Mariners Hang On To Win Again In Tampa

I wouldn’t call it a bounceback performance out of Ariel Miranda, but 5 innings and 3 runs is somewhat acceptable, if less than ideal.

The Mariners blasted into this game on a Mitch Haniger grand slam, fresh off the DL – replacing Jarrod Dyson’s groin injury – and continued piling on the very next inning with an Alonso RBI single and a Cruz 2-run homer.  7 runs by the fourth inning, and the M’s made it stick.

Miranda pitched into the sixth inning, when he gave up his third run, then was replaced by Emilio Pagan, who gave up a 2-run home run of his own.  Scrabble, Zych, and Vincent got the game into the ninth at 7-5, where Edwin Diaz gave up a solo homer to LoMo of all people, but was able to shut it down from there.

Great job all around.  Finale this morning.  Let’s sweep ’em boys!

Mariners Beat Orioles To Take The Series

Well, a disaster of a homestand comes to an end.  On the Glass Is Half Full side of things, you can give the team props for beating the Orioles in the 3-game series.  But, the fact of the matter is, the Mariners went 2-5.  There’s no sugarcoating that.  They were swept by the Angels in a 4-game series and that’s the overwhelming takeaway from this homestand.

But, you know, it’s not like the Angels are really all that great.  They’re 1.5 games ahead of the Mariners right now, but I don’t get the sense that they’ll be running away with anything.  We play them 6 more times this year, in September, and hopefully by that point we’ll have some more help in the rotation.

As for yesterday’s game, what a wild affair!

I was at work, so I had to listen to most of it on the radio.  It started off pretty rough as the Mariners gave up yet ANOTHER leadoff homer in the first.  But, Marco Gonzales was able to settle down, as is the case sometimes with these 5th starter types.  The M’s were able to tie the game up on a Heredia double, then took the lead the very next inning on Yonder Alonso’s first homer as a Mariner (a 2-run job to take a 3-1 lead).

Then, the fifth inning rolled around, and like clockwork, Marco Gonzales turned back into a pumpkin.  Strike Out-Single-Single-Wild Pitch-Triple-Single-Single and that was it.  A 3-1 lead turned into a 4-3 deficit and Tony Zych was required to come in and clean up the mess.

Thankfully, he limited the damage to just that with a couple of fielder’s choices, then got through the sixth inning scoreless as well.  In the meantime, the Mariners’ offense went right back to work.  They re-took the lead in the bottom of the fifth, with four singles and a HBP to score three runs.  Then, Leonys Martin led off the sixth with a solo shot to make the game 7-4.

Emilio Pagan had the always-impressive scoreless inning on 3 pitches.  Nick Vincent locked down the eighth.  And Edwin Diaz was given a nice, cushiony 3-run lead to start the ninth.

Walk-walk-walk.  Bases loaded, nobody out.  Good grief.  Clearly Diaz didn’t have it, and most certainly should’ve been pulled right there, but, I mean, who do you bring in?  If David Phelps was still around, maybe we could’ve saved Emilio Pagan or Tony Zych for this situation.  But, other than Diaz, we had the two lefties, and I’m not sure Pazos is a guy I would trust with the bases loaded and nobody out with a 3-run lead.  Nevertheless, in the moment, I absolutely would’ve pulled Diaz right then and there.

He forced a liner to right field that Leonys Martin made a FABULOUS play on.  It still scored the runner from third, but it looked like that was going to be the key to saving Diaz’s bacon.  He even looked like he was settling down after that out!  Diaz got the next batter to strike out looking, and there we were, in pretty good shape.

But, that shit was FLEETING!  Diaz had his fastball running way too far inside, and it ultimately hit the next two batters to score another run and re-load the bases (even though on one of them, it looked like the hit batter swung at strike three on a check swing).

At that point, the team had no choice.  It helped that left-handed hitting Chris Davis was up next.  Scrabble pumped two 94 mph fastballs low and inside, then froze him with a third fastball right down the middle of the plate (when he was likely anticipating some sort of bendy pitch).

