Mike Leake’s Mariners Debut Goes Swimmingly

I’ll admit I had my doubts.  After the trade was made, going into the game yesterday, during and after the first inning, doubts were swirling!  While Mike Leake isn’t like every other Quad-A, flyballer Jerry Dipoto has brought into this organization, he was still a different kind of Meh.

Then, single-single-RBI double happened to lead off the game, and HERE WE GO AGAIN!  You could’ve cooked an egg on my forehead.  I mean, holy hell, what does this team have to do to get some competent fucking pitching in here?

Thank God he settled down.  After staking the A’s to a 2-0 lead in the first, he shut them out over the next six innings – OH YOU HEARD THAT RIGHT – he went seven innings, giving up just the two runs in getting his first Mariners victory!

I don’t know if it was his brilliance, or the A’s just being the A’s, but he only walked 1 and struck out 7, while inducing them into 2 double plays.  Honestly, it was refreshing more than anything.

As for the Mariners’ offense, I wouldn’t say they’re cured, but they got a rare win while scoring fewer than 4 runs, so that’s something.  A Mike Zunino opposite-field homer got the scoring started, followed by a Mitch Haniger RBI single (back in the 2-hole, plating Jean Segura), followed by a Kyle Seager sac fly to score Haniger, all scored in the third inning.

With Leake out of the game, Scrabble and Vincent shared the eighth, and Diaz had no trouble getting his 31st save of the season.

We’re officially into September, and with it the call-ups.  Jarrod Dyson returned from the DL and got a start last night.  Reliever Shae Simmons – who spent the better part of the last two months in the minors as he worked his way back from injury – was called up for the first time since we got him from the Braves.  Familiar faces Dan Altavilla and Andrew Moore are returning, both headed to the bullpen, where they’ll find Marco Gonzales – who was officially taken out of the rotation with the trade for Leake.  Also newcomer Ryan Garton – who we got from the Rays for nothing – will get a shot to help out in the ‘pen.  Finally, recently acquired catcher Mike Marjama will be the team’s third catcher for the month, because that’s apparently a thing that teams do.

To make room on the 40-man roster, subtractions had to be made.  David Phelps was put back on the DL, to no one’s surprise.  Christian Bergman was outrighted to the Rainiers, which I guess ends his season with us.  And, in the most shocking news, Sam Gaviglio was waived – and immediately claimed by the Royals.  That’s slightly disappointing, if only because he’s clearly better than both Marco Gonzales and Andrew Moore, though I guess those guys are younger with more club control.  It’s been real, Sam Gaviglio!  You were the Charlie Brown of this rotation, under-appreciated and the constant butt of our jokes, but always there and always … I dunno, existing I guess.

I don’t know if all these moves will put the Mariners back into contention (now 3.5 games back of the second Wild Card), but I do know this:  it won’t matter one iota.  Because the Astros did what everyone else was too chickenshit to accomplish:  they traded for Justin Verlander.  So, you know, go ahead and pencil in the Astros and Dodgers into the World Series now, because it’ll be a doozy!

Also, not for nothing, but the M’s better sweep the A’s this weekend, because have you seen the starters the Astros are going to throw at us Monday thru Wednesday?  How about Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander (in his Astros debut), and Lance McCullers?  I’m going to do myself a huge favor and not watch any of those fucking games.

Mariners Gag Away A Heartbreaker As Marco Gonzales Pitches Himself Out Of A Job

You can’t say the kid was robbed of his opportunity.  After getting his feet wet in Tacoma, the Mariners called him up at the beginning of the month; he’s had 5 starts in the month of August.  In exactly 0 of those starts did he go a minimum of 5 innings.  His ERA is 7.40 in that span, he’s averaged almost a homer-allowed per start, he gives up a ton of hits and for a guy who’s supposed to be known for his control, he sure does walk a lot of guys.  His change-up is supposed to be his best pitch, but boy do I see him leave that hanging out over the middle of the plate more than I see him striking guys out with it.

With his latest huge embarrassing failure yesterday – 3.1 innings, 5 runs – I think we’ve finally seen the last of him in the rotation.  It’ll be September the next time his turn comes up in the rotation, which means rosters will expand and we can bring up someone from Tacoma like Sam Gaviglio, who can at least get us through five fucking innings.

And yet, in spite of all that, the Mariners managed to scratch and claw their way to a 4-3 lead at one point, as well as a 6-6 tie after Gonzales was pulled.  Ben Gamel was the big stud of the day, with 2 hits (including a homer) and 5 RBI.  Valencia, Seager, and Cruz all chipped in on the day as well.  Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn’t be perfect.  The Mariners NEED the bullpen to be perfect if they’re going to win games like these, but it’s just not realistic to see that come to fruition.  Christian Bergman did a yeoman job getting through 2 innings, giving up just the one run (particularly getting out of the jam Gonzales put him in in the bottom of the fourth).  Emilio Pagan got through the final 2.2 innings to save the rest of the bullpen, but he too gave up a run, and that ended up being the decider.  The Mariners put the first two runners on in the top of the eighth, but couldn’t push either of them home and that was that.

