Fuck You Angels! The Mariners Got The Sweep

When I was a kid, I gave much more of a shit about baseball rivalries than I do now.  I hated the Yankees, obviously.  I disliked the Rangers quite a bit (especially when they signed A-Rod).  In the early 2000’s, I REALLY hated the Athletics, because even though the Mariners won 90+ games from 2000-2003, the A’s were the reason why we only made the playoffs twice (in spite of a couple 93-win campaigns).  In recent years, I guess I hate the Astros, but I don’t even know if they qualify as a rivalry, from my fan’s perspective.  It’s more of a looming dread whenever I see HOU coming up on the little pocket calendar I have hanging up at my desk.  When the switch flipped and Houston became HOUSTON, it’s been utter annihilation (and even before they were good, they still won an annoying amount of times).  Besides, this is really the first year where the Mariners and Astros have been on the same level, record-wise.  They may indeed grow to become my most hated baseball enemy when the season’s over.

But, for now, I think I hate the Angels the most.  Granted, they’re clearly the better franchise.  They’ve actually WON a World Series, for instance.  They’ve been to the playoffs 10 times to our 4; they’ve consistently been more of a winning team in general (and haven’t had those bottom-out years like the Mariners have).  Nevertheless, with the Astros way up there, I’ve always seen the Angels as more of our peers.  Whenever you find the Mariners contending for a wild card spot, the Angels always seem to be right there with us.  Also, from 2010 onward, the Angels only have the 1 playoff appearance, so it’s not like they’ve been super awesome of late.  And, they’ve had a number of players I couldn’t help but despise, from Mike Trout to Jered Weaver to (retroactively) Chone Figgins to John Lackey to Troy Glaus to Tim Salmon to Chuck Finley.  The only Angels player I ever really liked was Vlad, because he was fucking amazing and I secretly never forgave the Mariners for not making a bigger push to sign him when he was a free agent after 2003.  Can you even imagine?  That would’ve been so much fun!

Anyway, the Mariners just swept the Angels yesterday in the 3-game series, and I couldn’t be happier.

I didn’t hold out a ton of hope in yesterday’s game, even when the Angels’ starter was pulled after 2 innings with an injury.  Marco Gonzales really wasn’t as sharp as he’d been of late, only lasting 5 innings, giving up 3 runs.  We knew ahead of time that Edwin Diaz wasn’t going to be available, after pitching 3 games in a row, and in 4 games in 5 days.  That slotted the bullpen all kinds of wonky, and accordingly the bullpen wasn’t as sharp as it had been of late either.  Newcomer Mike Morin – in just his 2nd appearance since being called up from Tacoma – gave up a run on a triple and a sac fly.  Chasen Bradford – who has been all kinds of good this year – gave up 2 solo homers in the 7th to put us behind by 2 runs.  And, there we were, late in the game, facing the prospects of losing for just the third time in the month of June.

That’s when the offense went back to work.  Gamel and Zunino had RBIs in the 2nd to stake the Mariners to a 2-0 lead.  Then, after an RBI by Trout (who somehow didn’t homer in this one, though he did have two hits and two intentional walks), Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run bomb (which is his 5th in the last 5 games) to put the M’s up 4-1.  In the 7th, after Bradford gagged up the homers, Segura hit a guy in on a double; followed by Healy solo homering in the 8th to re-tie the game; ultimately setting the stage for a bottom of the 9th showdown (thanks to a couple scoreless innings out of eventual winner Roenis Elias).

With one out, Segura on at first, Mitch Haniger took a mistake by the Angels pitcher and deposited it into the left field stands for his second walk-off home run of the season.  Not for nothing, but that’s his 16th homer of the season (tying his mark of 2017) and his 52nd RBI (surpassing what he did in 2017, in 29 fewer games).  Can you imagine what it’ll be like if he can stay healthy all year?  He truly is deserving of a slot on the All Star team.

The Mariners are still 0.5 games ahead of the Astros, but are now 7.5 games ahead of the Angels, which is just the best.

