Try-Hard Mariners Fall In Game Two, Leaving Playoff Hopes On Life Support

Hit me up if you need kick-ass headline writing like this!  I’m available for parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs …

It’s the weekend and there’s gonna be lots of football to get to in the next couple days, so I’m not going to break my back recapping these defeats to the Astros.  As usual, the bad guys got a quality start out of one of their plethora of aces on staff; the only difference in this loss (by a score of 8-6) is that the Mariners were able to get to their bullpen a little bit and make it interesting in the later innings.  Or, you know, you could just say we gave someone in their ‘pen a free Save Situation and call it a day.

The Quality Start streak for Erasmo Ramirez ends at six.  But, you know, who could blame him?  He just saw the Astros a couple weeks back; it’s not like they weren’t gonna adjust to whatever he was throwing at them the second time around.  I guess the downer about this one is that our own bullpen couldn’t hold things together.  Nick Vincent – on a horrendous fucking run of bad outings (at the worst possible point in the season, I might add) – gave up another couple hits and a run in his inning of work.  And, for some reason, Scott Servais decided to work newcomer Ryan Garton like a fucking dog this month (already 8 appearances in 15 games since being acquired from the Rays).  To his credit, Garton was damn near perfect until today, when he too gave up a couple hits and a run in his inning of work.

So, there’s your ballgame, in other words.  I’ve been harping on it all season:  for the Mariners to make the playoffs, they’d need their offense to hit the shit out of the ball, and they’d need their bullpen to be mostly perfect.  When those two components are lacking in any way, it’s a recipe for disaster.

There’s another one of these fucking things tomorrow morning.  We get another look at Andrew Moore in the rotation.  Should be interesting, considering he’ll be one of many rotation candidates for 2018.  Sad to say we’re already in “Watch For Next Year” mode, but at some point we’ll stop kidding ourselves and point our focus on the AAA guys who might help us out next season.  Here’s to the Blue Jays, later today, beating the Twins and delaying the inevitable!

The Mariners Keep Winning & So Does Everyone Else

The Mariners have a 3-game winning streak.  How about that.

King Felix came back and didn’t embarrass himself.  He was on a pitch count of around 50 pitches or so, and ended up going just a hair over that trying to get the final out in the fourth.  He gave up a double to his final batter and was pulled for Ryan Garton to get out of the little mini-jam.

Which brings up a quick aside, as I’d like to praise Scott Servais for this thing he’s been doing lately.  I suppose I only noticed it because so many of our fucking starters this year have gone well under the 5-inning mark, but when it’s early in a game and the starter is clearly faltering, when Servais pulls him, he doesn’t go immediately to the long reliever, which I agree with 100%.  With a bunch of runners on base, and the other team clearly seeing & hitting the ball well that day, you don’t need to replace one mediocre starter with another mediocre starter (and what is a long reliever if not a mediocre starter?).  You need to bring in a standard one inning-type reliever to put the clamp down on further scoring that inning.  Then, assuming he gets out of the jam, go ahead and bring your long reliever in the NEXT inning, with a clean slate and no runners on base.

It’s not a big thing, but I think it’s very smart and deserves to be acknowledged.

Anyway, getting back, Felix held the Rangers to 1 run over his 3.2 innings of work.  He gave up 3 hits, 0 walks, and 3 strikeouts, and generally kept the Rangers off balance most of the time he was out there.  I’m not creaming my pants or anything, but it’s certainly better than a lot of what we’ve seen from this rotation in recent weeks.

Then, from the fifth inning onward, Andrew Albers took over, closing this game out.  He went a full five innings, giving up 3 runs on 3 hits, 1 walk, with 6 strikeouts.  It was announced before the game that Ariel Miranda is going to get some time off to rest his over-worked arm (which is certainly the prudent thing to do), and for the time being Andrew Moore is going to make the start on Sunday in his place.  People on Twitter were rightly manic about the snubbing of Albers – who has been a better pitcher for this team this year, and deserves the honor of taking over the rotation spot Miranda is vacating – but my hunch is after this turn, Albers will get his shot again.  Or, even if he doesn’t, it’s not like this team has suddenly, magically, fixed everything that was wrong with its rotation.  This team WILL need its long relievers again before the season is over!  You haven’t seen the last of Andrew Albers, I promise you!

