The Mariners Have Sucked As We Head Into The All Star Break

Look for my post later this week:  Are The Mariners REALLY Going To Blow Their Playoff Spot To The A’s Again?

The Mariners are 3-8 in their last 11 games following that 8-game winning streak, which followed their 3-7 stretch against the Red Sox & Yankees.  I think we all understood why the M’s went 3-7 against two of the three best teams in all of baseball; but 3-8 against the Angels and Rockies?  I know those teams are okay, but they’re nowhere near as good as the Sox & Yanks!

The first half was punctuated by a 3-game sweep in Colorado over the weekend.  On Friday, it was an underwhelming spot-start by Christian Bergman.  The offense had it, but the pitching was terrible, and we lost 10-7.  Then, on Saturday, the pitching was okay – LeBlanc was far from spectacular though – but the hitters did nothing and we lost 4-1.  Finally, on Sunday, mediocrity across the board!  Leake had a quality start, but Nicasio gave up our 1-run lead, and Vincent allowed the Rockies to walk it off in the bottom of the 9th.  The hitters were once again terrible with RISP (3/11) and it was a 4-3 loss.

Tough breaks all around.  Yeah, you could say the Mariners are in desperate need of a half a week off.  You could also say I’m in desperate need of half a week off from the Mariners, so let’s enjoy ourselves, everyone!

I’ll be back on Friday to talk about the M’s & A’s, now 3 games separating one another from that second wild card spot.  Wouldn’t it be so Mariners to have such an awesome record and still find a way to miss out on the playoffs?

The Mariners Got Pounded By The Angels And Oh By The Way Paxton Injured His Back

Fucking great.

Before we all go jumping off of buildings, I’m gonna wait and see how this plays out.  Given the timing of this – with the All Star Break next week – it might not be the worst thing in the world.

Remember last year, when the Mariners were sort of barely clinging to contention for the second wild card spot, and going into the All Star Break I was talking about how we needed – above all else – to maximize James Paxton the rest of the way?  He spent most of the month of May on the shelf, then had a really rocky month of June as he worked his way back to his usual dominance.  Well, it was paid off in July, when he went 6-0 and won the A.L. Pitcher of the Month award.  He had a 1.37 ERA and went at least 6 innings in all 6 of his starts.  I figured:  yes, get him as many starts as humanly possible between now and the end of the year (even if it meant having him pitch every 5th day regardless of off-days, and shuffling the rest of the rotation around him accordingly), and MAYBE the Mariners would be within reach of the wild card by the end of the year.

What happened?  He made 2 starts in August before going back on the DL, struggled through half of September, and had 1 more quality start the rest of the way (on October 1st, the final game of the season).  The Mariners finished under .500 and out of the playoffs, and his absence was one of a million reasons why this team underachieved.

Of course, that made one of the keys to this 2018 season to:  Keep Paxton Healthy.  His entire offseason program was centered around making all of his starts for the first time in his career.  He’s been the ace of this staff through the first half, but obviously it’s all coming to a head with this injury he suffered last night.

After biffing that series against the Rockies over the weekend, the M’s didn’t play their best baseball against the Angels in Anaheim.  In fact, in two of these games they might’ve played their very worst baseball of the season.

On Tuesday, Leake could only make it through 4 innings, giving up 7 runs (5 earned), and the bullpen allowed them to tack on a couple more to really put it away.  Anaheim’s starter left injured in the third, but we couldn’t take advantage of their bullpen and ended up losing 9-3.  Haniger had a good game – with a double, a homer, and 3 RBI – but everyone else was unremarkable at best.

The M’s didn’t completely shit the bed this series, as they notched a win on Wednesday behind Marco Gonzales’ 7 shutout innings, on 2 hits and 0 walks.  David Freitas of all people hit a homer (the first of his brief Major League career), and Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run single to put the M’s up 3-0.  The bullpen was able to keep it that way, with a scoreless inning apiece from Colome and Diaz (for hold #14 and save # 36, respectively).

