The Mariners Stop The Bleeding

Of course, there’s more than one way to stop the bleeding.  For instance, there’s physically running out of blood!

The Mariners got the W, though.  That’s all that matters, I guess.  Before the game, a number of moves were made:

  • Andrew Albers was called up
  • Sam Gaviglio was called up
  • Casey Lawrence was sent to Tacoma
  • Thyago Vieira was sent to Tacoma
  • Christian Bergman was DFA’d

Albers we knew would be our starter last night.  Lawrence we had a pretty good idea would be going back down, since he pitched 4 innings the night before, and Servais is on record as saying the Seattle-Tacoma shuttle is going to be in full effect for the rest of August.  Vieira was also used the night before, and was really only up here for depth until we needed to activate Albers.  Gaviglio makes as much sense as anyone to come back to Seattle.  He can start, if the team feels like making a move (*cough* GALLARDO *cough*), or he can slide into a long relief role, which is probably what will happen.  As for Bergman, we needed room on the 40-man for Albers, and if I’m not mistaken, we were able to DFA Bergman earlier this season and still retain him in Tacoma.  I can’t imagine the market for a pitcher like Bergman is very big, unless Jerry Dipoto has a twin brother who is also a Major League GM.

Albers looked good!  Kind of a shock to the system, but that’ll happen when you’ve done nothing but throw shit against the wall for the last week trying to see what’ll stick.  5 innings, 6 hits, 1 walk, 1 run, 4 strikeouts.  The run was of the solo homer variety, but it’s not like we haven’t seen that before, from everyone else in this God-foresaken rotation.  I’ll hold back on making any grand sweeping statements of positivity until I see him make a second start in a Mariners uniform, if it’s all the same to you.

At 3-1, this was the rare Mariners victory where the good guys scored less than 4 runs.  The Mariners are now 60-61 on the season; this is only the FIFTH time the Mariners have won a game while scoring less than 4 runs, which is simply astonishing, yet it also explains literally everything about this year.  In fact, 5-42 is the Mariners’ record when scoring less than 4 runs, which means they’re 55-19 (.743) when they score 4 runs or more.  Holy mother of God.

Segura & Heredia get some kudos for having 2 hits apiece at the top of the lineup.  Cano and Cruz had an RBI apiece, which is nice considering Seager was out with an illness.

The lion’s share of the kudos go to the bullpen, though.  Emilio Pagan relieved Albers and went two very strong shutout innings, striking out 4.  Scrabble and Vincent combined to lock down the eighth, and Diaz got his 26th save.  Now that’s more like it!

The victory, combined with losses for all the teams ahead of the Mariners for the second Wild Card spot, means we’re back to 1.5 games back.  It won’t mean much if the Mariners can’t keep it up.  Winning this afternoon would be a good start.  After that, it’s an off-day, followed by a 2-week East Coast trip to Tampa, Atlanta, New York (Yankees), and Baltimore.

Maybe it’s best for the M’s to get out of town for a while.  If they’re going to totally implode, might as well be away from the booing onslaught of the hometown crowd at Safeco Field.  Then, when they get back and it’s officially football season, we’ll all resume not giving a shit.

Baseball!  Catch the excitement!

Remember This Day: The Mariners Are Alone In The Second Wild Card Spot

Remember it, because it probably won’t last.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, because I know the other shoe is about to drop, but this is unbelievably exciting.  The Mariners took down the A’s 6-3 yesterday to complete the 2-game sweep – a feat that should be appreciated with a golf clap rather than hyperbolic sycophantism, because given how terrible the A’s are now, that’s something the Mariners absolutely SHOULD HAVE accomplished – while the Royals and Rays both lost to fall a game behind the Mighty Mariners!

This might very well be the zenith of the Mariners’ season.  3 games over .500 for the first time all year.  All alone in that aforementioned second Wild Card spot.  Just completed a 6-3 road trip to get to within 2 games of .500 on the road on the season.  Heading back to Seattle for the only week’s worth of home games in August, with Paxton on the mound tonight followed by Edgar Martinez Weekend.  If this isn’t as good as it gets, then get the hell away from me because I must be dreaming and I don’t want to wake up!

It all started yesterday afternoon.  Kyle “Corey’s Brother” Seager jacked a 3-run homer in the first to get things going.  Then, Nelson Cruz followed with a 2-run homer in the third and a solo homer in the fifth.  Not for nothing, but Seager has climbed up to 17 homers on the season, 7 of them since the All Star Break.  And Cruz is up to 26 homers, 9 of them since the All Star Break.  Not a moment too soon for either of those guys to get hot, I tell you what.

