The Mariners’ Big, Weird Weekend

It started Friday night, which I alluded to in my last post:  Paxton leading the way to victory.  Considering we blew the game on Thursday, this one was a Must Win.  But, then again, pretty much every single Paxton start from here on out is a Must Win.  It was true before Felix went back on the DL with bicep tightness, and it’s even MORE true now.

So, yeah, that sucks about Felix.  It also sucks because we never bothered to go out and trade for a proper rotation arm, but here we go, let’s have a look at the two losers we brought in.

Saturday’s game was rained out, which I understand was quite the ordeal.  I spent Saturday afternoon at the Beer & Tater Tots festival in Beacon Hill, followed by Saturday evening drinking more beer and playing some Texas Hold ‘Em with my dad, so I’d say I really wasn’t missing the Mariners too much.

On the fun side, that meant a Sunday Double Header.  Marco Gonzales got the start in Felix’s spot, and frankly, I wasn’t impressed.  Of course, I fully expected to NOT be impressed, so it all ended up as I’d figured.  The Mariners, thankfully, jumped out to a huge 7-0 lead in the first two innings, thanks to a Valencia 2-run homer, a Seager solo homer, a wild pitch scoring a runner from second base, and a Cruz 3-run homer.  Gonzales got through 4 innings, giving up just the 2 runs, but then he let the first three runners on in the fifth inning before being pulled, and all three of those guys ended up scoring.  4 innings, 5 earned runs, a fastball around 91 mph, a change up that looked okay, but ultimately a guy who is going to get bashed around pretty good each and every time he makes a mistake.  Fucking brilliant.

From there, the bullpen had to work overtime.  Pazos got out of the fifth just giving up the Gonzales runners.  Zych worked a clean sixth.  David Phelps got one out in the seventh before leaving with an arm injury.  He’s headed back to Seattle to see what’s wrong exactly, but word is he hasn’t felt quite right the last few outings.  Then, I proceeded to mock the Mariners for trading Steve Cishek for Erasmo Fucking Ramirez (what’s that?  you traded from a position of quote-unquote STRENGTH?  uh huh).  Pagan and Scrabble were able to work their way out of the seventh inning, which took us to Nick Vincent’s wild adventure in the eighth.  Luckily Cruz hit his second homer of the day in the top of the seventh to give the Mariners 8 runs, because Vincent gave up a 2-run homer to make the game 8-7.  He proceeded to get out of the jam with the lead intact, and thankfully Edwin Diaz is still en fuego, so he was able to lock down his 23rd save of the season.

The victory secured at least a series tie, and from the looks of the second game of the doubleheader, the Mariners were happy to just get out of there with the split.

Erasmo Ramirez followed up his previous garbage start with one that was even worse.  5 innings, 5 runs, including 3 homers.  The M’s could only muster 1 run on 4 hits, so the rest of the game was handed over to our loser relievers Casey Lawrence and Cody Martin.  Martin gave up the other 4 runs in this 9-1 debacle.  The only good thing you could say about this one is that it was over after 2 hours and 39 minutes.

The Mariners have an off-day today, thank Christ, followed by a mini 2-game set in Oakland before a week’s worth of games at home (the only home games all month).

At the start of the day on Sunday, the Mariners also made a couple post-July trades.  The first one was for Yonder Alonso, a first baseman and an All Star this year.  He has 17 doubles and 22 homers in what has been a breakout season for the veteran, from a power perspective.  As he bats left-handed, he figures to go into a time-share with Danny Valencia.  I don’t know if I saw first base as a HUGE area of need for this team (it’s not like it’s Starting Pitcher or anything), but if Alonso can give us an offensive boost, I’m all for it.  I appreciate the fact that Valencia has given us the back of his baseball card as far as his production this year – in other words, he didn’t fall off a cliff as soon as he became a Mariner; he’s essentially been what he’s been the last two years, which is fine – but I think it’s pretty clear this team could use a little more out of its offense, what with the struggles our pitching staff has given us.  In a way, it’s easier to just pump up the bats even more than to go out and find a competent starting pitcher, so that’s what the M’s have done.

