It’s Monday, which means it’s time to talk about the weekend that was.
The M’s won an impressive one on Friday, 7-1, scoring in each of the final six innings to put it away. Cruz and Cano had big games, we got a lot out of the DH combo of Smith & Guti, Adam Lind had something of a breakout game with a couple of hits, and Iannetta continued his torrid start to the season, which has been the most welcome of surprises. Most everyone got in on the action offensively, except of course for poor Kyle Seager, who can’t buy a hit (but has plenty of Double Play foodstamps to throw around – THANKS OBAMA!).
Nathan Karns had a very Nathan Karns type of outing: 5 innings, 5 hits, 4 walks, 1 run, 7 strikeouts. He got himself into and out of trouble in almost every inning, which is just something we should all get used to seeing, because that’s going to be the norm with this guy. His inability to consistently pound the strikezone and get guys to hit into our defense is going to mean high pitch counts, low innings counts, and potentially a lot of crooked numbers. In games like on Friday, where he was able to wiggle off the hook time and time again, he’ll resemble a bulldog like Erik Bedard. You take the good with the bad with a guy like Bedard/Karns. A tendency to Five & Dive, but at the same time (ideally) someone who can give you a QUALITY five innings. Which, compared to some of the 5th starters we’ve seen in years past (weak-throwing flyball pitchers like Beavan and such), this might be a welcome change. But, if Karns starts getting beat up more often than not (BECAUSE he’s putting so many people on base early in innings), then you’ll likely see him replaced by Paxton sooner rather than later. It’ll be an interesting first few weeks of his Mariners career.
As the Mariners played add-on, the bullpen locked it down for the final four innings, including Peralta, who had been savaged in recent games by the long ball.
The Mariners won again on Saturday, 3-2, in a very Mariners-like performance, where the team scored three runs in the fifth inning, and no runs in any other inning. Felix got the start, and for a while, this looked like the prototypical Hard Luck Felix Game. C.C. Sabathia was working his magic through the first four innings, and it looked like a return to form for the erstwhile ace. Felix, meanwhile, struggled in Karns-like fashion each and every inning, as he too was limited to five innings on the day. It was a really weird day, if I’m being honest. Felix had some of the most unhittable stuff I’ve ever seen out of him, but the downside was that he had pretty much no control over anything. He threw about 80% offspeed stuff, and that shit was flying every which way but inside the strikezone. As such, he only gave up 5 hits, but he gave up 6 walks. When you add Saturday’s performance to his opening day start, there might be cause for concern. I, however, choose to believe in the King, and like to see that he’s got such strong movement this early into the season. He’ll harness everything, and get control over his command, and once he does, we could see a nice long run of dominance out of him this season. As it is, he’s only got a 1.00 ERA, so the Felix Haters can eat all the dicks.
When Felix left the game, he had a 3-1 lead, and you sure as shit know none of us Mariners fans thought that lead was REMOTELY safe. Vidal Nuno came in on his second consecutive day to throw shutout ball for an inning; he’s going to be a HUGE piece to this bullpen when it’s all said and done. In the 7th, Nick Vincent gave up a solo homer to make it 3-2, and it was Hold Your Nuts time from there on out. Benoit returned from his shoulder soreness to throw an uneventful scoreless inning, and Cishek came in for the 9th, gave up a couple hits, but ultimately got the job done for his first save of the year. Last year, that game is a loss 11 times out of 10 games, so good on the bullpen to snap back after a rough homestand.
Yesterday, the Mariners lost 4-3, in a game that necessitated a dominant starting pitching performance, and ultimately didn’t see one. Masahiro Tanaka was going for the Yankees, and he’s always been a tough cookie against the Mariners. Quite frankly, seeing the Mariners get even 3 runs was laudable, as more often than not you’re lucky to get more than a single run against the guy. Ultimately, when you get three runs off of a team’s ace, you need to find a way to win that game, and the Mariners just couldn’t hack it.