That led us into last night’s game, with a chance to win the series and feel a lot better about things heading into Colorado this weekend.  But, Paxton apparently never felt right even in his warmups, and just prayed that his back would loosen up during the game.  It didn’t, and he was pulled 2 outs into the first inning.  We were up against Anaheim’s best pitcher, and our bullpen couldn’t keep us anywhere even remotely in it (behind a 4-run inning from the completely inept Nick Rumbelow, who spent most of the year on the DL, and was mystifyingly called up after a short stint in Tacoma – THREE GAMES – even though he really has no Major League success of which to speak whatsoever!  Why are we moving Heaven and Earth to get this guy to the bigs when it’s clear he needs a lot more seasoning in AAA?).

(I mean, Rumbelow has made 8 appearances – all defeats – and has given up at least 1 run in 5 of those games!  How much more do you need to see out of this guy?  You’re telling me there’s absolutely NO ONE ELSE down in Tacoma who can take this guy’s spot?  It’s not like he’s out of options, so what the fuck?).

Anyway, getting back, the M’s lost last night 11-2.  We put Andrew Romine in there to pitch the bottom of the 8th because it got so out of hand (he gave up 2 runs, yet still managed to get Trout & Pujols out, which is something he’ll have to tell the ol’ grandkids one day).  It was ugly, to say the least (I’m glad I slept through this entire series, to be honest).

Aside from being super proud of my boy Marco (and, SUPER DUPER proud of my fellow M’s fans for voting Jean Segura into the All Star Game this week), it hasn’t been so hot for the Mariners of late.  That’s 5 losses in 8 games, following our 8-game winning streak, following our 3-7 stretch against the Red Sox & Yankees.  A real rollercoaster; the All Star Break can’t come soon e-fucking-nough.

3 more games.  Felix is on the DL for the break, Paxton looks like he’ll join him there; Zunino has been keeping the shelf nice and warm with his own issues.  This isn’t trending in the right direction.  All of these guys need to come back fast, and not just so we can put a bunch of other guys down; the rest of the team absolutely needs to stay healthy as well.

The A’s have won a million games in a row and are now only 5 games behind us for that second wild card spot.  We’re a full 3 games behind the Astros for the division.  And, even though it’s essentially meaningless, our run differential is all the way down to +5.  We’re 22 games over .500 and just 5 runs over .500!  Do you know how insane that is?  It’s insane, just in case you forgot.

We’ve got Christian Bergman going tonight.  He has 1 start this year with Seattle, where he went 7 shutout innings (in a game we somehow lost 5-1) before being sent right back down to AAA.  He’s been pretty good, but far from amazing, in Tacoma, so while I like him as a spot starter type, I’m pretty lukewarm on the idea of him making many multiple starts for the Mariners this year.

So, get well soon James Paxton!  And, when you do come back, don’t suck balls for a month like you did last year!

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.

Mike Leake’s Mariners Debut Goes Swimmingly

I’ll admit I had my doubts.  After the trade was made, going into the game yesterday, during and after the first inning, doubts were swirling!  While Mike Leake isn’t like every other Quad-A, flyballer Jerry Dipoto has brought into this organization, he was still a different kind of Meh.

Then, single-single-RBI double happened to lead off the game, and HERE WE GO AGAIN!  You could’ve cooked an egg on my forehead.  I mean, holy hell, what does this team have to do to get some competent fucking pitching in here?

Thank God he settled down.  After staking the A’s to a 2-0 lead in the first, he shut them out over the next six innings – OH YOU HEARD THAT RIGHT – he went seven innings, giving up just the two runs in getting his first Mariners victory!

I don’t know if it was his brilliance, or the A’s just being the A’s, but he only walked 1 and struck out 7, while inducing them into 2 double plays.  Honestly, it was refreshing more than anything.

As for the Mariners’ offense, I wouldn’t say they’re cured, but they got a rare win while scoring fewer than 4 runs, so that’s something.  A Mike Zunino opposite-field homer got the scoring started, followed by a Mitch Haniger RBI single (back in the 2-hole, plating Jean Segura), followed by a Kyle Seager sac fly to score Haniger, all scored in the third inning.

With Leake out of the game, Scrabble and Vincent shared the eighth, and Diaz had no trouble getting his 31st save of the season.

