Wasting No Time: The Mariners Traded For Their New First Baseman

So, I guess the Danny Valencia/Yonder Alonso experiment is over.  They were both thrilling and aggravating, but ultimately not a very major reason why the Mariners failed to make the playoffs in 2017.  They’re now free to return to the Oakland A’s, or any other team they see fit.

Speaking of the Oakland A’s, the Mariners traded with them again.  To bring in another first baseman again.  For the third time in a row.  Ryon Healy is his name, which isn’t a totally annoying way to spell the name Ryan, but that’s neither here nor there.  He’ll be 26 years old in January and has spent the past season and a half in the Big Leagues.  In that time, he’s been solidly productive:

  • .282/.313/.475/.788 with 38 homers, 49 doubles, a whole mess of strikeouts and not very many walks

Without knowing how good he is defensively (I assume he’s fine), this feels like a quality addition to the right side of the plate.  More importantly, the Mariners don’t feel like they’ll have to platoon him, which should free up a roster spot on the bench.  I suppose that spells doom for Dan Vogelbach’s future in a Mariners uniform, but more than anything he feels like trade bait for one of the 50 other deals Jerry Dipoto is going to do between now and the end of the year.

Another cool thing about this deal is that Healy is still two full seasons away from being arbitration eligible.  The Mariners, if things go well, should have him for 5 full seasons before he’d earn any sort of significant money!  And, if he’s already flashing this type of power and batting average as a second year player, one would think the sky is the limit.

He’s going to fit in quite well in the 2018 batting order, too.  Check out my way-too-early projection:

  • Segura (SS)
  • Haniger (RF)
  • Cano (2B)
  • Cruz (DH)
  • Seager (3B)
  • Healy (1B)
  • Gamel (LF)
  • Zunino (C)
  • Heredia (CF)

I highly doubt that’ll be the Opening Day 9, but you get the idea.  Bank on the top 6 guys being THE guys.  Toss in Zunino in the bottom third with one, maybe two new outfielders, and you’ve got yourself a lineup.

I think my favorite part of this deal is that the Mariners won’t be subjected to a first base retread.  I don’t have to worry about the return of LoMo, for instance, who was a name being bandied about when people discussed possible solutions to this first base quandary.  Same goes for Justin Smoak (though, I have to figure Toronto is pretty happy with him after last year), Brad Miller, and the duo from last season.  Danny Valencia is a nice player, and it was awesome to have his defense over there, but he is who he is.  He’ll have hot streaks and cold streaks and he’ll struggle quite a bit against right handed pitching.  Yonder Alonso, I think, is more flash in the pan than player on the rise.  Before 2017, his season high in homers was 9; last year, he hit 28.  I’m not going to bring steroids into the conversation, because I think the league has done a pretty good job to test those drugs out of the sport, but it does feel like an unsustainable leap.  Also, not for nothing, but the bulk of his damage last year was done pre-All Star Break (where he made his first-ever All Star Game).  He fell off a pretty mighty cliff and never really righted the ship after he was traded.  His on-base ability was a breath of fresh air, but the M’s didn’t bring Yonder Alonso over to walk guys in.

And that’s where I think we get a little too in the weeds with on-base percentage.  Sometimes, you just want a guy to mash you a 3-run homer.  Yeah, if you can, get you a man who can do both, and hold onto him for the duration of his career.  But, if I had to choose what I want out of my first baseman, batting out of the 6-hole?  Give me doubles n’ dingers.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about who the Mariners gave up:  Emilio Pagan and minor leaguer Alexander Campos.  Pagan, you may recall, was a rookie last year and one of our very best relievers.  Long relief, late in games, high leverage situations, extra innings, you name it and more often than not he came through the trials with flying colors.  Considering how cheap he is, and how much team control he has left, that’s a guy you could see anchoring your bullpen for many years to come.  But, if he can get you a starting first baseman – and not just for a season or two, but for up to 5 years or more, if you opt to extend him long term – that’s a no-brainer.  I mean, let’s face it, odds are Emilio Pagan won’t be the next Mariano Rivera.  Duh.  I would also say the odds are we’re trading him at his very highest value.  If we’d kept him even one more year, and he struggled, he couldn’t be traded for much more than Jack Squat (see:  Vogelbach).

As for Campos, he’s a 17-year old infielder.  We almost certainly won’t read about him ever again.  And, if we do, it almost certainly won’t be for at least 3-5 years, and by that point I hope to be long dead, having probably never again seen the Mariners in the post-season.

