The Mariners Are Finally Done With Houston For 2021

The Mariners lost to the Astros on Monday 11-2. It was the fourth time we’ve had to face Lance McCullers since the All Star Break, and the only time we didn’t get beaten was in Seattle on August 31st when we threw that shutout by Kikuchi & Co. and Toro hit the grand slam off of Graveman to win it 4-0 (note: McCullers gave up 0 runs in his five innings of work, still managing to keep us off-balance, even in defeat).

I don’t know what his record is against the Mariners, but it seems like he kills us every single time, and not only that, but it seems like our own pitchers absolutely fall apart. Kikuchi also went in the game this week and couldn’t get out of the second inning, giving up 6 runs (4 earned), all in that fateful second. The only positive in this game was Toro continuing to rake against his old team, getting two hits (including a 2-RBI double).

Tuesday’s game was one of those losses where you think you might have the Astros licked, then they rip your guts out at the last minute. We withstood a Logan Gilbert start where he didn’t quite get through the fifth, but only gave up 2 runs. J.P. Crawford hit a 2-RBI double in the top of the fifth to tie it up, and Kyle Seager hit a solo bomb in the sixth to take a 1-run lead. Our bullpen held it down from there, and our offense even tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth to make it 4-2. Paul Sewald time! We had it in the bag!

But, then, of course, Alex Bregman hit a 2-run home run into their insanely short porch in left field to tie it up. We failed to score in the 10th, and Yohan Ramirez gave up a leadoff ground rule double to end it.

Once again, we were staring down the barrel of a sweep, but somehow pulled out the win on get-away day. Tyler Andersen didn’t quite have it – though, it sounds like the ump was all over the place, of course – giving up 4 runs in a little over 4 innings. But, once again, the bullpen was fucking nails and gave the offense enough time to scratch across the winning runs!

Toro had a 2-RBI double in the first, finishing with two hits on the day. Kelenic hit a 2-RBI double in the seventh to tie it at 4-4. Marmolejos hit a 2-RBI single in the ninth to take the lead, and J.P. Crawford hit a 2-run homer to salt it away at 8-4. Even though Bregman hit yet another homer off of Sewald in the bottom half, it did very little damage, as we won 8-5.

It’s always a relief when you can put the Astros in your rearview mirror. I go into every Astros series wondering just how in the hell are we even going to win AH game?! I don’t do that with any other team. Wins seem more possible against the rest of the league. But, I’ve been watching the Mariners lose to the Astros for so long now, it’s fucking demoralizing.

At press time, we’re 5.5 games behind the Astros for the A.L. West. We’re only 2.5 games behind the Yankees for the second wild card (the Red Sox are still clinging to the first wild card), but the Blue Jays have been scorching hot and went and surpassed us (we’re one game behind them; but two in the loss column).

Thankfully, we’re back home and get three more games against the Diamondbacks. I don’t know what we did to deserve such luxury, but we ABSOLUTELY MUST TAKE ADVANTAGE!

No fucking around anymore, Mariners! We’re just over three weeks away from the finish line; it’s time to put the pedal to the metal here.

The Mariners Swept The Diamondbacks, Part I

I’m really setting myself up for disaster with this title.

Friday’s 6-5 victory was even wackier than the usual wackiness we’re confronted with on a near-daily basis with the Mariners. Tyler Anderson was absolutely DOMINATING through six innings, giving up just the one run and keeping his pitch count crazy-low. It wouldn’t have been outside the realm of possibility to see him get the CG, or at least get through eight innings unscathed.

But, that seventh came around and the train jumped the tracks, killing a town full of people and one medium-sized orphanage. He got zero outs, ultimately giving up two runs in the process, and the M’s required two relievers to get out of the inning with a tie ballgame. Just like that, a 5-1 lead was wiped out. The offense THOUGHT they’d done enough, with a Tom Murphy RBI walk in the first, and 2-run homers by Haniger and Kelenic in the fifth and sixth, respectively.

Thankfully, Steckenrider and Sheffield (reliever extraordinaire!) were the tourniquet that got us to extra innings. From there, a Kelenic single gave the Mariners an unearned run advantage, while Yohan Ramirez worked a clean bottom of the tenth to get his second save of the season.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know a lick about what happened Saturday; all I remember is I had terrible sleep, with this recurring nightmare that the Huskies somehow lost to Montana at football less than a year after losing to them at basketball (but I know that can’t be true). It appears that Marco Gonzales had a get-me-over five innings, giving up five runs on 8 hits (including 2 homers) and 1 walk, while striking out 2. He only ended up with the win because the Mariners managed five runs of their own through four innings, before Seager hit his second 3-run home run of the game in the top of the sixth. The 8-5 victory was cemented then and there, with both bullpens doing excellent work the rest of the way.

Other than Seager’s 2 for 5 day with 6 RBI, J.P. Crawford went 4 for 5 with 2 runs and a 2-RBI single. Toro and Marmolejos both had multi-hit games, and Haniger, France, Kelenic, and Torrens all chipped in with one hit apiece. Diego Castillo returned from the IL to get the save in this one.

The sweep didn’t come easy, even though the Mariners won Sunday’s game 10-4. Would it shock you to know that game went into the 11th inning? It shocked me, and I watched the whole thing!

The M’s manufactured a couple runs in the fourth to take a 2-0 lead, while Chris Flexen was predictably rolling. He finally stumbled in the sixth, though, ultimately giving up three runs before his day was done. Thankfully, the Mariners got right back on the horse in the top of the seventh, where a Kelenic double play still managed to score the tying run.

That was it for a while. Swanson, Sewald, and Steckenrider got the game to extras. The M’s failed to score their ghost runner (or ANY runner, really) in the top of the 10th, but thankfully Yohan Ramirez has morphed into a reliable back-of-the-bullpen arm we can trust. He got through the bottom half unscathed, which allowed the Mariners to score 7 runs in the top of the 11th.

