The Angels Knocked The Mariners Out Of The Playoffs

You can boil it down to that. The Mariners lost 2 of 3 at home this weekend to the Angels. The Mariners finished 2 games behind Boston and New York for the wild card spots. Had we swept the Angels, we would’ve been right there in a 3-team play-in situation.

It’s sad for me, more than any other emotion. Of course, I was out of town all weekend and didn’t really have access to the games outside of an occasional Twitter catch-up session, so I didn’t have to sit and watch these games. I would’ve been a wreck, I’m sure. It’s frustrating though because this isn’t even a good Angels team! They are SO injury-depleted on offense, and their whole pitching staff outside of Ohtani is a mess (and he wasn’t even slated to pitch this series once they shut his arm down). The Angels were every bit of a 77-win team, and we couldn’t beat them with our season on the line.

If I had to guess, I would’ve been a ball of anxiety and rage on Friday. That was the 2-1 loss where the offense was 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. The game started off well enough, with Jarred Kelenic hitting an RBI double in the second. But, Marco gave up a 2-RBI double in the top of the third to give the game its final score. We had ALL OF THOSE INNINGS left to go, and couldn’t do a damn thing in any of them! Marco got one more quality start to throw on the pile (6 innings, giving up 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 5), and the A-Squad Bullpen (plus Misiewicz) shut it down from there, but it sadly wasn’t enough, as the Angels were able to match us 0 for 0 the rest of the way.

That loss made Saturday’s game a must-win, literally. Either win, or the playoff hopes would’ve died that night. Things were looking good for a while, Haniger hit an RBI single in the third and a 2-run homer in the fifth to give the M’s a 3-1 lead. Flexen made it 5.1 innings, giving up just the 1 run, and once again it was A-Squad Bullpen Time (plus Misiewicz).

Only, it was Paul Sewald in the 8th who blew it! He gave up a 3-run homer to make it 4-3 Angels. Luckily, these cardiac Mariners were able to get a rally going in the bottom half of the inning, punctuated with a Haniger 2-RBI single (giving him 5 RBI on the game), and a Seager 1-RBI single to make it 6-4 Mariners. Steckenrider shut it down from there for his 14th save of the season. It was a nice effort from the heart of the order, as France, Haniger, and Seager had all 8 of our hits and 6 of our RBI in this one (as well as 4 of our 6 runs scored).

That set us up for a Sunday miracle that never materialized. We needed to win and either the Yankees to lose to the Rays or the Red Sox to lose to the Nationals to force a play-in. But, we lost and they didn’t, so that was that.

Tyler Anderson had quite a rollercoaster of a week. First, he fell on his face in that 14-1 defeat to the Angels the previous Saturday, then he heroically stepped up on Tuesday against the A’s to give us 4 innings of 1-run ball on very short rest. But, he lost it again in the season finale, against those pesky Angels who won’t seem to give him a break. He lasted all of 1.2 innings before getting pulled, having given up 4 runs (3 earned) on 5 hits and 2 walks.

It was a bullpen day from there, with Misiewicz and Swanson (of the D-Squad Bullpen) giving up three more runs in their combined 2 innings of work. The M’s made it interesting early, scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the second to make it 4-2. But, we were down 7-2 after five innings, with our rally in the sixth cut short to just a lone run. We couldn’t do anything but cry the last three innings of the 7-3 defeat.

Cry because, of course, Kyle Seager had his farewell under the most bittersweet of circumstances. I’m glad I missed that too, because I’m sure I would’ve been a puddle of tears. I’ll have more to say about Seager in the coming days. He was never my favorite Mariner (impossible with Felix around for almost his entire career), but he was always there and almost-always a reliable fixture. A pro’s pro, and he’s going to be a huge hole to fill on this team, with his veteran presence, as well as his defense at the hot corner, and his bat in the middle of the order.

I’m not one of those fans who takes solace in the journey, when the destination is more disappointment. But, maybe I’ve softened in my old age. This was a fun Mariners team to follow for 162 games. Well, MOST of those games. Over half, definitely!

Here’s the thing: I never expected this team to break the playoff drought. Indeed, I never expected them to win 90 games, which is utter lunacy when you think about it. But, even as we headed into this final week, it never seemed likely that we’d win enough – and get the help required – to force our way in.

When we lost that Red Sox series back in mid-September, that’s when the season was over in my mind. We were 78-68 and there were too many teams and games in the standings to overcome. Yet, we finished the year on a 12-4 run to end up 90-72; what a remarkable run!