Now, we’ve got a 4-game series against the Red Sox.  I hope you like a lot of annoying Boston fans, because they’re coming out in force!  The good news is Chris Sale pitched yesterday, so we lucked into avoiding one of the best lefties in the game.  The bad news is the rest of their rotation is also really fucking good.  And, James Paxton is saddled with Friday’s “Fireworks Night” game, which I believe the Mariners have lost every fucking time they’ve done it.  Here’s to hoping for a little of that old Felix magic tonight as he squares off against David Price.  This series could get REAL dicey in a hurry.

The Mariners Got The Victory They Needed

There’s been so many tight games this season, but particularly over the last couple weeks, with the offense missing guys like Dee Gordon, Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Jean Segura, and others for various amounts of time.  The margin for error has been ridiculously thin, and we’ve seen some repercussions of that in this Rangers series as the bullpen finally cracked a couple times.  This team desperately needed a breakout from the offense and to cruise to a comfortable victory.  Last night, in a 6-1 win, the Mariners got just that.

On May 3rd, Wade LeBlanc entered the starting rotation for the Seattle Mariners, taking the spot that was briefly held by an injured Erasmo Ramirez.  Up until that day, LeBlanc was a long reliever for this club – who has been on the roster since opening day, but only got in 5 games in the month of April due to all the off days and the fact that the Mariners were involved in so many close, winning games.  So, he obviously has had to be stretched out a little bit this month (he was also quite under the weather last night, which accounts for his only lasting 5 innings on 84 pitches).  But, regardless, LeBlanc has been OUTSTANDING in the month of May (really, all season, but that’s neither here nor there).  He’s 1-0 (though the team is 5-1 in his starts) with a 1.72 ERA.  31.1 innings pitched, 6 runs given up, 25 hits, only 6 walks, with 23 strikeouts in those 6 games.

I mean, if it weren’t for Paxton’s 1.67 ERA, his 2 complete games, his no hitter, his 51 strikeouts (against only 9 walks) and 21 hits in 43 innings of work across his 6 games (again, he’s got to be a lock for American League Pitcher of the Month), we’d be talking about the best starter on this team!

Small sample?  Go fuck yourself!  Wade LeBlanc is magic and I won’t hear anything else!

Pazos, Nicasio, and Chasen Bradford nailed down the final four innings without incident, meaning we were able to save guys like Diaz and Colome for the weekend.  Again, just excellent pitching all around yesterday.

On the hitting side of things, Dee Gordon returned with a vengeance, with a leadoff triple and a run scored off of a very shallow pop up to right field.  Nelson Cruz banged a 2-run homer and later had a 3rd RBI to keep his momentum going in the right direction.  Segura was on base 3 times and scored 3 times; Healy had an RBI single; and Heredia and Span each had 2 hits as the bottom of the lineup looks remarkably improved with those two guys getting regular AB’s.  In 4 games with the Mariners so far, Span has 5 hits (including a double) and 3 runs scored.  I like Gamel as much as the next guy – and I concede he was looking better at the plate right before this trade went down – but overall he’s been terrible for almost a full year now, and he appears to be much better suited to being a team’s 4th outfielder rather than a starter.  How about that?  Everyone went into this season thinking it was Heredia that was destined to be a 4th outfielder (and that might very well be his overarching role when it’s all said and done), but right now Heredia looks like a dynamic weapon and a viable starting outfielder in this league if he can keep it up at the plate.

The Mariners ended up 18-11 in the month of May, which follows a 16-11 month of April.  We are 1 game behind the Astros in the A.L. West (tied in the loss column), and 4.5 games ahead of the Angels as we currently hold the 2nd Wild Card spot (3 full games behind the Yankees for the 1st Wild Card spot).

As I’ve noted before, the month of June looks a lot tougher.  The Rays are hanging around .500 (and we face them 7 times), and we also play the Astros, Angels, Red Sox, and Yankees this month.  In fact, we don’t play a team under .500 again until June 25th!  That’s 22 consecutive games against teams that are either IN the playoffs (if the season ended today) or fighting tooth and nail for the Wild Card spot (in other words, our direct opponents for possible post-season play).  On top of that, out of 28 games, only 12 are at home this month.  We make trips to Houston, Tampa (then back home), then we go out to New York, Boston, and Baltimore (before returning home again).  Make no mistake, everything about this month spells B-R-U-T-A-L.