This is a fun one to re-live, because batting around for this team is so rare. Haniger and France walked to get things started. Then, Kyle Seager – as fire-hot as I’ve ever seen him – hit a 2-run double to make it 5-3. The Diamondbacks went to their second reliever of the inning, who gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Toro and Murphy to make it 7-3. He struck out Kelenic and got Moore to pop up before Jake Bauers pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot, who mashed a double to right to score two more, making it 9-3. That led to the Diamondbacks going with their third reliever of the inning, who gave up an infield chopper to Crawford, and a Haniger RBI single to make it 10-3. He would go on to hit France in the arm guard before getting Seager to finally ground out to end the inning.

I got my first look at Matt Andriese in the bottom of the 11th, who got as soft of a landing as you’ll ever see in an extra innings/game-ending situation. I didn’t LOVE what I saw, he appeared to struggle early – almost walking a guy before giving up an RBI single to Ketel Marte – but he settled down and didn’t require us to use a reliever we might desperately need in this Astros series coming up, so I was happy.

The Mariners are 75-62 after that sweep, and would you LOOK at THAT! We’re officially one game AHEAD of the Oakland Athletics! Huh?! That’s not supposed to happen!

We’re officially 4.5 games behind the Astros – playing our final three regular season games against them starting today – but what’s more important is we’re only 3 games behind the Red Sox for the second wild card spot. This is usually where the Mariners start to falter again – so we’re going to Houston right on cue – but it’s still amazing that it’s Labor Day and we’re RIGHT THERE in the thick of it!

Talk to me again in three days and we’ll see where I’m at. But, what a wild ride, huh?

The Mariners Extended Dipoto & Servais As They Try To Contend Down The Stretch

After just totally biffing it against the Royals, the Mariners played three winnable games against the Astros, winning two of them in shutout fashion.

The only loss was in the series opener on Monday, where we bafflingly blew it in the 8th by turning a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 loss. Chris Flexen didn’t have his greatest stuff, but still pitched into the sixth inning, giving up just 2 runs. Casey Sadler locked it down through the 7th, giving us just enough time to take that all-too-brief lead in the bottom of the sixth.

The Astros scored their first two runs in the 1st inning, making the Flexen performance even more impressive. Jose Marmolejos – back with the Mariners after going on the warpath with the Rainiers for much of the season – hit a solo homer in his first at bat to make it 2-1. That’s where it remained until Dylan Moore – pinch hitting for Marmolejos – jacked a 2-run homer to make everyone happy.

But, then Joe Smith was tasked with handling the 8th inning. I don’t totally get it. Was Drew Steckenrider simply unavailable? Did Scott Servais lose his mind? Either way, shaky defense and even shakier pitching meant Smith gave up three singles and two runs, before he was pulled for Yohan Ramirez to get the final two outs of the inning. The Mariners were toast from there.

Tuesday saw Yusei Kikuchi take the mound, desperately needing a quality start to help save his Mariners career. And, to his credit, he went out and dominated: 7 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 4. His fastball was lively, he threw it often, and he got ahead of hitters; when he’s able to do that, good things tend to result.

The game was, nevertheless, scoreless as we headed into the bottom of the eighth. Paul Sewald got the job done in the top half against the top of the lineup, setting the stage for Kendall Graveman, who was making his first appearance in Seattle since the infamous deadline deal.

Graveman still has electric stuff, but the Mariners put a tough challenge on him. J.P. Crawford led off the inning with a walk, Seager singled after a Haniger strikeout, and Ty France was hit on the forearm to load the bases. The table was set … for Abraham Toro of all people, the very centerpiece the Mariners got back in return in the Graveman deal.

Toro got in a 1-2 hole early, whiffing hard on Graveman’s sinkers. But, he finally started making contact – fouling off three pitches while working the count even – before unloading on a sinker in the inner-middle of the plate for a grand slam. It was glorious! I’m not going to say the Mariners won the trade in that single at-bat – lord knows this bullpen has been plenty fallible in Graveman’s absence – but I’ve been a fan of Toro since we got him, and that further cements in my mind the value he brings to this team, both this season and in the years to come.

It was Graveman’s first loss of the season – and it dented his ERA pretty good – but he’s still been wildly effective for the Astros since going over there. Just, you know, not against the Mariners. Against us, he’s gone 1.1 innings and given up 5 runs. Shit, maybe he WAS the world’s greatest teammate! He’s so good, he’s STILL helping us win ballgames!

If the 4-0 shutout was impressive, Wednesday’s 1-0 shutout was truly remarkable. Logan Gilbert – another starter who’s struggled over the last month – went 5 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits & 0 walks, while striking out 4. Again, lots of fastballs and he did a good job of staying ahead of hitters.

This game saw the return of Justus Sheffield, now a reliever since his return from the IL. I don’t know if that’s a permanent move, or if that’s even a role he’s well-suited for, but he got through his one inning unscathed to get the win. Because we scored our lone run in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to a Crawford single, walks by Haniger and France, and a sac fly to center off the bat of – you guessed it – Abraham Toro. It wasn’t a deep fly ball by any means, but with Crawford’s speed – and the sun wreaking havoc on the outfielder – it was long enough.

Then, it was shutdown time. Sadler did his job in the 7th. Steckenrider returned to get two outs in the 8th (before putting two runners on), which necessitated Paul Sewald going in there for the 4-out save. Which he managed heroicly, striking out three guys in the process (while only getting into a little trouble in the 9th before slamming the door shut).

It’s a bummer we didn’t manage to take all three games – because at this point in the season, we could’ve really used the boost – but winning this series was very impressive the way we did it. The Astros have the best offense in baseball, and we absolutely shut them down!

