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.

Fancy That: The Mariners Stopped The Losing Streak Behind Solid Pitching & Timely Hitting

Alternate title:  The Mariners Won A Baseball Game By Scoring More Runs Than Their Opponent

They bumped the series finale against the Nationals up to the early morning Pacific time so they could avoid an impending rainstorm and get the whole game in.  While most of us were hoping for a rainout, if for no other reason than to stave off another defeat, the Mariners shocked the world by being semi-competent.

Ariel Miranda managed a workmanlike 5 innings, giving up 2 runs in that fifth to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead.  In the top of the sixth, Nelson Cruz jacked a 3-run home run to give the Mariners a lead, and Scott Servais proceeded to stop fucking around.  He went immediately to our good bullpen guys in hopes of locking down the first Mariners victory in a week.

Zych worked a scoreless sixth, Pazos worked a scoreless seventh, Vincent & Scrabble worked a scoreless eighth, and Edwin Diaz reclaimed his closing duties on the strength of TWO WHOLE ADEQUATE PERFORMANCES, and somewhere in there the Mariners added an insurance run to give the Mariners a 4-2 victory.

The top of the order really did the heavy lifting in this one.  Segura had a couple hits and a run; Cano had two more hits, an RBI, and a run; Cruz (getting his second start in right field) had the aforementioned 3-run homer; and Seager and Valencia each had a hit to round it out.

There are no take-aways from this one.  The Mariners got a win in a game featuring their best healthy starting pitcher; it’s as simple as that.  This isn’t the start of a great turnaround, it’s just a random win, because in baseball it’s impossible to literally lose every single game.  Hell, even Charlie Brown’s team had a win or two!

The Mariners are still a game out of last place (tied in the loss column) in the entire American League, five games out of the second Wild Card, and 11 games behind the Astros in the A.L. West.

In a shocking development, the Mariners went a whole day without making a Big League roster move, so that’s something.  With all these injuries and shuttling of players, it feels like we’re just wrapping up our fourth month of Spring Training for Christ’s sake.

This weekend, the Mariners go to Boston for three games.  It would be nice to pick up some games on the team that’s currently holding the second Wild Card spot, but wish in one hand and shit in the other, you know?  I just hope no other important people go on the DL between now and Monday.

On the Mike Zunino front, in his three games since being called back up from Tacoma, he has one hit (a homer) and 7 strikeouts in 11 at bats.  I just … I could NOT be more disappointed.  Y U MAKE ME LONG FOR THE RETURN OF TUFFY???

Mariners Bullpen Blows It, Offense Walks It Off In The Ninth

Yeah, I don’t care, I’m bringing back the phrase Walk Off, even if the winning team doesn’t walk in the winning run!  COME AT ME BRO!

Sam Gaviglio got the start yesterday, and like Christian Bergman the day before, he was greatly effective.  Five shutout innings, on 3 hits and 1 walk, with 2 strikeouts.  Considering it sounds like he wasn’t TOTALLY stretched out – I kept hearing about how the Mariners were only expecting to get four innings out of him – that was quite the amazing performance.  Once again, someone else who has leapfrogged Chase De Jong on my Chase De Jong scale.

The Mariners’ offense did some work early, with Dyson pulling a solo homer in the third, and with Segura jacking a 3-run homer in the bottom of the fifth.  They turned things over to the bullpen with a 4-0 lead, and I dunno, maybe I’m shortsighted.  I figured a day after Bergman spun his magic, and Pazos cleaned up after him, we’d have a more available bullpen with which to work.  But, apparently the plan was to get whatever they could out of Gaviglio, and then immediately turn the ball over to Casey Lawrence for something resembling long relief.

I would argue, once you get five innings out of the 10th starter you’ve used this season, and once your offense gives you a 4-0 lead, you don’t mess around.  By all means!  Use Casey Lawrence!  You brought him into the organization, you called him up, it’s the least you can do.  When you’ve got four full innings of relief to spread around, the bottom man in the bullpen is good enough to throw in there in the sixth inning.  And, to his credit, Casey Lawrence did a fine job.  Other than an infield single, he got the White Sox out in order.  Bingo bango bongo.

So, WHY would you bring him back out for the seventh???

Double to left, homer to left, 4-2 Mariners.  I don’t get it.  Everybody should’ve been fresh-enough!  You go one inning per reliever, use up four relievers, and you worry about Friday on FRIDAY!