What was once a tremendous start to this road trip as late as last Friday, has suddenly taken a sour turn over this 3-game losing streak.  The Mariners need to win one of the next two games to ensure at least a .500 road trip, which I think we all would’ve taken around this time two weeks ago.  But, considering the M’s started out 5-2, ending up with a 6-6 or 5-7 road trip would be a collosal disappointment.  Here’s hoping Erasmo Ramirez and Ariel Miranda can work some magic to right the ship.

The Mariners Cling For Dear Life Against The Braves

Albers are off when you’ve got Andrew Albers on the mound!

The Mariners have used, what, 37 different pitchers this season?  35 if you take out the two position players who had to mop up in extreme blowout defeats?  And, in that, we’ve got 16 different pitchers who made at least 1 start this year.  We’ve had injuries, BOY have we had injuries!  And, beyond that, we’ve had a whole lotta ineffectiveness.  From De Jong to Bergman to Overton to Heston to Whalen to Gaviglio to Moore to Gonzales to Gallardo and so on and so forth.  Aside from the injuries, there really hasn’t been anything we could depend upon with this rotation besides Ariel Miranda, I guess.  And, while we’ve had to muddle through all these starts to get back to the brief healthy times we’ve enjoyed, I’ve been sitting here and waiting.  Waiting and hoping.  Hoping and praying that just ONE guy would come up to Seattle and blow us all away.  Even if it’s the most unsustainable, unrepeatable string of starts, I DON’T CARE!  All these Quad-A pitchers have absolutely lived up to their mediocre expectations; can I just get one guy to surpass them, even if it isn’t real?

Well, we’re only two starts in, but there’s a lot I’ve liked about those two starts with Andrew Albers on the mound.  He came over in a nothing trade with the Braves a couple weeks back and immediately gave us 5 innings of 1-run ball against the Orioles (one of the plethora of teams we’re in Wild Card contention with).  And then he followed that up with last night’s performance.

Through five innings, he’d only given up 2 runs.  His pitch count was low, and the M’s had a 6-2 lead, so he was allowed to pitch into the sixth.  An error and a single ended his night without getting another out, and both of those runners ended up scoring after Emilio Pagan cleared the bases by allowing a triple to center, but that’s just bad luck more than anything else.  I thought Albers looked fantastic last night!  Of course, that’s based on the lowest of expectations, particularly when you consider all those meatball pitchers I mentioned above, but nevertheless it’s nice to have someone finally come around and exceed expectations for a while.  I hope it lasts.

It was nice to see the offense jump out early and play add on throughout the game.  The Mariners managed a run in the second, then after falling behind 2-1, poured it on.  Another rally in the third produced a run, and the M’s put up a 3-spot in the fourth on hits by Alonso and Cano.  Alonso would double again in the sixth to knock in our final run, which ended up being huge considering all the damage the Braves were able to do with Pagan on the mound.

Also, don’t look now, but Yonder Alonso has been on fire after something of a quiet start since joining the club and taking over for Danny Valencia at first.  He’s rocking an 8-game hitting streak, going 13 for 30 with 4 extra base hits, 6 runs scored, and 8 RBI.  I know the Mariners’ offense was pretty good before he got here, but you’ll always take those kinds of numbers.  I think an infusion of production like that is just what this team needed.  Yesterday especially, what with Nelson Cruz riding the pine (and not even getting a pinch hit AB, due to circumstances of the game) in the National League park.  God the National League’s rules are stupid (hashtag Embrace The DH).

Quick shoutout to the rest of the bullpen.  After Pagan got knocked around (he’s been a little dicey the last couple times out), Scrabble, Vincent, and Diaz came in and locked it down.  That’s 28 saves for Diaz.  And Scrabble has been nails over the last week or so, and really for the entire month of August.  As for Vincent, he’s the MVP of this pitching staff, without question.

So, not too bad of a start to this road trip.  That victory puts the Mariners at 3-1 through the first third of this trip; which, if they could just match that for the next 2/3 of this trip, sign me up TODAY!  Yesterday’s win also brought their road record to 30-30 on the season, which is pretty insane when you consider they started out the year 8-20.  Since that nadir in late May, after the second game in Boston, the M’s have gone 22-10 on the road.  Unbelievable!

That victory also puts the Mariners at an even 1 game behind the Twins for the second Wild Card.  Predictably, the Angels fell back and are now just 0.5 games ahead of the Mariners.  The Royals are still lingering, 0.5 games behind the Mariners; and the Rangers are too, just a game back of the M’s (tied in the loss column).

