The Mariners Have Played Some Baseball Games Since I Last Wrote About Them

Sorry folks, I’ve been busy on another (secret) writing project that has absolutely nothing to do with Seattle sports.  And, while it’s been a refreshing change of pace (that I still don’t know what I’m going to do with yet), it’s taken a lot of my attention away from this blog.  But, you know, considering the malaise that is the Seattle Mariners, with the impending bummer of a season from the Seahawks (that many fans are still fighting against tooth and nail, as if the only problem last year was a poor kicking game and shaky offensive line – and as if those problems have been dramatically improved in the subsequent months since that team unceremoniously finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs for the first time since Tarvaris Jackson was running the show), it’s not like I’ve been all that inspired to bloviate on the local sporting landscape.

Since the last time I wrote about the Mariners, we kicked off a 7-game homestand with a weekend series against the A’s.  The A’s aren’t very good.  You could say the same thing about the Mariners (both teams have underwhelming pitching staffs and get by on their offense), but the A’s also haven’t had the misfortune of playing the Astros yet (more on that in a minute) and they still have a worse record than the M’s, so take that for what it is.  The Mariners had 2 great offensive days and took the first two games of the series; then dropped the Sunday finale as Sean Manaea out-duelled King Felix to the tune of a 2-1 heartbreaker.  No matter, the good guys still won the series, but that lack of offense would be a harbinger of things to come.

Following that set, the Mariners hosted the Astros for 4 games, and things got off to a dynamic start with James Paxton flashing his ace stuff through six innings.  He out-pitched Dallas Keuchel of all people (who seemingly always owns the M’s), who went the distance but surrendered 2 runs in a game that finished 2-1.  Paxton gave up a leadoff homer to George Springer to kick off the game (because of course), but cruised the rest of the way, and the usual bullpen suspects kept the Astros off the board through the final three innings.  It was an impressive game any way you slice it, and you might forgive Mariners fans for being a little excited (or a little cocky) heading into the other three games of the series.

But … did you guys see who was starting those other three games?  The Astros had Lance McCullers Jr., Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton all lined up.  The Mariners?  Ariel Miranda, Mike Leake (who, yeah, okay, he’s been pretty good so far in his Mariners career), and Marco Gonzales.  I’m sorry, but it’s no contest.  The Mariners won the one game they did because their ace showed up and the bullpen didn’t blow it, but they were SO CLOSE to getting swept, and quite frankly I’m shocked they weren’t.

As I tweeted before the series, the Mariners just aren’t in the Astros’ league.  They’re not in the Astros’ universe for Christ’s sake!  I don’t even think they’re playing the same sport!  We play them 15 more times this year, and barring about a million Astros injuries (particularly to their pitching staff), I wouldn’t even expect the Mariners to play at a .250 pace.  Winning 25% of the games we play against the Astros would be a miracle, and if you offered it to me right now, I’d gladly take it and avoid the actual drubbing we’ll inevitably have to sit through.  The only saving grace for me was that these games were played on Monday through Thursday, either too late for me to stay up and watch, or during the hours I was at work, so I didn’t have to watch or listen to a minute of that nonsense.

The Mariners have since hit the road for 10 games, starting with a weekend series in Texas.  Friday’s game was super fun.  King Felix looked like his old self through the first two times around the order.  But, with one out in the sixth, the Rangers started to knock him around until he was knocked out of the game entirely.  Scrabble came in and shit the bed, so Felix ended up giving up 2 runs.  Down 2-1 at this point, things looked a little bleak, but the bats finally came alive.  Mitch Haniger hit a bomb in the 8th to tie it, and the rest of the team nearly batted around in the 9th, scoring 4 runs on a number of clutch hits.  The bullpen was lights out after Scrabble left the game in disgrace, and we won 6-2.

That was followed by last night’s barnburner.  James Paxton was pretty terrible throughout, leaving after 4 innings, giving up 5 runs, with the M’s losing 5-3.  It was 6-4 in the top of the 7th when the Mariners’ bats came alive once again, putting up a 5-spot, including a 2-run double by Segura, and homers by Cano and Haniger.  With Juan Nicasio unavailable, and with Scrabble once again faltering in his 1/3 inning of work, Edwin Diaz – having just pitched the night before in a non-save situation – had to come in for the 4-out save.  He got out of the 8th unscathed, but the 9th was a real adventure.  A walk and a single had runners on the corners before the first out of the inning (on a strikeout).  From there, Diaz really lost command of his stuff, as both fastball and slider were running off the plate to the right.  A groundout scored the runner from third, and back-to-back walks loaded the bases with 2 outs and 0 mound visits remaining.  Fortunately, Diaz was able to muster just enough (either command or blind stinking luck) to generate a harmless fly ball to left to close it out for his league-leading 8th save of the year.  9-7 final.

There’s a day game today before the Mariners go to Chicago to play the White Sox.  Then, it’s off to Cleveland to close out our season series with the Indians (in the first month of the season no less!).

Just to kind of put a bow on things, I’ll say this:  The Mariners are 11-8 and in third place in the A.L. West.  The Astros have reclaimed their rightful spot atop the division, with the Angels (falling just a little since their torrid start) a half game back.  Again, barring significant injury woes, this is where I’d expect these teams to finish the season.

The Mariners AREN’T terrible, so don’t get me wrong on that.  This team, with this amazing offense, should beat up on a lot of mediocre teams around the game of baseball.  They should also compete with some of the better teams, or the teams at their Wild Card-ish level.  But, against the truly ELITE teams?  The Astros?  The Red Sox?  Maybe the Angels?  I would expect the Mariners to continue to struggle.

Best (realistic) case scenario for the Mariners is that they get dominated by the Astros and Red Sox (and any other team that really distances themselves from the middle of the pack), while they play around .500 ball against the Angels.  Worst case scenario involves the Mariners getting bombarded by the Astros AND Angels, because that’s a combined 38 games in their schedule.  If they can play the Angels tough half the time, though, they should be in line to steal that second Wild Card spot (again, assuming the worst doesn’t happen again like last year).  But, they’ll have no shot if they’ve got two huge whales in their own division making them the Little Brother getting blasted with noogies all the live long day.