The good news?  If we can avoid getaway-day rainouts that need to be made up at a later date, once we return from our East Coast road trip in Baltimore, We’ll never have to go any further east than the state of Texas the rest of the season.  The entire month of July, for instance, has us only going to Anaheim and Colorado!  In fact, all of our road trips after the month of June are against the A.L. West or the N.L. West.

Just got to get through this month.  If you offered it to me on a silver platter right now, I would absolutely accept a .500 record for the month of June.  If you gave me 14-14, SIGN ME UP!

The Mariners Traded For Alex Colome & Denard Span

Win now!  That’s the obvious message, implied in the trade made today as well as said directly by manager Scott Servais.

Incoming:  reliever Alex Colome and outfielder Denard Span
Outgoing:  starter Andrew Moore and starter Tommy Romero

Colome has been one of the best closers in all of baseball the last 2+ seasons.  The Mariners already have an elite closer in Edwin Diaz, so Colome figures to slot into that 8th inning role, bumping back Juan Nicasio and Nick Vincent.  Colome is also, obviously, closer insurance in case Diaz falls apart or needs a break because he’s gone too many days in a row.  He’s also got 2 more arb years left on him, so it’s not just a 2018 rental.

(not for nothing, but that also means we can flip Colome at any time, if this thing falls apart)

Span is an aging veteran outfielder who gets on base a lot and that’s about it.  Not a lot of power, not a lot of speed, not a lot of great defensive ability, but he walks a lot I guess.  I dunno, I’m not super jazzed about the addition.  He’s over-priced – so it’s a bit of a salary dump for the Rays – but they did give us a little over $4 million in return, which just so happens to be the cost of buying out his contract after this season.  He would otherwise be set to make $12 million in 2019, and there’s just no fucking way that’s going to happen.

Span is apparently going to take over for Ben Gamel, which feels somewhat appropriate given Gamel’s struggles since the All Star Break last year.  The hope being that Span gets hot and his batting average creeps up to his career average (.282).  He’s hitting .238 right now, so if he does approach his career average, that could be quite the boost to this team.  He’s 34 years old though, so maybe don’t count on it.

I love the deal.  I worry that Colome might be somewhat disgruntled taking a backseat to another closer, but he’s apparently saying all the right things, so I’ll reserve any judgment until I see him in action.  If he kicks ass, then this could be a HUGE boost to this bullpen.  You have to figure Nicasio isn’t going to suck forever, and with Vincent working his magic, and Pazos and Cook being potentially dependable fireballers, we could be looking at one of the top bullpens in the American League.

I also don’t mind the loss of Andrew Moore.  He’s another in a long line of soft-tossing starters we’ve cultivated in our farm system and I just don’t think he’s going to be anything special.  He certainly wasn’t going to help us this year, and he probably wasn’t much of a long-term viable rotation option.  He could prove me wrong, but right now I’m not broken up about it.  As for the other guy, he’s still in A-ball, so whatever.

Good: The Mariners Won The Season Series Against The Tigers

The Tigers aren’t good, man.  They’re just not.  And yet, we came out of Detroit a week ago having lost 2 of 3, followed by losing the opener to this home series over the weekend to make it 3 of 4.  It just looked dismal at that point, and you had to wonder if all the injuries and suspensions and shaky pitching had finally caught up to this team.  Let’s face it, playoff teams win season series against inferior opponents like Detroit; whereas Mariners teams – that inevitably always fall short of the playoffs – find ways to lose these series to inferior opponents like Detroit.

I mean, this is a team that’s actively tanking 2018 to try to build a better ballclub in 2019 and beyond!  The Mariners, conversely, have been building to this year for a while now, and are pretty actively trying to go for it all, farm system be damned!  With two franchises going so clearly in opposite directions right now, it couldn’t be any more demoralizing to lose a bunch of games to this team.

Before we get to the Tigers, I should point out that the Mariners split their 2-game set against the Rangers.  Honestly, with all the travel, the make-up game, and the weird scheduling times, I’m more impressed that the Mariners avoided a sweep at all.  We came back to win that 9-8 thriller on Tuesday, only to shit the bed on Wednesday afternoon, but who can get mad about that?  Sure, the Rangers are crap, but circumstances, man.