But, of course, the level of competition was subpar: Royals, A’s, and Angels.

Here’s a list of our records against the playoff teams in both leagues:

  • Astros 8-11
  • White Sox 3-3
  • Rays 6-1
  • Yankees 2-5
  • Red Sox 3-4
  • Giants 2-1
  • Dodgers 1-3

That’s an overall record of 25-28, but heavily propped up by an unlikely dominance of the Tampa Bay Rays. Against the rest of baseball, we were 65-44; almost a .600 winning percentage. I would argue the Mariners were not on that playoff level; we were one tier below. I would also argue that if we found ourselves in a 1-game playoff with either the Yankees or Red Sox (but especially the Yanks), we almost certainly would’ve lost. Yet, it would’ve felt like a tremendous accomplishment just to be there, and I’m not interested in that.

I want the Mariners to be division winners. I want them to make it to the World Series. I want them to win it all and give us what we’ve been dying for all these decades.

This team might be forgotten to the sands of time, since it ultimately fell two games short. However, if this was just the start of something HUGE, we might look back at the 2021 Mariners as one of the great What If’s in franchise history. Either way, there seems to be tangible evidence of … something happening here. We could always Mariners it up and see everything fall apart, but I’ve been wrong before.

What’s certain is this: expectations will go through the roof in 2022. That starts with this offseason. It’s not unfair to immediately set our minds into Next Year Mode as fans. That means pleading with this organization to finally spend money on bona fide All Stars in trade and free agency to fill in around the talent already here.

2021 was a big success in many ways. We won 90 games, we played “playoff baseball” for the last two weeks of the season (for all intents and purposes), and we learned a lot about the young core of this organization. As the offseason begins, I’ll be writing about those guys a lot. The young core who stepped up and asserted themselves as cornerstones, as well as the young core who fell apart and should be dealt away posthaste.

This is going to be a FUN offseason! I can’t remember the last time a baseball season ended and I wasn’t simply relieved for it to be over so I could focus on other things. This is the first time I’ve ever wished the next season could start tomorrow!

The Mariners Are Doing Everything They Can To Stay In This Wild Card Race

This has been the most fun Mariners team I can remember since we last made the postseason. That’s not hyperbole. That’s not recency bias. As I’ve mentioned recently, there was a Mariners team that got to within a single game of the wild card within the last decade; this Mariners team could just as easily fall apart over the final three games and finish further behind that team (at least, in the standings). But, what they’ve done over the last couple of weeks – indeed, across the entire month of September, where they’re 18-8 – is truly remarkable.

Unlike most every other Mariners team you think about, this one is faced with adversity and is stepping up to the challenge. This isn’t the Same Old Mariners; this is a Brand New Mariners! There have been mediocre Mariners teams who’ve dug themselves a deep hole, then went on a hot streak to start to climb back out of it. But, as soon as the spotlight shone on those teams, they would wilt under the pressure; they were – for lack of a better phrase (because it is literally the perfect phrase, and applies to all of sports) – who we thought they were.

The 2021 Mariners are decidedly NOT who we thought they were! Don’t get me wrong, because they do have their problems. You don’t accrue a -48 run differential without problems. That’s not to say good teams don’t get blown out once in a while, but they generally don’t get blown out as regularly as the Mariners have been blown out this season. Granted, we’ve seen less and less of that as the year has gone on, which points to the brighter future we’ve all been clamoring for.

What’s been great about the Mariners is what we’ve seen since the start of the last road trip. When our backs were against the wall, this team came out fighting. The Mariners have lost two games in that span (winning 11). Yes, this team will lose in frustrating ways; yes, this team will get blown out on a fairly regular basis. But, this team always bounces back and rights the ship before things get swallowed up by Davy Jones’ Locker.

What’s also been great about the Mariners is their utter DOMINANCE of the Oakland A’s. Are you shitting me?! How fucking fun has THIS been?!

This week’s sweep makes it 12 wins in a row as we head into next year. 15-4 on the season. And, with yesterday’s win, we officially knocked them out of the playoffs.

The whole 3-game series this week was fun. Monday’s 13-4 victory started off pretty awful, with Chris Flexen giving up a wall-scraper of a 3-run homer in the first to put the M’s in a potentially-early grave. To our credit, though, Ty France hit an RBI single in the third, and Luis Torrens might’ve had the biggest hit in the game with a 2-RBI single later that same inning to tie it up. Flexen didn’t have that good stuff in this one, as he gave up another run in the fourth (he finished five innings, giving up those four runs, but it wasn’t the usual crisp, efficient game we’ve come to expect from him). But, the offense more than picked up the slack. I know the offense has been super clutch, but it’s about time they made things easy on this pitching staff with a good old fashioned blowout on the positive side.

