Dan Altavilla Sure Looks Like The Second Coming Of Bobby Ayala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariners Win In Texas For First Time Since April 2016

Due to a scheduling quirk.  And some focused ineptitude.

After a couple of shitbird 10-4 losses, the Mariners went up against Yu Darvish in the series finale.  While he’s been Ace-like for most of his career, the Mariners have had curious bouts of competence against him, and yesterday was no exception.  5 runs in 5 innings to put the M’s in the driver’s seat.  Then, Nick Vincent shut things down after some shaky bullpen work in the seventh, bridging it to the ninth.  By then, it was no longer a save situation, but Edwin Diaz still locked down the 7-3 victory to make things not so bad.

Kyle Seager had 3 doubles, 2 runs, and 3 RBI; Ben Gamel continues to hit everything in sight; and Danny Valencia had a 2-run homer in the first to really put the Mariners on solid footing.

Christian Bergman had his final start before both Felix and Iwakuma come off the DL for this weekend’s Astros series.  He went 5.2 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits, 2 walks, and 1 strikeout.  The question now is:  has he done enough to stick around in this rotation?

With Felix and Kuma back, with Miranda and Paxton being too good to take out of the rotation (recent starts notwithstanding), there are now three pitchers for one spot:  Bergman, Gaviglio, and Gallardo.  Gaviglio and Gallardo will both have starts in this upcoming Tigers series and then a decision will have to be made.

I’m already on record as stating Gallardo needs to go.  Of course, he’ll catch on with some other team and absolutely destroy his opponents for the rest of the year, but that’s just the way that goes.  If he stays, he’ll continue to suck; we just have to hope he goes to the National League and we get an Out of Sight/Out of Mind situation.

As for the Bergman vs. Gaviglio question, I’ll try to render an opinion after tonight’s start.  Oh yes, it’s really that close, and might come down to how Gaviglio looks in a Do Or Die situation.  Stay tuned.

In Long Relievers – They’re Just Like Us News:  Rob Whalen got the boot in favor of Max Povse (in the process, Dillon Overton got DFA’d to make room on the 40-man).  Povse has a ton of upside and is making the jump from AA, so this could be a little more interesting than someone set to eat up a few innings before an immediate demotion (in all likelihood, if Povse does well, I could see him replacing Altavilla, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here).

Starting tonight, the Mariners enjoy a stretch of 16 of the next 19 at home heading into the All Star Break.  For the first time in forever, the Mariners actually get to play a home series immediately preceeding those three days off, so it’s nice that they don’t have to travel if they don’t want to.  The time is now:  the Mariners REALLY need to do well to get back in this Wild Card hunt, or fucking lose me forever.

Probably not.  I’m a sucker for this stupid team.

The Mariners Had To Settle For A Split In Minnesota

What can you say?  Ariel Miranda had a clunker.  4 innings, 10 hits, 6 runs, 1 walk, and only 2 strikeouts.  Giving up 5 runs in the first really hurt him, loading the bases with nobody out in the second almost got him yanked even earlier, but, you know, credit where it’s due.  Aside from a solo homer in the third, he settled in just a little bit to at least give the Mariners half a game’s worth of pitching.  Considering it had been 7 starts since his last clunker, I’m willing to let this one slide.  Miranda has been a very valuable pitcher for the Mariners this year, so I’d think he’s earned it.

Didn’t help that the offense never really got on track.  Gamel had a solid game, with a couple hits, an RBI, and a run scored; Cano also had an RBI single; Seager had a couple hits including a double; and Motter had a single, but that was about it.  Considering the M’s were going up against the Twins’ ace in Jose Berrios, we were going to need better pitching than what we got.

However, don’t you dare lump Chase De Jong in with that group!  He was outstanding yesterday, going the remaining 4 innings, giving up just 1 hit, 0 runs, 2 walks, and 2 strikeouts.  I said yesterday that I didn’t think the Mariners had any intention of using him unless it was an emergency situation, so go ahead and put the blame on me for jinxing Miranda in this one.

With that fine outing under his belt, expect De Jong to get the Mariners Special:  a one-way ticket back to Tacoma, to be replaced by some other long-reliever type.  Round and round she goes, where she stops nobody knows!

Three game series in Texas this weekend; Paxton, Gallardo, and Bergman on the hill.  Will THIS be the series the Mariners finally get over .500?

