It Was Absolutely Okay For Jarrod Dyson To Bunt To Break Up The Perfect Game

Don’t come in here with your macho headgames; this is baseball – ostensibly a kid’s game – there are no points for winning or losing with honor.  To put it another way, you’re no more or less of a man for bunting to get on base as you are clubbing a ball into the outfield.

The unwritten rules of baseball are among the stupidest things in all of sports.  Chief among them is this concept that you shouldn’t try to bunt to break up a perfect game or a no-hitter.  And I’m not buying this whole “grey area” that people are trying to amend to this thing.  What’s the difference between the first batter of a game bunting for a base hit, followed by the pitcher getting 27 consecutive outs, and the last batter of a game bunting for a base hit to break up a perfecto?

The job of a hitter in baseball is to help in the facilitation of scoring runs, by any means necessary.  Obviously, in a close game, people feel it’s perhaps more justified to bunt to break up the no-no than if it were, say, 10-0 in the bottom of the ninth.  But, you know what?  This isn’t Brett Favre giving Michael Strahan a record-breaking sack; as the opposing hitter, you don’t have to lay down and die just so someone else can make history.  If speed is a big part of your game – the way you make your LIVING, by the way – then obviously the bunt is always going to be on the table.  And, if the opposing defense is going to give you this HUGE opening in front of first base – with Miguel Cabrera playing insanely deep against someone known to bunt from time to time – then it’s absolutely your right to do so.  First inning, sixth inning, or last inning.  Having someone throw a perfect game on you in your own stadium?  That’s embarrassing!  Way more embarrassing than the temporary “shame” of bunting to get a hit; even if it’s 10-0 in the bottom of the ninth.

Last night, Justin Verlander was rolling.  He’s usually been really good against the Mariners throughout his career, but this was another level.  16 guys put down to start off the game; 6 of the first 9 hitters struck out and 9 of the first 15.  Good life on his fastball, good movement on his breaking pitches, outstanding command.  It really did look like it was going to take a miracle just to get a guy on base.  I’ll admit, I almost went to bed after the fourth or fifth inning.  I turned the game off, I picked up a book to do some pre-bedtime reading, and right before I considered shuffling off to bed, I checked Twitter.

By this point, the Mariners were down 4-0.  James Paxton looked moderately better than he did last time, but by no means his usual dominant self from before the injury.  With the way Verlander was going, there was just no way this Mariners team could come back!

But, I checked Twitter maybe 30 seconds after the bunt, and immediately flipped over to the game.  I saw Zunino walk, I saw Segura bloop a single in no man’s land that the short stop somehow overran, I saw Gamel continue his torrid June with an RBI single to center, and I saw Robbie Cano strike out.

For what it’s worth, that was a great Cano at bat, but an even-better Verlander sequence.  That strike three was, as Aaron Goldsmith described, vicious.  Unhittable.  But, I also saw a Cano in that at bat who looked remarkably dialed in.  He was JUUUUST missing, but his timing was getting awfully close.  Close enough that it would only be a matter of time before he started making a huge impact offensively.

That put the M’s at two outs in the inning, though, with only 1 run to show for their rally.  Forget the bunt, forget the perfect game and all that, the Mariners had an opportunity here!  But, they couldn’t let having men on second and third – with the heart of their lineup at the plate – go by without scoring more than just the 1 run.  Thankfully, Nelson Cruz got ahold of a curveball and roped it into left field.  To my horror, it looked like Justin Upton might come up with the diving catch to rip our collective guts out, but he came up empty and the Mariners got to within 4-3, with three full innings left to play (and knocked Verlander out of the game in the process).

Mitch Haniger – dropped to 7th in the lineup, with the return of Jean Segura from the DL (the Mariners opted to keep Ben Gamel’s .350+ batting average in the 2-hole, at least against righties, and at least for the time being) – led off the seventh with solo blast to tie the game.  With the Tigers’ bullpen sucking all ass around town, this thing felt attainable!  They got a couple quick outs, but then the rally train started chugging down the tracks again.