The Seahawks’ 2018 Schedule Is Here (And I Don’t Care)

Now is usually the time I express my pleasure/get all up in arms over the newly released Seahawks schedule.  But, I’m on record as expecting an 8-8 season, so who gives a damn if a formerly west-coast game against the Raiders has been placed in London for no good God damn reason?  To wit:

  • @ Denver
  • @ Chicago (Mon)
  • Dallas
  • @ Arizona
  • L.A. Rams
  • @ Oakland (London) (10am) (Sort Of)
  • BYE
  • @ Detroit (10am)
  • L.A. Chargers
  • @ L.A. Rams
  • Green Bay (Thurs)
  • @ Carolina (10am)
  • San Francisco (SNF)
  • Minnesota (Mon)
  • @ San Francisco
  • Kansas City (SNF)
  • Arizona

So, one thing I actually kinda like is having 5 of the first 7 games (with a BYE week squeezed in) on the road; meaning obviously that 6 of the last 9 games are at home (including all the second half primetime games).  The entire month of December, we only have to travel as far as San Francisco!  4 of those 5 games are in Seattle!

As far as 10am games go, only three isn’t too bad.  I was pretty shocked to see a whopping 5 primetime games (2 Monday, 2 Sunday, 1 Thursday), considering we weren’t all that world-beating last year.  Someone made the point on Twitter and I wholeheartedly agree:  that’s the power of an elite, Top 5 quarterback.  I still think at least one of those Sunday Night games will be flexed out; if I had to bet the family farm on one prediction this season, that would be it.

One thing I noticed is that the more difficult games look to be at home, which is always a plus.  We play the NFC North, and the best two teams (presumably) are Green Bay and Minnesota, so getting them both in Seattle is pretty fortunate.  Not that the Bears or Lions will be pushovers, but you get my drift.  I particularly like seeing Green Bay having to come all the way out here for a Thursday game; FUCK YOU PACKERS!  Then, we play the AFC West and get the Chiefs and Chargers here, while we play the Raiders over in London (so no one will really have an advantage, although I bet there are more Raiders fans living in London than Seahawks fans) and we catch the Broncos in the first week of the season.  Will Case Keenum be up to snuff right out of the gate, with a new team and a new system?  Then, among the second place teams from last year, we get Dallas here and go on the road to play Carolina, which again I think is the more favorable draw.  I think Dallas will be good again, with full seasons out of Elliott and Dak (and the Dez situation is addition by subtraction), whereas who knows with Carolina?  That late into the season?  Are they going to be totally healthy?

It’s always a huge folly to try to predict the games this early, but it’s 4/20, SO LIGHT ‘EM UP BRO!

@ Denver – Safe money is on this one being a loss.  Going to the Mile High City, playing against a good defense (not at its peak, but still with plenty of talent) that will probably be as healthy as it gets, I think Keenum can do just enough to squeak one by us.  Maybe this one ends with a late Seahawks drive falling short with a pick in the endzone.  Denver 24, Seattle 17.

@ Chicago – I do think the Bears will be much improved, particularly with another year for Vic Fangio to ramp up that defense.  I just don’t know if Trubisky has what it takes.  This one should be a good barometer of the Seahawks’ season, though.  If we’re truly an 8-8 type team, we win this game.  If we’re doomed to bottom out entirely in 2018, then notch this one in the loss column.  I think there’s enough talent in Seattle to steal one, but it won’t be easy.  Seattle 19, Chicago 17.

Dallas – Loss.  No doubt about it.  The Cowboys’ running game will stomp us into hamburger, their quick-strike passing attack will befuddle us, and if our offense can’t keep up in a shootout, this one could be a laugher.  Dallas 33, Seattle 21.

@ Arizona – Sam Bradford?  Please.  The Seahawks go down to their winter home and take another shockingly easy W.  Seattle 27, Arizona 13.

L.A. Rams – Loss.  No doubt about it.  Did you ever think the Seahawks would start out their home schedule 0-2?  Don’t say I didn’t warn you when it happens.  This one PROBABLY won’t be as embarrassing as last year’s loss to the Rams … but it also might be.  Los Angeles 38, Seattle 18.

@ Oakland – I got this as a win.  I don’t know if the Raiders are very good, and I don’t know if Jon Gruden is very good.  I do think this game will be fun, and potentially high scoring.  Seattle 34, Oakland 27.

BYE – So, through six weeks, I have the Seahawks with a 3-3 record, having shockingly gone 3-1 on the road.  Let’s see if that holds up.

@ Detroit – This one has loss written all over it.  Every year, the Seahawks play at least one road game where they come out looking great, but gag it up in the end.  I think the Lions have offense for days and they’ll easily exploit our depleted secondary.  Detroit 38, Seattle 31.

L.A. Chargers – Don’t love this matchup.  I never love a matchup with this Seahawks defense against Philip Rivers, because he fucking carves us up every fucking time.  Los Angeles 35, Seattle 20.

@ L.A. Rams – One more loss to throw on the pile; things are looking BLEAK here folks!  I think the defense will show up a little better this time, but there’s still no doing anything against that Rams squad.  Los Angeles 24, Seattle 6.

Green Bay – Fuck you Packers, we’re winning this one!  With no time to prepare, and no time to fret over this 3-game losing streak, everyone will have written off the Seahawks by this point (if they haven’t already, like I have), and they’ll come out like a ball of lightning.  Seattle 36, Green Bay 28.

@ Carolina – Fuck you Panthers, we’re winning this one too!  One of those old school grudge matches.  Seattle 17, Carolina 13.

San Francisco – Fuck you 49ers, we’re also winning this one!  You don’t think the fans in this one are going to be fucking insane?  With all day to drink and stew over the return of Richard Sherman?  With the Seahawks and 49ers likely to be pretty close to one another in record (and probably fighting over the same Wild Card spot)?  I see a touchdown being scored on Sherm and I see the Seahawks running away with this one.  Seattle 26, San Francisco 10.

Minnesota – Here’s where the winning streak comes to an end.  Too much defense with these Vikings.  I think we hold our own against Cousins and their offense, but it won’t be enough.  Minnesota 13, Seattle 3.

@ San Francisco – We’re dropping this one too.  The 49ers are probably better than the Seahawks right now, and this will put them over the top.  San Francisco 19, Seattle 16.