Before the game on Wednesday, it was announced that Jerry Dipoto was extended (and promoted to President of Baseball Operations). Essentially, he’s still the GM, and he still reports to the owner, John Stanton, but clearly this is a big endorsement of his rebuild. It was simultaneously announced that Scott Servais was also extended to continue managing the ballclub; the terms for their contracts were not disclosed, so it’s unknown how long they’re under contract for.

I don’t really know of anyone who thinks Servais is a bad manager. Quite the contrary, I think most of us are really impressed with how hard he gets his guys to play for him, even when they’re lacking in talent compared to some of the elite teams around baseball. We might get blown out here and there – that’s going to happen – but we tend to be IN most of these games at the very least, and as far as the last two seasons are concerned, winning much more of them than anyone would’ve predicted.

I like Servais. I don’t have a lot of regard for managers in baseball in general; I think, for the most part, these teams sort of manage themselves. They get too much of the blame when things go wrong, and probably an appropriate amount of the credit when things go right. But, you can really see how Servais has built the culture here. It’s different than it was under Lloyd McClendon, Don Wakamatsu, Eric Wedge, and on and on dating back to the glory days of Lou Piniella. Honestly, Servais might be the best manager in all of baseball right now, and I’ve been saying for a while: I’d LOVE to see what he does with a team that’s as talented as the Astros or Dodgers or Yankees.

And, for what it’s worth, I do think Servais makes a high percentage of the correct calls when it comes to sticking with a pitcher vs. pulling him for a fresh arm. I mean, that probably has a lot to do with the analytics department, but it’s a credit to Servais that he actually follows the numbers and not just his fucking gut (*cough* Lloyd McClendon *cough*).

As for Dipoto, he’s MUCH more divisive. Fans seem to either love him and lap up the Kool Aid like the thirsty sheep that they are; or fans seem to hate him and want to ride him out of town on a rail.

I’m in the middle. If I had my druthers, we would’ve backed up the Brinks truck to Theo Epstein’s house and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse YEARS ago. But, obviously, that’s never happening. We hired Dipoto after the 2015 season, and while his moves have been hit-or-miss, I think there’s a lot unexplained from his tenure. He inherited an aging roster that was still trying to break the playoff drought. How much did ownership hamper him when it comes to tearing it all down back then and rebuilding immediately? I would argue they meddled quite a bit, with guys like Felix, Cruz, Cano, and Seager playing at the tops of their games.

It wasn’t until after the 2018 season – when we won 89 games, but again fell well short of making the playoffs – that we FINALLY committed to a real, official rebuild. I would say, by and large, Dipoto’s moves before that point were largely disappointing and underwhelming. Again, how much was he hampered by ownership, who likely limited his spending? I would argue quite a bit, with Felix’s dying contract, Seager’s bloated deal, and Cano’s albatross hanging around our neck.

I contend that SINCE the end of the 2018 season, Dipoto has been largely on fire with his trades, his under-the-radar dart-throw free agent signings, and his draft picks. In that time, he turned around a farm system that was one of the worst – if not THE worst – in all of baseball, into one of the best this year (including one publication ranking us #1 overall). The trade of Cano & Edwin Diaz for Jarred Kelenic (and others) is the big draw. But, he also pulled off the Austin Nola deal (for Ty France and Luis Torrens) and the aforementioned Graveman deal for Toro.

It hasn’t worked out perfectly since then. The Mariners really bottomed out in 2019, for instance. But, we played much better in a COVID-shortened 2020 season. And, this year, we find ourselves firmly in contention for a wild card spot with a month left to play.

You can argue that many of the young position players are failing to make the leap from AAA to the Major Leagues, but if that’s Dipoto’s fault, then it’s also on all the scouts and pundits who continue to laud these players as among the most talented of all the prospects coming up in the last two years. They’re still young-enough in their careers to turn things around. Plus, there are more prospects where they came from if they do, indeed, fail at this level.

On top of which, the Mariners have cheaped out long enough. It sounds like after having this year to analyze the guys we’ve got, the purse strings are going to be loosened, allowing us to go out and make some splashy free agent deals. Between that, and the trades we can make by having one of the best farm systems in baseball, as long as we don’t fuck things up COMPLETELY, we should be watching the Seattle Mariners in the post-season sooner rather than later.

So, no, I’m not a Jerry Dipoto hater. But, I’m also not drinking the Kool Aid completely either. He still needs to finish the job. Lots of teams throughout baseball have been in the position we’re in now. VERY few actually manage to morph into World Series champions, let alone enjoy the kind of sustained success you see out of teams like the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox.

I’ll fully believe it when I see it. Don’t do what the Mariners always do: get swindled in trades for mediocre veterans who come here and shit the bed. DO do what good teams do: ship off shaky prospects for quality starters, and let’s go win us a fucking World Series title!

The Mariners Swept The Athletics; This Is Getting Very Interesting

Sure, it was a 2-game sweep, but that’s two games we picked up on the Athletics! We’re still three games out of the wild card spot, but now we’re only one game behind Oakland, one of the two teams that stands in our way going forward.

Monday’s game was another Mariners Special. Marco Gonzales got the start and had a very Marco Gonzales kind of performance. He gave up a run in the first and a solo homer in the fourth. The offense got off to its usual slow start, which means the Mariners were down 2-0 heading into the sixth. That’s when we FINALLY got to the A’s starter on a Mitch Haniger 2-run home run to tie it up.

Then Marco did the unforgiveable. With new life, with a low pitch count, he lazily tried to sneak a Get Me Over curveball to one of the best power hitters in the game, Matt Olson, who jacked it out to right for a 3-2 Oakland lead. What are you doing, man?! You’re the leader of this pitching staff! You’ve been the Opening Day starter for the last few years! And this is how you respond to your offense climbing back into the game? When you’re just an inning away from handing it over to the bullpen; a unit that’s been so dominant this year. It’s really infuriating. If this was earlier in the game, I could understand it. You’re trying to conserve your pitch count and whatnot. But, this is late-enough in the game where you know you’re probably only going to be given three more outs to get. You need to be EXTRA careful in this situation, especially against the Athletics’ best hitter!