We went with Sadler in the sixth – when the game was still within reach of a collapse – but then got to use the D-Squad to eat up the last three innings and save our studs. Crawford went 3/5 with 3 runs and an RBI. France went 4/4 with 3 runs and 4 RBI. Haniger hit two 3-run homers to put this game to bed! Torrens had 2 hits, Kelenic had 2 hits and 2 runs, Murphy had 2 runs, Dylan Moore chipped in with a hit, a walk, and a run. Nice day all around, but especially because it was a comeback victory (emphasis on the victory part). That game could’ve gone sideways in a hurry, but this team wouldn’t let it.

The next two wins were much more Mariners-like, both with a score of 4-2.

Tuesday’s game has entirely shifted my perspective of Tyler Anderson. I ripped him a little bit after that meltdown against the Angels, and was kinda ready to write him off. But, now I’m rethinking my stance on bringing him back! To set the stage, he could only manage 2 innings against the Angels on Saturday, but he threw only 54 pitches in that game. His next start was supposed to be Friday against the Angels, and I could squint and maybe see him bouncing back improbably against the same team that just thrashed him a week prior. But, it was always a shame he wasn’t set to get a start against the A’s, because I feel like that lineup is more his speed.

As it turns out – with Tuesday set to be his “throw day” (all starters have days where they throw in between starts, for reasons that elude me, but I’m sure there’s a good explanation out there on the Internet somewhere) – so the team and Anderson came to an agreement that he’d just make a spot-start in lieu of his off-field work. Matt Brash was also called up that day – because regardless, Kikuchi has been struggling too much of late to be trusted in such a high-leverage situation as a playoff chase – but it makes more sense to NOT start a AA prospect making his first-ever appearance in the Major Leagues, and hold him in reserve in case we need to eat up innings should disaster strike.

But, man, Tyler Anderson was fucking nails! He threw 46 pitches, but lasted 4 full innings, just giving up a solo homer in the 4th. In total, he only gave up 2 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 2. Just a HUGE game from a guy who really stepped up and put it all out there on the line. I know the point has been made elsewhere, but that’s a huge deal for someone who will be a free agent at the end of this season, looking for his first career big payday. At the same point, teams are going to see that and know he’s a team-first kind of guy, even with a team he just joined a couple months ago. That should be worth a few sheckles, I would think. I know I’m now more willing to bring him back on the right deal. I don’t know what that is, exactly, but it’s like porn, you know it when you see it.

From there, we had the entirety of the A-Squad Bullpen (plus Misiewicz, who did manage to get two outs before two hits got him pulled). Casey Sadler got 4 outs, Diego Castillo got 2, Paul Sewald got 4, and Drew Steckenrider got the save in the ninth.

Meanwhile, Jake Fraley hit a 2-run double in the bottom of the fourth – right after Anderson gave up the homer – to take the lead. Tom Murphy hit an RBI single to make it 3-1. And, after Castillo gave up a run to make it 3-2, Haniger hit a solo bomb in the bottom of the seventh to give us a bit of insurance. Also, not for nothing, but Crawford and Torrens both had multi-hit games again.

My friends and I couldn’t take it anymore, so we had to go to the game last night. We’re all busy this weekend, so really this was our last opportunity to see the Mariners in person (unless, God forbid, we actually make the ALDS). With a team this special, getting to witness them in person, in the thick of a wild card chase, you just have to be there and experience the electricity for yourself! There’s nothing like it. I don’t remember getting to go to a lot of games in 2001; I was a poor college kid at the time. I got to go to one game in 1997 where we clinched either the division or a playoff berth, and that was one of my favorite live sporting events in my entire life (the Kingdome rocked like I’d never heard it before).

This wasn’t that, but it was still pretty fun. Hard to generate a huge crowd for a cold Wednesday night in late September, but I read we had about 5,000 more people there than expected (17K up from 12K?). The product on the field didn’t disappoint, anyway!

Logan Gilbert was rolling, lasting 5.2 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits and 2 walks, with 4 strikeouts. Joe Smith got him out of the minor jam in the sixth (when Logan gave up that run on a solo homer to right), just in time for the M’s to get a go-ahead 2-run double from Jarred Kelenic. Castillo gave it right back with a solo homer to tie it, but we manufactured a run in the bottom of the seventh to re-take the lead, with Abraham Toro hitting an insurance homer in the eighth to salt it away. Sewald once again took care of business in the eighth, and Steckenrider got the save in the ninth.