I will say that it’s a little scary to trade from a position of weakness (pitching) to further bolster a position of strength (hitting).  To say nothing of the issues with the rotation, how good will this bullpen be when you trade away arguably your 2nd most talented reliever after Edwin Diaz?  I know, Nick Vincent will likely start as your 8th inning guy, but I don’t know if I buy him having back-to-back amazing seasons.  And, besides that, you need more than two quality relievers to win games consistently.  Aside from David Phelps when he was healthy, and our lefties Pazos and Scrabble, I didn’t see a lot of uber-promising young talent coming through Tacoma into the Bigs last year.  With the minors as depleted as they are, I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of impact trades for pitching, unless you’re cool giving up on Ben Gamel (who I ASSURE you will not bring back the type of prize Mariners fans would expect from someone who looks like he could be a solid starter for many years to come; so be ready to be VERY disappointed at some point this offseason).

All that being said, I think this is a great trade, and it’s a deal I would do again and again in a heartbeat.  If I’m being perfectly honest, aside from maybe re-signing Jarrod Dyson, I don’t think I’d do very much to turn over the offense.  I like our outfield!  I like Haniger and Gamel and the combo of Dyson and Heredia!  That’s great defense across the board, with solid plate production and speed on the basepaths.  It’s unrealistic to believe that the hitting/defense side of the game is going to stay as is, especially with Dipoto running the show, and especially since we’re almost certainly going to have to trade from that position of strength (hitting) to improve our pitching.  But, whatever you do, you’ve got to keep that outfield defense as a strength, without sacrificing too much in the way of hitting.  Edgar Martinez can’t do it all!

The Mariners Finished 78-84

Tied for 14th-worst record in baseball, with the Texas Rangers.  And, by virtue of the Rangers having a superior record than the Mariners in 2016, that means we win the tie-breaker!  Hurrah!  We’re drafting 14th!

Hey, it could’ve been worse.  Sure, it could’ve been a lot better, but I guess we just HAD to win those three games in the final week!

I have nothing to say about the series against the Angels.  I’m just going to run through some numbers.  I’ll have a proper End Of Season Recap when I’ve had time to digest everything that’s happened.

78-84 is good for 3rd in the A.L. West, behind the division-winning Astros and the nothing Angels.  The Astros were 23 games better than the Mariners.  Go ahead and let that sink in.

78-84 is good for 7 games back of the second Wild Card spot.  The Twins ended up taking that, as I believe I’ve mentioned before.  The Royals, Rays, and Angels all stood in our way as well.  Oddly enough, every team out of the playoffs was under .500 in the American League (there were two teams in the N.L. with winning records that failed to make the playoffs).

The Mariners finished 40-41 at home; 38-43 on the road.  The Mariners finished with a -22 run differential (by the Pythagorean winning percentage, we should’ve been about 1 win better).

Here are the Mariners’ records by month:

  • April:  11-15
  • May:  14-14
  • June:  15-12
  • July:  14-12
  • August:  12-15
  • September:  12-16

The Mariners’ peak was 3 games over .500, which I believe they achieved twice; the nadir was 8 games under .500.  The longest winning streak and losing streak were both 6 games.  The Mariners were 7-5 in extra innings games.  They were 26-15 in 1-run games.

Here are the Mariners’ final records against their A.L. West foes:

  • Houston:  5-14
  • Anaheim:  7-12
  • Texas:  11-8
  • Oakland:  12-7
  • Total:  35-41

That means the Mariners were 43-43 against everyone else.  Not great, considering every other American League division had a minimum of 2 playoff teams; we really should’ve done a better job cleaning up in our own division.

Jean Segura led the Mariners in batting average with an even .300.  Nelson Cruz led the team in OBP with .375, and Slugging with .549 (it would stand to reason, then, that he led in OPS with .924).  Cruz led the team in homers with 39, and in runs scored with 91; he led the entire American League in RBI with 119.  Robbie Cano had the team lead in hits with 166.  Cano and Seager tied for the team lead in doubles with 33.  And Ben Gamel took the team lead in triples with 5.  Jarrod Dyson was your stolen base king with 28.

The less said about the pitching, the better, but here are a couple of nuggets.  You want to know who led the team in innings pitched?  Ariel Miranda, with a whopping 160!  Paxton led the team in strikeouts with 156 and in wins with 12.  Yovani Gallardo led the team in losses with 10.  Nick Vincent, naturally, led the team in Holds with 29.  And Edwin Diaz finished with 34 saves.

The Mariners finished 7th in the A.L. in runs scored with 750.  8th in ERA with 4.46.