Looking ahead, there are two more games down in Atlanta before another off-day, featuring the two worst Mariners pitchers currently in the rotation – Marco Gonzales and Erasmo Ramirez.  Gonzales has yet to pitch over 4.1 innings and I have to believe is one more poor start away from being sent back to Tacoma, so today will be REALLY interesting.  Erasmo, meanwhile, is on a 2-game hot streak, so you have to wonder how long it will take for that house of cards to topple over.

Then, in the Yankees series this weekend, the Mariners have – in theory – their three best healthy starters going (Miranda, then Gallardo, then Albers again).  But, the Bronx Bombers feature C.C. Sabathia (who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS fucking destroys us), Sonny Gray (the ex-A’s starter they traded for at the deadline), and Masahiro Tanaka (who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS – except last time – fucking destroys us).  It could be a really yucky, miserable weekend, is what I’m saying.

So, Mariners, let’s try REAL HARD to win these next two against the Braves, so we can justify what’s surely going to be a series sweep this weekend.

The Mariners’ Offense Caught The Red Eye To Atlanta Before The Finale Yesterday

What a waste of a perfectly good Yovani Gallardo start!  I mean, he won’t win any awards for going 6.1 innings and giving up 3 runs, but he pitched into the seventh inning for the first time in forever, and until that knockout 2-run homer, he was on a pretty good roll!

The offense just brought nothing to the table.  3 hits and 2 walks, that’s it.  0 for 1 with RISP, and just 4 LOB.  It obviously didn’t help that Seager got the day off, as he’s recovering from his stomach bug, but it’s just a bummer the team couldn’t complete the sweep when it was right there for the taking.

In other roster transaction news, Casey Lawrence was brought back up.  He was sent down for Sam Gaviglio the other day, but with Jarrod Dyson going on the DL, we were allowed to swap those pitchers right back.  Also, Taylor Motter made his return – starting for Seager yesterday – as it looks like we may have seen the last of Danny Espinosa.  Try to keep that name in mind, as he’s sure to be an occasional answer on those Lookout Landing Sporcle quizzes.  The Danny Espinosa Era consisted of 3 hits in 16 at bats across 8 games, 2 of them doubles, with 2 runs scored & 2 RBI.

In spite of the downer of an ending, the road trip overall is off to a fine start.  We put just a little bit of distance between us and the Rays, one of our competitors for that second Wild Card spot, and we’re still hanging in there overall, 1.5 games behind Anaheim.  Now we go to Atlanta, where quite frankly we should dominate.  Whether we will or not is, of course, anybody’s guess.  It’s going to be pretty fucking depressing if we go out and tank this series.

In Injured Pitching News, I heard that all our guys – Phelps, Paxton, Felix, and even Kuma – are on some sort of throwing programs and hence on the mend.  Some guys are closer than others, and I’m sure that will make itself known to me at some point soon.

The Mariners Stop The Bleeding

Of course, there’s more than one way to stop the bleeding.  For instance, there’s physically running out of blood!

The Mariners got the W, though.  That’s all that matters, I guess.  Before the game, a number of moves were made:

  • Andrew Albers was called up
  • Sam Gaviglio was called up
  • Casey Lawrence was sent to Tacoma
  • Thyago Vieira was sent to Tacoma
  • Christian Bergman was DFA’d

Albers we knew would be our starter last night.  Lawrence we had a pretty good idea would be going back down, since he pitched 4 innings the night before, and Servais is on record as saying the Seattle-Tacoma shuttle is going to be in full effect for the rest of August.  Vieira was also used the night before, and was really only up here for depth until we needed to activate Albers.  Gaviglio makes as much sense as anyone to come back to Seattle.  He can start, if the team feels like making a move (*cough* GALLARDO *cough*), or he can slide into a long relief role, which is probably what will happen.  As for Bergman, we needed room on the 40-man for Albers, and if I’m not mistaken, we were able to DFA Bergman earlier this season and still retain him in Tacoma.  I can’t imagine the market for a pitcher like Bergman is very big, unless Jerry Dipoto has a twin brother who is also a Major League GM.

Albers looked good!  Kind of a shock to the system, but that’ll happen when you’ve done nothing but throw shit against the wall for the last week trying to see what’ll stick.  5 innings, 6 hits, 1 walk, 1 run, 4 strikeouts.  The run was of the solo homer variety, but it’s not like we haven’t seen that before, from everyone else in this God-foresaken rotation.  I’ll hold back on making any grand sweeping statements of positivity until I see him make a second start in a Mariners uniform, if it’s all the same to you.

At 3-1, this was the rare Mariners victory where the good guys scored less than 4 runs.  The Mariners are now 60-61 on the season; this is only the FIFTH time the Mariners have won a game while scoring less than 4 runs, which is simply astonishing, yet it also explains literally everything about this year.  In fact, 5-42 is the Mariners’ record when scoring less than 4 runs, which means they’re 55-19 (.743) when they score 4 runs or more.  Holy mother of God.