Kansas City – I like this one to be a win.  First year starter at quarterback, who knows if he’ll hold up let alone be any good?  I think the Seahawks impose their will on the ground and grind out a close one.  Seattle 24, Kansas City 23.

Arizona – Who will be Arizona’s starting quarterback by week 17?  Not Sam Bradford, that’s for damn sure!  The Cards will be falling apart by this point and the Seahawks will cruise.  Seattle 30, Arizona 10.

Any way you slice it, that’s 8-8.  They’ll be a streaky team, they’ll deflate us, then get our hopes up, then break our hearts again.  Wake me when it’s 2019.

Seahawks Signed Sebastian Janikowski

With nothing to write about today, I found myself checking out the Seahawks brand hats on their store webpage.  They all kind of suck hard, particularly the new one that says “We Are 12” or whatever, with the fucked up looking flag.  It’s pretty absurd how terrible almost all of the Seahawks hats are; the logo just doesn’t look good on a hat for whatever reason!  It’s big and weird looking.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the logo itself; but it’s clearly made for a football helmet, and not for the average fan to wear on the front of his or her forehead (also, don’t get me started on that alternate logo where the Seahawk is looking right at you with both eyes).  The Mariners don’t often do anything well, but they stomp the Seahawks into the ground when it comes to hat selection.

Anyway, seeming to notice my extreme antipathy towards their head gear, the signing of a backup quarterback who’s never played a down in the NFL, as well as the recent non-story of working out or not working out Colin Kaepernick (for no other reason than to kick the hornet’s nest of online outrage, and thoroughly ruin today’s sports radio shows with nonstop talk of this utter nonsense), the Seahawks finally did something competent and signed Sebastian Janikowski to a 1-year deal.  I don’t have any more info than that.

I assume there’s little-to-nothing guaranteed.  I also assume he’ll be in a pre-season position battle with that Jason Myers guy.  Both guys, I would think, have strong legs, so it’s going to come down to accuracy.  My hunch is, if Janikowski is 100% healthy from his back injury that kept him out of all 2017 (and caused the Raiders to cut him, in lieu of paying him upwards of $4 million, as a 40 year old man), he’ll be the more accurate kicker.  My other hunch is that if the kicking battle is close at all, the team will defer to keeping the younger, cheaper, and presumably more contract-controlled Myers.

If I had to guess, I’d say it won’t be close, Janikowski will blow him out of the water, and we’ll have an interesting set of decisions to make about our kicking game again in 2019 and beyond.  For now, just to get the taste of Blair Fucking Walsh out of all of our mouths, I’d be okay with a rental year of an aging, dependable veteran.

I’m not asking for the moon and stars here; just make a high percentage of kicks from 40 yards and in, and an average percentage of kicks from 40-49 yards, with a few clutch 50+ yarders mixed in.  That shouldn’t be too much to motherfucking ask from a motherfucking professional motherfucking football placekicker, should it?

God I hate Blair Walsh so fucking much.

The Mariners Won That Series In Kansas City

It’s been a really busy week, so I’m keeping this brief.  After blowing the Minnesota home opener, the M’s routed the Twins on Saturday behind some solid Mike Leake pitching and a ton of hitting up and down the lineup.

Sunday’s game was snowed out.  It will be made up at the end of a road trip in mid-May.

On Monday, the Mariners were destroyed 10-0 in the series opener with the Royals.  The M’s got exactly 2 hits – both singles – and 2 walks.  On top of that, Marco Gonzales got absolutely murdered and wasn’t able to get out of the third inning.  2.1, 8 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts.  Meanwhile, Tyler O’Neill is motherfucking tearing shit up in AAA for the Cardinals, so GREAT FUCKING TRADE DIPOTO.

Don’t think I’m not going to bring up this trade each and every time Gonzales takes a dick in the ass this year, before he’s either ultimately traded for peanuts on the dollar or given his outright release.  What a crock of shit deal.

Anyway, the M’s were able to shrug that off and come back strong, winning 8-3 on Tuesday.  Felix had an okay start (5.2, 3 runs, 6 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts), and the top of the lineup did top of the lineup things.  Shout out to Jean Segura, who was a homer short of the cycle in this one.  Also, shout out to Seager for starting to bust out of his early-season slump in this one, with a 2-RBI double to really sock the game away.

Then, on get-away day yesterday, the Mariners earned a hard-fought 4-2 victory.  Paxton got the no decision, going 6, giving up 2 runs off of 6 hits & 1 walk, with a whopping 10 strikeouts.  Safe to say he’s rounding into mid-season form (so his DL stint should be any day now).  Seager was the hero in this one, kicking off the scoring with a sac fly in the first, then homering in the go-ahead runs when the game was tied 2-2.  Rock solid bullpen work followed, with Nick Vincent getting the win, Juan Nicasio getting the hold, and Edwin Diaz getting his 4th save of the new year.

The Mariners are now 6-4 and have easily played the fewest games in the AL West.  Another off-day today only exacerbates that figure.  Predictably, the M’s are in third place.  The Angels are on a hot streak, at 10-3, and the Astros are the Astros, at 9-4.  Shohei Ohtani is annoyingly amazing, and I hate every single person on the planet.

I do think there’s reason for optimism with the way the Mariners have played so far, but let’s not go crazy.  Lots of off-days have us as a very well-rested ballclub; let’s see what this team is made of when it has to play 20 games in 20 days or whatever bullshit this schedule has in store.  Also, we’ve yet to see a fifth starter in the rotation.  Is anyone excited by Ariel Miranda’s minor league mediocrity thus far?  Is anyone even remotely confident in Erasmo Ramirez, whenever he returns from the DL?  We’ve already got Marco Gonzales stinking up the joint at least half the time, and Felix is going to be an adventure every time out, so all the problems we had heading into the season are still there.

But, yes, 6-4 with the imminent return of Nelson Cruz, Mike Zunino, and Ben Gamel is pretty fun.  Also, this early-season schedule has been pretty easy.  Going forward, aside from the games against Houston and Cleveland, the rest of the month of April looks do-able.

Oakland’s coming up this weekend.  Let’s just keep winning and see what happens, huh?