Thankfully, Lawrence was able to settle down and finish out the seventh, but it could’ve gotten REALLY hairy there if he didn’t.  At that point, still with the 2-run lead going into the eighth, I was at least moderately confident we could get this thing to the ninth with a lead.

WRONG.

I don’t really blame Servais for using Altavilla in this spot, though I understand if you do.  He was coming off of a real bonzer outing two days earlier, but before that he’s been inconsistent as the day is long.  In gratitude for Servais’ confidence in him, Altavilla got the first two outs of the inning, then gave up back-to-back solo homers to tie the game.  Just brutal.

But, you know, what can you do?  Edwin Diaz was just demoted and is working on his mechanics; I think they’re looking for a softer landing for him than eighth inning set up man.  Steve Cishek just came off the DL and he too just blew a game recently.  Tony Zych is apparently also being handled with kid gloves.  Even though he was used three straight days from May 13th through the 15th, I guess he needs three full days off to recover?  I dunno.

What I do know is that it was pretty clear they were saving Nick Vincent for the ninth.  With Overton being saved for Sunday in all likelihood, that only left Scrabble as a possible eighth inning guy, but there were a bunch of right-handed bats coming up that inning, so Altavilla was the guy.  Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just telling you my theory on this whole thing.

Still doesn’t totally forgive putting Lawrence out there for a second inning, because that guy was already terrible when we got him, and it’s not like joining the Mariners is going to magically fix all his issues.

Anyway, Vincent got through the ninth inning without incident, and there we were, the bottom of the ninth.  I was tired, hoping to get to sleep in the near future; I’m sure the Mariners were tired; it was a long, cold night.  The bottom of the order got things going.

Taylor Motter’s leadoff single was erased by a subpar sac bunt by Dyson, but in a way if you had to choose who you want standing on first, you certainly would rather have Dyson there via the fielder’s choice.  Obviously, in an ideal world, the bunt would’ve worked and they both would’ve been safe, but that’s neither here nor there.  Unfortunately, with a lefty on the mound, Dyson couldn’t steal second.  He did run on a 3-2 count to Ruiz, who grounded out, thus allowing Dyson to advance to second.  With two outs, they walked Jean Segura, because that guy is a machine; plus I’m sure they liked the lefty/lefty matchup with Gamel coming to the plate.

Except, Guillermo Heredia was still on the bench (getting a rest day, with Boog Powell getting the start), so he came out to pinch hit.  Blowers noted that the White Sox had a righty warming up in the bullpen, so I figured it was academic:  they’d bring him in to face Heredia, and we’d go from there.

Instead, they left the lefty in there, Heredia knocked a single to right-center, and Dyson came flying around to score the WALK OFF run.  Just like Servais drew it up, right?

All in all, a nice little win for a desperate team.

In Injuries Rule Our Lives news, Paxton, Felix, Kuma, and Smyly all threw baseballs this week.  Paxton actually threw a legit bullpen, and is looking to do a rehab start in the near future.  Mitch Haniger is setting out for a rehab assignment of his own this weekend, with the hope that maybe he’ll be able to return during the next road trip.  As always, I’ll believe it when I see it.

The Mariners Were Able To Stop The Losing Streak Thanks To Their Best(asterisk) Starter

Ahh yes, Yovani Gallardo, the last man standing in a rotation filled with infants. Where would we be without his veteran presence? Without his hittable pitches? Without his ability to gobble up innings?

He gave up 3 runs (on 2 homers) in 6.1 innings, yet the Mariners still managed to use up 6 relievers to lock down this thing in regulation, so you could tell this one was important. I just can’t get over the fact that – going into the season – we were all on the same page about Gallardo: he’d stick in the rotation for as long as he was moderately effective, but at some point he’d be DFA’d in favor of Ariel Miranda, or someone else with more promise. Now, he’s got as much job security as he could ever want! All while doing a fairly mediocre job (except, at this point, “mediocre” is a fucking godsend when compared to what we’re getting from our replacement pitchers).

The Mariners jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks to some wildness by the A’s starter, plus a 2-run homer to center by Nelson Cruz. And, as is his wont, Gallardo gave almost all of it away by the time the fifth inning concluded. BUT, we hung in there and even added to our lead thanks to a Kyle Seager 2-run jack in the bottom of the eighth. 6-3: all the cushion in the world for closer Edwin Diaz!

