The Mariners Lost Another Series, Still Can’t Hit

Did you know the Mariners have already been shut out five times this year, including most recently on Monday against the Phillies in an embarrassing 9-0 rout? We’ve played all of 32 games so far this year, so you probably had some sort of inkling that the number was rather high. Did you know, though, that over a full 162-game season last year, the Mariners were shut out only eight times?

Of course, the 2021 Mariners were fun and interesting; the 2022 Mariners are abysmal and largely boring in how bad they’ve been. We’ve seen this same exact punchless team repeatedly over the last decade and a half, and it’s getting fucking old. They even moved the fences in during that span, seemingly to no avail. It’s their inability to properly develop their young hitters – to say nothing of somehow also ruining the established veterans they manage to bring in – that’s the ultimate culprit. The fences could be 30 yards away from home plate and they’d still manage to flail more often than not.

The 2021 Mariners also had 10 shutout victories, while the 2022 M’s have zero. The most games back of first place they were in 2021 was 5.0; we’re already at 6.5 games behind the Angels and that figures to only get worse. Most telling, perhaps, is our record in 1-run games; last year, we were 33-19 (for a .635 winning percentage) and this year we’re 5-5 (an even .500). There’s no magic, no spark, no juice. These 2022 Mariners are rolling over like so many Jesse Winker groundouts.

As I’ve noted repeatedly, J.P. Crawford and Ty France are the only two guys propping up this offense. Finally, Adam Frazier is starting to pull his weight, having raised his slash line to a respectable .270/.346/.377 (that’s FAR more in line with his career norms). And, as we’ve all been giddy about over the last week or so, Julio Rodriguez is really starting to look like the superstar we were all promised. Between those four guys and the dynamic injury duo of Mitch Haniger (who likely won’t return until July now) and Kyle Lewis (who is in the midst of a AAA stint that is doubling as his own personal Spring Training, which will almost certainly lead to a re-aggravation any day now), we might be onto something with this offense.

With the dynamic injury duo out of commission, and with the rest of the lineup being what it is, we’re essentially fucked.

Eugenio Suarez is who we thought he was, which might be okay if he’s batting 8th in the lineup. But, for pretty much the whole year, he’s been batting in the top 5, and for a guy barely scraping a .200 batting average, that’s not going to cut it.

Words can’t express how disgruntled I am with Jesse Winker. Everyone keeps saying he’s going to turn it around, but I think Safeco T-Mobile is in his head, and it’s extending his slump to every other stadium we play in. I’m not expecting him to ever turn it around, and this trade with the Reds will go down as one of the all-time disasters.

Raleigh, Kelenic, and Toro just aren’t Major League hitters, period. They’re clearly too good for the wasteland that is AAA, but that’s not saying a whole lot. Maybe they would be Major League hitters if they weren’t saddled with this Mariners organization, but that doesn’t do us much good now, does it? Because we, as fans, ARE saddled with this Mariners organization, and we’re forced to sit helpless as prospect after promising prospect goes down in flames thanks to the litany of issues and deficiencies they’ve got to overcome.

What really gets me is, once again, Luis Torrens has fallen into a slump of all slumps. Last year, he was sent down to Tacoma, figured it out, and returned to be a pretty productive member of this offense. Now, he’s right back to sucking as he did before and it’s all just so baffling to me.

And, it’s not like these guys are running into buzzsaw after buzzsaw. Sure, opposing bullpens have been pretty stout, but the starters haven’t been anything special. And the Phillies’ starters have been downright atrocious! These are the types of arms this struggling Mariners offense should be “getting right” against. Instead, they’re making these guys look like Justin Verlander!

I don’t have the energy to get into my gripes with the pitching, but suffice it to say, no one is really stepping up and helping out the offense. Chris Flexen had his worst outing of the year on Monday, giving up 6 runs in 5 innings. And, Diego Castillo’s freefall continued in that same game. In 3 appearances in the month of May, he’s pitched all of 1.0 innings while giving up 9 runs. DISASTER!

It was nice to see Robbie Ray bounce back on Tuesday, pitching 5.2 innings, giving up 2 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 10. The 5-4 victory was only as close as it was because Paul Sewald gave up a meaningless solo homer while getting the 4-out save.

The Mariners had a chance to win the series in the Wednesday matinee, but Logan Gilbert had “one bad inning”, this time on “one bad pitch” that just so happened to result in a grand slam for the Phillies. We lost 4-2. Something tells me Gilbert won’t be the Pitcher of the Month of May.

Now, we’re 14-18 and embark on a crazy 10-games-in-10-days road trip to play the red hot Mets, the offensive powerhouse Blue Jays, and the struggling-but-probably-still-better-than-us Red Sox. I’m expecting something in the realm of a 2-8 record in this span, so watch us actually hold our own and come away with a 6-4 record.

The Mariners Made Matt Brash A Reliever And I’m A Man With Hurt Feelings

My kneejerk reaction is that I hate this move. My measured and composed reaction – after giving this some thought – is that I’m not happy, with equal parts anger and sadness.