Hisashi Iwakuma is one of the more infuriating pitchers I’ve seen in a good, long while. Not the same kind of infuriating as guys like J.A. Happ, or Carlos Silva, or even Jeff Weaver. Unlike those guys, we’ve SEEN Iwakuma do really well in a Mariners uniform. We KNOW he has greatness in him. In the last two seasons, he’s had decent, if injury-plagued years, and in 2013 he had near-Cy Young quality stuff over 33 games. When we all think of Iwakuma, we think of him in that 2013 context, where he solidified his reputation as a legitimate #2 starter on this team. But, the truth is, even in 2013, he’s prone to these dumpy runs of mediocrity. THAT’S what makes him so infuriating! It’s not like he runs into a bad game here and there; even Felix has a bad game every now and again. But, Iwakuma tends to string his bad games, or his so-so games, all in a row, before he has these prolonged stretches of quality starts.
Here are some of the stretches to which I’m referring (not counting his first year in the Bigs, as he was still getting over some shoulder issues):
- 2013 – a five-game run where he gave up at least 4 runs per game
- 2014 – a six-game run where he couldn’t get through the 6th inning in 5 of 6 games (and, more often than not, couldn’t even get through the 5th inning)
- 2015 – a four-game run to start the season where he gave up at least 4 runs per game
I don’t know if it’s fair to saddle him with this run of three games to start the 2016 season as it being one of his bad runs, but he hasn’t been great by any stretch. In 18 innings, he’s given up 22 hits and another 6 walks. While he’s only given up the one homer (to A-Rod yesterday, ugh), teams are stringing their hits and walks together just enough to force him into this 0-2 start. I wouldn’t say it’s dire straits yet with Kuma, but it would be really nice to see him overwhelm one of these teams soon with a dominant performance.
All in all, as I said before, a commendable hitting performance out of the M’s yesterday. We were able to tie it in the fifth, but Kuma went right out in the bottom of the inning and gave up the fourth run of the day for the Yankees. Even though Kuma was able to go 7 innings, and let the bullpen relax a little bit, those four runs proved to be too much. Tanaka was also able to go 7 innings, and once the Yankees have a lead going into the 8th inning, you might as well forget it. Dellin Betances is a fucking beast, and Andrew Miller is rock solid. Can you even imagine what that bullpen is going to look like when Aroldis Chapman returns from suspension? You better pile your runs up early, because you’re not budging that bullpen an inch in the late innings!
I do have to say something about Kyle Seager, though, because he’s been an absolute mess through two weeks. He’s down to a line of .119/.245/.238, he was benched on Saturday to give him a day off to mentally unwind, and he’s just been a machine at grounding out to the right side of the infield (into the shift, which I have to believe is in his head more than anyone wants to let on). I have confidence in his ability to turn it around, as I’ve seen these slow starts out of him almost every year of his career, but if this team wants to avoid digging a hole impossible to get out of, it’ll need Seager to start pulling his weight.
I like what I’ve seen out of Cruz and Iannetta. Smith and Guti have had truly professional starts to the season. Aoki’s been on a nice little run, and Martin has showed better power than I would’ve given him credit for prior to the season. Dae-ho Lee has brought exactly what I expected to the table. It’s really only a matter of time before Cano goes on a hot streak to get his numbers back to career norms. Sardinas has brought what you like to see out of a guy off the bench. Marte has had a rough go of it, but he’s young, and he has a knack for getting on base and using his speed to his advantage. Lind’s rough start can’t be sugar-coated, but at least he looks like a guy who can hit it to all fields, so he’ll find some of those balls dropping in for hits sooner or later. That just leaves Seager, who is bringing up the rear like a maniac.
When you think of a lineup, you’re going to see lots of peaks and valleys out of guys. For instance, Iannetta is having a tremendous start to his Mariners career. But, that other shoe is going to drop in a minute, and it would be NICE to see someone else hit one of his peaks at the same time as Iannetta’s inevitable valley, so the offense doesn’t go completely in the tank. Iannetta is giving us Seager-like production right now, but that won’t last forever (if it even lasts much longer than these first two weeks); we’re going to need Seager to step it up just to maintain the status quo we’ve got going on right now! That’s a scary thought, especially if it takes him much longer to pull out of this nosedive he’s been in.