The Playoff-Bound Mariners Took Down The Defending Champs

You never want to put too much stock in any one series, but this past weekend’s set against the Atlanta Braves was a good barometer to see where the Mariners are at among playoff contenders. Granted, the odds of actually facing the Braves in the playoffs are astronomical – both teams would have to endure their respective gauntlets to meet in the World Series – but it’s still important to see the Mariners play good teams and actually perform accordingly.

Friday’s 6-4 loss was a little wonky, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see the likes of it come playoff time. Robbie Ray was just a little off. He gave up a couple homers (4 runs in total) in five innings; it wasn’t his best work. But, then again, the Braves have an outstanding lineup, so you kind of expect them to lean into some of these pitches. Then, Matt Festa came in and gave up a couple of solo jobs that proved to be the deciding runs of the game. The only noteworthy hitting performance by the M’s was Carlos Santana’s 2 homers. But, obviously, he can’t do everything himself.

I was in attendance for Saturday’s 3-1 victory, and it was everything I could ever want. It was a fun pitcher’s duel, with George Kirby really putting his stamp on being this team’s third-best starter. He made it through the first six innings with ease, and should’ve gone further were it not for an untimely J.P. Crawford error that cost us at least one, if not two outs. With two runners on and no outs in the top of the sixth – against that Braves lineup – Scott Servais did the sensible thing and went to Andres Munoz, who got out of the jam while only giving up the one (unearned) inherited run. Very nice line for Kirby overall: 6 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 0 earned runs, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts. Swanson and Sewald closed it out from there.

Offensively, we had a Sam Haggerty solo homer to kick off the scoring in the bottom of the fifth (he also made a couple of fantastic defensive plays in left, proving once again why he needs to be this team’s everyday left fielder). Eugenio Suarez mashed a solo bomb in the bottom of the sixth to give us our winning run. And Julio Rodriguez clubbed a double in the bottom of the seventh to give the game its final score. All in all, a fun and entertaining game throughout (capped by a White Sox fan (?) running onto the field in the middle of it).

Sunday’s 8-7 victory topped them all though. Marco Gonzales continued his hot streak, going 6 innings and limiting the Braves to 1 run on 2 hits (0 walks, 5 strikeouts), in what might be his best performance of the year (especially when you factor in the offense he was going up against). It looked like we were going to cruise to a 6-2 victory, thanks to a J-Rod homer in the first, a Suarez homer in the fifth, and some nice rallies in the 4th and 6th innings to give us a nice little cushion.

But, Swanson gave up a run in the 8th, and Diego Castillo came in to close out the 9th with a 4-run lead. He proceeded to basically give it all away, giving up 3 runs in 0.2 innings. Paul Sewald had to come in and try to salvage the game, but he too didn’t have it, giving up a go-ahead 2-run bomb. All told, the game went from a sure-thing series win, to the Mariners being down 7-6 heading into the bottom of the ninth.

I don’t know who the Braves’ closer is, but apparently he’s pretty highly regarded. Seems suspect to me, given his numbers. This would be his 7th blown save on the season, which seems absurdly high for someone who’s supposed to be elite. Anyway, with one out, Julio jerked a slider harder than anyone’s ever hit anything in life, for the tying solo homer. Then, with two outs, Eugenio Suarez muscled a fastball to left center for the game-winner. That’s 25 homers (and counting) for Julio, and 30 homers (and counting) for Suarez, who have both been pretty red-hot of late.

We’re now 79-61 on the year, and we close out this homestand with two against the Padres starting tomorrow. I believe those are our final games against winning teams until the playoffs. We’re in a virtual tie for the top wild card spot with Tampa (they have one fewer victory and one fewer defeat), which means we’re in the second wild card spot (a half-game – in the win column – ahead of the Blue Jays). More importantly, though, we’re 6 games ahead of Baltimore (who are on the outside of the playoffs, looking in). Our odds of making the playoffs are 99.8%. There are 22 games remaining.

What a wonderful time we’re all having right now!

What A Weird, Disappointing Mariners Road Trip

Ultimately, the Mariners had a winning road trip, though. There’s something to be said for a 9-game trip in the dead of August and coming out of it with more wins than losses. 5-4. Not great, but not terrible.

That being said, the Mariners had a lot going for them heading into this one. For starters, they were coming off of a series victory over the then-vaunted Yankees (who have since gone in the tank for reasons) and if you believe in momentum at all, you’d like to think we could parlay that into continued success (especially as a team that had previously won 14 games in a row). Then, when you factor in our opponents on this road trip, it just felt like this was a real opportunity to soar into the exosphere.

By August, the teams have largely differentiated themselves. You know who the best teams are, and you know who the bad teams are. Everything isn’t a foregone conclusion at this point – there are still lots of wild card contenders (as well as wild card “contenders”) who could play their ways in or out of the actual postseason – but we’re getting to the point where the picture is starting to come into sharp and clear focus. We’re in a division with the mighty Astros, but also the lowly Rangers, Angels, and Athletics. The Rangers are just your ordinary kind of bad. The Angels have – at times – looked like the worst team in all of baseball. And the Athletics might legitimately BE the worst team in all of baseball. So, that alone begs the Mariners to get to 6-3 on such a road trip. Combine that with the relatively limited travel requirements (compared to many of our east coast road trips this year), not to mention the two off-days we enjoyed, and you’re talking about a pretty soft landing, especially for a 9-game August road trip.

Yet, we screwed the pooch down in Texas as well as Oakland, and our only saving grace was a sweep down in Anaheim. That’s how you get to 5-4, but really we should’ve been at least one game better in that span. There’s also no reason why we shouldn’t have gone 7-2 or even 8-1 against those teams. This is the big Give Up portion of the season, where bad teams stop trying so hard. Considering we’re desperate to get back to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, you’d think that alone would’ve made all the difference.