Marco got through the 6 innings, giving up just the 3 runs, so technically it was a Quality Start. And, yeah, the Mariners won, so how upset can I really be? But, that game really looked grim from there, and if we’re all being honest, that’s a game we lose 9 times out of 10 in a normal season.

This is not a normal season, though! The A’s had some lockdown bullpen work through the 7th and 8th innings, where the Mariners just had no chance against such filth. Thankfully, our own bullpen was able to hold serve with the D-Squad of Erik Swanson and Anthony Misiewicz. That got us to Oakland’s closer, Lou Trivino. He’s blown four saves all year, now two of them against Seattle.

Things immediately got off to a bad start for him, with Ty France hitting yet another game-tying solo homer, this time in the first at-bat of the inning. This was followed up by a Toro single and a Fraley double to put two runners in scoring position for the bottom of the lineup. Unfortunately, Kelenic and Raleigh failed to even make contact, as both struck out swinging. But, unlikeliest of heroes Jake Bauers came through with a solid single to left to put the Mariners up 5-3.

Thankfully, we did it in that spot, because I don’t want to know what this game would’ve looked like had it gone to extras. Paul Sewald was tasked with coming into the game, and you could tell right off the bat that he was fatigued and didn’t have his usual stuff. He managed to get all three hitters out that he faced, including one strikeout, to get the save. Impressive stuff!

Tuesday’s getaway day game was much more relaxing, though no less entertaining. Chris Flexen did what he does best: get deep into the game with a relatively low pitch count. He couldn’t quite get through the seventh, but he finished with 6.2 innings pitched, giving up just the one run on 6 hits and a walk, with 5 strikeouts. Drew Steckenrider came in to get the last out of the seventh … and all the remaining outs of the game! The rare 2.1-inning save!

We chased the A’s starter after three innings; he gave up an RBI single to Kelenic and a 2-RBI single to Torrens, to give the Mariners an early 3-1 lead. Then, for good measure, Kelenic and Dylan Moore both hit in an insurance run apiece in the eighth to give the game its 5-1 final.

VERY good road trip all around for the Mariners, at the best possible time. We swept the Rangers, lost two of three to the Astros, but then swept the A’s to make it 6-2 overall. That’s what REAL contending teams need to do to get over the hump!

Our reward is that we got out of Oakland early yesterday, we have all of today off, before starting a 4-game series against the lowly Royals. I’m not going to make any guarantees, because the Royals have been weirdly hot lately (winning 6 of 8 against the Astros and Cubs, at the time of this writing), but this is a team you SHOULD beat. Hopefully their magic is starting to run out by the time they get to Seattle.

The bummer of this upcoming stretch is that we play our six remaining games against the Astros in a little over a week; hopefully there will be some revenge factor on our side. That just means we MUST take advantage by beating the bad teams on the slate. Between now and September 12th, we have those six games against the Astros, but we also have 10 games against the Royals and Diamondbacks (the 9th-worst and 2nd-worst teams, by record, in the Major Leagues). Ideally, you want to be 10-6 in those games AT A MINIMUM. You should probably win 11 or 12 of those games, if you really want to make the playoffs.

This is something though, isn’t it? Meaningful baseball INTO September, who’da thunk it?!

A Bummer Of A Mariners Series In Houston Could’ve Been Worse

We didn’t get swept! That’s something, anyway. Of course, losing the two games the way we lost them was pretty demoralizing, and it took us 11 innings to get that lone win, but I’ll take what I can get.

The Mariners lost 12-3 on Friday, giving up all of those runs in the first five innings. Yusei Kikuchi had easily his worst game of the season, 2.2 innings, giving up 7 runs. It’s a shame for him that he didn’t get to appear in the All Star Game this year, because I don’t know if he’ll ever get a chance again. Through July 1st – just before he was named to the All Star team – he was 6-3 and had a 3.18 ERA. Since then, he’s had two Quality Starts out of eight. His last two appearances in particular have been pretty brutal. We’re in the stretch run here! We need to win every game we can possibly win! He failed to go five innings against the Blue Jays, then couldn’t even make it through three against the Astros (his overall record has fallen to 7-7). The Mariners have a HUGE decision to make on Kikuchi after this season, whether or not they pick up his remaining option years. Before the All Star Break, I would’ve said it’s a no-brainier to keep him around. But, if he continues to lay eggs the rest of this season, I don’t think it’s smart to sign on for more at that salary. If he can’t handle THIS pressure, what makes you think he’d handle the pressure of being on a team in an actual pennant race (which is our stated goal) in the next 2-3 years?

Kikuchi wasn’t the only bad thing about Friday’s game. Wyatt Mills (a guy presumably only up here to eat innings in these very types of situations) gave up 3 runs in 1.1 innings of work (he has an ERA over 10 in his 10 appearances). Erik Swanson continued his slide by giving up another 2 runs in his 1 inning of work (looking much more like the Erik Swanson we’ve been used to the last couple years). The only pitching bright spot on Friday was Yohan Ramirez’s two innings of shutout ball, striking out 4.

The offense didn’t stand a chance, obviously. Ty France had 3 hits (including a solo homer). Kyle Seager had a solo homer, and Abraham Toro had an RBI single.

If you thought 12-3 was bad, wait until you get a load of 15-1!

Logan Gilbert had to wear this one. 4.2 innings, 9 runs on 8 hits (including 2 homers) and a walk, with 5 strikeouts. Obviously, he’s in a very different point of his Major League career than Kikuchi, but he’s nevertheless been just as up-and-down in his rookie campaign. He just needs to work, to refine his breaking pitches, and to get used to the talent at this level. I think he’ll be fine, but it would be encouraging for him to take a step or two in his development over the next few weeks. We need him to be a foundational starter for this team in 2022 and beyond.

