Mariners Pound Marlins To Take The Series, Look Ahead To A’s

I was at work for most of this game, and for reasons too boring to go into, I was unable to listen to the online radio stream of the game, so I had to do the next-best thing:  follow along on Twitter.

Boy that first inning sure sounded like a mindfuck, huh?  After a very fine start last Friday to kick off this good run of baseball the Mariners have been on, it looked like King Felix just didn’t have it.  Four straight singles to lead off the game, then a sac fly-turned-double play on the arm of Jarrod Dyson, then another single and a hit by pitch before he was able to get out of it only down 2-0.

If ever there appeared to be a day where the offense would have to pick up its Ace, this was it.  And pick him up they did!

The top of the lineup absolutely did its job, as Dyson through Seager went a combined 10 for 18 with 8 RBI, 7 runs scored, on 7 walks, 3 doubles, and only 3 strikeouts.  They also went a combined 5 for 9 with runners in scoring position.  Just an awesome, awesome day from the guys you expect to regularly have awesome, awesome days.  That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve recognition for a job well done!

Felix was able to settle down somewhat, but it looked like a battle all day.  He got into the seventh inning, going 6.1, with 12 hits, 1 walk, 4 runs, and 5 strikeouts.  Zych was able to get out of a little mini-jam in the seventh, by inducing a double play.  Vincent continued on his comeback trail by going a scoreless eighth.  And then something wonderful and annoying happened.

Evan Marshall came in to close out a 6-run lead in the ninth inning, and leading off – perhaps for the final time ever in Safeco Field – was Ichiro Suzuki.  I had made it home by this point, and had the television on for just an amazing sight:  Ichiro, drilling a homer into the right field stands to the astonishment and glee of Mariners fans (almost) everywhere.  I’ll admit, I let out a loud, “YEAH!” when I saw where that ball was about to land.

There aren’t many opposing players I’d openly cheer for over the Seattle Mariners, but Ichiro is definitely one of them.  Now, if the game were tied in this situation, I’d probably be a lot less thrilled, but as it was, Ichiro merely reduced the lead to 5 runs.  NBD, right?

Marshall walked the next guy, which is simply unforgivable in that situation, but he got the next two hitters to fly out.  It almost looked like he’d save face, but he gave up a single to the next guy and that was that.  Scrabble came in and one pitch later the game was over.

I know I called out the top half of the lineup for their good work, but individual kudos need to go to Seager for his 2-hit, 2-walk, 4-RBI day; as well as Haniger, for his 3-hit, 1-walk, 3-run, 4-RBI day.  Haniger now leads the team in average, homers, doubles, RBI, runs scored, OBP, and is second to Motter in slugging.  His RBI and runs scored numbers are 4th in all of baseball, and he’s up there in a bunch of other categories too.  That ROY award is practically all sealed up less than a month into the season!

***

Looking ahead, here are the pitching matchups for the A’s series:

  • Thurs:  Cesar Valdez vs. James Paxton
  • Fri:  Sean Manaea vs. Hisashi Iwakuma
  • Sat:  Jharel Cotton vs. Ariel Miranda
  • Sun:  Andrew Triggs vs. Yovani Gallardo

To say that I’ve never heard of any of these A’s pitchers would be an understatement!  Valdez looks like a journeyman minor leaguer who hasn’t appeared in a Major League uniform since 2010 with the Diamondbacks.  I’d say that game is safely the biggest mismatch of the weekend, with Paxton going for the Mariners.  The rest of those guys all had their Major League debuts in 2016, with Manaea being the youngest and the one with the most starting experience in the Bigs.  No doubt these guys must have some talent, but they’re definitely not bona fide regulars.

In three starts so far, Manaea has one okay start and two pretty bad ones.  Cotton pitched a gem against the Royals (7 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 3 walks, 6 K’s), but sandwiched around that one were two very crappy starts.  Triggs has looked the most impressive in the early going, giving up 0 earned runs (3 unearned) across 17.2 innings (3 starts), including just out-duelling Yu Darvish in his last outing.