The Mariners Blew The Minnesota Home Opener

There was a time early last season when I took it upon myself to try and track the numbers for Mariners hitters with RISP.  That was because the M’s started off abnormally bad in this area, and I was curious to see how bad it could get, or how long that badness would remain.  Those numbers started to normalize as we got into late April and May, but for a while there, it was pretty dire!  And the team really struggled as a result.

I don’t know if that’s been as big of an issue thus far, through a week’s worth of games, but a performance like yesterday (2/17 with RISP) is pretty much as bad as it gets.  The Mariners were getting on base like crazy yesterday, with 8 hits, 4 walks, and 2 Twins errors.  There were only 2 clean innings for the Twins’ pitching staff/defense, and yet the Mariners were only able to muster 2 fucking runs, both in the first inning.  Pathetic, all the way around, and a game the Mariners absolutely should’ve won, Cruz or no Cruz.

For a while there, it looked like we might pull it out.  Paxton was dealing through five innings.  But, getting into that third time through the lineup, Joe Mauer singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth, and Miguel Sano smashed him in with a 2-run jack.  It’s funny how much lip service the Mariners were paying to this notion of limiting the exposure of our starting pitching, and utilizing this massive bullpen we’ve accumulated.  But, Scott Servais has really just been managing like every other fucking manager since the dawn of time.  We’re in the midst of 4 off days in 2 weeks; there will never be this many rest days outside of the All Star Break the rest of the season.  Also, we’re rocking a 4-man rotation, which means we have an 8-man bullpen.  No one as of yet has been worked to death.  And we ALL know the numbers of just about every single hitter when he sees the same pitcher for the third time in a game.  And yeah, I get it, Paxton’s pitch count was low, and he was kicking ass up to that point.  But, how many times do you see that?  It happens ALL THE TIME.  Guys dominate, then they get into the 6th inning or whatever, and all of a sudden the other team is hitting tee shots off of him.  All it takes is a weird bloop single and one bad pitch that catches too much of the plate, and BAM, 2-run home run.  A 2-0 game becomes a 2-2 game.  Then, you try to squeeze an extra few outs out of Dan Altavilla, and BAM again, you’re down 3-2.  Then, the stupid fucking umpire botches an OBVIOUS called strike 3, followed by the hitter taking that gift and turning it into another solo homer on the very next pitch, and BAM, it’s 4-2 and you’re sucking Fernando Rodney’s arrow-shaped dick in the ninth.

Just stop pissing down my leg and telling me it’s raining, that’s all.  If you’re going to talk about lightening the loads of these starting pitchers, then STICK TO IT!  Pull them after the second time through the lineup (unless the offense has it out of reach, but only walk that tightrope if we have a 3 run lead or more).  THIS IS WHERE THE GAME IS GOING!  Shorter starting stints, and supplement that with longer bullpen arms.  Altavilla is never going to be a competent multi-inning reliever; he’s a 1-and-done guy.  I’m talking about having more Wade LeBlancs, more Casey Lawrences, and save those hyper-power arms for the 8th and 9th innings.

One more note about the offense before I close this out.  8 hits, none of them for extra bases.  That’s fucking absurd.  I know with Cruz and Zunino out, our power is limited, but where are the doubles?  Yeah, it’s nice that Vogelbach had 2 more hits to add to his hot start, but where’s the power?  What about Jean Segura?  He had 30+ doubles the last two years; he’s got 2 through 6 games so far.  And Ryon Healy, so help me God, what a fucking BUST this guy is!  WHOSE DICK DO YOU GOTTA SUCK TO BRING IN EVEN A DECENT-HITTING FIRST BASEMAN???  Also, you still spell your name like a fucking asshole.

Another Friday off-day.  Cool.

The Mariners Had Their Asses Handed To Them In San Francisco

Look, this just isn’t going to be the greatest road trip in the history of the world unless the pitching shows up.

The Mariners are 2-1 since Nelson Cruz was injured, but don’t let the winning record in the small sample size fool you.  This team is severely hamstrung without their best power hitter locking down the middle of that lineup.  Haniger and Cano, God bless ’em, are doing the lord’s work driving in runs; as are Gordon and Segura, getting on base.  But everyone Seager and below in the lineup is pretty mediocre right now, and I don’t care if you’re the cluster-luckiest team in all of Major League Baseball, you’re not going to win many games with only 4 guys producing.  Thankfully, the stupid series with the Giants is over after only 2 games, so we don’t have to suffer our stupid pitchers trying to swing a bat again until the middle of July.

Of course, you’re not going to win many games if your starting pitcher gives up 8 runs in 4 innings either.  It hurts my heart whenever King Felix struggles, so I’m not going to dwell on it too much.  I mean, what sort of cold-hearted bastard gets mad at Old Yeller for succumbing to rabies; IT’S NOT HIS FAULT ALSO I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE THE ONE WHO IS CRYING!

We had a less-than-stellar James Pazos sighting, as well as an inning-gobbling appearance out of Wade LeBlanc to save the rest of our bullpen ahead of today’s sub-freezing game in Minnesota.

On the hitting side of things, guys sort of got theirs, but Johnny Cueto did an excellent job of spreading out the damage and avoiding the big inning (which, unfortunately, with zero command of his fastball, Felix couldn’t match).  Gordon and Cano both had a couple singles apiece; Haniger had a hit and two walks to rub it in everyone’s faces that he’s got the best approach at the plate right now; Mike Marjama had the first hit of his 2018 season (and a double to boot); but Dan Vogelbach was the star of the show (so to speak), with his two hits, including an RBI double (the only run the Mariners would score all day).

Look, these things happen, and I get that.  But, as I’ve been preaching all week, this team is in desperate need of the bottom of its lineup to start pulling its weight.  I hope, like I’ve never hoped before, that we eventually get to see this team at full strength, with Cruz, Zunino, and Gamel all back to full strength and starting everyday (along with all the other starters we have going now).  I have no doubt Cruz is a major upgrade over anyone else at DH; same with Zunino over anyone else at Catcher; same with Gamel over the likes of Ichiro or Heredia in left field.  At that point, I think the weakest part of the lineup is at first base, and I’m not so sure we wouldn’t be better off with Vogelbach getting the lion’s share of starts over there (with Healy in a strict platoon against left-handed pitching).