And there’s not one thing you can pin the blame on. As much as we like to shit on the offense, they racked up double-digit runs on Friday to win 10-2. Even better when you consider Marco Gonzales was on the mound, and he’s in a very up-and-down stretch of his season. You saw the very best of what this offense can do when things are going right, immediately following an Angels series where we scored a combined 25 runs in three games.

Then, the offense kind of hit the skids again on Saturday. Logan Gilbert continued his relative slump, giving up 3 runs in 5 innings, and it looked like we were going to lose 3-2, until an 8th inning Suarez RBI single scored Haniger to tie it up. We got the game to extras, but couldn’t push our run home in the 10th. They were able to get it done with relative ease (Diego Castillo had no business trying to field that dribbler, when he was falling away from home plate, so even if he’d gotten to it cleanly, he never would’ve had the momentum to throw the runner out from third) and that became the one that got away.

The most shocking game of the road trip happened yesterday. I figured even with the annoying loss the previous night, we still had a great chance to win the series with Luis Castillo on the mound. Against those A’s? No contest! Except, he just didn’t have his usual pinpoint command, and they knocked him around for 4 runs in 5 innings, and there was no point in trying to extend him to triple-digit pitches when he didn’t have it (he finished throwing only 86, which will hopefully mean he’s fresher on his next turn). Once again, though, the offense couldn’t get it going. Haniger had a solo homer, and Cal & Julio rallied for a couple runs in the 7th, but that was all she wrote. A 5-3 defeat.

The good news is, we still have a combined 13 games against those three teams. But, we’ve also got a lot of games against the A.L. Central coming up. We’ll see how that shakes out. We gotta try to flush that road trip and go back to steadily winning series. That’s our best route to getting to the playoffs.

The Mariners Had A Very Enjoyable Sweep Over The Angels

In their first series down in Anaheim since The Brawl TM, the Mariners did what they needed to do: took care of business against an inferior opponent, who also just so happens to be lacking one Mike Trout, Mariner Killer TM. It was a sight to behold!

Things looked a little dicey in the first game, and I can already hear you asking how things could get dicey in a 6-2 victory. Well, for starters, the game was 2-2 heading into the ninth, before the Mariners rattled off four unearned runs (thanks to some laughable – to say the least – Angels defense). It was yet another monster pitching matchup; what did Luis Castillo do to deserve going Gerrit Cole-Gerrit Cole-Shohei Ohtani in his first three Mariners starts?!

This one wasn’t quite as dominant for Castillo, but it was still pretty fucking good. He pitched Ohtani to a draw through six innings, and with our bullpen, I’ll take that all day. The offenses touched up both pitchers just a hair – as each gave up 2 runs – with Winker hitting a solo bomb in the first, and scoring on a Crawford single in the third. I will say that not only is it great to have a dominant guy like Castillo, but it’s a breath of fresh air to see someone so regularly go beyond 100 pitches in his starts. I’m used to being that Cinderella-esque magic number where starting pitchers turn back into pumpkins, but Castillo seems to be one of the few in all of Major League Baseball who is sort of bucking that trend.

As one might expect, the Mariners’ bullpen was rock solid through the final three frames. But, we did bring our A-Squad just to make sure: Castillo, Munoz, and Sewald. The Angels had … less than.

Cal Raleigh led off the ninth with a groundout. Sam Haggerty followed with a single. He ended up on second base after a ball got away from the catcher, who blindly threw it into the outfield (thinking Haggerty was going to run, when he initially wasn’t). Then, Haggerty swiped third base with relative ease. Carlos Santana walked and Dylan Moore ran for him. That brought up Julio Rodriguez who lined a screamer up the middle that hit and bounced off the glove of the Angels’ second baseman. Haggerty was initially caught in a run-down, but no one from the Angels opted to cover home, so we got not only a free run out of the deal, but Moore made it all the way to third base, and J-Rod was safe at first. If that wasn’t enough insanity, Ty France followed with a grounder to the short stop. Once again, the runner at third (Moore) was running on contact. He should’ve been dead to rights at home, except the ball got knocked out of the catcher’s glove and everybody was safe (with J-Rod at third and France at second). Winker followed with a simple RBI groundout, then Haniger was intentionally walked. J.P. Crawford knocked an RBI single into the outfield to give the game its final score.

It was the perfect storm of Mariners speed being pesky, a lefty reliever with very hittable stuff, and manager incompetence leaving him out there about four batters too long. Phil Nevin, don’t listen to anyone who says anything to the contrary, we’re going to miss you when you’re gone.

If you thought 4 unearned runs in the ninth was cool, stick around for Tuesday’s game and our 5 earned runs in the ninth!

There’s nothing quite like going back-to-back with Castillo, then Ray. Ray went 6 innings, gave up 2 runs, and struck out 10. He left the game with a 3-2 lead, which of course, the bullpen carried the rest of the way. Let’s just get to that ninth inning straight away, because it was so good!

A Suarez walk was sandwiched between two outs before things got going. New backup catcher Casali singled to keep things going. Then, Adam Frazier ripped a triple down the right field line to make it 5-2. Haggerty singled to make it 6-2. And Julio homered to the opposite field to make it 8-2. That’s some efficient baseball killing right there.

Wednesday’s getaway game featured offensive firepower on both sides. Almost exclusively the top of the Angels’ lineup accounted for their 7 runs. You’d think with the way the Mariners have played throughout the year that 7 runs would be about 4 more than they needed. But, we jumped on ’em early and kept playing add-on to win it 11-7.

Cal Raleigh had 2 homers to lead all baseball catchers in homers (18 on the year and counting). Suarez hit his 20th bomb on the year, and Winker hit his 13th. Haniger had two hits and two runs scored, Crawford got on base four times (including 3 walks) and scored once. Santana had a 2-RBI single. Oddly enough, everyone except Julio got in on the action.

George Kirby did okay – 5.2 innings, 3 runs – and the bullpen picked the perfect game to get a little roughed up. Ohtani is as hot right now as I’ve ever seen anyone, so it’ll be good to get away from this team for a month or so. Maybe he’ll have cooled off or be shut down by the time we see them again in September.