To be fair, if I had any interest in being fair, I guess I have to say that there’s a lot that’s up in the air, and a lot we don’t know. From what was reported, this is something the Mariners are trying, specifically for the 2022 season, because they believe they have a need for some bullpen help, and they think Matt Brash can help in that area. That doesn’t mean he can’t spend the following offseason reverting back to being a starter, while working on his pitches that aren’t his fastball and slider (in hopes of building up his overall arsenal, and making him a more viable starting candidate in 2023 and beyond). He could also struggle as a reliever in the short term, and return to being a starter – in the minor leagues – before the 2022 season concludes.

I guess we first have to talk about this alleged “need” for more Major League relievers. That’s debatable. The bullpen was supposed to be this team’s biggest strength heading into the season. But, as we’ve seen already – one month in – there are already some cracks the team is dealing with. Sadler, Giles, and Romo (among others, I’m assuming, who I’ve forgotten for the moment) are missing extensive time. Castillo, Steckenrider, and even Sewald have already gotten blown up a time or three, and those are supposed to be the majority of the A-Team Bullpen. And, as we’ve been talking about since before the season even started, bullpen comes with the highest of variance from season to season, so you can never have enough bullpen help.

Okay, so I’ll buy that. Brash can, most likely, help out our Major League bullpen.

If that’s the case, then why wasn’t he put into the bullpen from the get-go?

Well, because he’s been kicking some fucking ass up and down the minor leagues as a starter! It was only natural, then, to have him go into Spring Training in a competition for the team’s fifth starter job. Mind you, that job was available for one of two reasons: either the team was unable to find a veteran to fill that void, or because they believed someone internally – someone like Brash – was qualified to earn that spot in the rotation. As it shook out, the duel was between Brash and George Kirby. Brash won the job on the merits of his Spring Training (and, again, his prior track record of dominating in the minors).

So, why the fuck do you only give him five regular season starts before demoting him from the Majors and from the ranks of the starting pitcher?

Was this all a sham? Was he only here as competition for Kirby? If that’s the case, either the team always intended for Kirby to win the job, and Brash forced their hand otherwise, or the team always wanted Kirby to lose the job to justify sending him down to the minors until the month of May, thereby allowing the team to earn an extra year of club control. I don’t know if that’s even a thing anymore – with the new CBA the league is playing under – but it would make a lot of sense if that’s the case.

I don’t think it was a sham, though. The Mariners seem to be all-in on ending this playoff drought, and I don’t think they’d roll with Brash for five turns in the rotation if he wasn’t qualified to pitch at this level.

What I do think is that Brash struggled – as everyone expected, because he’s so young and inexperienced – and now the Mariners are panicking, because they can see things starting to fall apart, and they need to do whatever it takes to make it to the playoffs. For reasons that are sort of unclear, because I don’t think any high-level jobs are at stake. Playoffs or not, I think Dipoto will be back for at least 2023. Same goes for Servais (besides that, Servais isn’t the one making this decision; Dipoto is).

It’s the panicking that’s most frustrating, because this DEFINITELY isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Mariners make an asinine move like this. We all remember the Brandon Morrow saga. He was the starter we drafted – ahead of Tim Lincecum, two-time Cy Young Award winner, I might add – who was skyrocketed into the Majors as a reliever because the team thought that would be the quickest way to help in the short term. He was okay, but when it turned out that he wasn’t enough to boost us into the post-season, we opted to try and move him back to being a starter. That ultimately failed and he was traded to the Blue Jays for Brandon League and a minor leaguer. Morrow showed some real bright spots and even dominance as a starter for the Blue Jays, but the damage was done. His growth was stunted, injuries mounted, and he eventually ended his career as a reliever once again.

What a fucking nightmare! And now we’re doing it again to this kid, and he’s powerless to stop it.

My hunch – however misguided it might be – is that the Mariners have had this in the back of their mind for a while now: that Brash was always destined to be a reliever. His performance this season would seem to check that box. If we look at the glass as half-empty, then Brash is a two-pitch pitcher (fastball & slider) with no feel for anything else (change-up & curve), and no real command for any of them. With a limited pitch count as it is – given his youth, and this team’s philosophy to restrict innings on our young arms – we’re not likely to ever get him deep into ballgames. So, instead of killing the Mariners every fifth day, and instead of wasting time in AAA trying to develop his arm as a starter, we’re just going to get a jumpstart on his reliever career now, in hopes that we can salvage what we’ve got and move on (with an outside shot that he develops into a lockdown reliever in late-game, high-leverage situations by season’s end).

But, again, if you believed that about him – that he was always destined to be a reliever – then why not make him one earlier? Did you need him to see incontrovertible proof that he sucks as a starter to get him to accept the demotion? Because, I have news for you: he might NOT suck as a starter! But, you’ve taken away any possibility to the contrary by making this move.

If Brash is great as a reliever, then odds are he’s going to stick to relief work. If he sucks as a reliever, then you’ve wasted a year of his development, AND you’ve killed his confidence. Moving him back into a starter role will almost certainly fail, because he’ll have it in the back of his mind that he not only couldn’t hack it as a starter in his first cup of coffee with the big league ballclub, but he also couldn’t hack it as a reliever. The lowest of the low. The Justus Sheffield’s of the world.