The A’s bullpen has a 4.08 ERA, with 3 saves in 5 opportunities.  Doesn’t look like anything special, but we’ll see when we get out there.

As far as the bats go, Khris Davis has come to play this year, with 6 homers and leading the team in most offensive categories.  As for the rest of the regulars:  nothing too special.

On paper, this is a series the Mariners should win at the very least, and is probably a series they should sweep.  But, this is the Mariners, and those are the A’s, and it’s a divisional matchup and it’s on the road and I’m just sayin’ … don’t be shocked if things don’t exactly go our way.  I won’t be anyway.  I’ll be pretty pissed, but I won’t be shocked.

Mariners Wore Their Big Boy Pants, Beat Up Marlins

As I noted on Twitter last night, the Mariners’ hitting with runners in scoring position has gone up 40 points in the last two days.  Shocking, right?  They should change the sport’s name from Baseball to Regression To The Mean.

All it took was going 8 for 19 with RISP to bump it up from .157 to .197.  They still have a way to go to get back to league average, so it’s probably reasonable to expect many more fine offensive days to come.

I fully understand that nobody who’s anybody really cares about batting average with RISP as a stat, because they see it as just hitting.  Good hitters are going to be better with RISP than bad hitters, and it all evens out in the end.  But, I think it’s important.  We talk all the time about pitchers – particularly relievers – in high-leverage situations.  Well, what’s a batter walking to the plate with a runner on second or third base if not a high-leverage situation?

The fact of the matter is, every hitter has the same goal:  get on base.  Take what the pitcher gives you and work a walk, bloop a single, line a double, or destroy a homer.  But, there are always variables.  What’s the score?  A guy is apt to try a little harder in a 0-0 game than he is in a 10-0 game, regardless of whether his team is winning or losing.  Is a runner on base?  Well, that’s an RBI opportunity!  Say what you will about baseball players, but they love batting runners in.  Is that runner on second or third base?  Well, shoot, then all the batter needs to do is hit a single into the outfield to get him home!  Your approach changes depending on the situation.  And, factoring in game score, time of the year, whether your team is in contention for the playoffs or not, the pressure is ramped up.

On the flipside, the pitcher doesn’t want to give up those runners in scoring position!  They’re trying to preserve their ERAs!  So, they’re going to bear down, so to speak.  They’re going to focus a little bit harder on making good pitches to get the batter to do what they want them to do.

And, since the name of the game is to score more runs than your opponent, I’d say hitting with RISP is a pretty important aspect to the game of baseball.  So, I think keeping track of the day-to-day on this thing brings value.  If nothing else, I hope to gain a little more understanding about the game I’ve been following for so long.

Last night, the Mariners came to play from the jump.  Dyson walked to lead off and Cano ended up bringing him home with a 2-run moon shot to right-center.  Cruz followed that up with a blast of his own to make it 3-0.  Thankfully, the Mariners were able to add on, with two more runs in the fourth and one more in the fifth.

In the fourth, Martin got a single and stole second, before advancing to third on a poor pick-off move by the pitcher.  From there, Dyson hit a double down the line the other way, then proceeded to score on a double by Cano that was very close to being his second homer of the night.

In the fifth, Taylor Motter joined the party with a towering homer to left field in the upper deck.  Good golly Miss Molly is this kid fun to watch.

On the pitching side of things, Ariel Miranda had his best outing of the season.  He was perfect into the fourth inning, got into a little bit of a jam with 2 outs in the sixth (giving up back-to-back singles), but got out of it and made it through seven scoreless innings, with 5 strikeouts and 0 walks, on only 4 hits.  Outstanding!

It’s too early to get too excited about Miranda’s performance last night, particularly after his first two underwhelming starts.  But, he’ll be one to watch going forward.  With Smyly injured, with Iwakuma hit or miss, and with Gallardo not likely to impress too much, it’ll be important for Miranda to pick up some of the slack.  For what it’s worth, he looked as good as I’ve ever seen him last night.  Fastball touched 95, he was locating well, and for the most part he kept his off-speed stuff down in the zone.  The key is to do that every time, or most every time.  Up next for him is a game in Oakland; they don’t strike me as an offensive juggernaut.