Segura & Heredia get some kudos for having 2 hits apiece at the top of the lineup.  Cano and Cruz had an RBI apiece, which is nice considering Seager was out with an illness.

The lion’s share of the kudos go to the bullpen, though.  Emilio Pagan relieved Albers and went two very strong shutout innings, striking out 4.  Scrabble and Vincent combined to lock down the eighth, and Diaz got his 26th save.  Now that’s more like it!

The victory, combined with losses for all the teams ahead of the Mariners for the second Wild Card spot, means we’re back to 1.5 games back.  It won’t mean much if the Mariners can’t keep it up.  Winning this afternoon would be a good start.  After that, it’s an off-day, followed by a 2-week East Coast trip to Tampa, Atlanta, New York (Yankees), and Baltimore.

Maybe it’s best for the M’s to get out of town for a while.  If they’re going to totally implode, might as well be away from the booing onslaught of the hometown crowd at Safeco Field.  Then, when they get back and it’s officially football season, we’ll all resume not giving a shit.

Baseball!  Catch the excitement!

The Mariners Need To Keep Winning These Close Games

As we dip our toes into August, things are starting to come into focus.  Whereas a month ago, you could argue each and every team in the A.L. had a chance at the Wild Card, now you can start to write some teams off.  The White Sox, the Tigers, the A’s, and I daresay even the Blue Jays and the Rangers, particularly with their trading of Yu Darvish to the Dodgers.  And, not far behind them, you’ve got teams like the Angels, Twins, and maybe even the Orioles, who just need another mediocre couple of weeks before you figure they throw in the towel and start playing their younger guys.

At that point, it’s almost easier to count the teams in the race.  The Astros, obviously.  With the Yankees winning the Sonny Gray sweepstakes, you have to like their chances.  The Red Sox will give them a run, of course.  In the Central, you’ve got the surging Royals and the steady Indians.  And, right there, tied with the Mariners, you’ve got the Rays at 54-53 with two full months to go.  We’re both of us 2.5 games behind the Royals for that second Wild Card spot; with the July 31st Trade Deadline come and gone, now it’s time to get to work.

As you know, I’m not very bullish on the Mariners’ chances.  Obviously, Paxton is one of the best pitchers in baseball right now, but after that it’s a wasteland.  Felix is on the decline (5.1 innings of 4-run ball last night; he was fortunate the offense and bullpen bailed him out — how many times could we have said THAT over the course of his career?), Erasmo Ramirez of all people is slated to take the hill tonight.  Then, we’ve got the poo-poo platter of Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo who will REALLY have to start picking up the slack the rest of the way if this team wants a shot at the post-season.

I dunno, I just can’t see it.  It would be a miracle of miracles.  The writing is already on the wall:  we’re going to look back on this season and realize we were out of it the day Drew Smyly injured his throwing arm.  Could we have withstood the decline of Felix, the injury of Iwakuma, and the disaster that’s been Gallardo?  Yes, yes, and yes; but it all hinged on getting a big bounceback season out of Smyly, and that absolutely did not happen.  If Smyly could’ve been 80% of what Paxton has been, combined with a fine season from Miranda, a bulldog season out of Felix, and whatever you could get out of the fifth starter carousel, MAYBE you could talk me into being confident in this team as it’s currently constructed.  But, the day they let the deadline pass without going out and getting a top shelf starter is the day they gave up on the season.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what David Phelps brings to this bullpen.  But, what use does this team have for an Erasmo Ramirez when it’s already got 4-5 of them in the organization?  What use does this team have for a Marco Gonzales when, again, it’s already got 4-5 of them in the organization?  These are half measures.  It’s making it look like you’ve done something when you’ve really done nothing at all.  These guys could’ve been gotten in the offseason just as easily, but instead they were acquired now; why?  To give the illusion that the team is trying to Win Now, when in reality this team – at the Major League level – is no better than it was before, and it could be argued they’re actually worse.  The lynchpin, of course, is Gonzales.  He’s “Major League Ready” and figures to be called up anytime now; if he comes up and does what he’s never done before (pitches well at the highest level), then I’ll happily eat all the crow you can shovel onto my plate.  But, it strikes me that we’ve heard this tune before.

Andrew Moore was Major League Ready.  Sam Gaviglio was Major League Ready.  Christian Bergman was Major League Ready.  Chris Heston was Major League Ready.  Chase De Jong was Major League Ready.  Dillon Overton was Major League Ready.  Rob Whalen was Major League Ready.  Where are they right now?

Like I said, it’s going to take some kind of miracle.  A big part of that would involve the Mariners winning more close games than they lose.  Like, A LOT more.  Like, an unsustainable amount of close games!  So far, they’re 16-10 in 1-run games, and 5-5 in extra innings games.  That needs to improve, bigly.  Especially against the teams ahead of us in the standings.

