The Seattle Missed Opportunities Blew Another One Against The Astros

On Saturday, the Mariners literally dropped the ball, resulting in the exact difference in the final game score.  On Sunday … I don’t even know.

The Mariners loaded the bases in each of the first two innings; they knocked the starter out of the game after those first two innings; yet they managed to only scrape across two runs in those first two innings, and then zero runs the rest of the way.  The Astros’ bullpen had to account for 7 innings of relief and they combined to give up a whopping 3 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 7.

The Mariners obviously couldn’t compete with that, because these are the fucking Astros.  They’re GOING to score more than 2 runs, and it’s not even going to be that difficult.

To be fair, the umpires both in Seattle and at the head office in New York, fucked up yet another replay challenge.  In the second, with the bases loaded, Robbie Cano hit a would-be bases-clearing double.  Two runs scored easily, with the third called out after a slide at the plate.  Initially, he did look out, but upon replay, he pretty clearly looked safe.  I think you have to work harder to make an argument that the replay was inconclusive than you do to get the fucking call right.  You’re supposed to be allowed to use multiple different angles to get to the correct decision, and yet, Major League Baseball seems to throw all of this out the window and simply side with the Umpires on the field.  I mean, how do you explain it when everyone at home, on Twitter, can see clear as day that the guy was safe; but the people in charge – who are supposed to have the same angles and the same ability to slo-mo the shit out of it – see something completely different?

I’d like to see the version of this game where Cano plated 3 runs and was standing at second base with Nelson Cruz coming to home plate and the Astros going out to make a pitching change.  Maybe nothing would’ve changed; but relievers are different animals with inherited runners than they are coming into a clean inning.

Ariel Miranda – after being rock solid the first time through the lineup – got Astro’d in the fourth inning.  A George Springer solo homer.  A Jose Altuve infield single-turned-double on a throwing error.  A Carlos Correa double to right to tie the game.  A couple promising outs to hopefully limit the damage, but then a Yuli Gurriel 2-run bomb to left to put the game out of reach.

Miranda settled down to go 7.1 innings, while giving up just those 4 runs, which for him (and against the Astros) is pretty fucking good.  But, obviously, he got no help from his offense.

James Pazos had a giant meltdown in the ninth, but it didn’t really matter.  This Astros bullpen is apparently untouchable, so the game was beyond out of reach with them leading by 2 runs.

In Nagging Injury news, Danny Valencia has been out of the lineup the last couple days with a bum wrist.  Also, Ben Gamel was given yesterday off after his 15-game hitting streak was snapped.  He’s apparently got some kind of groin thing bothering him, which is supposed to be minor.

Thankfully, the Mariners get 2 whole days off this week, including one today, followed by a 2-game series against the Phillies, followed by an off-day Thursday, followed by a 3-game trip to Anaheim, followed by another 7-game homestand next Monday, followed by the All Star Break.  Here’s to the Mariners taking advantage.  It didn’t hit me – what with all the home games this month – but the M’s just finished up 20 games in 20 days.  So, yeah, I’m sure these guys are beat up and sore as all get-out.  It’s nice they get this comfortable stretch, especially with the month of August looming on the horizon.

Also, not for nothing, but I’m happy I get a couple days off this week from writing about baseball.

The M’s are back to .500.  Here’s to getting back over the hump again against the hapless Phillies.

The Astros Are Better Than The Mariners At Baseball

If you learn one thing from this series, it’s that the Astros are destined for greatness and the Mariners are destined for something … less than.  You can tell me it’s early all you want, but this is a great Astros team, and they’re not even playing all that well right now!  Altuve has yet to do anything, the rest of their lineup has been spotty at best, and yet they’ve still been able to demolish the Mariners through three games, with the fourth coming tonight.  Just imagine what this team is going to look like when all elements are firing.