Also, I’ll say this:  if Ichiro doesn’t get hot at the plate in a hurry, I think he could be waived just as soon as Gamel is ready to come off the DL.  Clock’s ticking for our Hall of Famer; I hope the Mariners do the right thing here.

Mariners Offense Continues Humming Along

With Nelson Cruz joining Mike Zunino, Ben Gamel, David Phelps, and Erasmo Ramirez on the DL, I’ll admit I didn’t have the highest of hopes for the Mariners yesterday.  We’re rolling with two nobodies at catcher, left field and first base haven’t provided a whole lot on the offensive side of the ball, and there we were in San Francisco, playing in a National League park.  With Seager’s usual early-season struggles in full effect, it seemed like a day where the offense might shit the bed.  And, with Marco Gonzales on the mound, I more than have my doubts that he can hold it together this season.

Happily, my fears were unfounded, at least for a day.  Though, with these injuries to Cruz and Zunino, the bottom of the order is pretty pathetic.  The bulk of the damage yesterday was done by hitters 1-5 (Gordon, Segura, Cano, Haniger, Seager).  Sure, Healy & Heredia both had their first hits of the season, but neither is really going to be an offensive force this year (or ever); more like complementary players who might chip in some production here and there.

While it was nice to see Seager get a couple hits and a walk, the top four guys are really dominating so far this season.  Dee Gordon was 3/5 with 2 stolen bases and a run scored.  Jean Segura was 3/4 with a walk and 2 runs scored.  Cano was 1/4 with a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored.  And Haniger continues to be this team’s MVP through four games, going 1/5 with a run and 2 RBI.  Here’s hoping his hot streak continues at least until Cruz can come back.

Marco Gonzales looked about as impressive as I’ve ever seen him through 6 innings yesterday.  At that point, he’d only given up 1 run off of 4 hits, 0 walks, and 1 strikeout on a measly 80 pitches.  So, it made perfect sense to try to squeeze one more inning out of him.  Heading into the bottom of the seventh, the M’s were up 6-1.  Gonzo struck out the leadoff hitter, but that was followed by a single and a 2-run homer (on a pitch that was about as middle-middle as they get) to unceremoniously end his day.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a great way to start his season (probably the most important season of his professional career), but God damn would it have been a lot cooler to see him only give up the 1 run.  Not that I think a late-game 2-run homer will completely shatter his confidence, but I do think confidence is his friend, and the more of it he has, the better off we’ll all be.  Don’t forget, he’s out of options.  It’s not like we can just stash him in Tacoma for another season to work on his craft.  It’s now or never!

Nick Vincent got us out of the seventh with a couple scary-looking fly-outs.  Juan Nicasio struggled in his second consecutive appearance (giving up 3 hits and 1 run to make things interesting and get Dan Altavilla warming up in the bullpen).  It did look like he was starting to throw harder than before, so maybe he’s still rounding into shape.  I’m still sort of expecting him to land on the DL any day now with arm issues that will explain away why he’s looked so mediocre through three outings.  Thankfully, Edwin Diaz is still red hot, as he closed out the game with no trouble.

I still have a lot of concerns about this offense as we continue on this week without two of our biggest boppers.  Things look okay now, because we’re 3-1, but after we leave Frisco we’ve gotta go to Minnesota and Kansas City before we start to see some guys return.  In that time, we’re gonna need some of these guys who aren’t hitting to pick it up in a big way.  I don’t think cluster luck is going to be our friend for too much longer.

The Mariners Kicked Off 2018 With A Series Win Over The Indians

Saturday didn’t go quite as expected, following Thursday’s miracle victory over Corey Kluber on Opening Day.  James Paxton took the hill for Game 2 and was supposed to dominate, as is his Canadian way.  Instead, he was blasted for a first inning Grand Slam, and ultimately gave up 6 runs in just under 5 innings to take the L.  The bullpen – led by Casey Lawrence’s 2.2 innings of shutout relief – kept the team in it, as the offense chipped away at the deficit.  Homers by Haniger and Cruz (and RBI singles by Cano and Segura) made it a 6-5 game, but that’s where it remained, as the M’s really couldn’t do anything against Cleveland’s superior late-inning relief corps.

This put Sunday’s game in real jeopardy.  Thankfully, the pitching and hitting were up to the task.

Mike Leake started off the year just as strong as he finished 2017, going 7 innings, giving up just 2 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 4.  RBI doubles by Segura and Seager tied the game in the fifth inning, and homers by Gordon and Haniger put the game away in the seventh.  Juan Nicasio did his damnedest to almost blow it in the eighth, with a 2-run homer given up.  But, Edwin Diaz was on fire in the ninth to put the game away, and earn his second save of the short season.

Mitch Haniger is on an absolute tear through three games, with a double, 2 homers, 3 RBI, and a whopping 2.227 OPS.  Cano, Cruz, and Gordon are all off to hot starts at the plate as well (though Cruz apparently twisted his ankle on Saturday – after his second homer in two games – and may or may not miss some extended time).  Segura started to pick things up in yesterday’s game, and Ichiro and Seager have had their moments.

The defense played particularly well in this series, with Gordon flashing the leather all over the place.  Ichiro stole a homer on Saturday.  The backup catchers (with Zunino starting the season on the DL) have blocked a number of important pitches, and Ryon Healy – while doing nothing with his bat – has picked a number of tough balls on throws to first.

The injury to Cruz follows in a long line of hilarious injuries, as he did it while slipping on stairs in the dugout or some damn thing.  I mean, what fucking ancient gypsy witch cursed this team?  If you find out, let me know so we can cut her fucking heart out.  I’d like to say when he and Zunino return, this team is going to look unstoppable on offense, but that would presume we won’t have another five injuries happen between now and then!

Still, pretty cool to take 2/3 against the Indians, who look great and figure to be in the hunt for the best record in baseball.  Now, we hit the road, and for some reason have three more off-days in the next two weeks.  We also feature as the opponent in home openers for San Francisco (tomorrow) and Minnesota (Thursday).  Also, lots of day games in this stretch, so it’s truly one of the oddest starts to a season in recent memory.