We’re up to 65-54 on the year, and our road trip continues with three over the weekend against the lowly A’s. We’re officially the top Wild Card team at the moment, leading by three games in the win column over the Rays and Blue Jays (who are tied for the 2nd/3rd spots). Onward and upward!

The Mariners Won Another Wildly Impressive Series Over The Yankees

The thing is, you can’t talk about this series victory over the Yankees without talking about the miserable 9-4 loss on Monday. Oh believe me, I don’t want to talk about it; I want to ignore it and move on! But, there’s cause for real alarm, because Logan Gilbert gave up a season-worst 7 runs in 4.0 innings of work.

That follows Gilbert’s previous-worst mark of 6 runs given up last week in New York against this very team (that was in 5.1 innings). It’s been a terrible month of August (13 runs in 9.1 innings over the two starts) and a concerning overall inflation of his numbers as the season has gone along. Now, MAYBE the Yankees just have his number; I guess we’ll see the rest of the way. But for a guy who had been the best and most consistent overall starter for the Mariners (at least, until Luis Castillo came to town), that’s not what you want to see from someone who’s slated to play an important role in this team’s playoff run. Especially when you consider he’s most likely to join the top two guys in any post-season rotation we roll out there. The Mariners need Gilbert to continue being great, is what I’m getting at.

One of the problems seems to be the fact that he’s so fastball-heavy, especially early in games and early in counts. The Yankees have jumped all over Gilbert, and I don’t see why others wouldn’t do the same.

Other than that, I don’t have much to say about Monday’s game. That’s because Tuesday’s game was so thrilling, that’s ALL I want to talk about, ever again, for the rest of my life!

Round 2 of the heavyweight matchup between Luis Castillo and Gerrit Cole was always going to be better and more impressive than Round 1 last week (where Cole gave up a 6-spot in the first inning, and we cruised to a 7-3 victory). But, even if you had high expectations for this one, the game exceeded it by leaps and bounds!

Cole was brilliant: 7 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts.

Castillo was even better: 8 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts.

There wasn’t anything even close to offensive output through seven innings. That’s mostly because whenever the Mariners managed to get to first base, they ran themselves out of the inning (a blunder by Frazier trying to turn a single into a double, and a caught stealing by Haggerty that wasn’t even close to succeeding). The Yanks almost served a knockout blow to Castillo in the eighth – as they had two runners on for the first time all day – but with his 110th pitch, Castillo was able to induce a ground ball to get out of the mini-jam.

Then, it was a battle of the bullpens. We got the best the Yankees could throw out there, and they got the best of what we had to offer. Andres Munoz not only struck out the side in the ninth, but he struck out the top of the order. Paul Sewald took care of the 10th (thanks to a nifty pick-off move as the ghost runner tried to steal third before he threw his pitch). Matt Festa looked a little erratic out there, but he generated a line-drive double play to second to once again eliminate the ghost runner, before allowing another line drive – this time to right field – that was caught before it hit the ground.

Enter Matt Brash – game still scoreless – for the 12th and 13th innings. In his very first at-bat, Brash snagged a groundball behind his back in some sort of miracle play that resulted in him forcing the ghost runner into a pickle (he would run himself out of the baseline for the first out), and as the batter tried to reach second base, he too ran himself out of the baseline for the double play. It was as absurd of a play as you’ll ever see, and I loved every second of it. Brash got a strikeout to get out of the inning.

In the bottom of the 12th, it looked like we might FINALLY end this thing. With one out, Haggerty (the ghost runner) advanced to third on a ground out from France. With two outs now, Haniger and Jake Lamb walked to load the bases, with Suarez at the plate. But, he couldn’t get that elusive base hit (indeed, the Mariners hadn’t gotten a single base hit since the 8th inning at this point), striking out swinging and breaking his bat in two with his knee as he walked back towards the dugout.

That seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. I should point out that at some point in extras, we pinch hit Santana for Kelenic, which necessitated the Mariners putting Haniger (the erstwhile DH) in right field. That meant we lost our DH, and Brash’s time was limited (since there’s no way you’re letting a pitcher bat in a game this important).

He was able to go back out there in the 13th inning though, and once again he worked some sort of voodoo to keep it scoreless. Right off the bat, we intentionally walked Aaron Judge, because there’s no way we’re letting that freak of nature beat us. Then, after a strikeout, Brash walked the bases loaded. Thankfully, he was able to get another strikeout, followed by a ground out, and that kept the game right where we needed it to be.

Cal Raleigh led off the 13th by singling to right; with Judge’s arm, there was no way Suarez (the ghost runner) was scoring there. With no outs, though, that’s a pretty enticing scenario! J.P. Crawford ended up tapping it back to the pitcher, but it advanced Raleigh to second. That led to an intentional walk of Sam Haggerty (the second time they’d done that to him in the extras), which brought up the Brash spot in the lineup. Luis Torrens – who has been having a God-awful season to date – pinch hit, which was risky in its own right, because he’s the only backup catcher we have right now. If he failed, that would’ve put a lot of pressure on Raleigh to stay healthy through the end of the game.

Thankfully, Torrens came through! He took strike one looking, swung at strike two (both pitches 97 miles per hour and nasty looking), and then put the third fastball into play, pushing it to right field for the game-winner. 1-0, an all-time classic. Absolutely unreal!

The M’s would be forgiven if there was a bit of a hangover on Wednesday afternoon’s getaway game. Once again, it was another amazing pitching matchup – Reigning Cy Young Award Winner Robbie Ray vs. All Star (and former Mariners reliever) Nestor Cortes – and while this one didn’t quite live up to the magic of Tuesday night, the game was still scoreless through five and a half innings.

