The Mariners Traded Eugenio Suarez For Junk

I’d be lying if I told you I understand what the Mariners are doing. Usually, when it’s this early in the offseason, I’ll sit back and say, “Let’s wait and see what other moves are coming. Because surely THIS can’t be the plan!”

The last move that made sense from a roster construction perspective was a little over a year ago, when we traded for Teoscar Hernandez. Your miles may vary on whether or not the move actually worked out, but at least it made some kind of sense. Then, starting with us giving away Kyle Lewis for nothing, trading for Kolten Wong, and bringing in A.J. Pollock and Tommy La Stella – while extending Dylan Moore and essentially guaranteeing him a near-everyday spot in the lineup – the moves started to get blurry to me. They stopped making sense. I kept waiting and TRYING to see, but the closer we got to the start of the season, the more it became clear that this was it. This was the team. We were done making moves, and content to suck it.

We all saw how that turned out.

There hasn’t been a lot going on with the M’s so far this offseason. We let Teoscar Hernandez go away without a fight, which seemed like a bad move at the time, considering I figured there was little risk of him signing his qualifying offer. I haven’t heard of him signing anywhere, but I also don’t think he’s finished as a Major League baseball player. In conjunction with that, comes the news that the Mariners traded away Eugenio Suarez to the Arizona Diamondbacks, just as they did with Kyle Lewis, Ketel Marte, and Paul Sewald. In return for this deal, we get back Carlos Vargas (a relief pitcher) and Seby Zavala (a backup catcher). Pretty much the least you can get in return for a viable starting third baseman.

If I squint, I can sort of see what’s going on here: the Mariners just shed themselves of 425 strikeouts between Hernandez and Suarez. They were the second and third-most strikeouts in all of Major League Baseball last year. Nevertheless, they also accounted for a combined 4.3 WAR between them. That’s not an insignificant amount of production we need to recoup somehow, someway.

There was another deal that happened a couple weeks ago – indeed, on the first day of my honeymoon – that I was going to let slide under the rug and never think about, because it seemed so inconsequential. However, in the wake of the Suarez deal, there have been rumblings. Distressing rumblings.

The Mariners traded reliever Isaiah Campbell – one of our bevy of rookie arms from this past season who was fine at times, but far from great – to the Red Sox for infielder Luis Urias. I had assumed Urias was just another Quad-A utility infielder to throw on the pile. I think I had good reason for this assumption: he’ll be 27 next year, he hasn’t done much of anything at the Major League level, he’s coming off of really a nothing season, and his good numbers were from 2-3 years ago when he played for Milwaukee. That’s a prototypical guy you take a flier on in Spring Training, who maybe ends up as your 25th or 26th man.

However, once the Suarez deal went down, there were some people In The Know saying that this paved the way for Urias to be our starting third baseman, which is absolutely shocking to me! I really want to dismiss it, and again retreat into my cocoon of Wait & See, but coming off all the inaction of our previous offseason, I have to at least somewhat take this threat seriously.

I guess Urias doesn’t strike out as much. That’s something. He also doesn’t hit for average, hit for power, walk a ton, or steal any bases. Maybe his defense is good? That’s fine, but so was Geno’s. This feels like a significant downgrade, and that’s before you consider the hit to morale in the clubhouse. A clubhouse that’s been pissing and moaning for the better part of two years, whenever we get rid of highly-regarded teammates (Graveman, Sewald, now Suarez).

The fact of the matter is, the 2023 Mariners already had at least one significant hole to fill in our everyday lineup (probably more like two or three, but let’s not be greedy). Now, with the loss of Hernandez and Suarez, that’s a MINIMUM of three major holes (and, again, probably more like four or five). We’re going the wrong direction. Our goal was supposed to be improving upon the 2022 playoff squad, to start fighting for a World Series. We sat on our hands last season and regressed our way right out of the playoffs. Now, we’re actively ridding ourselves of productive players, and potentially replacing them with cheap nobodies who will do nothing for us.

Granted, in defense of Mariners brass, both Hernandez and Suarez took steps back in 2023 compared to 2022. If either one of them had managed to just maintain their level of production, we easily would’ve been in the playoffs. But, you can’t dismiss the possibility that they just had down years, and will bounce back in 2024. These are pros, and baseball is wonky as hell. Sometimes you have a bad season for unexplained reasons. That doesn’t mean you’re just finished forever.

