Just one night after Scott Servais made a mind-bogglingly stupid bullpen decision, he did it again. Long story short: Hisashi Iwakuma was rolling through five innings. With a low pitch count, and no runs allowed, it only made sense for him to go back out for the sixth. Then, he gave up a double to Calhoun, a homer to Trout, and a single to Pujols, and it only made sense at this point to pull him for a reliever. In general, I trust Hisashi Iwakuma as far as I can throw him, but I REALLY distrust him the third time through a lineup (where they showed on the broadcast that he’s giving up a batting average well over .400 this season).
With a man on base and nobody out, in a game the Mariners were leading 4-2, Servais apparently thought this would be the perfect spot to introduce Emilio Pagan to his Major League debut.
I should point out that before Tuesday’s game, the Mariners made some more moves. Casey Fien was once again DFA’d, and he once again passed through to Tacoma, where I feel like it needs to be a good, long while before he’s called back up again, because it’s getting pretty ridiculous at this point. Also, Dan Vogelbach was optioned back to Tacoma, because he was a disaster in his brief stint in the Majors (only fuelling my fire that he’s another in a long line of first base busts for this team). When I hear things like he’s getting down on himself for a few botched plays in the field, and that it’s carrying over into his at-bats, it leads me to believe he’s not emotionally stable or mature enough for the Majors, and likely never will be. It’s not all going to be roses and sunshine; you’re going to have to push through some hardships! If an error here and there is going to so devastate you, then maybe baseball’s just not your game. I know! Let’s have a spelling contest!
In their place, the aforementioned Emilio Pagan was called up, along with another right-handed reliever, veteran Jean Machi (to make room on the roster, Shawn O’Malley was placed on the 60-day DL). Machi went 2 shutout innings on Tuesday, in between Diaz’s blown save and Pazos’ loss, and put in another shutout inning last night to get the win. But, before we get to that, let’s go back to Pagan’s eventful debut.
I really want to kill Servais for putting Pagan into a situation like this, like I did yesterday when he went directly to Diaz even though he had a lefty in the ‘pen all warmed up, but I don’t know if it’s as egregious. I mean, yeah, it’s pretty shitty to put a 26 year old rookie into a game like this, but what else was he supposed to do? Who else was he supposed to turn to? Dan Altavilla was sent to Tacoma, Evan Scribner is on the DL, James Pazos and Tony Zych both threw over 30 pitches the night before. I mean, you could argue that, had Servais handled the bullpen situation correctly on Tuesday, we wouldn’t have been in such a mess on Wednesday. Pazos likely would’ve faced just the one batter on Tuesday and would’ve had plenty of arm to go again last night. But, with the batters coming up, I don’t know if you wanted to have a lefty reliever in there.
Still, I might’ve gone straight to Nick Vincent, who only threw two pitches on Tuesday, so you figured he had at least 2 innings in him last night. As it turns out, that’s pretty much what he had to do anyway (1.2 innings), because Pagan could only get the one out, and that one out was a miraculous catch by Heredia robbing the Angels of a home run in left field.
Pagan gave up Iwakuma’s third run, to really sour his night, and one of his own before being pulled. Vincent came in and surrendered a double that cost Pagan a couple more runs on the ol’ ERA, but eventually got out of the jam. However, the damage was done, as a 4-0 lead turned into a 6-4 deficit.
The bullpen held it down after that, just long enough for the Mariners to put up a 4-spot in the bottom of the eighth inning. With one out, Seager and Valencia singled. Heredia’s groundout moved them up 90 feet, and Motter (pinch hitting for Zunino) walked to load the bases. That led to Dyson’s 2-out double to right field, tying the ballgame, followed by Segura’s bouncing single through the hole between third and short to take a 2-run lead. Edwin Diaz, this time on for just the 3-out save, gave up another homer to Kole Calhoun (his second against Diaz in as many nights), but other than hitting Trout, he struck out the side to get the save and give the Mariners a much-needed 8-7 victory.
Some people were getting on the Mariners for not doing enough on offense to this point, and in many ways I’m coming around to that thinking. I mean, let’s face it, the way this pitching staff is going, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. Maybe some of the injuries we wouldn’t have foreseen, but we knew coming into this season that this team’s pitching would be the weak link. We KNEW that the offense was going to have to bring its lunch pail on many occasions like last night. It seems like the Mariners are doing a good job, when you hear about how they’re near the top in the A.L. in runs scored, but a lot of the reason for that is due to blowouts. 8-0 and 11-1 victories are nice and all, but this team is going to need a hearty collection of 8-7 wins if it’s going to try to stay in contention.
At this point, I’d gladly settle for being a .500 ballclub by the time the month of May comes to a close. That means going 16-12. Obviously, playing .500 ball isn’t going to get you in the post-season, but it buys the Mariners some time until guys can start getting healthy again. If we can scratch and claw our way to .500 by the time Felix and Haniger come back, it would set us up for a nice stretch of games in June and July. The Mariners are REALLY going to have to get hot in the summer months if they want to crash the playoffs; between May 31 and July 30, the Mariners play 37 of 53 games at home. It’s honestly like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and if they don’t take advantage, this season could really go sideways, as from July 31 through August 30, the Mariners are on the road for 21 of 28 before September call-ups. I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, looking at the calendar, but I’m just trying to illustrate how important these next four weeks are.
The Mariners don’t need to destroy the month of May (though, I’d gladly accept it, of course). They just need to win more series than they lose. I’m not asking a lot, just a record of 16-12. Or, rather, going forward, a record of 15-11. Slow and steady, people!