Wasting No Time: The Mariners Traded For Their New First Baseman

So, I guess the Danny Valencia/Yonder Alonso experiment is over.  They were both thrilling and aggravating, but ultimately not a very major reason why the Mariners failed to make the playoffs in 2017.  They’re now free to return to the Oakland A’s, or any other team they see fit.

Speaking of the Oakland A’s, the Mariners traded with them again.  To bring in another first baseman again.  For the third time in a row.  Ryon Healy is his name, which isn’t a totally annoying way to spell the name Ryan, but that’s neither here nor there.  He’ll be 26 years old in January and has spent the past season and a half in the Big Leagues.  In that time, he’s been solidly productive:

  • .282/.313/.475/.788 with 38 homers, 49 doubles, a whole mess of strikeouts and not very many walks

Without knowing how good he is defensively (I assume he’s fine), this feels like a quality addition to the right side of the plate.  More importantly, the Mariners don’t feel like they’ll have to platoon him, which should free up a roster spot on the bench.  I suppose that spells doom for Dan Vogelbach’s future in a Mariners uniform, but more than anything he feels like trade bait for one of the 50 other deals Jerry Dipoto is going to do between now and the end of the year.

Another cool thing about this deal is that Healy is still two full seasons away from being arbitration eligible.  The Mariners, if things go well, should have him for 5 full seasons before he’d earn any sort of significant money!  And, if he’s already flashing this type of power and batting average as a second year player, one would think the sky is the limit.

He’s going to fit in quite well in the 2018 batting order, too.  Check out my way-too-early projection:

  • Segura (SS)
  • Haniger (RF)
  • Cano (2B)
  • Cruz (DH)
  • Seager (3B)
  • Healy (1B)
  • Gamel (LF)
  • Zunino (C)
  • Heredia (CF)

I highly doubt that’ll be the Opening Day 9, but you get the idea.  Bank on the top 6 guys being THE guys.  Toss in Zunino in the bottom third with one, maybe two new outfielders, and you’ve got yourself a lineup.

I think my favorite part of this deal is that the Mariners won’t be subjected to a first base retread.  I don’t have to worry about the return of LoMo, for instance, who was a name being bandied about when people discussed possible solutions to this first base quandary.  Same goes for Justin Smoak (though, I have to figure Toronto is pretty happy with him after last year), Brad Miller, and the duo from last season.  Danny Valencia is a nice player, and it was awesome to have his defense over there, but he is who he is.  He’ll have hot streaks and cold streaks and he’ll struggle quite a bit against right handed pitching.  Yonder Alonso, I think, is more flash in the pan than player on the rise.  Before 2017, his season high in homers was 9; last year, he hit 28.  I’m not going to bring steroids into the conversation, because I think the league has done a pretty good job to test those drugs out of the sport, but it does feel like an unsustainable leap.  Also, not for nothing, but the bulk of his damage last year was done pre-All Star Break (where he made his first-ever All Star Game).  He fell off a pretty mighty cliff and never really righted the ship after he was traded.  His on-base ability was a breath of fresh air, but the M’s didn’t bring Yonder Alonso over to walk guys in.

And that’s where I think we get a little too in the weeds with on-base percentage.  Sometimes, you just want a guy to mash you a 3-run homer.  Yeah, if you can, get you a man who can do both, and hold onto him for the duration of his career.  But, if I had to choose what I want out of my first baseman, batting out of the 6-hole?  Give me doubles n’ dingers.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about who the Mariners gave up:  Emilio Pagan and minor leaguer Alexander Campos.  Pagan, you may recall, was a rookie last year and one of our very best relievers.  Long relief, late in games, high leverage situations, extra innings, you name it and more often than not he came through the trials with flying colors.  Considering how cheap he is, and how much team control he has left, that’s a guy you could see anchoring your bullpen for many years to come.  But, if he can get you a starting first baseman – and not just for a season or two, but for up to 5 years or more, if you opt to extend him long term – that’s a no-brainer.  I mean, let’s face it, odds are Emilio Pagan won’t be the next Mariano Rivera.  Duh.  I would also say the odds are we’re trading him at his very highest value.  If we’d kept him even one more year, and he struggled, he couldn’t be traded for much more than Jack Squat (see:  Vogelbach).