Tomorrow, Marco Gonzales gets his first start of the season, before the rotation turns over with Felix again on Wednesday.  Assuming Cruz won’t play the next few days, I’m curious to see what we’ve got in Dan Vogelbach.  Ryon Healy already looks pretty miserable at the plate, and Vogelbach wasn’t able to muster much more than a few futile swings and misses in his start at DH yesterday.  The long national nightmare of a black hole at first base continues apace.

A Cool Thing Happened At The Mariners Game Last Night

They won!  One down, 64 left to go, RIGHT SHEEPLE???

I can be as sour on this season as I wanna be, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying a delightful Opening Night Mariners game with a sold-out crowd (apparently the largest regular season crowd ever for a Mariners game in Safeco Field?  Even though I’m pretty sure it holds 48,000 seats and last night’s number fell just short of that?).  I met up with some friends at Slugger’s for a few rounds of Coors Banquet Beer tallboys right around 3pm until it was time to mosey on over to the stadium.  I don’t know if the fans were smarter about getting inside earlier, or if the Mariners organization was indeed moving things along at a faster clip, but I was inside in a matter of moments and I didn’t need a CLEAR membership to do it.

I like to get 200-level seats whenever we’re going to a game that’s going to be at or near a sellout.  What you sacrifice in food options, you more than make up for with better seats, clear sightlines, less people getting up and getting in your way every inning, and a quicker time in and out of the bathroom.  It’s really a no-brainer.  Also, as I really wanted to try the new donut place (spoiler alert:  couldn’t find it), it was easy to just walk downstairs and make a loop around the stadium before the game started.  I actually did this during the pre-game introductions, which is fine.  Red carpet, lots of clapping and fireworks, I get it.

I had a pizza slice, a couple of hot dogs, and I got to try Dippin’ Dots for the first time ever.  I’ve always been partial to, you know, actual ice cream, though I tend to gravitate to soft serve in a mini-helmet when I’m at the game, but I think at the time the soft serve machines were still “warming up” so to speak.  I’ve always wanted to try Dippin’ Dots and even though I’m not a child, I decided to get a cup at an open stand.  BOY were they disappointing!  I don’t know what I was expecting, but the ice cream of the future can suck it!

Then, it was gametime.  Felix Hernandez pitched to contact, kept his pitch count relatively low, limited hits and walks, and still found 4 guys to whiff.  All told, he was pulled after 5.1 innings (after he gave up his second walk of the evening) of shutout ball, and the game was put in the hands of the bullpen.

The M’s jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first after Cano had a 2-out single and Cruz followed with a first pitch bomb to dead centerfield.  The score stayed that way until the 7th, when the Indians – off of Nick Vincent – got 3 hits to manufacture a run.  He held the damage there, Juan Nicasio did his job in a clean 8th, bridging us to Edwin Diaz.  Sugar worked around a couple HBP’s, striking out the side with the go-ahead runs in scoring position.  It was a tightwire act, to be sure, but it was good enough to hold up for a 2-1 victory.

The Mariners’ offense did about as well as I could’ve hoped against the likes of Corey Kluber, who went the distance for the Indians, sprinkling around 6 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 8.  It was a hard-luck loss for the ace, but it’s impossible not to come away impressed with how the Mariners pitched in this one.  I know it’s 1/162, but still.

While all the games won’t be as low scoring as this one, I think this is a textbook example of what most Mariners wins are going to look like.  Felix more or less controlled the game through 5 innings, but at the very first sight of trouble in the top of the 6th (that 1-out walk), Scott Servais was out of the dugout and had no qualms about pulling his Opening Day starter.  I know that Felix was more or less on a pitch count regardless – as he didn’t have much of a Spring (coming back from that hit on the arm) – but I think it says a lot that he made it through 5 innings at less than 80 pitches, and the team automatically had guys warming up in the bullpen.  I feel like that’s going to be the norm for a lot of starters on this team; I doubt we’ll see Servais out there asking Felix how he’s feeling, or if he’s got one more left in him.  Similarly, I don’t think we’ll see Felix argue his way into staying in games once he’s reached that point.  It’s a new day, Seattle!

The bullpen shook out like I expected.  Dan Altavilla came in for Felix and got a double play to end the threat.  Scrabble started the next inning, got his one out, and was pulled for Vincent.  Vincent struggled, as I thought he might (he too didn’t really have much of a Spring, after being over-worked in 2017).  I hope he’s able to work through this and turn back into the guy he was for most of last year, but I’m fearing for the worst at this point.  Hopefully Altavilla will be able to take that next step and be our 7th inning guy (and 8th inning guy when Nicasio can’t go).  Nicasio’s stuff didn’t look too electric, but it’s tough for me to tell from where I was in the stands.  I feel like he knows how to pitch, though, and he went right after the batters in front of him.  Consummate 8th inning guy; here’s hoping the combo of him and Diaz are able to really shorten these games.  As for Sugar, I guess we’ll see.  It was an adventure last night (I was convinced he was going to give up the tying run and we’d head to extra innings), and I think it’s going to be an adventure on most nights.  He’s 1 for 1 in save opportunities, so that’s all that really matters I guess.

All in all, a really fun day.  That was pretty much the only way the Mariners were going to beat someone like Kluber, so I’m glad the pitching staff was able to hold it together.  Now, we head into the weekend (with a stupid off-day today) at a pretty good advantage, with Paxton set to go tomorrow, and Leake there to go on Sunday.  If you gave me 2 of 3 right now, I’d gladly accept and fast forward to next week.

As for the hitters, we saw Dee Gordon get his first in a Mariners uniform (as well as a walk), but no stolen bases just yet.  Segura had a rough night, going 0-4 and grounding into a double play.  Those first inning hits were the only ones for Cano and Cruz, but boy were they massive!  Mitch Haniger was the rest of the offense, going 3 for 3 with a double.  On pace to bat 1.000 with 162 doubles!  Zunino was a late scratch with some tightness, and Mike Marjama stepped in like a champ.  Hope Z’s okay going forward.  And Ichiro got the start in left field (which was weird to see).  He made a nice catch at the wall and had a chance to drive in a run, but ended up going 0 for 2 with a strikeout before being pulled late for defensive reasons.  He’s still coming back from injury too, so I don’t know if I’d read too much into that.  I do think Heredia is a better defensive outfielder at this point – and if the M’s had their druthers, he’d get the bulk of the playing time over Ichiro – but I think for now they’re going to go with a straight platoon in left until Gamel returns.