As for our return in the Geno deal, Seby Zavala looks like a disaster at the plate. Maybe I’m being a little hard on him, but we’ll see. This surely means the end of Tom Murphy, which I’m fine with. I like Murph as much as the next guy, but he can’t stay healthy, and this team (and Cal Raleigh in particular) is severely taxed whenever he goes down. Zavala appears to be a quality defensive backstop, and if he can just be better than Brian O’Keefe, or whoever in the hell we had in 2022, then bully for us. But, a backup catcher isn’t going to move the needle on this team’s playoff chances.

Carlos Vargas has appeared in exactly 5 Major League games, all in 2023. He’s only 24, and allegedly throws the ball hard, but he also doesn’t seem to have great command yet. This trade will work out if we can harness his power and get him in the strike zone (without getting hit too hard in the process), but I read somewhere that there isn’t a lot of movement on his pitches. It seems like we just traded Isaiah Campbell for an Isaiah Campbell clone. Which means we traded Suarez for Urias and Zavala. Which feels like an absolute massacre for the Mariners.

My faith in the Mariners was already dwindling. Now it’s almost gone completely. I hope they do something awesome soon.

The Mariners Did Not Extend A Qualifying Offer To Teoscar Hernandez

I’m not going to lie to you, in an offseason that started – for all intents and purposes – at the very end of the regular season, at least as far as the Mariners are concerned, this organization has bungled things in a way I never could’ve possibly expected. First, the end-of-season press conference fiasco, and now this.

The whole impetus in trading for Teoscar Hernandez in the first place – giving up a potentially-useful reliever (something this team desperately needed by season’s end) and a lottery ticket prospect – is that the Mariners would get a year of his services in the middle of our lineup, and then either opt to extend him for 2024 and beyond (if things went well), or let him walk with a Qualifying Offer attached to his name, thereby receiving draft pick compensation whenever he signed elsewhere. Sure, it’s just another lottery pick, but with how the Mariners like to do business, that seemed like an ideal outcome, all things considered!

Somewhat expectedly, things did not go well for Teoscar. He’s a righty slugger who strikes out a lot and spent half his games hitting in T-Mobile Park; if you didn’t anticipate some struggles, then you clearly haven’t been following the Mariners for very long. He had two good months in 2023 to salvage what ended up being his seasonlong slash line of .258/.305/.435:

  • June – .303/.376/.573
  • August – .365/.396/.654

The other months were pretty abysmal. True to form, his home/road splits were pretty garish:

  • Home – 79 games, .217/.263/.380
  • Road – 81 games, .295/.344/.486

So, yeah, he let the ballpark and the marine layer get into his head. I don’t know how that explains why he had 64 singles on the road vs. only 40 at home, but maybe that marine layer is a little thicker than we ever thought. Either way, he was not the Value Add we all needed him to be. When he was going good, the team won games. But, about 2/3 of the time he sucked, and the team fell short as a result, unable to compensate for his underperformance on top of everyone else’s underperformance (save J.P.).

What I don’t understand is, why not roll the dice? Sure, he’s 31 years old, but it’s not like a player of his age, with his prior performance, hasn’t commanded an insane amount of money in free agency. All you need to do is point to those home/road splits and SOMEONE would’ve given him a 3-year deal! The free agent market is barren! And every team needs help with a power bat!

Were we SO afraid that he’d accept the QO (valued at just over $20 million) that we couldn’t even risk it? That seems silly. He would’ve gotten a better deal somewhere; I’m convinced of it. Are we so set at the position that we couldn’t use him for another year, if indeed he did decide to return? Clearly not! There’s a nonzero chance that with his experience in 2023, he could’ve adjusted and hit closer to his career norm. Regardless, it’s exceedingly unlikely that he would’ve accepted the QO anyway, so what are we even doing here?!

Even if you think he’s fallen off a cliff and is done as a valuable Major Leaguer, that doesn’t mean some other team isn’t foolish enough – or desperate enough – to give him a wad of cash. Where’s the risk? Show me where the risk is. Because I don’t think there’s any chance in hell that he would’ve come back.

All we did was make it easier for him to sign elsewhere. Is that the tactic? Are we trying to play nice with potential free agents out there? Trying to show them that we’re good to our players – even our exiting players – to let them know that Seattle is a good place to work? Even if I buy that for a hot second, you know what those players actually care about? How much money you’re going to give them.

