it when we reach the peak.  When the team we root for finally busts through and wins its respective world championship, then all the pain and suffering is worth it.

But, honestly, that’s just Cleveland talk, before the Cavs won.  That’s Buffalo talk.  That’s that sweet, sweet San Diego talk.  I’m a Seahawks fan, and the Seahawks won the Super Bowl recently, but I don’t feel fundamentally different as a fan.  I don’t feel more enlightened or more at peace.  I’m a junkie chasing after his next score!  I’m the son in Requiem For A Dream stealing his mother’s old tube TV to pawn for drug money!  Nevermind the fact mom’s got her own demons and my girlfriend’s getting fucked at parties with a double-ended dildo; THIS IS MY LIFE!  My life as a sports fan.  It’s a fucked up existence, but it’s all I know and I’m too far gone to quit now.

I shouldn’t BE this agitated in the first week of April, with the Mariners now improving to a whopping 1-3 on the season.  Yet, here we are.  My name is Steven, and I’m addicted to really mediocre and disappointing sports teams.

You know baseball season is getting into full swing when watching every minute of a game ceases to be of utmost importance.  Last night, instead of watching from first pitch, I made time to hit the gym.  When I got back, I checked the score, then I watched an old episode of the Simpsons as I ate dinner.  I flipped back and forth between watching the game and diddling around on the Internet.

For instance, I missed Ariel Miranda giving up the second leadoff homer to George Springer in four games, and I also missed Mitch Haniger’s first homer in a Mariners uniform.  But, I did see Marwin Gonzalez’s go-ahead solo homer, as well as Miranda load the bases with nobody out in the fifth inning.  I turned it off when I heard Altuve was coming up to bat, because I figured nothing good could come of me witnessing that, but how wrong I was!  He induced a miracle double play and got out of the jam completely unscathed!

From there, the Mariners found themselves in yet another bases loaded/no out situation in the top of the sixth, and once again could only muster a single run – on a fielder’s choice – to re-tie the game at 2-2.  It remained that way through the 8th inning, and it looked like the game was going to hit extra innings for the second day in a row.

Then, the top of the 9th happened.  A walk and a hit batter, with a couple of corresponding pinch runners, put speed on the basepaths with one out.  Jarrod Dyson then singled to give the Mariners the lead, and eventually Jean Segura also singled to put the Mariners ahead 4-2.  It was quite the relief (getting that second run), because we were bringing out Edwin Diaz – who’d just pitched two innings the night before – and you just never know what you’re going to get with a Diaz outing (sort of like you never know what you’re going to get with any closer).

I should also point out that we did this against Houston’s closer, Ken Giles, who collected saves in the first two games and looked damn near unhittable doing so.  Giles somehow avoided that 13-inning catastrophe the night before, so he should’ve been rested, but he ended up throwing an inordinate amount of off-speed pitches last night, which was a little odd because he didn’t really have amazing control of his off-speed pitches.  You would’ve thought he would go back to his fastball, which had been so dominant in his first two outings.  But, you know, I’m not complaining.

Diaz had no such struggles.  He set the Astros down in order, doing what De Jong failed to do the night before:  end the game by striking out Nori Aoki, thus preventing the lineup from turning over to master cocksmith George Springer again.

The offense for the Mariners obviously still isn’t where it needs to be, but I dunno, maybe we chalk that up to the Astros having a really fucking good pitching staff from top to bottom.  Maybe they bust out of the slump as early as tonight in Anaheim.  Really, the only guy who was worth a damn in that series was Segura, who currently leads the team in hits, average, RBI, and slugging.  Gonna need more than just him to step up here.

Great game from Haniger last night, with a homer, a single, a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored.  He also nailed an outfield assist on a hit and run where Nori Aoki got caught running with his head down.

Nevertheless, the Mariners were 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position, making them 3 for 36 on the series.  They also left 7 men on base, giving them a total of 35 on the series.  A series where they scored all of 8 runs in 4 games.

On the plus side, the pitching has been fine for the most part.  Ariel Miranda went 5 innings, giving up 2 runs, which is kind of a best-case scenario for a Major League team using it’s 6th starter.  James Pazos appeared in his third game of the series, going 2 shutout innings.  Dan Altavilla made up for his performance on Wednesday by going 1 scoreless.  And, that brought us to Diaz with his first save of the season.  All told, the Mariners only gave up 12 runs in 4 games, which:  sign me up for that for a full season!  Aside from De Jong’s blown save, the bullpen has gone 15 innings, giving up only 3 runs, which is pretty outstanding.  Keep it up, boys!

Can’t stop, won’t stop, as the Mariners head to Anaheim for a weekend series with the Angels.  Then, it’s the home opener on Monday.  Let’s have a better weekend, huh?