The Mariners Pounded The Twins And Also Made Two Draft Picks

The Mariners beat the Twins 14-3.  The Mariners scored in 6 of the 9 innings, and every batter had at least one hit.  Mitch Haniger busted out with 4 hits, 4 runs, and 2 RBI; Nelson Cruz had 2 hits, 2 runs, and 4 RBI; Ben Gamel had 2 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs; Seager, Valencia, Zunino, and Tyler Smith all had multi-hit games as well.

Yovani Gallardo, after being given a 2-0 lead in the first inning, gave up 2 runs in the bottom half to sicken me to my core.  But, to his credit, he managed to settle down and went 6 innings, giving up 3 runs, 7 hits, and walked only 1, while striking out 5.  He had a lot of wait time between innings, which couldn’t have been easy, so it was nice of him to look semi-competent in a laugher.

The real news of the day belongs to the MLB draft.  The first two rounds took place last night and the Mariners made two selections.

  • First Round, 17th Pick – Evan White, 1B
  • Second Round, 55th Pick – Sam Carlson, RHP

White is a college kid with good offensive numbers, great defensive abilities, and an all-around great attitude according to everyone who talks about him.  Someone had mentioned his defensive abilities could translate to the outfield – which would obviously give him a lot more value as an overall baseball player – but the Mariners are saying he could have Gold Glove defensive ability at first base, so that’s where he’ll start out.  It also doesn’t hurt that he’s going to sign right away and join up with the Everett Aqua Sox.

John Olerud is probably the lazy comparison, but I dunno, I’m not really a guy who focuses too hard on the minor leagues.  Was Olerud an athletic marvel coming out of college?  I always assumed he was a plodder from the get go.  Either way, if White turns into Olerud, I would absolutely take that in a heartbeat.

I understand the thought process behind moving a guy to a more premium defensive position, like centerfield for instance, which is what people have said about White.  But, just look at the Mariners:  how long have we been trying to fix the first base position?  How many years have we just been getting by with 1-year deals on guys we’re hoping will have bounce-back seasons?  First base is an absolute need position for this team, so I’d really rather they not screw around with switching positions and whatnot.

I don’t know if the power numbers are super there, so I wouldn’t expect this kid to be a pure slugger.  But, it’s promising to hear he’s gotten better every year.  First base doesn’t have to be a 40-homer a year target; I’d gladly take half of that with a good batting average and great defense.  Either way, we’ll likely know more about him in three years or so.

Sam Carlson is an interesting pick for us, as many had projected him to be a first rounder.  Some even projected him over Evan White!  He’s a high schooler out of Minnesota who already throws in the mid-90s, so that’s pretty freakin’ sweet.  It appears a lot of teams were wary of picking him, as he agreed to go to the University of Florida, so it looks like it’ll take a little extra money to get him to sign.  We’ll see.  The team is confident they’ll get him, but I guess they have to be.  He most likely didn’t say he was a lock to go to college, so I figure there has to be some wiggle room there.

The question that has to weigh on his mind is whether or not he can improve his draft stock by going to college for a year or two.  There’s a big risk there, considering he can go and look pretty bad and fall way down in the draft.  But, there’s also a chance to get back in that first round and maybe even into the Top 10.  Those are the chips he’s holding in negotiations.

All in all, an interesting day for Mariners fans.  Rounds 3-10 happen today, followed by the rest taking place tomorrow.  I can’t imagine I’ll get much more in depth on the topic, considering I know nothing about high school or college baseball players.  I just hope there are some future quality Major Leaguers in there.

Mariners Survive Game 1 Against Seattle Blue Jays

My absolute favorite Mariners moment of the last five years (dating back to the King’s perfect game in 2012) happened last September 21st.  Top of the seventh, on his 112th pitch of the game, Felix Hernandez got Michael Saunders to ground out to second base to preserve a 1-0 lead (Diaz would go on to blow that save in the top of the ninth, but the Mariners would ultimately prevail 2-1 in 12 innings) and as the King walked off the mound – most certainly knowing that would be his final pitch of the ballgame – he screamed out for the world to hear, “THIS IS MY HOUSE!”

The opponent:  The Toronto Blue Jays.  The location:  Seattle, Washington.  The stands:  nearly 40,000 people, the vast majority of which were Canadian Blue Jays fans.