This is just bungled mis-management, plain and simple. Unless I’m totally off-base, and the market for him is so thin – to the point that both the Mariners and Teoscar’s agent know it – that he actually would’ve returned on a $20 million deal. In this case, I can tell you right now, it’s more about the money than it is about him as a player.

Would I want him back? In a vacuum? Probably not. I would lean towards 2023 being the start of him falling off a cliff. That being said, in a vacuum, I don’t know if I’d necessarily be against trying him out as a mostly-everyday DH, even at a $20 million cost. For one more year? Given how the free agency market looks, our non-Ohtani options available to us (because I don’t see us actually having any chance in hell at signing Ohtani), why not? He shouldn’t be your everyday right fielder, but as a DH, you could do a lot worse. The Mariners certainly have as much experience in trotting out lackluster designated hitters as anyone, since Edgar retired anyway.

But, the Mariners have a finite amount of money they’re willing to spend. Even after what happened this past season, with how we underperformed, with how the Rangers just won their first-ever World Series, with this team being under a microscope with both fans and its own players alike, they’re still going to short-change us in the spending department. They’re going to make excuses about why players don’t want to come here. They’re going to justify their decisions by pointing to their farm system and Julio and Cal and J.P. and their bevy of young starters. They’re going to nickel and dime us and then continue to raise ticket prices and the cost of having Root Sports on our cable packages. It’s the Mariners’ Way.

Even if Teoscar has a thin market under the QO, we’ll never actually know, because he doesn’t have the QO. He’s free to sign with no penalty! Watch it be for a bundle too. If it is, I think it’s pretty safe to say that bundle still would’ve been there with the QO. If you’re going to pay him $50+ million guaranteed, you’re going to be willing to part with a middling draft pick.

I’ll admit, when I first heard the news, I thought maybe this was the Mariners’ way of trying to bring him back to the organization at some valuation under $20 million. Maybe 2 years $30 million or something like that. Get some front-end savings, while retaining the stability of a streaky-yet-sometimes-potent power hitter. But as I sat with it for an extra day, it just feels like the Mariners gave up on even being competitive this offseason. We’re so unwilling to do anything big, we won’t even extend the minimal risk of a qualifying offer to earn a free draft pick.

Instead, what was our first big move of the offseason? Well, we traded a AAA reliever I’ve never heard of for cash, and we traded a promising-looking low-level catcher for a not-so-promising-looking upper-minors catcher with the Rays. Tatem Lewis is the guy we got rid of, so watch for him to be a smashing success with Tampa. Instead, we get a guy named Blake Hunt, who’s poised to compete at the backup catcher spot with Tom Murphy. Really, what it means is that Hunt will start out at AAA – eliminating the need to roster Brian O’Keefe, thank Christ – until Murphy inevitably gets hurt. Then, we’ll get to enjoy seeing Hunt do his best O’Keefe impression. Fun!

My confidence in this organization isn’t at an all-time low. There have certainly been lower moments as a Mariners fan over the years. But, I will say my confidence is flatlining pretty hard at the moment. It’s not dead and buried and decomposing, but doctors are administering CPR and warming up the paddles.

What The Mariners Need To Fix Heading Into 2024

Whenever you hear someone from the team talk about what went wrong with the 2023 Mariners, and what they need to do to get back to the playoffs in 2024, they make it sound like it’s just a small tweak here and there. I got into the positives of the 2023 squad, and yeah, there’s a lot of good pieces here. But, I would also say it’s not an insignificant undertaking!

I counted 12 positives, and that’s including Teoscar, who is not a guarantee to be back. He’ll likely be extended a qualifying offer, which everyone believes he will turn down. At which point, either you find a way to sign him as a free agent, or you have to go out and fill that spot in right field. Regardless, 12 is less than half of the Major League roster. Even if you add a few of those bullpen pieces to the mix, you’re still hovering around 50% of the team that could definitely use an upgrade. That’s hardly a small tweak here and there!

If we’re talking about reasons why the Mariners fell short this year, you have to start with Ty France and Eugenio Suarez. Ty has been a regular whipping boy this season, for good reason. He has drastically fallen off a cliff these last two years, to the point where he was barely above replacement level in 2023.