In exchange, the A’s get Boog Powell, so no big loss.  It’s unfortunate that Yonder Alonso is only on a 1-year deal, but if he likes it here and we like him, I don’t see why we couldn’t re-sign him to a modest 3-year deal at the end of the year.

The other move was for some AAA guys.  Ryan Garton is a relief pitcher who was sort of okay in 2016 (his first year in the Bigs), but has been pretty dreadful in 2017 in 7 games.  He’s been putting up some fantastic AAA numbers the last couple years, so obviously there’s something there.  I wonder how long he’ll be in Tacoma, what with this David Phelps injury hanging over us.  The other guy the Mariners brought in from this trade with the Rays is Mike Marjama.  He’s yet to crack the Majors, but in his first year in AAA this year, he’s doing pretty well.  He looks like an upgrade over Tuffy Gosewisch – who was waived to make room on the 40-man – so that’s not so bad.  The Mariners gave up 2 low-minor league guys and a player to be named later, so we won’t know if we’ve screwed ourselves over for at least a few years.

All in all, a real mixed bag of a weekend, in what’s been a real mixed bag of a season.  The pull of the impending football season grows ever stronger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Got One Back Against The Yankees

Masahiro Tanaka really must be broken if the Mariners were able to score 4 runs off of him over 6 innings.

Ariel Miranda had a pretty good outing, giving up 2 runs in 5.1 innings, and was probably pulled a little too early, but I guess I understand the rationale behind it:  Aaron Judge was coming up, and Steve Cishek seemed like as good a righty as any to try to take him down.  Of course, he failed, because Aaron Judge was forged from the gods and inhabits the power of a thousand bat-wielding maniacs, but that’s neither here nor there.

The bullpen let the Yankees tie this one, then the Mariners regained the lead, then they tied it again, then the Mariners won it in extras on a walk-off single.  Much rejoicing was had by all.

Look, I’m pretty damn hungover, and no one is reading this anyway, so let’s call it a weekend and get after it tomorrow.

Mariners Win A Crazy One In Houston

When I turned this game off to go to bed, it was already pretty nutty.  Nick Vincent was on the mound to start the bottom of the eighth as the Mariners regained the lead, at this point 7-6.  Ariel Miranda had a decent start going through the first five innings of the game, giving up 2 runs through that point, and the rest of the Mariners did sufficient damage to knock out Lance McCullers in the top of the fifth, as we put up a 3-run lead on the board.

Then, after two quick outs in the sixth, Miranda fell apart, culminating with the game-tying 2-run home run by Carlos Beltran.  At that point, it started to feel like a normal Astros/Mariners game.  Oh sure, they were toying around with us, letting us feel some semblance of comfort with such a lead; then those alligator jaws snapped shut right on our dicks!  This line of thinking was further cemented when James Pazos had to relieve Miranda – still with two quick outs in the sixth – and proceeded to load the bases, necessitating another pitching change in the inning.  Tony Zych walked in the go-ahead run before getting out of the jam, and that was that.  Clap your hands and walk away, the Mariners were done for!

But, then something funny happened.  And it continued to happen.  Starting with the top of the seventh, Nelson Cruz homered to left to tie the game.  Then, in the top of the eighth, Mike Zunino homered to left to give the Mariners their 1-run lead!  Then, Nick Vincent took over and it all started to feel a lot better as I hit the sack.  Surely our best reliever this season would keep the game in check!

You know, I can hardly blame the guy.  It’s been a weird start to the second half; four days, four games where the Mariners have had a narrow lead in need of saving, four appearances by the likes of Nick Vincent.  Three singles and a strikeout before the sac fly (off of Steve Cishek, who had to come in to mop up) tied the game, ultimately sending it to extras.  That’s a lot of work for someone like Vincent; hell, he’s on pace to obliterate his season highs for appearances and innings pitched!

This has been one seriously overworked bullpen coming out of the break, and one that – by and large – has gotten the job done.  Even Yovani Gallardo – who kicked off the bottom of the ninth, hoping to keep the game tied – managed to do his job (though, with a LOT of help from the defense of Jean Segura).  Segura had probably two of the best defensive plays I’ve ever seen out of him in this game, including a dive in the hole and throw to first base from his knees.  Between that, his two hits, and his run scored, there’s a good argument he was your player of the game.