Segura walked and Gamel singled to set the table for Cano.  Yep, that Cano.  The one who, quite frankly, hasn’t been all that good lately.  Coming into the game, he had all of 2 extra-base hits in the month of June, and I don’t know if he’s been all that right since he went on the DL back in May.  Obviously, he’s getting his hits, and he’s playing through some pain, and you commend him for that, but he hasn’t been that dynamic superstar we’ve seen him be, at least for the last few weeks.

But, he was due, and he made good on that by lining a double into the gap in right-center field to score Segura and Gamel and give the Mariners an improbable 2-run lead.  Cruz would subsequently single in Cano to give the M’s a 3-run cushion, and the damage was done.

Of course, I don’t know if the Mariners would’ve been able to salvage this game without some excellent bullpen work.  Tony Zych came into the game in relief of Paxton, with 1 out and 2 on.  They’d JUST scored two runs to give them their 4-run lead.  But, Zych not only shut them down, he went another inning on top of it without giving up a run.  Then, after finally getting a day off the night before, Nick Vincent kept the Tigers off the scoreboard in the eighth.  And, in a somewhat questionable move, Scott Servais opted to throw Edwin Diaz out there for a fourth consecutive day.  He looked a little wild, and grooved a solo homer to Ian Kinsler; things got really interesting when Cabrera walked to the plate with a runner on first in a 7-5 ballgame.  Cabrera is always an MVP-type threat – even if he’s not having that sort of season this year – but that’s not what really terrified me.  I was worried what would happen if Cabrera simply singled or walked or otherwise got on base for J.D. Martinez, because HE’S the real killer on that team right now.

Honestly, if Cabrera would’ve gotten on base, I would’ve chosen to walk Martinez.  If I’m being REALLY honest?  I might have intentionally walked both of those guys to load the bases for Justin Upton; but I guess that’s why they don’t pay me the big bucks to manage a Major League Baseball team (yes, THAT is the reason).

Instead, Diaz worked ahead in the count to Cabrera, and got him to roll over on one to short stop to end the game.

I’m not gonna lie to you, that game was one for the ages.  An Instant Classic, at least from a Mariners perspective.  I have no idea what it’ll all mean in the grand scheme of things, but isn’t it funny how it took all of that for the Mariners to get back to .500 again, this time at 37-37?

Isn’t it ALSO funny that in today’s slot in the rotation, we were due to start Yovani Gallardo?  Our WORST starting pitcher?

Well, it’s like Dipoto and Company knew I’d be freaking out today, because we’ve got moves!

The first, I’ve already alluded to:  Jean Segura returned, with Tyler Smith going back to Tacoma.  Thanks for the memories Smith, but your services will no longer be required.

The second was an absolute shocker:  hotshot prospect Andrew Moore was called up, with Christian Bergman being sent down (and Tyler Cloyd being DFA’d to make room on the 40-man).  I talked about it yesterday, and it looks like the Mariners and I were simpatico on the whole Bergman vs. Gaviglio argument, because Gaviglio keeps his spot in the rotation (set to start this Saturday) at least until Iwakuma returns from his rehab assignment.

Andrew Moore was a second round pick in 2015, and one of the top prospects in the Mariners’ farm system.  He apparently throws in the low-90s, but has great command of the strike zone, doesn’t walk many guys, and has excelled at every level.  In his first professional season, he dominated in Everett.  In 2016, he split time between high-A ball and AA.  Then, this year, he appeared in 6 games in AA before being promoted to AAA.  He appeared in 8 games in Tacoma and now he’s here.  Not only is he here, but his Major League career is getting STARTED.  He’s not up for a spot start, or to help out in the bullpen in long relief like most of these jokers we’ve brought up from Tacoma; Andrew Moore is getting the start TONIGHT, in place of one Yovani Gallardo.