That was it!  It was exciting and enraging and relieving all at once.  By the time the top of the ninth rolled around I’d made it home, so I got to watch it on TV, and I was pretty sure I was going to have to label myself the Bad Luck Guy for busting up the sure thing.

Anyway, here we are.  The final two weeks of August.  The Mariners have today and the subsequent three Thursdays off, so it’s tough and it’s not.  Yeah, they’re on this huge East Coast swing, but that shouldn’t stop them from emptying out their bullpen whenever they need to salvage a close game.

Obviously, if I had my druthers, I’d have the M’s go 12-0 on this trip.  But, if I’m being more realistic, I’d like to see them win these first two series against the Rays and Braves, to go 4-2; then somehow split the next two series against the Yankees and Orioles to go 3-3.  If 7-5 can be achieved, I think we should all be fucking ecstatic.

That having been said, could I see 8-4 happen?  Only if they sweep the hapless Braves, which I feel should very much be on the table.  Go 2-1 against the Rays & Orioles, 3-0 against the Braves, and just try to fucking go 1-2 against the Yankees, and I believe you’ll see the Mariners back in that second Wild Card spot by the time they get back to Seattle.

Only for them to, you know, completely and totally disappoint us once again.  Because, that’s what they do.  They get our hopes up, and they dash them to bits.

On the flipside, I could also see the Mariners going 4-8 on this trip and completely falling out of the race.  Go 1-2 against both the Rays and Orioles, 0-3 against the Yankees, and still probably go 2-1 against the Braves.

The point is, these two weeks should very well make or break the season.  I remember being in a similar situation last year, where the Mariners were JUST trying to get to September for reinforcements to join the Big League club, and over the last 11 games of August (starting with that final home game against the Brewers, where Tom Wilhelmsen gave up 4 runs in the ninth to blow a 3-run lead), the M’s went 2-9.  They went into that series finale against the Brewers 10 games over .500, and they went into September 1st just 3 games over .500.

Last year’s Mariners also missed the Wild Card by 3 games.

So, yeah, a 2-week period at the end of August absolutely CAN make or break your season.  Will that be the case again this season?  We’ll find out, starting tomorrow afternoon.  Erasmo Ramirez on the hill against the team that just traded him.  I expect the additional adrenaline he’ll experience by facing his old team to have absolutely no impact whatsoever.

Then again, when he was on the Rays, he tended to really stick it to the Mariners, so who knows?

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners’ 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.

Marniers Did A Bunch Of Things I Don’t Like Yesterday

They lost to the Mets, for one.  Ariel Miranda struggled mightily early, then settled down to strike out a career high 10 batters over 6 innings, giving up the 4 runs.  With the offense roaring back in the fifth inning, the Mariners even handed their bullpen a 1-run lead!  But, it wasn’t to be.  Scrabble had one job to do, and failed miserably as the left-handed hitter smashed a homer to right.  Then, David Phelps proceeded to melt down in the very same inning, giving up the go-ahead two runs.  We couldn’t get anything off of their bullpen, and that was that.

Perhaps even more damaging than the loss was the trade the Mariners made:  Steve Cishek for Erasmo Ramirez.  Yes, THAT Erasmo Ramirez.  We traded him away to the Rays for Mike Montgomery a while back when he was out of options, and now he’s back.  He’s been primarily a reliever for the Rays, though he’s spot-started his fair share of games.  He’s been better as a reliever, but he’s still pretty much the same mediocre pitcher we sent away.

And now he’s being handed the keys to a starting rotation spot.  Because Andrew Moore was just demoted back to Tacoma to make room.

Is Erasmo Ramirez better than Andrew Moore?  Or Yovani Gallardo?  Or Sam Gaviglio?  Or any of these other shitty starters we’ve brought in?  Absolutely not.  So, let’s go ahead and dilute our bullpen to bring in another shitty starter!  Oh, wait, I forgot, “trade from a position of STRENGTH”.  Yeah fucking right.  We have a tenuous hold over this bullpen at best, thanks to the starters always getting pulled prematurely; we need as many quality bullpen arms as we can get!

