That 10-game road trip felt like a month, didn’t it? It’s a good thing literally all the good players on the Angels are hurt. But, even then … couldn’t get the sweep.
Monday’s 8-5 loss was as irritating as every other loss we’ve had recently. We took a 3-0 lead in the first, gave it all back by the fourth. The game remained tied at 3-3 until the ninth, when the Mariners had a chance to walk it off. Three straight sharp singles loaded the bases with nobody out and Kelenic coming to the plate. He promptly struck out. Dylan Moore grounded into a fielder’s choice with the infield pulled in. Then, Canzone rolled over to first base to send it to extras.
The Angels hit a 2-run bomb in the top of the 10th to take a lead, but miraculously, Julio tied it with a 2-run bomb of his own in the bottom half. But, then the wheels came off in the 11th, as the Angels added three more to put it out of reach. We ended 3/12 with RISP, and left with more questions than answers from a bullpen that’s been repeatedly failing us in the later innings. I don’t know what the analytics say, but anecdotally, this group has been ass in the highest-leverage situations (unlike in previous years, when maybe we were luckier than we should’ve been). More and more, I think we’re going to point to the loss of Paul Sewald as the reason why this team fails to go all the way. Canzone sure hasn’t done much, and Rojas has once again cooled off considerably after a hot streak.
Turning things around, the Mariners executed a much-needed 8-0 victory on Tuesday. Bryan Woo looked outstanding (5.2 innings of 4-hit ball with 8 strikeouts), and we managed to close it out with Eduard Bazardo eating up 2.1 innings, and Dominic Leone finishing the ninth. THIS is the role those two were meant to fill; unfortunately, games haven’t been this out-of-reach lately to utilize them properly.
We had great games from Julio and J.P., as well as much-needed sparks from Suarez, France, and Moore. There hasn’t been a lot of production of late from the bottom of our order. Guys like Haggerty, Ford, Canzone, Rojas, Caballero, and O’Keefe have all been balls for the better part of a month and a half. It would be nice if we can get a blistering streak out of someone like Moore to fill that void. Also, it was nice to see Luis Torrens return and hit a rather meaningless double late in the game. O’Keefe is NOT a Major Leaguer, and Tom Murphy isn’t coming back anytime soon (if ever). We can’t afford to play Cal literally every single game the rest of the way.
On Wednesday, we got back to basics with some good ol’ fashioned Mariners baseball, in a 3-2 victory where Castillo pitched another Quality Start (6 innings, 2 runs, 3 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts), and the bullpen was nails from there (Topa, Brash, and Munoz locking it down). All of the scoring was completed by the end of the fifth inning, so it really was a lot of pressure pitching down the stretch. Good to see, after so much shakiness lately.
That caps off the Angels for 2023. We went 8-5, which is pretty appropriate. We’re 8-2 against the Astros, and 9-1 against Oakland, so let’s hope we can keep beating those teams. For what it’s worth, we’re 1-5 against Texas, making the seven times we see them in the last 10 games vitally important. Can we go 6-1 against them? Seems unlikely, but will be necessary if we hope to win the A.L. West.
We have this weekend series with the Dodgers coming up, before we close out against the remaining divisional opponents. We are 81-65, a half-game behind the Rangers (in the loss column), with them playing in Toronto today. We’re 1.5 games behind the Astros for the division (one in the loss column, two in the win column), and they’re off today as well.
We are currently one full game ahead of Toronto for the third wild card. The Blue Jays have lost three straight against the Rangers in this series, which is honestly pretty good for us, because they were on a massive hot streak before that (albeit, against a lot of the same bad teams we played in August). Toronto has 6 against the Yankees, 3 against the Red Sox (both have fallen WAY out of playoff contention), and 6 against the mighty Rays. We will be rooting heavily for the Rays over the next couple weeks.
So, that’s it. There are three teams all within a game and a half of one another for two wild card spots, and there are three teams all within a game and a half of the A.L. West. Win the west, earn a first round BYE, and you’re able to set your rotation and rest your overworked bullpen. Win the second wild card, and you “earn” a series against either the Rays or Orioles in their home stadium. Win the third wild card, and you get the privilege of facing the lowly Twins (who are currently 7.5 games up on the Guardians).
This is very stressful! I sure hope the Mariners do well!
I should point out – since it’s been a while where this has been a topic of conversation – that the Mariners have improved their record in 1-run games to 23-25. That is a mighty jump from where it was pre-August! We are, however, 6-13 in extra innings games, which has been an absurd drain on our emotions. Wouldn’t mind seeing that go in the positive direction asap.
Also, Paul Sewald Update: after a bad blown save early, he’s been pretty great. He had 8 consecutive scoreless appearances before his next blown save. He’s since gone 5 for 5 in save appearances in September. Right now, the Diamondbacks are tied for the third wild card spot (with two more teams right on their heels).