SQUEE!!!

Sorry, not sorry, but once I realized he last started for Tacoma last Thursday, I was able to put 2+2 together and come to the hypothesis that he was going to take Gallardo’s job.  Bergman goes to Tacoma, because apparently he was always going to go to Tacoma regardless, but if my hypothesis holds true, the Mariners will hold onto Gallardo through tonight’s game – in case Moore’s jitters get the better of him and he’s overwhelmed by the Tigers – and then they’ll DFA him when they officially bring Felix back onto the roster.

In other words, unless something crazy happens, we officially have one more day with Yovani Gallardo in our lives.

And I know what you’re thinking, sour grapes and all.  Normally, I don’t root for people to lose their jobs, but he’ll be fine.  He’s a fucking multi-millionaire who will DEFINITELY get another shot with some other team.  So, don’t cry for Gallardo; it’s what’s best for everyone.

I mean, this has to be what’s happening, right?  They’ve already officially named Gaviglio the starter for Saturday; I don’t think they’re just going to change their minds and send him down when Felix returns on Friday.  The only other move is to keep Gallardo in the bullpen and send someone like Altavilla down to continue to work on his game.  At this point, I’d say it’s 50/50 between those two things, but I’ll say this:  if Gallardo’s main problem has been giving up too many runs early in games (18 of the 54 runs he’s given up this year – or a full 33% – have been in the first innings of his starts; he’s got a first inning ERA of nearly 11!), what makes you think we can trust him in a relief role?  As a reliever, you have to be able to shut guys down RIGHT AWAY!  There isn’t time to have one big inning, settle into a game, and make it up by throwing 4-5 shutout innings after that.

So, I dunno.  All I know is I’m going to the game tonight with my brochachos and I have the good fortune of witnessing Andrew Moore’s Major League debut and NOT Yovani Gallardo’s final start in a Mariners uniform.  Yep, I’m pretty pumped.

Dan Altavilla Sure Looks Like The Second Coming Of Bobby Ayala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Zunino Smashed The Mariners To Glory

Not “Smashed” in the Jersey Shore sense, although in a way …

Also, what’s a Jersey Shore?

Mike Zunino has been on an incredible tear!  This is like nothing he’s ever put up before!  I’m not exaggerating; he’s never had a month as good as this June.  The closest is probably his April in 2014 when he had a slash line of:

  • .279/.306/.471/.776, with 3 homers, 4 doubles, 10 RBI, and 7 runs scored

Now, compare that to just the first 19 days in June of this year:

  • .385/.431/.885/1.316, with 8 homers, 2 doubles, 26 RBI, and 11 runs scored

The walks to strikeouts ratio hasn’t changed a whole lot, but he passes the eyeball test.  He’s putting himself in better counts, working his way back from 0-2 holes, and forcing pitchers to throw to him in the strike zone.  Even better, he’s actually HITTING those pitches instead of swinging through them like he was earlier this year (and for most of his career)!

Now, obviously, he could turn back into a pumpkin as early as tonight and go on another prolonged cold streak.  His actual June numbers by month’s end might not look so hot from a slash-line perspective (which, you would think will happen regardless, what with regression and all that), but the point is he’s never been nearly as good for nearly as long as he has through the first three weeks of this month.  No one is expecting Mike Zunino to compete for triple crowns (although, can you imagine?), but it’s comforting to know he’s got this in him.

I’ve said all along:  just give me a Mike Zunino who hits around .250.  With his power, with his pitch-framing ability and overall defensive ability, with the way he’s great with the pitching staff, with his leadership, that’s a guy I wouldn’t mind having at catcher for a good, long career.  Anything above and beyond that, hittingwise, is gravy.  And, in this month of June, we’ve been blessed with a whole shit-ton of gravy!