It’s one thing to deal the final blow to the A’s playoff hopes, but really the Mariners EXCLUSIVELY prevented them from earning a wild card spot, with the way we’ve handled them all year. They thought they were big shots early in the season – and talked shit about us accordingly – but we took it personally (to quote Michael Jordan) and opted to rip out their hearts. Considering all the times they’ve done that very same thing to us over the years, I’ve never felt more gratified. I need a cigarette right now!

89-70. Three games left, against the Angels this weekend. We are a half game behind the Red Sox (unfortunately in the loss column, so we still need a little more help). We’re also a half game ahead of the Blue Jays, and 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the first wild card spot. All three of those teams have four games remaining.

But, as usual, it’s all about the Mariners first and foremost. We MUST sweep the Angels to have a shot. In essence – as has been pointed out by Scott Servais and elsewhere – we’re already watching playoff baseball in Seattle, because these have ALL been must-win games. And, to their credit, the Mariners are performing their very best when they absolutely have to.

The Mariners Swept The Athletics To Make Things Just Interesting Enough

What a series! We probably need to see three more just like them if we want postseason baseball in Seattle, but damn!

Remember that one year recently when the M’s were just a single game out of the second wild card spot? Would it shock you to know that was back in 2014? For some reason, I thought it was in 2018 – when we won 89 games – but we were a whopping 8 games out that year. Nope, in 2014, we finished one game behind Oakland, thanks to a 4-game winning streak to close out the season. BUT, we were only in that position in the first place because immediately preceeding that 4-game winning streak, we were mired in a 5-game losing slump (two games in Houston, three games in Toronto, the latter notorious for a 1-0 defeat where Taijuan Walker went all 8 innings in the loss, giving up just 4 hits).

That’s more or less the story for a lot of these “contending” Mariners teams over the last 20 years. We dig ourselves such a hole that – even though we’re entertaining and somewhat good, and most importantly, close in the standings – there just isn’t enough at the end to overcome our lack of talent. That appears to be the case here in 2021 as well. With 9 games remaining, we are now just 2 games behind the Yankees for the second wild card spot (with Toronto sandwiched in between, a game back). That’s a tall order to overcome, even though our schedule plays out relatively favorably.

What’s different – we hope – is that these Mariners appear to be the start of something significant. So, even if we fail to make those two games up, there’s still reason for optimism for the near-future of the Seattle Mariners.

And we’re in THIS position because of the 4-game sweep in Oakland! That took us from two games behind them, to two games ahead of them, which you just love to fucking see because fuck the A’s. Even if we don’t make the playoffs, knowing we’re a MAJOR reason why they’re also not in the playoffs will give me all the warmth I need in my heart to carry me over into the 2022 season. FUCK. THE. ATHLETICS.

You don’t work a 4-game sweep in Oakland without some great pitching, and the Mariners had it going all week. Tyler Anderson was up first and got the series off on the right note. 7 innings, 1 run (4 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts). The only blip was Diego Castillo giving up a run in a third of an inning, but Paul Sewald got the remaining five outs to preserve the 4-2 victory.

Offensively, France and Seager got the M’s out to a 3-0 lead in the third, then Seager added an RBI single in the fifth (he had a HUGE series, going 3 for 4 with 3 RBI in this game).

Marco Gonzales kept the party going with a quality start of his own (6 innings, 2 runs), and Sadler, Sewald, and Steckenrider worked clean innings to close it out. We saw an early 1-0 deficit after one inning, but Jake Bauers manufactured a run in the second, and Dylan Moore and J.P. Crawford put up three more runs in the fourth to give us a bit of a cushion. Crawford hit a solo bomb in the ninth for a little added insurance in the 5-2 victory (also, Seager was 2 for 5).

Chris Flexen continued the pitching parade with 7 innings of 1-run ball (3 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts). This time, Castillo worked a clean inning, and Steckenrider got his second save of the series (also sparing us the necessity to pitch Sewald a third straight day).

This 4-1 victory was brought to you by a Kyle Seager solo homer (he finished 3 for 5), a Tom Murphy RBI single, a Ty France solo bomb, and a Luis Torrens insurance sac fly in the seventh.

Finally, the sweep came under heavy scrutiny with Yusei Kikuchi going yesterday. Another 3-inning special where he gave up 3 runs. We got a run back on an Abraham Toro RBI double in the top of the fourth, but Yohan Ramirez gave up a solo bomb in the bottom half to make it 4-1 Oakland.