It sounds like this is the last of the deadline deals, and I can only call it an unmitigated disaster for the Seattle Mariners.  Jerry Dipoto has done a lot of good in his short time here, but he really should be ashamed at what little he was able to accomplish in this very important season.  Not getting a Sonny Gray, or another comparable starter to help us in the stretch run, is an absolute failure for this organization.  And trading away Tyler O’Neill is going to be the icing on the cake when he starts tearing shit up in a few years.

Time to shift gears to football season, because there’s nothing to see here with this Mariners team.

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 Finished Sour First Half On Upbeat Note

There’s a lot to like about yesterday’s 4-0 shutout of the A’s to salvage a split of the 4-game series.  Dyson and Ruiz – representing the bottom of the order – got 5 hits, with a run and an RBI combined.  Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run bomb to give him 3 homers in the last week, and 17 on the season.  Robbie Cano hit a double and scored a run.  Felix Hernandez pitched 6 shutout innings, giving up 2 hits, walking 3, and striking out 8.  Vincent and Zych finished a SUPERB first half with a couple scoreless innings.  And, Edwin Diaz bounced back after taking the L on Saturday, striking out 2 in his inning of work.

The win brought the Mariners to 43-47, with 72 games remaining in the second half.  We’re currently 4th in the A.L. West, a game behind both Texas and Anaheim (17.5 games behind the insane Astros).  Yet, we’re only 4 games back in the Wild Card race, right in the middle of the pack (even the worst A.L. team is only 7.5 games back, so it’s not like anyone is really “out of it”).  Once we get through the All Star Break, there will be two and a half weeks of baseball before the July 31st Trade Deadline.  Will the Mariners be buyers, sellers, or nothing?  Well, we’ll see.

Starting this weekend, the M’s go on the road to play the White Sox, where we ALWAYS LOSE.  Then, we face the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox; sissy-boy loser time is over.  Those are some serious opponents the Mariners are going to have to face to try to climb back over .500; if they continue to play like they have these last two weeks, I don’t see a lot of hope for this season (particularly when you consider the brutal stretch of road games in August).

The question we have to ask ourselves is:  can the Mariners do it as is?

I know Jerry Dipoto said he’s going to be listening to what’s out there offered in trades, but we have to assume for now that he won’t be able to get a deal done (otherwise the variables are just too vast; this blog post would be 50,000 words long).  I’m thinking, even if he does get a trade done, it won’t be for some huge piece.  We’re not going to see a Rent-An-Ace situation because A) I don’t believe we have the prospects to bring one to Seattle, B) I don’t think the M’s want to take on that kind of payroll, and C) I don’t think the M’s are in a Win-Now-At-All-Costs mode.  Now, whether they SHOULD be in that mode is another issue; I think they like the core they’ve got, and they think they can compete for years to come with some of the young talent they’ve brought in and developed.  At best, maybe the M’s bring in another under-the-radar reliever to help boost the bullpen, or maybe a solid, veteran, back-of-the-rotation starter to help shore up the rotation.

But, you know, like I said, for the sake of argument let’s hold off on speculating on that until it happens.  Let’s take a look at the roster as it is right now.

I thought Ryan Divish made a good point on the radio last week when he talked about how this pitching staff is holding this team back.  Pretty much, every game (save a dominant Paxton start here and there), you go into it expecting these starters to give up a minimum of 2-3 runs per outing.  That’s on top of whatever happens with the bullpen.  But, it’s like the hitters have to go into every game needing to score 4+ runs to win, and that’s got to be a mental drain after a while.

Yeah, sometimes these hitters look unstoppable; but sometimes these hitters look really bad, and it’s a rare instance where the entire pitching staff is capable of picking them up.

