Mariners Get Much Needed Shutout Victory After The Previous Night’s Agony

Well, Game 21 was about as bad as it gets, with the 19-9 defeat, and with Felix and Haniger hitting the DL with potential lengthy-from-which-to-recover injuries to their shoulder and oblique respectively, but Game 22 was nearly the exact opposite!  Actually, I don’t know if that’s the case; I would assume the exact opposite would entail quality reinforcements RETURNING from injury, but I digress.  In Game 22, the Mariners shut out those very same Tigers 8-0.  A day after giving up 19 runs on 24 hits, the Mariners gave up 0 runs on 4 hits.  Progress!

Before the game, a grip of moves were made.  As noted, Felix and Haniger are on the DL.  In Felix’s place, Chase De Jong was called back up (which you can do this close to sending him down because there is the injury emergency) and he will get the start in place of our ace this Saturday at home against the Rangers.  YUP, you read that right: 23 year old Chase De Jong, ostensibly making the jump from AA (he has all of 3 appearances at the AAA level), whose Major League career consists of the 2 relief appearances you know and love this season in a Mariners uniform, will be making his first-ever start in the Bigs, against a hard-hitting divisional rival, in place of our #1 pitcher and potential future Hall of Famer, King Felix.  You got it!  No pressure or anything!

In place of Haniger, the Mariners called up Ben Gamel, who went 0-4 but walked in a run in his start last night.  You figure when Seager returns from his hip issue, Gamel will likely share time with Heredia and Motter in the corners, but I think he’s solidly behind both of those guys for the moment and will have to work really hard (and have a lot of success) to crack the lineup on a regular basis.

For what it’s worth, in 18 games with Tacoma this year, Gamel is hitting .288/.419/.390.  Obviously, the power is lacking, but you like that he can take a walk.  Indeed, he’s walked more than he’s struck out this year, so consider his Z C’d.

The Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich of Game 21 – Chris Heston and Evan Marshall (who gave up a combined 12 runs in 4 innings of relief) – had their asses sent back down to Tacoma to think about what they’ve done.  In their place, Dillon Overton and Casey Fien have returned, so I guess we call that a net even?  Overton, you may recall, is the lefty whose wife gave birth during the first week of the season, resulting in his absence, which led to De Jong gagging away that 13th inning in Houston as the team’s last available reliever of the night.  Overton eventually returned to the Mariners, had one good game, and one terrible game, and was sent down to Tacoma.  While in Tacoma, Overton had one great 3 inning relief appearance and one fucking awful sub-3 inning start.  So, yay?  Fien, you may recall, was with the club out of Spring Training, has appeared in 5 games, and gave up runs in 3 of them (including the 0-inning appearance in that Anaheim game where we blew the 6-run lead in the 9th, with him giving up 4 of those runs).  In Tacoma, Fien has appeared in 4 games and has given up 1 run, so yay.

Thankfully, we weren’t subjected to either of them last night, though you’d think with an 8-run lead, that’s just the sort of soft landing you’d like to give to a couple of recent call-ups whose confidence may be a little wavering.

James Paxton did the heavy lifting in this one, in case it wasn’t abundantly obvious by just looking at the starters we have left in this rotation.  7 shutout innings, making this his FOURTH appearance giving up 0 runs out of five, which is mind boggling!  Oh yeah: 4 hits, 1 walk, and 9 strikeouts, on just 103 pitches.  He is just dripping with Cy Young potential this year!

32.1 innings, 39 strikeouts, 6 walks, 21 hits, and 5 runs for a 1.39 ERA.

Nick Vincent followed, with his sixth consecutive hitless & scoreless appearance.  I just have to marvel at this guy, whose fastball isn’t anything special, but he goes out there, gets swinging strikes, keeps guys off balance, and gets the job done!  Aside from Scrabble, he’s been this team’s best reliever, and who would’ve put money down on THAT after he gave up 3 runs and 6 hits in his first three games?  Especially after Spring Training, where he looked like decomposing diaper shits!

And, Edwin Diaz came out for the 9th, because the Mariners are a fucking embarrassment and haven’t managed enough save situations to give him enough work in the early going.  Only his 7th appearance in 22 games!  I don’t want the kid’s arm to fall off or anything, but this team needs to start winning a bunch so he can get in there more often and do his thing!

The hitters really came to play in this one (just like they did the night before, when again, they scored NINE FUCKING RUNS AND LOST BY TEN), with everyone sans Gamel getting at least one hit (and, as I noted earlier, Gamel had that bases loaded walk).  Segura had 3 hits, including a double, with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored.  Heredia, in the 2-hole in place of Haniger, had 2 hits, including a 2-run homer.  Cano had a double; Cruz had 2 hits, including a 2-run homer.  Motter and Valencia each had 2 hits, including a double apiece; Zunino had a hit and a run scored; and Dyson had 2 hits, a run scored, and 2 stolen bases.  All around fantastic job for an offense that’s really starting to come together.  Once we’re able to get Seager going, watch out!

Getaway day in Detroit today with a 10am start (Pacific time), so there won’t be any Mariners to get in the way of everyone watching the first round of the NFL draft tonight.  Iwakuma vs. Verlander which strikes me as … worrisome.  Please just figure out a fucking way to win, huh?

Yesterday Was A Disaster For The Mariners. Also The Mariners Are A Disaster

“(So and so) just didn’t have it today,” is pretty much the motto for the 2017 Seattle Mariners, whose season died on the operating table on April 25, 2017.  The season – now just a rotting slab of stinking, lukewarm hamburger, attracting flies and rabid dogs – has been a perfect definition of Worst Case Scenario.  Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong?  Multiply that by a hundred thousand, then shoot it in the fucking face.