It’s just so short-sighted. This year isn’t about making the playoffs as a fringe wild card team. This year is about sticking to the fucking plan, developing the young guys, and hoping they make a huge leap forward in 2023 and beyond, when we might be contending for the division and maybe even the World Series! I don’t understand why we’re not giving Brash the demotion to Tacoma – that he’s earned through inconsistent play – to get a breather and continue tinkering with his pitch arsenal. Maybe he figures out how to better throw in and around the strike zone (without catching SO MUCH of the strike zone that he gets crushed), and gets his redemption later in the regular season? Instead, we have to hope he morphs into a dominant 8th or 9th inning closer-type, or else he’s just nothing.

And, maybe worst of all, now his trade value plummets! He was once a fucking steal of a trade target from the Padres (for Taylor Williams, whoever that guy is). Now, he might as well be Taylor Williams!

I’m just so disgruntled. This feels like the first domino that falls before a total collapse. Everything was going so well in the big Mariners rebuild, and now … we’ve done what we always do: we Mariners’d everything up.

It’s been a little bit, but the Same Old Mariners are back in action. Sometimes, it’s comforting to know there are certainties in the world. The sun will rise in the morning. Traffic is always going to be miserable. And the Mariners are going to fuck things up and stay as far away from the World Series as humanly possible.

George Kirby’s Debut Can’t Paper Over How Terrible The Mariners Have Been Lately

Making the Sunday finale your only victory of a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays is annoying in so many ways. By the time you get to that game, you’re so fucking sick and tired of the Mariners’ bullshit, you can barely muster the energy to watch. However, it’s a joyous occasion nevertheless, and sends you off into a new week with a better taste in your mouth. Nevermind the fact that for three days prior, they’ve been shovelling shit into your mouth; that last spoonful of sugar makes things seem like they’ll be okay.

Of course, it wasn’t just three days of shit, just three days of shit courtesy of the Rays. Prior to that, we were swept in three games by the Astros. If you want to take it back even further, it’s been shit in 10 out of 11 games prior to Sunday. I’d say we got our fill.

On a semi-related tangent, this is why the Mariners have been so reluctant to extend Mitch Haniger. We needed him desperately for this stretch, and where has he been? Sure, it’s terrible luck that he got COVID (although, I mean, if he’s not vaxed against it, then I don’t know if I feel sorry for him in that regard) and backed that up almost immediately by spraining an ankle, but this is the sort of hard-luck shit he’s had to deal with for most of his career. He has supremely terrible injury luck! So did Franklin Gutierrez and a million other guys throughout the history of this game. If you can’t count on someone to be on the field almost everyday, then what’s the point in signing them to a long-term extension?

I don’t want to get into the minutiae of this Rays series; in the grand scheme of things, who cares? We officially went 2-5 against them this season, so that’s a playoff tiebreaker we won’t have, if it comes to that. On Thursday, Robbie Ray had “One Bad Inning”, which is an excuse I’ve always hated, dating back to the Jeff Fassero days. You can have one bad inning out of seven innings pitched until the cows come home, but if you give up 4 runs in that inning, and lose 4-3, then I’m sorry, but you didn’t have a good game that day.

We had a chance to break this streak on Friday, but Paul Sewald had a rare blown save/loss by giving up a 3-run homer in the ninth. I was in attendance on Saturday, but even that wasn’t enough good luck to turn things around, as Diego Castillo had a total meltdown (5 runs, including a grand slam, without registering an out).

The saving grace (sort of) was that Kirby start on Sunday. He looked every bit the elite, ace-type prospect everyone’s said he is, by going 6 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 7. He touched the upper 90’s with his fastball and averaged in the mid-90’s. His breaking stuff was pretty nasty. He saw a lot of full counts – from what I saw, on the little TV, while re-watching the first season of Stranger Things on the big TV – but was able to challenge hitters and keep them off-balance.

Even then, the M’s did everything they could to try and lose it, not scoring until the bottom of the ninth. After the Rays finally scored in the top of the eighth, it looked like the Mariners would lose 1-0. Then, Mr. Clutch, Abraham Toro, pulled a solo homer into the right field stands to tie it up. Paul Sewald got back on the horse to keep the Rays off the board in the tenth, giving Ty France a chance to win it with a single in the bottom half. An exciting, 2-1 extra innings victory is a helluva way to end the six-game losing streak, but I’m still going to bitch about those losses for a while.

The Mariners are 13-16. They’re still hitting like shit up and down the lineup. Ty France can’t do everything. J.P. Crawford came up with back spasms in Saturday’s game (in a stupidly futile attempt to dive into first base, most likely), so he’s day-to-day. No word on Haniger’s return, but I’m sure he’s going to keep making it worse instead of letting it heal on its own. Kyle Lewis is in Tacoma trying to work his way back, but I’m not holding my breath. That Ken Giles signing – a 2-year deal, knowing the entire first year would be lost to injury – sure looks idiotic now that he’s on the 60-day IL and is looking like he’ll miss both fucking years.

Oh, and in all of their infinite wisdom, the Mariners have decided to not only send Matt Brash to Tacoma, but have converted him to a reliever in hopes that he’ll be able to return to the Major Leagues this season in time to help us with our playoff run. This is a topic for a separate post, because I have a lot to say on this particular issue. Spoiler alert: the Mariners are idiots probably.

And, just in case anyone was wondering about potential help coming from the minors, in case this Kirby experiement also goes tits up and we need a veteran starter to eat innings, I wouldn’t count on it. Nick Margevicius just got cut for extreme incompetence, Justus Sheffield is also getting rocked in Tacoma, and you’re better off not looking at the stats of the other guys we have starting down there. It turns out, the PCL is a total wasteland in every single respect (hitting is too easy – making the jump from AAA to the Majors extremely difficult – and pitching is almost impossible to do well).