Ramirez was pulled after a third of an inning, but the much-maligned Anthony Misiewicz got the final two outs of the inning to keep the score right there. Cal Raleigh hit a 2-run bomb in the fifth to make it 4-3, and Mitch Haniger hit a solo bomb to tie it up in the sixth. Not to be outdone, Luis Torrens hit a pinch-hit 2-run home run later in the sixth to make the comeback official.

From there, it was lockdown bullpen time. Joe Smith pitched a perfect inning. Casey Sadler pitched two scoreless innings, Diego Castillo took care of the eighth, and Paul Sewald gave up a relatively harmless solo homer in the ninth before completing the save in the 6-5 victory.

The Mariners are 84-69 now, with three games down in L.A. against the Angels. Then, we return home for our final six games of the regular season (unfortunate, since we REALLY struggle to hit at home). It will probably require some remarkable type of 7-2 finish to secure the wild card spot; at the VERY worst 6-3, but I refuse to play the schedule/matchup game with the other teams in contention.

I’m just going to sit here and enjoy the last week and change of this very entertaining Mariners season. What happens after that will be whatever.

The Red Sox Were The Straw That Broke The Mariners’ Back

It’s funny how two days can totally change the outlook of your entire season.

On Monday, the Mariners prevailed 5-4 over the Red Sox and pulled to within two games of the second wild card spot, with two more games to go against the very team they needed to overtake. Logan Gilbert gave us six hard-fought innings, holding the Red Sox to two runs. It was pretty impressive, given his struggles this year. You could argue two of his best games were against the Red Sox this week, and that Yankees start where he went 7 innings of 1-hit ball; that’s two formidable national opponents who he absolutely handled.

Diego Castillo got through the seventh, just in time for Mitch Haniger to hit a 3-run tie-breaking homer (all three runs unearned thanks to some timely terrible Red Sox defense). Paul Sewald gave up back-to-back solo homers to give the game its final score, but Drew Steckenrider got the save in the ninth. Kudos to Haniger for going 4 for 4, and J.P. Crawford going 3 for 4.

There was reason for hope on Tuesday night, though the final third of the game saw to it to crush our hearts. Tyler Anderson gutted his way through 4.1 innings, limiting the Red Sox to just one run. They were starting to get to him in the fourth and fifth innings, and with the Mariners’ offense struggling (we managed to take a short-lived 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth), I thought Scott Servais made the right move in getting Anderson out of there and going to his bullpen. Casey Sadler got us out of a jam in the fifth, but things went downhill quickly from there.

For some reason, Servais decided to go to Anthony Misiewicz in the sixth. The Red Sox had JUST seen a ho-hum lefty all day, and here they were getting a shot against another ho-hum lefty. Misiewicz got through the first two batters unscathed, but the wheels fell off and when the inning was over, the game was tied.

Servais then went to Joe Smith – the guy I would’ve thrown in there instead of Misiewicz – and he did what he was supposed to do: 1 inning of shutout ball. Unfortunately, Servais then opted to try to squeeze a second inning out of Joe Smith, which proved fatal. A leadoff triple in the top of the eighth sealed Smith’s fate. Drew Steckenrider was tasked with trying to prevent that runner from scoring; he managed one harmless groundout (sandwiched around two harmful walks) before a double cleared the bases. I had given up on the game by this point, so I couldn’t tell you what happened after that, other than the M’s lost 8-4.

The M’s would lose the finale on Wednesday 9-4. Once again, we got what we needed from our starter – 6 innings, 3 runs from Marco Gonzales – but pretty much the entire bullpen seems to be running out of gas, down to the last man. Sadler, Sewald, and Castillo got us to extra innings, but of course the offense kept shitting all over itself. A combination of Swanson, Sheffield, and Ramirez gave up 6 runs in the tenth inning to seal our fate. Why would we go to Sheffield with no outs, the bases loaded, and losing by a run? I can only assume the lack of Mariners offense has led to lesions on Servais’ brain, because he’s the LAST guy you’d go to in that situation, unless your intent was to blow the whole game to kingdom come.

That loss drops us to 78-68. We are an impossible 7.5 games behind the Astros in the A.L. West; we’re also a whopping 4 games out of the wild card, with three teams we’d have to leap over. All of this with 16 games left in the season. Sure, there are 9 winnable games against teams under .500 (three at the Royals this weekend, then six more against the Angels), and the other 7 games are against ONE of our wild card foes – the Oakland A’s – but that’s just too big of a mountain to climb in too short of time.