We’re officially into September, and with it the call-ups.  Jarrod Dyson returned from the DL and got a start last night.  Reliever Shae Simmons – who spent the better part of the last two months in the minors as he worked his way back from injury – was called up for the first time since we got him from the Braves.  Familiar faces Dan Altavilla and Andrew Moore are returning, both headed to the bullpen, where they’ll find Marco Gonzales – who was officially taken out of the rotation with the trade for Leake.  Also newcomer Ryan Garton – who we got from the Rays for nothing – will get a shot to help out in the ‘pen.  Finally, recently acquired catcher Mike Marjama will be the team’s third catcher for the month, because that’s apparently a thing that teams do.

To make room on the 40-man roster, subtractions had to be made.  David Phelps was put back on the DL, to no one’s surprise.  Christian Bergman was outrighted to the Rainiers, which I guess ends his season with us.  And, in the most shocking news, Sam Gaviglio was waived – and immediately claimed by the Royals.  That’s slightly disappointing, if only because he’s clearly better than both Marco Gonzales and Andrew Moore, though I guess those guys are younger with more club control.  It’s been real, Sam Gaviglio!  You were the Charlie Brown of this rotation, under-appreciated and the constant butt of our jokes, but always there and always … I dunno, existing I guess.

I don’t know if all these moves will put the Mariners back into contention (now 3.5 games back of the second Wild Card), but I do know this:  it won’t matter one iota.  Because the Astros did what everyone else was too chickenshit to accomplish:  they traded for Justin Verlander.  So, you know, go ahead and pencil in the Astros and Dodgers into the World Series now, because it’ll be a doozy!

Also, not for nothing, but the M’s better sweep the A’s this weekend, because have you seen the starters the Astros are going to throw at us Monday thru Wednesday?  How about Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander (in his Astros debut), and Lance McCullers?  I’m going to do myself a huge favor and not watch any of those fucking games.

Ariel Miranda: Human Fucking Jugs Machine

Apparently, durability gets you the utmost praise in the Mariners organization nowadays.  The Mariners just traded for someone named Mike Leake from the St. Louis Cardinals for a minor league infielder and cash.  Cash towards the international free agent signing market and just plain ol’ cash to offset Leake’s high contract.  He’s apparently owed $53 million after this year (counting a $5 million buy-out in 2021), and the Cardinals have forked over $17 million, meaning the Mariners essentially have Mike Leake on a 3-year, $12 million deal.

So, who is Mike Leake?  Well, he’s a career National League pitcher who got his start in the Bigs in 2010.  Since 2012, he’s made at least 30 starts per year, peaking in the first half of 2015 before he was traded from the Reds to the Giants.  He signed as a free agent with St. Louis in 2016 and has seen a sharp decline in his abilities.  Or, maybe just his results, but I’m willing to bet it’s both.  This year, he’s 7-12 with a 4.21 ERA, so he immediately becomes the Ace of the Seattle Mariners.

And, of course, right there in Jerry Dipoto’s quote, he calls Leake, “one of the most durable starters over most of the last decade.”  That’s the bar you have to clear to make it on the Mariners, because this season can seriously go fuck itself.

Ariel Miranda, about to give up another home run …

Ariel Miranda is another one of those durable types.  He tends to get lavished with praise for the simple ability to not land on the DL, though less praise is coming by the start, because YEESH is he fucking terrible.

Staked to a fucking 6-2 lead, Miranda proceeded to fuck that all away and couldn’t even get through the fifth inning in the process, giving up 4 MORE home runs, to put him at a Major League-leading 35 on the year, in 27 fucking starts, or nearly one and a third home runs per start.

That’s what you get when you combine a shitty fastball with a shitty arsenal of off-speed pitches and a general shitty command of all of it.  Fastballs in the 91 mph range might be considered “average”, but to me they’re shit.  Anything below 94 mph – if you don’t have a significant amount of movement – is a worthless fastball at the Major League level.  You’re only going to get swings and misses if you totally fool the hitter into expecting that you’re going to throw something else.  Combine that with a change-up that tends to float out over the middle of the plate more than dive towards the dirt, and you’ve got a recipe for one of the worst fucking pitchers in the league, from a homers-given-up perspective.

In case it wasn’t abundantly clear by now, THIS is the reason why he was a sixth starter heading into this season (before Drew Smyly got hurt), and THIS is the reason why the Mariners still have a lot of work to do before next year to shore up this rotation.  Because I don’t think we can afford to suffer through another year of Ariel Miranda making 30+ starts, unless he makes a dramatic improvement in his overall pitching presence.