It’s May in Seattle, which means it’s time to lose all faith in the Mariners. Right on schedule!

The Mariners Sure Did Suck On That Road Trip

How do you blow up all the good will you built over an exciting 7-2 homestand? Well, you promptly go out on the road and lose 7 of 9, and you look fucking inept doing it.

There’s nothing quite as impotent as the Mariners when they play baseball in Houston (except maybe the Democrats whenever they have the presidency and a majority in both houses of Congress … politics!). This was on full display this week, as we were treated to a shitshow of all shitshows. The M’s SHOULD HAVE been shut out for three straight games. As it was, they were shut out for 24 consecutive innings in this series, and 26 out of 27 innings overall.

3-0, 4-0, 7-2. That’s all you need to know. We had 5 hits on Monday, all of 2 at-bats with a runner in scoring position; we had 4 hits on Tuesday, again just 2 at-bats with a runner in scoring position; and, for good measure, we had 5 hits yesterday, going 0 for 1 with a runner in scoring position (the two runs were scored on a 2-run bomb by Suarez with a runner on first base, after the Astros had already built up their 7-run advantage).

This was just a pathetic road trip any way you slice it, with the nadir coming in Houston. Crawford and France are the only hitters showing up. Frazier has been a huge disappointment (with his defense being borderline atrocious); Winker has been a collosal fucking turd, and I don’t give a fuck about how “unlucky” he’s been; Suarez is more bust than boom; Toro doesn’t do ANYTHING well, and is killing his trade value; Julio is a rookie and he gets a pass; but Kelenic ISN’T a rookie and he needs to get his shit together in a hurry, or else he’s got a date with a certain Tacoma-based minor league baseball team; and the catchers have cooled off considerably.

The only good thing to come out of this series was Jose Altuve fouling a baseball off his testicles. I know we don’t root for injuries, but we sure as shit root for cheaters to get their just desserts with extra chopped nuts on top.

Oh, and as icing on the cake, Matt Brash suffered his second consecutive shitty start with four runs given up in three innings on Wednesday. I know he’s a rookie and he gets a pass as well, but it would be nice to see a quality start here and there, you know, to mix things up a little bit.

Of course, the Mariners now come home to play the Rays over the next four days. They appear to be vastly better than us right now, so I don’t have a lot of hope for turning things around. In fact, the rest of the month of May looks like one monster matchup after another. This might indeed put us in a hole we’re unable to get out of. Just like last year. Fun!

The Mariners Struggled In Miami

With the NFL Draft happening over the weekend, I was a little preoccupied when it came to following the Mariners. When I was at home, they were relegated to the Little TV. And, as usual for a weekend, I wasn’t at home very much, at least when the M’s were playing.

I was looking forward to the Friday matchup against the Marlins, simply because Matt Brash was on the hill. However, he just didn’t have it, which is understandable since he’s a rookie. 2 innings, 6 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks, with only 3 strikeouts. Festa, Mills, and newcomer Penn Murfee eached pitched 2 innings – giving up another 2 total runs in the process – but the end result was an 8-6 defeat.

Luis Torrens had a 3-run double in the top of the second to take a brief 3-2 lead, but we were playing catch-up from there. The 9th inning rally was fun while it lasted – RBI double from Kelenic, sac fly from Torrens, and RBI single by Frazier – but ultimately not enough. J-Rod and J.P. Crawford each had multi-hit games.

Saturday’s 3-1 loss was a real missed opportunity. Robbie Ray was on the hill and he was dealing through four, but gave up 3 runs in the fifth and that was that. The offense was a Dylan Moore solo homer in the third; Winker and Crawford had the four other hits for the team.

Thankfully, we were able to salvage a 7-3 victory on Sunday to get one back. Logan Gilbert did more Logan Gilbert things, going 5.2 innings, finally giving up another earned run in the sixth, but was otherwise pretty unhittable (giving up just the 3, though he did walk 4 more). The bullpen was adequate from there, but thankfully the offense played add-on to keep this game out of reach.

J.P. Crawford had a solo homer in the second (he’s hitting an insane .372/.462/.628 so far this year), Toro had an RBI single in the fourth, and Julio Rodriguez had three hits on the day, including a 3-run homer in the sixth (the first homer of his career; he’s up to a slash line of .234/.306/.325, which is encouraging given his age and experience level, especially compared to Evan White, Jarred Kelenic, and Cal Raleigh). Even Jesse Winker got in on the action, with a 2-run single in the ninth (he’s SO CLOSE to the Mendoza Line, he can taste it).

With that series, the Mariners dropped to 12-10 and in second place in the A.L. West (behind a red-hot Angels team, who – after the weekend – were 15-8). There’s three more games on this road trip, in Houston, before returning home on Thursday for a 4-game set against the Rays (and then no more games against the Rays for the rest of this regular season). I’m glad this Florida part of our season is ending, because our opponents weren’t too kind to us. Let’s hope we have Houston’s number, though, because they’re a far more pressing concern this year.

The Mariners Dropped A Tough Series In Tampa

Well, we’re not off to a great start with this homestand. But, surely the Rays won’t be a team we need to contend with for a playoff spot, so there’s no way these games will have mattered, right?