These games are an affront to common decency!  For starters, if the Mariners are supposed to be the regional team, why are all these people from Western Canada still fans of the Blue Jays?  Get out of here with your Canadian pride!  And, while I’m sure all these businesses along the I-5 corridor appreciate the influx of Cana-dough whenever these people come here, I still think the Mariners should be ashamed of themselves for marketing these games to Blue Jays fans.  And the area merch stores should be DOUBLY ashamed to stock their shelves with so much Blue Jays crap!

THIS IS OUR HOUSE, GOD DAMMIT!  HAVE A LITTLE FUCKING PRIDE!

I don’t really have a baseball team that I loathe more than the others.  It used to be the Yankees, but that was when the Mariners were making the playoffs more than once a generation.  I sort of have equal disdain for all the other A.L. West teams (though, the Astros are starting to nose ahead in that horse race).  But, I think I have the most fire pumping through my veins whenever Toronto comes to town and it sounds like a Blue Jays home game in Safeco Field.  This aggression will not stand, man!

Last night’s game wasn’t quite as satifsying as that Felix moment from last year, but it’s close.  Toronto jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, scoring 1 in the second when Gaviglio got himself into a jam, and another in the third when Jose Bautista hit a solo homer to left.  The M’s got one back in the bottom of the third when Dyson’s speed turned a single into a run with a stolen base, a wild pitch, and a Gamel single to right.

And 2-1 it stayed, with the Blue Jays starter cruising with a low pitch count into the seventh inning, when FINALLY the Mariners rallied.  Cano doubled, Seager walked, and Valencia hit one in on a single.  Zunino walked to load the bases, and up came Dyson again.  With the infield drawn in, he laced a single to center that scored the go-ahead run (while leading to Valencia getting throw out at the plate).

Gaviglio had another fine outing, going 6 innings, giving up the 2 runs (one unearned, thanks to a Zunino passed ball), giving up 6 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 5.  He struggled early in the game, but really settled into a nice groove over his final couple of innings.

Tyler Cloyd had his first appearance, taking over for Gaviglio in the seventh, after being called up from Tacoma a while ago.  He got the first two outs of the inning okay, but gave up a single and a double to the next two guys, getting out of the inning with a crazy-awesome relay from Dyson to Motter to Zunino.  For his efforts, he got his first Major League win since 2013 with the Phillies.

After snatching the lead from the Blue Jays, Nick Vincent was called in to handle the eighth.  He gave up a couple of singles, but ended up striking out the side (including a couple of really impressive at-bats against Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak – who knew what Vincent was going to do to him, watched Vincent do just what he expected, and still swung through the inside cutter for the frustrating-for-him-but-not-me-because-fuck-Smoak strike three).  I know Vincent has been pretty great all year, but this was as good as I’ve ever seen him!

Then, in the bottom of the eighth, with runners at first & second and two outs, Kyle Seager had as professional of an at-bat as you’ll ever see, as he lined an RBI single the other way off of a pretty tough-looking lefty reliever.  Just an outstanding piece of hitting for a guy who has a valid reputation as a pull hitter.

With the 2-run cushion, Edwin Diaz came in throwing flames.  He touched 101mph on multiple occasions, including the final strike of the inning to blow it past Kevin Pillar.  Again, it wasn’t quite the Felix moment from last year, but Diaz climbing the ladder and hitting 101 for the game-ending strikeout was pretty boss hoss.

This win is doubly huge because it sets the Mariners up well for the rest of the series, with Ariel Miranda going tonight, and Paxton going tomorrow.  Here’s to hoping he won’t take it easy on his Canadian brethren.

The 2017 Mariners Have Still Never Been Over .500

That was as unlucky of a 2-1 defeat as you’ll ever see.  Down 1-0 on a solo homer in the fourth, Christian Bergman was working around a moderate jam in the fifth.  With two outs, he got Joe Mauer to bounce one to second base.  At the time, you could’ve made an argument that they would’ve given Bergman a shot at going six innings in this one.  But, not so fast, because the ball booted off the heel of Robinson Cano’s glove to put runners at the corners.  The lead runner was past third base enough for the M’s to potentially have a shot at picking him off, but Cano couldn’t get a clean grip on the ball.  By the time he did, it was too late and he should’ve eaten it.  Instead, he tried to rush the ball to third, saw it skip past Kyle Seager, allowing the runner to turn around and score.

Two errors, one play, by a guy who had one error all season.