The Astros Are Better Than The Mariners At Baseball

If you learn one thing from this series, it’s that the Astros are destined for greatness and the Mariners are destined for something … less than.  You can tell me it’s early all you want, but this is a great Astros team, and they’re not even playing all that well right now!  Altuve has yet to do anything, the rest of their lineup has been spotty at best, and yet they’ve still been able to demolish the Mariners through three games, with the fourth coming tonight.  Just imagine what this team is going to look like when all elements are firing.

The enraging thing – the thing that’s bound to prove my point even further – is going to be when the Mariners sweep the Angels this weekend and everyone will say, “See!  Nothing to worry about!  It was just one series in early April!  These games CLEARLY don’t matter as much as the games in September!”  And for a while, people will relax, because it’ll look like the Mariners are back on track.  Except, here’s the thing:  I never said the Mariners are terrible; I just said that the Astros are really fucking good and there’s no way we’re going to top them this season, short of the Astros suffering a slew of key injuries while the Mariners from this day forward remain relatively healthy.

This series is the fork in our division-winning hopes.  The Mariners are simply worse than the Astros, and quite frankly they have been since the Astros joined the A.L. West.  Even when the Astros were fucking God awful, they were still better than the Mariners.  It is our cross to bear.

So, now we know, with 159 games to play, it’s Wild Card or Bust.  I just hope there aren’t many more teams like the Astros on the schedule to give us fits.  If we can’t figure out a way to win some divisional games – thank you Unbalanced Schedule – not even the Wild Card will be on the table.

Last night’s game might have changed my mind, had the Mariners scratched out the win, but instead it only reinforces my resolve that the Astros are the better team.  We had everything going for us in that game, and by “everything” I mean James Paxton.  He looked fucking phenomenal in throwing six shutout innings, while giving up 2 hits, walking 1, and striking out 5.  If he’d only been able to keep his pitch count under control, this really should’ve been a 7- or 8-inning performance.  But, it’s his first start of the season, so stopping him at 100 pitches is the right thing to do.

I’ll tell ya, though, Paxton was something else.  He was pounding the inside corner of the plate like I’ve never seen!   The Astros had, what I distinctly remember as an all-right handed lineup, and Paxton didn’t bat an eye!  He even managed to power through some of those unlucky Paxton-esque moments without allowing a run to score; like in the second inning, when a 1-out walk managed to reach third base on an out and a wild pitch; or when Springer reached on a strikeout in the dirt and advanced to third base on a double (he had to get through Altuve and Correa to get out of that jam unscathed!).  These are the kinds of minor inconveniences that – in the past – would somehow come around to destroy a Paxton start.  But, last night, he locked those shits down!

(of course, that isn’t to say those types of things won’t ruin him in future starts, but this was an encouraging way to bring in the new season for a guy known for his inconsistency)

The Mariners managed to not only score a run with a hit out of the infield, but they hit their first homer of the season!  Jean Segura hit an opposite-field 2-run homer that was remarkable in the way it kept carrying.  For such a little guy, he has a surprising amount of power.  On top of that, it was the Mariners’ first lead of the season!

It didn’t last long.

As I noted above, Paxton was finished after six innings, but the Mariners went right to their best set-up man, Evan Scribner … who promptly gave up back-to-back hits and was pulled for Scrabble (our next-best set-up man), who did his job and got the first out of the 7th inning.  That brought us to Dan Altavilla (our third-best set-up man), who gave up a single to load the bases and a double to tie the ballgame.  He ended up getting out of the jam after that with the tie intact, but the blown save damage was done.

From there, it was a comedy of poor clutch hitting through the 12th inning.  Pazos was brought in, even though their entire lineup was right-handed.  He gave up two hits before being pulled.  Casey Fien cleaned up the mess without incident.  Then, Edwin Diaz got his first action of the season, and was forced to go two scoreless innings as we plowed into extras.  That brought us to Nick Vincent, who somehow pitched out of a Runner On Third With Less Than Two Outs jam (of his own creation) and ended up going two more scoreless innings.

At that point, the only reliever left was Chase De Jong.  The Mariners, in the 13th inning, managed to eke out a run on four consecutive walks with nobody out, but could not play add-on, and thus you know how this game concluded.  With a tenuous 3-2 lead, Chase De Jong – who was making his Major League debut, who has all of 1 appearance in AAA (i.e. who was – for all intents and purposes – making the leap from AA to the Majors) – got one quick out, walked the next batter, induced the following batter to foul out, and gave up an opposite-field single to Nori Aoki.

That was the game.  It wasn’t the subsequent 3-run homer by George Springer; it was letting that snake in the grass Aoki, in the 9-hole, weasel his way on base to turn the lineup over.  You get Aoki, you win the game, you get your first career save, and they’re showering you with the Champagne of Beers in the locker room.  Instead, you leave one out over the plate, it gets crushed, and you’re living in your own personal Hell.  Welcome to the Big Leagues, son.