It was that Thursday loss to the Tigers, though, that really got to me.  Marco Gonzales did his thing (and might’ve even gotten through that sixth inning had Kyle Seager not made a run-scoring error), and in spite of the run, we were still up 2-1 headed into the eighth inning.  With Juan Nicasio being held back to work on his stuff, Nick Vincent came in off of quite a roll, only to blow it.  Will anyone ever take command of the 8th this year?

I was at a comedy show on Friday, so I missed this one, but things looked pretty dire heading into the 7th, down 4-0.  Thankfully, turnabout is fair play, and the M’s put on a 5-spot in the bottom of the 7th to take the lead, with Nicasio and Diaz able to hold the fort for the save.

Saturday was just a marvelous night all the way around.  James Paxton got his second career complete game (the first being his no-hitter a few games back) as the Mariners won 7-2.  He struck out 8 while giving up just a walk and 3 hits; I could’ve done without the 117 pitches – particularly with the game so well in hand – but we’ll see if that matters or not.  I know Paxton is a big, strong animal and everything, but if he goes on the DL in a week, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.  I mean, maybe it’s a nice morale boost or whatever, but we were beating them by 5 runs; seemed unnecessary to throw an extra 20 pitches on his arm just to get that 9th inning.  It’s not like the bullpen was massively overworked or anything; you still had a guy warming up just in case someone got on base!

That brought us to Sunday, where Francisco Liriano damn near no-hit us.  As it was, he went 8, giving up just 1 hit and 3 walks, before he gave way to the team’s closer, up by a comfortable 2-0 margin.  The Mariners once again saw Wade LeBlanc pitch into the sixth inning, giving up both of those runs, and got clean bullpen work from newly called-up Ryan Cook, as well as Pazos, Altavilla, Nicasio, Diaz, and Vincent.  With one out and Segura on second, Mitch Haniger stepped up in the 3-hole and belted a massive game-tying homer to ultimately send this game into extras.  Then, in the 11th, Dee Gordon singled, swiped second, and was hit in by Segura to send the fans home happy.

I’ll say this:  Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger have been absolutely carrying this team so far this year!  With Cano gone, and with Cruz being a magnet for opposing pitchers to hit on damn near a daily basis (as well as with Seager not doing a whole helluva lot at the plate, with Healy being his streaky self, and with the rest of the outfield being more Small Ball than Long Ball), it’s been a godsend to see Segura and Haniger develop into not just The Future, but The Present.  Could that Taijuan Walker trade have gone any better for the Mariners?

Now, here we are – with a Monday off-day – 27-19, in second place in the A.L. West (2 games behind the Astros and 1.5 games ahead of the Angels to lock into that second Wild Card spot.  I’m still not convinced this is a playoff team and probably never will be until it actually happens, but this is as good as I’ve ever felt about a Mariners team this late into the season for a long, long time.

Getting back to winning that season series against the Tigers, we’ve also won the season series against the Indians, and are 2-1 against the Twins, Royals, White Sox, and Blue Jays.  We’re 3-2 against the Rangers and 4-2 against the suddenly-surging A’s.  The only teams we have losing records against are the Angels (1-2) and the impossible Astros (1-3).

Obviously, the hitting is the story of the season.  Segura, Gordon, and Haniger are leading the way.  Cano was having a fantastic season until he got popped and broke his hand.  Zunino, Cruz, and Seager could be better, but are still providing the power this lineup needs.  Healy overcame a disaster of a start to be a dynamic force towards the bottom of the lineup.  Heredia has not shied away one little bit with his increased playing time.  All we need is for Gamel and our bench guys to pick it up just a tad and the offense should be able to weather the storm (for the most part) of losing Cano for 80 games.

I’ve been a little intrigued by the pitching of late, though.  Obviously, Felix and Leake have been pretty big disappointments, even based on my lowered expectations, but they’ve kind of been keeping us in games for the most part.  He never looks great, but Felix has only looked BAD a couple times; other than that, he has a bad inning here and there, but is usually able to limit the damage and hold it down until the offense can pick him up.  And, while I think most people expected Leake to be better heading into the season, he’s only a little bit worse than what I predicted, based on his overall experience in the MLB (and not just his last 2 amazing months of 2017).