And yet, after getting the leadoff hitter to foul out, Diaz proceeded to walk the next four batters, because of course. Thankfully, Scott Servais finally decided to do something about it, instead of hoping Diaz would work through it. THIS is what I’ve been asking for, pretty much, my entire baseball-watching life! The closer is treated like some savior who can’t be questioned, when in reality sometimes they just don’t have it! Just like ANY AND EVERY reliever sometimes just doesn’t have it. At which point, why force the issue? Why let them give away the entire game? If they don’t have it, they don’t have it. Let someone else get a shot at saving the fucking thing!

Enter Tony Zych, who did just that. He got the first batter to ground out, which still scored a run, intentionally walked the next guy to load the bases, and after running the count full, caught the final batter of the night looking to put everyone out of their misery.

Robinson Cano missed his fifth consecutive game after they thought for a minute that he might be able to play. That puts us halfway to the 10-Day DL minimum and I’ve gotta think the Mariners will need to pull that trigger if some other position player goes down.

Also, Tuffy Gosewisch went hitless again for the millionth game in a row. How much longer are we going to keep this farce going? I understand Mike Zunino needs a little time to get going, but why are we giving Tuffy the starting role in this catcher rotation? I think he has BEYOND proved that he’s not a Major League Baseball player by now. And I’ve yet to see anything even remotely remarkable about his defense. At least Zunino could slap you a single every now and then, or take a God damn walk once in a while. Tuffy is making me long for the days of Jesus Sucre for Christ’s sake!

Mariners Make Something Good Out Of Chicken Salad

See, because to me, chicken salad and chicken shit might as well be the same damn thing, because mayonnaise is super disgusting.

What do you say about a 10-9 win, where your team comes back from an early 4-0 deficit to take a 5-4 lead, only to immediately gag it away in the bottom half of the inning to trail 9-5?  That’s as impressive a win as you’ll see!

Remember when an “ugly” game for the Mariners was some boring-ass 1-0 bullshit, where the Mariners couldn’t buy a hit to save their lives?  Now, we get these thrilling, over-scoring affairs!  If you can’t help but think, “That’s so 1997,” I’m right there with you.

Of course, we can’t EVER have nice things, and in this one the Mariners more or less had to do it the hard way.  Robbie Cano, after starting 2 for 3 with a 2-run homer in the third, had to leave the game with a strained quad (for now, it doesn’t look too serious; “day to day” being bandied about).  With the Mariners already rocking a short-handed bench thanks to the 8-man bullpen, that didn’t leave a lot of pinch hitting options for Servais, in this National League game with their stupid “pitchers have to bat” rules.

I’m all over the place here, so let’s go back to the beginning.  One of the main reasons for the 8-man bullpen is because of nights like this:

  • Ariel Miranda:  3.1 IP, 6 hits, 8 runs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, 2 homers on 69 pitches

Apparently, it’s too much to ask for Miranda to give us back-to-back quality starts when 3/5 of our starting rotation is on the shelf.  After just getting hammered in that first inning, he started to settle down a little bit, but by the time the Mariners took the lead in the fourth (on a 3-run homer by Ben Gamel, more on him in a bit), Miranda fell apart again.  A walk, an RBI double, a single, an RBI sac fly too the wall in left, and another single (all hard-hit balls) ended his day.

Of course, it didn’t help that Jean Machi came in and allowed all the inherited runners to score, along with one of his own.  Serves me right for jinxing the bullpen earlier in the day.

But, to his credit, Machi worked a scoreless fifth, and every bullpen guy after that (Altavilla to Pazos to Vincent to Diaz) worked a scoreless inning of their own to allow the Mariners to come back and ultimately win it.

The Mariners rallied for three more runs in the sixth (clutch RBI singles by Seager and Cruz – in pinch hit duty – along with some help by the Phillies’ defense) to pull to within 9-8, and tied it an inning later on an RBI double by Ben Gamel to score Jean Segura.

The only real scare for the Mariners came in Nick Vincent’s eighth, when he loaded the bases with one out.  But, a fly-em-out/throw-em-out double play by – YOU GUESSED IT – Ben Gamel got us out of a huge jam.