Nick Vincent and Evan Scribner each got an inning of work.  They were the only two bullpen guys not to appear on Sunday, so that’s fine.  Scribner gave up a hard-luck homer the opposite way in the 9th.  I thought his stuff looked good, I just thought the guy hit a quality pitch out of the park.

I hope the offense continues its hot streak tonight, with Gallardo on the mound.  I’ll never know what to expect from him, but hopefully he’s able to get on track a little bit.

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!

Blowing A 5-Run Lead For The Mariners Is Child’s Play

Much like the night before, this game started off pretty promising.  The offense jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, Mike Freeman hit his first-ever Major League home run in the second inning, and Taylor Motter – the untamable beast – hit a 2-run homer in the third inning to really set things up nicely.  Yovani Gallardo was cruising along, so it should’ve been a cinch for him to go 6 innings and get that quality start.  And, from there, surely our finest bullpen arms would be able to put the game away easy peasy!

Except, starting in the fourth inning, Gallardo decided to give the whole lead away.  Two runs in the fourth & two more in the fifth made it 5-4 Mariners, but at least Gallardo got to qualify for the win!  Because that’s fucking important!  Not the fact that he clearly lost his command way back in the fourth inning and probably should’ve been pulled before he could do any more damage!

But, where would that get us?  As it was, we pulled him after five, and the bullpen STILL managed to more than give the game away.  Scrabble kept it tight in the sixth inning, but Dan Altavilla – ostensibly our best reliever after our closer – wiped away everything by giving up 3 runs in the seventh.  After that, I just turned the fucking game off.

I mean, the game was already a collosal bore, dragging on WAY too long thanks to both starters futzing around on the mound all damn day.  There was no way the Mariners were going to get that lead back.  When the dregs of the bullpen gave up 3 more runs in the eighth, let’s just say I wasn’t surprised.

The obvious point of contention is to look at the offense that didn’t do a God damn thing after the third inning.  That isn’t the way to put most teams away, let alone the Astros who are really fucking good and really have our fucking number.  But, it’s not like there were tons of opportunities.  After the third inning, the Mariners never had more than 1 baserunner in an inning, and all told spread out just three hits.

Quite frankly, this is the type of game I expected to see a lot of this season.  Crappy starting pitching followed by really sketchy bullpen pitching.  The offense did enough to win on many days, but obviously 5 runs isn’t going to cut it every time out for this pitching staff.

This thing sort of goes deeper though.  We’ve had to count on A LOT of young arms this year, less than two weeks in.  Altavilla is 24, having just made the jump from AA late last year.  Dillon Overton is 25 and has just 9 Major League appearances to his name.  Evan Marshall is 26, and has just one full Major League season under his belt.  James Pazos is 25 and had just 18 Major League appearances before this season.  Chase De Jong is just 23 and made his Major League debut in that extra innings Houston loss.  And, hell, our closer, Edwin Diaz is only 23 and is still more or less getting his feet wet as he made the jump from AA last year.  So, you know, don’t be shocked if you see these guys come up here and struggle from time to time.  Also, don’t be shocked if some or all of them ultimately flame out, because we simply don’t know how they’re going to respond when they get punched in the mouth like they’ve been recently.

Also, not for nothing, but the veterans we’ve sprinkled in around them haven’t exactly been world-beaters.  Aside from Scrabble – who’s pitched 2.1 innings in 4 appearances – we’re talking about Nick Vincent (very underwhelming), Evan Scribner (far from ideal), and Casey Fien (who was just outrighted to Tacoma to make room for Evan Marshall on the 25-man roster, and Boog Powell on the 40-man roster).

I’ll say this, the team could REALLY use Tony Zych and Steve Cishek back and healthy.