The bigger bummer in all of this is the fact that the Mariners won 8-4 in the series opener on Tuesday. That means we had two chances to win this series, and our bats just couldn’t come up with the offense to push us over the top. Of course, by all rights, if the Rays didn’t implode defensively in the fourth inning of that one – giving up 7 unearned runs in the process – we probably would’ve been swept!

The big star of this one was Logan Gilbert, who threw another 5.2 shutout innings. He hasn’t given up a run since very early in his very first start of the year, now with an ERA of 0.40, which couldn’t POSSIBLY get any lower, right?! By the time he left the game, we were up 8-0 and this was a terrific opportunity for the M’s to plow through the D-Squad bullpen. But, they proceeded to give up 4 runs in the 7th, which necessitated using Andres Munoz in the 9th to lock it up.

France, of course, had a big day with 2 RBI. Frazier had 3 RBI. Suarez and Crawford each had two hits. Scoring those 7 unearned runs was probably the most fun part of the season, especially when we’re talking about Mariners road games.

Wednesday’s game was rough in a lot of respects. Marco Gonzales only managed to get one out before a line drive smashed into his pitching wrist, resulting in him leaving the game. That turned it into a de facto Bullpen Day. Yohan Ramirez came in and pitched pretty well for a bit, but Scott Servais mistakenly left him in there an inning too long, and we paid the price. He ended up giving up 2 runs in 3 innings of work. Matt Festa pitched 1.2 scoreless, Steckenrider got back on the horse with a clean inning, and Justus Sheffield pitched 2 scoreless to keep the game close.

Unfortunately, Tampa’s starter was on a roll. We managed a couple runs after he left the game, but ultimately lost 3-2. Crawford and Toro each hit solo homers.

Then, earlier today, Tampa had a scheduled Bullpen Day of their own – pushing back Corey Kluber to tomorrow, which we all understood was a huge break for the M’s – but we could only muster 1 run in a 2-1 defeat.

Chris Flexen picked up plenty of slack, going 6.2 and giving up both runs, and the combo of Castillo and Misiewicz took us the rest of the way without any further damage. That go-ahead run by the Rays happened in the 7th inning, and that was that. Suarez’ first inning RBI triple was the only damage of the game, as we were held to 6 hits on 2/8 with runners in scoring position (one of those hits being a France single that was hit too firmly to score the man from second).

Luckily, the NFL Draft kicks off tonight, so no one will remember this series. The Rays are really fucking good, so it’s not like this is a surprising development. I’m curious to see – as the season goes along – if the Mariners are ever going to put up much of a fight against the best teams, or if we’re just the Good Bad Team who can only pound on the weaklings in the game. We’ll see! Not looking great so far!

The Mariners Are Red Hot, Swept The Royals

I don’t think anyone is confusing the Kansas City Royals with a potential playoff team – so our head-to-head record against them will probably not mean much – but you still love to see your team win the games they’re supposed to win, and these were three games the Mariners were SUPPOSED to win.

This, in large part, makes up for that infuriating loss to the Rangers. We really should’ve had the sweep there, so failing that, it’s nice to get one here. Heading into this 9-game homestand, if you offered me 7-2, I would’ve taken it in a heartbeat. So, I’m not going to be butthurt that it wasn’t 8-1. In all honesty, if you told me we’d go 7-2, I would’ve expected to lose both of those games to the Astros, so this is actually BETTER.

As it happened, I missed all three against the Royals. On Friday, I was at the Dave Attell show at the Tacoma Comedy Club, so you can forgive me if I have priorities. It sounds like I missed a hell of an enjoyable game! Chris Flexen pitched 7 innings of 1-run ball, Anthony Misiewicz got the hold, and Andres Munoz got the first save of his Mariners career.

Even more impressive – given the game finished 4-1 – is that all the runs were scored off of extra-base hits by the future of the franchise: J-Rod with a 2-run double, and Kelenic with a 2-run triple. In a game without much firepower from the offense, that’s HUGE. Suarez led the way with 3 hits; J.P. Crawford and J-Rod both had 2 hits to go with Kelenic’s one.

Saturday’s game sounded like a lot of fun (unless you’re a fan of pitching). Matt Brash ran into some trouble in the fifth; he finished with 4.1 innings, 3 runs on 5 hits and 4 walks, with only 2 strikeouts. The bullpen and defense (two more errors, including yet another by J.P.) didn’t help a whole lot, but thankfully the offense was up to the task. It wasn’t all terrible by the bullpen, of course, but Yohan Ramirez took the brunt of it, giving up 3 runs while only recording a single out. Otherwise, they gave up 1 unearned run in 4.1 innings.

Where do you even begin with the offense, though? The M’s scored in each of the first three innings, to build a 5-1 lead. Then, we tacked on a run in the 6th and 7th before exploding for six more runs in the 8th. So, even though the Royals had a brief 7-6 lead in the top of the 7th, we really mauled the shit out of them to win 13-7.

Ty France was 5 for 6 with 3 runs and 5 RBI (including a 3-run homer to put it away in the 8th). J.P. was 2 for 5 with a 2-run homer early, Suarez was 2 for 3 (both doubles) with 2 walks, Murphy and J-Rod both had two hits and two runs scored, and Toro, Kelenic, and Winker all had big hits and RBIs. Basically, everyone but Adam Frazier contributed, and it was a sight to behold, I’m sure.

