See, now that’s what I’m talking about. The Mariners don’t necessarily NEED a big, long, impressive winning streak. Just win a bunch of regular ol’ series 2-1, and before you know it, you’re right back in this thing.
The key, of course, after winning this Angels series 2-1 is to NOT then go ahead and lose the weekend Texas series. Let’s try to keep the momentum going!
Last night’s game was impressive on all fronts. 11-3 victory where the offense generated 16 hits and 4 walks. The only homer was a solo shot by Valencia late in the game; otherwise the overwhelming majority of the scoring happened the old fashioned way: hitting with runners in scoring position. The Mariners were 6 for 15 in this regard.
Segura, Gamel, Cruz, Seager, Valencia, and Heredia all had multiple hits, including a 4 for 5 day for Valencia, as he starts to heat up. Ben Gamel was on base 5 times, getting 3 hits and 2 walks, and he had a fabulous diving catch in the 9th inning. Just an all out fantastic day from the offense.
On the pitching side of things, Ariel Miranda was able to go 7 full innings, giving up just the 2 runs, sparing our bullpen and looking good doing it. Everyone is marvelling at how we were able to fleece the Orioles by getting Miranda for Wade Miley last year, and believe me, I’m right there with you guys. I would point out, however, that after a very rough 2016 season (both in Seattle and Baltimore), Miley has turned things around in a big way in the early going. I’m not saying I’d rather have him back or anything; I’m plenty happy with Miranda’s youth and upside. But, we shouldn’t dismiss the fact that Miley is having a nice bounceback year for himself, including an 8 inning/1 run/11 strikeout performance against the Reds a couple starts back. His walk count is still too high to sustain these numbers, but the most runs he’s given up in any start this year is only 3, while the fewest innings he’s pitched is 5. On the flipside, Miranda has had a couple duds this year, but also a couple really impressive 7 inning performances (including last night).
I think we all knew this team would need Miranda at some point this year. Even before Smyly went down, I figured he’d be up in Seattle at some point (in an ideal world, taking over for an ineffective Yovani Gallardo). But, it’s a little weird to know that we have to count on him THIS much; he’s essentially our 2nd-best starter right now behind Paxton! I’ve always considered Miranda kind of a back-end of the rotation guy, where you’re happy if he just keeps you in the game and hope your offense has enough in the tank to carry the team over the top. But, with Smyly and Felix down, with Kuma throwing 84mph fastballs, and with Gallardo being Gallardo, the Mariners really NEED Miranda to step up in a major way. We need a lot more of these 7 inning starts out of him, if nothing else than to spare our terrible bullpen!
I do want to touch on one more thing before I get on with my day.
GOOD PROBLEM TO HAVE ALERT: Ben Gamel has been fucking terrific since being called up! Okay, so I understand why that’s good, but why is it also a problem? Well, Guillermo Heredia has been fucking terrific all season! And while the numbers aren’t super amazing, Jarrod Dyson has been a HUGE part of this team’s success (what mediocre amount of success this team has enjoyed, anyway). So …
What do we do when Mitch Haniger comes back?
Again, don’t think I’m complaining about this, because I think it’s fantastic that Gamel is picking up the slack in Haniger’s absence. I thought the offense was going to take a HUGE hit, and in fact it’s only improved as Gamel keeps up his part of the bargain, and everyone else gets hot around him. But, we’re very much in a situation where this team has four outfielders worthy of starting, and only three places to play them.
I’d also like to appeal to the baseball gods, if I may: please DON’T rectify this situation by injuring someone else upon Haniger’s return! I BEG OF YOU, JUST LET US BE HEALTHY FOR A WHILE!
The way I see it, for now Gamel’s success affords the Mariners some luxury in bringing Haniger back. They can wait until he’s 100%, give him as much rehab work in the minors as he needs, and probably wait until the last minute before calling him back up. But, if Haniger returns to the Mariners hitting like he was before he went on the DL, you absolutely have to keep playing him every day. So, that solves right field.
As much as I love what Heredia has done for the Mariners this year, with his speed, his defense, and some timely power hits, I think if Gamel keeps tearing the cover off the ball, you gotta keep him in your lineup. What most likely happens is he and Heredia platoon, but it’s a strict platoon where Gamel only faces righties and Heredia only faces lefties. It’s just the way it has to be, until another injury crops up, or until someone starts slumping.
I think you absolutely keep Dyson in the lineup everyday, and maybe spot him an off-day every 10 games or so to keep him fresh.
Something else I wonder about is: what happened to Taylor Motter?
He fits into this outfield equation too, a little bit, and when Haniger comes back I think he REALLY gets the shaft, all things being equal. That bumps him, for all intents and purposes, to this team’s 5th outfielder. Of course, he’s also this team’s primary utility infielder, but really that’s kind of a joke.
How often do you ever see Cano get a day off that’s not also a day to rest some nagging injury? When is Cano ever a healthy scratch? Or Seager for that matter? And, with the way Segura is playing, do you see him getting many days off?
That leaves first base, which will be VERY interesting to watch over the next few weeks. Since April 25 (or right after Dan Vogelbach was called up), Valencia has hit 10 for 24, with 3 homers, 1 double, 5 RBI, and 7 runs scored. I’d say he responded to that Vogelbach challenge quite well! Valencia has always been known as a streaky hitter, so you had to figure this type of a hot stretch would come eventually. Here is his slash line going into the 25th vs. his slash line this morning:
- Before: .145/.217/.226/.443
- Now: .221/.284/.395/.679
He still has a ways to go to get back to his numbers of the last couple years, but that’s just it. Before the whole Vogelbach mess, everyone expected Taylor Motter to take over as this team’s primary first baseman once Segura returned from injury. Instead, Vogelbach got those opportunites, squandered them, and all the while Motter has been the forgotten man.
I wouldn’t say it’s 100% without merit; Motter is hitless in his last 10 at bats, over 5 games, but he really only started 2 of those games, and came in as a reserve/pinch hitter in the other 3. The only reason you could say this is far and away the coldest stretch of his season is because he’s been so damn good to this point!
It also doesn’t help him that both he and Valencia are right handed, so a platoon there would be pointless.
I think the team is going to have to at the very least ride out this hot streak Valencia has been on, if nothing else than he WILL be needed if this team is to be successful. And, while I still have my doubts about Motter’s viability over the long haul, I also can’t discount the possibility that he just might have fixed whatever was wrong with his swing in seasons past, and that he’s a new player now. In which case, should this team be grooming him to be more than just a utility player? It seems like a waste to keep his bat in mothballs, but, I mean, there are only so many spots you can fill in a lineup. And I’m pretty sure he’s never played catcher in his professional career.
I dunno. Like I said, these are all good problems to have, but it is sort of a bummer. It is nice to know he’s there, though, in case injury strikes again. I love not having such a significant drop off in production from starter to backup! But, it just seems like Motter did nothing wrong, and yet he’s being punished in some unfair way. That’s baseball, I guess.