If this team doesn’t just impress the hell out of you with its grittiness, its guttiness, its chutzpah, its spunk, its tireless determination in the face of ridiculously long odds, then I don’t know what to tell you.
Now, obviously, it’s only May 24th. Yes, the Mariners are 2.5 games ahead of the Angels for the second Wild Card spot, but there’s oh so many more games left to play. Oh so many more Mariners left to injure with errant fastballs. Oh so many more opportunities to disappoint this beleaguered fanbase. And, believe me, I get all that. If you don’t want to get your hopes up because you’ve been burned too many times, I’m right there with you.
That having been said, sometimes it’s okay to take a step back and live in the moment. Too often, as fans, once a game ends, we immediately look to how it’s going to affect the future. I mean, shit, minutes after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, people were already talking about the possibilities for the 2014 season and the dynasty to come! If you can’t sit there and just enjoy the moment of a Super Bowl victory, then there’s really no hope.
The future will always be there, a nagging force in the back of your mind, but maybe don’t dwell on it too much until things actually start to get shitty again. If you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, don’t worry! It’ll drop! We’re riding high on a 5-game winning streak right now; I’m sure there’s a 5-game losing streak lurking somewhere over the horizon. And, when that time comes (not if), go ahead and rip the team to shreds.
Now is the time for praise!
I can’t say enough good things about Marco Gonzales right now. He’s been a source of massive frustration from the moment Jerry Dipoto traded Tyler O’Neill away to get him. The fact that O’Neill’s been raking since joining the St. Louis Cardinals organization (this year, in his Major League debut, he’s hitting .333, with a 1.071 OPS, on the back of 3 homers, a double, and 7 RBI in only … 12 games (*stifles throwing up in my mouth*), is not a shock to me. From what I’ve read, this kid is special. His work ethic, his talent, his power, it’s going to play and play well, for a long time, at the Major League level. He might not always be a .300 hitter, but then again he might! I wouldn’t put it past him to overcome his limitations, whatever they may be! Of all the players Dipoto has traded away to create this monster, the only one that hurt was O’Neill, and in the long run I’m still not convinced it’ll ever be anything close to an even swap.
So, yeah, the more good Marco Gonzales brings into our lives, the better. And, I’d say so far this year, he’s been worth the spot in the starting rotation. He had a really rough patch in mid-April, but he’s pitched into the 6th inning in each of his last 6 starts. I know that’s not some amazing feat or anything, but given my pre-season expectations, it’s pretty good. Now, that 6th inning tends to be the money inning for opposing batters to tee off on the youngster – in spite of the fact that he almost always heads into that inning in great shape, from a pitch count perspective. Which leads me to wonder, is he tiring in this inning? Does he not have the stamina to be a starting pitcher? Considering he’s so much better in the first two innings of ballgames – compared to every other inning he pitches in – it would be prudent to wonder if the Mariners traded away a future All Star for a long reliever.
While last night’s game doesn’t provide a definitive answer in the slightest, he was able to go 7 shutout innings against the A’s, giving up only 2 hits and 2 walks, with 6 strikeouts. It is, easily, his best performance in a Mariners uniform, and it’s also without question his best performance in his Major League career. It lowered his ERA to 4.05, and it’s now the third game where he hasn’t given up an earned run. This is all progress towards something useful! Maybe even impressive! He’s by no means a finished product, but we can build on this! I find I’m growing more and more comfortable with him on the mound with each of these quality starts, which is probably the highest praise I can give. Usually, when I make up my mind about someone, it sticks and I’ll trash them into next Tuesday if I don’t like them. But, I’m coming around on this guy! Gonzales!
This was also, I want to say, the third 1-0 victory of the Mariners’ season. We’re also a whopping 13-7 in 1-run games (and, not for nothing, but 4-0 in extra innings games). You can thank the bullpen for a lot of that. Juan Nicasio has seemed to gain some more trust from the skipper, as he pitched a scoreless 8th. And, Edwin Diaz got his 17th save of the season to tie the league lead.
On the hitting side of things, Guillermo Heredia continues to be a great weapon for this team. Ever since Cano and Dee Gordon went down, he’s been given starter’s playing time, and is making the most of it. Since May 13th, he’s 9 for 20 with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 4 runs scored, and 3 RBI, go go along with 5 walks and only 5 strikeouts. The offense overall has been predictably struggling – particularly over the last three games (all victories, I might add), where we’ve scored just 7 runs – and we were all wondering where the spark was gonna come from. Well, I’ve noticed Heredia up in the 2-hole in the lineup recently, and he’s certainly been that spark so far.
I’ll close with a cool story yesterday. Outfielder John Andreoli was called up (to replace Vogelbach on the 25-man; not Jayson Werth as we all thought, who apparently was pulled from the prior night’s game with a minor injury) and got the start in place of Haniger. He made his Major League debut, got his first Major League hit (and walk) and made a nice diving play in the field. So, kudos to the young man.
It’s all going really well, and we get to celebrate Felix Day against the team he absolutely owns. Relish it! It won’t always be this good for the Mariners!