You know what’s odd?  He doesn’t even necessarily get more homer-prone the second and third times through the lineup.  Of his 35 homers, 13 of them have been given up in the first inning, his worst inning by far.  He seems to settle down in the second inning, but this would still make him a miserable candidate for the bullpen, because out of the gate he’s throwing meatballs right down the middle of the plate!  After the second inning, he slowly but surely gets worse as the game goes on, until you get past the sixth inning, when the sample size is too small (ostensibly, if Miranda is pitching into the seventh, eighth, or ninth innings, he’s probably on top of his game that day, which is exceedingly rare).

So, yeah, the Mariners blew a 6-2 lead yesterday, ultimately losing 8-7.  David Phelps got injured again, probably because he was rushed back into pitching after his last DL stint.  Christian Bergman was used in a rare (for him) late-game, short-inning appearance, going 2/3 of an inning, giving up a hit and a walk before being pulled by Scrabble, who allowed the game-winning run to score on his only pitch of the day.

Just a perfect end to a disaster of a road trip.  5-7, including a 5-game losing streak to close it out.  The Mariners went 12-15 in August (not shocking, considering the road slate they were faced with) and have fallen 4 games back of the second Wild Card, behind the likes of Tampa, Texas, Baltimore, Anaheim, and Minnesota.

Day off today followed by a 10-day, 9-game homestand.  The M’s don’t have to travel any farther than the state of Texas the rest of the regular season, but considering all the teams (save Oakland) are legitimately better than us, I could see September being a real ball-buster.

Thank Christ football season is officially upon us starting tomorrow.  God Awgs!

Mariners Gag Away A Heartbreaker As Marco Gonzales Pitches Himself Out Of A Job

You can’t say the kid was robbed of his opportunity.  After getting his feet wet in Tacoma, the Mariners called him up at the beginning of the month; he’s had 5 starts in the month of August.  In exactly 0 of those starts did he go a minimum of 5 innings.  His ERA is 7.40 in that span, he’s averaged almost a homer-allowed per start, he gives up a ton of hits and for a guy who’s supposed to be known for his control, he sure does walk a lot of guys.  His change-up is supposed to be his best pitch, but boy do I see him leave that hanging out over the middle of the plate more than I see him striking guys out with it.

With his latest huge embarrassing failure yesterday – 3.1 innings, 5 runs – I think we’ve finally seen the last of him in the rotation.  It’ll be September the next time his turn comes up in the rotation, which means rosters will expand and we can bring up someone from Tacoma like Sam Gaviglio, who can at least get us through five fucking innings.

And yet, in spite of all that, the Mariners managed to scratch and claw their way to a 4-3 lead at one point, as well as a 6-6 tie after Gonzales was pulled.  Ben Gamel was the big stud of the day, with 2 hits (including a homer) and 5 RBI.  Valencia, Seager, and Cruz all chipped in on the day as well.  Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn’t be perfect.  The Mariners NEED the bullpen to be perfect if they’re going to win games like these, but it’s just not realistic to see that come to fruition.  Christian Bergman did a yeoman job getting through 2 innings, giving up just the one run (particularly getting out of the jam Gonzales put him in in the bottom of the fourth).  Emilio Pagan got through the final 2.2 innings to save the rest of the bullpen, but he too gave up a run, and that ended up being the decider.  The Mariners put the first two runners on in the top of the eighth, but couldn’t push either of them home and that was that.

What was once a tremendous start to this road trip as late as last Friday, has suddenly taken a sour turn over this 3-game losing streak.  The Mariners need to win one of the next two games to ensure at least a .500 road trip, which I think we all would’ve taken around this time two weeks ago.  But, considering the M’s started out 5-2, ending up with a 6-6 or 5-7 road trip would be a collosal disappointment.  Here’s hoping Erasmo Ramirez and Ariel Miranda can work some magic to right the ship.

The Mariners Cling For Dear Life Against The Braves

Albers are off when you’ve got Andrew Albers on the mound!