It’s not just the Jean Segura DL stint (he who made his semi-triumphant return last night at the expense of Mike Freeman), though that’s part of it.  It’s not just the nagging hip issue for Kyle Seager, as I’m told that’s not something that should keep him out of the lineup for very long.  It’s not the fact that none of the starting pitchers can be trusted, least of all the so-called “ace” of the staff, Felix Hernandez, who lasted all of 2 innings last night, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks, before being pulled at a measly 48 pitches, because again, he “just didn’t have it” (or his fucking shoulder is injured, or whatever).  It’s not a bullpen overflowing with too-young power arms and too-useless wastes of spaces.  It’s not the Drew Smyly DL stint for the first 2+ months, or the unceremonious dumping of Leonys Martin, or the lost cause that is Danny Valencia, or Robbie Cano playing like an old & slow turd, or Dan Vogelbach playing like a fat & slow turd, or Mike Zunino being just the latest in an endless string of first round FUCKING busts.  Nor is it just the impending DL stint for Mitch Haniger, who suffered a strained oblique and is set to miss extensive time.  It’s all of that, combined, to capsize what absolutely NEEDED to be a successful baseball season for the Seattle Mariners; and the only way you could define this season as even a remote success is if they made the post-season.  They won’t, so it’s not, and everyone’s to blame, because life is utter horseshit and I wish everyone was dead.

Somebody bookmark this page and save it for later.  Save it for when Mitch Haniger comes back from the DL.  Gaze upon it when we’re all excited to have our rookie phenom back in the fold.  Pull it back up … oh maybe a month or so after he’s returned.  I want you to take a look at his numbers pre-DL:

  • .338/.442/.600, 7 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homers, 16 RBI, 20 runs scored in 21 games played

I want you to really take a good, long look at those numbers, because when he returns, you can kiss those sterling numbers goodbye.  I guarantee you when he comes back, he absolutely won’t be the same player we had pre-injury.  He will be significantly worse, and we’ll all wonder just what in the fuck happened to him.

You know what happened?  He joined the Seattle Fucking Mariners.  Where everything good and happy in this world goes to get collectively buttfucked.

So, who else didn’t have it yesterday?  Well, Chris Heston – who was just called up in favor of Chase De Jong (who just threw 4 innings of shutout ball before being sent back down, mind you) – was supposed to be our long reliever for just this occasion:  he gave up 5 runs in 2 innings.  Then, there was Evan Marshall, another potential long reliever type:  he gave up 7 runs in 2 innings.  And, after Pazos threw a scoreless seventh inning, Evan Scribner came in and allowed 3 more runs in the eighth.  That’s a 19-9 loss, for those doing the math at home.

The hitters did their jobs, but what are you going to do when you score 9 runs and still lose by 10?  And, not for nothing, but Detroit’s pitching staff is the worst in the American League, so it’s not like this was some out-of-nowhere offensive explosion.

This is just a dark day.  A dark day in a dark lifetime of being a Mariners fan.  141 more of these fucking things to go.  God, I hate baseball so fucking much.

A Roster Shake-Up & A Mariners Victory

One did not necessarily lead to the other, of course, unless you believe in the motivating factor of roster transactions.

The minor move is that Chase De Jong was sent back down to Tacoma – a day after going 4 scoreless innings in relief of Ariel Miranda – in favor of Chris Heston, another spot starter/long reliever type.  Obviously, this was through no fault of De Jong’s, but simply because after pitching 4 full innings, he wasn’t going to be available in relief again for a few days.  And, with this rotation (specifically with guys like Gallardo, who got the start in yesterday’s game), you never know when you’re going to need an extra reliever.

Also, not for nothing, but De Jong and now Heston are merely keeping this spot warm until Steve Cishek works his way back into MLB playing shape, which is probably a week or so away.

The major move made yesterday was the DFA of Leonys Martin.  That’s a pretty tough pill to swallow.  I wouldn’t say he was a fan favorite or anything, but I’m sure the fans liked him enough.  He played great defense and he had a good run at the plate just last season.  It seemed like just a matter of time before he’d pick it back up at the plate and at least be passable in the everyday lineup.  But, thanks to the Mariners losing 3 in a row in Oakland – and starting off the season 1-9 on the road heading into yesterday’s game – time is exactly something the Mariners DON’T have a lot of.  This season is going down the toilet in a hurry, and we can’t sit around waiting for all of our slumping hitters to get their collective shit together.  In that sense, you could say the DFA of Leonys Martin is just as much about the entire team as it is about Martin’s own deficiencies.  Which, I’m sure, made the move that much more hard to swallow.  Because, while the fans liked him enough, the players and the coaching staff adored this kid, and I’m sure the move was as painful as it gets.

The thing is, I’m not super convinced it’s a moved that needed to be made.  Right now, we’re a team with just three outfielders, that is, until Jean Segura comes back from the DL, which should be any day now.  When Segura returns, you’ve got Motter who can play there too, but he’s a utility guy who can play anywhere.  He’s also the only guy on the roster who can back up at any infield position (assuming Mike Freeman gets sent back to Tacoma upon Segura’s return).  For all intents and purposes, Danny Valencia becomes your traditional fourth outfielder, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him at first base either.

See, the corresponding move with the Leonys Martin DFA is the calling back up of Dan Vogelbach, who hit .309/.409/.473 in Tacoma, with 3 doubles and 2 homers in 16 games.  The talk is, for now, Valencia rides the pine while Vogelbach gets to start every day.  THIS is a move that’s been about a week overdue, but again, I don’t know if it needed to be made at the expense of Martin.

Here are my concerns:

  1. I’m not convinced Guillermo Heredia is an everyday player
  2. I’m not convinced Dan Vogelbach is ready (or will ever be ready) for the Major Leagues
  3. What do we do if Jarrod Dyson gets injured for an extended period of time?
  4. I also lowkey have my doubts about Taylor Motter, as it feels like the other shoe is about to drop anyday now, and we’re in for an extended stretch of no hitting and lots of strikeouts

The Heredia thing, I think, sort of goes without saying, but let me try to elaborate.  I think he’s okay.  I think he’s a fine fifth outfielder, maybe.  He’s been a big help in the early going, and right now I’d say he’s DEFINITELY playing better than Leonys Martin.  But, I think long-term, Heredia isn’t much more than a Quad-A player.  The speed is great, don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t seem to hit it out of the infield very much, and he can’t rely on infield base hits and bunts alone!  He walks about as often as Mike Zunino, which is to say hardly at all, and if he’s not pulling his weight in OBP, I don’t see him adding a whole lot of value with his bat.  He needs to be walking a ton and stealing a ton of bases for him to be an everyday outfielder for us.