The enraging thing – the thing that’s bound to prove my point even further – is going to be when the Mariners sweep the Angels this weekend and everyone will say, “See!  Nothing to worry about!  It was just one series in early April!  These games CLEARLY don’t matter as much as the games in September!”  And for a while, people will relax, because it’ll look like the Mariners are back on track.  Except, here’s the thing:  I never said the Mariners are terrible; I just said that the Astros are really fucking good and there’s no way we’re going to top them this season, short of the Astros suffering a slew of key injuries while the Mariners from this day forward remain relatively healthy.

This series is the fork in our division-winning hopes.  The Mariners are simply worse than the Astros, and quite frankly they have been since the Astros joined the A.L. West.  Even when the Astros were fucking God awful, they were still better than the Mariners.  It is our cross to bear.

So, now we know, with 159 games to play, it’s Wild Card or Bust.  I just hope there aren’t many more teams like the Astros on the schedule to give us fits.  If we can’t figure out a way to win some divisional games – thank you Unbalanced Schedule – not even the Wild Card will be on the table.

Last night’s game might have changed my mind, had the Mariners scratched out the win, but instead it only reinforces my resolve that the Astros are the better team.  We had everything going for us in that game, and by “everything” I mean James Paxton.  He looked fucking phenomenal in throwing six shutout innings, while giving up 2 hits, walking 1, and striking out 5.  If he’d only been able to keep his pitch count under control, this really should’ve been a 7- or 8-inning performance.  But, it’s his first start of the season, so stopping him at 100 pitches is the right thing to do.

I’ll tell ya, though, Paxton was something else.  He was pounding the inside corner of the plate like I’ve never seen!   The Astros had, what I distinctly remember as an all-right handed lineup, and Paxton didn’t bat an eye!  He even managed to power through some of those unlucky Paxton-esque moments without allowing a run to score; like in the second inning, when a 1-out walk managed to reach third base on an out and a wild pitch; or when Springer reached on a strikeout in the dirt and advanced to third base on a double (he had to get through Altuve and Correa to get out of that jam unscathed!).  These are the kinds of minor inconveniences that – in the past – would somehow come around to destroy a Paxton start.  But, last night, he locked those shits down!

(of course, that isn’t to say those types of things won’t ruin him in future starts, but this was an encouraging way to bring in the new season for a guy known for his inconsistency)

The Mariners managed to not only score a run with a hit out of the infield, but they hit their first homer of the season!  Jean Segura hit an opposite-field 2-run homer that was remarkable in the way it kept carrying.  For such a little guy, he has a surprising amount of power.  On top of that, it was the Mariners’ first lead of the season!

It didn’t last long.

As I noted above, Paxton was finished after six innings, but the Mariners went right to their best set-up man, Evan Scribner … who promptly gave up back-to-back hits and was pulled for Scrabble (our next-best set-up man), who did his job and got the first out of the 7th inning.  That brought us to Dan Altavilla (our third-best set-up man), who gave up a single to load the bases and a double to tie the ballgame.  He ended up getting out of the jam after that with the tie intact, but the blown save damage was done.

From there, it was a comedy of poor clutch hitting through the 12th inning.  Pazos was brought in, even though their entire lineup was right-handed.  He gave up two hits before being pulled.  Casey Fien cleaned up the mess without incident.  Then, Edwin Diaz got his first action of the season, and was forced to go two scoreless innings as we plowed into extras.  That brought us to Nick Vincent, who somehow pitched out of a Runner On Third With Less Than Two Outs jam (of his own creation) and ended up going two more scoreless innings.

At that point, the only reliever left was Chase De Jong.  The Mariners, in the 13th inning, managed to eke out a run on four consecutive walks with nobody out, but could not play add-on, and thus you know how this game concluded.  With a tenuous 3-2 lead, Chase De Jong – who was making his Major League debut, who has all of 1 appearance in AAA (i.e. who was – for all intents and purposes – making the leap from AA to the Majors) – got one quick out, walked the next batter, induced the following batter to foul out, and gave up an opposite-field single to Nori Aoki.