It would’ve been a magnificent outing for Albers, if not for the 3-run homer he gave up in the bottom of the seventh.  But, by that point, the Mariners had racked up a 10-1 lead, so we weren’t in any danger.

In their 3 wins this series, the Mariners beat the Rangers by a combined score of 28-8.  THE BATS ARE ALIVE!  Just in time to be silenced in Houston this weekend, because we can’t have nice things; but on the off-chance that they’re not, this is the perfect time for this offense to be heating up.

Haniger finally went hitless, but did walk and score a run.  Segura had a hit and a run.  Zunino had 2 walks, a hit and an RBI.  But, those are small potatoes compared to the heavy lifting being done by the middle of the order.

Cruz, Seager, and Yonder Alonso (dropped from 2 to 6 in the lineup, which is exactly where he fits best) combined to go 9 for 12 with all the doubles and homers, as well as 7 of the 10 runs scored, and 8 of the 10 RBI.  Don’t look now, but Seager is up to 25 homers on the season, and Cruz is up to 33.  GREAT time for them to get hot!

Unfortunately, as I alluded to in the title, in spite of this 3-game winning streak, the Mariners haven’t made up any ground on the Twins, as they’re still 3.5 games back.  The M’s did do a good job of passing the Rangers, Orioles, Royals, and Rays, and we’re holding steady a half game back of the Angels (the only team between us and the Twins now), but as I keep saying, time’s a-wastin’.  15 games left in the season, including 3 against the Astros this weekend, and 3 against the magma-hot Indians (winners of 22 straight, an all-time American League record) next weekend.

Sadly, this feels like a good time to play one last game of fetch with Old Yeller before we take the Mariners out behind the barn and shoot ’em.  The last game I attended was back in August for Edgar Martinez Weekend, so I figure I should get out to one more before it’s all said and done.  Next week features the final six home games of the 2017 season; I recommend getting out there one last time to do the same.  If things hold as predicted, I’ll be going to the game where Corey Kluber klubs us to death.  Should be good times.

Mariners With Just An Incredible Win Over The Yankees

Never in a million years would I have predicted this Mariners team could win a game in New York 2-1, let alone in extra innings, against THAT bullpen.  My oh my indeed!

I was in the downtown Seattle Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Seahawks game, but I was so distracted by the little TV in the corner with the Mariners game on that I had to text my dad to have him DVR the football game, because I was missing too much.

I thought Ariel Miranda did a helluva job wiggling off the hook in a lot of self-inflicted jams.  4.2 innings isn’t anything to write home about, but he kept the Yankees off the scoreboard and that’s all you can ask when the games matter this much.

Kudos to Emilio Pagan for getting Miranda off the hook in that fifth inning and bridging the game into the seventh.

I thought Scott Servais did a terrible job putting David Phelps there in the eighth inning of a 1-run lead.  That’s Nick Vincent territory!  For the second time in a row, he brought Phelps into a VERY tough situation straight off the DL; how about a softer landing, huh???

So, yeah, it was a bummer that Phelps blew the save there in the eighth, but good on Vincent to keep the game tied at one and getting the game into extras.

Big ups to Mike Zunino for scoring the team’s only run against C.C. Sabathia with his solo homer to left.  7 innings of 1-run ball, with 5 hits, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts for the ageless wonder.

Even bigger ups to Yonder Alonso for the go-ahead solo homer off of Aroldis Chapman of all people!  The M’s faced the teeth of the Yankees’ bullpen, loaded the bases on Dellin Betances, but couldn’t quite push the go-ahead run home in the top of the ninth.