The Vogelbach thing, I’ve been harping on for a while.  I just don’t know if he has it.  He’s still pretty young though, so I don’t know if it’s necessarily fair to expect him to have it right out of the gate.  I think he’s going to struggle at least in this early going, which means he’ll fall back into the platoon they’d planned for him and Valencia in the first place.  You gotta figure, at some point, Valencia is going to start hitting for us, and the more he does that, the more he’s going to see the field.  At which point, you’ve sort of got Vogelbach here as a lefty pinch hit bat off the bench.  Is that worth giving up on Leonys Martin?

Because, yeah, what if Dyson has to go on the DL for something?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have Martin there, with everyday playing experience?  Without Martin, I guess you slide over Heredia, and maybe call up Ben Gamel as an extra outfielder.  Is that a better situation than what you would’ve had with Martin?

And, if everything else works out, Vogelbach takes the first base job and runs with it, and the rest of our infield stays healthy, that means Motter effectively becomes your left fielder.  But, does increased playing time for Motter equate to decreased production at the plate? You figure pitchers are going to figure him out EVENTUALLY.  Does he have what it takes to re-adjust?  Or, will he flail along and watch his strikeouts skyrocket?

To counter all of my hemming and hawing, you’re probably right to ask:  what would I have done differently?

Well, for starters, do we REALLY need 8 relievers?  I think it was a smart idea to kick off the season, as the starters generally need some time to build their arms up and get their innings-counts up to snuff, but I feel like we’re there now.  Granted, Paxton and Miranda gave us some pretty shitty starts in that Oakland series, but it’s not like the bullpen has been notoriously over-worked or anything!  For the first three weeks of the season, they’ve split a pretty average workload among 8 people instead of 7 (more, really, when you count the guys coming and going from Tacoma).  There’s only been the one extra-innings game, in the third game of the season.  They had a huge homestand and one day off, with another off day scheduled today (and the next two Mondays to boot).  We could have EASILY made it through the next few days (or however long it will take for Segura to come off the DL) with just 7 relievers.  Then, when Segura is ready to return, we send Freeman down like planned, and keep going with a full bench and lots of different lineup options.

Facing a right-handed pitcher?  With Martin in the fold, you can go:  Segura, Haniger, Cano (L), Cruz, Seager (L), Vogelbach (L), Zunino, Dyson (L), Martin (L), with over half your lineup batting from the left side.  Facing a lefty?  You can go Segura, Haniger, Cano (L), Cruz, Seager (L), Motter, Valencia, Zunino, Heredia, with Heredia in center and Motter in left.  I dunno, I’m just spit-balling here, but with Martin you’ve got extra speed on your bench, another lefty hitter for late in games, and extra defense in case the unthinkable happens.  Instead, you waive him for nothing and hope no other team picks him up, and that he’s willing to play for you in Tacoma until it’s time to call him up again.  Seems like a longshot.

***

As for yesterday’s game, it was an 11-1 Mariners victory, to salvage at least not getting swept by the fucking A’s.  For what it’s worth, the Mariners are now 5-9 against the American League West, which obviously is far from ideal.  Also, the Mariners are tied for last in the division with the Angels at 8-12, good for third-worst in the entire league.

Motter hit a grand slam and Cruz hit a 3-run homer.  They combined for 9 of the 11 RBI.  Vogelbach had his first hit and RBI of the season, and played just fine at first base.  Seager had a minor hip issue that kept him from starting, but he was available to pinch hit if needed.  Considering he wasn’t, it’s nice that he has these back-to-back days off heading into the Detroit series.

On the pitching side of things, we finally got a good start out of Gallardo, going 6.1 innings, giving up 1 run on 4 hits, with 1 walk and 7 strikeouts.  Zych, Scrabble, and Scribner wiped out the later innings with no damage done.

So, the Mariners need to figure out how to win on the road.  Remember last year, when it was the opposite, and the Mariners had trouble winning at home in the early going?  They were 1-5 in their first home series last year, whereas they were 8-4 on the road and would go on into May 18-7 on the road before coming down to Earth.  How far down?  The 2016 Mariners finished 7 games over .500 at home, and only 3 games over .500 on the road.  That’s because most teams, by and large, are better at home than they are on the road.  So, you could sort of see a turnaround in the 2016 Mariners’ home record coming, even if it did take a while.  Which means the hot start on the road was VERY much to their benefit, and a big reason why they were able to stay in contention for so long.

This year, the Mariners are 6-3 at home, and now 2-9 on the road.  That’s pretty terrible, because while you would expect the Mariners to be good at home, it’s also not inconceivable that the Mariners might be this bad on the road.  In an ideal world, I think you want the Mariners to hover around .500 on the road, and be really good at home; in this world, it’s going to take A LOT of winning to get back to .500 on the road, and it’s going to take maintaining a lot of winning to stay really good at home.  None of this bodes well, and it’s starting to become clear to me that 2017 is going to be a lot like 2015, 2010, and 2008.  Recall those were all years where we were coming off of winning seasons, with heightened expectations, and collapsing under the weight of said expectations.  Same team, different GM/Manager combo.  God I hope I’m wrong.

Of Course The Mariners Lost That Game To The A’s

The Mariners had everything going for them.  Best pitcher in the game through three starts going up against a guy who hadn’t cracked the Majors since 2010.  A quality lineup that had just put up a 10-spot the night before.  The overwhelming majority of the Athletics lineup being average-to-below-average thus far this season.  Everything about this matchup screamed a Mariners victory.

So, yeah, the M’s lost 9-6.  Makes sense.