The Mariners have used, what, 37 different pitchers this season?  35 if you take out the two position players who had to mop up in extreme blowout defeats?  And, in that, we’ve got 16 different pitchers who made at least 1 start this year.  We’ve had injuries, BOY have we had injuries!  And, beyond that, we’ve had a whole lotta ineffectiveness.  From De Jong to Bergman to Overton to Heston to Whalen to Gaviglio to Moore to Gonzales to Gallardo and so on and so forth.  Aside from the injuries, there really hasn’t been anything we could depend upon with this rotation besides Ariel Miranda, I guess.  And, while we’ve had to muddle through all these starts to get back to the brief healthy times we’ve enjoyed, I’ve been sitting here and waiting.  Waiting and hoping.  Hoping and praying that just ONE guy would come up to Seattle and blow us all away.  Even if it’s the most unsustainable, unrepeatable string of starts, I DON’T CARE!  All these Quad-A pitchers have absolutely lived up to their mediocre expectations; can I just get one guy to surpass them, even if it isn’t real?

Well, we’re only two starts in, but there’s a lot I’ve liked about those two starts with Andrew Albers on the mound.  He came over in a nothing trade with the Braves a couple weeks back and immediately gave us 5 innings of 1-run ball against the Orioles (one of the plethora of teams we’re in Wild Card contention with).  And then he followed that up with last night’s performance.

Through five innings, he’d only given up 2 runs.  His pitch count was low, and the M’s had a 6-2 lead, so he was allowed to pitch into the sixth.  An error and a single ended his night without getting another out, and both of those runners ended up scoring after Emilio Pagan cleared the bases by allowing a triple to center, but that’s just bad luck more than anything else.  I thought Albers looked fantastic last night!  Of course, that’s based on the lowest of expectations, particularly when you consider all those meatball pitchers I mentioned above, but nevertheless it’s nice to have someone finally come around and exceed expectations for a while.  I hope it lasts.

It was nice to see the offense jump out early and play add on throughout the game.  The Mariners managed a run in the second, then after falling behind 2-1, poured it on.  Another rally in the third produced a run, and the M’s put up a 3-spot in the fourth on hits by Alonso and Cano.  Alonso would double again in the sixth to knock in our final run, which ended up being huge considering all the damage the Braves were able to do with Pagan on the mound.

Also, don’t look now, but Yonder Alonso has been on fire after something of a quiet start since joining the club and taking over for Danny Valencia at first.  He’s rocking an 8-game hitting streak, going 13 for 30 with 4 extra base hits, 6 runs scored, and 8 RBI.  I know the Mariners’ offense was pretty good before he got here, but you’ll always take those kinds of numbers.  I think an infusion of production like that is just what this team needed.  Yesterday especially, what with Nelson Cruz riding the pine (and not even getting a pinch hit AB, due to circumstances of the game) in the National League park.  God the National League’s rules are stupid (hashtag Embrace The DH).

Quick shoutout to the rest of the bullpen.  After Pagan got knocked around (he’s been a little dicey the last couple times out), Scrabble, Vincent, and Diaz came in and locked it down.  That’s 28 saves for Diaz.  And Scrabble has been nails over the last week or so, and really for the entire month of August.  As for Vincent, he’s the MVP of this pitching staff, without question.

So, not too bad of a start to this road trip.  That victory puts the Mariners at 3-1 through the first third of this trip; which, if they could just match that for the next 2/3 of this trip, sign me up TODAY!  Yesterday’s win also brought their road record to 30-30 on the season, which is pretty insane when you consider they started out the year 8-20.  Since that nadir in late May, after the second game in Boston, the M’s have gone 22-10 on the road.  Unbelievable!

That victory also puts the Mariners at an even 1 game behind the Twins for the second Wild Card.  Predictably, the Angels fell back and are now just 0.5 games ahead of the Mariners.  The Royals are still lingering, 0.5 games behind the Mariners; and the Rangers are too, just a game back of the M’s (tied in the loss column).

Looking ahead, there are two more games down in Atlanta before another off-day, featuring the two worst Mariners pitchers currently in the rotation – Marco Gonzales and Erasmo Ramirez.  Gonzales has yet to pitch over 4.1 innings and I have to believe is one more poor start away from being sent back to Tacoma, so today will be REALLY interesting.  Erasmo, meanwhile, is on a 2-game hot streak, so you have to wonder how long it will take for that house of cards to topple over.