I could go on and on, but I’ll call it a day right there.  All told, the offense was worse than I expected, and the pitching was as bad as I feared.  Of course, I hoped for the best with the pitching, and it indeed may have been better had everyone not gotten injured.  But, overall this is probably the record the Mariners deserved.  This is probably the best indication of who these Mariners were.  Sure, they might’ve been a bit better with a full season out of Paxton and Felix, and with ANY season out of Smyly, but with their flaws, this was no playoff team.  Not now, not ever.

You want to hear something really sad?  In two years managing the Seattle Mariners, Lloyd McClendon was 163-161.  In two years managing the Seattle Mariners, Scott Servais is 164-160.  Over these last two years, the Mariners are exactly 1 game better than they were the previous two years.

God I hate baseball.

Thank Christ There’s Only Three More Of These Fucking Things Left

On a day where the Minnesota Twins – a season after losing 103 games – clinched the second Wild Card spot (thanks to an Anaheim Angels defeat, glory to God), the Seattle Mariners dropped to 77-82.

The Twins feel like nothing special, right?  They started out as the Washington Senators in 1901, went to three World Series in their first 60 years as the Senators (winning one), then moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.  Since then, they’ve made three more World Series (winning in 1987 and 1991), but since THEN, really haven’t done much.  Just another American League team in another American League city.  You know, the city of wherever it is the Minnesota Twins play.

Would it shock you to know that this is the 7th time they’ve made the playoffs since 2002?  You’re probably more of a baseball fan than I am, so you probably already knew that.  But, here’s a team that was last good in 2010, when they won the A.L. Central with 94 wins.  Since then, in order, they’ve lost 99, 96, 96, 92, 79, and 103 games.  Suffice it to say, the Twins have been pretty terrible the last six years.

AND YET, somehow they’re at 83 wins and counting, having secured a Wild Card spot with four games to go.

WHY CAN’T THE FUCKING MARINERS DO THAT?

I never thought I’d be jealous of the Twins, but here I am.  It’s not like they’re in some huge market!  They don’t spend the most money or have some genius GM.  I mean, maybe all that losing translated into high draft picks that they were subsequently able to hit on, but that’s a roll of the dice as much as anything!

It’s when confronted with information like that where I start to think Seattle truly IS cursed.  Or, maybe it’s just the Mariners organization, I dunno.  But, here we are, 16 seasons of playoff-free baseball in a row.  And counting!  Because, where does this fucking thing end?  Paxton can’t stay healthy, Felix is on his last legs, the rest of this rotation is full of soft-tossing knobs who give up home runs like they’re the antidote.  And, oh let’s see, Nelson Cruz will be 38 years old next year; Cano will be 35 (and in his 5th season of a 10-year deal).  Some of the younger hitters look promising, but they’re no guarantees, and this team’s success really depends on Cano and Cruz playing like superstars!

Even IF this team were to win the lottery and put together a magical Wild Card run in 2018, the clock is ticking on our studs.  I could just as easily see this team continue to spin its tires in the mud for a few years before they have to blow everything up and start all over again.  At that point, what are we talking about here?  Over two decades of either mediocrity or outright filth.

THE SEATTLE MARINERS EVERYONE!!!

Erasmo Ramirez got the start yesterday and was sort of okay.  The defense was shit, as usual, but the offense bailed everyone out and got him a no decision.  He appears to have a rotation spot waiting for him next year, which is everything you need to know about this organization.  That’s Paxton-Felix-Leake-Erasmo as your top four guys heading into the offseason, with the likes of Miranda, Marco, Albers, and Moore vying for that fifth spot.

Of course, that CAN’T happen, and it won’t happen.  The team will make moves this offseason, bring in at least one guaranteed new starter, with probably a small handful of other guys to compete for a back-end starting job, but barring some trades (which you know are coming), these are the guys we have to look forward to.  And Erasmo, very much, is in that conversation.  Maybe not as a #4, but certainly as a #5 or as a long reliever/bullpen type.  I, uhh … yeah.  Neat.

Mike Marjama got his first Major League start at catcher and got 2 hits, including a double.  I didn’t see how he looked, because I was working, but that’s a memory that’ll last him a lifetime.  Jacob Hannemann got his second career start (both in this series) and had a hit, a run, and an error.  He, of course, started in place of Guillermo Heredia, who was shut down earlier this week and will have shoulder surgery.  He should be fine by Spring Training though.

Shae Simmons gave up a walk-off home run to keep the Mariners from sweeping this dopey series, so good for him.  We’re still drafting 16th right now, which means I have to root for the stupid fucking Angels this weekend.  There are still FIVE teams we can leapfrog, so let’s get to losing Mariners!  Do something RIGHT for once!