I kinda want to just throw up my hands and say, “Hey, Paxton just didn’t have it!  It happens!”  But, the first time through the lineup, he actually DID have it.  His scoreless streak to start the season didn’t get snapped until the third inning.  From that point to the end of his night, he was rocked like we haven’t seen since last season.  Four hits in the third tied the game at 3-3, then Paxton settled back down to get out of the fourth inning 1-2-3, then three more hits, a 2-base error, a sac fly, and a walk into the bottom of the fifth inning and he had to be pulled.  The A’s had a 5-3 lead by that point, and cue the “That Escalated Quickly” memes.

But, it DID escalate quickly!  Going into the bottom of the third, the game was going according to plan.  Dyson led off the game with a single, tagged up on a deep fly ball to right, then scored on a Cano RBI single.  Then, in the second, a Motter leadoff double eventually came around to score on a Zunino double.  Leonys Martin, who got on with a fielder’s choice, ended up scoring on an RBI single by Dyson to make the game 3-0.  This was it!  We were exposing an over-matched career minor leaguer in Cesar Valdez, Paxton was dealing, and this game would slowly unravel as a dominating Mariners victory.

Flash forward what felt like 90 seconds, and there we were, down 5-3, needing a Monster Motter 2-run homer to tie the game back up.  From there, it felt like the game could’ve gone any number of directions.  Obviously, the offense was still humming along, and if the bullpen could just keep a lid on things, it was only a matter of time before the Mariners tacked on the game-winning run.

What it ended up being was only a matter of time before the A’s put the M’s away.  The very next half-inning, in fact, when Scribner let the leadoff man get to third base with one out, who ended up scoring on a sac ground out.  The game wouldn’t become out of reach until the next inning, when Dan Altavilla – after getting the leadoff out – walked two guys and surrendered a 3-run homer.  Altavilla, it would seem, has a lot of problems right now.  A lot of problems that will likely require a stint with Tacoma to rectify, because I don’t see how you can trust him in a close game right now, with how his last four appearances have gone.

I turned the game off and went to bed after that.  Sure it was a risk; it wasn’t IMPOSSIBLE that the Mariners would put up a 4-banger to tie the game back up, but I was tired and didn’t much feel like waiting around for that remote possibility.  So, I missed Evan Marshall’s scoreless inning of relief.  And I missed the little mini-rally started by Valencia’s double (who would go on to score to make the final 9-6) in the ninth inning.

The best part of baseball is that there’s almost always another game to play the very next day.  Well, I’ve got good news and bad news:  the good news is this holds true – there is another game tonight – but the bad news is that Felix and Paxton have already pitched the last two days, and we’re staring down the barrel of an Iwakuma-Miranda-Gallardo weekend.  In Oakland, who will probably sweep us right on out of town and into yet another shame spiral.

As it turns out, the worst part of baseball is that there’s almost always another game to play the very next day.  Who knew?

James Paxton Is The Greatest Pitcher Alive

8 innings of 2-hit, 1-walk shutout ball to throw on the pile.  21 innings of 8-hit, 4-walk shutout ball to start the season.  9 more strikeouts to give him 22 on the season.

As Childish Gambino said, “Don’t be mad because I’m doing me better than you’re doing you.”

This was quite the enjoyable game.  Paxton was dealing, but really there was good pitching on both sides, outside of one half inning, where the Mariners scored all five of their runs in winning this thing 5-0.

One out into the bottom of the sixth, Mitch Haniger got it going with a single to left.  He’s got that batting average WAY up, check the slash line:  .292/.393/.542.  Cano got on via an error by the short stop, and Cruz walked to load ’em up.  That brought up Seager, whose power numbers are still lacking, but everything else is starting to climb up to respectability.  He mashed a single into right to score two runs, which knocked out the Rangers’ starter.  Taylor Motter stepped to the plate, flowing mane of hair rustling ever so gently under his batting helmet.  Earlier this week, he had that 3-double game against the Astros and followed it up the very next night with another double and a homer.  Well, he wasn’t able to get any extra-base hits off of Texas on Friday (just a run of the mill single, frowny-face), but I’ll be damned if he didn’t get right back on the horse with a 3-run homer to put the nail in the coffin!

Taylor Motter is hitting .333.  He’s getting on base at a near-.400 clip.  But, his slugging is – get this – .810!  I didn’t realize, when we acquired this utility infielder from the Rays, that we’d be getting the second coming of Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds, but when you’re talking about an .810 slugging percentage, those are the two guys who have ever done that over a full season!  Now listen, obviously I have no delusions of this guy slugging .810 for us all year, that would be clinically insane.  But, what this blog post presupposes is … maybe he will?

The rest of the Mariners didn’t do much of anything else last night, but I don’t care about that.  All I want is all of Haniger’s and Motter’s at bats run on a loop, forever and ever.

I will say that we got a good 9th inning out of Nick Vincent.  Credit where it’s due, he shut the Rangers down before they could even THINK of mounting a comeback.

On the flipside, the M’s went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position.  I’m starting to keep a log of everyone’s totals in this category because this team is driving me fucking crazy, and I’ve got some hard data for you.  The Mariners as a team are hitting .157 on the year with RISP.  If you figure league average is somewhere around .250, obviously the Mariners have a ways to go just to get back up to average.  Given the track record of the players we know about, and given how special guys like Haniger and Motter have been in the early going, you’d expect our average with RISP will go up in a hurry, and good times will be right around the corner.

Well, we’ll see.  It’s interesting that the M’s are struggling with RISP even in their wins.  In the 4 wins, the Mariners are hitting 9 for 44 with RISP (.205), which means in the losses, you can really point to a lack of clutch hitting, as their average with RISP falls to .125, with the majority of our losses coming to the Astros, ergo the Astros are skewing our numbers in a big way.