That was the game.  It wasn’t the subsequent 3-run homer by George Springer; it was letting that snake in the grass Aoki, in the 9-hole, weasel his way on base to turn the lineup over.  You get Aoki, you win the game, you get your first career save, and they’re showering you with the Champagne of Beers in the locker room.  Instead, you leave one out over the plate, it gets crushed, and you’re living in your own personal Hell.  Welcome to the Big Leagues, son.

(also, not for nothing, but does this happen if Dillon Overton’s wife doesn’t have that kid this week?  Is it too much to ask to get the C-section a week early?  Okay, I’m horrible, I’ll move on)

I mean, what can you say?  I can’t get angry at De Jong; that’s an impossible situation to enter into as your Major League debut!  Yeah, it’s his fault, but it’s not really his fault.  He probably shouldn’t even be up here in the first place.  In a perfect world, Drew Smyly is healthy and Ariel Miranda is the 8th man in the bullpen.  But, I can’t even blame our own bad luck, because this offense is SERIOUSLY shitting the bed like I haven’t seen since 2010.  Except it’s a million times worse, because whereas the 2010 M’s had shitty hitters, the 2017 M’s have really good ones!  And they’re doing JACK SHIT right now.

Take a look at the blown scoring opportunities in this game alone:

  • 1st Inning – Haniger at 2nd with 1 out; Cano strikes out, Cruz grounds out
  • 2nd Inning – Zunino doubles with 2 outs; Dyson pops it up to the short stop
  • 4th Inning – Cruz leadoff double; stranded at second
  • 7th Inning – Martin walked & stole 2nd with 1 out; stranded at second again
  • 12th Inning – Dyson singled & stole 2nd with 1 out; stranded
  • 13th Inning – 4 walks to lead off the inning & score the go-ahead run; Valencia fly out, Zunino strikeout, Dyson strikeout

That’s just unforgivable.  The pitching this series hasn’t been perfect – not like it needs to be, apparently – but it’s been BEYOND good enough.  It’s even more aggravating because you know the pitching isn’t going to stay this good over the long haul.  We’re fucking SQUANDERING games that we should be winning!  And don’t tell me it’s early, because a loss is a loss is a loss; they all count the same fucking way regardless of whether they’re in April or September, so fuck off with that nonsense.

0-3 as we head into the next two days with our worst two starters.  Oh, this should be fun.

The Mariners Don’t Have Time For Bullshit Rookie Mistakes

Felix starts against the Astros of late – even when it looks like he might be going well – are still tense affairs that can turn on a dime.  I mean, Jose Altuve is batting over .500 against him for his career, and the rest of the heart of their lineup is solid-enough to take Felix out of his comfort zone.  So, when you’re in a situation like we were in yesterday, where Felix was into the 6th inning with a 4-2 lead, you thank your lucky stars and you hope nothing happens to derail him.  Even the slightest breeze by the Astros’ meaty part of the lineup can turn what would’ve been a surefire victory just two years ago into a 6-run nightmare that effectively eliminates you from serious contention.

Bottom of the 6th, Altuve leads off with a single.  Because of course he does.  Carlos Correa follows with another single, pushing Altuve to second, and you’re just glad he didn’t hit a 2-run homer to tie it.  Put those two guys on, fine!  Just as long as they’re not both in scoring position, you can probably get out of this inning with a lead.  Felix then gets Evan Gattis to strike out and now you’re in business:  you’re just a double play away from getting out of the inning perfectly unscathed.  Of course, double plays are hard to force, but Felix had already induced two to that point.

Third baseman Yulieski Gurriel walks to the plate.  He hits a grounder to the short stop, Ketel Marte.  With Cano already standing at the second base bag, Marte foregoes the easy flip and instead takes it to the bag himself in plenty of time:  one out.  He makes a strong throw towards first that pulls Adam Lind off the bag; Lind is unable to secure the ball and it goes behind him; Altuve scores.  4-3 Mariners.  We can still get out of the inning, but then Felix follows that with a walk.  Then an RBI single.  Then a numbnuts error by Lind, followed by 4 unearned runs, all attributed to Felix Hernandez.  Before you know it, our offense goes in the tank and Vidal Nuno is in the game, mopping up yet another defeat.