Last night wasn’t a 1-run game, but the Mariners still found a way to notch a save and come from behind.  Down 4-0 after two innings, it looked bleak.  Thankfully, the Mariners were able to take advantage of a whopping 4 errors and 2 balks, as the Rangers look like one of the sloppiest teams I’ve ever seen.  By the time Cole Hamels finished his six innings, the game was tied, and for a while there it looked like this game was destined for extras.

Scrabble was able to get out of a Felix jam in the sixth inning.  All five of Phelps’ outs were via the strikeout.  And meanwhile, this side-arming lefty reliever for the Rangers, Alex Claudio, was wiggling his way off the hook for over 2 innings of work, on a remarkably low number of pitches.

Scott Servais did something interesting in the last few days with the lineup; he’s finally gotten comfortable with Ben Gamel as an everyday hitter, even against left-handed starters.  So much so, in fact, that we’ve seen Gamel lead off the last few days, with Jean Segura batting second.  They’re both having phenomenal offensive seasons from a batting average standpoint, so they’re really pretty interchangeable at the top of the order.  But, it’s a dynamic shift where the Mariners are L-R-L-R-L-R through the first six hitters in the order.  Against teams with good lefty bullpen arms, this presents a conundrum:  do you swap your relievers out after each at-bat, or do you trust your lefty arm to pitch against, say, Jean Segura or Nelson Cruz?

Well, as we found out last night, with Claudio on the mound, the Rangers opted to pitch around those guys, intentionally walking Cruz twice and Segura once.  That put the onus on our left-handed hitters to get the job done.

It looked like it was going to work, too!  Claudio got out of a jam in the seventh when Seager hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice with runners on the corners.  He worked a very quick and efficient eighth inning to keep his pitch count low.  And, he ALMOST got through the ninth by using similar tactics as he did in the seventh.  Had he succeeded, the Rangers would’ve been in good shape heading into extras, while the Mariners would’ve used a couple of their best bullets in all likelihood just to get there.

The top of the ninth kicked off with a Chooch Ruiz single to right.  He was lifted for a pinch runner in Jarrod Dyson, who was cut down on a fielder’s choice when Gamel hit what looked to be a rally-killing double play.  However, the throw to first got past the bag and Gamel was able to reach second base with one out.  Segura drew the intentional walk, and both runners were balked over thanks to Claudio’s funky pre-pitch arm waggling.  Against lefty Cano, Claudio had been successful two innings prior, inducing a ground ball.  He busted him inside again, but Cano was able to stay on it and lined it over the right fielder’s head.  A perfect bounce to Shin Soo Choo allowed him to throw Cano out at second, but the damage was done.  The Mariners had a 6-4 lead and Edwin Diaz threw fire in the bottom half to close it out in regulation.

I’ll admit, it was an encouraging end to the month of July.  The Mariners went 14-12 to secure their second consecutive winning month.  Now it’s time to really turn it up a notch.

Marniers Did A Bunch Of Things I Don’t Like Yesterday

They lost to the Mets, for one.  Ariel Miranda struggled mightily early, then settled down to strike out a career high 10 batters over 6 innings, giving up the 4 runs.  With the offense roaring back in the fifth inning, the Mariners even handed their bullpen a 1-run lead!  But, it wasn’t to be.  Scrabble had one job to do, and failed miserably as the left-handed hitter smashed a homer to right.  Then, David Phelps proceeded to melt down in the very same inning, giving up the go-ahead two runs.  We couldn’t get anything off of their bullpen, and that was that.

Perhaps even more damaging than the loss was the trade the Mariners made:  Steve Cishek for Erasmo Ramirez.  Yes, THAT Erasmo Ramirez.  We traded him away to the Rays for Mike Montgomery a while back when he was out of options, and now he’s back.  He’s been primarily a reliever for the Rays, though he’s spot-started his fair share of games.  He’s been better as a reliever, but he’s still pretty much the same mediocre pitcher we sent away.

And now he’s being handed the keys to a starting rotation spot.  Because Andrew Moore was just demoted back to Tacoma to make room.

Is Erasmo Ramirez better than Andrew Moore?  Or Yovani Gallardo?  Or Sam Gaviglio?  Or any of these other shitty starters we’ve brought in?  Absolutely not.  So, let’s go ahead and dilute our bullpen to bring in another shitty starter!  Oh, wait, I forgot, “trade from a position of STRENGTH”.  Yeah fucking right.  We have a tenuous hold over this bullpen at best, thanks to the starters always getting pulled prematurely; we need as many quality bullpen arms as we can get!

It sounds like this is the last of the deadline deals, and I can only call it an unmitigated disaster for the Seattle Mariners.  Jerry Dipoto has done a lot of good in his short time here, but he really should be ashamed at what little he was able to accomplish in this very important season.  Not getting a Sonny Gray, or another comparable starter to help us in the stretch run, is an absolute failure for this organization.  And trading away Tyler O’Neill is going to be the icing on the cake when he starts tearing shit up in a few years.

Time to shift gears to football season, because there’s nothing to see here with this Mariners team.