Staked to 6 runs, what did the Mariners get out of Yovani Gallardo?  More of his same putrid bullshit.  He gave up some mighty solo homers in the first and third to keep the A’s in it, then started to give up a lot of hard-hit contact in the fifth.  A single, followed by a liner that was only caught at the wall because Ben Gamel is literally Superman, followed by a run-scoring double and that was the end of his day.  Luckily, Emilio Pagan bailed him out, as well as the rest of the Mariners, keeping the damage to just what Gallardo gave up.  Pagan went 2.2 innings of 1-hit shutout ball to record the victory.

You know, it’s pretty fucking sad when a guy given six runs of support from his offense can’t even qualify for the fucking win.  It’s 5 innings!  That’s all you have to do!  And Gallardo couldn’t even do that, against the fucking A’s of all teams.  What. A. Piece. Of. Shit.  He does all this good in the bullpen, enough to get his starting job back, and this is what he’s able to manage.  Fucking pathetic.

From there, Tony Zych was able to lock down the eighth, and Edwin Diaz was able to lock down the ninth for his 25th save.  Somewhere out there, some fantasy baseball player got a really good deal on Edwin Diaz right before the All Star Break, and that person has been rewarded with 12 saves against only 1 blown save in a little under 4 weeks.  Simply outstanding!

It’s pretty easy to get excited about this team right now, especially with James Paxton on the mound tonight against the Angels, but again we’re talking about everything riding on this start.  Because have you seen the fucking duds we’ve got going over the weekend?  Marco Gonzales, Erasmo Ramirez, and Ariel Miranda, in that order.  If we don’t win the Paxton start, again, I think you can kiss this series goodbye, as well as our lead in the Wild Card and everything else.

If Paxton wins, MAYBE you could envision the Mariners’ offense jumping all over the Angels on Friday or Saturday (while getting just enough out of our starter before pulling him after 5 innings), with an outside chance of Miranda having a quality bounce-back start on Sunday and taking 3 of 4.  But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we need Paxton to come through to make any of our dreams a reality.

I was going through the schedule the rest of the way, picking out the Paxton starts assuming nothing changes and we continue with the 5-man rotation.  I made the argument that if you moved Paxton around in the rotation, pitching him strictly every 5th DAY instead of every 5th game, you could get an extra start out of him, while at the same time slotting him into either pitching the final game of the regular season, or (if we’ve clinched), setting him up for the Wild Card game.  Whereas, if you just pitch him every fifth game as anticipated, he ends up missing a lot of important series against difficult teams, and may not be ready until the ALDS (if we get that far).

My argument is:  you need to maximize James Paxton as much as humanly possible, since he’s your only good starter.  Getting 1 more Paxton start, on what’s ostensibly regular rest (I’m not going crazy here and suggesting he pitch every fourth day or something), could make all the difference in what’s looking like a Wild Card race that’s destined to go down to the wire.

And I understand the arguments against it.  He’s pretty injury prone, so do you want to risk blowing up his arm in this all-important season?  Baseball is a slog!  It’s a marathon, not a sprint; but it’s also just a fucking slog through the muck for six straight months.  It’s punishing.  It’s obscene, really, how long it is, and the fact that they have to play everyday, sometimes going three full weeks without a day off.

But, I mean, do you want this or not?  The Mariners almost certainly won’t do it, because you’re not managing a fantasy baseball roster, you’re managing human beings with feelings and egos and you can’t just single out one starter like that without alienating the rest of the rotation (as shitty as those other guys may be).  But, I thought the motto was “Whatever It Takes”!  Seems to me, guys are going to have to swallow some pride if we want to get this done.  Just ask Danny Valencia, who was benched because the Mariners were scheduled to face a bunch of right-handed starting pitchers in a row.

That’s my two cents anyway.  The way this season is going, Paxton will probably blow out his arm tonight and the point will be moo.  You know, a cow’s opinion.  The single greatest line from the TV show Friends in its illustrious 10-season run.

My other two cents, before things completely fall apart, is that I agree with Mike Salk and Softy (among other local radio personalities, presumably) that Scott Servais should ABSOLUTELY be in the running for Manager of the Year.  I mean, I know nobody cares about those awards, and most people who vote for them are just checking the box of the team with the best record without giving it more than 2 seconds of thought, so, you know, bank on the guy who manages the Astros to win it this year.  But, has anyone done more with less than Scott Servais?  Has anyone had to juggle a pitching staff with so many injuries?  The answer is no, obviously, the Mariners have had the most snakebitten pitching staff in the history of baseball.  But, he’s got this team in contention by playing that rotation like a fiddle.  Sometimes, guys just have bad games and they have to wear it.  But, more often than not, he’s pulling starters at just the right time, squeezing as much as he can out of them before going to the bullpen.  And, for the most part, I’ve liked his bullpen decisions.  He’ll have a brain fart here and there, but who doesn’t?  I’ve honestly been REALLY impressed by how little I’ve complained about his bullpen usage.  Even when it doesn’t work out, I can almost always understand the rationale behind the move.  It’s refreshing, really, after Lloyd McClendon and some of the other doofus managers we’ve had here in recent years.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got today.  Voters, give Scott a chance!