Mariners Tank-A-Palooza 2017 In Full Effect

I’m proud of you, Mariners!  I really am!  Some teams might cling to some notion of honor in reaching a .500 record, as a moral victory of sorts.  But you know, and I know, that it’s all bullshit.  What matters, when your season is over, is the race to the bottom!  You grab that brass ring!  And that brass ring, in this case, is getting a Top 10 draft pick in next year’s draft.

The Mariners lost to the Rangers last night 4-2, to complete the 3-game sweep.  The losing streak has reached six games, and in between football freakouts, fans and media alike are bemoaning the fact that the M’s are falling so hard on their faces, but WHY?  You do realize that wins at this point don’t help you, right?  No one’s going to remember this team faltering at the end of the season when we take a step back and assess this season for what it was:  the Mariners just weren’t good enough.  Period.  They weren’t on par with the best teams in the American League:  the Astros, Indians, Red Sox, and Yankees; and in the end they couldn’t take advantage of the rest of the A.L. being mediocre enough to make that second Wild Card spot attainable.

So, lose away!  The Indians come to town – they of the legendary 22-game winning streak; they who’ve won 27 of their last 28 games – so how about another sweep?!  Let’s extend this losing streak to 9 games, then 12, then 15 AND THEN WE’RE GOING TO TAKE BACK THE WHITE HOUSE, BLRGYAAAH!!!

I almost didn’t think the Mariners had it in them last night.  I thought they MIGHT actually come from behind and win one.  Paxton got the start and got roughed up a little bit in the first inning, but he settled down, had more life on his fastball, and had better command than he did in his previous start.  A pitch count limit of around 75 pitches meant that he would only last 3.2 innings, but he only gave up the 2 runs, on 4 hits and 2 walks, with 4 strikeouts.

Luckily, the bullpen came in and played add-on; by which I mean they gave up another 2 runs to salt this one away.  Cole Hamels, for the Rangers, was dominant over 8 innings, giving up just the 1 run, and their closer gave up a meaningless solo homer in the ninth to wrap things up.  Cruz and Cano did all the damage with their solo bombs; it was the 35th of the season for Cruz, and 22nd for Cano (but also the 300th of his career, so it’s good to get that one out of the way so he can start fresh in 2018 without that hanging over his head).  Aside from a couple singles by Segura, the rest of the offense was shut down.

More importantly, the Orioles won and the Marlins and Athletics were idle.  We weren’t able to move from our draft position of tied for 14th, but now we only have 4.5 games between us and the A’s for that 10th draft pick.

I won’t get into it, but you should SEE the set of starting pitchers the Indians are bringing to town.  If the Mariners win any of these fucking games, I’m going to be VERY upset!

Mariners Get Back To .500 Once Again; How Many More Times Can We Do This?

Mike Leake is going to be a legend in this fucking town if he keeps this up!

Three starts, three games where he’s at least pitched into the sixth inning, while giving up 3 runs or less.  Yesterday, it was a 5.2 inning affair, with just the 1 run given up on 5 hits, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts.  He’s 3-0 with the Mariners, with a 2.41 ERA!  I don’t know when the other shoe is gonna drop, but I hope to Christ I never have to see that shoe ever again.  What’s that shoe’s deal anyway?  Fuck that shoe!  Stop dropping all over the place!

This was a fun one, no doubt about it.  Zunino homered to kick off the scoring in the fifth, and a few batters later Segura hit a 2-run home run to make it 3-0.  The Rangers got one back in the bottom of the sixth, just in time for all hell to break loose in the top of the seventh.

Segura walked and Haniger doubled to put runners on second & third.  Cano was called out on a check swing by the home plate umpire, and after Cano – seemingly calm and rationally – asked why he didn’t check down with the third base umpire, he was ejected from the game.  It was apparently his first career ejection, which sounds kind of amazing, 13 years in.  With a lefty on the mound, Cruz was intentionally walked to load the bases for Seager, who worked a solid count and hit a good pitch the other way for a 2-run single.  Cruz ended up hustling into third when their third baseman was caught off the bag, then a bad throw allowed Cruz to rumble home and Seager to slide into third.  Valencia then hit a sac fly to score Seager, and Zunino concluded the scoring that inning with another solo blast, this time the opposite way.  Just like that, 3-1 turned into 8-1, and the rest was academic.