You won’t be surprised at who is sucking our collective wills to live the most in this category.  Valencia is 1 for 10, Martin is 0 for 11, and Zunino is a whopping 1 for 15!  It might shock you that Cruz is also up there, at 2 for 13, which is unacceptable for a cleanup hitter.  But, truth be told, no one is great.  Cano has had the most opportunities and he’s only hitting .250, so pretty much everyone can get a lot more clutch for this team, if it expects to go to the playoffs.

Winning a series is nice.  First series win of the season is under our belt, just 12 games into the season.  But, this feels like it needs to be a sweep, so go out there this afternoon and get the job done!

Mariners Get Much-Needed Win On Griffey Statue Day

With the way this season’s gone so far, the Mariners should’ve lost last night’s game 9 ways from Sunday, but instead somehow pulled out the 2-1 victory.

Felix looked good, though still not quite his old dominant self, in going 7.1 innings, giving up 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 3 with 0 walks.  The fact that he’s still on 0 walks through three starts is about as amazing as it gets.  Last night, he pitched to contact well and for the most part was rewarded by his defense, aside from that Zunino bungle in front of home plate.

The King was still in great shape in the 8th inning, at around 80 pitches heading in.  But, a line-out to the short stop and a single to the next batter ended his day.  Scrabble came in and got the next two lefties out to end the threat.  From there, it was more or less a relatively pain-free save situation for Diaz, who watched a 2-out single scamper over to third base on a steal and a wild pitch before being stranded.

The Mariners kicked off the scoring with Nelson Cruz’s first homer of the season, a solo shot in the 4th, to go up 1-0.  It was an impressive liner to right-center field, and you know Cruz is going well at the plate when he’s going the other way with power.

Obviously, the offense isn’t going right when you only get 2 runs, but 6 Mariners managed to get at least 1 hit.  They’re just not getting these in succession, as they went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

Part of it wasn’t necessarily their fault though, as in the bottom of the 7th, Dyson reached on an infield single, and stole second before Heredia could bunt him over.  Heredia finally DID bunt him over, but it got away from the pitcher, ending up with runners on the corners and nobody out.  That brought up Mitch Haniger, who worked the count in his favor and hit a shot off the top of the wall that the idiot umpiring crew called a home run.  It was later ruled NOT a home run, but for some reason they put Haniger back at first base and Heredia back at second.  You can say Heredia mis-read the ball all you want, but with their speed, there’s no way they wouldn’t have gotten to second and third on that hit.  That sufficiently changed the course of the inning, but with the meat of the order coming up, you still had to feel good about our chances of playing a little add-on, right?

WRONG.  Cano popped out and Cruz hit into a double play.  I guess that solo homer back in the 4th didn’t cure all of Cruz’s ills quite yet.

Danny Valencia is still stinking up the joint.  So is Mike Zunino.  Valencia just looks as lost at the plate as I’ve seen anyone.  Zunino has a giant hole in his swing causing him to miss anything up in the zone.  A guy with his power and his youth should not be missing on this many fastballs in the zone, saying nothing of the times he goes chasing those breaking balls that fall out of the zone.  I’ve been doing a little work on updating my Worst Trades, Draft Picks, and Free Agent Signings page, and right now in my notes I’ve written “Mike Zunino?”  Well, we’re going on 5 years since he was drafted, and I’m just about to take that question mark off of his name and cement him in as yet another first round Mariners draft bust.  God damn you Jack Zduriencik, you worthless pile of crap.

The Mariners Shut Out The Astros In Their Home Opener

I know I’m not the first person to think of this, but there were a couple of moments that stood out to me in yesterday’s Home Opener at Safeco Field.  The first was in the bottom of the fourth, when the heart of the order loaded the bases with nobody out, the game still scoreless.  Valencia and Martin proceeded to strike out, and Zunino flew out to end the inning with no runners scoring.  I was a little distracted at the time, because this woman in our section was being loud and generally annoying almost everyone else around her (to my perverse delight), but suddenly I heard the fans start to boo, and I perked up even further.  YES!  BOO!  That’s what you do when you see something you don’t like, you boo the shit out of it!  And Mariners, we don’t particularly like you right now, so we’re going to boo YOU!

From the safety of the 200-level seats …

Seattle fans in general, and Mariners fans in particular, don’t get a whole lot of credit for being all that savvy or even interested in what’s going on down on the field (and, believe me, I’m harping on the fans more than anyone to get their shit together).  But, to see the home fans boo the hometown team on Opening Day was a real eye-opener.  Granted, this isn’t the first time we’ve booed the Mariners before, but usually it takes more sustained ineptitude before they draw that type of ire from us.  CERTAINLY, we would never boo our team on Opening Day!

And yet, here we were, on the heels of a 1-6 road trip to kick off the season, where the offense struggled to do much of anything in all but one of those games, giving it to this hapless bunch on Day 1.  We expect better from you, Mariners, and if you don’t start delivering, you’re damn well going to hear it from us!

I’ll admit, I’ve never been prouder of a group of fans.  Yesterday was a banner day.

The other moment that stood out was in the very next inning, the bottom of the fifth.  Still scoreless, this time the Mariners loaded the bases with one out.  Nelson Cruz walked to the plate.  I want to say it happened in the middle of the at-bat, after a couple/few pitches had been thrown:  spontaneous cheering.  CHEERING!  Cheering BEFORE something good had happened!  We were one inning removed from collective booing to show our displeasure, but instead of sitting on our hands, waiting for the guys to earn our praise (or waiting for the next opportunity to boo the shit out of them once again), we – as fans – decided to be proactive, and help our fellow baseball superstar.

I tell you, I’ve NEVER seen anything like that from a Mariners crowd.  The only time I’ve ever seen us start to cheer is when something good happens, or when the jumbotron tells us to.  The closest I’ve ever seen is with the King’s Court, and the chanting whenever Felix gets to two strikes on a batter, but I don’t remember if that started out spontaneously among the fans in that section, or if it was something the organization started and thrust upon us.