The Mariners’ Big, Weird Weekend

It started Friday night, which I alluded to in my last post:  Paxton leading the way to victory.  Considering we blew the game on Thursday, this one was a Must Win.  But, then again, pretty much every single Paxton start from here on out is a Must Win.  It was true before Felix went back on the DL with bicep tightness, and it’s even MORE true now.

So, yeah, that sucks about Felix.  It also sucks because we never bothered to go out and trade for a proper rotation arm, but here we go, let’s have a look at the two losers we brought in.

Saturday’s game was rained out, which I understand was quite the ordeal.  I spent Saturday afternoon at the Beer & Tater Tots festival in Beacon Hill, followed by Saturday evening drinking more beer and playing some Texas Hold ‘Em with my dad, so I’d say I really wasn’t missing the Mariners too much.

On the fun side, that meant a Sunday Double Header.  Marco Gonzales got the start in Felix’s spot, and frankly, I wasn’t impressed.  Of course, I fully expected to NOT be impressed, so it all ended up as I’d figured.  The Mariners, thankfully, jumped out to a huge 7-0 lead in the first two innings, thanks to a Valencia 2-run homer, a Seager solo homer, a wild pitch scoring a runner from second base, and a Cruz 3-run homer.  Gonzales got through 4 innings, giving up just the 2 runs, but then he let the first three runners on in the fifth inning before being pulled, and all three of those guys ended up scoring.  4 innings, 5 earned runs, a fastball around 91 mph, a change up that looked okay, but ultimately a guy who is going to get bashed around pretty good each and every time he makes a mistake.  Fucking brilliant.

From there, the bullpen had to work overtime.  Pazos got out of the fifth just giving up the Gonzales runners.  Zych worked a clean sixth.  David Phelps got one out in the seventh before leaving with an arm injury.  He’s headed back to Seattle to see what’s wrong exactly, but word is he hasn’t felt quite right the last few outings.  Then, I proceeded to mock the Mariners for trading Steve Cishek for Erasmo Fucking Ramirez (what’s that?  you traded from a position of quote-unquote STRENGTH?  uh huh).  Pagan and Scrabble were able to work their way out of the seventh inning, which took us to Nick Vincent’s wild adventure in the eighth.  Luckily Cruz hit his second homer of the day in the top of the seventh to give the Mariners 8 runs, because Vincent gave up a 2-run homer to make the game 8-7.  He proceeded to get out of the jam with the lead intact, and thankfully Edwin Diaz is still en fuego, so he was able to lock down his 23rd save of the season.

The victory secured at least a series tie, and from the looks of the second game of the doubleheader, the Mariners were happy to just get out of there with the split.

Erasmo Ramirez followed up his previous garbage start with one that was even worse.  5 innings, 5 runs, including 3 homers.  The M’s could only muster 1 run on 4 hits, so the rest of the game was handed over to our loser relievers Casey Lawrence and Cody Martin.  Martin gave up the other 4 runs in this 9-1 debacle.  The only good thing you could say about this one is that it was over after 2 hours and 39 minutes.

The Mariners have an off-day today, thank Christ, followed by a mini 2-game set in Oakland before a week’s worth of games at home (the only home games all month).

At the start of the day on Sunday, the Mariners also made a couple post-July trades.  The first one was for Yonder Alonso, a first baseman and an All Star this year.  He has 17 doubles and 22 homers in what has been a breakout season for the veteran, from a power perspective.  As he bats left-handed, he figures to go into a time-share with Danny Valencia.  I don’t know if I saw first base as a HUGE area of need for this team (it’s not like it’s Starting Pitcher or anything), but if Alonso can give us an offensive boost, I’m all for it.  I appreciate the fact that Valencia has given us the back of his baseball card as far as his production this year – in other words, he didn’t fall off a cliff as soon as he became a Mariner; he’s essentially been what he’s been the last two years, which is fine – but I think it’s pretty clear this team could use a little more out of its offense, what with the struggles our pitching staff has given us.  In a way, it’s easier to just pump up the bats even more than to go out and find a competent starting pitcher, so that’s what the M’s have done.