Indeed, Cortes was spinning a no-hitter until the bottom of the sixth, when Sam Haggerty jerked a line drive home run off of the left field foul pole for a 1-0 lead. That would prove to be short-lived, as Ray – maxing out at 115 pitches – couldn’t quite get out of the seventh unscathed. It’s understandable – given how many relievers we had to use the night before – that Servais would try to squeeze an extra inning out of Ray (especially when he was dealing so hard through six), but he walked one too many guys, then paid the price with a 2-run homer to the Yankees’ #9 hitter.

That ended Ray’s day, but it didn’t end the Yankees’ seventh inning scoring spree. Aaron Judge (of course) saw a hanging slider from Penn Murfee, and did what he does with those pitches, depositing it to left for a solo homer and a 3-1 lead. I figured that was the ballgame, but boy was I wrong again!

In the bottom of the same inning, France reached second on a single and a passed ball; he would end up scoring on a Haniger RBI single to make the game 3-2. After a Suarez strikeout, Carlos Santana did what he does: hit go-ahead bombs. This one was jacked to right field for a 4-3 lead.

That lined us up for Diego Castillo’s return from the IL (a 1-2-3 eighth inning), followed by Sewald’s 15th save on the season. The best part: no Aaron Judge coming around in either of those innings to rain on our parade.

We have an off-day today, and boy is it well-earned! Those last two games felt like 40. It’ll be nice to go back on the road and (hopefully) beat up on the Texas Rangers some more.

Some quick bits of news that I don’t think I’ve mentioned on the blog: Abraham Toro was sent down to Tacoma earlier this week for sucking. Kyle Lewis was sent down to Tacoma more recently, also for sucking. Chris Flexen has been put into the bullpen, because it’s impractical to run a 6-man rotation out there with only 13 pitcher spots allowed. And, it looks like Julio Rodriguez is going to return soon (possibly as early as tomorrow).

In other news, Jake Lamb sucks (and was batting in the cleanup spot in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory for some God-foresaken reason; he went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts and a meaningless walk) and I don’t know why he’s here. Also, Jarred Kelenic sucks as well, and figures to get the demotion upon Julio’s return. Oh, and Jesse Winker had to leave Monday’s game with back spasms, so we’ll see how long he’s out for.

We’re so close to a lineup without any black holes, I can almost taste it!

The Trade Deadline Came In Like A Lion & Went Out Like A Lamb For The Mariners

You can’t be happy with that headline, can you? We can do better.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a relatively big fan of the Luis Castillo trade (I’ll be a bigger fan of it if he shoves against the Yankees later this morning), even if there’s a distinct possibility that we overpaid to get him here. But, at best, that only represents a solution to ONE of our problems.

As we’ve all talked about endlessly, you can’t have enough bullpen help. I like the stuff of Ken Giles, but he obviously missed all of 2021, and has had multiple setbacks/injuries in 2022 that have thus far limited him to 5 appearances. He can’t be counted on. Diego Castillo has bounced back in a big way after struggling in April, but he landed on the IL and I don’t think he’ll be the last. Ryan Borucki has had a pretty impressive turnaround in his career since joining the Mariners, but how legitimate is that?

We’ve got Paul Sewald, who I think we’re all happy with. We’ve got Andres Munoz, who has fucking electric stuff, but who can also lose the feel of his pitches at the drop of a hat and will start walking the world. Erik Swanson has been a revelation, but this is really the first year he’s put it all together; there was a time in his career not too long ago when he was used exclusively in mop-up situations when the game was out of hand one way or the other. And I guess Penn Murfee looks like the real deal, but he’s also a rookie, so there’s at least a little concern on my part.

One more ace reliever would’ve hit the spot. If this team is going to push all its chips into the middle on the strength of their starting and relief pitching, then really just going all out and making sure we’ve got the best we can possibly get is paramount.

That’s because our most glaring weakness is hitting. And yet, the company line all along centered on how we were largely standing pat with the bats.

On the one hand, I get it. Mitch Haniger returning to full strength is like getting an All Star middle-of-the-order bat with two months to go. Julio, France, and Haniger topping our lineup is something I can get behind. And, let’s not forget, Kyle Lewis was the Rookie of the Year two seasons ago. If we can just get some positive regression out of Adam Frazier and Jesse Winker – two veterans who should have figured it the fuck out by now – while continuing to get what we’ve gotten from Suarez, Crawford, Raleigh, and Santana, then that’s a good-enough lineup (with the pitching we’ve got) to roll into the playoffs and try to make some noise.

On the other hand, though, I’m in agreement with all the experts who are saying the Mariners are not obligated whatsoever to continue giving Carlos Santana everyday at bats. Also, if I never see Toro in the lineup again, it’ll be too soon. Santana should be a bench guy playing part time, and most everyone else comprising the depth on this team is just fucking atrocious.

I know what they say – the depth everywhere is bad – but it just seems like the Mariners have the worst of the worst, and there’s no good internal options.

Look at some of these guys we’ve seen this year! Future trivia answers to questions no one has any business asking. Donovan Walton, Travis Jankowski, Jack Larsen, Stuart Fairchild, Steven Souza Jr., Mike Ford, Marcus Wilson, Kevin Padlo, Andrew Knapp. And that’s not even getting into the names we’ve actually heard of (who still aren’t worth much of a damn). Justin Upton, Jarred Kelenic, the aforementioned Toro, Dylan Moore, Taylor Trammell, Luis Torrens.

So, it comes with no positivity whatsoever to announce the non-Castillo moves the Mariners made at the deadline yesterday.

  • Curt Casali (backup catcher) from the Giants
  • Matthew Boyd (lefty starter/reliever) also from the Giants
  • Jake Lamb (reserve corner infielder/outfielder) from the Dodgers

In return, we gave up some reliever no one’s ever heard of, a low-level catcher prospect (both going to the Giants), and cash (going to the Dodgers).

Casali’s just a guy. But, with the Tom Murphy injury (out for the year), and considering Torrens is giving you less than nothing, having just a guy is actually a modest improvement. Of course, we’ll see how his bat plays in Seattle. At least his defense is supposed to be good.