As for Campos, he’s a 17-year old infielder.  We almost certainly won’t read about him ever again.  And, if we do, it almost certainly won’t be for at least 3-5 years, and by that point I hope to be long dead, having probably never again seen the Mariners in the post-season.

I will say that it’s a little scary to trade from a position of weakness (pitching) to further bolster a position of strength (hitting).  To say nothing of the issues with the rotation, how good will this bullpen be when you trade away arguably your 2nd most talented reliever after Edwin Diaz?  I know, Nick Vincent will likely start as your 8th inning guy, but I don’t know if I buy him having back-to-back amazing seasons.  And, besides that, you need more than two quality relievers to win games consistently.  Aside from David Phelps when he was healthy, and our lefties Pazos and Scrabble, I didn’t see a lot of uber-promising young talent coming through Tacoma into the Bigs last year.  With the minors as depleted as they are, I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of impact trades for pitching, unless you’re cool giving up on Ben Gamel (who I ASSURE you will not bring back the type of prize Mariners fans would expect from someone who looks like he could be a solid starter for many years to come; so be ready to be VERY disappointed at some point this offseason).

All that being said, I think this is a great trade, and it’s a deal I would do again and again in a heartbeat.  If I’m being perfectly honest, aside from maybe re-signing Jarrod Dyson, I don’t think I’d do very much to turn over the offense.  I like our outfield!  I like Haniger and Gamel and the combo of Dyson and Heredia!  That’s great defense across the board, with solid plate production and speed on the basepaths.  It’s unrealistic to believe that the hitting/defense side of the game is going to stay as is, especially with Dipoto running the show, and especially since we’re almost certainly going to have to trade from that position of strength (hitting) to improve our pitching.  But, whatever you do, you’ve got to keep that outfield defense as a strength, without sacrificing too much in the way of hitting.  Edgar Martinez can’t do it all!

The Mariners Unsurprisingly Win When It Does Them No Good

But don’t worry, next year when it matters again, they’ll get right back to the losing!

James Paxton got the start and did about as well as you’d expect:  5.2 innings, 3 runs, on 6 hits, with 5 strikeouts.  Suffice it to say, he’s still rounding into shape from his latest DL stint, and should be back to his old dominating self next week sometime.  Just in time to watch the playoffs from his couch.

The offense picked him up today, so at least he was able to salvage a no decision.  Gamel had 3 hits and an RBI in the leadoff spot.  Alonso and Valencia each had homers and combined for 5 RBI.  And, the Mariners’ bullpen did their job to round out the 6-3 victory.

It’s been a while since this team was able to go Pagan-Vincent-Diaz, with them all throwing shutout innings.  Brings back fond memories of better Mariner times.

This may or may not be James Paxton’s final start.  We know Felix is done, and we got word that Mike Leake is also being shut down to rest his arm or some damn thing.  We’ve got Erasmo going today, Marco Gonzales going Friday, and Andrew Moore going Saturday, with Sunday TBD.  Could be Albers, could be Paxton, could be a bullpen day.  I guess we’ll see.

If this was Paxton’s final start, we might as well congratulate him on his very best season as a Mariner.  Oh yeah, in spite of all the injuries, he’s hit career highs in appearances (23, all starts), innings (130), strikeouts (147), wins (12), and WAR (3.5).  This was, officially, the year that James Paxton became the Ace of the Seattle Mariners’ pitching staff.  And, if he hadn’t missed 10 starts, we might be talking about a really special season.