Either way, here we were, cheering on Nelson Cruz as he stood at the plate.  We were one with the baseball player right there, and we knew he needed a little boost from the fans to get things going on offense.  And by gar, it WORKED!  Cruz hit a 2-run single up the middle, and Seager followed with a sac fly to make it 3-0 after five innings.

And at that point, I’d REALLY never been prouder of a group of fans.  It’s like we’re turning a corner or something!

Yesterday was a ton of fun.  But, it didn’t start out that way.  I took off work at 11am and went to the Mariners Team Store in Downtown Seattle to buy a new hat.  Every year, I buy a new ballcap to add to my collection.  Last year, I got the St. Patrick’s Day hat, and it brought us no luck.  This year, I got the Seattle Turks throwback hat (some interesting reading on the early Seattle baseball scene HERE and HERE).

Clean …

As soon as I walked out with my new purchase, it started to rain.  It continued to rain as I approached Sluggers, around 11:30am, and it was still raining when we walked out of Sluggers moments later, due to the fact that it was packed beyond belief.  We settled on The Lodge Sports Grille, which turned out to be pretty damn good.  Lots of beer on tap, excellent spicy popcorn shrimp, and the best part:  they actually had room for the three of us to sit and watch the various TVs on the walls.

We approached Safeco Field as soon as the introductions were starting.  If you thought the fireworks were loud in the stadium, you should stand outside of the left field entrance; they were absolutely deafening!  The lines getting into the stadium were untenable, so we piled into Jimmy’s On First to grab a couple more beers and wait out the nonsense.  Once it looked like it wouldn’t take an hour to get inside the stadium, we walked on over.  By then, thankfully, the rain mostly stopped.

We missed the intros.  We watched the first pitches (four guys throwing to four other guys) from Jimmy’s, as well as the first inning or two.  James Paxton looked REAL dominant, in going 7 innings of shutout ball, striking out 8.  Altavilla and Scribner locked down the 8th & 9th innings as we all made 6-run lead jokes after the blown save the day before.

Offensively, we came to play.  Mitch Haniger had a couple hits and an RBI, Cruz went 3 for 4 with 2 RBI, Seager had 2 hits and an RBI, Cano had a hit & 2 walks, and the bottom three in the order each had a hit apiece.  So, yeah, maybe it WAS all about the home cookin’.

The one downer was the hamstring injury to Jean Segura.  Here’s to hoping that won’t keep him out too long, or be detrimental to his performance going forward.  Get well soon, but also get FULLY well!

Everybody Welcome Back The Same Ol’ Mariners!

I dunno, what was all that stuff about winning a bunch of games and breaking the streak of non-playoff seasons?  Yeah, you know what?  Forget I said anything, I don’t know what I was thinking.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I was THINKING that this was a team that was pretty darn close to making the post-season last year, a team that made some pretty obvious upgrades to the offense, a team that gave itself a lot of bullpen options to choose from, and a team that – if nothing else – put together a veteran, savvy starting rotation to keep us in most games.  With that offense, and some solid bullpen play, this certainly looked like a team that could do some damage!

But, yeah, Mariners.  IT’S THE SAME OL’ MARINERS, EVERYONE!

Who are the Same Ol’ Mariners?  You know, they’re the key guys who get injured at the worst times.  They’re the superstars who suddenly become terrible.  They snatch defeats from the jaws of victory.  They provide fans with just enough hope to fool themselves into falling for this team yet again, and then they pull that rug out from under us and laugh at the idiots who fell flat on their asses.  Jerry Dipoto can do his damnedest to turn over the roster and make all the trades he wants, but regardless, what he’s going to get in return for all of his hard work are the Same Ol’ Mariners, here to bungle at baseball and waste all of our time for yet another summer.  By October, the Same Ol’ Mariners end up where they always end up:  in their homes, watching playoff baseball on TV, patting their backs for jobs well done.

Technically, Felix had a quality start last night – going 6 innings, giving up 3 runs – but I don’t know if anyone would describe that performance as “quality”.  He did have that 14-pitch at-bat to Mike Trout, as well as keeping him off the bases all three times he faced him.  And, you know, not for nothing, but any time your starter only gives up 3 runs in 6 innings, you should probably win that game (especially if you have an offense as well-regarded as Seattle’s).  But, you know, the Same Ol’ Mariners are who the Same Ol’ Mariners are.

In this case, their best set-up reliever (Evan Scribner) gives up a 2-run homer to Mike Trout in a 3-3 game, ultimately resulting in a 5-4 loss.

I wouldn’t blame the mediocre pitching entirely.  With the Same Ol’ Mariners, it’s always a TEAM effort!  The night started off pretty promising, with Mitch Haniger hitting a 2-run homer in the first inning to set the tone.  2-0 was eventually chipped away, one run at a time, by the Angels working over our Ace.  The worst part was our inept offense made THEIR starter, Ricky Nolasco, look like an Ace, as he settled down to go 6 innings, still giving up just the two runs.  We owned that guy in the past, but not even the luxury of facing probably the worst starting pitcher we’ll see on this road trip was enough for our offense to get going.

There were opportunities, of course!  In the fifth, Valencia got to third with one out, only to find Mike Zunino would rather go fishing than make smart decisions on which baseballs to swing at.  He did make up for it a little bit, knocking in a 2-out RBI single in the 7th inning (to, at the very least, get Felix off the hook for the loss).  In our best and last shot of the night, down 5-3, Segura and Cano both singled to put runners at the corners.  Nelson Cruz could’ve busted out of his slump in a major way, but instead only hit a sac fly.  With two outs, Kyle Seager could’ve busted out of his slump in a major way, but instead struck out and that was that.

Two series into the regular season, two series defeats.  Would you expect anything less from the Same Ol’ Mariners?  I know I wouldn’t!  This afternoon, Kuma comes in to try to salvage something out of this waking nightmare.  I wouldn’t count on it.

