The Mariners Somehow Won Their Opening Weekend Series!

Actually, that’s not such a remarkable feat, but you try writing thousands of quasi-unique blog post titles and see what you come up with.

After staying at the game past 11pm, and then not getting home until around midnight last Thursday, I didn’t have it in me to watch the entirety of Friday night’s game. I’m such a bad fan! I’m such an old man! Kill me now!

What I did see, however, was an impressive outing by Yusei Kikuchi (who swapped places with Paxton in the rotation for … reasons), who went 6 innings, giving up 3 runs on 6 hits and 1 walk while striking out 10! Unfortunately, all three of his runs came on 2 homers, and he ended up with a no decision for his troubles.

This feels like a pretty standard 6-3 loss for the Mariners in 2021: pretty good starting pitching, not so great hitting (only 6 hits all game), and a dud performance from the bullpen (highlighted by Drew Steckenrider’s 3 runs in 0.2 innings of relief). Once the game was given away like that, I toddled off to bed. But, I still say this one was promising, for Kikuchi’s improved command alone. If he can keep that up all year, we might be onto something!

I’ll admit, I didn’t have high hopes for the rubber match on Saturday (the rare Sunday off-day is throwing me for a loop, I have to admit), with Chris Flexen making his Mariners debut. I was also outside working with my friends in their backyard gravel pit, so I managed to miss all but the very end of this one. Which is too bad, because it looks like I missed a pretty good Flexen outing! 5 innings of shutout ball, on 4 hits & 2 walks, with 6 strikeouts. We were told ahead of time that he might be limited in how long he could go, so all things considered that’s pretty amazing!

The bullpen behind him was also pretty fantastic! I would assume the combination – in some order – of Kendall Graveman, Anthony Misiewicz, and closer Rafael Montero will be in play for the vast majority of games where the Mariners hold a lead late. These are the guys Scott Servais is going to rely on until they prove they can’t handle it. Graveman went 2 shutout innings, striking out 5. Misiewicz appeared to struggle, but got two outs in the eighth. And Montero came through with the 4-out save after blowing one on Opening Night. All in all, as solid a 4-0 victory as you’ll see.

It’s obviously too early to draw any grand conclusions from three games. I don’t think the Giants are overburdened with quality pitching, so while it’s nice that the M’s hitters did as well as they did, we could very well be in for lean times ahead. Only three American League teams – who have played in just three games – have more team strikeouts so far. And, again, that’s with the Giants not having good pitching whatsoever.

The vaunted White Sox come to town for three starting tonight, before we hit the road for Minnesota and Baltimore. It would be nice to steal as many wins over the next ten days as possible, considering how difficult the schedule gets in the back-half of this month, and on into May.

The Mariners Somehow Won On Opening Day!

I don’t go to every Opening Day Mariners game, but I’ve been to quite a bit. After last year – when zero people got to see the game in person – my friends and I made an extra-special effort to get into this one. There were 9,000 tickets available – a robust 25% or so of the maximum capacity (actually, now that I do the math … on a 48,000-seat stadium … something doesn’t add up here) – and of course they sold out immediately. Naturally, many of the people who snapped them up promptly sold them on the secondary market, because everything is broken in the world.

Never mind your got-damn politics! This is a sports blog, you hear?!

Anyway, my three best pod-mates and myself were able to snag four seats in the 300 level for around $110 (including fees) apiece. That ain’t bad. You don’t look into getting Mariners tickets for Opening Day to find a good deal, you pay what you pay and you get your buns inside!

But first, a little pre-game festivities. Let’s see, Hooverville was closed. Henry’s shut down. Pyramid is no more. Elysian is down. The Triangle Pub is in the big triangle in the sky. Jimmy’s is out of commission. I mean, if you were looking for a bar that survived the pandemic, GOOD LUCK! My friends and I have always been partial to Sluggers, and they didn’t disappoint. But, even at whatever capacity they’re allowing inside bars and restaurants now, you still have to get there pretty early in the day to find a seat.