In the bottom of the fifth, Jarrod Dyson led off with a triple.  One out and a Boog Powell walk later, Ben Gamel hit a sac fly to score Dyson.  Guillermo Heredia hit a single to right to put runners on the corners, which brought up Robbie with a chance to atone for his sins in the top half of the inning.  He hit a screaming liner to center that looked like it was going to score the go-ahead runs for the Mariners, but Byron Buxton made a crazy leaping catch to end the inning.

There’s probably only a small handful of guys who are able to track that ball and make that catch.

The bullpens kept the game the same on into the bottom of the eighth, with the heart of the order coming up.  Cano and Seager singled to put runners at first and second; with one out, the hero of the previous night – Mike Zunino – stepped to the plate.  He didn’t have a particularly good game in this one heading into the at bat, but all of that would’ve changed had he gotten ahold of one.  On a 1-0 pitch, Zunino smashed a liner right at the pitcher that almost certainly would’ve scored the tying run.  But, he hit it right into the pitcher’s glove, who was able to easily double off Cano at second to end the threat.

There would be no blown save for Minnesota’s closer on this night, as he came into the ninth and went 1-2-3.

What can you do, you know?  The confluence of events to get that game to go in Minnesota’s favor was pretty astounding.  Bergman once again pitched good enough to keep the Mariners in the ballgame (funny how he rarely seems to have Gallardo’s problem of The Big Inning, but that’s neither here nor there) and the bullpen pitched good enough to give the Mariners the win.  Four shutout innings by Pazos, Cishek, Scrabble, and Altavilla.

Offensively, we’re talking about 0 for 7 with RISP, which obviously won’t get the job done on many nights.  The Mariners will try again to get back to .500 (and maybe over .500) against the Blue Jays this weekend.  Sam Gaviglio goes tonight, which is cause for concern.  The fact that the Blue Jays have practically everyone back and healthy is another cause for concern, considering they were pretty beaten down by injuries the last time we played them last month, and they still managed to sweep the M’s in a 4-game series.  On top of all of that, we have to deal with a park full of insufferable Blue Jays fans.  Part of me wants to go to Safeco this weekend and mix it up, but the rest of me knows the Mariners are just going to lose anyway, because we always fucking lose to Toronto.

On a minor positive note, both Drew Smyly and Hisashi Iwakuma threw off of a mound yesterday.  It’s not much, but it’s an important next step.  Also, Mitch Haniger had a good game down in Tacoma, drawing the game-winning walk.  And, word around the team is that Nelson Cruz should be back tonight, but we’ll see.

Mike Zunino Walked ‘Em Off

It didn’t look promising for a while there.  Yovani Gallardo – in spite of getting through 7 innings – still had that One Big Inning, where he gave up 4 in the fifth (including a 3-run home run to help gag away the lead).  The Mariners were able to hit a couple solo homers in the third to take a temporary 2-1 lead, and eventually got to within 5-4 after the sixth, but the Twins’ bullpen was able to hold that narrow margin into the bottom of the ninth.

The Twins brought out their closer, Brandon Kintzler, who had as good lookin’ a sinker as I’ve seen in a while.  He was keeping the ball down, plus he had late downward movement on top of that to really get guys to roll over on it.  Seager grounded out to second base to lead off the ninth, and my heart sunk.  Motter grounded out to short stop and I said to myself, “This is over!  The Mariners are meat right now!”  I mean, we’ve seen this team and how it performs when sinkerballers are able to pound the bottom of the strikezone; it’s not pretty.

Then, Ben Gamel came up and chopped a single up the middle.  It looked like it was slow enough to be playable, but fortunately the Twins weren’t lined up in a way to make a play defensively.  That brought Mike Zunino to the plate, and a little tickle went off in my brain.

He had one of those solo homers back in the third (the other belonged to Chooch Ruiz, who was our DH as Nelson Cruz rests his bum calf).  He’s also been on a tear the last 8 games, since the start of that first Colorado series:  going 14 for 30 with 4 doubles and now 3 homers with his game-winning bomb to center last night.  He took a pitch on the outer half and bashed it the other way; it was a sight to behold and literally had me jumping out of my chair!