On the offensive side of things, I can’t help but be dazzled by Taylor Motter, who has 4 doubles and a homer in the last two days.  I said it before, kind of joking, but now I’m serious:  he NEEDS to be the everyday first baseman as long as he’s hitting like this.  Between him and Haniger, they’re in the early running for Biggest Pleasant Surprises (the Dae-ho Lee Award).  The longer Motter hits, the more the team is going to have to play him.  If he becomes a starter (either at first base or in the outfield), we’re going to be talking about this past offseason for many years to come.  Two very big black holes are currently being filled by Motter and Haniger, and if they continue to play well for a full season, it’s going to bode REALLY well for our chances down the stretch.

First thing’s first:  start taking care of business in the division.

Today is an off-day, which I’d say the Mariners desperately need.  Here’s to hoping this weekend goes better than last weekend.

Haniger Giveth and Haniger Taketh Away

Mostly … mostly taketh away.

There’s infinite possibilities of how that game last night could’ve gone, so who’s to say what would’ve happened if Mitch Haniger had made that diving catch in right field in the top of the 6th.  We know one thing though!  We know the Astros wouldn’t have scored 4 runs in that inning, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 lead for the bad guys!

We can also be pretty sure that we wouldn’t have seen Nick Vincent or Casey Fien, unless of course the save would have eventually been blown, but who has the time or the energy to get into all of that?

The Mariners lost.  Again.  Stop me if you heard this one before:  Ariel Miranda was cruising along until the top of the 6th inning … finish it.  I mean, he was by no means perfect, but getting through five innings, having given up only 2 runs, is pretty good for your 6th starter.  Then, in the 6th, he walked back-to-back batters before being taken out of the game, and that was that.  85 pitches thrown.  What’s up with that?  What’s up with these pitchers who tucker out well BEFORE they get to 100 pitches?  Is that what baseball is coming to?

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN???

Fielding aside, Haniger had another fine day at the plate.  He had an RBI double, scored for the 8th consecutive game, and walked 3 times!  His batting average is creeping up there, his on-base percentage if near .400, and he’s leading the team in slugging with exactly .600.  This is quite a player we’ve got our hands on.

Nominal kudos all around.  Dyson used his speed to score from first on that Haniger double.  Cano had 2 RBI.  Chooch Ruiz took a nasty hit off the arm and came around to score.

Jean Segura landed on what’s now the 10-Day DL with that hamstring issue.  I, for one, LOVE that they changed the DL from 15 days to 10, mostly because I was sick and tired of the Mariners keeping guys active even though they were hurt, and fiddling with the roster to make sure we had enough backups to survive a few days.  This way, Segura gets to rest up and fully heal, while also not missing a full 2 weeks’ worth of games.  Mike Freeman was called up and got some pinch hit duty in the 9th inning, coming around to score.

Taylor Motter started at short for Segura and was far and away the offensive star of the night.  He went 3 for 4 with 3 doubles, scoring once.  It’s going to be REALLY helpful if he can be good, because I don’t know how much more I can watch of Danny Valencia.  On top of being just the God damn worst at the plate, Valencia dropped a foul ball pop up that could’ve spared us this game lasting until almost fucking 11am.  People are praising his defense like it’s anything special and not absolutely replacement level.  In which case, how fucking terrible is Dan Vogelbach?

I’m having a hard time blaming the offense for this one.  But, again, 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position, including 1 for 4 out of Cano.

But, yeah, this one is on the defense, at least for me.  It was a tough play, but Haniger has to make that catch.  If you’re going to base your entire outfield philosophy on Defense First, then those guys have to make the defensive plays most other outfielders can’t.  They have to make the amazing, Sportscenter Top 10-type plays.  Otherwise, what are we doing here?  Yeah, it’s nice that Haniger is doing so well at the plate, but that doesn’t mean he can contribute to giving away a lead because he can’t catch a ball that hit him square in the glove!

Everyone just needs to be better, starting right now.  Also, rejoice in the fact that after tonight, we don’t have to play the fucking Astros again until late June.  Maybe by then half their roster will be dead.  Particularly the George Springer half, because fuck that guy.