But, really, there were a ton of heroes in this one.  Kyle Seager hit the go-ahead homer in the tenth, followed immediately by the insurance homer from Danny Valencia to give the Mariners their eventual 9-7 victory.  Or, how about Edwin Diaz, who has also pitched in the last four games, getting his fourth save in four days to give him 17 on the season and put him in the Top 10 in the A.L.

There’s the aforementioned homers by Cruz and Zunino, or the earlier 2-run double by Zunino, or the earlier RBI double by Valencia, or the Seager bunt against the shift (who came around to score on that Valencia double to the left field corner), or the other Seager infield single that allowed Gamel to score from third.  And on and on and on.

All in all, it was a fantastic win, but it’s also not time to rest your laurels.  This win doesn’t mean much if we go out and lose the next two.  The last time we beat the Astros, it was at the end of a 6-game winning streak back in late June; the Mariners would go on to lose the next four (including two to the hapless Phillies) and 10 of their next 13, so you see how quickly this thing can turn on you.  The time to get back over .500 for good is NOW, so let’s do this thing!

In case you were wondering, for posterity, the Mariners are back to 2nd place in the A.L. West (15.5 games behind the Astros), and 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the second Wild Card.  Soak it in!  Just in case this is as good as it gets.

Mariners Finished Sour First Half On Upbeat Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

The Mariners Pitched & Hit Their Way To Victory

A much-needed series win against a divisional rival and a team in front of us for the Wild Card, the Mariners beat the Angels on Sunday as they damn well should have.

James Paxton was a pitching god for a while there, before getting run out of the game in the seventh.  Steve Cishek picked him up and it was hang-on time from then on out.  Robbie Cano hit a 3-run homer to extend our lead, then Nick Vincent did everything he could to give the lead away.  Luckily, Scrabble and Diaz weren’t in a meltdown mood like Vincent, so we were able to preserve the 5-3 victory.

Again, the long weekend means I’m not really giving these games my full attention, so these recaps are getting short shrift.

Mariners, Haniger Dropped The Ball Against Astros

I have to do this from my phone because our Internet is out, so this will be brief.  Gaviglio was solid, giving up 2 runs over 6 innings, but the Mariners were saddled with a 1-run deficit in the top of the seventh. With Cishek on the mound, two outs, and the bases loaded, Haniger had a play on a sinking line drive. He dove, the ball landed squarely in his glove, and immediately popped out upon him hitting the ground. Three runs scored and that was that. The Mariners made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth, as Zunino walked with the bases loaded and two outs. But Chooch Ruiz struck out looking on a sketchy strike three call to end the miracle threat. Rubber match today with Miranda against a nobody, so we’ll see.

Holy Mother Of God: The Mariners Are Over .500!

Look, I’m no hero.  I’m just a man.  A man who had an opportunity to go to a Mariners game last night, featuring the Major League debuts of starter Andrew Moore and reliever Max Povse, on a team that finally got back to .500 for the fourth time after falling to 33-37.  Do I hold a particular amount of good luck with my presence in the stadium?  Is there some magic elixir that permeates this organization when I stuff my face with beer and hot dogs and soft serve ice cream?  Like I said, I’m no hero; I’ll leave that conversation for someone else to have.

All I know is I was there!  And it was glorious!

It’s been extremely exciting and satifsying to have the full offense healthy and playing together for all of two days, and I hope to see it healthy and playing together for many, many more.  Jean Segura is the best leadoff man we’ve had since Ichiro.  Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger are quintessential 2-hole hitters, easily interchangeable depending on the handedness of the starter.  Cano, Cruz, and Seager are a legitimate, superstar middle of the order.  Valencia’s streakiness makes him frustrating, but also makes him dangerous when he’s on a heater.  Heredia and Dyson are speedy, disruptive manaces who seem to always do something positive in just about every game.  And we all hold out hope that Zunino has turned things around enough to maintain his status as an everyday catcher in this league.

The point is, there really aren’t any free at-bats in that lineup.  They’re going to work the count to death, they’re going to get guys on base, and they’re going to get guys home at a good-enough clip to be upper echelon in this league.  Even if you’re able to overpower this offense, it’s only temporary.  A few innings, or at most a few games, before they’re right back on the trolley.

