The So-So Mariners Split A Series Against The Angels

We kicked things off last Thursday with an impressive 6-2 victory, behind a gutty Justus Sheffield performance (2 runs in 5.2 innings), when he didn’t necessarily have his best stuff. Jake Fraley hit his first big league home run – a 3-run shot – and continued to add to his crazy-high on-base percentage with two more walks. Seager and Haniger also had a couple hits each (including a solo homer for Seager), and the bullpen totally shut things down in the end.

Friday’s game was a hard-luck 3-2 defeat. We were able to touch up Shohei Ohtani for a couple runs in his 6 innings of work (thanks to J.P. Crawford, who has been remarkable of late). Even though Taylor Trammell and Donovan Walton both had a couple hits each, there just wasn’t enough offense to go around. The Bullpen Day did its job and then some, with Robert Dugger giving up 2 runs in 2.1 innings, but there was only one run given up the rest of the way. The Mariners actually had the bases loaded with nobody out in the 8th, with the heart of the order coming up. We’ve been much better with runners in scoring position this season than we have with the bases empty – which seems more a byproduct of flukiness than anything – but it wasn’t to be on this night. Haniger fouled out, and Seager and France both struck out to end the threat.

Saturday’s game was a nightmare scenario (12-5 defeat) that thankfully wasn’t even worse. I would argue the Mariners had a very good chance to take this game, except Yusei Kikuchi – who had been pretty much cruising as usual to this point – took a line drive off of his knee in the bottom of the fifth with nobody out and had to come out of the game. This was on his 64th pitch of the game, so his arm was fresh enough to take him into the seventh or eighth. If that batter hits it anywhere else in the infield, we might’ve been looking at a double play and a quick end to that inning! Instead, he gave up 4 runs in 4 innings, and the overworked bullpen imploded from there, giving up 8 additional runs the rest of the way. The lone bright spot was the 5-run fourth inning for the Mariners, thanks in large part to a Jake Fraley grand slam. I don’t know how the Angels’ starter ended up going 7 full innings, but I guess other than that one inning, the Mariners rolled over like obedient puppy dogs (literally figuratively, with a 12:3 ground ball to fly ball ratio). The silver lining here is that Kikuchi responded well to treatment and might not miss a start, which is a relief considering how much agony he was in on the field when he had to be helped off.

That was unfortunate, but the M’s bounced back with a 9-5 victory on Sunday to even the series. Logan Gilbert was really impressive for his second consecutive outing, going 5 innings, giving up 1 run, and getting his first Major League win. He struck out 7 (which is good), gave up only 2 hits (which is great), but did walk 4 guys (not so hot). We did stretch him out for 105 pitches (his previous high in a big league game had been 80), but that’s probably just as much out of necessity (the bullpen being shot) than wanting to build up his arm. This one could’ve gotten hairy, as the Mariners only had a 4-2 lead heading into the ninth, but we were able to add on 5 runs in the top half, to counter their 3 additional runs in the bottom. J.P. Crawford continued his hot streak with 2 hits, runs, and RBI. Fraley had another hit, walk, and RBI (on said walk). Donovan Walton had two more hits, including a solo homer, 2 RBI, and 3 runs scored. And Jarred Kelenic didn’t get any at-bats, as he’s mired in an 0-for-forever slump, with his batting average down to .096.

The road trip continues through the midwest this week – Detroit and Cleveland, so hopefully no weather SNAFUs – before another nice, long homestand.

The Mariners Bounced Back With An Impressive Series Win Over The Indians

I didn’t have much in the way of high hopes for this 4-game home set, in spite of Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert getting the call-up. Nevertheless, Thursday’s game held the highest anticipation for me since Opening Day; it did end up disappointing, however.

The 4-2 defeat looks better than it actually was; the Mariners were held hitless through seven innings before a J.P. Crawford single and a Dylan Moore homer made it remotely interesting. Things got moderately more interesting in the ninth, as the M’s walked the bases loaded, but the Indians were able to escape.

Gilbert struggled somewhat in his four innings of work, giving up all four runs. His stuff looked good, though I would argue he kept catching too much of the plate, and hitters at this level aren’t going to miss when you do that, regardless of how hard you throw. No walks and five strikeouts are both great; but, obviously the two homers are far from ideal. Mixed bag of a first start for a guy the Mariners plan on handling with kid gloves (he was limited to 71 pitches, which is well below even what the plan was heading in; somewhere around 85, I believe).

As for Kelenic, he’s apparently our leadoff hitter now! Right out of the box, no slow ramp-up, no soft landing. Fucking, right into the fire. He went hitless in 4 at-bats, with a strikeout; but the Mariners all day only had 2 hits, so whatever.

The tide changed immediately afterward, starting on Friday, with a 7-3 victory. Kelenic went 3 for 4 with two doubles and a homer, two runs scored and three runs batted in. THAT’S the guy we all expected to see, and that’s the guy we figure to see a lot more of as he gets used to playing at this level. Mitch Haniger and Kyle Seager both hit homers as well, as the team combined for 10 hits.

Chris Flexen gave up only 1 run in 5.2 innings, and Kendall Graveman followed with 1.1 shutout innings. Erik Swanson added another inning of shutout relief before J.T. Chargois (never heard of him) stumbled in the ninth. Rafael Montero had to come in to lock it down for the 1-out save.

The Mariners followed this up with another 7-3 victory on Saturday. Kelenic had another rough day (no hits, 3 strikeouts), but Haniger and Dylan Moore both had homers, and recently called-up Donovan Walton had a triple to lead the way.

Justus Sheffield came away with a quality start (6 innings, 2 runs) and the bullpen did its job.

I was all set for the series split on Sunday, with Shane Bieber getting the start for the Indians. But, the Mariners had an excellent approach to the Cy Young winner, roughing him up for 3 runs in 4.2 innings, which turned out to be all the M’s would need on a bullpen day. Rafael Montero gave up our only two runs; everyone else pitched a shutout in the 3-2 victory.

I’ll say this much: Erik Swanson is looking like our second-best reliever at the moment (so, watch for the jinx to fuck him the next chance it gets). Rafael Montero should probably be DFA’d at some point, as other relievers return from injury, because he looks like a total lost cause.

It was another 0 for 5 for Kelenic in the weekend finale; he’s down to .167/.167/.444 in his 4-game career. I wouldn’t expect that to continue, but I also wonder how much longer we opt to keep him as our leadoff hitter. I get the team is excited and they want to cultivate excitement in the fanbase, but putting him at the top of our lineup right out of the gate seems a little extreme and unnecessary. We’ll be just as excited to see him batting 7th as we are now.

The Tigers come to town for three starting tonight; they are truly awful. So, this looks like a great opportunity to pick up some easy wins!