Time To Lose Today: Yep, The Mariners Are Back To .500

Is that any way to talk about a team that just beat the Red Sox in 13 innings to win the series with one game to go?  Yes, yes it very much is.

What a game, huh?  It ended up a lot different than I thought it would when I went to bed after the second inning.  Heredia hit his 3-run bomb, Felix was doing okay, seemed like maybe this one would come easy to the Mariners.  Then, it looks like the King ran into a bit of a buzzsaw in the sixth inning, but the teeth of the Mariners’ bullpen limited the damage to 4 runs through 12 innings (Mike Zunino hit a home run somewhere in there to tie the game back up and take Felix off the hook).

In the top of the 13th, Zych – in his second inning of work – gave up a leadoff single who eventually advanced (with 2 outs) to second base on a wild pitch, before scoring the go-ahead run on a single to left.  He managed to get out of it, but I suppose it was looking pretty grim at that point.  One might’ve even felt appreciative for not staying up until all hours of the night.

Besides that, I’m pretty sure there was just one man left in the bullpen by that point, Emilio Pagan, who has been on a tear of late, but has also had to be used quite a bit.

So, 13 innings felt about right.  But, then something magical happened.  Seager struck out, Haniger walked (at least his plate discipline doesn’t slump), and Gamel hit into a fielder’s choice.  Two outs, runner on first, so what, right?  A Heredia single to right moved Gamel to third base, who would go on to score on a wild pitch to tie the game.  The key to that whole thing was that Heredia advanced two bases on the wild pitch, otherwise who knows?  Maybe they’d still be playing right now!  Anyway, Zunino walked, and Jean Segura hit a seeing-eye single up the middle of the infield and EASILY beat the throw to first base for the game-winner.  Bingo bango bongo!

I don’t know what you say about a game like this.  Probably don’t win it without Heredia, but I have to think he would’ve started even if Dyson was healthy, what with Boston starting a lefty.  The bullpen, obviously, is the real hero of this one.  Six shutout innings from the 7th through the 12th, with everyone getting a taste.  When you factor in how awesome Boston’s offense is (or at least, has the potential to be), it’s all the more impressive.

Day game today, with Chris Sale on the mound against Andrew Moore; if the Mariners win THIS one I’ll eat my fucking hat.  So, let’s take a quick look at the standings before we all get depressed again.

By virtue of losing three of four to the Yankees, followed by beating Boston twice in a row, we’ve officially brought the Bronx Bombers to within 1 game of the A.L. East (indeed, putting them 1 game ahead in the loss column).  Getting back to .500 puts the Mariners back to 2.5 games within the second Wild Card spot (with the Rays in between, 1.5 games ahead of us).  The Royals – currently holding that second Wild Card spot – are on a 7-game winning streak, so they’re due to come back down to Earth anytime now.  Also, the Rays?  Please.  GTFO of here.

Okay, I’ve done everything I can to jinx the Mariners.  I’m sufficiently prepared for them to lose today.  Someone find my bookie!  Time to bet Steven Jr.’s college fund again!

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.

The Mariners Wrapped Up A 5-1 Road Trip

Yesterday was very encouraging.

The Mariners had an opportunity to win a series against the Astros, and the Mariners made good on that opportunity.  James Paxton led the way with his seven strong innings, giving up 1 run on 6 hits and 1 walk, with 7 strikeouts, to run his record to 9-3.  Ben Gamel got back on the trolley with a 2-run homer, Jean Segura had 2 more hits, and Mike Zunino had an RBI double.  Vincent and Scrabble got through the eighth inning unscathed, and Edwin Diaz got his fifth save since the All Star Break (or, his 5th save in 6 days, if we want to be more accurate).

This sets up the Mariners very well going forward.  At 48-48, we’re still 15.5 games behind the Astros, but we’re back to 1.5 games back in the Wild Card chase.  And, as chance would have it, we come home to play 4 games against the team currently residing in that 2nd Wild Card spot, the New York Yankees (who haven’t won a series since June 9th-11th against Baltimore, so on the one hand we’re catching them at the right time, but on the other hand watch them sweep us right out of the race).

There are some interesting (to me) numbers as we head into our last homestand before August.  The victory against Houston – while bringing us back to .500 – put us at +1 in run differential.  So, really, there isn’t a whole lotta good or bad luck at play here in that regard.  The 5-1 road trip also brought the Mariners to 21-26 on the year, which is a little more appropriate (and a far cry from how terrible we started out).  Also, through 96 games last year, the Mariners were 49-47.  I can’t tell you if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I can tell you that at this time last year, the Mariners never fell below .500 the rest of the way.  Remember, those Mariners ended up 10 games over .500 and were 3 games back in the Wild Card race.  I know this year it looks pretty grim in the American League, and that a not-so-great team or two might squeak into the post-season, but I’m also a firm believer that at least a couple teams (not necessarily named the Astros or Red Sox) are going to go on a run, and it’s going to take a record right around 90 wins to get into this thing.  For the Mariners, they’d have to go 42-24 the rest of the way to get to that point.

I could be wrong, and the A.L. could remain mediocre the rest of the way, but I’m not going to hold my breath.  The time to strike is right fucking now.