Look at it this way:  as it stands, the Mariners won a little over 60% of his starts.  If you tack on 10 more starts, and give the Mariners 6 more wins, BOOM, we’re right there in the thick of that second Wild Card spot.  And that’s not even taking into account how poorly he’s pitched in the first few games after returning from the DL those two times!  I mean, just this month alone he took two hard-luck losses because he was building up arm strength and therefore was stuck on a low pitch count.  Every time he came back from a leave of absence, he had to get his mechanics back in line; if he was just healthy all the way through, he never would’ve had those mechanical issues and a reduction in arm strength.  It’s not out of the question, with the way he was going, for the Mariners to win up to 70% of his starts if he’d been fully healthy all season!

You want a reason why the Mariners didn’t make the playoffs?  Well, there’s 1 of about a billion right there.

The Mariners have fallen to 16th in the draft order with last night’s victory, so that’s just fucking great.  There’s only one more game for the A’s to roll over and fucking die for us, then we go to Anaheim to close out the season.  Hopefully on a nice, fat, juicy 3-game losing steak streak.

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!

The Dog In The Mariners’ Fight Has Been Put To Sleep

I’m at that part of the Mariners season where I turn wistful.  Like Bing Bong slowly disappearing in the Memory Dump in Inside Out, so too do the sands of my belief in a Mariners miracle.  With time running out, I just want to see my team play some baseball before everything gives way to football for another offseason.

King Felix took the mound yesterday, and for three innings he looked like Classic Felix.  I wasn’t deluding myself; I know he hasn’t turned anything around.  I know that he’s still going to look amazing in short bursts, every once in a while, only for him to lose his release point, or lose his command, or whatever you want to call it.  Can’t I just enjoy a little King Felix while the getting’s good?

As the fourth inning started, it was getting to be my bedtime.  But, Felix was rolling, the season’s coming to a close, and I was willing to push it to the limits:  8:30, maybe even 9 o’clock!  However long Felix was out there and looking good, I’d stay awake on my couch and root him on!

But, it was like Felix somehow knew that I needed to be fresh and alert today at work.  So, he did what any good King would do, he took care of his people … by walking the bases loaded and giving up a few runs.  With one out, and the bases loaded, Andrew Albers came on in relief, and promptly gave up a Grand Slam to put this game – and yours truly – to bed.  I guess he won’t be getting the start on Saturday.

The Mariners would go on to make a game of it – as they do – but it’s hard to come back when you’re in the hole 7-1.  A bunch of people had a bunch of hits, and things got really interesting in the seventh, when the M’s pulled to within 8-5.  Cruz and Seager both walked to load the bases, then Yonder Alonso promptly swung at the first pitch to get the Rangers out of the jam.  Didn’t really C the Z there.  I can’t imagine a world where Yonder Alonso is back with the Mariners next year.  He’s not the reason we failed, but he’s done very little to help this team succeed either.

In the end, the Mariners got another run in the eighth, and that was that.  8-6.  Making this a 5-game losing streak, with 10 games to go.  At this point, we should probably be rooting for the Mariners to lose.

HEY, we haven’t done this in a while!  Let’s take a look at where the Mariners would draft next year!  Right now, we’re tied with the Rays for 14th.  We throttled the Rays this season, so that would seemingly give them the tie-breaker for better draft position.

With 10 games to go, there’s certainly room to move up in the draft order.  As I noted, we’re tied with the Rays.  The Orioles are just 1.5 games back (and remember, we have 3 more against the Indians to look forward to!).  The Marlins are only 2 games back!  And hell, the Blue Jays are 3 games back and they KILLED us this season!  If we can somehow lose enough to leapfrog those teams, that would put us drafting 11th.

And then there’s Oakland.  Bet you thought Oakland was so far back it would be IMPOSSIBLE for them to pass us in the standings!  Well, you’re not far off, but it’s also not impossible!  Now, hear me out:  5 games.  That’s all that stands in our way.  And, don’t forget, we play the A’s in Oakland next week, so if we can somehow get them to sweep us, that takes care of 3 games.  Now, unfortunately, even if they do sweep us, we will still have won the season series 10-9, so I have to hope that I’m mistaken and the season series has no bearing on tie-breakers for MLB Draft purposes.  Or, maybe we just go out and lose the whole fuckin’ thing!  Aside from playing us, the A’s play their remaining 7 games against Texas.  Unless you’re the Mariners this week, the Rangers aren’t unbeatable, so I’m still holding out hope that the Mariners can somehow sneak into a Top 10 draft pick.