Here we go!  Baseball’s back!  We’re doing it live!

My 2-Part Mariners Preview: My Expectations For 2018

Wish in one hand, shit in the other.  You get the idea.

And so here we are, Opening Day.  We’re all overflowing with optimism.  Well, not all of us.  Super annoying baseball fans are overflowing with optimism, but what do they know?  They’re just excited baseball’s back, as if it’s not the longest death march every fucking year.  Six months of this shit, plus a month of playoffs (or, hell, maybe more).  It starts today and lasts the rest of our fucking lives.

You want my opinion on the 2018 season?  MOOD.

I dunno, I feel like I’ve written this same exact fucking preview every year for the last decade.  Honestly, I can see this season going one of two ways:  either the Mariners do shock the world and break the playoff-less streak, or they completely and totally fall apart and end up with a Top 5 draft pick next year.  I don’t think there’s a middle-ground, at all.  And, if I were a betting man, I’d bet the ol’ farm on the latter.

So, let’s get into it.  Let’s talk about the plan; the bundle of twine and duct tape holding the season together.  Let’s see how Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais try to MacGyver their way to contention.

The Rotation

  • Felix Hernandez
  • James Paxton
  • Mike Leake
  • Marco Gonzales
  • Erasmo Ramirez
  • Ariel Miranda
  • Andrew Moore
  • Rob Whalen
  • Chase De Jong
  • Wade LeBlanc
  • Hisashi Iwakuma?

Normally, I just hit you with a 5-man rotation (in this case, the top five names, whenever Ramirez gets healthy), but why bother stopping there?  Ramirez is ALREADY injured, and while they say they won’t need the fifth spot in the rotation until April 11th or some damn thing, you know he won’t be healthy by then, so that puts Ariel Miranda (blessedly starting the season in Tacoma, where he belongs) in line for at least one start.  Quite frankly, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if he’s called up sooner than April 11th because someone ELSE got injured.  I’m looking at Felix, I’m looking at Paxton, I’m looking at Marco Gonzales.  Pick your poison!

And believe me, they’re all poison.  I’d start aligning your expectations with mine pretty soon, because there’s no saving this rotation.  It’s abysmal.  Felix is not the Felix of old and he’s never going to be.  He’s going to give up annoying dingers with his nothing fastball, he’s going to walk a ton of guys because hitters have been told to lay off the changeup, and he’ll kinda sorta keep the Mariners in a lot of games, but only if the offense comes to play.

Paxton is great, but obviously can’t stay healthy and never will.  It’s always some damn thing, and the saving grace has always been that it’s never anything really serious.  It’s never a bad shoulder or elbow injury … but you know they’re coming.  It’s only a matter of time.  And, when those injuries hit, his career is pretty much over.  Maybe just rent property in the Maple Grove, don’t buy.

I like the IDEA of Mike Leake more than I think I like the actual pitcher.  I think he’s just okay, but far from special.  He’ll be like Felix in a different way; he’ll probably keep this team in a lot of games (again, if the offense shows up), but he’s rarely going to wow you with his stuff or blow other teams away.

I don’t even really like the idea of Marco Gonzales, much less the actual pitcher.  I think it was a bust of a trade that brought him here, I think he’s only in the rotation because he’s out of minor league options, and while he had a good Spring Training, we all know that means nothing.  These types of pitchers (go ahead and throw Erasmo Ramirez into the mix – who had a great stretch of starts last year, but don’t expect THAT to last), who are just gifted a spot on a 25-man roster due to being out of options, RARELY end up panning out.  If they were worth a damn, they would’ve solidified their status as bona fide Major Leaguers a long time ago.  What are the odds they manage to put it all together – COINCIDENTALLY – the same year they run out of minor league options?  You see my point.

The rest of those guys are just guys.  Iwakuma will never pitch in the Major Leagues again.  Wade LeBlanc has been brought in to be a long reliever, but I could see him getting a spot start or two.  Andrew Moore sucked last year, and didn’t really wow anyone with his Spring.  Chase De Jong is just a guy.  And, while Rob Whalen turned some heads (until his disaster of a final start back on the 18th), he also appears to be just a guy.

The plan with this rotation is to try and limit their innings to 5-6 per start, in the hopes of keeping guys fresh and healthy, and limit the damage opposing offenses can do the third & fourth times through a lineup.  So, the day-to-day management on Servais’ shoulders is going to be pretty hefty.  That’s also going to put a high burden on the bullpen to pick up the slack.  And, since Major League Baseball has stubbornly refused to expand gameday rosters beyond 25 players (in spite of the fact that the game is obviously going in this direction, and therefore teams will need more arms than ever before), that either means over-working your ‘pen, playing with a smaller bench (as it is, there’s usually room for no more than 4 players on your bench, and 1 of those guys has to be a backup catcher), or running guys back and forth from Tacoma to Seattle.  The problem, of course, is when too many starters have too many games in a row where they’re not pitching enough innings, the bullpen is gassed, there aren’t any off-days, there aren’t any guys to bring up from Tacoma, and you’re essentially throwing games away because you just need the starter to pick the team up, regardless of how terrible he is.  With a team like this Mariners team – that often finds itself (in recent seasons) only a handful of games out of the playoffs – they can ill-afford to just throw games away.  Sure, it’s a marathon and all that, but it’s a marathon that ultimately comes down to a couple seconds at the finish line.

I think the Mariners are doing the best with what they have, and the plan is sound in my mind.  But, the pitchers just aren’t good.  And the ones that are good aren’t reliable.  It’s easy for me to see a similar deluge of injuries happening this year, and the whole season just falling apart.

The Bullpen

  • Edwin Diaz
  • Juan Nicasio
  • Nick Vincent
  • James Pazos
  • Marc Rzepczynski
  • Dan Altavilla
  • Casey Lawrence
  • Wade LeBlanc

There are obviously a number of guys starting out in Tacoma, so I’ll stick with the Opening Day 8 for the time being.  Right off the bat, the Mariners lost David Phelps for the season, as I believe he’s going in for Tommy John surgery.  That was going to be a huge part of our late-inning dominance.  Recall we just traded a bunch of prospects to the Marlins for his services before the deadline last year, where he made all of 10 appearances before being shut down with an injury.  Now, he’s out for all of 2018, and this is the final year of his deal before he’s a free agent.  So, not only did we throw a bunch of prospects away, but we wasted $5.5 million dollars this year, just so he can go out next year and pitch for somebody else.  Why would he stay?  Why would the Mariners commit to spending more money on him?  This is Drew Smyly all over again.  GREAT TRADE DIPOTO!

