Paxton & Cruz Bust Through Mariners’ Losing Streak

On Kingdome/Safeco Field Snowglobe night, I braved the unforgiving Seattle streets to park down in Pioneer Square for some pre-gaming at The Lodge as I waited for gametime.  Yes indeed, I opted to go to the game with a couple friends, because SOMEONE had to do SOMETHING to stop this blasted losing!  By gar, you knew the players alone wouldn’t be able to get it done without my help!

I bless the rains down in Seattle …

It also came in handy that James Paxton was on the mound.  I don’t know if he was his old dominant self – I saw plenty of fastballs in the 93mph range, but he did start getting up there towards the end of his outing – but it looked like he had good command of his off-speed pitches to get lots of flailing swings and misses.  9 strikeouts overall in his 7 innings of work, giving up just 2 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs.

For a while there, it looked like that might JUST be enough.  Nelson Cruz had a couple of RBI singles in the first and third innings, and Seager had a sac fly also in the third, to take an early 3-2 lead that held up through those seven innings, as Oakland’s starter Sean Manaea also settled down to go 7 innings.  After Nick Vincent bridged the game in the eighth with a perfect inning of work, it looked like we were headed towards a nailbiter of a finish.

But, in the bottom of the eighth, all hell broke loose.  Valencia (who had 3 more hits today as he’s snuggling into the 2-hole in the lineup) doubled to lead off the inning, followed by a Cano walk (he also had a hit and 2 runs scored), setting the table for the hero of the day.  Nelson Cruz capped off his 3-hit, 5-RBI day with a 3-run blast – the 300th of his career – as the crowd went wild and cheered on his curtain call.  THAT is the Nellie I hope to see more of in the second half.

A Haniger double and a wild pitch set up Seager to get his second sac fly of the night to put the game out of Grand Slam Harm’s Way at 7-2.  From there, it was a matter of getting some of our better relievers some work.  Scrabble came in, threw one pitch, and gave up a single.  As Diaz warmed up in the bullpen, Steve Cishek came in and locked it all down with a double play and a lineout.

In Pre-All Star Break Transaction News:  Sam Gaviglio was sent to Tacoma, since he won’t be needed in the rotation with the break coming up.  Emilio Pagan was brought back for a little bullpen help (what with Gallardo’s heavy workload of late).  We’ll see what happens after next week; will Gaviglio return?  Will Gallardo get his old job back?  Ooo, the intrigue!

The long national nightmare is over; the Mariners won a home game.  There are two more very winnable games this weekend before the break, so let’s make sure we get this shit done, huh?  Don’t make me come back over there!

Mariners Pound Marlins To Take The Series, Look Ahead To A’s

I was at work for most of this game, and for reasons too boring to go into, I was unable to listen to the online radio stream of the game, so I had to do the next-best thing:  follow along on Twitter.

Boy that first inning sure sounded like a mindfuck, huh?  After a very fine start last Friday to kick off this good run of baseball the Mariners have been on, it looked like King Felix just didn’t have it.  Four straight singles to lead off the game, then a sac fly-turned-double play on the arm of Jarrod Dyson, then another single and a hit by pitch before he was able to get out of it only down 2-0.

If ever there appeared to be a day where the offense would have to pick up its Ace, this was it.  And pick him up they did!

The top of the lineup absolutely did its job, as Dyson through Seager went a combined 10 for 18 with 8 RBI, 7 runs scored, on 7 walks, 3 doubles, and only 3 strikeouts.  They also went a combined 5 for 9 with runners in scoring position.  Just an awesome, awesome day from the guys you expect to regularly have awesome, awesome days.  That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve recognition for a job well done!

Felix was able to settle down somewhat, but it looked like a battle all day.  He got into the seventh inning, going 6.1, with 12 hits, 1 walk, 4 runs, and 5 strikeouts.  Zych was able to get out of a little mini-jam in the seventh, by inducing a double play.  Vincent continued on his comeback trail by going a scoreless eighth.  And then something wonderful and annoying happened.

Evan Marshall came in to close out a 6-run lead in the ninth inning, and leading off – perhaps for the final time ever in Safeco Field – was Ichiro Suzuki.  I had made it home by this point, and had the television on for just an amazing sight:  Ichiro, drilling a homer into the right field stands to the astonishment and glee of Mariners fans (almost) everywhere.  I’ll admit, I let out a loud, “YEAH!” when I saw where that ball was about to land.

There aren’t many opposing players I’d openly cheer for over the Seattle Mariners, but Ichiro is definitely one of them.  Now, if the game were tied in this situation, I’d probably be a lot less thrilled, but as it was, Ichiro merely reduced the lead to 5 runs.  NBD, right?

Marshall walked the next guy, which is simply unforgivable in that situation, but he got the next two hitters to fly out.  It almost looked like he’d save face, but he gave up a single to the next guy and that was that.  Scrabble came in and one pitch later the game was over.

I know I called out the top half of the lineup for their good work, but individual kudos need to go to Seager for his 2-hit, 2-walk, 4-RBI day; as well as Haniger, for his 3-hit, 1-walk, 3-run, 4-RBI day.  Haniger now leads the team in average, homers, doubles, RBI, runs scored, OBP, and is second to Motter in slugging.  His RBI and runs scored numbers are 4th in all of baseball, and he’s up there in a bunch of other categories too.  That ROY award is practically all sealed up less than a month into the season!

***

Looking ahead, here are the pitching matchups for the A’s series:

  • Thurs:  Cesar Valdez vs. James Paxton
  • Fri:  Sean Manaea vs. Hisashi Iwakuma
  • Sat:  Jharel Cotton vs. Ariel Miranda
  • Sun:  Andrew Triggs vs. Yovani Gallardo

To say that I’ve never heard of any of these A’s pitchers would be an understatement!  Valdez looks like a journeyman minor leaguer who hasn’t appeared in a Major League uniform since 2010 with the Diamondbacks.  I’d say that game is safely the biggest mismatch of the weekend, with Paxton going for the Mariners.  The rest of those guys all had their Major League debuts in 2016, with Manaea being the youngest and the one with the most starting experience in the Bigs.  No doubt these guys must have some talent, but they’re definitely not bona fide regulars.

In three starts so far, Manaea has one okay start and two pretty bad ones.  Cotton pitched a gem against the Royals (7 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 3 walks, 6 K’s), but sandwiched around that one were two very crappy starts.  Triggs has looked the most impressive in the early going, giving up 0 earned runs (3 unearned) across 17.2 innings (3 starts), including just out-duelling Yu Darvish in his last outing.

The A’s bullpen has a 4.08 ERA, with 3 saves in 5 opportunities.  Doesn’t look like anything special, but we’ll see when we get out there.

As far as the bats go, Khris Davis has come to play this year, with 6 homers and leading the team in most offensive categories.  As for the rest of the regulars:  nothing too special.

On paper, this is a series the Mariners should win at the very least, and is probably a series they should sweep.  But, this is the Mariners, and those are the A’s, and it’s a divisional matchup and it’s on the road and I’m just sayin’ … don’t be shocked if things don’t exactly go our way.  I won’t be anyway.  I’ll be pretty pissed, but I won’t be shocked.