On the flipside of things, James Paxton has been on the roll of all rolls in the month of May.  Wade LeBlanc continues to be on the run of his life (and absolutely should not be returned to the bullpen if/when Erasmo Ramirez gets healthy).  And even Marco Gonzales continues to be the most economical of starters that we have.  If he EVER figures out how to make it through the sixth inning without handing over the lead he’s been given – and God forbid starts working his magic into the seventh inning and beyond – I might actually be able to one day forgive this GM for trading away future superstar Tyler O’Neill.  That’s not even getting into Christian Bergman’s 7-inning 0-run start and Ariel Miranda’s 5-inning 1-run start.

As for the bullpen, that’s always going to be volatile.  Scrabble hasn’t been anything close to what we need from a lefty specialist.  Nicasio has had moments of greatness, but too many slip-ups for comfort from an 8th inning guy.  Vincent has been a little bit up and down (probably right on track, from my pre-season expectations).  But, Diaz has been extra-special, Pazos has been very stout, Altavilla’s been a little better than expected, and if Ryan Cook can hold it together, he could be a pretty big addition to this group.  Also, Chasen Bradford has been a nice innings eater and someone I didn’t even come close to expecting anything from.

All in all, I think the bullpen will have its bad moments (as they all do), but is overall better than I thought.  And, while the starters are far from elite (aside from Paxton), I’m coming away very impressed with this unit.  I’ll never be confident with these guys, but I think they’re managed very well.  If that continues, it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility for this to be a Wild Card team in 2018.

Cano’s Fucked & The Mariners Are Gone

Not too long ago, it was a broken bone in Robinson Cano’s hand of unknown severity that was causing all of our sleepless nights this week, fretting the fate of a Mariners team seemingly on the verge of breaking a playoff drought longer than any other in major American professional sports.  Yesterday, we learned of his 80-game steroid suspension, and it doesn’t even matter that the Mariners beat the Rangers in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the 11th last night.  This season has gone so far sideways that we can’t even sit around and mope about one thing for a single day before some other atrocity befalls this cursed franchise.

I mean, seriously, on the same day Cano gets clipped, some dickhole hits Nelson Cruz on the foot with a breaking ball?  Sure, he should be back in a few days, BUT WE GET IT BASEBALL GODS!!!  It can always get fucking worse for the Seattle Fucking Mariners.  ENOUGH!

The earliest Cano can come back is mid-August.  He should be weeks healed from the broken bone by then, but I’m not sure all that matters much.  The real ramifications are, of course, that this essentially doubles his time away from the Mariners this season, which severely affects their chances to sneak into that Wild Card game.  What’s even worse, of course, is that even if by some grace of the baseball gods the Mariners do manage to somehow grab that second Wild Card spot, Cano won’t be allowed to play in it.  Or any of the other possible post-season games this year.

Just when you thought it was safe to be a Mariners fan again.

I’m obviously much less concerned with how this affects Cano’s legacy.  I’m also less concerned with how or why it happened.  Did he knowingly take something against the rules and then try to cover it up?  Sure seems like it.  Even if he didn’t knowingly take something against the rules, he’s an idiot and SEVERELY negligent for not knowing what’s going into his body.  Either way, I guess this is a black mark on his otherwise Hall of Fame career, but again, what do I care?  He did most of his Hall of Fame damage in a Yankees uniform anyway, and Hall of Fame inductions don’t win the Mariners any World Series titles, so fuck all that noise.

Before the season, I was dubious at best about the Mariners’ chances of making the post-season; with the hand injury, my doubts only intensified.  With this suspension now?  Forget it.  While my overarching opinion hasn’t changed – this isn’t a playoff team, and more shit like this will chip away at the good start they’ve enjoyed – I have an even more concrete opinion of the 2018 Mariners and it’s absolutely unimpeachable:

Even IF the Mariners make the playoffs in 2018, as it’s currently constructed, there’s no hope of even sniffing the World Series, let alone winning it.  Not with the level of competition that looks to vie for the other playoff spots.

So, Cano can get injured, he can get suspended, he can even retire in disgrace, it’s not going to matter.