As for the guys who are here, there’s a lot to like about Edwin Diaz and Juan Nicasio.  But, of course, when will Diaz turn back into a pumpkin?  All our other closers – dating back to, I want to say, Kaz Sasaki – have had 1-2 good years before falling apart.  Well, Diaz has been up here for around 1.5 years, so it’s time for him to suck.  As for Nicasio, I’m getting a real Joaquin Benoit vibe.  Remember that guy?  He was around forever, never got hurt, was always a reliable 8th inning guy?  Then, when he donned a Mariners jersey, he was hurt within the first month of the season?  I’m just saying, let’s see the guy do something for a couple months before we get too excited.

Nick Vincent was a workhorse and our most reliable pitcher in 2017.  Of course, he got tuckered out in September, due to all the overuse, so they took it easy on him this Spring.  Yeah, I feel like that’s a bad sign.  If he’s not an arm injury waiting to happen, he’s certainly a terrible pitching season waiting to happen.  Pass.

Lefties Pazos and Scrabble should be okay, but you never know.  Tony Zych was finally shit-canned because he can’t stay healthy; that’s a bummer.  I loved his stuff and thought he had really dominant potential.  In his place, Altavilla has won a job.  He was all over the place last year, but it wouldn’t shock me to see him settle down and have a good year.  Might take a while for this team to realize how much better he is than someone like Vincent (who I expect to struggle early and often), but they’ll probably have no choice but to use Altavilla in some high-leverage situations before too long.

Then, we’ve got a couple of long relievers.  The Mariners brought in Wade LeBlanc, who I guess has been converted to relief?  He’s got no minor league options, so either he comes here and eats up innings like a champ, or he’s cut.  The problem with this signing is, if he’s not absolutely terrific, I have a hard time seeing him stick on the 25-man roster.  This team likes to bring guys up from Tacoma far too often, and needs relievers with minor league options so they can dick them around.  That’s why I like the chances of someone like Casey Lawrence (who I assume still has options, but I refuse to go online to research).  Lawrence had a bonzer Spring Training and essentially came out of nowhere to win a job in the Bigs (he was a starter last year, brought up & down a few times when guys got injured, but wasn’t anything special).  I assume if he does well, he’ll STILL be sent back and forth to and from Tacoma, because Mariners gonna Mariners.

Having a couple of innings-eaters in your bullpen is going to be critical, so here’s hoping those guys manage to keep us in enough games to be relevant.  But, the more of our back-end of the bullpen guys get injured or otherwise have terrible years, the higher the chances this entire house of cards comes crashing down.  To make the playoffs, the Mariners will need to have one of the 5 best bullpens in the American League (maybe even Top 3), to compensate for that disaster of a starting rotation.  Do these guys inspire that sort of confidence?  I gotta say, replacing David Phelps with Wade LeBlanc is a BAD start to this season that’s only going to get worse from here.

The Everyday Players

  1. Dee Gordon (CF)
  2. Jean Segura (SS)
  3. Robinson Cano (2B)
  4. Nelson Cruz (DH)
  5. Kyle Seager (3B)
  6. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  7. Ryon Healy (1B)
  8. Mike Zunino (C)
  9. Ichiro (LF)
  • Mike Marjama (C)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B)
  • Guillermo Heredia (OF)
  • Andrew Romine (INF)
  • Ben Gamel (OF) – DL
  • Taylor Motter (OF/INF) – Tacoma

I like that lineup.  I like it a lot more with Ben Gamel in the fold, but we probably won’t see him at his best for a while.

I expect Gordon to be fine defensively, but I do expect him to struggle at the plate.  That’ll be rough.  I think Segura will be fine.  I think Cano will be okay (I think we’re still in the gradual stage of his decline; I don’t believe the cliff is here yet).  I think Cruz will have his ups and downs (I could see him succumbing more to injury this year than his past 4 years combined).  Kyle Seager is what he is and I’m going to stop trying to wish into existence another level to his game.  I think Hangier will be good when healthy, but again I think he’ll rarely be healthy.  I think Healy is sort of a nothing guy who might have a few good games here and there, but for the most part will be mediocre.  I think Zunino will be great!  I like him to make a big jump in his game!  Not only will he NOT be sent down to Tacoma to work on his swing, but I think he’ll be in the conversation for the All Star Game (and might even make the team as a backup).  As for Ichiro, I can only see it ending badly.  Final year with Griffey bad.  Like, waived in the first month or two bad.  He’s got no power, he’s down in speed, he had pretty much no Spring Training, and he’s coming off of a minor injury.  Just seems like a recipe for immediate disaster.

I’m interested to see what Marjama brings; I have no opinion one way or the other on what his season will be like.  Vogelbach is the story of Spring Training, but that won’t last.  He won’t get much in the way of playing time, and when he does get a start, he won’t make the most of his opportunities.  Heredia is a nice bench outfielder; hope he’s fully healthy.  Romine is a guy; I could see him getting waived in favor of Motter (who also is just a guy, but a younger, cheaper guy).

This season will go down the toilet in a hurry if guys like Cano, Cruz, and Seager all struggle.  I like Segura to hit, but I could see his power continue to be limited by Safeco and this cold Seattle weather.  And, of course, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that younger guys like Haniger and Zunino do struggle at the plate (injuries aside) and this team is left scrambling.  For the most part, I believe the offense will be okay, and I don’t think ALL those bad things will happen, but I don’t think the offense is good enough to compensate for the shitty pitching.  Frankly, I don’t think ANY offense would be good enough to compensate for the shitty pitching on this team.

The last couple times the Mariners really bottomed out, we went 61-101 (in 2008 & 2010).  I could see something around that number yet again.  My prediction?

65-97

The 2018 Seattle Mariners:  Feel The Excitement It’s Faaaaannnn-Tastic Suck Our Dicks, You’re Just Here For The Beer & Fried Crickets Anyway!