Last night, with the game tied in the bottom of the sixth, Mike Zunino cranked a 2-run home run to left field – over the bullpens – to put the Mariners ahead.  Then, in the bottom of the eighth, with the M’s still clinging to that 2-run lead, Mike Zunino ding-donged one to center to give the good guys a comfortable 4-run advantage (and thereby swipe a save opportunity from Edwin Diaz, who was already warming up in the ‘pen).  Not for nothing, but it was Z’s second multi-homer game of the month, but that probably doesn’t surprise you.

It might surprise you to see yet another fine pitching performance by this beleaguered bunch.  Sam Gaviglio gave the Mariners 5 solid innings of 2-run ball.  He got into a couple jams by giving up 3 hits and walking 4, but was able to greatly limit the damage thanks to some timely double plays.

Which brings us to the big question:  who will the Mariners keep in the rotation, Gaviglio or Bergman?

For what it’s worth, the organization might not have to make that decision just yet, as Iwakuma got a rehab start last night and could only make it through 2 innings.  He might need another outing or two (like Felix did) before bringing him back.  But, the question is looming regardless.

It could be further complicated if the Mariners decide to throw rationality to the wind and keep Yovani Gallardo on this roster.  I mean, look, he’s been ridiculously terrible this year.  If you go by the generous “Quality Start” definition in Major League Baseball (going at least 6 innings, giving up no more than 3 earned runs), he only has 4 in 14 total appearances.  He’s given up fewer than 3 runs only twice; for a so-called innings eater, he’s only gone 7 innings one time; and worst of all is he’s earning $11 million this year (with a $2 million buy-out next year).  It’s absolutely fucking shameful.

The primary argument for choosing Gallardo over the other two is that he’s got experience (Bergman had 14 starts over 3 seasons before this year; Gaviglio is a rookie).  He’s also a veteran, while I believe the other guys should have options (Bergman has less than 2 years of service time, so we should be good there).  Talentwise, Gallardo has a decent fastball, but he’s just been getting pounded.  There’s a slight argument in his favor that he usually only has 1 bad inning per start, and once he gets around that, he’s putting up zeroes.  But, that 1 bad inning is usually very early in the game, and it’s usually REALLY bad, putting the team in too big a hole to climb out of.  You’d think, if he could take better command of that 1 bad inning and at least limit the damage, he’d be an effective starter for this team.  But, you’d also think if he had that ability in him, he would have done it by now.

The fact of the matter is, Gallardo sucks at getting out of jams.  He’s been nothing but a liability for this team, and I don’t think we would’ve been any worse off if we’d given all of his starts to Chase De Jong all season.  Just because he’s been healthy all year and has made all of his starts is no feather in his cap.  If anything, he’s the ONE guy I WISH would’ve gotten injured, as opposed to the four guys who did.

If this is any sort of just and fair world, Gallardo gets hacked off this roster as soon as Felix returns on Friday.  Because, based on performance, Gallardo is severely lagging behind Bergman and Gaviglio.

Which gets us back to the aforementioned big question:  Bergman or Gaviglio?

Bergman has 3/9 quality starts; Gaviglio has 2/7 (with an asterisk, as one of those “quality starts” saw him give up 4 unearned runs in a loss).  By my own vague definition of starts where they kept the Mariners in the ballgame, I’ve got Bergman at 6/9 and Gaviglio at 4/7.  Bergman has a couple 7+ shutout inning performances under his belt and looks like a guy who will give you more quality innings; but he’s also got those two truly atrocious starts where he gave up 10 and 9 runs respectively.  Conversely, Gaviglio has gone between 5-6 innings in every start, giving up 0-5 runs.

Which leads to my thumbnail definition of each guy.  Bergman is more likely to eat more innings and look better doing it; but he’ll also have starts where he completely falls apart and looks like the most hittable guy on the planet.  Gaviglio is more likely to give you 5 innings and limit damage to 2-3 runs.

