Felix starts against the Astros of late – even when it looks like he might be going well – are still tense affairs that can turn on a dime. I mean, Jose Altuve is batting over .500 against him for his career, and the rest of the heart of their lineup is solid-enough to take Felix out of his comfort zone. So, when you’re in a situation like we were in yesterday, where Felix was into the 6th inning with a 4-2 lead, you thank your lucky stars and you hope nothing happens to derail him. Even the slightest breeze by the Astros’ meaty part of the lineup can turn what would’ve been a surefire victory just two years ago into a 6-run nightmare that effectively eliminates you from serious contention.
Bottom of the 6th, Altuve leads off with a single. Because of course he does. Carlos Correa follows with another single, pushing Altuve to second, and you’re just glad he didn’t hit a 2-run homer to tie it. Put those two guys on, fine! Just as long as they’re not both in scoring position, you can probably get out of this inning with a lead. Felix then gets Evan Gattis to strike out and now you’re in business: you’re just a double play away from getting out of the inning perfectly unscathed. Of course, double plays are hard to force, but Felix had already induced two to that point.
Third baseman Yulieski Gurriel walks to the plate. He hits a grounder to the short stop, Ketel Marte. With Cano already standing at the second base bag, Marte foregoes the easy flip and instead takes it to the bag himself in plenty of time: one out. He makes a strong throw towards first that pulls Adam Lind off the bag; Lind is unable to secure the ball and it goes behind him; Altuve scores. 4-3 Mariners. We can still get out of the inning, but then Felix follows that with a walk. Then an RBI single. Then a numbnuts error by Lind, followed by 4 unearned runs, all attributed to Felix Hernandez. Before you know it, our offense goes in the tank and Vidal Nuno is in the game, mopping up yet another defeat.
ALL COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED, if either Marte flipped to Cano, who had an easy turn with plenty of time to get it to first base; or if Marte had just done his fucking job and made a good throw to first himself. But, this is the same sort of bullshit we’ve seen out of Marte since he was brought up last year. He has failed to improve his defense, and really that should be the ONLY fucking reason he’s up here right now, because it sure as shit isn’t his bat! His line is .258/.288/.325! He can’t hit for power, he can’t take a walk, he BARELY hits for a decent average, and all the good he brings you on the basepaths is 10 times negated by his shitty defense. He’s no wizard with the diving backhand, and he all too frequently bungles the routine play. Last night was another example of a routine play being botched by a little bitch who can’t focus on what needs to be done.
Ketel Marte is the reason why the Mariners spent most of the July trade deadline trying to get a deal done with Cincinnati for their short stop. Ketel Marte is most certainly the reason why the Mariners will try again this offseason.
Ketel Marte is not a Major League short stop. He’s, at best, a bench guy you use to pinch run in later innings. But, really, he belongs in the minors, or out of baseball entirely. Because if he’s not good at defense now, if he struggles to make the routine plays at his physical peak, what makes you think he’s going to be any BETTER in the seasons to come?
There is nothing about Marte’s game that leads me to believe he has a future as a successful Major Leaguer. Maybe if he was given a brain transplant, but I don’t think we have the technology for that just yet.
It’s unfortunate to have your season derailed by a rookie you’re forced to depend upon. This team is one of the most veteran teams in the league, we’re rock solid up and down the lineup and all around the field. Where our outfielders fail defensively, they make up for it at the plate, and this month we have reserves to put in during the later innings for a little defensive boost. But, at short stop? It’s Marte, or it’s O’Malley – who may be smarter with the routine play, but has even LESS range than Marte, so is not really that much of an upgrade – or it’s someone even worse.
I’m telling you, we needed this game last night. Had we secured the double play, we would’ve been up 4-2 after six. Felix’s pitch count would’ve been low, the bottom of the order was coming up with no one on base, it would’ve been a WHOLE DIFFERENT GAME! I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t have gotten the King through 7 innings, leaving us with just two innings of bullpen work to go to get the save. Plus, Houston’s bullpen usage might have been different had they been trailing, so maybe we score more runs to boot?
And don’t tell me it’s Felix’s job to overcome bullshit defense. For starters, Houston has the best approach to Felix’s arsenal of any team I’ve ever seen, and he was on a massive slump against them. So, for peace of mind he needed a clean game from his defense. Giving any team extra outs, regardless of the pitcher on the mound, is never going to be helpful. But, given the circumstances, the Mariners really found a new way to let down their ace (usually it’s by the offense taking a huge shit, or the bullpen blowing a lead). Except, the thing is, THIS ISN’T NEW! He’s been dogged by shitty defense seemingly all season! 9 of the runs he’s allowed have been unearned! That doesn’t take into account all the other errors he’s managed to overcome, as well as the plays like Marte’s (where you can’t assume the double play, so he technically wasn’t awarded the double-error he so rightfully deserved).
What did this cost the Mariners? Well, putting the final nail in the Astros’ coffin, for starters. They’re a half-game behind us with one more game to play this morning. The Tigers easily defeated the Indians last night – thanks to the Indians clinching the night before, and resting all their starters against Verlander as a reward – so we’re 1 game behind the Tigers again. AND, the Orioles lost to the Blue Jays, so we missed out on an opportunity to be 1 game back of the second wild card.
All because little Ketel Marte made boom boom in his diapers instead of finishing a double play that would’ve kept us in the race. Now, we’ve got 5 games to go, and pretty much need a miracle to pass the two teams we’re trailing.
If the Mariners are going to make a go of it next year, they need guys they can count on. They can’t be going with useless rookies who don’t excel at any aspect of baseball. But, even then, will it be enough?