I keep saying it, and he keeps doing it:  Mitch Haniger is on a ROLL!  Two more hits, including that double; he is CRUSHING the month of September.  His line, through 12 games:

  • .451/.451/.745/1.196, with 4 doubles, 1 triple, 3 homers, 9 runs, and 8 RBI

If you tack on the last game in August for shits n’ gigs, his line looks like this:

  • .472/.472/.836/1.308, with 6 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homers, 11 runs, and 11 RBI

This is fun!  For context, his season numbers have climbed back up to this:

  • .282/.359/.485/.844, with 21 doubles, 2 triples, 12 homers, 50 runs, and 41 RBI

Oh man, I gotta tell you, that’s not bad.  Not bad at all, considering he missed about half the season to various injuries.  I don’t want to give him that out, because if he comes back next year and misses another half season to injuries, then he’s labelled Injury Prone and his numbers don’t mean jack shit; but I will say I’m cautiously optimistic for his future.

While we’re on this train of thought regarding the youth movement on this team, I’d like to call out Mike Zunino for really turning his season around and (hopefully) his career as well!  He’s hit career highs in doubles and homers this season, with 22 and 23 respectively.  More importantly, his slash line is almost EXACTLY where I’ve always said I wanted it to be:  .246/.327/.507/.834.  With his throwing arm, his pitch framing, his blocking ability, and his rapport with the pitching staff, I will take those numbers all day every day!  Now if he can just manage to not completely fall apart these last two weeks, we’re really talking about a season you can be proud of, and certainly something to build upon going forward.

I don’t want to spend all day going up and down the lineup, but I’ll toss in one more kudos to Kyle Seager.  That at bat in the seventh inning was truly remarkable.  Cano had just been thrown out, Cruz had just been intentionally walked, so I’m sure his emotions were all over the place.  He had this hot-head umpire behind him, and a difficult-looking lefty on the mound (who actually legitimately struck Cano out on that check swing; the issue there is – why not just check with the third base ump; it takes two seconds).  Seager got ahead in the count right away, took a vicious crack at an inside fastball that he pulled foul, the count worked its way full, and then the single the other way.  It wasn’t just a lucky swing, where a guy flails at something out of the zone and it accidentally hits the end of the bat and bloops into the outfield; this was a determined strategy and a purposed swing to line drive that ball the opposite way to bring in a couple of runs!  Seager is notorious for pulling the ball – it’s where he generates the overwhelming majority of his power – and he has one of the more pronounced defensive shifts to prove it.  The Rangers weren’t shifting on this play, with the bases loaded, but he still managed to hit it over the short stop’s glove on a line.  I mean, this is like something you’d see out of Ichiro in his prime!

2017 might go down as a bit of a disappointing year for fans when they think about Kyle Seager, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that he’s legitimately gotten better each and every season of his career.  So, to hold steady, or take a step back in a couple areas, it’s tough to swallow.  But, I’ve noticed this year more than any year before, a determined effort by Seager to hit more balls the other way.  To be a more complete hitter, as they say.  I don’t think he’ll ever have really tremendous power the opposite way – particularly with how Safeco is constructed, it’s REALLY hard for lefties to hit them out over the left field fence – but a Kyle Seager who can spray balls to all fields is a dangerous weapon.  Over time, I don’t think it’s crazy to think he could hit more doubles the other way, off the Safeco manual scoreboard and the like.

I dunno.  I’m just happy for him, I guess.  That must take just a ton of work to get better at when you’re at the Major League level.

If you haven’t heard it already, let me be the first to say Happy Felix Day!

Mariners Look Up “Too Little Too Late”, See Their Reflection

It’s nice to see Marco Gonzales have a little success, I guess.  He was still only able to go five innings, but I have to assume that’s because he’s coming from the bullpen and hasn’t yet been stretched out.  Still, 5 innings and 3 runs is far and away his best outing start of the season.  He got into a couple of mini-jams, but was able to get out of them without throwing away the game.  He struck out 6 and walked only 1, while spreading 8 hits around.  And, he got his first win in a Mariners uniform (and his first Major League victory since 2014).  When you tack that onto his 4 shutout innings from his previous appearance, let’s hope that’s the start of a nice, successful run to close out the season.

It’s nice to see the offense bust out in a big way.  Haniger continues to smoke the ball, with 2 more hits (including a double) and 2 more runs scored.  Cano had 3 hits (including a double), with a run and an RBI.  Cruz had 2 hits and 2 runs; Seager hit a 3-run bomb and also scored 2 runs; Ben Gamel also had a 3-run bomb as part of his 3-hit day.  On top of that, Zunino and Alonso both had 2 hits apiece to really drag this game kicking and screaming past the 3-hour mark.

And sure, it’s nice that the dregs of the bullpen mopped up the final four innings without giving up another run.  All in all, it adds up to a nice 10-3 victory for the Mariners, evening up the series, bringing their record to within one game of .500, and maintaining the 3.5 game deficit from the second Wild Card.

All of these are nice things, but they won’t mean a damn thing until the Mariners are able to manage a winning streak.