If I’m being honest, I think Bergman is the better, more talented pitcher right now, but I just flat out feel better when I see Gaviglio is on the mound.  There’s no way to explain it, because if these two guys pitched for the A’s or something, I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.  Frankly, I don’t know how BOTH of those guys aren’t getting destroyed every time they hit the mound.  Looks like a lot of smoke and mirrors, if you ask me.  I could be way off base, though, but I just feel like Gaviglio has a higher upside.  Maybe I’m just easily impressed by the “bulldog mentality”.  Of course, the last guy we had around here with a bulldog mentality was Erik Bedard, and he too was prone to the Five & Dive start.

I really don’t have a clue as to what the Mariners are going to decide.  I’m pretty confident they’ll let Gallardo go at some point.  Considering Bergman was called up before Gaviglio – meaning he was “ahead” of Gaviglio on the theoretical depth chart – if I had to guess I’d say they roll with Bergman for a while and let Gaviglio keep starting in Tacoma.  Of course, I doubt we will have seen the last of either of the guys who end up being sent down to Tacoma.  What, the Mariners are suddenly going to get and STAY healthy?  Poppycock!

As for the rest of last night’s game, kudos to Guillermo Heredia – getting the start for Haniger, who was given a rest day – who hit the game-tying 2-run home run in the fifth.

Big ups to James Pazos, who got the win with his 1.1 innings of shutout relief.

Bigger ups to Nick Vincent, who went 1.1 innings of shutout ball for the second day in a row.  As I was talking about on Twitter last night, that’s 13 consecutive appearances where he hasn’t given up a run.  He’s 8 for 8 in Hold opportunities in that span, going 11.1 innings, giving up 10 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 7.  He’s been an absolute beast all year and the only guy in the ‘pen (besides Pazos maybe?) who hasn’t really had any sort of prolonged slump.  He’s locked down that 8th inning role and is able to be used multiple innings on multiple days in a row, which is really important for a team that’s largely struggled with its bullpen for the season.

Also, a shout out to Jarrod Dyson, who is having his own fine month of June.  Ever since Mitch Haniger came back, and it looked like Dyson’s grasp of a starting job might be in jeopardy, he’s come out swinging like a big dog to fend off Heredia for now.  It’s a crowded outfield, with four guys playing really well, and I can’t remember the last time I was able to say that with a straight face.

This Tigers series continues with Ariel Miranda tonight.

Another Fucking Day, Another Fucking 10-4 Defeat

Oh weird, Yovani Gallardo buried the Mariners again after one inning.  Didn’t see that coming.

Between his incompetency and Dan Altavilla’s volatility, the Mariners had another bad day.  Not even the resurgence of Mike Zunino (1 for 4 with a 3-run homer, batting average nearing .250) could stop the bleeding.

I was off watching Tool at the Gorge last night, so I have nothing to say about this one either.  The Mariners have a good offense, but when you’re constantly putting them in a hole early, you’re not doing them any favors.  I don’t care about Bergman’s last start, or Gaviglio’s overall meh-ness; Gallardo needs to fucking go as soon as our other starters start returning from injury.

In Transaction News:  Zac Curtis was sent back to the minors and Rob Whalen was called up.  He went just the two scoreless innings yesterday, so we’ll see if he gets to stay with the Big League ballclub or not.  It’s gotta suck to be Tacoma’s manager and try to fill out a starting rotation.

Mariners’ Bullpen Saved The Day Against The Twins

There were plenty of heroes in last night’s 6-4 Mariners victory.  Mitch Haniger banged a 2-run homer in the first.  Mike Zunino chipped in with a 3-run homer in the third (and has his average over .240 to boot).  Ben Gamel had 3 hits, 2 runs, and a MONSTER catch in foul territory in left field, crashing into the wall and coming down with the ball to get the second out in the eighth inning, with the Mariners only leading by 2.  Cano, Valencia, and Dyson all had multi-hit games to help keep the offense rolling along.

But, this one belonged to the bullpen.