Boyd is a starter who figures to join our bullpen. As a starter, he’s ho-hum; as a reliever, he’s an unknown. He does not seem to be an improvement over anyone; indeed, it seems like he’s nothing more than an innings-eater.

What’s worse is that both Casali and Boyd are currently injured, so they can’t even help us out now anyway. Casali is on the mend – rehabbing at the AAA level – so we should probably see him soon. But, Boyd had arm surgery, hasn’t pitched at all in 2022, and has already had one setback. Apparently, we traded for him based on the strength of a bullpen session he threw? September seems to be the earliest he could help us, if he’s going to show up at all. On top of that, he’s on a 1-year deal, meaning he’s strictly a rental and will be a free agent at the end of the season; so it’s not even like we can stash him and hope he pans out next year!

I’ll be honest, I don’t love this deal. But, I’m also pretty confident this will ultimately be a trade that helps neither team.

The deal that I really don’t understand, though, is bringing in Jake Lamb, a 31 year old past-his-prime reserve infielder/outfielder with no pop and pretty mediocre numbers overall. His last useful season was in 2017, and he fell off a cliff after that!

What’s his role here? Clearly, as a backup. But, when is he going to see the field? Why would you play him over Sam Haggerty, for instance, who actually has done a little bit in his reserve role? Is he even better than Toro, who – say what you will – has at least had the occasional bright moment here and there?

Taken as a whole, what the Mariners did on the August 2nd trade deadline was marginal at best. At least all of them will (potentially) be gone by next year, unless we opt to re-sign them.

I’ll conclude with this: there’s a chance that this was all shrewd by Jerry Dipoto. I hate coming off as an apologist for him, because I don’t think he’s earned it. There’s a real opportunity for these 2022 Mariners to not only make the post-season, but actually make a dent. Luis Castillo was a fantastic start towards that goal. But, an impact bat really could’ve put us over the top and given us a chance to do some playoff damage (don’t talk to me about Soto, because the M’s clearly didn’t have the prospects to bring him in, unless you were willing to give up on Julio, Gilbert, and Kirby).

That being said, making a deal just to make a deal isn’t always a good thing. What if we traded for a guy and he shit the bed? Then, not only have we brought in someone who’s clogging up our everyday lineup, but we’ve given away valuable prospects to do so.

There’s reason to believe the aforementioned veterans Winker and Frazier will turn their seasons around and approach their career norms. We’re already starting to see what Frazier is capable of; after a miserable June, his rebound has been a big boost. And we’ve seen glimpses out of Winker; oddly enough, his June was really his best (and only good) month (across the board, reaching his career norms), though he’s cooled off considerably since the All Star Break.

We could’ve dumped Frazier and found a proper everyday second baseman. But, Winker was never going anywhere. He’s signed through 2023, and he was supposed to be the crown jewel of that first Reds deal this past offseason. Right now, his value is pretty minimal, so trading him would’ve been a tough ask. We just gotta hope that he gets better as he figures out American League pitching.

If those two guys step up, and we get a boost from Haniger and Lewis – all the while hanging onto Gilbert, Kirby, and the prospects we’ve got left in the organization – then Dipoto will look like a genius.

But, if we fail to make the playoffs, or if our offense totally faceplants in the post-season, then I think we can point to this deadline as a real missed opportunity.

That being said, I don’t think Dipoto is going anywhere anytime soon. I also don’t believe that we’re one big bat away from winning the World Series this year. The onus is on the upcoming offseason, and what the Mariners are able to do in the free agent market, combined with what we’re able to make in trades.

But, it’s batshit crazy to start thinking about that now, when we’ve got an exciting finish to this regular season to look forward to.

The Mariners Swept The Rangers After Being Swept By The Astros

Even weirder: the Astros just got swept by the Athletics after sweeping the Mariners. Baseball is idiotic.

Oh, what a difference a Julio Rodriguez makes!

He didn’t return in time for Monday’s game. But, the impact he made on Tuesday and Wednesday is pretty gargantuan.

Monday’s game was a run-of-the-mill 4-3 victory. Chris Flexen went 6 innings, giving up 2 runs. The offense manufactured a couple runs in the fourth, before Ty France hit a solo bomb in the fifth, with Santana beating out a fielder’s choice (avoiding the double play, in other words) to add an insurance run in the seventh. Diego Castillo didn’t have very good command – needing 22 pitches to get one out in the ninth, while giving up a solo homer to give the game its final score – but Erik Swanson only needed three pitches to get the final two outs for his second save of the year.

Tuesday’s 5-4 victory was anything but run-of-the-mill. George Kirby returned from his mini-sabbatical, tethered to a pretty severe pitch count as the team ramps him back up. He was expected to throw 60-70 pitches (thinking maybe 3-4 innings of work), but he only needed 51 pitches to make it through five innings, to potentially qualify for the victory. He looked outrageously impressive; sharp with his command, and nasty with his 2-seam fastball moving all over the place. All told, he gave up 2 hits and a walk, while striking out 4 and giving up 0 runs.

The aforementioned Julio Rodriguez returned for this one and homered in his first at bat of the game. The Mariners continued to make the Rangers’ starter work as we got another run in the same inning. It looked like he might get knocked out early, but those were the only two runs the Rangers’ starter gave up.

It was 2-0 heading into the seventh, before Texas closed the gap to 2-1. However, Cal Raleigh homered in the bottom half to make it 3-1, and seemingly pave the way to a safe and sound M’s victory. Not so fast, though, as Paul Sewald got two quick outs before suffering some insanely bad luck. Well, the two walks weren’t “bad luck” so much as “bad command”. But, the 2-run double to tie the game looked like it was going to go foul before bouncing the opposite way – just inside the first base bag – as if it was deflected by an invisible tennis racket or something.