What I hope for is that the Mariners take this $12 million they’re going to save and rent a quality starter for the remainder of the year.  Might make things more interesting.

As for all the talk of moving Dee Gordon back to second base, I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance that it would happen until the team acquired another proper starting outfielder.  I mean, this was a team already too uncomfortable to play Guillermo Heredia on an everyday basis (settling on someone in Ben Gamel who’s been the fucking worst since the All Star Break last year and hasn’t re-adjusted to the way the rest of the league has adjusted to him), now we’re going to start BOTH of them?  I guess when you take a look at our second base alternatives, it doesn’t sound totally crazy, but at some point I have to believe this team goes after a better outfielder (likely to stick in left field, with a platoon in center until Cano returns and Dee can move back).  I know this team has more pressing needs elsewhere (like up and down the pitching staff), but figure outfielders are more prevalent and shouldn’t necessarily cost as much to acquire in trade.

Just a rotten, rotten day any way you slice it.

Cano’s Gone & The Mariners Are Fucked

The one thing the Mariners had going for them was their elite lineup compensating for a suspect pitching staff.  Regardless of how good a lineup is, there are still going to be games where they just don’t have it – they suffer poor BABIP luck, they can’t hit with RISP, they just get dominated by a great pitcher at the top of his game – and somewhere in there lies the 2 losses to Detroit over the weekend.  Lots of balls hit right at guys, and lots of futility with men on base, unable to take advantage of struggling pitchers and knock them out of games.  The good thing about an elite Mariners lineup is that these types of games happen less and less often.  The bad thing about injuries to that elite Mariners lineup is that these types of games will happen more and more, and the pitching staff simply isn’t good enough to pick up the slack.

Robinson Cano has a broken bone in his hand.  He’s going to be out for many weeks as it heals.  Robinson Cano is one of our very best hitters.  He’s going to be replaced by a sub-replacement level hitter.  Saying nothing of the change in our defense, this is a complete disaster.  Andrew Romine has improved quite a lot since he spent the bulk of this season batting .000, but he’s a far cry from competent at the plate, and we’re set to see him most every day (that is, when we don’t see AAA call-up Gordon Beckham).

So, if Cano is out for the foreseeable future, and if the pitching stinks, what’s left?  Well, the rest of the hitters are going to have to pick up the slack in a big way.  I don’t know how much more Gordon, Segura, or Cruz can do.  Seager seems to be heating up, which is going to be crucial.  Haniger continues to plug away, but doesn’t quite look like he’s making that leap into superstardom like it appeared back in April.  Healy has obviously been remarkable since his return from the DL, but he’s going to be up and down all year, so I don’t think we can really depend on him.  The obvious sources of improved production reside at catcher and left field.  Mike Zunino needs to get his ass over .200 with the batting average, for starters, so a massive hot streak appears to be in order.  The other one is Ben Gamel, who’s done absolutely nothing all year since returning from the oblique injury.  Who didn’t see that coming a mile away?  Nevertheless, it’s been long enough.  He’s had his “spring training” period or whatever you want to call it; now it’s time to start returning to the form he showed in the first half of 2017.  Figure it the fuck out, Gamel!  You’re our only hope!

Regarding the series with the Tigers, I want to say this series was lost when Friday’s game rained out.  They predictably split the doubleheader on Saturday (losing the first game in frustrating fashion; busting out with the bats in the second), and they tried their damnedest to keep rallying in the Sunday finale, but could never secure a lead after the third inning, and Juan Nicasio is just the fucking worst.

I don’t want to say it’s all over, but then again I also don’t want to say I ever believed in this team in the first place.  I’d say the best case scenario is the Mariners will tread water until Cano comes back, but we’ll have plenty of other injuries to go around by the time that happens.  It’s been a pleasant few weeks since we had our offense back to full strength, and now it’s over.  Barring many more injuries, the Mariners will still “contend”, but we knew what we were getting into before the season even started.  The Mariners are going to Mariners all over themselves and finish around .500 by season’s end.  Even with Cano, our fate was always going to be on the outside looking in; now without Cano, figure that fate is more secure.