I think we’re all pretty happy with what Paxton has brought to the table this season.  Obviously, it wasn’t helpful that he missed damn near the entire month of May, and that was reflected in his sub-par June, but he’s looked a lot better in the last three starts, so hopefully he can keep that going the rest of the way.  Really, if this team is going to truly contend for a playoff spot, he’s going to NEED to keep this going the rest of the way.  He’s 7-3 with a 3.21 ERA at the break; just give me that (or maybe a little bit better) the rest of the way and I’ll be happy.

I think we’re all justifiably concerned with what we’ve seen from King Felix not just this season, but the last 2-3 years.  He still hasn’t quite morphed into that Pitch To Contact guy he probably needs to be to prolong the prime of his career.  No, the fastball isn’t ideal, but more than that he’s simply missing his spots.  Batters are less likely to chase his stuff out of the zone, and when he comes in for a strike it’s getting clobbered.  It’s taken him until July 9th – against a terrible-hitting A’s team – to finally throw an outing of all zeroes on the scoreboard.  These types of 6- or 7-inning, 0-run games used to be a much more regular occurrence; that one might be the only one we see all year and it wouldn’t shock me!  I just don’t know what to make of the King anymore.  It’s like he knows what he needs to become, but he’s fighting against it (fighting with himself).  At this point, it would be irresponsible to have high expectations for him the rest of the way.  I’m just hoping he can give us what Iwakuma gave us last year (which would be nice, since it looks like Iwakuma is going to be a longshot to return from injury after being shutdown in his rehab multiple times).

Up next, we’ve got Ariel Miranda; who expected him to be the second- or third-best starter in this rotation heading into the season?  At this point in his development, I just want him to continue doing what he’s been doing.  He’s not an Ace, but he’s been healthy and he’s been good more than not; just keep doing that!

In the 4-hole, there’s Andrew Moore, who is all of three games into his Major League career.  All three of his starts have been what you would call Quality Starts (at least 6 innings and 3 runs or less every time), but he’s also given up 5 home runs in those three games.  That is … less than ideal.  That also might just be his game.  He’s not what I would consider a phenom, even though he’s young and has shot through the minor league ranks; but he throws strikes, limits walks, and generally keeps the damage to a minimum.  How well will he continue to do once the league has a book on him and starts making their adjustments?  The Mariners can’t really afford to have a lot of growing pains out of him if they expect to make it to the post-season.

In the fifth starter spot, the Mariners have some options.  Sam Gaviglio has been the guy since being called up as an injury-replacement, but his last start was pretty bad, and really overall he’s Just A Guy.  Yovani Gallardo has been pretty fantastic in his long reliever role, which has a lot of people wondering if he’s destined to return to the rotation at some point.  Has he worked out – mechanically – what was so wrong with him early in games in his starts?  What if it’s just a matter of throwing more or less warm-up pitches before he goes out there?  Or what if we just don’t tell him which days he’s going to start, and spring it on him 30 minutes before gametime?

Overall, this is a far-from-intimidating rotation; really just an Ace with four #5 starters.  And, honestly, I don’t know if there would be much out there available in trade besides some other team’s #5 starter, so we is what we is.  And ultimately, that’s probably what’s going to keep us out of the post-season.

The bullpen has been pretty mediocre as well, but I don’t know if I would put as much of the blame on them.  There are plenty of bright spots, like Nick Vincent, Tony Zych, James Pazos, and Scrabble.  Steve Cishek looks like he’s rounding into form after coming back from injury.  Edwin Diaz has had some shaky outings, but looks like he’s getting a handle on things.  Right there, that’s six guys I’m more or less okay with.  Emilio Pagan hasn’t really gotten the chances I think he deserves, but he seems to be more steady than Dan Ayala-tavilla.  Then, there’s the revolving door of long relievers between Seattle and Tacoma who won’t make-or-break you.  I think that’s an okay unit!  Maybe even a good one if guys start getting on rolls!