The Mariners capped off the homestand with a 12-inning thriller on Sunday, where we won 5-4. In this one, Jesse Winker was the long-overdue hero, hitting a sac fly in the 10th to re-tie the game, before hitting an RBI single in the 12th to win it.

Robbie Ray had another Quality Start, going 6 innings, giving up 2 runs, and the bullpen did their job heading into the 9th, with Festa and Swanson both doing good work. However, Drew Steckenrider had his second consecutive pisspoor outing, giving up a solo homer to tie the game at 3-3. From there, though, the bullpen snapped right back into dominant mode. Castillo gave up the ghost runner on second in the 10th, but both Matt Koch and Ramirez held the Royals scoreless the next two innings to give us a chance to win it.

Ty France had another 3 hits and 2 RBI, J.P. had two more hits in the middle of our lineup, and Frazier had a hit and 3 runs scored at the top.

I’ll tell you what, France is as hot as I’ve ever seen anyone, slashing .375/.459/.656. J.P. Crawford is up there, though, with .352/.471/.574. I’m also loving what Suarez is bringing to the table; he’s certainly exceeded expectations, even though his .527 slugging percentage is no shocker. Toro and Frazier are starting to contribute more and more, and J-Rod doesn’t look overwhelmed in the slightest. With Kelenic and now Winker starting to heat up, this is a VERY formidable lineup (that will only get stronger whenever Haniger gets off the COVID IL). To go with how strong our bullpen has looked, you’ll also forgive me if I start to get a little hyped up here.

The Mariners are 10-6, which is tied with the Blue Jays and Yankees for the best record in the American League. We have a 1-game lead over the Angels, and a whopping 2.5-game lead over the Astros. We’ve also scored the second-most runs in the A.L. (77, just behind Anaheim’s 79), AND – not for nothing – we have the best run differential in the league with our +18.

Granted, we’re not even really at the 10% mark through the season, but you do the math. That puts us on pace for 100 wins! I’m just saying. This is EXACTLY the kind of start you want to see out of a team that’s a fringe prospect for making the post-season. I’m not going to quibble about how bad the Rangers and Royals are, because the Twins, White Sox, and Astros are all really good.

We have a well-earned off-day before a beefy road trip. Three in Tampa, three in Miami, then three more in Houston. Let’s hope some of these COVID guys start feeling better soon, and let’s keep the win train chugging on down the tracks!

The Mariners Only Won Two Of Three Against The Rangers

It’s hard to not have a sour taste in your mouth when you were so close to a series sweep. How do you go into that final game, score 5 runs in the first inning, and manage to give it all away? We should’ve won that game by double digits! They should’ve been using position players to pitch away meaningless innings! It’s all so aggravating.

The flipside to this line of thinking is that the Mariners won yet another series. We’re 4-2 on this homestand, and 7-6 on the season; still in very good shape. But, God damn are the Rangers terrible, and they had no business winning that final game.

Of course, neither did we. Not the way we played. I’m just going to get into it at the top, because I’m already worked up.

Contrary to what you may believe, the Mariners aren’t especially good at defense. You’ll hear that the key to the M’s winning games is “Pitching & Defense” but I’m here to tell you that’s a gross generalization. Sure, the pitching is vitally important. But, I’m not so sure you’re going to get a huge lift out of this team’s defensive ability.

This isn’t just a gut-reaction to 3 errors last night. Errors aren’t the be-all, end-all of a team’s defensive competence. You can be an outfielder who gets to balls, but then has a noodle arm (*cough* WINKER *cough*). You can be a second baseman who also gets to balls, but maybe bumbles it just enough to eliminate a doule play opportunity, but still gets the out at first (*cough* FRAZIER *cough*). You can be a battery that fails to control the base-stealing game of your opponent (pretty much every pitcher/catcher combo on this team).

What sucks, and what makes last night’s game particularly stupid, is that J.P. Crawford accounted for 2 of those 3 errors, and I think he’s – without question – the best defensive player on this team. That’s just One Of Those Nights, but it also doesn’t paper over the fact that this team is largely middle-of-the-road defensively. Crawford is great, Haniger and France are good, the catchers are okay, but after that it’s nothing but flaws.

Kelenic, Moore, and J-Rod have pretty mediocre throwing arms from the outfield. Suarez looks like one of those guys you stick at third base because first base (probably his best defensive position, outside of DH) is blocked. Frazier and Winker are clearly here for their offense (making Winker’s start to this season … I mean, there are no words). And don’t get me started on Luis Torrens.

So, don’t go banking on the defense saving this team a ton of runs this year. I think, more often than not, they’ll make the routine plays they’re supposed to make. But, these guys are going to need to HIT if they’re going to win games.

Something that looked like we were going to get in spades last night, after a 2-run home run from Ty France, followed by a 3-run home run from Crawford to lead off the game. There were five runs on the board and zero outs! We had ’em on the ropes! Those turned out to be the only runs we would score until scratching across a sixth run in the eighth to tie the game. The Rangers, meanwhile, were gifted numerous scoring opportunities thanks to our pisspoor defense, and methodically chipped away at that early 5-0 deficit. Ultimately, they took out Drew Steckenrider in the ninth to prevail 8-6.