The other option would be the Pirates, who are 5.5 games back, but they have 4 against the Nationals, and they’ve been pretty terrible these last few weeks.

I think I’ve got renewed life!  Lose Mariners Lose!  Paxton vs. Hamels tonight; can we get another night of Paxton with poor mechanics?  Can Hamels fucking BRING IT!?!  Go Rangers!

Seattle Mariners – Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition

The old timey military slang term series comes to a predictable close, as the Mariners lose to the Rangers 3-1.  I mean, I could sit here and get mad at the team for going right back to the Nick Vincent well, when he’s CLEARLY been the worst fucking pitcher on the team in the month of September (now up to 8 runs in 6.2 innings, with at least 1 run given up in half of his appearnaces, 1 blown save, and 2 outright losses).  I could sit here and lament an offense that could only muster 1 fucking run against a mediocre fucking Rangers pitcher.  I could ball out Yonder Alonso for being the latest Mariner to make an out on the basepaths – an underrated aspect that cost us the playoffs this season.  I could piss and moan about the team blowing a fantastic start by Mike Leake (6.2 innings, 1 run, 6 hits, 0 walks, and 5 K’s), but what’s the point, you know?

YES, the Mariners blew a critical opportunity, as the Twins lost their second straight game to the Yankees, which if we’d won would’ve put us at a mere 3 games out of the second Wild Card with 11 games to play.  But, what difference does it make?  Even if a miracle took place, we’d still be talking about an American League playoffs that includes the Indians, Yankees, and those Astros we can never beat.

It’s over, man.  Let it go.  On to next season.

Speaking of those Astros, they really did destroy our season.  We were 5-14 against them; the only team we were worse against was the Blue Jays, at 1-6.  The Mariners are 3 games under .500 at the moment, but we went 9 games under .500 against the Astros.  Think about THAT!

But, if you dig a little deeper, you can see it’s either them, those Blue Jays, or the Yankees (who we went 2-5 against) who show up at each critical juncture in the season.

Take the first week and a half (please!); the Mariners started the season with 7 games in 10 days against the Astros.  We started out 1-3, then dropped 3 more against the Angels, then came home and dropped another 2 of 3 to the Astros.  That’s an overall record of 2-8, with 5 of those defeats coming against Houston.  It would take us a while, but we eventually got back to .500 on May 10th, the day before we went to Toronto and dropped 4 straight.  It took us another good long while, but we got back to .500 AGAIN on June 7th, two days before we hosted the Blue Jays and lost 2 of 3 against them.

We bounced back much quicker this time, getting all the way to a game over .500 on June 22nd before facing the Astros again.  We even beat them in the series opener to go TWO games over .500!  But, we lost the next two to fall back to even, then kept right on losing (for the most part) all the way to the All Star Break.

Coming out of the break, we were a team possessed!  We even managed to somehow beat the Astros in 2 of 3 games!  It was a miracle!  Maybe THIS would be the point where we’d rip off a bunch of wins and grab hold of that Wild Card spot!  We were back to .500 on July 19th, heading home to face … the New York Yankees.  We lost 3 of 4.

We bounced right back, though, and got to a season-high 3 games over .500 on August 9th, a day before the infamous Edgar Martinez Weekend where we lost 4 to the Angels and 5 in a row overall.  I think people will really focus on that stretch of games as the key point in the lost season, but on August 25th, the M’s took the first game against the Yankees in that weekend series to get back to a season-high 3 games over .500.  Remember that 12-game road trip?  THAT was the real make-or-break stretch.  And, as you might have guessed, we lost the next two games to the Yankees to start another downward slide.