Then, in the Yankees series this weekend, the Mariners have – in theory – their three best healthy starters going (Miranda, then Gallardo, then Albers again).  But, the Bronx Bombers feature C.C. Sabathia (who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS fucking destroys us), Sonny Gray (the ex-A’s starter they traded for at the deadline), and Masahiro Tanaka (who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS – except last time – fucking destroys us).  It could be a really yucky, miserable weekend, is what I’m saying.

So, Mariners, let’s try REAL HARD to win these next two against the Braves, so we can justify what’s surely going to be a series sweep this weekend.

The Mariners Stop The Bleeding

Of course, there’s more than one way to stop the bleeding.  For instance, there’s physically running out of blood!

The Mariners got the W, though.  That’s all that matters, I guess.  Before the game, a number of moves were made:

  • Andrew Albers was called up
  • Sam Gaviglio was called up
  • Casey Lawrence was sent to Tacoma
  • Thyago Vieira was sent to Tacoma
  • Christian Bergman was DFA’d

Albers we knew would be our starter last night.  Lawrence we had a pretty good idea would be going back down, since he pitched 4 innings the night before, and Servais is on record as saying the Seattle-Tacoma shuttle is going to be in full effect for the rest of August.  Vieira was also used the night before, and was really only up here for depth until we needed to activate Albers.  Gaviglio makes as much sense as anyone to come back to Seattle.  He can start, if the team feels like making a move (*cough* GALLARDO *cough*), or he can slide into a long relief role, which is probably what will happen.  As for Bergman, we needed room on the 40-man for Albers, and if I’m not mistaken, we were able to DFA Bergman earlier this season and still retain him in Tacoma.  I can’t imagine the market for a pitcher like Bergman is very big, unless Jerry Dipoto has a twin brother who is also a Major League GM.

Albers looked good!  Kind of a shock to the system, but that’ll happen when you’ve done nothing but throw shit against the wall for the last week trying to see what’ll stick.  5 innings, 6 hits, 1 walk, 1 run, 4 strikeouts.  The run was of the solo homer variety, but it’s not like we haven’t seen that before, from everyone else in this God-foresaken rotation.  I’ll hold back on making any grand sweeping statements of positivity until I see him make a second start in a Mariners uniform, if it’s all the same to you.

At 3-1, this was the rare Mariners victory where the good guys scored less than 4 runs.  The Mariners are now 60-61 on the season; this is only the FIFTH time the Mariners have won a game while scoring less than 4 runs, which is simply astonishing, yet it also explains literally everything about this year.  In fact, 5-42 is the Mariners’ record when scoring less than 4 runs, which means they’re 55-19 (.743) when they score 4 runs or more.  Holy mother of God.

Segura & Heredia get some kudos for having 2 hits apiece at the top of the lineup.  Cano and Cruz had an RBI apiece, which is nice considering Seager was out with an illness.

The lion’s share of the kudos go to the bullpen, though.  Emilio Pagan relieved Albers and went two very strong shutout innings, striking out 4.  Scrabble and Vincent combined to lock down the eighth, and Diaz got his 26th save.  Now that’s more like it!

The victory, combined with losses for all the teams ahead of the Mariners for the second Wild Card spot, means we’re back to 1.5 games back.  It won’t mean much if the Mariners can’t keep it up.  Winning this afternoon would be a good start.  After that, it’s an off-day, followed by a 2-week East Coast trip to Tampa, Atlanta, New York (Yankees), and Baltimore.

Maybe it’s best for the M’s to get out of town for a while.  If they’re going to totally implode, might as well be away from the booing onslaught of the hometown crowd at Safeco Field.  Then, when they get back and it’s officially football season, we’ll all resume not giving a shit.

Baseball!  Catch the excitement!

As Usual, Leave It To The Mariners To Suck All The Excitement Out Of Life

Riding high after a 6-3 road trip?  After taking hold of the second Wild Card spot?  After being one of the hottest teams since the All Star Break?

COME ON POOKIE, LET’S BURN THIS MOTHERFUCKER DOWN!!!