The encouraging thing is, the Mariners might FINALLY be able to do something here.  It’s going to take everything they have, and if I had to bet the family farm, I’d 100% bet against it happening, but as of the middle of September – with just over 2 weeks left in the season – the Mariners might have finally fleshed out a starting rotation.

I know, right!  But, go with me on this, I’ve had a long day week month life.

Mike Leake has looked awfully solid in his first few starts here.  If he can keep it up, he’s a nice little #3 pitcher for this rotation.  He goes tonight.

Then, there’s Felix.  The last time he came off the DL, he was able to make 8 starts before re-injuring the same body part.  Of those 8 starts, 5 were useable.  Given how late we are in the season, 5 good starts should be plenty.  He goes tomorrow (he’ll be on a limited pitch count for the first game, but that’s what we have all these long relievers for).

Then, we’ve got Paxton kicking off the Houston series.  The last time he came off the DL, he was able to make 14 starts before getting injured again.  Of those 14, 12 were useable.  That’s more than enough.

Then, there’s Erasmo Ramirez.  He never gets injured.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes you just wish he’d go on the DL for the rest of your life.  He’s riding a 6-game Quality Start streak that has to be the best run of pitching in his entire career.  He has almost single-handedly held this rotation together while Felix and Paxton have been gone.  If we have to go with a #4 starter, I’ve seen worse.

Then, there’s TBD.  I’m going to flip the fuck out if Ariel Miranda is still in this rotation come Sunday, because as we’ve clearly seen, both Marco Gonzales and Andrew Moore have both pitched excellent in recent games.  Either way, you have to expect Miranda is on the world’s shortest leash; it’s really more of a Chinese finger trap at this point.  I have to expect, if he gets the start, there will be a man warming up in the bullpen right alongside him before the game even gets going.  If you consider the team’s fifth starter just a Bullpen Day for the month of September (knowing full well that if by some miracle the M’s make the playoffs, they’ll never need a fifth starter, and likely won’t even need a fourth), I’d be okay with that.

So, you know, the blueprint is there.  Decent starting pitching, lots of clutch hitting, and the bullpen needs to catch fire the rest of the way.  5 games against the Rangers, 3  against Oakland, 3 against the Angels:  all should be winnable games.  Then, there are 3 against the Astros and 3 against the Indians.  I know the Astros are our kryptonite, but we’re going to have to find a way to win at least 2 of those games this weekend.  And I know the Indians are riding an insane 20-game winning streak, but we just have to hope they cool the fuck off before we play them at home next weekend, and again take 2 of 3.

Realistically, I think the Mariners need to go 13-4 the rest of the way to lock up the second Wild Card.  That would put us at 85-77.  Right now, the Twins (who currently hold that spot) are 75-69, with 18 games to go.  If we went 13-4 and the Twins went only went 9-9, we’d beat them by 1 game.  So, yeah, that’s what we’re looking at.  And let’s not forget the three teams in between us and the Twins (Angels, Rangers & Royals), nor the two teams still hovering around just behind us (Rays & Orioles).

When you lay it all out there like that, it really looks daunting.  It’s different when you see the Mariners are 3.5 games back.  Theoretically, you can make that up in a week!  But, when you factor in how few games are left in the season, and you realize your fate isn’t in your hands anymore, it seems impossible, doesn’t it?  Crazier things have happened, but I have to admit this would be one of the craziest.

What a damn, fucking waste this season has been.

Do The Mariners Have One More Playoff Push In Them?

Last night, the Mariners beat the Angels 8-1 to come within one game of sweeping them in this 3-game series.  A 3-game sweep would, incidentally, put them in a dead heat with the Angels, if they can get there this afternoon.  After today, there are 18 games remaining in this absurd baseball season.  The Mariners are within striking distance at 3 games out, but this is it!  The time to strike is NOW!  The Mariners need to rip off a super hot streak the rest of the way and sprint to this finish line!

We got another impressive start from Andrew Albers, with 6 innings of shutout ball.  Even more impressive was the Mariners’ offense, who ripped off a 6-spot in the bottom of the fourth to put this thing away early.  After Albers, we made it the last three innings with our D-squad bullpen guys (Altavilla, Simmons and Lawrence) just giving up one garbage-time run.

Mitch Haniger was just a double away from the cycle (and one base-runner away from getting a fifth at bat to try to get that double), knocking one in and scoring three times.  Nelson Cruz added another mammoth 3-run homer and Robbie Cano had 3 hits, 2 RBI, and a run scored.  For what it’s worth, Haniger has come back to life lately.  I hope that means he’s fully healthy and getting back to the hitter he was in April (and not, say, just a fluke).