The rest of the way, the Mariners play 7 games against the Yankees, 3 against the Red Sox, 4 against the Royals, 6 against the Orioles, 3 against the Rays, 3 against the Indians, 10 against the Rangers, and 10 against the Angels.  46 of our 66 remaining games are against teams right there in the thick of the playoff hunt (not counting the Astros, who are just in, no questions asked; though if you’re asking, we play them only 6 more times thank Christ).  46 games against our direct competition; we are going to have to MOW through those teams in a big way if we want to be in there at the end!

It starts with Felix tonight, then continues with our three worst starters the rest of the weekend.  Yippie skippy doo.

Mariners Win A Crazy One In Houston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariners Kick Off Second Half Against Give Up White Sox

It’s gotta be tough for a team like the White Sox.  They’ve seen other teams climb out of the cellar in the A.L. this year to get back in the Wild Card race.  Hell, EVERYONE is still in it!  But, then their GM – seeing the writing on the wall, I suppose – traded their Ace right after the All Star Game, to officially wave the white flag on the season.

In turn, the White Sox laid a turd down last night against the Mariners, falling 4-2.

That, of course, doesn’t mean they will continue to do so – even though we get the luxury of missing the aforementioned Ace in this series – because the Mariners have some sort of hex against them when it comes to playing in Chicago’s stadium, but that’s neither here nor there.

Last night, the Mariners did just enough.  Paxton went 6 innings, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits and 0 walks, with 9 strikeouts.  Robinson Cano had 2 hits, including a 3-run bomb; Jean Segura had 2 hits and 2 runs.  And the bullpen of Zych, Vincent, and Diaz was perfect through the final three innings.  Pitching and defense and timely hitting, bingo bango bongo.

I, of course, got to see none of this because I was at the movies.  Drop whatever you’re doing and go see Baby Driver RIGHT NOW, because it’s fucking excellent.  That is all.

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!

Oh No, The Mariners Suck Again!

Any wealthy Mariners fans out there feel like doing a re-boot of the movie Major League featuring the Seattle Mariners?

Yes they are …

Sam Gaviglio had the worst game of his Major League career, but I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later.  He’d never had a start go fewer than 5 innings; last night he went 4.2.  He’d never given up more than 5 runs; last night he gave up 7.  His only real value to this team and this rotation is that he’d never had one of these meltdown performances; now that he has, it starts to shine a light on just how mediocre he’s been overall.  Not bad for a #5 starter, but right now it feels like the Mariners are running nothing BUT #5 starters out there.

Yovani Gallardo came in and mopped up the mess, going 4.1 shutout innings, two days after pitching 3 innings of relief.  One might believe we’ve found the perfect role for Gallardo, but I get the feeling that the team will inevitably put him back in the rotation before too long.  So be it, I guess.

Jean Segura had 4 hits; Cano and Haniger had 2 hits; Danny Valencia had a 3-run homer in the ninth to bring the score from 7-1 to 7-4.  But, overall, the M’s just weren’t able to cluster their hits together the way they need to in order to compete in these types of games.

That’s because A’s starter Paul Blackburn – who we traded to bring in the aforementioned Danny Valencia – went 7.2 innings of 1-run ball.  This is 5 days after making his Major League debut against the Braves, when he went 6 innings of shutout ball.  So, YAY, that’s super fun for everyone.  No way the Mariners could’ve used a starter that stellar.

I’m on a new work schedule right now that has me going to bed at 8pm and waking up at 4am, so this week has been a real treat.  But, one of the positives is that I get to completely miss out on watching these terrible baseball games.  Now, instead of completely ruining my weeks, the Mariners just get to ruin my weekends.

Three more to go against the A’s before the All Star Break.  That makes 9 losses in 11 games, including 8 in a row at home.  Am I going to have to attend one of these games in person just to break the streak?

Also, in Hisashi Iwakuma news, Hisashi Iwakuma has been shut down in his throwing program and given an injection into his shoulder.  Feels to me like he’s done, both for this year and probably his Mariners career.  If so, it was … interesting to say the least.

Of Course The Mariners Lost To The Phillies

You’re cruising along, having yourself a fine month of June.  A winning month of June.  You’re coming off of a weekend of defeat against the Astros, but those are the Astros!  They’re the best team in baseball!  Before that, you won 6 games in a row, including a 4-game sweep of the Tigers to knock them down a few pegs in the Wild Card standings.  You’re also coming off of your first off-day in three weeks, with the promise of another off-day later this week.  All you have to focus on right now is a 2-game home series against the worst team in the National League, which is really saying something because the San Francisco Giants are in the National League, and have you SEEN the San Francisco Giants?  They’re abysmal this season!  They’re so bad they wish they were the Padres right now!

Also, not for nothing, but you have your two best starters going in this series, as well as your best lineup from top to bottom.  These should be wins!  These should be easy, no doubt about it wins.

So, yeah, of course.  Of course you lost to the Phillies.  You’re the fucking Mariners!  This is what you do!

Jean Segura did his part.  He hit a 2-run bomb to right field to put the Mariners on the board.  James Paxton did what he should’ve done, which is go 7 innings of 3-run ball.  Against THAT team?  That should be plenty!  But, the Mariners continuously dropped the ball with RISP and never scored again.  Sure, the bullpen gave up 5 runs in the last two innings, but it’s not like the Mariners were going to come back!  The mighty Joaquin Benoit aka Death To All Things Mariners was on the mound!  He shut down our three best hitters like they weren’t even standing there!

Would I be surprised if the Phillies swept the Mariners later today?  Of course not.  Just grit your teeth and eat this one.  Hope for better things this weekend.

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!