The Mariners Blew It Again

With Paxton on the DL, the Mariners brought up Andrew Moore, presumably to take his spot in the rotation, yet lo and behold there he was, coming on in long relief of Marco Gonzales (who, himself, was brought up with Felix on the DL, but that’s neither here nor there).

Gonzales couldn’t even get through 5 innings because Scott Servais rightly has zero confidence in his ability to get out of even the slightest jam in a tight game.  And so, Emilio Pagan came in to finish out the inning and we all thought he’d come back for another couple frames or so.  But, it turned out to be Moore, who got through one inning fine, but with two outs in the seventh, he ended up getting hit all around the stadium, giving up 4 runs to completely blow the lead.

The M’s put up 5 runs on the back of Nelson Cruz, Mike Zunino, and a clutch Jarrod Dyson.  With a 5-1 lead heading into the seventh.  Moore pissed that away, then in the ninth, Jean Segura – an inning after making a brilliant defensive play – booted a potential double play grounder to give up the go-ahead run.  And that was that.

The Angels are up 2-0 in this series, and get ready for more of the same because this Mariners pitching staff is fucking garbage.  The bullpen – which is decent – is overworked and becoming exposed.  Say goodbye to the Wild Card.

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?

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?

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.

Mariners Murder Mets; Paxton Goes 6-0 In July

One more time, the Seattle Mariners have scratched and clawed their way back to a .500 record, on the back of a 9-1 victory over the Mets.  That win gave them a 5-5 record on the homestand, so it’s kinda like the last 10 games didn’t even happen!

James Paxton looked phenomenal as usual, going 6 shutout innings, giving up 6 hits, 0 walks, and striking out 8.  He gave way to Emilio Pagan, who had another 2 shutout innings to throw onto his pile, as he starts to get more and more higher leverage situations to deal with.  And James Pazos closed it out by blowing the shutout in the ninth, looking no closer to being his usual awesome self, which is pretty concerning.

The real stars of this one were the hitters.  Nelson Cruz hit a mammoth 3-run home run.  Leonys Martin – in his first start since April 20th – had two hits, including a homer off of the Hit It Here Cafe.  I can’t tell you how fantastic it was to see that.  He’s been tearing it up in Tacoma, so it’s nice to have that sort of depth when a Mitch Haniger goes down.  Assuming Haniger is only gone for two weeks or so, I hope the team figures out a way to keep Martin on the roster through the month of August, until rosters can be expanded and I don’t have to worry about losing anyone of import.  It’s nice to be able to throw out three left-handed hitters in the outfield when we want to, if nothing else.

Also of note, Ben Gamel had 2 hits, 2 runs and an RBI.  Cano had 2 hits, a run and an RBI.  Seager had 2 hits, including a double.  Dyson, Segura and Danny Espinosa (who pinch hit for Segura late in the game) all chipped in with hits.  And Mike Zunino had a couple walks and a run scored.  Even Danny Valencia had a sac fly; literally everyone contributed SOMETHING to the cause.

Getting back to Paxton, he becomes the first Mariners pitcher to ever go 6-0 in a single month, raising his record from 5-3 to 11-3, which puts him tied for third in the American League for most wins (Chris Sale and Jason Vargas of all people are tied for first with 13 wins).  Also, among qualified pitchers, Paxton’s 2.68 ERA is second only to Sale’s 2.37.  Of course, Paxton is 3 starts and about 41 innings shy of Sale’s totals, what with landing on the DL for a month, but that’s still some good company.

Anyway, here we are.  The August death march unofficially starts today with a game down in Texas.  This is where we find out if the Mariners have what it takes or not.  I’d wager probably not.

Of Course The Mariners Lost To Chris Sale

Every time we run into a game like this – usually it’s right when the Mariners have clawed their way back to .500 – I always make the comment about how I wish I was at a sportsbook, or about how I wish sports gambling were legal nationwide, because I’d make a fucking KILLING just betting against the Seattle Mariners.

Cooler thoughts prevail, and ultimately keep me from picking up everything and moving to Reno, because I know in the long run I’d make more stupid decisions than smart ones.  But, if I had the will power to ONLY bet on the sure things, I’d be a plenty rich guy.

The Mariners were never going to score more than a run, MAYBE two, against Chris Sale yesterday, and that was before we found out that Robinson Cano was getting the day off to rest.  That was before Mike Zunino got the day off after an extra innings night game.  That was before we brought in Danny Espinosa to be our utility infielder, who sure looks like an offensive downgrade to Motter (saying nothing of his base running or defensive abilities).

With that in mind, factoring in Andrew Moore was starting for the Mariners, there was no way he was holding the Red Sox to anything less than 4-5 runs.  So, do the math.  You could argue both bullpens were pretty tired after Tuesday night’s 13-inning affair, but you could also argue that the closer and late-inning relievers for the Red Sox are better and more consistent than that of the Mariners.

As such, it was ABSOLUTELY no surprise that Chris Sale went 7 shutout innings, giving up 3 hits & 1 walk, while striking out 11.  It was ABSOLUTELY no surprise that Andrew Moore gave up 4 runs in 6.2 innings (maybe a little surprising he was able to get into the 7th after giving up all those runs in the first four innings).  And, it was absolutely no surprise that the Mariners lost this one 4-0.  If I had any opportunity to put money on this game, I would’ve gladly put down everything in my bank account.

Off day today before a weekend home series against the Mets.  Kinda odd that everyone is treating this Mets series like we’re going up against the worst team in the National League; their record is VERY close to that of the Mariners!  I know the N.L. is inferior in general, but it’s not like the Mariners are some juggernaut.  It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see the M’s lay an egg this weekend and blow this series!

Now, I wouldn’t recommend it.  Because August Is Coming.  We’ve been staring at this month in our pocket calendars ever since we GOT our pocket calendars!  August actually kicks off on July 31st in Texas.  From that point, through August 30th, the Mariners play 21 of 28 games on the road.  A 9-game trip that starts in Texas, rolls through Kansas City, and concludes in Oakland (with 1 off-day in between KC and OAK).  Then, after a week of games at home, the Mariners have the final 3 Thursdays off for the rest of the month.  But, we’re looking at a 2-week, 12-game trip starting in Tampa, then going through Atlanta and New York (Yankees) before concluding in Baltimore.  It’s our final east coast trip of the season, and it’s BRUTAL.

So, you know, maybe take advantage of these home games against the Mets this weekend.  Maybe try to at least win 2 of 3 to not completely embarrass yourselves.  Or don’t.  Or just lose.  Either way.  This season is a lost cause anyway.

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!

The Mariners Wrapped Up A 5-1 Road Trip

Yesterday was very encouraging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariners Win A Crazy One In Houston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariners 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.