I mean, it’s the same shit/different day, isn’t it?  Starter can’t get out of the fifth inning because the manager has no confidence; reliever can’t stop the bleeding before giving up all the inherited runners; offense is okay, but not good enough to score 8 runs a motherfucking game; and another game the Mariners could’ve won – and by all rights probably should’ve won – turns into the fourth consecutive defeat in as many nights.

A 4-game sweep to the Anaheim Angels.  You know who owns that second Wild Card spot now?  The Anaheim Fucking Angels.  So, that’s fun.  I’m sure that’ll last.

At least Christian Bergman – recalled in place of Andrew Moore after his meltdown a couple nights ago – went four shutout innings to lower his ERA and give the Mariners a chance to try to come back late.  His reward will surely be a return trip to Tacoma, as we keep reloading our bullpen full of long relievers thanks to this stupid fucking rotation.

I don’t know what to tell you, the Mariners are who they are.  Last week, heading into this Angels series, it was the best it’s ever going to get.  3 games over .500, sole possession of the second Wild Card, with Paxton due up and the team looking to kick some ass at home.  Four days later, it feels like it’s over, all over again.  Of course, the team will probably bounce back, whenever they run into another hot streak offensively, and whenever their bullpen gets back on track, but it also wouldn’t surprise me to see this team go back in the tank for good.  Let’s face it, if it’s this exhausting for the FANS, then just imagine how exhausting it is for the players, to have to deal with this not-being-able-to-get-over-.500-for-good bullshit.

This week, right now, would be a good time for some of these fifth starters we have clogging up our rotation to nut up and get some shit done.  Get swept by the Orioles and that’s yet ANOTHER team we have to re-leapfrog over if we want to get back into the Wild Card spot.

You can put the final nail in the coffin of this season if that happens.

The Mariners Need To Keep Winning These Close Games

As we dip our toes into August, things are starting to come into focus.  Whereas a month ago, you could argue each and every team in the A.L. had a chance at the Wild Card, now you can start to write some teams off.  The White Sox, the Tigers, the A’s, and I daresay even the Blue Jays and the Rangers, particularly with their trading of Yu Darvish to the Dodgers.  And, not far behind them, you’ve got teams like the Angels, Twins, and maybe even the Orioles, who just need another mediocre couple of weeks before you figure they throw in the towel and start playing their younger guys.

At that point, it’s almost easier to count the teams in the race.  The Astros, obviously.  With the Yankees winning the Sonny Gray sweepstakes, you have to like their chances.  The Red Sox will give them a run, of course.  In the Central, you’ve got the surging Royals and the steady Indians.  And, right there, tied with the Mariners, you’ve got the Rays at 54-53 with two full months to go.  We’re both of us 2.5 games behind the Royals for that second Wild Card spot; with the July 31st Trade Deadline come and gone, now it’s time to get to work.

As you know, I’m not very bullish on the Mariners’ chances.  Obviously, Paxton is one of the best pitchers in baseball right now, but after that it’s a wasteland.  Felix is on the decline (5.1 innings of 4-run ball last night; he was fortunate the offense and bullpen bailed him out — how many times could we have said THAT over the course of his career?), Erasmo Ramirez of all people is slated to take the hill tonight.  Then, we’ve got the poo-poo platter of Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo who will REALLY have to start picking up the slack the rest of the way if this team wants a shot at the post-season.

I dunno, I just can’t see it.  It would be a miracle of miracles.  The writing is already on the wall:  we’re going to look back on this season and realize we were out of it the day Drew Smyly injured his throwing arm.  Could we have withstood the decline of Felix, the injury of Iwakuma, and the disaster that’s been Gallardo?  Yes, yes, and yes; but it all hinged on getting a big bounceback season out of Smyly, and that absolutely did not happen.  If Smyly could’ve been 80% of what Paxton has been, combined with a fine season from Miranda, a bulldog season out of Felix, and whatever you could get out of the fifth starter carousel, MAYBE you could talk me into being confident in this team as it’s currently constructed.  But, the day they let the deadline pass without going out and getting a top shelf starter is the day they gave up on the season.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what David Phelps brings to this bullpen.  But, what use does this team have for an Erasmo Ramirez when it’s already got 4-5 of them in the organization?  What use does this team have for a Marco Gonzales when, again, it’s already got 4-5 of them in the organization?  These are half measures.  It’s making it look like you’ve done something when you’ve really done nothing at all.  These guys could’ve been gotten in the offseason just as easily, but instead they were acquired now; why?  To give the illusion that the team is trying to Win Now, when in reality this team – at the Major League level – is no better than it was before, and it could be argued they’re actually worse.  The lynchpin, of course, is Gonzales.  He’s “Major League Ready” and figures to be called up anytime now; if he comes up and does what he’s never done before (pitches well at the highest level), then I’ll happily eat all the crow you can shovel onto my plate.  But, it strikes me that we’ve heard this tune before.