Thankfully, we were able to save the rest of the bullpen by calling up Robert Dugger and getting him to mop up the remaining 3.1 innings. He, nevertheless, gave up 6 more runs and was immediately DFA’d before Sunday’s game.

The only run for the Mariners came on a Haniger solo homer in the sixth.

For all of the pointlessness of the first two games, Sunday’s was quite a thriller!

Houston got two runs off of Tyler Anderson in the second inning, but that was it, as Anderson went 5.1 innings to at least give us a chance. The bullpen was pretty lights out from there. Joe Smith closed out the sixth. Anthony Misiewicz got four outs in a nice comeback for him. Steckenrider got five outs, and Paul Sewald had the greatest inning of relief I’ve seen all year! More on that in a moment.

The Astros starter, Framber Valdez, went 7 shutout innings, giving up only 3 hits and a walk, striking out 6. This one looked grim, especially with Kendall Graveman taking the hill in the 8th. BUT, we scratched a run off of the ex-Mariner to make the game 2-1 in the ninth inning. It’s only the second run he’s given up since we traded him over there at the deadline, but the first time he actually contributed to an Astros loss. That run meant a lot when Ty France hit the game-tying solo homer in the ninth to eventually send this game to extras.

The M’s botched their chance in the 10th, as Torrens – the ghost runner – got taken out at third base on a running error with the ball being hit to the short stop. Cal Raleigh’s double managed to get Fraley to third, but would’ve scored Torrens had he done his job. J.P. Crawford struck out to end the threat, in spite of some questionable umpiring that went his way.

Sewald came in to pitch the 10th and immediately gave up a single to Altuve to put runners on the corners. We intentionally walked Michael Brantley to load ’em up and get a play at any base. Sewald struck out Correa looking (on yet another terrible call by the home plate ump) for the first out, then overpowered the next guy at the top of the zone to get another strikeout. That brought up Yuli Gurriel, a notorious Mariners killer. He wasn’t biting on the slider, but fouled off two high fastballs to make the count even. Sewald threw a perfect slider on the low-and-outside corner for what should’ve been strike three, but the umpire AGAIN blew the call. The count was full, with Gurriel fouling off the next two fastballs, before swinging through the last one – the 8th pitch of the at-bat – to end the inning. What a performance!

In the top of the 11th, Haniger walked before Ty France hit a single the opposite way to take a 3-2 lead. Kyle Seager promptly extended the lead to 6-2 with a 3-run home run, his 29th of the season (his career high is 30). It turns out, we needed all of these runs, because now we were getting back into the dregs of our bullpen.

Keynan Middleton started the bottom of the 11th, getting a first-pitch groundout to Seager. He then gave up a first-pitch single to the next guy to make it 6-3. The bases ended up loaded after the next two guys singled and walked respectively (the walk, of course, being helped greatly by a CLEAR strike being called Ball 4). Servais had to pull Middleton, who clearly didn’t have it. The only other alternative was Yohan Ramirez, who struck out Altuve on a nasty slider at the bottom of the zone. Michael Brantley – the leading hitter in the American League heading into the game – lined out to center to end it.

This was the first save of the season for Ramirez – the Rule 5 guy we took from the Astros prior to the 2020 season – and it’s nice to see him starting to develop into someone we might be able to trust in higher leverage situations. His problem has always been his control; he has a live fastball and a nasty slider. If he can rein it in a little bit, that’s another diamond in the rough reliever who could be good for us for a good, long time (or, at the very least, a nice little trade chip in the offseason).

Now, we’re off to Oakland for a quick 2-game series. We’re three games behind them in the standings, so it would be nice to get the series win here.

The Mariners Almost Didn’t Sweep The Rangers

The M’s have been on a nice little tear since the last time we lost a game to the Rangers, having won 7 of 8 games to improve our record to 66-56. We’re 3 games behind Oakland for the second wild card spot. Not ideal, but considering what this team is, it’s where you want to be. Or, at least, you don’t want to be any further behind at this point in the season.

It’s a little disconcerting how close these games against the Rangers have been this season. The Mariners went 13-6, which is good, but 14 of those games have been decided by 2 runs or less. I guess a win is a win is a win, but like most of this season for the M’s, there seems to be an inordinate amount of good luck at play.

Tuesday’s 3-1 win went completely according to script. Tyler Anderson pitched 6 innings, giving up one run, and our top three bullpen guys shut it down from there (Steckenrider, Castillo, Sewald). All told, our pitchers gave up 6 hits, 0 walks, and struck out 8. And, as per usual, the offense did just enough. Two sac flies gave us a 2-1 lead, and a Torrens homer in the 9th gave us an insurance run. Bingo, bango, bongo.

Wednesday’s 3-1 win was a little more strenuous. Marco Gonzales continued his dominant run of pitching – giving us 5.1 innings of shutout ball – and was really only hampered by the Rangers inflating his pitch count just a few days after he’d gone a complete game against them. He was able to spread out 6 hits and a walk, getting out of jams, and handing the game over with a lead intact.

Kyle Seager gave the M’s a 2-0 lead with his homer in the first. The only blip against us was Erik Swanson giving up an RBI double in the 7th. But, J.P. Crawford hit a sac fly in the 8th to give us another insurance run. We needed five bullpen guys to lock the game in place, with Steckenrider getting the save and Sewald getting a hold in the 8th.

The season finale was another one of those great rallying moments by the Mariners. The offense grabbed the bull by the horns early, scoring six runs in the first 3 innings of play, knocking out the Rangers’ starter in the process. Guys were getting on base throughout, but the top half of the lineup really carried the mail, with all 9 RBI coming from Haniger, Seager, France, and Toro; Crawford and Bauers also chipped in with 2 hits and 2 runs apiece.

