The Mariners Finished 78-84

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the Mariners’ records by month:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God I hate baseball.

Final Felix Day Goes The Mariners’ Way

But, if you’re like me, and you’re hoping the Mariners lose out to improve their draft stock, it decidedly did NOT go our way.

The weekend went okay.  Could’ve been better; the Mariners somehow won on a walk-off homer in the ninth inning on Friday against the Indians.  But, they turned it right back around and were shut down the next two days (including the Oktoberfest game on Saturday, which I attended; I got some fried chicken from the Pen, some Oktoberfest beer, and some chocolate soft serve and we were out of there by the seventh inning; good 2017 season at Safeco, everyone!).  The two defeats dropped the Mariners to 14th in the draft order, still with some room to move down.

The real key was going to be this series in Oakland.  Heading into yesterday, only 2.5 games separated the two of us; an A’s sweep would’ve really flipped the script!  But, this series is shaping up to be a real ball-buster.

King Felix got the start last night, what we would come to find out was his final start of the season.  He owns the A’s.  Absolutely kills ’em!  25-9 is his record against them, easily the best of any team he’s faced.  2.60 ERA, the best of any team he’s faced at least 20 times in his career.  All this guy does, whenever he sees the A’s, is slam Quality Starts down their throats.  And yesterday was no different.

6 innings, 2 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, in 70 pitches.  Can’t get much more efficient than that.

This was, without question, the most challenging season of Felix’s career, with the injuries, the ineffectiveness, and the atrocities of aging.  That’s also a nice way of saying it was, without question, the worst season of Felix’s career.  86.2 innings pitched is nearly a career low (he threw 84.1 in his rookie season, in which he made 4 fewer appearances).  4.36 ERA is nearly a career high (he had a 4.52 ERA in his second season, before he became King).  6 wins is nearly a career low; 0.8 WAR is absolutely a career low; and the .468 slugging percentage given up is a career worst.  It’s sad!  It’s a sad thing to see and to experience, and I hope like hell that he can somehow turn it around, but it just doesn’t seem all that realistic at this point.

I don’t want to be rid of him, if that’s what you’re thinking.  For starters, it would be literally impossible to move him.  He’s making $53 million over the next two years; I know there are a lot of dumbass GM’s out there in the baseball world, but no one is dumb enough to take that on (or even a portion of that on).  Even if you ignored the injury risk, Felix just hasn’t been that good the last two years.  He certainly hasn’t been elite since 2014.  But, that’s neither here nor there, because you can’t ignore the injury risk.  You have to assume, going forward, you’re going to get – at best – half a season per year out of his arm.  And even then, it’s going to take a lot of babying from Servais to hold his hand through these 5-6 inning starts.  Gone are the 7-8 inning gems, I’m sorry to say.

But, besides that, I don’t want to be rid of him because he’s earned this.  Felix was amazing for 11 years.  He was one of the best pitchers alive, he was a homegrown kid, and he remained loyal to the Seattle Mariners through some of our WORST seasons in a franchise history chock full of some pretty shitty fucking seasons.  He deserves to go out a Mariner.  Hell, he deserves to do whatever the fuck he wants!  He can go out there and walk 50 batters per start and I wouldn’t love him any less.

I just have to adjust my expectations, and everyone else needs to too.  He’s not an ace.  He’s not even a #2 anymore.  On his best days, he’s probably a #3 starter, but more often than not he’s going to look like a #4 or a #5, and that’s when he’s not on the DL.  It’s sad how these superheroes age out of their sports, and we’re all going through it together.

So, when Felix has a start like he did last night, you sit back and enjoy it, even if it hurts the team’s draft stock.

Andrew Albers came in and mopped up the rest of the game for the elusive 3-inning save.  I’m starting to get a real strong long relief/bullpen vibe out of Albers for next season.  Either way, he’s a good guy to have around.

Mike Zunino jacked a 3-run home run to give him 24 on the year.  I’m telling you, this time next week when I’m writing my Season In Review post, I’m going to have PLENTY of good things to say about Z!

Mitch Haniger jacked a couple homers to give him 16 on the year, and I’m with the rest of you, I can’t wait to see what this kid is able to do with a full, healthy season.

Yonder Alonso hit a solo homer to improve his free agency stock next year.  Too little, too late, my friend.

Taylor Motter got the start in place of Segura, who injured his finger and might be done for the season.  A fitting end, if it is the end.

The rest of this series looks similarly dreadful for our draft prospects.  James Paxton goes for his final start of the year tonight, followed by Erasmo Ramirez tomorrow afternoon; he of 8 innings of 3-hit, 1-run, 10-strikeout ball against the Indians last Friday to allow for that walk-off home run.  He’s been the best pitcher on this team since August, so get ready for a useless Mariners sweep in Oakland you guys!

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.