Andrew Moore was Major League Ready.  Sam Gaviglio was Major League Ready.  Christian Bergman was Major League Ready.  Chris Heston was Major League Ready.  Chase De Jong was Major League Ready.  Dillon Overton was Major League Ready.  Rob Whalen was Major League Ready.  Where are they right now?

Like I said, it’s going to take some kind of miracle.  A big part of that would involve the Mariners winning more close games than they lose.  Like, A LOT more.  Like, an unsustainable amount of close games!  So far, they’re 16-10 in 1-run games, and 5-5 in extra innings games.  That needs to improve, bigly.  Especially against the teams ahead of us in the standings.

Last night wasn’t a 1-run game, but the Mariners still found a way to notch a save and come from behind.  Down 4-0 after two innings, it looked bleak.  Thankfully, the Mariners were able to take advantage of a whopping 4 errors and 2 balks, as the Rangers look like one of the sloppiest teams I’ve ever seen.  By the time Cole Hamels finished his six innings, the game was tied, and for a while there it looked like this game was destined for extras.

Scrabble was able to get out of a Felix jam in the sixth inning.  All five of Phelps’ outs were via the strikeout.  And meanwhile, this side-arming lefty reliever for the Rangers, Alex Claudio, was wiggling his way off the hook for over 2 innings of work, on a remarkably low number of pitches.

Scott Servais did something interesting in the last few days with the lineup; he’s finally gotten comfortable with Ben Gamel as an everyday hitter, even against left-handed starters.  So much so, in fact, that we’ve seen Gamel lead off the last few days, with Jean Segura batting second.  They’re both having phenomenal offensive seasons from a batting average standpoint, so they’re really pretty interchangeable at the top of the order.  But, it’s a dynamic shift where the Mariners are L-R-L-R-L-R through the first six hitters in the order.  Against teams with good lefty bullpen arms, this presents a conundrum:  do you swap your relievers out after each at-bat, or do you trust your lefty arm to pitch against, say, Jean Segura or Nelson Cruz?

Well, as we found out last night, with Claudio on the mound, the Rangers opted to pitch around those guys, intentionally walking Cruz twice and Segura once.  That put the onus on our left-handed hitters to get the job done.

It looked like it was going to work, too!  Claudio got out of a jam in the seventh when Seager hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice with runners on the corners.  He worked a very quick and efficient eighth inning to keep his pitch count low.  And, he ALMOST got through the ninth by using similar tactics as he did in the seventh.  Had he succeeded, the Rangers would’ve been in good shape heading into extras, while the Mariners would’ve used a couple of their best bullets in all likelihood just to get there.

The top of the ninth kicked off with a Chooch Ruiz single to right.  He was lifted for a pinch runner in Jarrod Dyson, who was cut down on a fielder’s choice when Gamel hit what looked to be a rally-killing double play.  However, the throw to first got past the bag and Gamel was able to reach second base with one out.  Segura drew the intentional walk, and both runners were balked over thanks to Claudio’s funky pre-pitch arm waggling.  Against lefty Cano, Claudio had been successful two innings prior, inducing a ground ball.  He busted him inside again, but Cano was able to stay on it and lined it over the right fielder’s head.  A perfect bounce to Shin Soo Choo allowed him to throw Cano out at second, but the damage was done.  The Mariners had a 6-4 lead and Edwin Diaz threw fire in the bottom half to close it out in regulation.

I’ll admit, it was an encouraging end to the month of July.  The Mariners went 14-12 to secure their second consecutive winning month.  Now it’s time to really turn it up a notch.