I will say that Gantry Public House looks VERY promising. They were at capacity when we got there, but they have outdoor seating and open-air indoor seating. Much smaller than Pyramid, but probably the best available as far as drinking outdoors prior to a game is concerned. As an aside, I’ll never understand why Pyramid failed. How did they not rake in money hand over fist on all the dates they had baseball, football, and soccer games? That should have been more than enough to give them the cushion they needed to survive the pandemic, but what do I know?

Anyway, we had a few beers in Sluggers, waiting for our entire party to arrive from their respective places of employment, then we headed into the stadium around 6:30pm or so. In spite of the early arrival, making it to our seats on time for the first pitch looked a little dicey.

It seems impossible for there to be only 9,000 fans in attendance (or, considerably less, depending on how many tickets were unable to be re-sold on the secondary market) and yet the lines for concessions were insanely long. Yet, there we were, waiting in endless lines (some lines – like those that sold IPA-type beers that my friends like – were considerably more endless than others). I was able to buy and eat two hot dogs, as well as a bottle of water and a Coors Light in half the time it took my friends to get their beer order in, which is less than ideal. Also, some lines went nowhere! If a concession worker opted to go on his break … there wasn’t anyone else to pick up the slack? So, you’re just waiting there for 15+ minutes, or until someone says, “Yeah, he went on break, there’s no one working this register.”

Also, this was less of a problem, but more of a warning: T-Mobile Park is apparently 100% cashless now. So, have working plastic in order if you want to buy anything.

You know what’s super-nice about being in a stadium on Opening Day with ~9,000 of your closest Mariners-rooting friends? Not having to stand up every two minutes to let people out of your row! I’ve enjoyed socially distanced baseball games since before it was cool! Also, I think the longest I ever had to wait to use the bathroom was MAYBE a minute? I was in and out every time I needed to pee! This: I could get used to.

The game itself was … fine, until it got wildly fun in the later innings. We goosed our enjoyment level by betting the OVER of 7.5 total runs in the game. It looked like we might’ve needed the Giants to do everything in that regard, as the M’s were down 5-0 through six innings.

I’ll tell you my rationale for betting the over. It certainly wasn’t contingent upon the lineup the Mariners were throwing out there, with Kyle Lewis injured and whatnot. Last year, the rotation really struggled the first time through; and generally it seems to be pretty tough sledding for guys whose arms aren’t built up yet. Looking at the starter the Giants were pitting against us, it seemed like a quasi-no brainer.

Marco Gonzales did his part, giving up 5 runs in six innings. He really didn’t have it in this one, walking three and giving up three dingers. But, Kevin Gausman sure did! I couldn’t tell what his pitches were doing from our vantage point, but they must’ve been moving like crazy, because our batters were off-balance all night.

Thankfully, the Giants’ bullpen isn’t any better than ours, it would seem, as that fateful 8th inning not only gave my friends and I the over 7.5 in runs, but gave the Mariners a real opportunity to win this game!

The Mariners went into the inning down 6-1. A walk and two singles made it 6-2. Two more walks sandwiching a strikeout made it 6-3. With Dylan Moore standing at the plate, we checked on the live-betting; the Mariners were +525 to win the game at that moment. Several moments later – after considerable waffling on our parts, ultimately resulting in no bet being made, in spite of half of our party being on board (I was not one of them, sadly) – Moore shot a double down the right field line to score two more, making it 6-5 (and dropping the odds considerably for the M’s to win the game, where we ultimately snatched them up).

The Giants finally gave up a fielder’s choice/error to give the Mariners a 7-6 lead, so not only had we come all the way back, but we’d get a look at our brand new closer, Rafael Montero!