BUT, back home in September, fresh off of a sweep of the A’s, the Mariners were back to a game over .500 and still – for the most part – controlling their own destiny.  On Labor Day, September 4th, the Mariners hosted the Astros and dropped three straight.  Once again, they halted all of our momentum and brought us right back to the land of the losers.  Over the next week, though, we got BACK to a game over .500, still with plenty of time to make a difference in this season!  Only to go to Houston on the 15th and lose another three in a row.

That brings us to today, 3 games under .500.  Still enough time to get back to .500, but not enough time to overtake the Twins, or even the Angels.

The Astros were just a flat-out better team than the Mariners this year.  That’s fine.  I accepted that in the first week of the season!  There are a lot of teams that are flat-out better than the Mariners (though, I wouldn’t say the Blue Jays are one of them; they just randomly had our number the times we played them).  But, it sucks dick that we couldn’t overcome the Astros’ dominance to snag one of those Wild Card spots.  With this team, and specifically this organization’s history, just GETTING to the playoffs would’ve been a gigantic victory, and believe me, I don’t say that lightly.  I’m not one of these “Just Happy To Be Here; Let’s All Have A Good Time” sort of fans.  If you make the post-season, anything less than a championship is a HUGE letdown!  But, for the Mariners, you take what you can get.  More importantly, with the sport of baseball being what it is (ridiculously long season, potentially coming down to a single game, or a small handful of games) it’s a ludicrous institution.  Let’s face it, we know the best teams in the A.L. are the Astros and Indians; just like we know the best teams in the N.L. are the Dodgers and Nationals.  You don’t need extra Wild Card teams to help determine who belongs in the World Series!  They throw those teams in there to make things more exciting, to keep a few extra fanbases engaged a little while longer, and sometimes those Wild Card teams catch fire and go all the way.  But, it’s not legit.  With as many games as they play in baseball, you could get away with making it a perfectly balanced schedule and stick the two teams with the best records in the World Series and call it a day.  Or, you could chop the number of regular season games in half, let 8 teams per league into the playoffs, and have each series go 9 games.  But, the way it’s set up now, it’s just dumb.

I dunno, I’m rambling I guess.  The Mariners lost and I’m upset and I don’t know how to express my feelings appropriately this early in the morning.

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 Look Up “Too Little Too Late”, See Their Reflection

It’s nice to see Marco Gonzales have a little success, I guess.  He was still only able to go five innings, but I have to assume that’s because he’s coming from the bullpen and hasn’t yet been stretched out.  Still, 5 innings and 3 runs is far and away his best outing start of the season.  He got into a couple of mini-jams, but was able to get out of them without throwing away the game.  He struck out 6 and walked only 1, while spreading 8 hits around.  And, he got his first win in a Mariners uniform (and his first Major League victory since 2014).  When you tack that onto his 4 shutout innings from his previous appearance, let’s hope that’s the start of a nice, successful run to close out the season.

It’s nice to see the offense bust out in a big way.  Haniger continues to smoke the ball, with 2 more hits (including a double) and 2 more runs scored.  Cano had 3 hits (including a double), with a run and an RBI.  Cruz had 2 hits and 2 runs; Seager hit a 3-run bomb and also scored 2 runs; Ben Gamel also had a 3-run bomb as part of his 3-hit day.  On top of that, Zunino and Alonso both had 2 hits apiece to really drag this game kicking and screaming past the 3-hour mark.

And sure, it’s nice that the dregs of the bullpen mopped up the final four innings without giving up another run.  All in all, it adds up to a nice 10-3 victory for the Mariners, evening up the series, bringing their record to within one game of .500, and maintaining the 3.5 game deficit from the second Wild Card.

All of these are nice things, but they won’t mean a damn thing until the Mariners are able to manage a winning streak.

The encouraging thing is, the Mariners might FINALLY be able to do something here.  It’s going to take everything they have, and if I had to bet the family farm, I’d 100% bet against it happening, but as of the middle of September – with just over 2 weeks left in the season – the Mariners might have finally fleshed out a starting rotation.

I know, right!  But, go with me on this, I’ve had a long day week month life.

Mike Leake has looked awfully solid in his first few starts here.  If he can keep it up, he’s a nice little #3 pitcher for this rotation.  He goes tonight.