In 2021, I would’ve said Ty France was one of our most important players. His batting average has slipped 41 points, his on-base percentage has slipped 31 points, and his slugging has fallen a whopping 79 points. Its been a disaster, on top of which, his strikeouts are climbing. He’s doing nothing well, and even his defense – by the numbers – has fallen off. He somehow managed to avoid the IL, and he had a career high in HBP; that’s what he has to hang his hat on. He has 2 arb years remaining, and I’m not even sure we should give him that much. It might be better for everyone involved for him to just move on, except I don’t know what’s out there to fill in at that spot. It’s not like we can trust in Evan White. Free Agency sounds like a wasteland. We’ll probably have to fill that spot via trade, and so help me if we bring in another one of these Quad-A guys to try to hit in T-Mobile Park.

The only hope is that his year two arb number doesn’t increase much, and that he follows through with the program at Driveline (and it somehow manages to stick). I know they worked wonders for J.P., but I can’t imagine Ty France has been going out and doing nothing the past two offseasons; Driveline is no guarantee of future success.

Eugenio is a slightly different story. His batting average and on-base percentages year over year are pretty close to one another; it was just his power that took a bit of a dive (31 homers in 2022, 22 homers in 2023). That’s a little trickier to explain. His line drive percentage actually went up this year – which might speak to the uptick in doubles – but his fly ball percentage dropped. His pull percentage spiked, while his balls to center and right fell. His hard hit rate and ground ball percentages were both static, and his strikeout rate actually went down a tick (even though his overall strikeouts went up, mostly due to his playing in every single game). Is that just bat angle? Is that the way pitchers were throwing to him? Were they busting him up and in, and that reduced his effectiveness in getting the ball to leave the park?

He also just turned 32 years old, so we can’t necessarily rule that out. Either way, I don’t see him going anywhere. Or, let me put it this way: I don’t see both him AND France leaving (maybe one or the other). But, you can’t try to replace both of those guys plus Teoscar; that’s just too much to try to accomplish in one offseason.

There wasn’t a bigger (and better) story than Jarred Kelenic for the early part of the season. This was truly a make-or-break season for the youngster, and he seemed to take the biggest step forward of anyone in a Mariners uniform. The first couple months were outstanding! It’s too bad they were overshadowed by the rest of the team struggling as much as they did.

His first 53 games – through the end of May – saw him hit .277/.333/.513, with 14 doubles, a triple, and 10 homers. His final 52 games – June through the end of the year – saw him hit .226/.320/.316, with 11 doubles, a triple, and 1 homer.

So, what was that all about? How much did the stint on the IL for kicking a water cooler have to play into it? Well, considering he was struggling mightily leading up to it – hence his physical display of frustration – you can’t blame it ALL on the layoff. Did pitchers adjust to whatever adjustments he had made in the offseason? Probably. Was he ill-equipped to then adjust again? Sure seems like it. What does this mean for his Major League career going forward?

Well, I think it’s safe to say he salvaged some of his value, which is a plus. But, can you really go into next season with him as your everyday left fielder? Or even your most-days platoon left fielder? For what it’s worth, I don’t know if his splits necessarily dictate that he HAS to be a platoon guy. He had a slightly higher batting average and slugging percentage against lefties, and was actually luckier with BABIP against righties than lefties. So, I think he’s fine to be an everyday outfielder. I still think there’s room for him to grow as he continues getting comfortable at the Major League level. But, he goes in the tank for far too long to be considered dependable, and he doesn’t strike me as an All Star type player. He might luck into a hot half-season and get handed a spot one year. Overall, though, I think he’s destined to do whatever it is he’s going to do in another uniform. I believe this will be the offseason we package him to another team, in hopes to bring in a veteran we can count on.

The rest of the problem children include Jose Caballero, Mike Ford, Kolten Wong, Dylan Moore, Dominic Canzone, A.J. Pollock, Josh Rojas, Sam Haggerty, Cade Marlowe, Taylor Trammell, Cooper Hummel (remember him?), Tommy La Stella, and Brian O’Keefe. I can’t possibly devote an entire paragraph or series of paragraphs to these guys, because we’d be here all day. Suffice it to say, they’re all fringe Major Leaguers (at best), and were eating up WAY too many spots in our lineup for this offense to be even remotely effective. Some of them had decent stretches (Ford had 16 homers on the year, Caballero was an on-base machine for a while, Rojas and Marlowe had brief hot streaks), but on the whole, these are not the types of players you want to pin your hopes on.