ALL COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED, if either Marte flipped to Cano, who had an easy turn with plenty of time to get it to first base; or if Marte had just done his fucking job and made a good throw to first himself.  But, this is the same sort of bullshit we’ve seen out of Marte since he was brought up last year.  He has failed to improve his defense, and really that should be the ONLY fucking reason he’s up here right now, because it sure as shit isn’t his bat!  His line is .258/.288/.325!  He can’t hit for power, he can’t take a walk, he BARELY hits for a decent average, and all the good he brings you on the basepaths is 10 times negated by his shitty defense.  He’s no wizard with the diving backhand, and he all too frequently bungles the routine play.  Last night was another example of a routine play being botched by a little bitch who can’t focus on what needs to be done.

Ketel Marte is the reason why the Mariners spent most of the July trade deadline trying to get a deal done with Cincinnati for their short stop.  Ketel Marte is most certainly the reason why the Mariners will try again this offseason.

Ketel Marte is not a Major League short stop.  He’s, at best, a bench guy you use to pinch run in later innings.  But, really, he belongs in the minors, or out of baseball entirely.  Because if he’s not good at defense now, if he struggles to make the routine plays at his physical peak, what makes you think he’s going to be any BETTER in the seasons to come?

There is nothing about Marte’s game that leads me to believe he has a future as a successful Major Leaguer.  Maybe if he was given a brain transplant, but I don’t think we have the technology for that just yet.

It’s unfortunate to have your season derailed by a rookie you’re forced to depend upon.  This team is one of the most veteran teams in the league, we’re rock solid up and down the lineup and all around the field.  Where our outfielders fail defensively, they make up for it at the plate, and this month we have reserves to put in during the later innings for a little defensive boost.  But, at short stop?  It’s Marte, or it’s O’Malley – who may be smarter with the routine play, but has even LESS range than Marte, so is not really that much of an upgrade – or it’s someone even worse.

I’m telling you, we needed this game last night.  Had we secured the double play, we would’ve been up 4-2 after six.  Felix’s pitch count would’ve been low, the bottom of the order was coming up with no one on base, it would’ve been a WHOLE DIFFERENT GAME!  I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t have gotten the King through 7 innings, leaving us with just two innings of bullpen work to go to get the save.  Plus, Houston’s bullpen usage might have been different had they been trailing, so maybe we score more runs to boot?

And don’t tell me it’s Felix’s job to overcome bullshit defense.  For starters, Houston has the best approach to Felix’s arsenal of any team I’ve ever seen, and he was on a massive slump against them.  So, for peace of mind he needed a clean game from his defense.  Giving any team extra outs, regardless of the pitcher on the mound, is never going to be helpful.  But, given the circumstances, the Mariners really found a new way to let down their ace (usually it’s by the offense taking a huge shit, or the bullpen blowing a lead).  Except, the thing is, THIS ISN’T NEW!  He’s been dogged by shitty defense seemingly all season!  9 of the runs he’s allowed have been unearned!  That doesn’t take into account all the other errors he’s managed to overcome, as well as the plays like Marte’s (where you can’t assume the double play, so he technically wasn’t awarded the double-error he so rightfully deserved).

What did this cost the Mariners?  Well, putting the final nail in the Astros’ coffin, for starters.  They’re a half-game behind us with one more game to play this morning.  The Tigers easily defeated the Indians last night – thanks to the Indians clinching the night before, and resting all their starters against Verlander as a reward – so we’re 1 game behind the Tigers again.  AND, the Orioles lost to the Blue Jays, so we missed out on an opportunity to be 1 game back of the second wild card.

All because little Ketel Marte made boom boom in his diapers instead of finishing a double play that would’ve kept us in the race.  Now, we’ve got 5 games to go, and pretty much need a miracle to pass the two teams we’re trailing.

If the Mariners are going to make a go of it next year, they need guys they can count on.  They can’t be going with useless rookies who don’t excel at any aspect of baseball.  But, even then, will it be enough?