Montero – to the first batter he saw – got ahead 0-2 in the count on three off-speed pitches, only to give up a game-tying homer on a change-up on the outside corner of the plate (leaving it up in the zone, in spite of our pleas to bury it in the dirt). Montero was able to get out of the inning from there, but the damage was done. Extras would come into play on this day!

Anthony Misiewicz was able to work around the man on second base that MLB has decided is the new normal for extra innings games to get us into the bottom half unscathed. That ultimately earned him the victory, as the M’s walked the bases loaded with nobody out, only to walk in the winning run to anti-climactically send everyone home happy.

It also sent us home at around 11pm, which is LATE for me on a work night! So, you know, if this blog post is a little spastic, blame it on my lack of sleep. The Mariners are on pace for 162-0! Let’s dream the impossible dream, everyone!

2021 Mariners Preview Extravaganza: We Have A Rest Of The Team

Yesterday, I wrote about the starting rotation. Today – the day of the Mariners’ first game of the season – I’ll be writing about everything else.

If you’ve been following along all offseason, I’ve already written about most of these guys. But, now we have an official roster, so let’s run through it.

We’re pretty set with the infield:

  • Kyle Seager (3B)
  • J.P. Crawford (SS)
  • Dylan Moore (2B)
  • Evan White (1B)
  • Tom Murphy/Luis Torrens (C)

All healthy, present, and accounted for! All of them, of course, come with question marks. Does Seager have anything left in the late-career resurgence tank? Can Crawford build on his Gold Glove campaign to be a more consistent (and somewhat more powerful) hitter? Was 2020 a mirage for Moore? Will White EVER hit, period? And, is the catcher position as strong as I expect it to be? How many of these guys – if any – will be longterm solutions at their respective positions? I gotta believe that the Next Great Mariners Team has at least a few of these guys playing roles; they can’t ALL still be in the minors or other organizations!

One guy we don’t have to worry about is:

This guy can hit! No notes! Also, since I believe in him so strongly, watch him struggle mightily. This is the way.

The outfield is my favorite part of this team, now and especially in the future. With Kyle Lewis starting on the 10-Day IL, it’s a little underwhelming at the moment, but obviously the M’s have to play it super safe with our 2020 Rookie of the Year.

  • Mitch Haniger (RF)
  • Jake Fraley (CF)
  • Taylor Trammell (LF)
  • Sam Haggerty (INF/OF)
  • Jose Marmolejos (INF/OF)

The story of camp has been Trammell making the Opening Day roster. Not just as an injury replacement to the injured Lewis, but as a legitimate starting left fielder for this team. He’s another one of those great guys we traded for from the Padres last year when we sent them Austin Nola – making us three for three of guys coming over in return making the team in 2021, with France and Torrens – whose prospect stock has fluctuated wildly over the course of his minor league career. But, he appears to be putting it all together now at just the right time: ahead of Kelenic and Rodriguez. This glut of highly-touted outfielders will only make things that much easier for the M’s as they fill out the rest of the roster to try to build a championship ballclub. Of everyone on this 26-man roster, Trammell is the one I’m most excited about.

And Haniger is the one I’m most curious about. He’s had a long road back to full health; at one point in his career he was one of the top 25-or-so players in the American League. It wouldn’t shock me to see him right back in that area; it also wouldn’t shock me to see him totally shit the bed. He no longer seems to be the future of the franchise, but he’s currently the present, and will have every opportunity to rebuild his value in the game of baseball.

Fraley and the rest are just guys. Placeholders until our young superstars return from injury and/or get called up from the minors.

The obvious wildcard on the Mariners is the bullpen:

  • Rafael Montero
  • Kendall Graveman
  • Nick Margevicius
  • Anthony Misiewicz
  • Keynan Middleton
  • Casey Sadler
  • Will Vest
  • Drew Steckenrider

Oof. Like I said, I have avoided learning too much about the bullpen; I’d rather watch them with my own eyes and draw my own conclusions. But, to get me started, I guess I’ll look up some info and regurgitate it here, for my own benefit if nothing else.