Then, a Segura single was moved along to second on a grounder by Gamel in the ninth.  With two outs, Taylor Motter (initially replacing Cano at second before moving to left after Jarrod Dyson was lifted for a pinch hitter) jacked a double down the line to give the Mariners the lead.  Edwin Diaz had just enough time to warm up before coming in and putting the Phillies to bed in order.

You have to start with Ben Gamel here in the Kudos Department:  4 for 5 with a walk, 4 RBI, 3 runs scored, and that HUGE outfield assist to keep the game tied in the eighth.  His double and homer also put him a triple away from the cycle, which would’ve been some sort of crazy icing on the cake.  Either way, WHAT A GAME!  He’s hitting .362 with an OPS of 1.051 on the season!

Must not forget Jean Segura, who was 3 for 6 with 3 runs scored, pulling his average up to .376 and his OPS up to .930 … for our LEADOFF hitter!  Are you joking me???

Cano, Seager, and Heredia all had 2 hits apiece.  Cruz had that pinch hit RBI single I mentioned earlier (he’s not starting in this series because his sore hamstring probably shouldn’t be tested in the outfield, particularly when he’s yet to do anything but DH this season).  Fortunately, this is just a 2-game N.L. series, and we’re able to pinch hit him as needed.

Honestly, I questioned Servais using him so early, with 2 outs in the sixth and runners only on first & second.  But, the Phillies had a lefty reliever in there, and I just don’t know if you would’ve had a better opportunity later in the game to be honest.  Either way, it worked out, so let those ends justify them means!

Finally, what can you say about Taylor Motter?  This kid has been a godsend!  I know I was harping about him losing all his playing time with The Rise Of Gamel, so I guess I quasi-got my wish (though, I hate that it’s at the expense of Robbie Cano).  But, we’re talking about a guy with 19 hits on the season, and FIFTEEN of them have gone for extra bases!  That’s to go along with 15 RBI and 13 runs scored; if he keeps this up, he’s going to pass Mark McLemore as this team’s best-ever utility man.  The fact that he can play every position but pitcher & catcher makes him, quite frankly, one of the most valuable players in the entire league!

The Mariners have scratched and clawed all the way back to 1 game under .500, with an early 10am start (Pacific time) this morning.  Things are getting REALLY interesting around here.

Are The Mariners Zeroing In On A Viable Bullpen?

We all know the pitching kind of stinks on this team.  The starters have an ERA of 3.76, but that’s mostly propped up by the amazing start of James Paxton.  The starters are also largely injured, so the hope is:  if we can weather the storm, get some guys back, then things look a lot better in the second half and beyond.  Even then, Miranda has just been sort of okay, Kuma and Gallardo have been less so, and Felix is a true wild card at this point in his career.  That’s not even getting into the fact that we don’t REALLY know if Smyly is ever going to return from injury this year, or if he’ll have setbacks and maybe this thing carries over into 2018 and beyond.

That’s sort of outside of our control right now, and quite frankly not something I want to think about until I have to.  Instead, I’d like to look at the bullpen, because I think there’s a slim chance for a turnaround, and I think that’s something that should be explored.

The bullpen, clearly, has been god awful.  Gun to my head:  I think it’s the team’s number one problem and main reason why we have such a mediocre record right now.  The numbers bear that out, as the Mariners are 13/15 in the American League in bullpen ERA at 5.43, just ahead of that atrocious Rangers bullpen, and the Tigers bullpen that’s dead last.  I don’t know if there’s any helping the Rangers or Tigers, but I think there’s reason for optimism for the Mariners.

Now, obviously, all of this could blow up right in my face as the team continues to meltdown in this all-important, make-or-break season, but hear me out.

If we’re going to continue on this path of an 8-man bullpen (which, I see no reason why we shouldn’t, given all the injuries to our starters), then let’s go down the line and count ’em out.

Edwin Diaz is what he is right now.  When he’s on, he’s lights out.  When he just doesn’t have it on a particular night, he’s really bad, and it’s doubtful we’re going to save that game.  My main issue with Diaz is an issue I have with all closers:  if, for whatever reason, their command is off or whatnot, DON’T LEAVE THEM OUT THERE TO GET POUNDED.  I’m tired of managers being afraid of taking out their closers when they’re walking the world and giving up lots of hard-hit balls.