I mean, check it, in his last 8 games vs. the other 29 games he’s played in this year, Zunino has 14 of his 27 total hits, 4 of his 9 total doubles, 3 of his 4 total homers (all 4 homers have come since his call-up from Tacoma, about a week before that Colorado series), and 14 of his 17 total RBI.  His batting average has jumped 81 points and his slugging has gone up 168 points.  He’s been a completely different player, is what I’m getting at, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Obviously, we can’t just clap our hands and pronounce him cured, but a hot streak is better than nothing (which is what we were getting from him before he was sent down).  You can’t help but feel great for him.  He always puts in so much work on his game, he’s got all the potential in the world, and his career has been so maligned that he really deserves to have the success he’s having.

Also, not for nothing, but the Mariners deserved this win.  I know things have been pretty cushy lately – this puts them at 9 wins in their last 10 games, to bring them back to .500 at 30-30 – but this season has been an emotional drain for most of the first two months.  For most of these wins in this current hot streak, the Mariners have been about as complete as you can be:  good pitching, great hitting, solid defense, just beating teams into submission in every facet of the game.  Well, last night, the pitching wasn’t so hot, and the hitting wasn’t much to speak about (3 hits and 4 runs heading into the ninth inning), but with two outs and the game seemingly in the bag for the Twins, the Mariners were able to pull a little magic out of their asses.  It’s nice to see.

Bergman gets the start tonight to try to steal another sweep, then Toronto and all the Blue Jays fans come to town for the weekend.

The Mariners Chopped The Twins Up With An Axe

It was a 12-3 win for the Mariners that was about 95% impressive hitting performance and 5% solid pitching.  12 runs on 12 hits and 5 walks, 7 for 12 with RISP; homers from Cano and Seager, doubles from Valencia and Seager.  Heredia had 2 hits and 2 runs scored; Valencia had a bases-clearing 3-run double; Cano had 3 RBI and 3 runs scored; Seager had 4 RBI; Motter had a couple of hits and a really impressive sac fly.  Just about everyone had a say in this, and the best part is that the Mariners racked up all their runs by the fourth inning, so it was a nice, relaxing coast to the finish line.

James Paxton was rock solid through the first three innings, but as the Mariners offense did their thing, leaving Paxton with longer and longer between-innings breaks, he got tripped up.  He ended up going 5 innings, giving up 3 runs to get the win, but as I alluded to before, not a start to write home about.

Zych, Altavilla, and Vincent combined to go the final four innings, keeping the Twins off the board, which is all you could really ask for.  The best part of this game, honestly, is how the Mariners forced them into using 5 relievers of their own.  Here’s to hoping that sets things up poorly for them these next two games.

Nelson Cruz was pulled from this one pretty early with a tight calf – the same one that’s been nagging him for a while now.  Considering the Mariners had amassed such a powerful lead, it didn’t bite us in the ass, but here’s to hoping he’s able to come back tonight.

The M’s are now 29-30, which is pretty great, all things considered.  They’re 13 games behind the Astros – who are keeping pace with the 2001 Mariners of all teams, for Christ’s sake – but they’re just 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot.  Remember when they were down around the Royals for last in the American League?  Now there are only two teams between us and the Baltimore Orioles.  Thankfully, like last year, the A.L. East has a lot of good teams, which means they should spend the majority of the season beating up on one another.  You gotta figure one of those teams will take the brunt of the pounding, opening up that second Wild Card for a plucky little team from the Central or West.  Why not us, right?

Well, Felix made his first rehab start in Tacoma last night and got pounded in his two innings of work.  So … that’s neat.  Mitch Haniger also DH’d for the first time in Tacoma and went 1 for 4 with a run scored.

In further good news, Jean Segura is improving by leaps and bounds.  He might start doing baseball-like things in the next week or so!  On top of that, there were reports all over Twitter last night that Segura is going to sign a 5-year, $70 million deal (effectively buying out his final Arb year next year), with a possible sixth option year for $17 million.  Given the way contracts go in baseball, that’s a VERY reasonable figure for a guy with his skillset.  So much for the idea of selling at the trade deadline, I guess.

Paxton’s Return Is A Sight For Sore Eyes

How crazy is it that James Paxton didn’t totally have it last night – his first Major League game since May 2nd – and he still managed 5.1 innings of 3-hit shutout ball?  How crazy is it that James Paxton has thrown shutout ball in 5 of his 7 starts this season?  This guy is unbelievable!  Now please, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, stay healthy the rest of the season!