The Mariners Opted To Shit All Over Opening Day With A 1-6 Road Trip

What’s the perfect capper to the worst opening week in Seattle Mariners history?  How about taking an 8-1 lead – including a 9-3 lead in the bottom of the 9th – and pissing it all away to blow a great Iwakuma start, the first really good offensive effort, and have it happen one day before the Mariners’ home opener?

Robinson Cano was the star of the day, breaking out of his slump with a 2 for 5 effort, including a 3-run homer and a 2-run bases loaded double.  But, he wasn’t the only guy on offense doing good work.  Mitch Haniger hit his third homer of the new season, Segura scored 3 runs and got his third stolen base of the year, and Carlos Ruiz had a couple hits, scoring a run and knocking one in.  The Mariners were a solid 3 for 8 with runners in scoring position and only left 3 runners on base.  I’ve had a lot of shit to say about the offense this first week, but they were absolutely NOT to blame for losing this one.

Hisashi Iwakuma also played a major part, going 6 innings, giving up just a solo homer in 89 pitches.  On the one hand, it’s a tad concerning Kuma has yet to throw more than 90 pitches in a game through two starts, but on the other hand he’s managed to go 6 innings both times while giving up 3 runs total this season.  If he’s going to do that for you on a regular basis, then I don’t think I mind keeping his arm fresh like we’ve been doing.  Of course, we’re going to need more out of our bullpen if that’s the case.

As soon as the Mariners went up 8-1 in the top of the 7th inning, Nick Vincent promptly gave up two runs in the bottom half of the inning to start the collapse.  He looked terrible as usual, and only got out of the inning because the last out got caught in a run-down between first and second after knocking the two runners in.  From there, Scrabble and Altavilla got through a scoreless 8th inning, while the M’s tacked on another run to make it a 6-run game.

No worries, then, right?  6-run lead, 3 outs to go in the game, why not bring Casey Fien in to get us through the garbage time?

Yeah, Casey Fien has to go.  As soon as Tony Zych is ready to return from his rehab assignment, Fien better be DFA’d, and in the meantime he better not show up in another fucking game unless it’s an absolute last resort.  At this point, I’d rather see any position player on the mound than Fien one more time.  Fuck that idiot.

Fien started off the 9th by giving up a solo homer to Albert Pujols.  He then walked a guy, gave up a single, and walked another guy before he was pulled, having gotten exactly zero outs.  Needless to say, all of those guys would go on to score.

With the game still 9-4, with the bases loaded (now technically a save situation), the Mariners had to scramble to get Edwin Diaz in the game.  I don’t know if he would ever give this as an excuse for his own poor outing, but I hardly think he had enough time to sufficiently warm up his arm prior to getting thrown in the fire.  Diaz induced a ground ball out that scored a run, 9-5.  He struck out the next guy, 1 out remaining in the game.  Then, Diaz went completely off the rails.  A double scored two, 9-7.  Two walks loaded the bases.  Then, Albert Pujols returned, this time to slap a game-tying single to right.  The final pitch Diaz threw went off the wall in right center to put everyone out of their misery.

I just don’t know what to say after a game like that.  I don’t even know what to say after a week like that!  Way to suck all the life out of Opening Day – today at 2pm – by starting off the season 1-6!  Even if this was just an ordinary year, we’d be talking about fans jumping into a pit of hot lava just to get the hell off of the bandwagon, but this is the year we’re supposed to be going back to the post-season!  On paper, we’re talking about the best team we’ve had around here since probably 2003, and you go out and shit all over everything by losing 6 of your first 7 games?  How are you going to get asses in the seats this season?  How are you going to keep fan interest alive when you’re COLOSALLY FUCKING THIS UP, DUDE!?

This year’s motto is “Whatever It Takes”.  Apparently, that’s short for, “Whatever It Takes To Make Our Fans Miserable”.

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.

The Official 2017 Seattle Mariners Preview, Part II: The Pitchers

You can read Part I HERE.

There are two ways this thing can go down in 2017:  either the Mariners break the curse and make it back into the post-season, or they don’t and the pitching is entirely to blame.