The best part of Diaz’s game is his short memory.  He’s yet to really get bogged down in a prolonged slump.  Sure, he’ll blow a game here or there, but that has seemingly no bearing on what he’s going to do the next time out (unless he has to face Kole Calhoun, then all bets are off).  Until he does have that prolonged slump, he is our closer, and more often than not he’s good enough.

The best reliever this team has right now is Marc Rzepczynski (who I constantly refer to as Scrabble, because come on), with the caveat that he’s almost exclusively used against lefties, and more often than not is out there for less than 3 outs.  But, that’s his job, and he’s the best at it on this team.  Frankly, he might go down as the best LOOGY this team has ever had, and I don’t know if there will be a close second.

Nick Vincent would be the next-best reliever this team has right now; just don’t put him out there with inherited runners because I can’t vouch for him there.  He gets a remarkable amount of strikeouts for what kind of stuff he has, but I wouldn’t call him a “strikeout guy”.  Nevertheless, if you need a 6th or 7th inning shut down with as little damage as possible, he’s not a bad option.

What this team is genuinely lacking right now is a proper 8th inning set up guy.  Someone who can shorten the game up for you that much more.  Ostensibly, Steve Cishek will be that guy, if we can ever get him going.  He’s doing his rehab now, but had to come back to Seattle for bullpen work because his mechanics were out of whack, so that’s concerning.  Cishek can definitely have his issues at times, hence why he lost his closer’s job last year to a AA guy, but if anything he’s sort of the opposite of Scrabble; a ROOGY if you will.  Pair the two of those guys together in the 8th inning, mixing and matching righty vs. lefty (this is more down the line, in September or potential playoff situations; not on an everyday basis), and I think you’ve really got something.

So, right there, that’s half your bullpen.  I don’t think anyone’s comparing it to the 2016 Indians or Cubs, but it’s decent.  It’s good.  It’s okay.

Obviously need more than 4 quality pitchers in your bullpen, though, so what about the back-half?

Well, James Pazos has been a very nice surprise, and seems to be getting better as the weeks go on.  He’s got a dominating fastball, is crushing lefties right now, and isn’t too terrible against righties.  As he develops, I’ll be curious to see how he grows against right-handed bats.  He’s so young, and so good so far, that we might have a real diamond on our hands.

Tony Zych is another young pitcher with tons of upside.  He just got off the DL, but is already being thrust into pressure situations, and has so far come out just fine.  If this team finds itself in a lot of winning situations, it’s easy to see him holding down that 8th inning role.  If he fulfills his potential, that REALLY shortens the game for us, bumping Cishek/Scrabble back to the 7th and Vincent/Pazos to the 6th.

So, now we’re six relievers into this exercise and looking pretty solid in a couple weeks when Cishek returns from the DL.  What about those last couple spots?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I like what I’ve seen from Jean Machi so far.  Granted, we’re only three appearances in, and he’s already had to be pulled due to a nerve issue in his hand, but he stayed off the DL and was ready to roll on Sunday if need be.  He’s obviously not a power pitcher, and won’t strike out a ton of guys, but as potentially a 7th guy in your bullpen, what are you asking for?  Someone to keep you in the game when you’re losing?  Someone to eat up a couple innings when it goes to extras?  Like Vincent, he’s probably not someone you want to throw in there with runners already on base, but given a clean inning, you could do a lot worse than his veteran presence.

That just leaves the long reliever spot, of which there are about a billion candidates.  One of the very small advantages to having all these starting pitcher injuries is we’ve had a chance to get a really good look at a lot of these AAA guys, to see if they’ve got what it takes – not just in meaningless Spring Training situations – but in real, meaningFUL regular season ballgames.  I’m talking about Chase De Jong, Christian Bergman, Chris Heston, and Evan Marshall (before he hit the DL) on the right side, and Dillon Overton on the left side.  They’ve all shown you SOMETHING so far in the first five weeks of the season, which is better than just having the unknown of guys only starting games in Tacoma, or Spring Training.  If this team ever gets back to full strength, you’ve got some guys in this group you wouldn’t mind seeing in a spot start here and there.  Or, even better, you could build them up into some trade bait for a bona fide starter to help this team down the stretch.