In winning four in a row to close out the month, the Mariners managed to go 14-14 in May.  They’re a game up on the A’s and only THIRD-worst in the American League.  They’re also, not for nothing, 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, because say what you will about teams like the Astros and Yankees running away with things, but all these teams contending for the second Wild Card spot are PRETTY mediocre.

Now we settle into what appears to be – on paper – a very enjoyable month of June.  19 out of 27 games at home, 3 total off days (including 2 in the middle of long homestands), only have to go as far east as Minnesota, only three games (at home) against the unstoppable Astros, no stupid games in National League parks, the luxury of two more games against the hapless Philadelphia Phillies.  I mean, I could go on and on, but this month should be a delight!

So, you know, watch the Mariners muck it up somehow.

10 more hits for the offense last night, but only 3 for 11 with RISP.  Nevertheless, the Mariners jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the second, and were able to tack on a couple more as the game went on; none of the runs attributed to homers, which is nice.  It’s nice that the Mariners can score in bunches and don’t just have to rely on the long ball.  Seager, Valencia, and Zunino each had two hits apiece (Valencia with 2 RBI to boot); Ben Gamel had a hit and a couple more RBI; Cruz, Segura, and Dyson all got in on the action as well.

Is it a coincidence that the Mariners have won four in a row, and the bullpen has been fantastic in that span?  Absolutely not!

  • Shutout in Boston:  2 innings by Pazos, Vincent, and Diaz
  • 6-5 win in Colorado:  4 shutout innings by Pazos, Zych, Vincent, Scrabble, Altavilla, and Diaz
  • 10-4 win in Colorado:  4 innings, 2 runs by Lawrence, Zych, Scrabble, and Altavilla
  • Shutout in Seattle last night:  3.2 innings by Cishek, Pazos, and Vincent

We’re going to need to see the bullpen continue to do this, pretty much for the rest of the season and not in these temporary bursts, but at least we’re starting to see something from these guys.  The next step, of course, is to get more consistent performances from our starters, to take some of the pressure off of them.

Particular kudos to Steve Cishek last night for getting out of that jam in the 6th without giving up any of his inherited runners.  I’d LOVE to see more of that going forward as well.

Today, we go for the sweep, with Gallardo on the mound.  I wish I could say I have even a little bit of confidence in him getting the job done, but all I can think about is how happy I am that this is a weekday afternoon game so I don’t have to subject my eyes to this nonsense.

The Mariners Salvaged A 4-4 Road Trip

And in doing so, they got through a left-handed starter!

After their season’s offensive nadir – back-to-back shutout losses in Boston – the Mariners started hitting again.  They had 16 hits in the finale against the Red Sox, and 10 more hits against the Rockies the next day, but they only had a combined 11 runs to show for it.  It was only a matter of time before their hitting with RISP turned around, and indeed that day was yesterday.  19 hits and 10 runs against the Rockies, while going 6 for 15 with RISP, in a 10-4 victory.

Segura had 4 hits; Cano had 2 hits, 2 runs, and an RBI; Gamel had 3 hits in relief of Nelson Cruz – who left early in the game with a strained calf – Heredia had 3 hits; Zunino had 2 hits.  But, the star of the show was Kyle Seager:  3 for 5 with a double, a homer, 3 runs scored and 4 RBI.  I wouldn’t say Seager is explosively hot right now, but he’s got 5 doubles over the last week, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him really start to pour it on heading into June.

Ariel Miranda was rolling through 4 innings, gave up a couple runs in the 5th, and was pulled after that for a pinch hitter (because stupid National League rules).  The bullpen really did a fine job, though.  Casey Lawrence ate up 2.2 innings, giving up just the 1 run.  Scrabble was able to get us out of a mini-jam in the 8th, when this thing still could’ve gone sideways, and Altavilla got through the ninth after the Mariners padded their lead beyond the need for their closer.

I don’t have a lot to add, other than James Paxton returns tonight.  Like Blowers mentioned on the broadcast last night, I too would expect Paxton to be on a bit of a limited pitch count.  Ryne Harper was sent back to Tacoma without making an appearance, which is really a good news/bad news situation (bad news for him, anyway, as I’m sure he would’ve loved to have made his Major League debut).  If the Mariners can win tonight, they will salvage a 14-14 month of May, which again is another baby step in the right direction.  Considering the Mariners went 4-12 in the middle part of the month, that’s a nice turnaround.

The post below this talks about why the Mariners probably won’t be huge sellers at the deadline, so feel free to dig into that one if you need more to read.