James Paxton No-Hit The Blue Jays In Canada

This was a real gem that snuck up on me.  I knew he was doing good in the early going, but James Paxton obviously wasn’t as overwhelming as he was in his previous start, when he struck out 16 batters in 7 innings.  The three walks in the first four innings masked the fact that he’d been no-hitting them the whole time, and I don’t think it dawned on me until maybe after the 5th?  Either the announcer alluded to something, or someone on Twitter whispered something, and then I went on ESPN and sure enough, a big ol’ (Canadian) goose egg in the hit column!

From then on, it was all about sitting there, doing the same thing I’d been doing the whole game, not mentioning what was going on to my dad, while smirking at all the people on Twitter with flagrant disregard for the unwritten rules of baseball.  I love it, I subscribe to flouting them whenever they come up, but at the same time I still very much believe in my power to jinx something thousands of miles away, so if Paxton were to lose his no-hitter, it wasn’t going to be MY fault!

(I’ll also say this, when a couple guys on Twitter who’d been suspiciously quiet all night *COUGH Softy and Mitch COUGH* suddenly chimed in with pre-bottom-of-the-ninth-inning Tweets, I thought I’d lose it)

And boy did he almost lose that no-no a few times last night!  Dee Gordon with the diving catch in center in the first, that crazy falling-down foul ball catch by Ryon Healy (who knows what the batter would’ve done if the at-bat was extended?), the pick of the throw in the dirt from Segura to Healy, that unbelievably amazing diving stop & throw by Seager on what could’ve easily been a double and what SHOULD’VE been an infield single, that scary deep fly to Gamel when the outfield had been playing in, that other tough catch of a liner into center by Gordon, and, of course, my heart stopped for a beat on the final at-bat with that hard grounder to Seager.  I thought – FOR SURE – 2 outs, 2 strikes, that ball was going to find a hole to break all our hearts.

I mean, you just can’t say enough about that defense.  When people talk about how ERA is a bullshit stat, a lot of people point to the fact that errors tend to make a pitcher look better, but just as much – if not moreso – it’s the other way around with an amazing defense lifting up the guy on the mound.  You tend to always see at least one or two amazing plays in any no-hitter situation, but all night long those Mariners out there carried the mail.  That’s as much of a Team No-Hitter as the 6-pitcher one a few years back.

Still, all that being said, James Paxton is the man.  That was a helluva show!  We all knew he had it in him and it would come out eventually.  I’m just glad I was there to watch the whole thing from start to finish.

Offensively, it was more of the same.  These guys, for the most part, put constant pressure on opposing teams.  You can hold the M’s down for a while, but eventually we’re going to lean on you, and more often than not break through.  We manufactured 2 runs in the third with the top of our lineup, Zunino hit a jack to right field for 2 more runs in the fourth, and Haniger chimed in with a sac fly to score Cano.  Dee Gordon had 3 hits and a stolen base; Cano, Cruz, and Healy each had 2 hits apiece; and Seager and Gamel got in on the action with singles.

This is an important series.  The Blue Jays are one of the three teams in the A.L. East vying for a playoff spot.  We need to do everything in our power to stay comfortably ahead of them, as we already have our hands full with the fucking Angels.  Getting this win is a great start to the series and the road trip.

Getting the no-hitter is the most perfect icing on that cake.

The Mariners Are Kinda Good

The last time I wrote about the Mariners, they just barely grinded out a series win against the pretty hapless Chicago White Sox.  It wasn’t pretty, it was far from impressive, but it felt so very Mariners and what they are in the early going of 2018.  They were headed to Cleveland to wrap up a 10-game road trip with a 4-spot against a team that’s been to the playoffs the last two years, including a World Series trip.

And somehow not only won 3 out of 4, but DOMINATED in the final two to put an exclamation point on the month of April.

Paxton took the hill on Thursday and left with a 4-2 lead after 6 innings, but the bullpen – behind the struggling Nick Vincent and the outright shitty Scrabble, alongside the hard-luck Blown Save Guy Dan Altavilla – coughed it up in the 7th.  Thankfully, Kyle Seager doubled in the go-ahead run, and Nicasio & Diaz were able to slam the door shut.  That’s 11 saves for Diaz in the first month of the season, who is on quite a pace right now.