The Mariners traded for Rafael Montero from the Rangers in the offseason. He had 8 saves for a terrible Rangers team last year, and I guess figures to be our closer out of the gate? He doesn’t have a ton of Major League experience, but maybe he’s put it all together. We’ll see. He’s not a bad buy-low candidate, at least in the short term.

Graveman we all know. He was here last year, signed to be a starter after missing a lot of time with injuries. He ended up with a neck issue that somehow allows him to throw very hard in short bursts as a reliever, but hampers him too much to go too many innings in a row. I don’t understand this one iota (mostly, I don’t understand why he doesn’t just have some surgical procedure to fix it and return 100% healthy), but whatever. He’s generally pretty good for an inning most of the time, so that makes him a quality set-up candidate in my mind.

Margevicius was neck-and-neck with Justin Dunn for the sixth starter job. He will be one of the long men in the bullpen to eat up innings and keep us in ballgames when a starter falters. He’ll also be the first man to join the rotation if there’s an injury (and there will be an injury). He’s fine, I like him in this role a great deal. He’s also one of just two lefties in the ‘pen, so there should be no shortage of work for him this season.

Misiewicz is presumably our top lefty reliever. We drafted him in 2015 and he made his debut last year. He was pretty good, I think! I dunno, we’ll see I guess.

Keynan “Don’t Call Me Kenyan” Middleton was a free agent signing who played for the Angels’ organization the last four years. His 2020 looked pretty atrocious. The three years prior look better, just as long as you don’t go sniffing around his FIP too hard. He might be just a guy. A cheap guy, but a guy nevertheless. He’s still young enough to put it all together, but don’t hold your breath.

Sadler is a veteran we claimed from the Cubs last year, who has bounced around multiple organizations. He’s someone else with big Just A Guy energy.

Will Vest is a Rule 5 guy we poached from the Tigers this offseason. He will be making his Major League debut this year, which will be somewhat fun! Other than that, I dunno. He’s the Rule 5 guy, that’s the nugget I’m going to keep in my brain and promptly forget as soon as he makes it into an actual game.

Drew Steckenrider sounds like one of those names I always fuck up when it comes to those Lookout Landing Sporcle quizzes asking you to name all the Mariners’ pitchers from a particular season. He came over from the Marlins organization on a minor league deal and was apparently one of the last guys to make the team. He’s another one I’m not holding my breath about.

***

The world is our oyster here! The Mariners could be a Bottom Five team, but I really don’t think that will be the case. There’s a lot of young talent in the organization just waiting to break through. There’s a TON of athleticism. There’s promise bursting at the seams. This is a team that WANTS to be great, that has just enough leadership at just the right spots – including the coaching staff – to potentially make it happen. We could be looking at a team that hangs around and FINALLY becomes the one to break the playoff drought!

Or, you know, it could be another year with another mediocre record.

But, the hope is that the young guys will improve. That’s really all that matters. 2020 was a roaring success because we saw improvement from the guys we needed to see improvement from. 2021 needs to be more of the same. Winning and losing isn’t quite as irrelevant as it was last year, but that’s not the ultimate agenda quite yet. The experience of winning isn’t quite as important as the experience of just playing at this level, but there is a lot of value there. That’s why I won’t be as maniacal as in years past when it comes to getting a high draft pick for next season.

Do what you’re going to do, Mariners!

My prediction is that the M’s easily surpass the 72.5 win total that Vegas has them at. But, ultimately I don’t see us getting one of those Wild Card spots. Instead, we’ll probably be drafting in the teens next year.

I’m reserving all predictions beyond that. I’m not making ANY specific player predictions, because so much can happen. Injuries, regression, breakouts, it’s all on the table. My only hope is that I don’t exit this season feeling worse about the Mariners than I do right now. Right now, I’m full of optimism! So, let’s just work in service of that and try to make 2022 and beyond really special!