And, closing it out, we have Edwin Diaz with his 30th save on the year.  That’s how you do it!

The M’s picked up a game on the Wild Card-leading Yankees, and are within 0.5 games of the Twins for the second Wild Card spot (having passed over the Royals and Angels with their losses tonight).  Two more games to go in New York; getting just the one victory was beyond my wildest dreams, so I don’t know what I’d do if we somehow managed to get two.  Early starts the next two days, so it won’t take long to find out.

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.

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 Blew It Again

With Paxton on the DL, the Mariners brought up Andrew Moore, presumably to take his spot in the rotation, yet lo and behold there he was, coming on in long relief of Marco Gonzales (who, himself, was brought up with Felix on the DL, but that’s neither here nor there).

Gonzales couldn’t even get through 5 innings because Scott Servais rightly has zero confidence in his ability to get out of even the slightest jam in a tight game.  And so, Emilio Pagan came in to finish out the inning and we all thought he’d come back for another couple frames or so.  But, it turned out to be Moore, who got through one inning fine, but with two outs in the seventh, he ended up getting hit all around the stadium, giving up 4 runs to completely blow the lead.

The M’s put up 5 runs on the back of Nelson Cruz, Mike Zunino, and a clutch Jarrod Dyson.  With a 5-1 lead heading into the seventh.  Moore pissed that away, then in the ninth, Jean Segura – an inning after making a brilliant defensive play – booted a potential double play grounder to give up the go-ahead run.  And that was that.

The Angels are up 2-0 in this series, and get ready for more of the same because this Mariners pitching staff is fucking garbage.  The bullpen – which is decent – is overworked and becoming exposed.  Say goodbye to the Wild Card.

Remember This Day: The Mariners Are Alone In The Second Wild Card Spot

Remember it, because it probably won’t last.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, because I know the other shoe is about to drop, but this is unbelievably exciting.  The Mariners took down the A’s 6-3 yesterday to complete the 2-game sweep – a feat that should be appreciated with a golf clap rather than hyperbolic sycophantism, because given how terrible the A’s are now, that’s something the Mariners absolutely SHOULD HAVE accomplished – while the Royals and Rays both lost to fall a game behind the Mighty Mariners!

This might very well be the zenith of the Mariners’ season.  3 games over .500 for the first time all year.  All alone in that aforementioned second Wild Card spot.  Just completed a 6-3 road trip to get to within 2 games of .500 on the road on the season.  Heading back to Seattle for the only week’s worth of home games in August, with Paxton on the mound tonight followed by Edgar Martinez Weekend.  If this isn’t as good as it gets, then get the hell away from me because I must be dreaming and I don’t want to wake up!

It all started yesterday afternoon.  Kyle “Corey’s Brother” Seager jacked a 3-run homer in the first to get things going.  Then, Nelson Cruz followed with a 2-run homer in the third and a solo homer in the fifth.  Not for nothing, but Seager has climbed up to 17 homers on the season, 7 of them since the All Star Break.  And Cruz is up to 26 homers, 9 of them since the All Star Break.  Not a moment too soon for either of those guys to get hot, I tell you what.

Staked to 6 runs, what did the Mariners get out of Yovani Gallardo?  More of his same putrid bullshit.  He gave up some mighty solo homers in the first and third to keep the A’s in it, then started to give up a lot of hard-hit contact in the fifth.  A single, followed by a liner that was only caught at the wall because Ben Gamel is literally Superman, followed by a run-scoring double and that was the end of his day.  Luckily, Emilio Pagan bailed him out, as well as the rest of the Mariners, keeping the damage to just what Gallardo gave up.  Pagan went 2.2 innings of 1-hit shutout ball to record the victory.

You know, it’s pretty fucking sad when a guy given six runs of support from his offense can’t even qualify for the fucking win.  It’s 5 innings!  That’s all you have to do!  And Gallardo couldn’t even do that, against the fucking A’s of all teams.  What. A. Piece. Of. Shit.  He does all this good in the bullpen, enough to get his starting job back, and this is what he’s able to manage.  Fucking pathetic.