With Chris Flexen pitching 7 innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned), this one was a laugher heading into the bottom of the 9th, with the M’s up 7-2. Even though the offense exploded in this one, there were still plenty more runs left on the table (4/14 with RISP), and that ultimately came to bite us in the ass when the bullpen unraveled in the bottom of the 9th.

Anthony Misiewicz was tasked with getting the final three outs. Having not pitched at all in this series, he was one of the only relievers we had left who was completely fresh. He proceeded to get exactly zero outs, giving up two singles and a double before being pulled.

Unfortunately, Diego Castillo was tasked with mopping up from there, now with a 7-3 lead and two runners in scoring position. He hadn’t pitched the night before, and we were REALLY trying to save Sewald’s arm since he’d thrown the previous two games. Castillo struck out the first batter he faced, before a walk and a wild pitch made it 7-4. He struck out the next batter, but then the Rangers hit a 3-run homer to tie it and send the game to extras.

Things looked somehow even more bleak in the tenth, when the Mariners failed to score. But, Joe Smith danced around some terrific defense behind him to keep it all knotted up heading into the 11th. That’s when Ty France decided to take matters into his own hands, hitting a 2-run homer. With no other choice, we had to go back to the Sewald well one more time, who did give up the ghost runner, but otherwise locked it down for his sixth save.

This team impressed the hell out of me in getting the sweep. Of course, they absolutely SHOULD have won all three games, because the Rangers are terrible. But, now this gives us a chance. It’s not a great chance, but a chance just the same.

This weekend series in Houston will be huge.

The Mariners Couldn’t Quite Sweep The Blue Jays

Boy, they very nearly did it, didn’t they? I said last time, if the Mariners want to win me back (meaning, get me to buy into a possible playoff berth), they need to sweep the Blue Jays. Well, they won on Friday and Saturday, before the rails fell off on Sunday.

True to form, I saw zero minutes of this series. What can I say, I was spending time with my special lady, and she thankfully saved me from what would have been some stressful and concerning hours watching the Mariners. Friday’s 3-2 win alone sounds like it would’ve taken 9 years off of my life!

Chris Flexen did what he does best: 6 innings of 2-run ball. It was a 2-run single in the fourth right after Tom Murphy’s 2-run homer in the bottom of the third. Apparently, Flexen managed this whole game while under the weather, so it’s even more impressive!

Joe Smith and Diego Castillo tossed a combined two innings of scoreless ball to get us to the ninth, where Steckenrider kept the train going and earned himself another win. Both teams loaded up the bases that inning, but Steckenrider got the inning-ending double play, while the Mariners got the RBI walk-off walk from Kelenic to win it. What a treat he’s been over the last month or so!

The Saturday game was a romp, though it looked dicey early. Yusei Kikuchi didn’t have it, though he managed to limit the damage to 3 runs in 4.1 innings (throwing a lot of pitches in the process). The bullpen did what it does, though, and kept it scoreless the rest of the way, giving the offense time to figure it out.

Ty France hit a mammoth homer in the first to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead, that turned into a 3-2 deficit heading into the bottom of the seventh. That’s when Torrens and Kelenic hit back-to-back bombs (a 3-run and solo variety) to give the Mariners the lead for good. Toro added an RBI single in the eighth, and Torrens followed with a 2-RBI double to extend the game to a 9-3 advantage. Outstanding effort by the offense!

Between those two games, and the fact we had Logan Gilbert going in the finale, I would’ve been greatly anticipating the series sweep on Sunday! Unfortunately, Gilbert got rocked around, giving up 5 runs in 4 innings, off of 8 hits (including 2 homers); the dregs of the bullpen didn’t fare much better in this one that REALLY got away from us (8-3 final). Crawford had a couple hits and a run, and Seager hit a 2-run homer, but there just wasn’t enough to overcome the bad pitching.

As noted previously, the Mariners are now 1 game back of Toronto, but also 5.5 games out of the second wild card spot, with the Yankees right there in the mix as another team to have to leap over. It’s a lot, with not a lot of time left to do it. This week, we go on the road to face the Rangers for the final time this season. Last chance for some “easy” wins before we go to Houston and Oakland, to play some teams clearly better than us. Shrug emoji we’ll see, I guess!

The Mariners Somehow Did Not Sweep The Rangers

I was so thoroughly annoyed by Tuesday’s extra-innings loss to the Rangers, I couldn’t even enjoy the subsequent two wins. We should’ve HAD THAT GAME!

For starters, the amount of struggling we did in this series is insane. The Rangers are hands down one of the worst teams in baseball. They might be, pound for pound, the worst team of the 30 at the moment. And yet, every game in this series was decided by 2 runs or less. Every step of the way was a gargantuan fucking challenge.

The last thing I want to do is rehash the 5-4 defeat, but it has to be done because it’s the perfect incapsulation of how much the M’s played down to the talent level of their opponent. The Rangers jumped out to a 1-0 lead off of Logan Gilbert thanks to a solo homer in the second. He settled down pretty good – finishing 6 innings, giving up just 2 runs on 5 hits, while striking out 5 and walking 0 – but ended up with a no decision. Haniger and Seager hit back-to-back solo bombs in the fourth; the Rangers hit an RBI double in the fifth to give the game its score at that point.

It was tied heading into the ninth, when Paul Sewald got jumped for a solo bomb to potentially cost us the game. We were facing the Rangers’ closer in the bottom half down a run, and already I was super pissed off.

But, then a little of that late-game Mariners magic returned! Bauers and Kelenic walked, and Raleigh singled to load the bases (after a couple of laughably bad attempts to bunt the runners over) for Jake Fraley … who also walked to tie the game at 3-3. With no outs. And the top of the order coming up.

HOW DO YOU LOSE?! The closer is wild as fuck, he’s decidedly being left in there to take his lumps even though he clearly doesn’t have it, and we had J.P. Crawford, Mitch Haniger, and Kyle Seager up. ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS HIT A LAZY FLY BALL TO THE OUTFIELD! Or work a walk, or take one off the shoulder, or get a fucking ball to roll through the pulled-in infield.