What a brutal last three weeks. If you want to know where the season went wrong, go back to that first Royals game on August 26th. Heading into that game, we were 11 games over .500, with 10 games against bottom-feeders in those very Royals, as well as the Diamondbacks. We managed to go 5-5 in those games; unforgivable. We somehow managed to go 3-3 against the Astros – which is great, for us – but then this Red Sox series slapped us right back down again. Every time we got on a little roll, we’d drop a brutal series in agonizing fashion. We had to win this Red Sox series, minimum, and we had to go at least 8-2 in those games against the bottom-feeders. Do that, and we’d be right there in the mix. We didn’t, and now the playoffs have slipped away.

There will be time for post-mortems after the season is officially over, but these next two and a half weeks feel like the walking dead. It’ll be interesting if we can end things on a high note, or if we really fall apart.

The Mariners Swept The Diamondbacks, Part II: Whoops!

I knew I was in for it when I titled this post the way I did; leave it to the Mariners to lose 2 of 3 to the worst team in baseball.

Since I can’t make this post one huge SIGH, I guess I’ll get into it. The first game was weird, but fine. Marco Gonzales went 6 innings and gave up 3 unearned runs (two separate errors aided in the Diamondbacks scoring in back-to-back innings). The game was tied 3-3 after three innings thanks to a J.P. Crawford solo bomb and a Tom Murphy 2-run bomb. France singled in a run in the fifth, and Murphy hit his second homer of the game in the sixth for a little insurance (which we needed when Diego Castillo gave up a run in the eighth). Otherwise, the bullpen was lights out, with Steckenrider striking out the side in the ninth to get the save, preserving a 5-4 win.

I had high hopes for Saturday, with Chris Flexen on the mound, but he fell apart in the fourth and finished the game after 5 innings, giving up 5 runs. Haniger and Kelenic homered in 3 runs, but that was all she wrote. We ultimately lost 7-3, as the D-Squad bullpen – led by Justus Sheffield giving up 2 runs in 1 inning – was employed to finish out the string.

I had reduced hopes for Sunday, with Yusei Kikuchi going, but he did all right (5 innings, 1 run). It’s weird that a guy who generated 8 strikeouts and only threw 76 pitches wasn’t graced with a sixth inning to pitch through, but I’d put the loss of this game half on Servais (for making the call) and at least partially on Kikuchi himself (for being so unreliable lately, that the team felt it had no choice but to get out from under his start before he had a chance to ruin things). Either way, Anthony Misiewicz gets a good chunk of the blame all by himself, as he came in and immediately fell apart, getting zero outs and giving up 3 runs. Eric Swanson gave up another run later on, and the offense just couldn’t do enough. We went into the ninth inning down 5-2 (Haniger and Moore homered earlier), before Kelenic hit a 2-run bomb to pull it to 5-4. But, the rally died there.

That’s yet another inexcusable series defeat by the Mariners. Add that to us losing 3/4 at home to the Royals and losing 5/6 to the Tigers in the first half of the season; what is it with us getting demolished by shitty teams?

The Red Sox came to town to start their series yesterday; this is REALLY do-or-die stuff here. Other than our remaining games against the A’s, this is the last chance we have to directly affect a team in the wild card hunt with us. Winning this series isn’t just ideal, it’s mandatory. Sweeping would be ideal, of course, but it’s hard to see that happening. Yesterday was a good start, though.

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 Yankees Are Not A Good Matchup For The Mariners

It’s funny, you could easily make that same argument about every Yankees team ever, except for 1995.

The Mariners lost 3 of 4 to the Yankees over the long weekend in The Bronx, going exactly as well as I’d expected:

If we win one of these games, it’ll be a miracle.

– Some super genius

Although, credit to both teams: they did find some creative ways to get to the end result in these four games.

The last time we played the Yankees, it was about a month ago back in Seattle. We were riding high, having gone 5-0-1 in our previous six series, only to be swatted away pretty handily by the Yankees in 2 of 3 games, with Logan Gilbert’s career day preventing the sweep.

This time around, it’s post-Trade Deadline, it’s at the end of a 10-game road trip, and the Mariners are really starting to feel the pressure now of this wild card chase. At one point in recent weeks, the Mariners were ahead of the Yankees and Blue Jays for the second wild card spot. Now we’re 2.5-3 games behind them, needing to turn this ship around in a hurry.

This series could’ve gone so differently. It’s hard to see us go 1-3 – when all games are decided by 2 runs or less – and not immediately think about what might’ve been had Kendall Graveman still been here. He’s made four appearances for the Astros so far, and still hasn’t given up a run.