In exchange, the A’s get Boog Powell, so no big loss.  It’s unfortunate that Yonder Alonso is only on a 1-year deal, but if he likes it here and we like him, I don’t see why we couldn’t re-sign him to a modest 3-year deal at the end of the year.

The other move was for some AAA guys.  Ryan Garton is a relief pitcher who was sort of okay in 2016 (his first year in the Bigs), but has been pretty dreadful in 2017 in 7 games.  He’s been putting up some fantastic AAA numbers the last couple years, so obviously there’s something there.  I wonder how long he’ll be in Tacoma, what with this David Phelps injury hanging over us.  The other guy the Mariners brought in from this trade with the Rays is Mike Marjama.  He’s yet to crack the Majors, but in his first year in AAA this year, he’s doing pretty well.  He looks like an upgrade over Tuffy Gosewisch – who was waived to make room on the 40-man – so that’s not so bad.  The Mariners gave up 2 low-minor league guys and a player to be named later, so we won’t know if we’ve screwed ourselves over for at least a few years.

All in all, a real mixed bag of a weekend, in what’s been a real mixed bag of a season.  The pull of the impending football season grows ever stronger.

Seattle Mariners – Situation Unchanged: Still Fucked Up

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we’ve gone into a series – both this year and in the last decade plus – where we explicitly stated this would be the “most important series” of the year.  The turning point, if you will.  Obviously, there’s a little bit of hyperbole mixed in there, as there seems to be four or five “most important series” throughout any given season, but there we were heading into yesterday, 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, in a 4-game series against the very team who HAS that second Wild Card spot.  Tell me a series that’s been bigger than this one so far this year!  There may still be bigger series ahead, but we’re in the here and now, and the Royals got to get got!

So, yeah, of course, run Yovani Sighardo out there (5 innings, 3 runs, couldn’t get a single out in the sixth before being pulled at 84 pitches), have him give up leads in back-to-back innings, and then fuck it all away in relief.  Kyle Seager, while he hit a pretty meaningless solo homer, managed to go 0 for 2 with RISP a day after probably his worst offensive game of the year.  Mike Zunino is in another huge fucking slump and looks lost at the plate again.  Jean Segura and Ben Gamel are slowly frittering away their awesome numbers.  And, here we are, in a 1-game hole with three games to go.

I mean, what can you say that hasn’t already been said?  Just when you think MAYBE Gallardo has things all figured out for just one game, NOPE!  Instead of giving up all his runs in the first inning and then “settling down”, he started the game “cruising along” before hitting a bumpy patch or whatever the fuck euphemism you want to slap on his game.  Somehow, he always seems to do “pretty good” except for one bad inning or some shit.

But, I’m putting this one on the offense.  They really need to get their shit together and start picking this team up.  Not once in a while, not after breakfast, NOW!  And every game after that!

This loss sucks even more dick, because it puts impossible pressure on the next two days.  James Paxton absolutely HAS to have a dominating effort tonight.  You’d think that’d be simple enough, but it’s not July anymore.  I know calendar months are arbitrary units of measurement when it comes to a baseball season, but I’ve also been following the Mariners for 20+ years (God damn, has it really been THAT long?), and it always seems like guys will be hot for exactly one month, and then the calendar page flips and they revert back to whatever nonsense they were before.  Which, in this case, you’d have to think would still be pretty good, but we don’t know how he’s going to look tonight.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the Royals bashed him around but good.

That leaves the weekend half of the series with Felix and Erasmo.  If Paxton wins, fine, maybe you can hope for a split, but that’s still relying on the likes of Felix and Erasmo.  If Paxton LOSES, then guess what?  Say hello to a series sweep and another week of bitching about how these Mariners can fucking eat my ass cheese.

Have I told you how much I hate baseball?

You Can’t Win ‘Em All, Mariners

I guess it’s only natural to want a little more.  When things have been going so well, you’re on a nice little tear since the All Star Break, and you win the first two games in the series down in Texas, you hope to get over that hump and get the sweep!  Boy, a sweep would’ve been nice heading into the series in Kansas City.  Of course, at this point, wins are the most precious things we have; the Mariners need as many as they can get.

But, you’re not going to win too many games when you go 1 for 9 with RISP, and leave 9 runners on base.  I know Ariel Miranda gave up a whopping 3 homers, and 5 runs total in his 5.2 innings of work, but I think I have to blame Kyle Seager just as much for this loss.  Why single out one batter?  Well, the other two studs on this team – Cano & Cruz – got on base a combined 6 times.  If Seager had only shown up to play in this one – in a stadium he usually does well in – the Mariners almost certainly would’ve scored more than 1 run, and could’ve made a game out of it.