Just flabbergasting. J.P. Crawford – who has been so good in these situations, and especially when he just needs to make contact – struck out swinging. By this point, the Rangers’ closer seemed to gather his control, as he pretty easily struck out Haniger swinging as well. Then came Seager, who gave us the lazy fly ball we needed, two outs too late.

Erik Swanson came in for the 10th, and was catching too much of the heart of the plate; the Rangers scored both the ghost runner AND an actual runner to take a 5-3 lead. The Mariners immediately singled in the ghost runner in their first AB of the bottom half of the inning, but Toro grounded into a double play to pretty much end the threat.

I gave up on the series from there. I also, not for nothing, am washing my hands of this Toronto series this weekend for other reasons, but even if I were totally free, I think I’d find something else to do with my time.

So, I missed the thrilling 2-1 come-from-behind, walk-off win on Wednesday. But, read that again. Why in the hell are we only scoring two runs against this pitching staff? Why are we down a run to them in the first place? Why do we need a heroic bottom-of-the-ninth walk-off situation to win it? Kudos to our pitching staff, I guess. But anti-kudos to the hitters, who have REALLY been shit in the month of August.

Tyler Anderson went 5.1 innings, giving up 1 run. I like how we’re controlling him, and pulling him before any late damage can be done. I also like how he’s giving us ALMOST-quality starts every time out; this is what we weren’t getting from all those bullpen days. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn are ready to return.

The bullpen was lights out from there. Joe Smith continued his scoreless streak since the trade from Houston. Casey Sadler continued his phenomenal run since returning from the IL. Diego Castillo looked sharp in his 8th inning. And Drew Steckenrider continued being one of the most improbably-effective relievers on this team! He ended up earning his fourth win of the season for his troubles.

The Rangers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead before Kelenic, in the sixth, walked in a run. That was it until the ninth, when Kelenic led off with a double. One out later, Fraley hit an infield single to move him to third, for Luis Torrens who also singled him home (though it sounds like it might’ve been a double under normal circumstances).

Even though yesterday’s Day Game was another close affair, it was actually a breath of fresh air, with the M’s prevailing 3-1. That’s because Marco Gonzales turned in easily his best game of the season, getting the complete game, giving up 2 hits, walking 1, and striking out 9. THIS is the #1 starter we’ve been waiting for all year! Now, if he can just do it against an actual Major League Baseball team, we’ll be all set.

Again, we had to come back from an early 1-0 deficit. Kelenic hit a sac fly, and Crawford and Fraley both hit solo bombs.

It’s nice to see Kelenic’s average get up to .150. That, obviously, is a terrible number for a hitter to have, but it’s 50 points higher than it was not too long ago. Unless he bats 1.000 the rest of the way, he’s not going to end this season with a good-looking average. But, as long as he finishes the last couple months strong, I think that’s something he can really build upon heading into next year.

Even though there’s a lot to like about getting this series win, it’s a missed opportunity. You have to sweep a team as bad as the Rangers, especially at home, especially when it’s the bottom of the ninth, with the bases loaded, and no one is out.

It still makes my blood boil.

I mean, you do realize you’re in a wild card chase, right? I know you all were exasperated with the front office after the trade of Graveman, but that doesn’t mean you just give up!

You know how the Mariners can win me back? Sweep the Blue Jays this weekend. Take them out behind the woodshed and leapfrog them in one fell swoop. The Mariners are 2 games behind the Blue Jays (who are, themselves, 2.5 games out of the last wild card spot). This is our opportunity to eliminate them as a threat and set our sights to ending this playoff drought.

I guess, if I had to settle for a mere series win, that would be okay too, though it would obviously still leave us a game behind them. But, losing this series is NOT an option.

The Mariners Continued Beating Up On The Rays

It would’ve been crazy to sweep the Rays a second time this season, but I’m just happy the Mariners got the series win. Keep on punchin’.

After the disaster that was the Rangers series, it was nice to have Chris Flexen going on Monday to calm things down. He went 6.2 innings, giving up 2 runs, which was plenty good since we amassed an 8-2 lead by that point. The score wouldn’t change from there.

France, Haniger, Crawford, and Fraley all had multi-hit games, including a double and a homer for France (who accounted for 3 RBI). Fraley had 2 RBI, and Seager and Kelenic had 1 RBI each. This was a thorough drubbing, with Joe Smith getting 4 scoreless outs to (so far) be a value-add to this team since the Graveman deal with the Astros. Speaking of which, Abraham Toro had a walk and a run scored to continue being the steal of the trade deadline.

Yusei Kikuchi followed that up with a quality start of his own, going 6 innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned), even though he didn’t really have his greatest stuff. He spread out 6 hits and 2 walks while limiting the damage just enough to keep us in it while we amassed all of 4 runs to take the game 4-2. There was some nice lockdown bullpen work with Sadler, Sewald, and Castillo going Hold, Hold, Save over the final three innings.

I’m interested in seeing what Sewald’s role will be the rest of the way. Castillo really does give off a Fernando Rodney Experience vibe, which is usually effective, but mostly heart attack-inducing. Since Sewald very clearly appears to be the best reliever on this team, it would be nice if we continued to use him in the highest leverage situations, whether that means going the 7th, 8th, or 9th innings. I hope Castillo is okay with sometimes getting saddled with a non-save situation every now and then, because I feel like this is what needs to happen for the Mariners to maximize their bullpen’s potential. With the promise of so many more close games, it’s going to be necessary to blow as few of them as possible.

Toro and Kelenic each had homers in this one, with Toro scoring 2 runs on the day, and Cal Raleigh hitting in two runners on a sac fly and a fielder’s choice.