Leave It To The Mariners To Suck All The Life Out Of A Winning Road Trip, Also Trade For David Phelps

Doesn’t it seem like every time we get super excited for a Mariners game, or just about the Mariners in general, they do everything in their power to let everybody down?

All day in the leadup to this game, the talk focused on the Mariners.  Back at .500, coming off of an incredible road trip, Yankees in town, Felix on the mound, and oh by the way help is coming in the form of reliever David Phelps.

Who is David Phelps?  Well, he’s a guy we got from Miami for 4 low-level prospects (guys who are far from the Major Leagues now; who are sort of high-risk, high-reward types; whose odds of panning out are pretty low).  He got his start with the Yankees before being traded to the Marlins before the 2015 season.  He was once considered a starter, who has converted to being a reliever full time, who some think could be converted back into a starter for next year should the organization deem it appropriate.  He’s earning $4.6 million this year, with one more year of club control next year (where he’ll look to earn probably $6-8 million if he continues on this course.  He was a very good reliever last year, and is having a pretty good year this year.  He had a few rough outings in April and June, but by and large he’s put up zeroes in his performances, which is all I ask.  He gained about 3 mph in his fastball when he converted to being a reliever, now throwing around the mid-90s, with a cutter and a curveball.

In other words, David Phelps steps in immediately as one of our very best relievers.  I imagine he’ll be slotted into a role backing up Nick Vincent – probably in the 6th or 7th inning – but could easily step in as an alternate 8th inning guy for when we want to give Vincent a blow.  I imagine he’ll be thrown into the fire as soon as possible, particularly since his last appearance was this past Monday.

The one knock against him is that he probably walks too many guys, so I get the feeling some of his appearances will be pretty adventurous and not good for the ol’ agita, but pobody’s nerfect.  He’s a clear step up from the guys we have in Tacoma and a good hedge against guys like Vincent and Zych, who have been on a remarkable tear this season and figure to be prone to some regression the rest of the way.  If and when that happens, it’s nice knowing Phelps is here to take charge until those guys find their ways again.

As for the deal itself, I don’t have a problem with it.  The outfielder looked like he could’ve been interesting, but he’s 19 years old, and somewhere around the 7th best prospect in the organization.  When you consider the dearth of talent in the Mariners’ farm system, I’m not sure that means a whole lot to me.  The Mariners HAVE outfielders right now, so I’m okay with getting rid of an iffy prospect who has a long way to go to be even a middling Quad-A type player.

That having been said, if Phelps is a bust, and one or more of those guys turn into superstars, you know I’ll be bitching HARD about this trade 3-5 years from now.  SUCK IT MARINERS, I’LL HAVE MY CAKE AND EAT IT TOO AND THEN COMPLAIN ABOUT HOW FULL I AM LATER AND YOU JUST HAVE TO TAKE IT!

So, there we were, thinking about the Mariners – in mostly a positive light – for a whole day.  I’ll be honest, while my new work schedule has me sleeping through most weekday West Coast games, I was strongly considering DVRing this one, waking up early, and watching sort of a fast-forwarded, Cliffs Notes version of the game.  But, now I’m kinda glad I didn’t.

It would’ve been cool to see vintage Felix spinning 7 innings of 1-run gold (on 3 hits & 2 walks, with 9 strikeouts), but unfortunately we also saw Vintage Rest-of-the-Mariners in how they treated a King Felix start:  namely, no run support and terrible defense and base running.  Pazos and Zych combined to work the eighth, giving up an unearned run; and Max Povse – called up earlier in the day as a temporary bullpen arm while Phelps flies to Seattle (he should be added to the roster today) – gave up 2 unearned runs in the ninth thanks to a Cano error with two outs.

It’s really unfortunate, though, about the offense.  They squirrelled away 8 hits and a walk against Yankees’ starter Luis Severino – who is good, but is by no means an unstoppable killing machine – but couldn’t push any runs across in his 7 innings of work (overall, 2 for 14 with RISP).  From there, with the Yankees leading by even just the 1 run, it was all academic, as Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman were due up in the eighth & ninth.  That can’t happen very much more this series if the Mariners expect to win some games.

In Rotation Shake-Up News:  Sam Gaviglio was predictably sent back to Tacoma, and Yovani Gallardo was announced as the starter on Sunday.  I like this, because it means Phelps takes over for Povse today, and the Mariners keep Emilio Pagan in the bullpen over Gaviglio in the rotation.  I think Pagan has earned an opportunity and could be a very good weapon for us down the stretch, in games where we need long relievers (for instance, in games where Gallardo gets the start).

Three days left in this series, and a pretty sour start.  I don’t have a lot of hope, but I guess we’ll see.