From there, Tony Zych was able to lock down the eighth, and Edwin Diaz was able to lock down the ninth for his 25th save.  Somewhere out there, some fantasy baseball player got a really good deal on Edwin Diaz right before the All Star Break, and that person has been rewarded with 12 saves against only 1 blown save in a little under 4 weeks.  Simply outstanding!

It’s pretty easy to get excited about this team right now, especially with James Paxton on the mound tonight against the Angels, but again we’re talking about everything riding on this start.  Because have you seen the fucking duds we’ve got going over the weekend?  Marco Gonzales, Erasmo Ramirez, and Ariel Miranda, in that order.  If we don’t win the Paxton start, again, I think you can kiss this series goodbye, as well as our lead in the Wild Card and everything else.

If Paxton wins, MAYBE you could envision the Mariners’ offense jumping all over the Angels on Friday or Saturday (while getting just enough out of our starter before pulling him after 5 innings), with an outside chance of Miranda having a quality bounce-back start on Sunday and taking 3 of 4.  But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we need Paxton to come through to make any of our dreams a reality.

I was going through the schedule the rest of the way, picking out the Paxton starts assuming nothing changes and we continue with the 5-man rotation.  I made the argument that if you moved Paxton around in the rotation, pitching him strictly every 5th DAY instead of every 5th game, you could get an extra start out of him, while at the same time slotting him into either pitching the final game of the regular season, or (if we’ve clinched), setting him up for the Wild Card game.  Whereas, if you just pitch him every fifth game as anticipated, he ends up missing a lot of important series against difficult teams, and may not be ready until the ALDS (if we get that far).

My argument is:  you need to maximize James Paxton as much as humanly possible, since he’s your only good starter.  Getting 1 more Paxton start, on what’s ostensibly regular rest (I’m not going crazy here and suggesting he pitch every fourth day or something), could make all the difference in what’s looking like a Wild Card race that’s destined to go down to the wire.

And I understand the arguments against it.  He’s pretty injury prone, so do you want to risk blowing up his arm in this all-important season?  Baseball is a slog!  It’s a marathon, not a sprint; but it’s also just a fucking slog through the muck for six straight months.  It’s punishing.  It’s obscene, really, how long it is, and the fact that they have to play everyday, sometimes going three full weeks without a day off.

But, I mean, do you want this or not?  The Mariners almost certainly won’t do it, because you’re not managing a fantasy baseball roster, you’re managing human beings with feelings and egos and you can’t just single out one starter like that without alienating the rest of the rotation (as shitty as those other guys may be).  But, I thought the motto was “Whatever It Takes”!  Seems to me, guys are going to have to swallow some pride if we want to get this done.  Just ask Danny Valencia, who was benched because the Mariners were scheduled to face a bunch of right-handed starting pitchers in a row.

That’s my two cents anyway.  The way this season is going, Paxton will probably blow out his arm tonight and the point will be moo.  You know, a cow’s opinion.  The single greatest line from the TV show Friends in its illustrious 10-season run.

My other two cents, before things completely fall apart, is that I agree with Mike Salk and Softy (among other local radio personalities, presumably) that Scott Servais should ABSOLUTELY be in the running for Manager of the Year.  I mean, I know nobody cares about those awards, and most people who vote for them are just checking the box of the team with the best record without giving it more than 2 seconds of thought, so, you know, bank on the guy who manages the Astros to win it this year.  But, has anyone done more with less than Scott Servais?  Has anyone had to juggle a pitching staff with so many injuries?  The answer is no, obviously, the Mariners have had the most snakebitten pitching staff in the history of baseball.  But, he’s got this team in contention by playing that rotation like a fiddle.  Sometimes, guys just have bad games and they have to wear it.  But, more often than not, he’s pulling starters at just the right time, squeezing as much as he can out of them before going to the bullpen.  And, for the most part, I’ve liked his bullpen decisions.  He’ll have a brain fart here and there, but who doesn’t?  I’ve honestly been REALLY impressed by how little I’ve complained about his bullpen usage.  Even when it doesn’t work out, I can almost always understand the rationale behind the move.  It’s refreshing, really, after Lloyd McClendon and some of the other doofus managers we’ve had here in recent years.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got today.  Voters, give Scott a chance!