I don’t know how much longer we can ride this gravy train, but Erasmo Ramirez goes for his sixth consecutive quality start this afternoon.  Please, dear God, give this to me!

Mariners Sweep Athletics Again

The Mariners did what they were supposed to do:  sweep the A’s over this 3-game series.  Andrew Albers threw five no-hit innings (six total, 1 run on 1 hit – a homer – with 1 walk and 5 strikeouts), and the bullpen kept them at bay the rest of the way.  The offense got 3 runs off of their starter, played add-on in the later innings, and blew it open in the eighth with a 5-spot.

Cano and Haniger each had 4 hits, with a homer apiece; Segura had 3 hits and 3 runs; Chooch had a homer and a double; really, everyone had a good day offensively except for Ben Gamel, who looks to be in a tailspin over the second half of this season.

The M’s are back to 1 game over .500, and back to within 2.5 games of the second Wild Card spot.  The Twins currently hold that spot, but are starting to cool off, just in time for the surging Orioles to take over.  Hopefully, the Mariners can bide their time and steal a few wins this week.

The Astros come first, with a 3-game series of the damned.  Much like that last Yankees series, I’m predicting the Mariners will be swept, so winning just one of these next three would be a miracle.  Then, it’s the Angels for the weekend and I don’t know about you, but I want some fucking revenge over them ruining our Edgar Martinez weekend!  Fuck those turds!

Mariners Pull Off Brilliant Comeback To Get Back To .500

That game had it all!  Yovani Gallardo struggling to get through three innings, giving up 2 runs in the process (and lucky it wasn’t a fuckload more); Casey Lawrence relieving him in the fourth and absolutely imploding, giving up 4 runs in 0.1 innings; necessitating recently called up reliever Ryan Garton to come in and finish it out; followed by Marco Gonzales – in his new relief role – going a whopping FOUR shutout innings to keep the Mariners in the ballgame.

You want your game MVP?  You start with Marco Gonzales.  Never thought I’d say that before.

Robbie Cano got off the schneid, hitting his first homer since July 22nd, a 2-run job back in the third to momentarily tie the game.  With the A’s re-taking the lead at 6-2 in the top of the fourth, as Gonzales kept the evil forces at bay, the offense went to work.

Segura and Alonso hit back-to-back solo jobs in the fifth to make it 6-4.  Then, an inning later, Segura doubled home Zunino to make it 6-5; and two innings after that, Zunino hit a solo shot to deep right-center to tie the game at 6-6.  Edwin Diaz – in a non-save situation, because tie games in the ninth will never have a save situation the rest of the way at home – locked it down for one more shot to win it before extras.

Segura led off the inning by reaching on an error to first.  Alonso hit a single to move him to third, and Cano was intentionally walked to load the bases with nobody out and Cruz & Seager due up.  Would this be the greatest Marinering of all time?

ALMOST!

Cruz struck out for the second time on the day, and has really looked bad at the plate in recent games.  After some outfield shuffling – to get Khris Davis’ noodle arm out of left, as if Bob Melvin had sensed something in the force – Seager hit a shallow fly ball to left field of all places.  On Khris Davis, the M’s might’ve sent Segura home on a tag; without Khris Davis, the M’s had to hold.  Two outs.

That brought up Mitch Haniger, who worked the count just enough to have their pitcher throw a wild pitch through the legs of the catcher.  Segura came scrambling home, and the Mariners won it!

Afternoon game today to get the sweep.  Don’t fail me now!  Don’t forget what the Astros are bringing to town!

To Save Time: We Should Just Consider Everyone In The Mariners Organization As Day-To-Day

On the day when the Mariners DFA’d Leonys Martin for the second time this season, this time to call up David Phelps from the DL, Robinson Cano pulled up gimpy on a double with hamstring tightness (will have an MRI in New York today) and Guillermo Heredia had his wrist smashed in with a fastball (will have x-rays in New York today).  Both are considered Day-To-Day, of course pending their diagnostic exams.

The only good thing to come out of yesterday was the Mariners winning another series.  That brings them up to 4-2 on the road trip and if they can duplicate that next week, sign me up!

Erasmo Ramirez out-pitched R.A. Dickey.  I know, I’m as shocked as you are!  It didn’t look like that was going to be the case early, as Erasmo got into some first inning trouble (where have I seen that before?  Oh, that’s right, from every single other Mariners starter save Paxton) (no, really, someone, please save Paxton!!!).  He gave up a leadoff infield single, thanks to the ball hitting off of his glove that he feebly tried to field.  Segura was in position to make the out, which sets us up for the rest of the inning.  The next hitter singled to put runners on first & third, then a double scored the guy from third as the runner from first over-ran the bag at second and had to go back and touch it before moving on.  Erasmo got a grounder back to himself for the first out of the inning, which probably should’ve been the second out of the inning.  As such, the subsequent sac fly made the game 2-0 when it should’ve been 1-0 (or, maybe even 0-0, if what’s his name had the same trouble rounding second in this hypothetical situation).

