Just because I’ve been a little more hands-off with this Mariners team, doesn’t mean I’m not at least following along with what’s happening. Sure, I went to last Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Cubs, and sure it was the God damn apocalpyse. But, that’s an anomaly for Marco Gonzales. It brought him down to Earth – he’s not an ace, in spite of his role on this year’s team – but it’s not an indicator of things to come.
There were some pleasant developments over the weekend that we should all look at fondly, as it hopefully further cements the notion that this rebuild (or whatever) is headed in the right direction. Marco will be fine, but we need more than just him if we’re going to get our hopes up.
Yusei Kikuchi took the mound on Friday, following his perfect 1-inning start the last time out. Of course, we’re talking about a small sample size, but he bounced back with 7 innings of 1-run ball, giving up 3 hits, walking 1, and striking out a whopping 10 batters! Of course, the team squandered all of this, in losing 2-1, but that’s a helluvan outing. EASILY his best start of the year. More of that please!
Mike Leake had a very Mike Leakean start on Saturday (6 innings, 3 runs, in what would be a 5-4 loss, the second game blown by the bullpen in as many days), but what’s more important is Erik Swanson’s start on Sunday. We managed to NOT go winless against the Indians for 2019 thanks to a 10-0 route, helmed by Swanson’s 6 innings of 1-hit (3 walk) ball. We were able to stretch him out over 100 pitches, he got out of some jams, and maybe most importantly, this was his second start against the Indians (last time he went 6 innings, giving up 1 run on 2 hits). So, they had a chance to see him, make adjustments, and they STILL couldn’t do anything against him! I like that an awful lot.
Nothing about this weekend means anything definitive in the grand scheme of things, but they’re important steps in the way we want to go. This still doesn’t solve the lack of a real, bona fide ace on this staff, but I would argue the more pitchers we have in that #2 starter range, the better we’ll be. We can always go out and rent an ace, if in a year or two this team develops into a true contender; but until then, we need to build up the roster around that hypothetical final piece. Kikuchi and Swanson look like nice sections of foundation so far in their young Major League careers.