Erik Swanson came in for the top of the ninth – game still tied – but the Rangers worked him over for a run to make it 4-3 heading into the bottom half. That’s when the offense got going again. J.P. Crawford led off with a single, followed by a Cal Raleigh double to tie it at 4-4. Adam Frazier sacrificed Cal over to third, and with one out on the inning, the Rangers did the sensible thing: they intentionally walked both Julio and Ty France to load the bases.

Unfortunately for them, we had Carlos Santana in the 3-hole. Having a veteran, professional hitter to take that spot means the world to this organization. Santana worked the count to his favor, then got a ball he could drive to center. It was JUST deep enough to score Cal on a tag-up from third base (after video evidence on replay review confirmed he didn’t leave early).

That set the stage for Wednesday’s afternoon sweeping, 4-2. Marco Gonzales gave up 2 runs in 7 innings (4 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts), though we were down 2-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh. That’s when the magic man did it again.

With one out, Cal walked and Sam Haggerty doubled to put runners on 2nd & 3rd. Instead of intentionally walking him again, the Rangers left their starter in there to face Julio, who made him pay with a 3-run jack to make it 4-2. Swanson and Munoz combined to endure the eighth, and Matt Festa worked the ninth for his second save of the season.

In hindsight, I don’t see how anyone pitches to Julio in that situation ever again, especially with first base open. The Rangers even had the benefit of not having to face Ty France, who was getting the day off to rest a sore wrist. I don’t know how likely it would’ve been to see him pinch hit, but it sure seemed like the M’s wanted him to rest ahead of our trip to Houston (first game later today). Regardless, you love to see two players of the calibre of J-Rod and France hitting back-to-back like that. Pick your poison, man! Or, walk them both and still have to go up against a professional hitter in that 3-hole.

I can’t tell you what it means to our season to not have fucked away this Rangers series after faceplanting against the Asstros last weekend. Now, we play those Asstros again, followed by the Yankees, which could make for a very LONG next seven days.

The Mariners Swept The Nationals In A Doubleheader

The winning streak is now 10 games. Oh, you read that right!

This was always a two-game series – after an off-day on Monday to fly across the country – but Tuesday’s game was entirely rained out. That led to a doubleheader yesterday – one in the morning, one in mid-afternoon – against the lowly Washington Nationals. Doubleheaders are notoriously difficult to sweep under any scenario, but you can kind of see why the Nats are so bad.

The morning game ended up being the lone suspension game for Julio Rodriguez (who this week was not only named to the All Star Game, as our lone participant, but also entered into the Home Run Derby, making it a thing I have to watch for the first time in eons), which finally puts an end to all the Anaheim Brawl Madness.

We got another great start, this time from Chris Flexen, who went 6 innings and gave up 1 run. We also got some offensive magic throughout, with a Suarez 3-run bomb in the first, a couple of solo bombs by Winker and Frazier in the fourth, and an insurance bomb by Raleigh in the ninth.

That was a 6-1 lead we took into the bottom of the ninth. We had Paul Sewald warming up – prior to Raleigh’s homer in the top half – for some reason, but opted to go with Penn Murfee instead. He got two outs, but gave up a 3-run homer to Juan Soto before being pulled. It looked like – for a second – that Servais was going to let Murfee pitch out of it, but there was just no way. Say what you will about the Nationals, but they can run a lefty-heavy lineup out there with the best of ’em. And a guy like Murfee – with a slurvy slider that kind of sweeps over the plate – probably isn’t the best option out of the ‘pen. Paul Sewald did come in to get the final out – on 4 pitches – to rack up his first save of the day (spoiler alert).

Game 2 was always going to be a Bullpen Day. The Mariners have temporarily sent down George Kirby to manage his innings load on the season. With the All Star Break coming up, it makes sense from a timing perspective. I’m told this allegedly won’t be the only time he gets sent back down for a spell, but I have my doubts on that, barring injury.

In spite of the Bullpen Day, it turned into quite a pitchers duel! Erik Swanson got the start and went two shutout innings. He gave way to Tommy Milone, who fustigated them for 3.1 more shutout innings, before he finally left the game with runners on. That lead to Matt Brash coming in and getting out of the inning lickety split with a double play. He ran into trouble of his own the following inning, but Diego Castillo was there to clean up the mess.

All the while, the Mariners had been in a scoreless tie until the sixth inning, when Winker hit a solo bomb (his second of the day) and Frazier hit a sac fly to give the M’s a 2-0 lead. That held until the ninth, when Sewald came in and promptly gave up a solo homer to Soto to make it 2-1. He was able to make it out, striking out the side, holding that 2-1 victory (and almost certainly earning himself a well-deserved day or two off in this Texas series coming up).

That’s 10 wins in a row. That’s 18 wins in the last 21 games. That’s a 47-42 record. That’s good for a 3-way tie for the last two wild card spots. Not that we’re at that point or anything. Just pointing out the obvious. Also, stay away from the divisional standings, because even with our good fortune of late, we’re still 11 games behind the Cheating Astros. We could sweep them the rest of the regular season and still be four games back; it’s insane.

Will the Mariners ever lose again? Almost certainly, as soon as this next series. But, they could also keep this train rolling somehow. Crazier things have happened!

The Red Hot Mariners Swept The Blue Cold Blue Jays

This has really been a turnaround for the ages! I don’t know, necessarily, how sustainable it is, but at this point I’m just going to enjoy the ride for as long as we’re continuing on this trajectory.

The season nadir was the end of the 5-game series vs. the Angels in Seattle. This pre-dated, obviously, the fight down in Anaheim the following weekend; we were 29-39, ten games under .500. That was June 19th, which is about as dead in the water as you can be. Just a bloated fish carcass spewing pus and attracting flies.

Since that date, the Mariners have gone 16-3. One of those losses was the day of the brawl itself – when we lost pretty much all of our top-line hitters – and another was the following day, against Baltimore, when George Kirby shat the bed. It’s been an utterly remarkable run, which is even more impressive when you factor in how far from full strength we’ve been.