Now, there are also two ways that previous sentence can go down in 2017:  either I’m right, or the Mariners will find another way to screw both me and the entire fanbase by having good-enough pitching and yet still not making the playoffs somehow, but that’s neither here nor there.

It’s already starting, if I’m being honest, with all this Drew Smyly stuff (UPDATE:  out 6-8 weeks).  Why is it, in sports, that it always seems like teams suffer the most injuries at the spots they can least afford to suffer injuries?  It’s like the man with one leg who sprains his good ankle.  I mean, seriously, what the fuck?

It’s unfair to pin your hopes on one guy, but I have a feeling Smyly was going to be a key cog in our rotation.  Obviously, our chances start with what we get from Felix.  He needs to bounce back in a major way and be that Ace we’ve seen from him before.  Then, you figure the next guy up – the guy who has the biggest opportunity to really explode (in a good way) and possibly climb into that Ace realm – is James Paxton.  The variance on that guy ranges from Top End Starter all the way to Injured Waste of Space, with a lot of options in between.  Then, I always figured Smyly had the next-highest variance of possibilities on the team.  He was an erstwhile top prospect who has had success in this league, and it wasn’t hard to picture it all coming together for him.  If you could work out a Big Three of sorts in our rotation with Felix, Paxton, and Smyly, with those guys carrying the major load, you’d take what you could get out of Kuma and Gallardo and probably walk away with something resembling 90+ wins (depending on how the bullpen shakes out).

Kuma and Gallardo, by the by, have the least amount of variance on the team.  You know what you’re going to get with those guys, and as long as it’s something approaching .500 ball, you’ll take it and you’ll fucking like it.

But, now this Smyly thing happened, and we’ve already got to dip into our starting pitching reserves.  The only question now is, how long until disaster strikes again, and will Smyly be back in time to pick up the slack?

As for the bullpen, buckle up buckaroos!

There’s actually a lot to like about this unit, all things considered, but a lot of things would have to break right to expect these guys to be totally lockdown.  Edwin Diaz, for as talented as he is, is still going to be something of a rollercoaster.  Looking beyond just the Opening Day roster, Steve Cishek figures to have a major role in the back-end of the bullpen when he gets fully healthy and ready to fire, and we’ve all seen the kinds of meltdowns he’s capable of.  I look forward to Evan Scribner being a calming, dominant presence – based on his September last year and his Spring Training this year – but we don’t really know!  We’ve yet to see him when the games REALLY start to matter (while the Mariners were still “in contention” last September, it was going to take a minor miracle for them to claw all the way back into post-season play).  We better hope Scribner has what it takes, because Nick Vincent has looked like warm, hittable garbage this spring, and his stuff wasn’t all that good to begin with.  I have a feeling Vincent won’t be on the team by season’s end.  That Scrabble guy was our major bullpen free agent signing, to be our primary lefty reliever, and he’s certainly had his ups and downs.  You don’t sign a guy like him for 2 years and $11 million just to be a fucking LOOGY, so he better figure the fuck out how to limit the damage from right-handed hitters, because so far this spring they’re responsible for ALL of the runs he’s given up.

On the plus side, some of the younger guys look better than expected.  Dan Altavilla has all but won himself a spot on the team.  Tony Zych is also working his way back from injury, and should play a big role in this bullpen when he’s ready.  James Pazos is another lefty the team is looking at long and hard, though he’s suffering many of the same complications as Scrabble, with right-handed hitters bashing the shit out of him.  With someone like Pazos, though, I don’t think you mind as much letting him be a LOOGY for a while, to get his feet wet and build his confidence (especially if this team goes with 8-man bullpens for various stretches of the season).  Beyond that, you’ve got any number of non-roster guys who are doing great, but I’m having a hard time figuring out who’s slated to be in a minor league rotation vs. who’s fodder for our bullpen should the need arise.

Bottom line with these guys, I think the bullpen is good enough to get us there.  I would be legitimately surprised (and yet, as a longtime Mariners fan, not surprised whatsoever) if the bullpen totally fell apart like it did in 2015.