Unfortunately, we didn’t quite have enough to get the sweep, losing yesterday afternoon by a score of 4-3. Logan Gilbert had just the one bad inning, giving up 3 runs total over five. 4 hits isn’t bad; 4 walks is far from ideal. We might’ve been able to take this to extras, but Steckenrider gave up a solo bomb in the sixth to Mike Zunino, and our late rally fell JUST short. Crawford and Haniger combined for 5 of our 7 hits, and 2 of our 3 runs; Toro also had another hit and walk.

In 8 games since the trade, Toro has safely reached in every one. He’s hit 12/28 (.429), with 3 doubles, 3 homers, 5 RBI, and 8 runs scored. I mean, it’s silly how good he’s been in such a short time! He’s already almost equalled the WAR he had in 35 games with Houston this year!

Next up: 4 games in New York against the Yankees before we return home. The Yankees notoriously mash against left-handed pitching. So, great news! Three of our four projected starters are lefties! If we win one of these games, it’ll be a miracle.

The Mariners Probably Should’ve Swept The Rangers

I don’t know what happened, you guys. I left to go camping on Saturday morning near Mt. Rainier and everything went to shit with the Mariners in the two days I was without cell service. I blame Internet trolls.

The Texas Rangers are fucking awful, so Friday’s 9-5 victory went absolutely according to plan. Logan Gilbert pitched into the sixth inning, almost giving us a quality start in the process, and the bullpen was fairly lights out from there. On top of which, we had a Kelenic bust-out game (a homer and 4 RBI); Abraham Toro’s consecutive games with a homer streak ended at four, but he still went 3 for 5 with a double and 2 runs scored; and every player in our lineup either had a hit, an RBI, and/or a run scored to contribute in some way to this dominating victory. Five stars, no notes!

Saturday’s 5-4 loss in extra innings was just fucking stupid. I’m getting the sense that Diego Castillo got a lot of crap for losing this one, but he’s so far down my shit list, he might as well be the second page of any Google search. For starters, how do we chase the Rangers’ starter in the fourth inning and only score two runs off of him? Furthermore, how do we find ourselves down 3-2 in the top of the ninth inning, before Ty France finally bails us out with a solo homer to send it to extras in the first place? These are the Rangers for Christ’s sake, and we let their long reliever pitch three shutout innings?! The ultimate travesty is blowing our first start from Tyler Anderson, who did exactly what you’d expect him to do: 5.1 innings of 3-run ball. That line epitomizes him so much it should be written on his tombstone.

The obvious culprit is the offense, who has been a throbbing, explosive success throughout the season in clutch situations, but went only 2 for 7 with runners in scoring position in this one. One of those hits came in the 10th, after Kelenic did his job getting the ghost runner to third. Jake Bauers popped up to second base, necessitating a J.P. Crawford 2-out RBI single.

The sneaky culprit is pitch sequencing, which I don’t entirely blame Castillo for. With their own ghost runner at second, trailing 4-3, the Rangers had catcher Jonah Heim at the plate. I don’t think anyone’s confusing him for Johnny Bench. Yet, for some reason, we started him off with four consecutive sliders to get to a 1-2 count (the fourth of which was fouled off) before throwing his first fastball. Then, he went right back to a fifth slider, middle-low and away that was jacked for the game-winning 2-run home run to right. This is supposed to be a strikeout pitch; why is Tom Murphy – by proxy for manager Scott Servais – calling for so many sliders early in the count to this guy, Jonah Heim, who again is nothing special?! I don’t understand, but he can throw triple digits. You FEATURE the fastball that hits triple digits, and you occasionally sprinkle in the slider to get swings and misses! THAT’S THE DEAL! Take it or leave it!

What can you say about Sunday’s game, other than it was a total meltdown by a bullpen guy who had otherwise been aces all season? Marco Gonzales seems like he’s slowly, but surely, turning things around; he had a quality start in this one (6 innings, 1 run) after nearly getting one against the A’s in his previous start. The offense even did enough, giving him a 3-1 lead after seven innings (though, again, seems a little feeble that we could only manage those three runs against a Rangers team this inept). But, the bullpen was pretty well gassed after the first two games of the series, so Erik Swanson was called upon to get the final three outs.

Narrator: “He got zero outs.”

They were swinging early and often against Swanson, just so you know what’s in his scouting report. He throws strikes now, in case you hadn’t heard. But, in this one, Swanson’s strikes were too meaty and juicy. The leadoff hitter singled on the second pitch thrown to him. The next guy hit a homer off of a slider hanging in the center of the plate on just his third pitch. That tied the game for Jonah “Nothing Special” Heim, who this time saw nothing but fastballs in his five pitches, before depositing the last one again to right field for the walk-off home run. I guess, you could question the pitch sequencing, but obviously he’d just hung a slider to the previous guy to blow the save, so maybe he didn’t have any feel for it. Nevertheless, when a guy gives up three runs without recording an out – to blow the save AND catch the loss – it’s hard to blame anyone else but the pitcher himself.

Still, don’t go searching for his family on social media and threaten them! God, what’s the matter with you people? If you’re a Mariners fan, you’re probably from the Pacific Northwest. And, if you’re in the Pacific Northwest, you do as we all do: passive aggressively talk shit behind their backs and subtweet the living daylights out of them! You don’t tag them, and you DEFINITELY don’t get into it with their friends and family. Have a little decorum, won’t you?

Look, I get it, that series sucked! The Rangers are one of the very worst teams in all of baseball. The Mariners – in spite of the lack of popularity of their recent deals – are still somewhat in contention for a wild card spot. But, you MUST beat teams like the Rangers, and ideally you should probably be sweeping them. They had these games somewhat in hand, and blew the final two. I just hope the hangover doesn’t continue as we head to Tampa and New York.

I’m sure the chatter on Twitter was endless about Kendall Graveman almost certainly locking down those last two games for saves. He looked phenomenal as usual in his first appearance with the Astros, getting 4 outs, three via strikeout. I’m not touching that one with a ten foot pole.