The name of the game in this one was hitting with runners in scoring position. The M’s were a meager 2/11, with a lot of those chances coming in the first three innings, when we had the Rangers’ starter teetering on the brink. We could never quite hit him with that knockout blow, and that was our downfall.

Marco Gonzales, meanwhile, has to lead the league in unearned runs allowed, as this was his second start out of three outings where he gave up 6 runs/2 earned runs. Obviously, you can’t say he was on fire in this one, but giving up 4 unearned runs in the fifth will make anyone’s performance look mediocre.

Yet, the bullpen – until Steckenrider in the ninth – kept the game right there at 6-5! God bless ’em, the D-Squad pulled through. Swanson pitched 1.1 scoreless, Festa and Sheffield both pitched clean innings. It was all right there for us.

I’m not going to get into the umpiring in this one, though I hear this is the same crew we had in Minnesota. And this guy behind the plate is particularly inept at his job. He deserves to be fired. Or, at least, demoted to the minor leagues where he can’t do anymore damage with his nebulous strike zone.

It’s a shame, because this series had some delightful baseball on the Mariners front. After an off-day on Monday, Robbie Ray got the start on Tuesday and pitched 6 innings of 2-run ball. Suarez hit a 3-run bomb on an impressive outside breaking ball. Kelenic hit a rocket of a solo homer off the foul pole. And Toro had a crucial late-game 2-run bomb to put this one away, 6-2.

Wednesday’s game was even more delightful, with Logan Gilbert pitching into the seventh inning, holding them scoreless. Misiewicz and Munoz kept the shutout alive until the ninth, when Diego Castillo gave up a couple of meaningless runs. But, by then, we had a 4-run lead, ultimately winning 4-2.

We were also 2/12 with runners in scoring position in this one, which should’ve been something of a tip-off. Thankfully, we were able to put those to good use in the fifth, as we manufactured just enough.

Hitting with runners in scoring position always seems to be a bugaboo early in seasons. The Mariners have been heavily reliant upon timely hitting, usually because overall our hitting is so poor. So, we NEED to string hits together at opportune times if we’re going to win ballgames. Let’s hope this doesn’t become a season-long nightmare, because I don’t know what I’m going to do if I have to watch this kind of flailing for six months.

The Mariners’ Rotation Is Holding Up Remarkably Well So Far

Yeah yeah yeah, I know it’s early. We are 2 and one-fifths of the way through the rotation not even two full weeks into the season. But, that’s sort of the point of today’s argument, because this early in the season is when you really have to worry about a starting rotation holding up.

We’re right out of Spring Training. Rosters are slightly expanded for this very reason: pitchers’ arms aren’t built up yet. Pitch counts are relatively low as a result. And, should they run into too many travails, starts can be cut short, resulting in over-taxing of the bullpen.

2021 was kind of the Worst Case Scenario in this regard. We lost James Paxton early in his very first start. We lost backup starter Nick Margevicius not long after. We had to suffer through numerous full-on bullpen days because we were trying to run a 6-man rotation out there to limit innings and keep guys fresh, without sufficent healthy backup options to roll with (saying nothing of other starts being cut short due to early-season ineffectiveness).

The bullpen was gassed, and it necessitated multiple back-and-forth moves between Tacoma and Seattle just to keep this pitching staff afloat. But, we haven’t had that problem this year.

The worst start we’ve had so far was Marco Gonzales’ 2.0 innings in Minnesota. The next-shortest stint was a 4.1 affair by Flexen, also in Minnesota. Everyone else has gone at least 5.0 innings per start, including rookie Matt Brash, who is reported to be on a VERY strict pitch count for this season.

I think that’s pretty remarkable. Maybe I have low standards in this regard, but it’s clearly showing in our bullpen’s performance thus far. We have a bullpen ERA under 3 and the only blown save on our ledger is a game we came back and won.

This could all change at a moment’s notice, of course, but I think it’s a pretty good sign. In the not-too-distant future, our Major League roster is going to shrink a little bit, and we’ll be limited in the number of pitchers we can keep up here. Not wearing guys out in the most fragile part of the season should hopefully work wonders towards keeping this staff in good working order.

Beyond that, though, the starters have looked good in games! Our team ERA is 3.03, so it’s not like the bullpen is doing everything. Robbie Ray had one rough start in Chicago in that crazy rain game, but otherwise has looked every bit the ace. Matt Brash has been a revelation, and looks like he’ll be a valuable big league pitcher for many years to come. Logan Gilbert has quietly been a monster. Marco bounced back with a VERY impressive outing in our home opener against a very good Astros lineup. And, Chris Flexen looks just as steady as he was last year. Considering Marco and Flexen are our 3/4 pitchers, I think that speaks very well of the talent in this pitching staff.

I’m cautiously optimistic, because the better the pitching staff does now, the better our team should be as a whole. Clearly, we’ve needed the pitching to get off to a good start. Now that the offense has started to come around since we returned home, it’s starting to look like things might be okay. The last thing we need is to go into a deep hole with our record. 6-5, with a +8 run differential isn’t shabby in the least. I’ll take it! That’s something to build on, for sure.