Always Be Marinersing

As I sat there, watching another Sam Gaviglio Special (6 innings, 5 runs, 8 hits, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts), I wondered why we couldn’t have a Brad Peacock.  Some reliever/6th starter who comes in when the chips are down and your rotation is hurting and gives you a whopping 7 innings of 1-run ball with 9 strikeouts.  Yeah, the Astros have a bunch of young studs they’ve drafted and cultivated through the years and years of losing, but they’ve also got their fair share of nobodies who are coming out of nowhere and playing above and beyond what’s expected of them.

It’s infuriating!  The rich get richer, am I right?

There’s nothing to say about that game; you should’ve seen it coming from miles away.  A hot Mariners team, having pulled out five wins in a row to once again get back to .500, throwing their mediocre fifth starter out there against the best team in the American League; if I could’ve, I would’ve bet the Taylor Family Farm on the Mariners losing that game and losing it big.  When the only good thing you can say about a game is that no one of import from the bullpen had to be used (Emilio Pagan went the final two innings), it’s not exactly a fun night at the ballpark.

So, here we are, at something of a crossroads.  Today, the Mariners run James Paxton out there in the rubber match of the series.  That’s followed by 7 home games against the Yankees and Red Sox – the Mariners’ immediate rivals in the Wild Card race.  The last time we were in a position to beat the Astros in a 3-game series, we got absolutely destroyed and went on a bad little losing streak to close out the first half.

This is a Mariners team that ostensibly believes it can compete for a Wild Card spot.  Well, good teams that make the playoffs don’t keep getting beaten in every single fucking series against the God damn fucking Astros!  They fucking stand up and say enough is enough and they go out there and they win a fucking series on getaway day!  And then they go back home and kick the shit out of the fucking Yankees, because that’s it!  I’ve had it with this shit, Mariners!  Nut up or shut up!  I’m tired of this limp dick losing shit!

Mariners Finished Sour First Half On Upbeat Note

There’s a lot to like about yesterday’s 4-0 shutout of the A’s to salvage a split of the 4-game series.  Dyson and Ruiz – representing the bottom of the order – got 5 hits, with a run and an RBI combined.  Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run bomb to give him 3 homers in the last week, and 17 on the season.  Robbie Cano hit a double and scored a run.  Felix Hernandez pitched 6 shutout innings, giving up 2 hits, walking 3, and striking out 8.  Vincent and Zych finished a SUPERB first half with a couple scoreless innings.  And, Edwin Diaz bounced back after taking the L on Saturday, striking out 2 in his inning of work.

The win brought the Mariners to 43-47, with 72 games remaining in the second half.  We’re currently 4th in the A.L. West, a game behind both Texas and Anaheim (17.5 games behind the insane Astros).  Yet, we’re only 4 games back in the Wild Card race, right in the middle of the pack (even the worst A.L. team is only 7.5 games back, so it’s not like anyone is really “out of it”).  Once we get through the All Star Break, there will be two and a half weeks of baseball before the July 31st Trade Deadline.  Will the Mariners be buyers, sellers, or nothing?  Well, we’ll see.

Starting this weekend, the M’s go on the road to play the White Sox, where we ALWAYS LOSE.  Then, we face the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox; sissy-boy loser time is over.  Those are some serious opponents the Mariners are going to have to face to try to climb back over .500; if they continue to play like they have these last two weeks, I don’t see a lot of hope for this season (particularly when you consider the brutal stretch of road games in August).

The question we have to ask ourselves is:  can the Mariners do it as is?

I know Jerry Dipoto said he’s going to be listening to what’s out there offered in trades, but we have to assume for now that he won’t be able to get a deal done (otherwise the variables are just too vast; this blog post would be 50,000 words long).  I’m thinking, even if he does get a trade done, it won’t be for some huge piece.  We’re not going to see a Rent-An-Ace situation because A) I don’t believe we have the prospects to bring one to Seattle, B) I don’t think the M’s want to take on that kind of payroll, and C) I don’t think the M’s are in a Win-Now-At-All-Costs mode.  Now, whether they SHOULD be in that mode is another issue; I think they like the core they’ve got, and they think they can compete for years to come with some of the young talent they’ve brought in and developed.  At best, maybe the M’s bring in another under-the-radar reliever to help boost the bullpen, or maybe a solid, veteran, back-of-the-rotation starter to help shore up the rotation.

But, you know, like I said, for the sake of argument let’s hold off on speculating on that until it happens.  Let’s take a look at the roster as it is right now.

I thought Ryan Divish made a good point on the radio last week when he talked about how this pitching staff is holding this team back.  Pretty much, every game (save a dominant Paxton start here and there), you go into it expecting these starters to give up a minimum of 2-3 runs per outing.  That’s on top of whatever happens with the bullpen.  But, it’s like the hitters have to go into every game needing to score 4+ runs to win, and that’s got to be a mental drain after a while.

Yeah, sometimes these hitters look unstoppable; but sometimes these hitters look really bad, and it’s a rare instance where the entire pitching staff is capable of picking them up.