The Astros Are Better Than The Mariners At Baseball

If you learn one thing from this series, it’s that the Astros are destined for greatness and the Mariners are destined for something … less than.  You can tell me it’s early all you want, but this is a great Astros team, and they’re not even playing all that well right now!  Altuve has yet to do anything, the rest of their lineup has been spotty at best, and yet they’ve still been able to demolish the Mariners through three games, with the fourth coming tonight.  Just imagine what this team is going to look like when all elements are firing.

The enraging thing – the thing that’s bound to prove my point even further – is going to be when the Mariners sweep the Angels this weekend and everyone will say, “See!  Nothing to worry about!  It was just one series in early April!  These games CLEARLY don’t matter as much as the games in September!”  And for a while, people will relax, because it’ll look like the Mariners are back on track.  Except, here’s the thing:  I never said the Mariners are terrible; I just said that the Astros are really fucking good and there’s no way we’re going to top them this season, short of the Astros suffering a slew of key injuries while the Mariners from this day forward remain relatively healthy.

This series is the fork in our division-winning hopes.  The Mariners are simply worse than the Astros, and quite frankly they have been since the Astros joined the A.L. West.  Even when the Astros were fucking God awful, they were still better than the Mariners.  It is our cross to bear.

So, now we know, with 159 games to play, it’s Wild Card or Bust.  I just hope there aren’t many more teams like the Astros on the schedule to give us fits.  If we can’t figure out a way to win some divisional games – thank you Unbalanced Schedule – not even the Wild Card will be on the table.

Last night’s game might have changed my mind, had the Mariners scratched out the win, but instead it only reinforces my resolve that the Astros are the better team.  We had everything going for us in that game, and by “everything” I mean James Paxton.  He looked fucking phenomenal in throwing six shutout innings, while giving up 2 hits, walking 1, and striking out 5.  If he’d only been able to keep his pitch count under control, this really should’ve been a 7- or 8-inning performance.  But, it’s his first start of the season, so stopping him at 100 pitches is the right thing to do.

I’ll tell ya, though, Paxton was something else.  He was pounding the inside corner of the plate like I’ve never seen!   The Astros had, what I distinctly remember as an all-right handed lineup, and Paxton didn’t bat an eye!  He even managed to power through some of those unlucky Paxton-esque moments without allowing a run to score; like in the second inning, when a 1-out walk managed to reach third base on an out and a wild pitch; or when Springer reached on a strikeout in the dirt and advanced to third base on a double (he had to get through Altuve and Correa to get out of that jam unscathed!).  These are the kinds of minor inconveniences that – in the past – would somehow come around to destroy a Paxton start.  But, last night, he locked those shits down!

(of course, that isn’t to say those types of things won’t ruin him in future starts, but this was an encouraging way to bring in the new season for a guy known for his inconsistency)

The Mariners managed to not only score a run with a hit out of the infield, but they hit their first homer of the season!  Jean Segura hit an opposite-field 2-run homer that was remarkable in the way it kept carrying.  For such a little guy, he has a surprising amount of power.  On top of that, it was the Mariners’ first lead of the season!

It didn’t last long.

As I noted above, Paxton was finished after six innings, but the Mariners went right to their best set-up man, Evan Scribner … who promptly gave up back-to-back hits and was pulled for Scrabble (our next-best set-up man), who did his job and got the first out of the 7th inning.  That brought us to Dan Altavilla (our third-best set-up man), who gave up a single to load the bases and a double to tie the ballgame.  He ended up getting out of the jam after that with the tie intact, but the blown save damage was done.

From there, it was a comedy of poor clutch hitting through the 12th inning.  Pazos was brought in, even though their entire lineup was right-handed.  He gave up two hits before being pulled.  Casey Fien cleaned up the mess without incident.  Then, Edwin Diaz got his first action of the season, and was forced to go two scoreless innings as we plowed into extras.  That brought us to Nick Vincent, who somehow pitched out of a Runner On Third With Less Than Two Outs jam (of his own creation) and ended up going two more scoreless innings.

At that point, the only reliever left was Chase De Jong.  The Mariners, in the 13th inning, managed to eke out a run on four consecutive walks with nobody out, but could not play add-on, and thus you know how this game concluded.  With a tenuous 3-2 lead, Chase De Jong – who was making his Major League debut, who has all of 1 appearance in AAA (i.e. who was – for all intents and purposes – making the leap from AA to the Majors) – got one quick out, walked the next batter, induced the following batter to foul out, and gave up an opposite-field single to Nori Aoki.

That was the game.  It wasn’t the subsequent 3-run homer by George Springer; it was letting that snake in the grass Aoki, in the 9-hole, weasel his way on base to turn the lineup over.  You get Aoki, you win the game, you get your first career save, and they’re showering you with the Champagne of Beers in the locker room.  Instead, you leave one out over the plate, it gets crushed, and you’re living in your own personal Hell.  Welcome to the Big Leagues, son.

(also, not for nothing, but does this happen if Dillon Overton’s wife doesn’t have that kid this week?  Is it too much to ask to get the C-section a week early?  Okay, I’m horrible, I’ll move on)

I mean, what can you say?  I can’t get angry at De Jong; that’s an impossible situation to enter into as your Major League debut!  Yeah, it’s his fault, but it’s not really his fault.  He probably shouldn’t even be up here in the first place.  In a perfect world, Drew Smyly is healthy and Ariel Miranda is the 8th man in the bullpen.  But, I can’t even blame our own bad luck, because this offense is SERIOUSLY shitting the bed like I haven’t seen since 2010.  Except it’s a million times worse, because whereas the 2010 M’s had shitty hitters, the 2017 M’s have really good ones!  And they’re doing JACK SHIT right now.