On the pitching side of things, you have to begin with Robbie Ray and the fact that he only made the one start this year. Now, do we know if he would’ve been good this year? Remember how poorly the end of his 2022 season went. But, that could’ve been a fluke. The bottom line is that a guy you were expecting to eat up a significant chunk of quality innings wasn’t around for you. It accelerated the development of Miller and Woo – which in the end might’ve been a bonus – but you could see those guys start to wear down towards the end of the year. Would they have been fresher if we could’ve held them back a little longer? We’ll never know, but it sure seems likely.

Marco Gonzales only made it 10 starts this year, and continued his gradual downturn ever since 2020. We’re still stuck with him for one more year, and I find it hard to believe we’ll be able to find a trade partner for him. On the one hand, he’ll be healthy by the start of 2024, and you can’t have too much starting pitching; on the other hand, he’s useless as a member of the bullpen, and if he keeps Woo or Miller from starting for too long, it’s going to be enraging.

The biggest tragedy of this year might’ve been the injury to Emerson Hancock. We only got about two and a half starts out of him, but he looked fairly promising in his limited action. And it happened right around the time Bryan Woo was returning from his brief IL stint, when we were supposed to head into the dog days of summer with a 6-man rotation, to hopefully keep everyone fresh. How important was THAT in derailing our season? Who’s to say? It’s one more What If to throw onto a season full of ’em.

And we’ve already gone into the bullpen of it all. There were gods and clods, and the clods were pretty damn mediocre. Trading Sewald, so far, looks like a disaster. But, that’s one of those things you can’t measure in two months’ time. You have to look at it over the next 2-3 years and see where everyone lands. I’ll say this: I don’t have any confidence in Canzone or Rojas. But, I also think we’re right around the corner from Sewald turning into a pumpkin. In which case, it was all for naught, and very well might’ve been the single biggest factor in sinking our season.

So, TL;DR, what do we need to fix? Well, we need to upgrade at either 1B or 3B. We need to fill RF with either Teoscar or Other. We need a bona fide fucking DH, because this horse shit we’ve been doing isn’t going to fly.

The Mariners are so full of shit with this DH thing, by the way. It was supposedly a means to give regular guys off-days, but how often was it used for that purpose, really? Suarez played at third damn near every day. France rarely went off first. J.P. never sits. Instead, that spot went to Teoscar on occasion (which was really a means to improve our outfield defense), Cal once in a while (when Murphy was healthy and able to back him up), and people like Ford, Pollock, Haggerty, Rojas, and the like. Lots of bullshit bench guys getting DH starts and doing nothing with them! Just sign a great hitter and park him there! Enough with this experiment that you’re not even using as you say you will!

Also, we need a proper second baseman, a proper backup catcher (who can stay healthy all year), and an outfielder or three (depending on what happens with Teoscar and Kelenic). Oh, and replenish the bullpen with at least one heavy duty arm (so it’s not just Brash, Topa, and Munoz and that’s it).

So, yeah, there’s a lot to do, and only one offseason to do it.

The Mariners Stopped The Bleeding With A Series Win Over The Angels

That 10-game road trip felt like a month, didn’t it? It’s a good thing literally all the good players on the Angels are hurt. But, even then … couldn’t get the sweep.

Monday’s 8-5 loss was as irritating as every other loss we’ve had recently. We took a 3-0 lead in the first, gave it all back by the fourth. The game remained tied at 3-3 until the ninth, when the Mariners had a chance to walk it off. Three straight sharp singles loaded the bases with nobody out and Kelenic coming to the plate. He promptly struck out. Dylan Moore grounded into a fielder’s choice with the infield pulled in. Then, Canzone rolled over to first base to send it to extras.

The Angels hit a 2-run bomb in the top of the 10th to take a lead, but miraculously, Julio tied it with a 2-run bomb of his own in the bottom half. But, then the wheels came off in the 11th, as the Angels added three more to put it out of reach. We ended 3/12 with RISP, and left with more questions than answers from a bullpen that’s been repeatedly failing us in the later innings. I don’t know what the analytics say, but anecdotally, this group has been ass in the highest-leverage situations (unlike in previous years, when maybe we were luckier than we should’ve been). More and more, I think we’re going to point to the loss of Paul Sewald as the reason why this team fails to go all the way. Canzone sure hasn’t done much, and Rojas has once again cooled off considerably after a hot streak.