In the top of the first, with Andrew Cashner teetering, having already given up 1 run, with 2 more on and only 1 out, Seager lined out to center to help take him off the hook.  Then, in the top of the third, with two more on and two out, Seager lined out to left field to once again let him off the hook.  Finally, in the top of the eighth, with two on and nobody out, Seager lined out to center again.  If any of those line outs were homers, the Mariners would’ve been within 1 run.  If Seager has a night to remember, maybe the Mariners win that game.  I know there were other hitters with other chances to bring home runs, but those guys aren’t currently in the middle of a $100 million contract.  Not that I’m knocking it or anything, but I think it’s reasonable to expect more out of your $100 million guys.

Anyway, I checked out of this one after it was 5-1 and they had the rain delay.  Obviously, the offense was held in check the rest of the way.  On the plus side, they’ve got a bunch of old episodes of Cheers on Netflix, and I got to bed at my regular time.

I dunno, I should probably say something about Ariel Miranda, but he is who he is.  He came into this year as the team’s sixth starter, and that’s about what he is.  He’s definitely cooled off from that run he was on earlier this year, and sort of settled into this Whatever he’s become.  At least he’s still better than Wade Miley.

The Mariners will have Yovani Gallardo take the mound tonight and try to avoid falling right back to .500.  Then, it’s Paxton, Felix, and Erasmo the rest of the weekend, as the M’s try to overtake the Royals for the second Wild Card.  A 4-game sweep should almost certainly get the job done.  A 3-1 series win will put us right in the thick of it, percentagewise.  A 2-2 tie and we’re kissing our sister.  Anything worse than that is incest, and you know how I feel about that.

The Mariners Impressed With Another Win Against The Rangers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Seattle Mariners – Situation Normal: All Fucked Up

Yovani Gallardo returned to the rotation yesterday, giving up 3 solo homers across 5 innings.  Yet, in spite of his very Gallardo-like start, he left the game with a 4-3 lead, thanks to the Mariners finally doing some damage against a Yankees starter.  That lead wouldn’t last much longer, as the bullpen – led by falling star James Pazos – gave up 3 runs in the sixth inning.

James Pazos has been quietly wretched for the last month.  Over his last 9 appearances, he’s given up 13 runs (10 earned) in 6.0 innings.  Obviously, the defense let him down in a couple of those games, but for the most part he’s been terrible, getting knocked around the park.  I haven’t been watching him that closely, so I don’t know if he’s falling into hitter’s counts, or if they’re just jumping on him early, but either way I think it’s time that he starts to work through some of this in Tacoma, because he’s not doing us any favors up in Seattle right now.

One bright spot was another 3 shutout innings from Emilio Pagan to spare the rest of the bullpen.  He has been absolutely fantastic since his atrocious first two appearances back in early May and it looks like he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

The big hullabaloo out of this game happened in the ninth inning, against closer Aroldis Chapman.  Nelson Cruz smashed an infield single off the pitcher to lead off the inning, and was replaced by pinch runner Taylor Motter.  Motter proceeded to immediately get picked off in just the worst, most lackadaisical way possible.  Considering he’s been pretty awful since the league stopped feeding him fastballs on the inner half of the plate (and he’s never been able to adjust accordingly), during the game the Mariners signed utility infielder Danny Espinosa, which means Motter will be Tacoma-bound.  As such, his getting picked off wasn’t necessarily the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it was a pretty inauspicious way to close out his tenure with the Big League club (at least, for the time being).

On top of that, with the way things shook out in the ninth, he cost us at least 1 run, and really changed the complexion of the inning.  At worst, with Seager’s double, we would’ve had runners on 2nd & 3rd with no outs, which would’ve preceeded a run-scoring wild pitch.  Of course, as it stands, we still had a runner on third with one out and couldn’t get him home, so maybe it wouldn’t have mattered at all.  The point is, you want to see how guys react when confronted with such adversity, and Motter really let him off the hook.

Par for the course, though, if you’ve been following these Mariners.  Their baserunning blunders are commonplace at this point; they did not leave with the trading away of Ketel Marte.  Considering how veteran this team is, it’s VERY discouraging to see them make so many unforced errors, but what can you do?

That makes 3 of 4 lost to the Yankees, with the Red Sox coming to town for three games.  And, don’t look now, but that’s Chris Sale going against Andrew Moore on Wednesday, meaning these first two games are practically Must Wins.  Great.

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.