(also, not for nothing, but does this happen if Dillon Overton’s wife doesn’t have that kid this week?  Is it too much to ask to get the C-section a week early?  Okay, I’m horrible, I’ll move on)

I mean, what can you say?  I can’t get angry at De Jong; that’s an impossible situation to enter into as your Major League debut!  Yeah, it’s his fault, but it’s not really his fault.  He probably shouldn’t even be up here in the first place.  In a perfect world, Drew Smyly is healthy and Ariel Miranda is the 8th man in the bullpen.  But, I can’t even blame our own bad luck, because this offense is SERIOUSLY shitting the bed like I haven’t seen since 2010.  Except it’s a million times worse, because whereas the 2010 M’s had shitty hitters, the 2017 M’s have really good ones!  And they’re doing JACK SHIT right now.

Take a look at the blown scoring opportunities in this game alone:

  • 1st Inning – Haniger at 2nd with 1 out; Cano strikes out, Cruz grounds out
  • 2nd Inning – Zunino doubles with 2 outs; Dyson pops it up to the short stop
  • 4th Inning – Cruz leadoff double; stranded at second
  • 7th Inning – Martin walked & stole 2nd with 1 out; stranded at second again
  • 12th Inning – Dyson singled & stole 2nd with 1 out; stranded
  • 13th Inning – 4 walks to lead off the inning & score the go-ahead run; Valencia fly out, Zunino strikeout, Dyson strikeout

That’s just unforgivable.  The pitching this series hasn’t been perfect – not like it needs to be, apparently – but it’s been BEYOND good enough.  It’s even more aggravating because you know the pitching isn’t going to stay this good over the long haul.  We’re fucking SQUANDERING games that we should be winning!  And don’t tell me it’s early, because a loss is a loss is a loss; they all count the same fucking way regardless of whether they’re in April or September, so fuck off with that nonsense.

0-3 as we head into the next two days with our worst two starters.  Oh, this should be fun.

The Mariners Continue To Mariners Their Season

Well, I had my first mid-Mariners game nap of the season, so I guess we’re in full swing now!

What a fucking snooze this team is.  Jesus Christ.  I really appreciate the hitters showing up to play!  It’s nice to know everyone is taking this season so seriously, considering it’s very likely our last reasonable shot at making the playoffs for a while.  Or, to put it another way:  the Mariners aren’t likely to get any BETTER as their veterans age; not that it matters with the way everyone’s playing right now.

Hisashi Iwakuma, to his credit, kicked off his 2017 with a Quality Start:  6 innings, 2 solo homers, 3 walks, 4 hits, 2 strikeouts.  In 83 pitches, so as to not tire out his arm for the next start.  And the bullpen did their jobs!  A scoreless two innings for three more pitchers, as we make good use of this obscenely large bullpen.  Still haven’t been able to work the closer into a game though!  Might be nice to do that pretty soon here.

The offense had marginally more success than it did in Game 1; at least last night we scored AH run.  Sure, it was an infield single that scored a guy from third base, but I’m certain it’s only a matter of time before the Mariners hit the ball OUT of the infield for an RBI!

Cano continues to put good wood on the ball, showing just how much he loves playing in Houston.  He had a double, as did Mike Haniger for his first hit as a Mariner (scored our only run too).  Jarrod Dyson had a hustle-double in the 9th inning against their closer to make things interesting for a spell, but aside from Danny Valencia’s two hits, no one else did much of anything.

Today, I’m gonna break my shit list off in Nelson Cruz’s behind, because what kind of a start to the season is this?!  Three strikeouts in two games?  0 for 7, including 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position???  You’re supposed to be our motherfucking cleanup hitter, so why don’t you start cleaning up some of this shit?!  I mean, fuck me, we had a runner on third with less than two outs and you STRIKE OUT?  Then, the very next inning, we get a runner to second and you ground out to the short stop?  You’re BETTER than this, so start fucking playing like it!

Is it concerning to anyone that 4 of our 10 hits are of the infield variety?  Forget controlling the zone for a minute, how about let’s work on making solid contact with the baseball?  Lifting that shit up into the air and whatnot.

Also, with 19 strikeouts in two games, and 0 stolen bases, this isn’t the version of Mariners baseball that I was promised.  I want my money back, please.

We get to do this all over again tonight.  Let’s see if Leonys Martin can keep his streak of going 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts alive.  At what point do we drop him to the 9-hole, and then at what point do we take his ass out of the lineup altogether?

Because, the thing is, it’s one thing to be a good offense against the crap pitchers of the league, but if this offense is to be REALLY special, it’s got to get it done against the really good pitchers too.  What’s worse is, I don’t even know if Dallas Keuchel or Lance McCullers are even THAT good!  I mean, they’re pretty good, but not THIS overpowering, are they?