Corey Kluber got the start on Friday, against Erasmo Ramirez who apparently was rushed back to the Majors off of his injury and doesn’t quite have his usual stuff.  Why this happened, I have no idea, but obviously the M’s didn’t stand a chance in this one.  Erasmo gave up 6 runs in 5 innings; Kluber almost got the complete game.  AND YET, the combo of Scrabble and Wade LeBlanc kept the damage to those 6 runs, while the Mariners were able to chip away.  Mitch Haniger hit a 2-run homer in the 7th, and Mike Zunino hit a 3-run homer in the 9th to make it VERY interesting.  Unfortunately, one batter later, Ben Gamel lined out to end the threat.  Pretty impressive showing, nevertheless.  You have to wonder if someone like Ariel Miranda might’ve limited the Indians to fewer runs … maybe we’re talking about the second hard-luck loss for Kluber against the Mariners this season!

On Saturday, it didn’t matter who got the start, as the Mariners blew the Indians away, 12-4.  Leake did his job, going 6 innings, giving up 4 runs, and the lesser bullpen guys wrapped this one up in a nice little bow.  But, this one was all about the offense.  Gordon had 2 hits, including a double, as well as a stolen base and 3 runs scored.  Segura had 3 hits, including a homer, as well as 4 RBI and 3 runs scored.  Cano had a hit, a run, and 2 RBI.  Cruz went 4/5 with a homer and 2 RBI.  Seager had a 2-run homer.  Even Healy joined in on the action with a 2-run homer of his own!  Nothing but mashing, up and down the lineup in this one.  It’s too bad I was busy all day, this one would’ve been fun to watch.

On Sunday, again, who started?  I have no idea.  Marco Gonzales, I guess.  6 innings, 2 runs allowed off of 6 hits and a walk, with 4 strikeouts and only 89 pitches.  That’s not a bad little line right there!  Back-to-back quality starts for the kid; let’s build on this!  Keep your chins up!  But, again, the offense just laid them to waste.  Dee Gordon 4/5 with a run and an RBI.  Segura with a hit, run and RBI.  Cano with a 2-run homer.  Haniger with a triple, homer, RBI, and 3 runs scored.  And good ol’ Ryon Healy – BACK FROM THE DEAD – with 2 more homers, 3 runs and 4 RBI in the 9-hole in the lineup.  I wouldn’t expect that to last (I don’t get why we keep putting the slowest players in the 9-hole for Gordon to bat behind), but it is kinda cool to think that the lineup, 1-9, is as stacked as it is, especially if Healy can keep it up.

We had an off-day yesterday, allowing a road-weary team a chance to rest before a quick 6-game homestand.  3 against the A’s, followed by 3 against the Angels this weekend.  It looks like I’m going to both the Friday and Saturday games, which means I’ve got a VERY good chance of seeing Shohei Ohtani.  I know he’s probably going to destroy us, but I’m going to be screaming my lungs dry just in case we’re able to knock him out.  Fingers crossed!

Anyway, I dunno, it’s kinda fun to be a Mariners fan right now.  After all the expectations I had for the 2017 team, and how miserably they started in the month of April, it’s nice to see us at 16-11, in second place in the A.L. West (half game ahead of the Angels; 2.5 games behind the Astros), and locked into that 2nd Wild Card spot (half game ahead of the Angels & Blue Jays; 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the 1st Wild Card spot).  Unrelated in all of this:  it looks like the winner of the A.L. Central gets a free ride into the ALDS, as all the Wild Card contenders right now appear to be in the East & West.  Must be nice to play in such a shitty division; if the Mariners were in the Central, we’d be competing for the top record in the American League right now!

As things stand, the Astros are who we thought they were, the Angels are pretty much who I thought they were (going to hang around that Wild Card area all year), the Rangers are much worse than I thought they’d be, and the A’s are a little better than I thought they’d be.  If the A’s turn out to be a serious player for the Wild Card, it’s going to make our lives miserable having 3 fucking good teams in same division to play 19 times apiece.  So, let’s nip this thing in the bud right now, starting tonight.  Sweep these fuckers out of Seattle and send them down a shame spiral for the rest of the year!

The Mariners Won That Series In Kansas City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Had Their Asses Handed To Them In San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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