Anyway, Mitch Haniger and Kyle Seager spotted the Mariners to a 2-1 lead that was immediately ripped away in the bottom half of the fourth last Thursday. The score remained tied until the top of the seventh, when Jared Kelenic hit a solo home run just over the wall in right. That’s when we brought in the big guns: Paul Sewald, to face the heart of the Yankees’ order. He got the first two hitters out before Judge and Stanton singles started making trouble. That culminated in a wall-scraper of a home run by Joey Gallo. We tried to mount a comeback against Aroldis Chapman in the ninth, but it wasn’t to be (even though he found himself on the IL after the game, clearly suffering from some sort of injury or arm fatigue). Team RISP: 2/9.

Chock up Friday to another game blown by the bullpen. Again, the offense didn’t give us much leeway, but we DID hold a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth. Marco Gonzales was a wizard out there, throwing 6.2 innings of scoreless ball. Joe Smith got the final out of the seventh, leading us to bring in Diego Castillo. He promptly walked two guys and hit a third to load the bases, for Judge to hit a sac fly to tie it. It could’ve been so much worse, but Stanton hit into a double play to end the threat. The game eventually went into extras. Both teams scored one in the tenth; only the Yankees scored in the eleventh. That’s how you get to a 3-2 ballgame. Team RISP: 2/8.

The Mariners had a 4-1 lead after two innings on Saturday; I think you can see what’s coming next. Chris Flexen pitched five outstanding innings in this one, just giving up an Aaron Judge homer in the first. However, he was allowed to start the sixth inning and promptly gave up a 2-run bomb to Rougned Odor without getting another out. Anthony Misiewicz and shoddy defense finished the job that very inning, giving up the go-ahead runs to the Yankees. The 5-4 score remained as is through the rest of the game. Team RISP: 1/7.

We were able to salvage a 2-0 victory on Sunday thanks to five scoreless innings by Kikuchi (the team seemingly learning its lessen from the Flexen debacle the night prior, not having him pitch into the sixth). Sewald was a man possessed, striking out 4 of 5 batters faced. And Drew Steckenrider got the 2-inning save! We didn’t score until the eighth, when a Seager double and Raleigh single brought home the game’s only runs. Team RISP: 2/8.

It’s hard to see the Yankees as anything but our kryptonite, given the way they’ve handled us this season. Especially this series, they shut us down in the two ways we were most effective: our bullpen, and our clutch hitting. In case you weren’t following along, the Mariners’ hitters were a whopping 7 for 32 with runners in scoring position, WELL below our season averages. On top of that, as you saw, the bullpen was responsible for all three losses.

Now, I don’t know if Graveman would’ve been able to stop the bleeding in EVERY game, or if he even would’ve been effective against this lineup, but it sure felt like we were destined to lose this series from the jump. Regardless, it’s not anyone’s fault in that bullpen for the way the offense went in the tank.

As was discussed up top, the Mariners have dug themselves quite a wild card hole. All hope isn’t lost, but the team better get hot in a hurry. Starting tomorrow, as the lowly Rangers come to town. Probably need to sweep that 3-game set. Then, we have our top three pitchers going against the Blue Jays (who won’t have the throngs of Canadians coming into our country – due to borders being closed – but I’m sure it’ll still be a solidly road team-favored crowd). That’s as good of an opportunity as we’ll get to face off against another of our wild card rivals. Picking up a game would be in order here, though sweeping this series would also be ideal. I’d love to see the Mariners get to 5-1 in this homestand in some way, shape, or form (ideally sweeping away the Blue Jays, if I had to pick one).

Then, we turn right back around to hit the road in Texas, with three against the Rangers and three against the Astros, before a quick 2-game jaunt down in Oakland. All of those will be vitally important.

Indeed, all the games the rest of the way are vitally important. We have 49 games left to go. We’re 59-54. Just to get to 90 wins, we’d have to go 31-18; that seems like the bare minimum to get one of the wild card spots, though I’d feel a lot safer if we got to 95 wins. That’s an absurd finish of 36-13. Possible, but not very probable.

Here’s why it COULD be possible, though. We have 6 games against the Rangers. We have 6 games against the Diamondbacks. We have 7 games against the Royals. We have 6 games against the Angels, who are injured beyond belief. That’s 25 games right there against teams we absolutely should beat. Then, there’s the three against the Blue Jays and Red Sox, and 9 more against the A’s; all wild card contenders. That brings our total games against teams we either should beat, or could beat, to 40. The remaining 9 games are against the Astros, who are always tough to beat, but it’s not like it’s impossible. We’re 4-6 in the season series so far. If we can go 5-4 against the Astros, that means we have to go 26-14 against everyone else to get to 90 wins (do-able), or 31-9 to get to 95 wins (extremely difficult, but again, not totally unheard of).