Then, there’s Felix.  The last time he came off the DL, he was able to make 8 starts before re-injuring the same body part.  Of those 8 starts, 5 were useable.  Given how late we are in the season, 5 good starts should be plenty.  He goes tomorrow (he’ll be on a limited pitch count for the first game, but that’s what we have all these long relievers for).

Then, we’ve got Paxton kicking off the Houston series.  The last time he came off the DL, he was able to make 14 starts before getting injured again.  Of those 14, 12 were useable.  That’s more than enough.

Then, there’s Erasmo Ramirez.  He never gets injured.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes you just wish he’d go on the DL for the rest of your life.  He’s riding a 6-game Quality Start streak that has to be the best run of pitching in his entire career.  He has almost single-handedly held this rotation together while Felix and Paxton have been gone.  If we have to go with a #4 starter, I’ve seen worse.

Then, there’s TBD.  I’m going to flip the fuck out if Ariel Miranda is still in this rotation come Sunday, because as we’ve clearly seen, both Marco Gonzales and Andrew Moore have both pitched excellent in recent games.  Either way, you have to expect Miranda is on the world’s shortest leash; it’s really more of a Chinese finger trap at this point.  I have to expect, if he gets the start, there will be a man warming up in the bullpen right alongside him before the game even gets going.  If you consider the team’s fifth starter just a Bullpen Day for the month of September (knowing full well that if by some miracle the M’s make the playoffs, they’ll never need a fifth starter, and likely won’t even need a fourth), I’d be okay with that.

So, you know, the blueprint is there.  Decent starting pitching, lots of clutch hitting, and the bullpen needs to catch fire the rest of the way.  5 games against the Rangers, 3  against Oakland, 3 against the Angels:  all should be winnable games.  Then, there are 3 against the Astros and 3 against the Indians.  I know the Astros are our kryptonite, but we’re going to have to find a way to win at least 2 of those games this weekend.  And I know the Indians are riding an insane 20-game winning streak, but we just have to hope they cool the fuck off before we play them at home next weekend, and again take 2 of 3.

Realistically, I think the Mariners need to go 13-4 the rest of the way to lock up the second Wild Card.  That would put us at 85-77.  Right now, the Twins (who currently hold that spot) are 75-69, with 18 games to go.  If we went 13-4 and the Twins went only went 9-9, we’d beat them by 1 game.  So, yeah, that’s what we’re looking at.  And let’s not forget the three teams in between us and the Twins (Angels, Rangers & Royals), nor the two teams still hovering around just behind us (Rays & Orioles).

When you lay it all out there like that, it really looks daunting.  It’s different when you see the Mariners are 3.5 games back.  Theoretically, you can make that up in a week!  But, when you factor in how few games are left in the season, and you realize your fate isn’t in your hands anymore, it seems impossible, doesn’t it?  Crazier things have happened, but I have to admit this would be one of the craziest.

What a damn, fucking waste this season has been.

No, The Mariners Probably Don’t Have Another Playoff Push In Them

Yeah yeah yeah, we won the series 2-1 against the Angels.  Yeah yeah yeah, we won the homestand 5 games to 4.  But, I shouldn’t have to remind you that this is crunch time!  It’s no longer valuable to just win series.  That time has LONG gone!  Maybe if you’d just won every series since the All Star Break, things would be different.  You’d probably be in the driver’s seat right now!  But, you’re didn’t, and you’re not.  You’re still 3 games back of the second Wild Card, with 5 teams still standing in your way.

The time is for SWEEPING series, and the Mariners fucked another opportunity away.

While I don’t totally agree with the decision to stick with Erasmo Ramirez in the seventh inning, after he’d fought to get through six with a 1-run lead, he’s not the reason why we lost that game.  He’s the reason why it got tied up in the seventh, on a solo homer to make the game 2-2, but he still put in a quality start – his sixth in a row! – and kept his team in this thing.