Self-inflicted wounds.  Knowing where your defense is set up and letting your defense do its job.  This is all part of the over-arching problem with this team:  too many fucking brain farts!

Anyway, the M’s got it going in the second, with a Heredia sac fly and an Erasmo Ramirez RBI single down the right field line.  That wouldn’t be the only time Erasmo got a hit, either.

Those first inning runs wouldn’t be it for Erasmo either, as he gave up another run in the bottom of the second, but then he settled down splendidly.  He gave up all of 2 base runners over the next four innings to lock down the quality start.  After throwing a bunch of pitches the first couple innings, he left the game having only thrown 90; indeed, he was all set to come in for the seventh inning (a thought so foreign-sounding to this club, I didn’t think it was actually allowed in the game of baseball anymore), but the offense in the top of the seventh managed to put two runners on with two outs.  Rather than give Erasmo his fourth at-bat (remember, he was 2 for 3 on the day with an RBI), Servais opted to let Nelson Cruz pinch hit.  He would dribble a grounder to the pitcher for the final out of the inning.

Still, helluva game for Erasmo!  I don’t want to alarm anyone (are you sitting down for this?), but Erasmo Ramirez has three quality starts in his last three appearances.  I KNOW, RIGHT?!  That’s clinically insane.  I can unequivocally say that Erasmo Ramirez is the best healthy starter on this team right now.  The odds of me ever saying that EVER was about as remote as you can imagine, but there we have it.

Also, not for nothing, but isn’t it sad that I’m sitting here jerking myself off over a guy with three straight 6-inning starts?  I mean, look at what this pitching staff has reduced all of us to!

I assume you’re sitting there jerking yourselves off over this too, right?

In the bottom of the seventh, it looked like the decision to pinch hit for the pitcher was gonna backfire like a motherfucker, as the bullpen really didn’t have a lot going on.  Scrabble gave up an infield single, then his God-awful pickoff move allowed him to go to third base.  He walked the next batter before getting a strikeout and getting pulled from the game.  Servais opted to go to David Phelps, which seemed a bit rash, having this situation be his first appearance coming off of the DL, but with Zych gone beggars can’t be choosers.

At this point, the Mariners had long ago re-taken the lead at 4-3, thanks to some clutch hitting in the third inning.  But, since we failed to drive the final nail into Dickey’s coffin at the time, the game was still 4-3 when Phelps came in.  He ended up giving up a single to tie the game at 4, then a fielder’s choice gave the Braves a 5-4 lead.  At that point, with two innings to go, I was prepared for the worst.

Playoff teams CAN’T lose two of three to the lowly Braves; they just can’t!  Thankfully, the lineup answered the call.  Jean Segura busted out of a slump with a leadoff double.  Yonder Alonso followed that with a walk and both runners advanced on a wild pitch.  Then, Taylor Motter – hitting for Robbie, who left the game back in the third – dumped a 2-RBI single to left-center to allow the M’s to re-take the lead at 6-5.  Danny Valencia, getting the start in right field and batting cleanup, hit a single, followed by Kyle Seager’s mammoth 3-run home run to center to finally put this one to bed.

Nick Vincent started the eighth and got himself into a bit of a jam, and almost got himself out of it.  But, after giving up an RBI single with two outs, Edwin Diaz was called in for the 4-out save.  He would only need 12 pitches (11 strikes) to get the four outs (3 strikeouts) for his 29th save on the season (16 since the All Star Break).

So, yeah, that was huge.  Just as huge was the fact that the Twins and Angels both lost (the Royals won, however).  So, we’ve got the Twins still in the second Wild Card spot, the Angels and Royals a half game back, and the Mariners a full game back (with the Rangers two games back, and everyone else too far away to matter).

Today is another much-needed off-day (at this point in the season, they’re ALL “much-needed”).  We’ll also probably hear about Robbie’s hamstring and Guillermo’s wrist.  You have to figure more moves are going to be made (we’ll need another infielder if Cano is bound for the DL; the outfield is probably okay considering Valencia can play in right, so he can at least hold the team over for another week until September rolls around).

The first half of this road trip has been a huge boon for the Mariners, but the second half could still make or break it.  If the Mariners fall apart over the next six games – all against Wild Card opponents – it could get pretty dicey.

Please, dear God, don’t let Cano’s injury be too serious.