Ty France spent a portion of this chunk on the IL. J.P. Crawford and Jesse Winker both faced lengthy suspensions. Luis Torrens sat on the IL following the brawl. That’s not even factoring in the Haniger and Lewis injuries, plus it predates the impending Julio Rodriguez one-game mystery suspension for whatever he allegedly did in that brawl.

How do you explain it? Well, the starting pitching, for … starters. They’ve been good all year, but it seems like they’ve taken it to another level. The bullpen has started to come around. And, clearly, we’re starting to see that timely hitting we’ve been missing; that timely hitting that carried the 2021 Mariners to a 90-win season.

We saw all of that in spades in this Toronto series. I wouldn’t say the Blue Jays are anywhere NEAR our most hated rivals in the grand scheme of things. But, for one series every year, there isn’t a more annoying fanbase to have to contend with than all the fucking Canadians who infiltrate our state to cheer on their nation’s last remaining Major League Baseball team.

Look, I’m sure these Canadians are lovely people. But, there’s a certain amount of insecurity we feel as fans when an opposing fanbase so thoroughly invades your safe space. You’re not supposed to go to a home game and find the road team receiving the bulk of the cheers; it’s off-putting to say the least. There’s a way around that, of course: buy up all the seats and force the Canadians to watch from home. But, obviously, that’s not ever going to happen. Even if the Mariners were one of the best teams in baseball, season ticket holders would just use this as an excuse to re-sell their seats, jacking up the price, to help pay for the rest of the year. This is just the way it’s always going to be, and we’re going to have to live with it.

That being said, it’s particularly gratifying when we beat the Blue Jays, and get to send their fans back to their hotel rooms despondent, taking solace while stuffing their faces with poutine or whatever the fuck it is they eat. It’s especially gratifying to sweep them in a 4-game series (for the first time ever), knowing that for some of them, this was their one big vacation this year, ruined by an unforeseen spree of Mariners competence.

Marco Gonzales was the beneficiary of a lot of run support on Thursday, en route to an 8-3 victory. He went 6.2 innings, giving up 3 runs (2 earned), and the bullpen was rock solid from there. We were up 7-1 after three innings, which made this a paricularly enjoyable ride. Cal Raleigh, Dylan Moore, and Eugenio Suarez each hit homers, Carlos Santana had an RBI, and Crawford had a hit and 2 runs scored.

The bullpen really came out and shined on Friday, after Kirby failed to get through the fifth inning. He limited the damage to 2 runs on 10 hits and a walk in 4.1 innings, and that was it the rest of the way. This was a dynamic pitching duel throughout, lasting into the 11th inning, before Suarez hit a walk-off 3-run home run off of Sergio Romo. Obviously, everyone in the bullpen killed it, but Ryan Borucki was saddled with both of the extra innings and kept his former team scoreless in spite of the ghost runner rule. I don’t know if I totally trust him, but he’s been on quite a tear since coming to Seattle.

Saturday’s game was an even more impressive pitcher’s duel, with Robbie Ray continuing to do his thing, going 6 innings, giving up 1 run. What was most encouraging was to see him get into a bases loaded, no-out jam, and work his way out of it without giving up a run, let alone the “big inning” we’d seen from him before he turned his year around. The Jays hit a solo homer in the sixth to go up 1-0, but Carlos Santana hit a 2-run bomb in the seventh to give the game its final score. This game saw the return of Matt Brash, who got the win in his first inning of work out of the bullpen for the Mariners. There was also a nice save by Diego Castillo, working his third straight day.

What seemed like the least-likely victory came on Sunday. Logan Gilbert was just okay in his six innings, giving up 4 runs. The bullpen got touched up for a run finally, giving the Jays a 5-4 lead that went into the 8th inning. They were running out a Bullpen Day though, on top of some really shoddy defense, that gave the Mariners 3 unearned runs out of the 6 overall. This was the Carlos Santana show, as he hit two homers: a solo job in the second inning to tie it, and a go-ahead 2-run bomb in the 8th to make it a game-winner. I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a lot of hope for the Santana trade, but he’s been just what the doctor ordered.

We’ve got one more week until the All Star Break, so let’s finish strong Mariners! Because it looks like after that, we finish up our final 7 games against the Astros in the next 10 games.

The Mariners Dominated The A’s, Barely Got The Sweep

There’s something exciting about a sweep. They don’t come easy, even against the very worst teams. And, I think it’s safe to say, the A’s are indeed one of those very worst teams.

That’s why you kind of have to temper that excitement a little bit. Wake me up when the Mariners do it against a good team, you know? Even a mediocre team would be more impressive than something like this. The A’s are a small handful of very good players away from being a glorified AAA squad.

On top of that, it feels like a fluke that we got the sweep at all. The first two wins were about as impressive as it gets – 8-2 and 9-0 – but this afternoon’s nailbiter was idiotic as all get-out.

Marco Gonzales looked exceptional on Tuesday, going 7 innings, giving up 2 runs (both in his 7th inning of work, after the M’s had amassed a 7-0 lead). That was his eighth quality start on the season, fourth out of his last five games, and sixth out of his last eight. This one was noteworthy for how efficient he was (only 2 strikeouts, but also only 1 walk and 7 hits given up), with 17 ground ball outs (easily a season high). The game was also noteworthy in it being Ken Giles’ first game back in the big leagues since his 2020 injury that required Tommy John surgery. He’ll be brought back slowly to start, but so far he looked pretty good.

We’ll remember this game as the one where we had back-to-back-to-back homers by J-Rod, Winker, and Suarez. France and J-Rod both had 3 hits apiece, Winker had two extra-base hits, Upton had an RBI single, Trammell had a solo homer, and Cal Raleigh got on base every plate apperance.

Wednesday’s game featured 6 shutout innings from George Kirby (5 hits, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts). Winker, Crawford, J-Rod, and Trammell all had multi-hit games. Raleigh and Winker each had homers. And, we got to empty our bench (for the most part) with this game being a laugher by the end of the fifth inning.