I can’t even quibble with how the bullpen was used, because Nick Vincent was given a clean eighth inning to work in, and he proceeded to give up 3 runs to put the game out of reach.  I’d say with less than 5 innings under his belt in the month of September, and with 5 earned runs given up, Nick Vincent is officially in a slump.  Is this just one of those things?  Is he faltering from over-use?  Is the rest of the league figuring him out?  Is he secretly injured?  I don’t have a clue, but we can’t win if we can’t depend upon Vincent.  Not with David Phelps shelved for the year.

Hey, how is Steve Cishek doing over in Tampa?  Only 1 bad outing in 20 appearances, you say?  Huh.  How about that.  BOY WOULD THAT BE NICE TO HAVE IN OUR BULLPEN RIGHT NOW!!!

Of course, you could tell me we traded Cishek for Erasmo Ramirez, who has given us all these amazing quality starts of late; but I’ll tell you that Erasmo Ramirez could’ve been had for a song!  We could have BOTH of those guys right now if we really wanted to!

But, that’s neither here nor there, because it’s unreasonable to ask the bullpen to be perfect every fucking game, particularly when we’ve got this high-paid offense doing JACK SHIT.

I’ll tell you this much:  Yonder Alonso can go fuck off when the season’s over.  That guy’s a HUGE pile of dead weight!

It’s certainly disappointing that a mediocre pitcher like Parker Birdwell can hold our bats to 2 runs over 6 innings.  This game was ripe to be won, if only the offense had hit the way it’s capable of hitting.

Now, we’re off for a week in Texas.  4 games against the Rangers and only 3 games against the Astros (thank Christ).  Ideally, we’ll do better than 4-3 on this trip, but we’ll see.

Both Felix and Paxton are set to return this week!  That’s the good news!  The bad news is they will have made exactly zero minor league tune-up starts, so their pitch counts will be pretty low.

19 games and counting.  Just enough time to get right up on the edge of contention without actually managing to push through into the playoffs.  Feel the excitement.

Mariners Pull Off Brilliant Comeback To Get Back To .500

That game had it all!  Yovani Gallardo struggling to get through three innings, giving up 2 runs in the process (and lucky it wasn’t a fuckload more); Casey Lawrence relieving him in the fourth and absolutely imploding, giving up 4 runs in 0.1 innings; necessitating recently called up reliever Ryan Garton to come in and finish it out; followed by Marco Gonzales – in his new relief role – going a whopping FOUR shutout innings to keep the Mariners in the ballgame.

You want your game MVP?  You start with Marco Gonzales.  Never thought I’d say that before.

Robbie Cano got off the schneid, hitting his first homer since July 22nd, a 2-run job back in the third to momentarily tie the game.  With the A’s re-taking the lead at 6-2 in the top of the fourth, as Gonzales kept the evil forces at bay, the offense went to work.

Segura and Alonso hit back-to-back solo jobs in the fifth to make it 6-4.  Then, an inning later, Segura doubled home Zunino to make it 6-5; and two innings after that, Zunino hit a solo shot to deep right-center to tie the game at 6-6.  Edwin Diaz – in a non-save situation, because tie games in the ninth will never have a save situation the rest of the way at home – locked it down for one more shot to win it before extras.

Segura led off the inning by reaching on an error to first.  Alonso hit a single to move him to third, and Cano was intentionally walked to load the bases with nobody out and Cruz & Seager due up.  Would this be the greatest Marinering of all time?

ALMOST!

Cruz struck out for the second time on the day, and has really looked bad at the plate in recent games.  After some outfield shuffling – to get Khris Davis’ noodle arm out of left, as if Bob Melvin had sensed something in the force – Seager hit a shallow fly ball to left field of all places.  On Khris Davis, the M’s might’ve sent Segura home on a tag; without Khris Davis, the M’s had to hold.  Two outs.

That brought up Mitch Haniger, who worked the count just enough to have their pitcher throw a wild pitch through the legs of the catcher.  Segura came scrambling home, and the Mariners won it!

Afternoon game today to get the sweep.  Don’t fail me now!  Don’t forget what the Astros are bringing to town!

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.