Right there, that’s the nuts of an 8-man bullpen, and I didn’t even mention someone like Evan Scribner, a veteran who was lights out in September last year, who obviously will have some kind of role on this team when he gets healthy again.  And Dan Altavilla, who started the season on the 25-man roster, and has since returned (due to all the injuries) after a short stint in Tacoma to work on his command.  Altavilla has all the upside in the world, if he can harness his pitches.  He’ll have to earn his way into staying on this team as guys start to get healthy again, but I wouldn’t put it past him to do so.  Even Emilio Pagan – who struggled in his first appearance, before getting the hard-luck shaft in his second appearance when he was the last guy in the bullpen in an extra innings game – has shown you he’s at least got quality stuff.  With the jitters out of the way of making his Major League debut, he can only go up from here, right?

Even if it doesn’t totally work out, and this bullpen unit doesn’t gel, I think there’s at least a skeleton of a good unit.  It definitely hinges on Edwin Diaz continuing to mature and improve his command.  If you can keep him on his game, and slot things down from there, this team does have some ammo to go out and trade for a dependable reliever at the deadline.  I wouldn’t mortgage the entire farm to do so, but I have the utmost confidence in Dipoto going out and making a deal for a quality reliever at some point in the next couple months.

The sky is the limit for this team if we can get this bullpen together.  With a top notch bullpen, you don’t NEED your starters to carry you.  With this offense as good as it is (hoping it can stay healthy), all you need is your starters to eat up enough innings, while keeping you in the game.  I have no problem with the way Servais has handled the rotation; he seems to have a pretty good handle on when it’s time to pull guys.  He’s not going to leave them out there for too long to get shelled the third time through the lineup.  If this bullpen can hold up its end of the bargain, and Servais eliminates some of the brain farts on his end, there’s no reason why the Mariners can’t jump back into contention and even get into the playoffs.

Mariners Overcome A Bad Bullpen To Beat The Angels

Just one night after Scott Servais made a mind-bogglingly stupid bullpen decision, he did it again.  Long story short:  Hisashi Iwakuma was rolling through five innings.  With a low pitch count, and no runs allowed, it only made sense for him to go back out for the sixth.  Then, he gave up a double to Calhoun, a homer to Trout, and a single to Pujols, and it only made sense at this point to pull him for a reliever.  In general, I trust Hisashi Iwakuma as far as I can throw him, but I REALLY distrust him the third time through a lineup (where they showed on the broadcast that he’s giving up a batting average well over .400 this season).

With a man on base and nobody out, in a game the Mariners were leading 4-2, Servais apparently thought this would be the perfect spot to introduce Emilio Pagan to his Major League debut.

I should point out that before Tuesday’s game, the Mariners made some more moves.  Casey Fien was once again DFA’d, and he once again passed through to Tacoma, where I feel like it needs to be a good, long while before he’s called back up again, because it’s getting pretty ridiculous at this point.  Also, Dan Vogelbach was optioned back to Tacoma, because he was a disaster in his brief stint in the Majors (only fuelling my fire that he’s another in a long line of first base busts for this team).  When I hear things like he’s getting down on himself for a few botched plays in the field, and that it’s carrying over into his at-bats, it leads me to believe he’s not emotionally stable or mature enough for the Majors, and likely never will be.  It’s not all going to be roses and sunshine; you’re going to have to push through some hardships!  If an error here and there is going to so devastate you, then maybe baseball’s just not your game.  I know!  Let’s have a spelling contest!

In their place, the aforementioned Emilio Pagan was called up, along with another right-handed reliever, veteran Jean Machi (to make room on the roster, Shawn O’Malley was placed on the 60-day DL).  Machi went 2 shutout innings on Tuesday, in between Diaz’s blown save and Pazos’ loss, and put in another shutout inning last night to get the win.  But, before we get to that, let’s go back to Pagan’s eventful debut.

I really want to kill Servais for putting Pagan into a situation like this, like I did yesterday when he went directly to Diaz even though he had a lefty in the ‘pen all warmed up, but I don’t know if it’s as egregious.  I mean, yeah, it’s pretty shitty to put a 26 year old rookie into a game like this, but what else was he supposed to do?  Who else was he supposed to turn to?  Dan Altavilla was sent to Tacoma, Evan Scribner is on the DL, James Pazos and Tony Zych both threw over 30 pitches the night before.  I mean, you could argue that, had Servais handled the bullpen situation correctly on Tuesday, we wouldn’t have been in such a mess on Wednesday.  Pazos likely would’ve faced just the one batter on Tuesday and would’ve had plenty of arm to go again last night.  But, with the batters coming up, I don’t know if you wanted to have a lefty reliever in there.