Which brings us to this afternoon. Yet another quality start, this time by Robbie Ray (6 innings, 1 run on 4 hits & 2 walks, with 6 strikeouts). The A’s manufactured a run in the bottom of the first with two outs, then there was nothing but zeroes until the ninth inning. The Mariners are on some crazy streak of games where the starters have pitched at least 6 innings while giving up 3 runs or less, it’s really been fun (and would be a lot more fun if we didn’t have so many of these types of games where the offense can’t do a damn thing).

I don’t know how you explain this one. In the top of the ninth, Moore and Winker walked, with a J-Rod pop-out and a Suarez strikeout mixed in. Then, Kevin Padlo walked to load the bases. A wild pitch by the second reliever in the inning pushed home the tying run. Then, a second wild pitch – on ball 4 to Toro – scored the go-ahead run.

And, that was it. 4 walks and 2 wild pitches = 2-1 victory. Diego Castillo got the win, Paul Sewald got the save, bingo, bango, bongo.

Of course, we can’t have anything nice without something disasterous also happening. In this case, Ty France was trying to make a play defensively at first base and the runner ran into him, causing him to possibly hyperextend his elbow. It’s either going to keep him out for a few days or a few months, with probably no in-between.

In other words, if you haven’t already written the season off, then I’d go ahead and get your quill and inkwell ready. It was announced today that Tom Murphy is having season-ending surgery on his shoulder. That’s not the worst news in the world, but if you were counting on help from him sometime this season, think again. With Haniger out for at least another month, and Lewis out for God knows how long, a significant Ty France injury is the last nail in the coffin. We don’t even have a healthy Evan White to throw into the mix! Not that he’d be worth a damn at the plate, or even come CLOSE to making up for the loss of France’s bat. I guess what I’m getting at is: get ready for a lot more Dylan Moore!

I just hope this injury to France doesn’t keep him out for any of the 2023 season. More and more, it’s looking like we’re (at least) another year away from playoff contention. Even that comes into serious doubt if we don’t get France back for a full season next year.

The Mariners Barely Scraped By The Rangers

After the nadir of losing two of three to the Oakland A’s at home (who, surprise surprise, are still in last place and among the very worst teams in all of baseball), the Mariners have won their last three series, all by exactly 2 games to 1. That was impressive when we were talking about the Astros … but it’s less thrilling when you’re talking about the Orioles and Rangers.

To their credit, the Orioles and Rangers are right around the same as the M’s (the Orioles are a couple games worse, the Rangers are a couple games better), but that’s the problem: neither team was supposed to be in our league heading into the season. Yet, here we are. We’ve made our bed and now we’re sleeping in it.

The Mariners have ground to make up, so it’s unsatisfying to have only picked up three games in the last 10 days. We’re still six games under .500, so at this rate the world will implode before the M’s are in any position to make the playoffs.

What’s slightly encouraging, I suppose, is the fact that the Mariners have kind of started looking like the M’s from 2021 a little bit more lately. Each of their last four games have been decided by 1 run, with the good guys winning 75% of ’em. The finale in Baltimore was a 10-inning thriller, and both victories in Arlington were of the come-from-behind variety.

Friday saw another excellent performance out of our REAL ace, Logan Gilbert (not that fraud of a bust in Robbie Ray). He gave up 2 runs (1 earned) in 6 innings, off 5 hits and a walk, with 7 strikeouts. At that point, it was the Eugenio Suarez throwing error that cost Gilbert a chance for the victory. The game was all tied after six innings, but a Rangers solo homer in the seventh put us in a hole that we took to the ninth.

Against who I am assuming is the Rangers’ closer, Suarez made up for his earlier gaffe by pushing a 2-run go-ahead homer to right for a 4-3 lead. From there, we were able to employ Paul Sewald for the traditional save (his third on the season). Suarez had 3 of the 4 runs driven in, with Cal Raleigh adding the other on a solo homer.

Saturday’s game was a boring, hard-luck loss by Marco Gonzales, who gave up just a 3-run homer in his 7 innings of work. He gets a little slack for the “one big inning” because he’s actually gone 7+ innings multiple times this year, plus he has a better track record – in Seattle – of being a successful Major League starting pitcher than Robbie Ray. It was hard-luck because the Mariners’ offense could only muster a 2-run homer by Jesse Winker (both events happened prior to the bottom of the fifth inning).

There just wasn’t a lot of offense in this one, as the M’s only had the four hits (though we did generate five walks). It’s weird seeing the Rangers being this effective at pitching, particularly in their (new) home ballpark. I’m used to the old ballpark, and all the 11-10 outcomes therein.

Sunday’s rubber match was another extra innings banger, with the Mariners overcoming a 3-run deficit in the top of the ninth inning. Suarez almost single-handedly carried the mail in this game, with a whopping 4 RBI. We were down 2-0 early, but in back-to-back innings Suarez tied it on a solo homer and a single (after some nifty baserunning by Julio Rodriguez). Then, after the bullpen tried to gag away the game, Ty France hit a solo homer before Suarez came right back with a 2-RBI double to score J-Rod and J.P. Crawford. Diego Castillo continued the roll he’s been on this road trip (for the win) and Sewald got his fourth save of the year.

George Kirby had a nice outing (even if he didn’t have super-electric stuff) going 6 innings in giving up just the 2 runs. Both were on solo homers, though, which will be something to monitor, I’m sure.

The road trip comes to a close with yet another series against the fucking Astros. If it feels like we’ve played them a ton so far, you’re right. After this series, we’ll have played them 12 times already, and we’re not even 60 games into the season. Thankfully, that means we only have to play them 7 more times in the second half.

Gotta keep the good momentum going here. Somehow, the M’s need to find a way to win 2 of 3 one more time. It’s nice that we’ve started to look like our 2021 selves a little bit more the last few games, but we’re going to need even more of that magic if we want to get out of this hole.