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SQUEE!!!

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Might Actually Salvage A .500 Road Trip Later Today

After losing 2 of 3 in Washington, and then 2 of 3 in Boston, you start to wonder, “What’s the point?”  Yet, here we are, one win away from a 2-game sweep of the Rockies, thanks to a hard-fought 6-5 victory yesterday.

The Mariners had hits up and down the lineup, even Sam Gaviglio with a single that would come around to score.  Ben Gamel had a couple hits and a couple runs scored, Danny Valencia had 3 hits and an RBI, Mike Zunino had a couple hits and a walk, Kyle Seager had a double and 2 RBI.  And, once again, the Mariners left a bunch of runs out on the table, going 2 for 13 with RISP.  I would anticipate a huge breakout any day now.

Gaviglio was more or less rolling, giving up 3 runs in 5 innings, with a very low pitch count, before coming back out for the 6th.  He gave up back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before being pulled; both would come around to score.  Nevertheless, the Mariners had already scored their 6 runs by this point, and the bullpen would prove masterful in locking down the victory.

Pazos went 1.1 innings, Zych went 0.2; Vincent, Scrabble, and Altavilla mixed and matched and each got an out in the 8th inning, and Edwin Diaz looked downright dominant in closing things out in the 9th.

After a promising start to the month, where the Mariners went 6-2, they’ve been in a nosedive, winning only 4 of their next 16 games.  The Mariners have won 2 in a row here and time will tell if it’s just a blip in a much longer, more painful losing stretch, or if this is the beginning of the Great Turnaround.

On the plus side, James Paxton returns tomorrow.  The rotation for the next five days looks like this:  Miranda, Paxton, Gallardo, Bergman, and Gaviglio.  That’s obviously far from ideal, but Miranda has made great strides this year, as has Paxton before he got hurt (and Paxton was starting much further ahead than Miranda to boot, so it’s really saying something to say that Paxton has made a lot of strides); and Bergman and Gaviglio have looked semi-competent at times this season.  It’s encouraging to see Felix start to throw the ball pain-free (it’s less encouraging to see Iwakuma not-so-pain-free; and I’ll believe it when I see it for Smyly).  I don’t want it to sound like I’m getting my hopes up here or anything.  The REAL Great Turnaround for this season might not hit its stride until July or August, at which point it might be too late to mean anything as far as the playoffs are concerned.  I’m just looking for baby steps right now.  I’m looking for this team to not have to make daily roster moves between Seattle and Tacoma.  Then, I’ll be happy if Scott Servais can simply settle on a back-end of the bullpen that’s based on merit, and not based on whose arm is the freshest.  It’s got to be discouraging for someone like Jean Machi – who was solid for Seattle before he had to be sent back down, only to never get a repeat opportunity – or someone like Pagan, who had a wonderful 4-inning scoreless outing before going back to Tacoma.

Then, once we’re able to lock down the bullpen, wouldn’t it be nice to start getting guys back from injury without immediately seeing other guys have to go on the DL?  The Mariners will never be at 100% full strength, but wouldn’t it be nice to see them at 90 or 95% full strength, for like a full month or more?  I KNOW, look at the big dreamer over here; next thing I’ll be asking for is fresh air and clean drinking water!

This is why I don’t feel even remotely sorry for Angels fans for Mike Trout going on the DL for 6-8 weeks.  Talk to me when you’ve had to start Chase De Jong FOUR TIMES.