Sam Gaviglio was so-so.  He was great through four innings, then gave up back-to-back solo homers in the fifth and downgraded to just good.  But, he could only manage one out in the sixth before giving up a 2-run homer and subsequently getting pulled.

James Pazos yanked his ass out of the fire by striking out the final two batters of the inning; but he wasn’t done there.  He erased a leadoff single with a double play, then walked a guy, allowed him to steal second, but got the next batter to pop out to end the inning.  It wasn’t the prettiest, but Pazos went 1.2 innings to bridge this game to the eighth, and that’s just fine in my book!

Nick Vincent came in, got the first two batters out, gave up a single to Minnesota’s best power hitter in Miguel Sano, then was pulled for Scrabble with a lefty coming up.  Scrabble walked the pinch hitter and was immediately replaced by Edwin Diaz for the 4-out save.

Diaz got the final batter in the eighth to strike out on three pitches.  He got the first batter of the ninth to fly out to left-center, walked a guy, gave up an infield single, struck the next guy out, let the tying runners steal their way into scoring position, and got Brian Dozier to fly out to center to end the threat.  I’ll admit, it looked pretty dicey there late in the game, but Diaz never looked like he was out of control and ultimately earned the skipper’s confidence in him.

In Long Reliever News, Casey Lawrence was sent back to Tacoma, this time replaced by our good buddy Chase De Jong.  Since being demoted, De Jong has been far from ideal in AAA.  In the first three starts, he got pretty well pounded, giving up 8 homers in 17 innings; his sterling April ERA with Tacoma took a fucking BEATING.  But, in his most recent start, he went 6 shutout innings.  I’ve got to think he’s only here on an emergency basis, until the Mariners have waited the requisite amount of time until Emilio Pagan is allowed to return, and they won’t put De Jong in any games unless they’re winning or losing big.

In other news, Hisashi Iwakuma pitched 4 shutout innings with the Modesto Nuts.  Felix is set to pitch one more time in Tacoma this weekend I think.  Jean Segura is making great progress and could be back as early as next week.  And Major League Baseball concluded its draft.  The Mariners picked a bunch of guys I’ve never heard of and probably will never hear of.  I’m being told that each of the Top 10 draft picks will sign with the team though, so that’s exciting.  REFILL THAT FARM SYSTEM!!!  Also, I heard Kyle Lewis returned from his ACL tear and is back playing some baseball again, so that’s fun.

The Mariners finish their season series with the Twins later this morning with a 10am local start time.  Ariel Miranda will try to help the M’s win this series 3-1 and get the team back to .500 overall.  Please God, let it happen.

The Mariners Pounded The Twins And Also Made Two Draft Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariners Survive Game 1 Against Seattle Blue Jays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2017 Mariners Have Still Never Been Over .500

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Zunino Walked ‘Em Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ariel Miranda Complete Gamed The Rays

Travel Day Hangover Post is gonna be super light on content.

Yesterday, the Mariners completed the 3-game sweep of the Rays, winning 7-1.  As the title indicates, Ariel Miranda got the complete game, giving up 4 hits and 1 walk while striking out 9.  He’s 6-2 on the season, his ERA has dipped under 4, and he’s had five good-to-strong starts in a row.  The next step for him is to get through six innings a little more regularly than he does now, but it’s nice to see him on a little roll.  This could be the start of a really solid career, which is good to see, particularly with how plagued the starting rotation has been so far this year.

Danny Valencia tied a Mariners record with 9 consecutive hits in this series.  Nelson Cruz hit another bomb, Mike Zunino had another 2-hit game, and Jarrod Dyson chipped in with a 2-RBI game.

The Mariners have an off-day today, then resume their homestand tomorrow against the Twins.  This was the 7th win in the last 8 games, allowing the Mariners to claw back to within 2 games of .500.  Best of all, it’s been a couple whole days since the Mariners have had to call someone up from Tacoma!