Take a look at the blown scoring opportunities in this game alone:

  • 1st Inning – Haniger at 2nd with 1 out; Cano strikes out, Cruz grounds out
  • 2nd Inning – Zunino doubles with 2 outs; Dyson pops it up to the short stop
  • 4th Inning – Cruz leadoff double; stranded at second
  • 7th Inning – Martin walked & stole 2nd with 1 out; stranded at second again
  • 12th Inning – Dyson singled & stole 2nd with 1 out; stranded
  • 13th Inning – 4 walks to lead off the inning & score the go-ahead run; Valencia fly out, Zunino strikeout, Dyson strikeout

That’s just unforgivable.  The pitching this series hasn’t been perfect – not like it needs to be, apparently – but it’s been BEYOND good enough.  It’s even more aggravating because you know the pitching isn’t going to stay this good over the long haul.  We’re fucking SQUANDERING games that we should be winning!  And don’t tell me it’s early, because a loss is a loss is a loss; they all count the same fucking way regardless of whether they’re in April or September, so fuck off with that nonsense.

0-3 as we head into the next two days with our worst two starters.  Oh, this should be fun.

The Mariners Somehow Made Opening Day Feel Like The Dog Days Of August

What a God damned wretched experience last night was.  I saw my first-ever NCAA bracket contest championships wither and die along with Gonzaga’s dreams and the concept of good refereeing.  And, as an appetizer, I got to watch the Mariners stink up the joint for almost three hours.

For starters, what the hell happened to the Mariners opening up every season against the Oakland A’s?  While it rarely made for exciting baseball, you could at least count on a win for the good guys!  The last two years, we’ve opened up with games against Texas and Houston and have seen our Opening Day winning percentage suffer accordingly.

It seems particularly cruel to have the Mariners start in Houston of all places, where we traditionally play like warm, pureed garbage.  It’s like Major League Baseball wanted to deflate all of our hopes like so many New England Patriots footballs, before the season even truly started.

Dallas Keuchel looked like his usual, dominant self.  I’m always amazed when it’s pointed out that the Mariners actually HAVE had some success against that guy; I seem to only remember the times he’s absolutely murdered us.  The Mariners only had one opportunity to get to him, and a poor choice in our lineup’s construction saw to it we wouldn’t capitalize.

In the 4th inning, Cano, Cruz, and Valencia loaded the bases with two outs, on a single and a couple of walks.  I was okay with the lineup 1-6, with Valencia batting behind Seager in that 6-hole.  Where I have the problem is batting Leonys Martin 7th, ahead of Mike Zunino.  I understand the allure of having Zunino’s power so low in the lineup, combined with the desire to limit the pressure on him at the plate by having him near the bottom, but Leonys Martin is a hot fucking mess at the plate.  On top of that, he’s a lefty trying to do SOMETHING against the likes of Dallas Fucking Keuchel.  There’s something to be said for going lefty-righty-lefty in your lineup, but not with the 7-8-9 hitters!

We had the bases loaded with 2 outs and a left-handed hitter coming to the plate.  Martin, as is his wont, swung at the first pitch and grounded out to second base, because of course he did.  Now, imagine that same scenario with Zunino up there and the bases loaded!  Granted, he also went hitless yesterday, so maybe he too would’ve grounded out to end the inning.  But, I have a shitload more confidence in Zunino against Keuchel than I do Martin against Keuchel.  You should be stacking the lineup with as many right handed hitters in a row against a guy like Keuchel!  STOP FUCKING AROUND, SERVAIS!  This year is too fucking important for your shenanigans!

If it looks like I’m in Panicky Mariners Fan midseason form, that’s because this game had the feel of every midseason Mariners game you’ve ever seen in the last 10+ years.  Three hits, four walks, seven runners left on base, hitless with runners in scoring position; Felix struggling against the Astros, Felix leaving the game with a groin injury while trying to cover first base on a grounder to Valencia …

Speaking of which, I’m at the point now where I’m ready to let those go as infield hits, rather than have the King run to first base, because it seems like damn near EVERY FUCKING TIME he walks away from that play limping!

The only other scoring opportunity the Mariners saw was in the 8th inning, down 3-0, against reliever Luke Gregerson.  After two quick outs, Dyson and Segura got on base and advanced on a wild pitch.  With runners on 2nd & 3rd, Cano stepped up to the plate and worked the count in his favor.  He was one pitch away from working a walk to load the bases for Cruz, but he saw a pitch he liked and he roped it on a line to right field, right at the right fielder for the final out of the inning.  The Astros would bring in a fireballer to close it out and make almost all of the 9th inning batters look like idiots, and that was the end of it.

I’ll hop right into the random observations.

I thought Felix looked okay.  The first homer he gave up, to the first batter of the game, was a mistake plain and simple, right in the middle of the plate.  The other homer was hit on a good pitch, up and in, off the plate.  He didn’t walk anyone, and he struck out six guys, including Altuve twice!  Obviously, the groin issue is a concern, and will probably be something he has to deal with all season – until it finally forces him onto the DL – as I’m sure he’ll re-aggravate it every time he has to cover first base, so that sucks.  Short of that, I thought he had a couple more good innings left in him easy.

I think the Mariners, and the broadcast team in particular, are putting WAY too much pressure on Mitch Haniger.  Yeah, his Spring Training was fantastic, but he’s still someone who has yet to have any Major League success whatsoever.  Why don’t we let him get some at bats under his belt before we start calling him The Prize Of Our Offseason Acquisitions, or whatever the hell it was Dave Sims was trying to say last night.  Jesus Christ, if he isn’t the guy who mows down Spring Training only to turn back into a pumpkin come the regular season, I don’t know who is!

Good on Jean Segura for getting a couple hits!  He’s your real prize of the offseason, you mope!

It would be ideal for Jarrod Dyson to start getting hits off of lefties, so we can just leave him at the top of our lineup, push Martin down to 9th, and Haniger down to 7th or 8th, but I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen.

Nick Vincent struggled.  Get ready to say that a lot this year.

James Pazos looked good!  I hope he’s able to stick around for a while; I like what I saw.

I don’t know if I’m as excited about Casey Fien.  He looked all right, I guess, but boy is he coming off of a down year.  Also, not sure if I saw much of an out-pitch out of him, but then again, with how aggressive the Astros are, he only had to throw 8 pitches.

Three more games in this Houston series.  I feel like best case scenario is a 2-2 split.  I also feel like we might come out on the short end of that stick.