Still, I might’ve gone straight to Nick Vincent, who only threw two pitches on Tuesday, so you figured he had at least 2 innings in him last night.  As it turns out, that’s pretty much what he had to do anyway (1.2 innings), because Pagan could only get the one out, and that one out was a miraculous catch by Heredia robbing the Angels of a home run in left field.

Pagan gave up Iwakuma’s third run, to really sour his night, and one of his own before being pulled.  Vincent came in and surrendered a double that cost Pagan a couple more runs on the ol’ ERA, but eventually got out of the jam.  However, the damage was done, as a 4-0 lead turned into a 6-4 deficit.

The bullpen held it down after that, just long enough for the Mariners to put up a 4-spot in the bottom of the eighth inning.  With one out, Seager and Valencia singled.  Heredia’s groundout moved them up 90 feet, and Motter (pinch hitting for Zunino) walked to load the bases.  That led to Dyson’s 2-out double to right field, tying the ballgame, followed by Segura’s bouncing single through the hole between third and short to take a 2-run lead.  Edwin Diaz, this time on for just the 3-out save, gave up another homer to Kole Calhoun (his second against Diaz in as many nights), but other than hitting Trout, he struck out the side to get the save and give the Mariners a much-needed 8-7 victory.

Some people were getting on the Mariners for not doing enough on offense to this point, and in many ways I’m coming around to that thinking.  I mean, let’s face it, the way this pitching staff is going, it shouldn’t surprise anyone.  Maybe some of the injuries we wouldn’t have foreseen, but we knew coming into this season that this team’s pitching would be the weak link.  We KNEW that the offense was going to have to bring its lunch pail on many occasions like last night.  It seems like the Mariners are doing a good job, when you hear about how they’re near the top in the A.L. in runs scored, but a lot of the reason for that is due to blowouts.  8-0 and 11-1 victories are nice and all, but this team is going to need a hearty collection of 8-7 wins if it’s going to try to stay in contention.

At this point, I’d gladly settle for being a .500 ballclub by the time the month of May comes to a close.  That means going 16-12.  Obviously, playing .500 ball isn’t going to get you in the post-season, but it buys the Mariners some time until guys can start getting healthy again.  If we can scratch and claw our way to .500 by the time Felix and Haniger come back, it would set us up for a nice stretch of games in June and July.  The Mariners are REALLY going to have to get hot in the summer months if they want to crash the playoffs; between May 31 and July 30, the Mariners play 37 of 53 games at home.  It’s honestly like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and if they don’t take advantage, this season could really go sideways, as from July 31 through August 30, the Mariners are on the road for 21 of 28 before September call-ups.  I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, looking at the calendar, but I’m just trying to illustrate how important these next four weeks are.

The Mariners don’t need to destroy the month of May (though, I’d gladly accept it, of course).  They just need to win more series than they lose.  I’m not asking a lot, just a record of 16-12.  Or, rather, going forward, a record of 15-11.  Slow and steady, people!

What The Hell, Scott Servais?

I don’t rail against the manager very often, because honestly the manager doesn’t have that great of an impact on the game.  He sets a lineup, and he manages the bullpen.  Everything else is on the players themselves, the GM who brought us these players, and the umpires – who are really more of a constant than a variable – who generally do a good job, but tend to fuck up more than robots would.

So, when Scott Servais does something dumb with his ONE JOB, I’m going to say something about it.  Because Jesus Fucking Christ.

Top of the 8th inning, Mariners up 3-2.  Paxton did a pretty good job, but let his pitch count get the better of him thanks to some bad home plate umpiring and a lack of command of his fastball.  The combination of Nick Vincent and Scrabble got us to the 7th, and Tony Zych got us a couple outs into the 8th.  He hit the leadoff hitter, though, and after getting the two outs, left-handed bat Kole Calhoun stepped to the plate.  Lefty reliever James Pazos had been warming up since way back in the 7th inning (or maybe earlier, who can recall?), and was sufficiently ready to go.  Makes perfect sense, no?