The Mariners Did A Number On The Astros

My friends and I kept up on our almost-every-year tradition of going to Opening Day and, as expected, there were some strikes and gutters (as there is with pretty much anything). The game was a full-blown sellout, which meant that by the time I looked into buying tickets, I couldn’t even bother with Ticketmaster. That comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, which I’ll save for another time. Long story short, four tickets in the 300-level ended up coming to $52 apiece, including fees and whatnot.

They weren’t the best seats in the world, nor the worst. The four of us had our own row, which is nice. No getting up and down for restless patrons needing to pee or buy food every other inning. But, we were right on the stairwell going into the upper 300-section, in clear view of the 300-level walkway, which meant occasionally people were standing in our way. Thankfully, we had a VERY good usher in our section – literally the only time I’ve ever said that at a Mariners game – who was not only on top of getting people out of our sightlines, but was very chill about our (mostly) clean jeers of certain Astros players.

With it being a sellout, that comes with the usual sellout issues. Namely: people. A lot of them. The Mariners have done a lot to try to speed up the concessions process. They have refillable sodas now where the people can just do it themselves. They have cashless concessions, so we’re not dealing with old people fumbling for quarters. But, I don’t know what to tell you. The walkways were constantly jammed pretty much from the first inning onward. We got there right before first pitch and were able to get food and drink okay. But, once the game got going, it was a nightmare to ever leave your seats. I don’t know if they were having technical issues, or if that’s just the way it is whenever you have anything approaching a sellout crowd, but if the Mariners end up being really good, this could be the norm more often than not, and they probably need to figure something out on those occasions.

One solution should be: have more vendors walking around. Where are all the guys with tubs hanging around their necks, hollering about beer and peanuts and whatnot? The lower sections might’ve had a couple, but the 300’s got the shaft, and that feels like a mistake. We needed beer, we needed hot dogs, and we needed popcorn but would’ve gladly settled for peanuts if it meant not having to miss 1-2 innings of action just to go out and get it. By the way, I don’t even know if they have hot dog vendors walking around anymore, but dammit, they need to come back, because there’s nothing like a plain ballpark hotdog!

I will say that getting INTO the stadium was pretty painless, so that was nice. I had expected a lot more trouble with that part of it, and was pleasantly surprised.

The game itself was fantastic! Five stars, no notes!

As you can imagine, I hate the cheating Astros. I hated them before it was cool to hate them. I even hated them before they were cheaters! They’ve never had any business being in the A.L. West and it’s ridiculous we’ve had to endure them for as long as we have. So, anytime you can beat their fucking asses by double-digit runs, you have to relish the experience.

It didn’t hurt that we had the over 8.5 combined runs, as well as the Mariners to win the game outright. If only Kelenic’s fly ball to right in the bottom of the fifth had another 10 feet or so on it, we would’ve REALLY made a killing (but that’s neither here nor there).

Marco Gonzales was remarkably efficient in this one, going 7 innings, giving up just the 1 run on 4 hits (no walks), with 6 strikeouts, all on 93 pitches. That was a far cry from his first start of the season, but I’m willing to call that one an outlier for the way our error derailed things. It was great to see Marco bounce back, and I hope this portends to better things to come this year over last.

Offensively, the M’s did everything to make me eat my words about how bad they looked up until that point. Adam Frazier had 4 hits (including a double and a triple), 2 runs, and 4 RBI. Suarez had a 2-run bomb and 3 RBI. Winker and Haniger both had 2 hits. Ty France had 2 RBI, Tom Murphy had 3 runs scored, J.P. Crawford scored 2 runs, and Kelenic and J-Rod both had positive contributions. Up and down the lineup, everyone chipped in!

It just felt like a celebration from the very first inning, and it was great to see the likes of Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman get the everloving shit booed out of them. My friends and I were on it all the way through, and like to believe we had an effect. Fuck those guys, and everyone else on those cheating Astros teams. The fact that Altuve couldn’t even finish the game (I like to believe he asked to be taken out because he couldn’t handle it) was the cherry on top.

Of course, nothing can ever be perfect. Justin Verlander started on Saturday and went 8 shutout innings, en route to a 4-0 Astros victory. I missed this one, but I wouldn’t say I was “missing” it, Bob. Flexen had a so-so Quality Start (6 innings, 3 runs), but we were never going to win this one regardless. We had 3 hits on the day, two by France. So, you know.

But, we bounced right back with a 7-2 victory on Sunday! Matt Brash got his first win, going 5.1 innings, giving up 2 runs (both in the sixth inning on a 2-run homer). He was … effectively wild in this one, walking 6, but he only gave up the two hits (both in that sixth inning). It was never going to be a true No Hitter for Brash, given the limitations on his pitch count this season, but it was great to see him handle some adversity when he didn’t totally have command of his stuff. It gave the M’s enough time to stake him to a big lead.

We scored 1 in the first on a Suarez double, then rallied for 5 more in the fourth, highlighted by a France 3-run homer. Frazier and Kelenic both had two hits apiece, and Torrens, Toro, and J-Rod all chipped in. Take that, Fun Differential! We’re +4 in run differential on the year!

Paul Sewald closed out the sixth inning without any more damage, and the rest of the bullpen was lights out from there. This time, it went Steckenrider, Munoz, and Castillo over the final three frames. Interesting to see Munoz already in that mix, but his stuff is so nasty, you can see why.

We get our first off-day today, followed by a home set against the Rangers. Now, we’re in it! Baseball season! Catch the excitement!