What is a concern is not just the rotation underperforming, but their underperformance having a drastically negative impact on our bullpen.  A dominant bullpen can carry the load for a short period of time, if the rotation goes into a slump (which always happens, at one point or another, on every team).  But, if the bullpen is expected to carry this pitching staff over a super-long stretch of games, it’s ultimately going to get over-worked and severely lose its effectiveness.  So, yeah, the bullpen COULD struggle when all is said and done, but you have to look at the whole picture and decide:  are these guys just duds, or did the rotation totally screw them over?

I keep going back and forth with my predictions for this team.  I know when I was in Reno, I thought the bet of over 85.5 wins was pretty solid.  But, I didn’t think it was solid enough to actually put my own money on it, so do with that what you will.  My feeling on the Mariners seems to change with my mood.  When I’m happy, I can see this team winning over 90 games and going pretty far.  When I’m unhappy, work is getting to me, and I’m obsessing over the 5,000th consecutive overcast day in fucking SEATTLE GOD DAMN WASHINGTON FUCK ME WHY DON’T I MOVE TO SAN DIEGO AND GET AWAY FROM ALL THIS BULLSHIT … my outlook on the Mariners’ prospects tends to swirl down the toilet along with my disposition.

I WANT to believe!  But, I’ve been burned time and time and time and time again.  Sometimes I think it’s safer just to predict another 80-something win season where the Mariners fall oh so short of the Wild Card.  I also think it’s safer because I worry if I predict a World Series championship, I’m jinxing the team, because I’m clinically insane.  Besides, if I go with everyone else and just say the Mariners will win 85 games, I can be pleasantly surprised if I’m wrong and they win more.

Well, I’m not going to do that this year.  THIS time, I’m actually going to go out on a ledge and risk looking QUITE the fool!  95 wins!  I say this not with excitement for what’s about to happen, or with the blind enthusiasm of a mental patient, but with terse resentment and overwhelming expectations.

You fucking owe this to us, Mariners!  I’m tired of pussy-footing around and blindly hoping for a “fun summer” or whatever.  I don’t just want you to keep things interesting until football season rolls around.  Fuck football season!  It’s not like the Seahawks are elite anymore anyway!  We’re all deluding ourselves in believing this team’s championship window is still open; they’ve been on a downward spiral since they beat Denver 43-8.  The Seahawks are old news; it’s the Mariners’ time now!

And we’ve put up with too much of your bullshit to let this thing go on one more season.  You better be great, you better take care of business in this division, and you better deliver the fucking goods come playoff time!  Because I’m sick and tired of carrying a torch for this team!  I want lots of wins and lots of success!

And baseball gods, if you’re listening, you can eat all the world’s dicks, because you fucking owe us too!  The Mariners have been baseball’s whipping boys since forever.  Even when we were good, we were morbidly unlucky!  It’s about time the Mariners defied all expectations, guys out-performed projections, and the team stayed mostly-healthy.  This Smyly shit will not stand!  I want GOOD luck from here on out!

I think I’m losing my mind, you guys, so I’m going to wrap this up.  Just a couple things to keep an eye on before I go.

The current odds for the Mariners to win the World Series is 30 to 1.  I think the odds were lower when I was in Reno (maybe 20 or 25 to 1).  I was thinking, with the way I like to throw money around when I’m down there, of putting $1,000 on this, just to see if I could see a miracle in my lifetime.  I didn’t, of course, but that’ll be something to look back on should something wonderful happen in 2017.

Also, the odds for Nelson Cruz to hit the most home runs in the Major Leagues was a whopping 20 to 1.  Last year, Cruz was second with 43, behind Mark Trumbo’s 47.  The year before that, Cruz was second with 44, behind Chris Davis’ 47.  The year before that, Cruz was first with 40.  Again, we’re talking among the entire Major Leagues!  He’s been 2nd, 2nd, and 1st in the last three years.  This spring, he looks just as good as ever, if not even better somehow.  Would THAT have been a good bet to throw $1,000 on?  I think it’s infinitely more likely to happen than the Mariners winning the World Series, so you could say I’ve been kicking myself for the last two weeks for not throwing money down on Cruz.  We’ll just see, I guess.