Apparently fucking not, as Scott Servais had the brilliant fucking idea of bringing in our closer to get the 4-out save.

Let’s start here.  I think we all understand why someone would bring in a lefty reliever to face a lefty batter, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  Scott Servais has this bug up his ass about getting Edwin Diaz more work.  He’s a young guy and therefore his arm is ready for a bigger workload.  People have taken this to mean that the Mariners are going to use Diaz like the Indians use Andrew Miller – not necessarily to get the final 3 outs of the ballgame, but to come in during the most important late-game situations, regardless of whether it’s a save situation or not.  But, that’s false.  Servais just has no confidence in this bullpen (because why should he?) and knows he’ll need to lean on the guys he can trust to work more than just the one inning per appearance.  Diaz is still this team’s closer, but now he’s going to have to get more than three outs to get his saves.  It’s still all catering to the save statistic, so this isn’t fresh or new thinking whatsoever!

Edwin Diaz has done nothing to deserve this type of confidence, by the way.  Maybe if we were talking about Mariano Rivera in his prime, we could discuss bringing him in to work multiple innings.  But, so far, Diaz hasn’t even worked a full season’s worth of games in the Majors yet!  He won the closer job because his first month or so was electric (and Cishek really screwed the pooch), but guys know how to hit him now!  He’s not throwing 100 mph anymore.  He’s still wild, but not effectively wild like he was when the league was still getting to know him.  And, quite frankly, he’s blown too many saves to be considered an elite closer.  He’s no different than Fernando Rodney, Brandon League, Steve Cishek, David Aardsma, Tom Wilhelmsen, or any of these other jokers who have yet to be good for more than one season for the Mariners.

So, of course Edwin Diaz gave up the go-ahead 2-run homer to Kole Calhoun!  And of course the Mariners tied it up in the bottom of the 9th to send it to extras!  And OF COURSE James Pazos came into the game in the 11th inning – about 4 innings after he’d started warming up in the first place – and WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, the first batter he faced was the very same Kole Calhoun!  Did he give up a homer to the man?  NO!  He struck him out!  Because he’s a left-handed pitcher facing a left-handed batter, and that’s generally what tends to happen in those situations, SCOTT SERVAIS, YOU PUTZ!

Granted, Pazos would go on to give up two runs in the 11th inning to lose us the ballgame, but that’s not on him.  If he were used properly, in the top of the 8th, when he was warmed up and fresh, his command may have been a little more on par with the rest of his appearances this season.

Also, not for nothing, but if Pazos was brought in for just Calhoun in the 8th inning, THAT WOULD’VE BEEN THE ONLY BATTER HE WOULD’VE FACED, BECAUSE HE WOULD HAVE STRUCK THAT MOTHERFUCKER OUT!

I have no idea what Diaz would’ve done if he’d just come in fresh for the 9th inning with no runners on base, but that’s a hypothetical for another time.  In this universe, Scott Servais botched the fuck out of this one, and cost the Mariners a win they desperately needed.

Repeat after me:  Edwin Diaz is NOT the be-all, end-all of this bullpen.  He’s probably not all that much better than anyone else down there, if we’re being honest.  His consistency leaves a lot to be desired.  He’s trying to get away with just his natural gifts, and that’s not going to fly in the MLB, because those hitters have a lot of natural gifts too, and they tend to expose pitchers who throw it up there without knowing where it’s going.

God damn this season is frustrating as fuck.

Mariners Beat Indians Behind Great Pitching

Ariel Miranda went 5.1 innings, giving up 1 run on 2 hits and 2 walks, with 7 strikeouts.  James Pazos brought the heat, going 2.1 innings in relief, striking out 4 and really looking dominant.  And, true to his word, Scott Servais has jacked up the usage on Edwin Diaz, sending him in there for the 4-out save (where he struck out 3).  Diaz also appeared for the third straight day, so I have to wonder what his availability will be over the weekend.

The Mariners won 3-1, thanks to a 2-run homer by Cano and a solo homer by Gamel.  Gotta say, Gamel has been mighty impressive in the early going.

Nelson Cruz was held out of the game with a hamstring issue.  I don’t know what that’s all about, but Jesus Fucking Christ, can the Mariners ever catch a fucking break?

Gallardo on the hill today.  Early games today and tomorrow.  All of it, unfortunately, overshadowed by the NFL Draft.