Last night, this offense was a battering ram.  3 runs in the second to get things going.  2 more runs in the third to keep piling on.  An overwhelming 4 runs in the seventh to put the game away.  Just one smashing blow after another.  There was Gamel with the 2-RBI double off of a lefty pitcher.  There was Heredia following that up with an RBI single.  Then, a 2-run homer from Cano and a grand slam from Cano to put this one in the refrigerator.

I had a good feeling about Cano in this one, after I wrote yesterday that I thought he was starting to look dialed in at the plate.  I predicted three hits for him coming into the game, but I guess I’ll settle for the 2 homers and 6 RBI.  I’ll say this:  it’s not a moment too soon, with the Astros coming to town this weekend.  The Mariners are going to need all the help they can get.

The other big story of the game was Andrew Moore in his first Big League start.  We were in the club level, in the section right next to the press box on the first base side, and as such it wasn’t the greatest vantage point for noticing balls and strikes.  He seemed to have good-enough velocity, usually parked around 91 mph, but sometimes touching 93.  He obviously didn’t walk anyone, which is always big.  He seemed to get into a lot of deep counts – with Tigers hitters frequently fouling off pitches – and that looked like it inflated his pitch count a little bit.  He gave up a solo homer to Ian Kinsler in the third, and got into a little bit of trouble in the fifth, but he powered through the sixth and even the seventh inning while just giving up those 3 runs on 6 hits, with 4 strikeouts.  An outstanding debut for a highly-rated prospect, one of the last of the Jackie Z era.

With a 9-3 lead, Max Povse got to get his debut in as well, starting the eighth inning.  He looked like he threw pretty hard, but I didn’t get a sense that there was a ton of movement to his pitches.  Again, though, tough vantage to make a definitive call.  Anyway, he got two pretty quick outs, then apparently got overwhelmed by the moment:  a double, a homer to Miguel Cabrera, a double, and a single ended his night, giving up 3 runs in 2/3 of an inning.  Tony Zych cleaned up the mess and Steve Cishek worked the ninth for a quick and painless save (Diaz was unavailable after working 4 straight days); his first save since July 30, 2016, which had to feel nice after all he’s gone through since then.

All in all, a great team win, and a fabulous 4-game series sweep of the Tigers.  As noted above, the Mariners are over .500 for the first time all season, at 38-37.  They’re still 12.5 games behind the Astros in the A.L. West, but they’re only 1 game behind the Rays for the second Wild Card (behind the Twins, who are a half game back).

Felix comes back today, so we’ll finally learn the fate of Yovani Gallardo.  The Astros come to town; we haven’t seen them since the second week in April.  We’re a whopping 2-5 against them, and looked like the clearly inferior team in just about every game we played against them, so it would be nice to turn things around here while the going is good.  Let’s put some distance between us and .500 the other way, so it’s not as easy to get so buried like we were!

Dan Altavilla Sure Looks Like The Second Coming Of Bobby Ayala

This one looked like a picture-perfect, textbook Mariners victory.  Ariel Miranda coughed up a couple of solo homers in the first couple innings before settling down to go 7 innings, giving up just those 2 runs, on 4 hits, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts.  Nelson Cruz jacked a 2-run homer in the bottom of the first, Taylor Motter hit a solo homer out to left in the bottom of the second, and Ben Gamel added to the Mariners’ lead with a solo homer of his own to dead center in the bottom of the seventh.  All we needed was someone to bridge the game from Starter to Closer.

The tricky part was that Nick Vincent – our usual bridge guy – was unavailable, due to his back-to-back 1.1 inning performances the last two days.  Tony Zych was unavailable due to what we would later learn to be an illness.  I have to believe they wanted to save James Pazos unless it was an absolute emergency, considering he too had pitched the previous two days.

Which meant that the only right-handed relievers available for that eighth inning were Dan Altavilla, Steve Cishek, or Max Povse.  It would be pretty fucked up to make Povse’s Major League debut a tense eighth inning affair with a narrow lead, and Cishek is another guy who pitched the previous two days.

So, that left Altavilla, who was rested, but also fresh off of a 3-homer performance down in Texas on Saturday.