There was also a bet to see who could get more combined hits, home runs, and RBIs between Kyle Seager and his brother.  I think the younger Seager is a lock on that one; easiest money I ever left on the table.

Ariel Miranda & Dan Vogelbach Will Start The Season In Tacoma

The end of Spring Training is nigh, and as such, the Mariners are whittling their roster down to what will become the Opening Day 25.  In that hullabaloo, some interesting decisions have been made.

From the beginning, most of the beat writers and such have been predicting that Ariel Miranda would start the season in the Mariners’ bullpen, as a second – or even a third – lefty.  This was before his last three starts, where he gave up a combined 10 runs (9 earned) in 8.2 innings, with 7 walks and 7 strikeouts.  The spin is the organization wants to keep him starting, in case he needs to come up and replace someone in our rotation, but the fact of the matter is the Mariners were planning on taking the best pitchers regardless of whether they started or not.  Ariel Miranda isn’t pitching like one of the top 12 or 13 pitchers on this roster, so he gets to go to Tacoma for a while to figure it out.  A promising start early in Spring Training comes to a disappointing close.  Hopefully he gets back on track pretty quickly, because I know we’re going to need him at some point.

The other surprise move is Dan Vogelbach being optioned to Triple-A.  He had been pencilled in as the team’s starting first baseman; the only concern the team had was whether or not he could handle the defensive duties.  From the sounds of things, he’s been okay, but could probably use a little work.  The spin is the oranization is treating this like a James Paxton/Mike Zunino situation from last year:  they want him to work on improving his game in the comfort and anonymity of Tacoma, until the time is right and he’s called back up.  The fact of the matter is, his defense is probably good enough, but after the first week or so of Spring Training, his hitting has gone down the toilet.  Which is kinda what I predicted all along:  something always suffers when you’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Dan Vogelbach isn’t a natural first baseman.  He’s really just a DH that the team needs to shoehorn into a defensive spot to justify having him on the roster.  So, he’s been scrambling to work on the ins and outs of the first base position, and as a result his hitting has taken a backseat.

Like I’ve always said, it’s so much easier to bring up a prospect if he’s got the defensive part down pat.  Because, even if you’re a supposed natural at the plate in the minor leagues like Vogelbach is, there’s ALWAYS going to be a learning curve when you make the jump to the Majors.  Guys who only have to worry about one part of their games always have an easier go of it than guys who have to worry about both.

It’s too early to pull out the Bust label, but this is definitely an opening salvo.  Something tells me the first base position is going to be another need going into 2018.

With Shawn O’Malley having recently had an emergency appendectomy, it’s looking more and more like Taylor Motter will be the utility infielder (including backup first baseman).  As Motter and starter Danny Valencia are both righties, we lose that first base platoon, so I hope Valencia gets good at hitting right-handed pitching in a hurry.

This feels like a setback, but a minor one that we should have no trouble overcoming.  I always kind of expected Valencia to play closer to an everyday role anyway; I just thought he’d split more time between first base and right field.  Our depth takes a bit of a hit, but that just means guys like Motter, Haniger, and maybe Heredia have to pick up the slack.  I’m going to be REALLY interested to see how those guys perform if they make the Opening Day roster.

In other news, the Mariners say they’re going with an 8-man bullpen to start the regular season, and we’re all having a tough time predicting who those guys will be.  Particularly with guys like Cishek and Zych coming back from injury, and with Miranda and a few others already getting demoted to Tacoma.

  1. Edwin Diaz
  2. Evan Scribner
  3. Nick Vincent
  4. Marc Rzepczynski
  5. Dan Altavilla?
  6. James Pazos?
  7. Casey Fien?
  8. Some guy on another team we acquire in trade?

Yeah, I dunno.  I guess we’ll see.