There’s always a team that gets hot around this time every year. Why couldn’t it be the Mariners this time around?

The Mariners Keep Winning Series, Defeating The Rangers

Last Friday’s game was touted as (something to the effect of) the grand Re-Opening Day, because this was the first home game we’ve had since June 30th, when the governor took all restrictions off the state. For the purposes of the Seattle Mariners, that means no more social distancing. That means full capacity. That means no more masks or bullshit (unless you’re one of the idiot unvaccinated, in which case pinky-swear that you WILL wear a mask, and definitely don’t just pretend you’re vaccinated to get out of wearing one).

Even though this was Re-Opening Day 2021 or some damn thing (though, I’ll be honest, I must have missed the memo, because I didn’t realize they were making this such a huge promotional campaign until I was already inside the stadium), and the Mariners have been winning a lot of games recently, AND (most importantly of all, apparently) there would be a post-game fireworks show, I don’t think we even cracked 30,000 fans on Friday. Maybe Washingtonians had other plans this weekend.

Whatever the case may be, they missed a whale of a game on Friday! Mitch Haniger had one of the worst games I’ve seen from an individual Mariners player all season. He had two errors in the third inning, resulting in a 2-0 Rangers lead. He was also 0 for 4 on the day with a walk, including 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position (you know, when he could have directly helped his team by making up for his earlier blunders). I thought I was going to have to come on here and rip him to shreds more than I have, but this Mariners team is something else, and they picked him up like they’ve been picking up guys all year.

It was 3-0 in the fifth before Jake Fraley hit a solo bomb to get us on the board. While I was on a neverending quest to find a food line that wasn’t a mile long (seriously, the Mariners need to figure it the fuck out when it comes to these insane concessions lines; I shouldn’t have to miss two innings of gameplay just to get a fucking hot dog), we scratched another run on the board in the seventh thanks to an error. Then, in the bottom of the 8th, Luis Torrens hit a game-tying homer.

The really magical moment came in that same half-inning. Jake Fraley walked and stole second following the Torrens homer. After a Dylan Moore strikeout, J.P. Crawford walked up to the plate with two outs. As the crowd chanted J.P. over and over, he came through with a single that scored the speedy Fraley, giving the Mariners a 4-3 lead.

That turned out to be short-lived, as Kendall Graveman gave up an unearned run. Ty France – starting at third base – made just a MISERABLE throw to first on a ground ball, that skipped away, allowing the runner to reach second. A Rangers double plated him, tying it up and ultimately sending the game to extras. But, Anthony Misiewicz pitched around the 10th inning ghost runner to keep the game tied. That was all we needed. Shed Long bunted the runner to third. Torrens took his intentional walk. And Jake Fraley knocked in the run on a single through the drawn-in infield (why they were drawn in even though they had the double play set up, I’ll never know). Just like that, a 5-4 victory and a Mariners celebration in the outfield!

The good vibrations were short lived, as Saturday’s game got away from us. Marco Gonzales didn’t have it, giving up 7 runs in 3.1 innings. But, the combo of Rafael Montero (2.2 innings) and Yohan Ramirez (3 innings) kept the game scoreless the rest of the way. It wouldn’t be enough, though, as the offense could only muster 3 runs. Kyle Seager was 2 for 2 with two walks and a homer. That’s pretty much it.

But, the Mariners came right back on Sunday to win 4-1. Chris Flexen pitched six innings of 1-run ball, Luis Torrens hit a 3-run home run in the fourth, and Shed Long hit a solo homer in the fifth. This game was over in a flash, as the Mariners and Rangers accommodated everyone who would’ve rather been doing 4th of July things than sitting there watching a baseball game. It was awful sweet of them, really.

The Mariners have been doing a pretty good job of cleaning up against the rest of the American League (and the dregs of the A.L. West), but their 45-40 record is still a whopping 7 games behind the Astros (who seem to be doing the same thing as us when it comes to all the ass-kicking). Probably best not to scoreboard watch this early in the season, but how can you not?! We haven’t lost a series since June 12th!

Anyway, the Yankees are in town for three games starting tomorrow. They’ve been a disappointment, by Yankees-standards, but will most likely still be a formidable foe.