This really hasn’t been Altavilla’s season.  I don’t know what to make of his total and complete lack of command.  He got the late-season call up last year and was dominant.  But, this year, he’s been all over the place.  Sometimes, he looks unhittable, and zips through these innings no problem; other times, he falls apart and gets pounded into submission.  In his 25 appearances this year for the Mariners, he’s given up runs in 10 of them; that’s unacceptable.  He’s got the live fastball; he’s got the slider that has righties swinging for the dirt.  But, he leaves too many balls in the middle of the zone (when he’s not entirely missing the zone and walking a bunch of guys).

I didn’t see what he looked like on Saturday, but I watched him last night.  His first sin was walking the leadoff hitter, Ian Kinsler.  Kinsler was able to steal second on the perfect pitch (a slider low and away), but Altavilla really wasn’t doing a whole lot to keep him close to the bag at first.  He was able to strike out the next couple guys, but then did an ATROCIOUS job of keeping Kinsler close at second, who was allowed to have a huge lead to steal third base easily.  The fact that the pitch on that steal was another slider that got away from Zunino was also pure Altavilla.  I know you want those strikeout pitches buried in the ground, but he was spiking those fucking things five feet in front of home plate!

The subsequent solo homer to J.D. Martinez, though, that was pure Ayala.  Just a fat middle-middle meatball that he crushed to the opposite field seats.  I mean, I don’t understand how you go from absolutely OWNING Miguel Cabrera in the previous at-bat (utilizing your live fastball, brushing him off the plate, only to get him to watch your slider cover the outside corner for strike three) to being so careless with a guy like Martinez, who is another premiere slugger in this league.  It’s what made Bobby Ayala so maddening back in the day.  He had a plus fastball and a devastating splitter that could’ve laid waste to the American League.  But, all too often, as he fell off the left side of the mound, he’d leave those pitches up and out over the plate to get crushed.

Is it a concentration thing?  Or, are they just not able to control where their pitches go?  Either way, it’s something that needs to be fixed in a hurry, because I don’t really see a ton of other options in the minors with the kind of upside Altavilla demonstrates.  Who knows, maybe Max Povse will be the guy, but it’s way too early in his career to put that on him.

The Mariners squandered a 2-on, 1-out situation in the bottom of the eighth, with the heart of the order at the plate, and after that I went to bed.  Granted, they got good and Bucknor’d on that strikeout to Jarrod Dyson to end the inning, but all three of the guys who made outs in that inning (including the also-hot-hitting Nelson Cruz and Danny Valencia) were letting juicy sliders waft past them for strikes without even offering a swing.  One of the more frustrating half-innings I’ve seen in a while that didn’t involve the Mariners leaving someone on third base with less than two outs.

Edwin Diaz and Steve Cishek each worked scoreless innings to get us to the bottom of the tenth, where the Mariners scored the game-winning run on a Kyle Seager double (Tyler Smith pinch ran for Cruz and scored from second after a wild pitch).  I guess the joke is on me that the Mariners did all these cool things after I went to bed; I’ll somehow have to console myself with the good night’s sleep I enjoyed.

In the Kudos Department, Gamel had 3 more hits (including the aforementioned homer), Cruz was on base 4 times (with the aformentioned 2-run homer), Zunino had another hit to keep the good times rolling, Motter had a couple hits as Jean Segura works his way back in his rehab assignment (with a probable return tomorrow or Friday), and Seager had the heroics in extras.

I’d also like to circle back to Ariel Miranda, who got short shrift with all this Altavilla talk.  That’s an amazing bounce-back performance after his dud in Minnesota last week.  No hits after the third inning!  I would’ve complimented him on saving the bullpen in this one, but obviously what happened was outside of his control.

It does beg to wonder what things will look like tonight if the Mariners are in a position to win.  That’s three straight days with an appearance for Diaz and Cishek, so I have to believe those guys are sitting.  That most likely slots Vincent as our closer, with some combo of Zych and Pazos in the eighth.  Here’s to hoping Paxton has his mechanics working again, because we’re gonna need him.  Here’s also to hoping the offense gets on its horse so we don’t have to sweat one out in the late innings.