Turning things around, the Mariners executed a much-needed 8-0 victory on Tuesday. Bryan Woo looked outstanding (5.2 innings of 4-hit ball with 8 strikeouts), and we managed to close it out with Eduard Bazardo eating up 2.1 innings, and Dominic Leone finishing the ninth. THIS is the role those two were meant to fill; unfortunately, games haven’t been this out-of-reach lately to utilize them properly.

We had great games from Julio and J.P., as well as much-needed sparks from Suarez, France, and Moore. There hasn’t been a lot of production of late from the bottom of our order. Guys like Haggerty, Ford, Canzone, Rojas, Caballero, and O’Keefe have all been balls for the better part of a month and a half. It would be nice if we can get a blistering streak out of someone like Moore to fill that void. Also, it was nice to see Luis Torrens return and hit a rather meaningless double late in the game. O’Keefe is NOT a Major Leaguer, and Tom Murphy isn’t coming back anytime soon (if ever). We can’t afford to play Cal literally every single game the rest of the way.

On Wednesday, we got back to basics with some good ol’ fashioned Mariners baseball, in a 3-2 victory where Castillo pitched another Quality Start (6 innings, 2 runs, 3 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts), and the bullpen was nails from there (Topa, Brash, and Munoz locking it down). All of the scoring was completed by the end of the fifth inning, so it really was a lot of pressure pitching down the stretch. Good to see, after so much shakiness lately.

That caps off the Angels for 2023. We went 8-5, which is pretty appropriate. We’re 8-2 against the Astros, and 9-1 against Oakland, so let’s hope we can keep beating those teams. For what it’s worth, we’re 1-5 against Texas, making the seven times we see them in the last 10 games vitally important. Can we go 6-1 against them? Seems unlikely, but will be necessary if we hope to win the A.L. West.

We have this weekend series with the Dodgers coming up, before we close out against the remaining divisional opponents. We are 81-65, a half-game behind the Rangers (in the loss column), with them playing in Toronto today. We’re 1.5 games behind the Astros for the division (one in the loss column, two in the win column), and they’re off today as well.

We are currently one full game ahead of Toronto for the third wild card. The Blue Jays have lost three straight against the Rangers in this series, which is honestly pretty good for us, because they were on a massive hot streak before that (albeit, against a lot of the same bad teams we played in August). Toronto has 6 against the Yankees, 3 against the Red Sox (both have fallen WAY out of playoff contention), and 6 against the mighty Rays. We will be rooting heavily for the Rays over the next couple weeks.

So, that’s it. There are three teams all within a game and a half of one another for two wild card spots, and there are three teams all within a game and a half of the A.L. West. Win the west, earn a first round BYE, and you’re able to set your rotation and rest your overworked bullpen. Win the second wild card, and you “earn” a series against either the Rays or Orioles in their home stadium. Win the third wild card, and you get the privilege of facing the lowly Twins (who are currently 7.5 games up on the Guardians).

This is very stressful! I sure hope the Mariners do well!

I should point out – since it’s been a while where this has been a topic of conversation – that the Mariners have improved their record in 1-run games to 23-25. That is a mighty jump from where it was pre-August! We are, however, 6-13 in extra innings games, which has been an absurd drain on our emotions. Wouldn’t mind seeing that go in the positive direction asap.

Also, Paul Sewald Update: after a bad blown save early, he’s been pretty great. He had 8 consecutive scoreless appearances before his next blown save. He’s since gone 5 for 5 in save appearances in September. Right now, the Diamondbacks are tied for the third wild card spot (with two more teams right on their heels).

This Is Not A Drill: The Mariners Swept The Astros In Houston

Well, then I guess there’s only one thing left to do

I can’t even begin to tell you how unlikely all of this is. We’re now 14 games over .500; remember the All Star Break? We were one game over .500, and needed to go 45-28 to get to 90 wins. Remember the next week after the All Star Break? Remember how we lost a series at home against the lowly Tigers, and were in the midst of breaking even against the Twins? Remember how – at that point – we’d dipped down to one game below .500? It’s insane to think of how this season has turned around in such a short period of time.

Now, all we need to do is go 21-17 to get to 90 wins. Not that 90 wins are any sort of guarantee. Might take 93-95 wins this year, with the way things are going in the American League. Regardless, as of this weekend, we are in the third wild card spot by half a game. Time will tell if this is our emotional high-water mark on the season, or if we’ll power through to the finish. But it’s been a lot more fun to watch this team over the last month.