I think we’re all pretty happy with what Paxton has brought to the table this season.  Obviously, it wasn’t helpful that he missed damn near the entire month of May, and that was reflected in his sub-par June, but he’s looked a lot better in the last three starts, so hopefully he can keep that going the rest of the way.  Really, if this team is going to truly contend for a playoff spot, he’s going to NEED to keep this going the rest of the way.  He’s 7-3 with a 3.21 ERA at the break; just give me that (or maybe a little bit better) the rest of the way and I’ll be happy.

I think we’re all justifiably concerned with what we’ve seen from King Felix not just this season, but the last 2-3 years.  He still hasn’t quite morphed into that Pitch To Contact guy he probably needs to be to prolong the prime of his career.  No, the fastball isn’t ideal, but more than that he’s simply missing his spots.  Batters are less likely to chase his stuff out of the zone, and when he comes in for a strike it’s getting clobbered.  It’s taken him until July 9th – against a terrible-hitting A’s team – to finally throw an outing of all zeroes on the scoreboard.  These types of 6- or 7-inning, 0-run games used to be a much more regular occurrence; that one might be the only one we see all year and it wouldn’t shock me!  I just don’t know what to make of the King anymore.  It’s like he knows what he needs to become, but he’s fighting against it (fighting with himself).  At this point, it would be irresponsible to have high expectations for him the rest of the way.  I’m just hoping he can give us what Iwakuma gave us last year (which would be nice, since it looks like Iwakuma is going to be a longshot to return from injury after being shutdown in his rehab multiple times).

Up next, we’ve got Ariel Miranda; who expected him to be the second- or third-best starter in this rotation heading into the season?  At this point in his development, I just want him to continue doing what he’s been doing.  He’s not an Ace, but he’s been healthy and he’s been good more than not; just keep doing that!

In the 4-hole, there’s Andrew Moore, who is all of three games into his Major League career.  All three of his starts have been what you would call Quality Starts (at least 6 innings and 3 runs or less every time), but he’s also given up 5 home runs in those three games.  That is … less than ideal.  That also might just be his game.  He’s not what I would consider a phenom, even though he’s young and has shot through the minor league ranks; but he throws strikes, limits walks, and generally keeps the damage to a minimum.  How well will he continue to do once the league has a book on him and starts making their adjustments?  The Mariners can’t really afford to have a lot of growing pains out of him if they expect to make it to the post-season.

In the fifth starter spot, the Mariners have some options.  Sam Gaviglio has been the guy since being called up as an injury-replacement, but his last start was pretty bad, and really overall he’s Just A Guy.  Yovani Gallardo has been pretty fantastic in his long reliever role, which has a lot of people wondering if he’s destined to return to the rotation at some point.  Has he worked out – mechanically – what was so wrong with him early in games in his starts?  What if it’s just a matter of throwing more or less warm-up pitches before he goes out there?  Or what if we just don’t tell him which days he’s going to start, and spring it on him 30 minutes before gametime?

Overall, this is a far-from-intimidating rotation; really just an Ace with four #5 starters.  And, honestly, I don’t know if there would be much out there available in trade besides some other team’s #5 starter, so we is what we is.  And ultimately, that’s probably what’s going to keep us out of the post-season.

The bullpen has been pretty mediocre as well, but I don’t know if I would put as much of the blame on them.  There are plenty of bright spots, like Nick Vincent, Tony Zych, James Pazos, and Scrabble.  Steve Cishek looks like he’s rounding into form after coming back from injury.  Edwin Diaz has had some shaky outings, but looks like he’s getting a handle on things.  Right there, that’s six guys I’m more or less okay with.  Emilio Pagan hasn’t really gotten the chances I think he deserves, but he seems to be more steady than Dan Ayala-tavilla.  Then, there’s the revolving door of long relievers between Seattle and Tacoma who won’t make-or-break you.  I think that’s an okay unit!  Maybe even a good one if guys start getting on rolls!

Same thing can be said for the hitting and defense.  The outfield has out-performed even my wildest dreams.  Cruz and Cano are banged up but doing a pretty good job playing through it.  Valencia bounced back in a big way to play to the back of his baseball card.  Zunino had that insane month of June that might more-or-less salvage his season if he doesn’t backslide too far in July.  Seager is definitely taking a step back this season, but I have to believe he’s got a torrid streak in him coming up.  Overall, in the American League, the Mariners are in the Top 5 in runs scored, average, and on-base percentage.  They’ve taken a substantial step back in their power numbers from a year ago, but they’re also capable of making that up and getting into the upper half of the league by season’s end.

Ultimately, I think that’s what it’s going to take.  These Mariners need to have a power surge and carry this team offensively through the next two and a half months.  With that, an improved bullpen, and a carefully maintained starting rotation, this thing just might take us into the final weekend of the season with a chance.

That’s all I ask, Mariners.  Just give yourselves a chance in the final weekend.  Then, let the chips fall where they may.