Same thing can be said for the hitting and defense.  The outfield has out-performed even my wildest dreams.  Cruz and Cano are banged up but doing a pretty good job playing through it.  Valencia bounced back in a big way to play to the back of his baseball card.  Zunino had that insane month of June that might more-or-less salvage his season if he doesn’t backslide too far in July.  Seager is definitely taking a step back this season, but I have to believe he’s got a torrid streak in him coming up.  Overall, in the American League, the Mariners are in the Top 5 in runs scored, average, and on-base percentage.  They’ve taken a substantial step back in their power numbers from a year ago, but they’re also capable of making that up and getting into the upper half of the league by season’s end.

Ultimately, I think that’s what it’s going to take.  These Mariners need to have a power surge and carry this team offensively through the next two and a half months.  With that, an improved bullpen, and a carefully maintained starting rotation, this thing just might take us into the final weekend of the season with a chance.

That’s all I ask, Mariners.  Just give yourselves a chance in the final weekend.  Then, let the chips fall where they may.

Paxton & Cruz Bust Through Mariners’ Losing Streak

On Kingdome/Safeco Field Snowglobe night, I braved the unforgiving Seattle streets to park down in Pioneer Square for some pre-gaming at The Lodge as I waited for gametime.  Yes indeed, I opted to go to the game with a couple friends, because SOMEONE had to do SOMETHING to stop this blasted losing!  By gar, you knew the players alone wouldn’t be able to get it done without my help!

I bless the rains down in Seattle …

It also came in handy that James Paxton was on the mound.  I don’t know if he was his old dominant self – I saw plenty of fastballs in the 93mph range, but he did start getting up there towards the end of his outing – but it looked like he had good command of his off-speed pitches to get lots of flailing swings and misses.  9 strikeouts overall in his 7 innings of work, giving up just 2 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs.

For a while there, it looked like that might JUST be enough.  Nelson Cruz had a couple of RBI singles in the first and third innings, and Seager had a sac fly also in the third, to take an early 3-2 lead that held up through those seven innings, as Oakland’s starter Sean Manaea also settled down to go 7 innings.  After Nick Vincent bridged the game in the eighth with a perfect inning of work, it looked like we were headed towards a nailbiter of a finish.

But, in the bottom of the eighth, all hell broke loose.  Valencia (who had 3 more hits today as he’s snuggling into the 2-hole in the lineup) doubled to lead off the inning, followed by a Cano walk (he also had a hit and 2 runs scored), setting the table for the hero of the day.  Nelson Cruz capped off his 3-hit, 5-RBI day with a 3-run blast – the 300th of his career – as the crowd went wild and cheered on his curtain call.  THAT is the Nellie I hope to see more of in the second half.

A Haniger double and a wild pitch set up Seager to get his second sac fly of the night to put the game out of Grand Slam Harm’s Way at 7-2.  From there, it was a matter of getting some of our better relievers some work.  Scrabble came in, threw one pitch, and gave up a single.  As Diaz warmed up in the bullpen, Steve Cishek came in and locked it all down with a double play and a lineout.

In Pre-All Star Break Transaction News:  Sam Gaviglio was sent to Tacoma, since he won’t be needed in the rotation with the break coming up.  Emilio Pagan was brought back for a little bullpen help (what with Gallardo’s heavy workload of late).  We’ll see what happens after next week; will Gaviglio return?  Will Gallardo get his old job back?  Ooo, the intrigue!

The long national nightmare is over; the Mariners won a home game.  There are two more very winnable games this weekend before the break, so let’s make sure we get this shit done, huh?  Don’t make me come back over there!

The Mariners Pitched & Hit Their Way To Victory

A much-needed series win against a divisional rival and a team in front of us for the Wild Card, the Mariners beat the Angels on Sunday as they damn well should have.

James Paxton was a pitching god for a while there, before getting run out of the game in the seventh.  Steve Cishek picked him up and it was hang-on time from then on out.  Robbie Cano hit a 3-run homer to extend our lead, then Nick Vincent did everything he could to give the lead away.  Luckily, Scrabble and Diaz weren’t in a meltdown mood like Vincent, so we were able to preserve the 5-3 victory.

Again, the long weekend means I’m not really giving these games my full attention, so these recaps are getting short shrift.