It was especially fun to watch the Mariners this weekend, because fuck the Astros! As you know from my post on Friday, I didn’t have high hopes. It just seemed like our bullpen was taxed, our starters were iffy, and we were in their home (where we’ve rarely done well). I don’t think this weekend could’ve gone more perfectly.

On Friday, we just barely scraped by with a 2-0 victory. Bryce Miller had his good stuff going in this one, completing 6.1 innings, giving up only 2 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 2. Justin Topa – who was pretty fresh – bridged that gap to the ninth inning, where Andres Munoz (also pretty fresh) nailed down the save.

Offensively, this was the Julio Rodriguez Show. It’s been his show for the last week, and really since the All Star Break. He went 4/5 in this one with a solo homer in the third. Mike Ford had the other solo homer in the sixth off of J.P. France, who was otherwise very good.

On Saturday, Julio went 4/6 with 2 runs scored en route to a 10-3 Mariners victory over Framber Valdez (who went 5 innings, giving up 6 runs). It was largely a team effort in this one, as Teoscar Hernandez had a big game (3/5 with 2 RBI and a run), as did Dylan Moore (2 home runs, 3 RBI), Ty France (2 hits, 2 runs), Sam Haggerty (2 hits, including a homer), and Jose Caballero (1 hit, 1 walk, 1 run, and 1 fight instigated by the Astros battery, who just hate him).

Logan Gilbert gave us 6 innings of competent pitching in this one, giving up 2 runs on 8 hits and a walk, with 3 strikeouts. Thankfully, we kept adding on runs throughout, so we got away with our back-of-the-bullpen arms to finish this one. That ended up being pretty fortuitous, considering what happened on Sunday.

It looks like Emerson Hancock’s season might be done. He left the game after 2 innings with a right shoulder strain. He had a lat strain in 2022 that delayed the start of that season, so I would say this is pretty concerning. For him, anyway. The Mariners were all set to bring back Bryan Woo from the IL in this upcoming series in Chicago. Now, the intention was to go to a 6-man rotation for a spell, and that appears to be in jeopardy. But, maybe the time off was all Woo needed to at least get us to the finish line. Either that, or maybe we sprinkle in a spot start or two out of one of our AAA starters. It’s already almost September, so it’s not like the guys have a ton of starts remaining.

Anyway, on Sunday, the M’s had built up a 6-0 lead heading into the bottom of the third, when our bullpen was forced to take over. Unfortunately, that bullpen gave us quite a scare right off the bat. Tayler Saucedo had zilch, getting no outs, giving up 5 runs on 4 hits and a HBP. Of course, two of those runs came around to score by his successor, but that’s still his fault.

The rest of the bullpen was pretty much nails! Thorton ate up 1.2 innings (including getting us out of that Saucedo scrape with a lead intact), Brash went 1.1 innings, Campbell went 1 inning (giving up the Astros’ sixth run, after we’d already gotten our seventh), and Topa, Munoz, and Speier locked it down from there, keeping the score where it was, 7-6. As it happened, I was at Wild Waves, following along on my phone. I saw that Munoz did the 8th inning – taking out the top of the order – and was sure he’d be in there for the 2-inning save. Instead, Speier of all people got the job done, starting with Destroyer Of All Things Mariner Yordan Alvarez and striking him out. I’m glad Y.A. was relatively cool in this series; it’s nice not to see him homer against us literally every single day.

Julio doubled in the first in this one, before coming around to score. Otherwise, he was quiet, but if he’s not the Player of the Week, there’s some shenanigans going on. Canzone was 4/5 with a RBI and a run, Moore was also 4/5 with a RBI. Rojas had 2 hits and 2 runs; Suarez had a 2-run homer; and even Brian O’Keefe had a 2-run double (though he’s still yet to finish a game he’s started, with Cal pinch hitting late both times).

The Mariners got all the way to be within a half game of the Astros (tied in the loss column). On top of that, we have officially taken the season series against them! So, bring on the tiebreaker! Again, we’ll see if this is our high-water mark or not. We have three more against the White Sox starting tonight, before we get to go back home for what – ON PAPER – looks like the cheesiest of all homestands (3 vs. the Royals, 3 vs. the A’s), but we saw what happened the last time we faced the Royals. Off-days are starting to get scarce, but we rustled up a well-deserved one this Thursday.

On the plus side, we finally get J.P. Crawford back from his concussion. On the downside, we’ll see how long it takes him to get back in the groove.