The Mariners Are Doing Everything They Can To Stay In This Wild Card Race

This has been the most fun Mariners team I can remember since we last made the postseason. That’s not hyperbole. That’s not recency bias. As I’ve mentioned recently, there was a Mariners team that got to within a single game of the wild card within the last decade; this Mariners team could just as easily fall apart over the final three games and finish further behind that team (at least, in the standings). But, what they’ve done over the last couple of weeks – indeed, across the entire month of September, where they’re 18-8 – is truly remarkable.

Unlike most every other Mariners team you think about, this one is faced with adversity and is stepping up to the challenge. This isn’t the Same Old Mariners; this is a Brand New Mariners! There have been mediocre Mariners teams who’ve dug themselves a deep hole, then went on a hot streak to start to climb back out of it. But, as soon as the spotlight shone on those teams, they would wilt under the pressure; they were – for lack of a better phrase (because it is literally the perfect phrase, and applies to all of sports) – who we thought they were.

The 2021 Mariners are decidedly NOT who we thought they were! Don’t get me wrong, because they do have their problems. You don’t accrue a -48 run differential without problems. That’s not to say good teams don’t get blown out once in a while, but they generally don’t get blown out as regularly as the Mariners have been blown out this season. Granted, we’ve seen less and less of that as the year has gone on, which points to the brighter future we’ve all been clamoring for.

What’s been great about the Mariners is what we’ve seen since the start of the last road trip. When our backs were against the wall, this team came out fighting. The Mariners have lost two games in that span (winning 11). Yes, this team will lose in frustrating ways; yes, this team will get blown out on a fairly regular basis. But, this team always bounces back and rights the ship before things get swallowed up by Davy Jones’ Locker.

What’s also been great about the Mariners is their utter DOMINANCE of the Oakland A’s. Are you shitting me?! How fucking fun has THIS been?!

This week’s sweep makes it 12 wins in a row as we head into next year. 15-4 on the season. And, with yesterday’s win, we officially knocked them out of the playoffs.

The whole 3-game series this week was fun. Monday’s 13-4 victory started off pretty awful, with Chris Flexen giving up a wall-scraper of a 3-run homer in the first to put the M’s in a potentially-early grave. To our credit, though, Ty France hit an RBI single in the third, and Luis Torrens might’ve had the biggest hit in the game with a 2-RBI single later that same inning to tie it up. Flexen didn’t have that good stuff in this one, as he gave up another run in the fourth (he finished five innings, giving up those four runs, but it wasn’t the usual crisp, efficient game we’ve come to expect from him). But, the offense more than picked up the slack. I know the offense has been super clutch, but it’s about time they made things easy on this pitching staff with a good old fashioned blowout on the positive side.

We went with Sadler in the sixth – when the game was still within reach of a collapse – but then got to use the D-Squad to eat up the last three innings and save our studs. Crawford went 3/5 with 3 runs and an RBI. France went 4/4 with 3 runs and 4 RBI. Haniger hit two 3-run homers to put this game to bed! Torrens had 2 hits, Kelenic had 2 hits and 2 runs, Murphy had 2 runs, Dylan Moore chipped in with a hit, a walk, and a run. Nice day all around, but especially because it was a comeback victory (emphasis on the victory part). That game could’ve gone sideways in a hurry, but this team wouldn’t let it.

The next two wins were much more Mariners-like, both with a score of 4-2.

Tuesday’s game has entirely shifted my perspective of Tyler Anderson. I ripped him a little bit after that meltdown against the Angels, and was kinda ready to write him off. But, now I’m rethinking my stance on bringing him back! To set the stage, he could only manage 2 innings against the Angels on Saturday, but he threw only 54 pitches in that game. His next start was supposed to be Friday against the Angels, and I could squint and maybe see him bouncing back improbably against the same team that just thrashed him a week prior. But, it was always a shame he wasn’t set to get a start against the A’s, because I feel like that lineup is more his speed.

As it turns out – with Tuesday set to be his “throw day” (all starters have days where they throw in between starts, for reasons that elude me, but I’m sure there’s a good explanation out there on the Internet somewhere) – so the team and Anderson came to an agreement that he’d just make a spot-start in lieu of his off-field work. Matt Brash was also called up that day – because regardless, Kikuchi has been struggling too much of late to be trusted in such a high-leverage situation as a playoff chase – but it makes more sense to NOT start a AA prospect making his first-ever appearance in the Major Leagues, and hold him in reserve in case we need to eat up innings should disaster strike.

But, man, Tyler Anderson was fucking nails! He threw 46 pitches, but lasted 4 full innings, just giving up a solo homer in the 4th. In total, he only gave up 2 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 2. Just a HUGE game from a guy who really stepped up and put it all out there on the line. I know the point has been made elsewhere, but that’s a huge deal for someone who will be a free agent at the end of this season, looking for his first career big payday. At the same point, teams are going to see that and know he’s a team-first kind of guy, even with a team he just joined a couple months ago. That should be worth a few sheckles, I would think. I know I’m now more willing to bring him back on the right deal. I don’t know what that is, exactly, but it’s like porn, you know it when you see it.

From there, we had the entirety of the A-Squad Bullpen (plus Misiewicz, who did manage to get two outs before two hits got him pulled). Casey Sadler got 4 outs, Diego Castillo got 2, Paul Sewald got 4, and Drew Steckenrider got the save in the ninth.

Meanwhile, Jake Fraley hit a 2-run double in the bottom of the fourth – right after Anderson gave up the homer – to take the lead. Tom Murphy hit an RBI single to make it 3-1. And, after Castillo gave up a run to make it 3-2, Haniger hit a solo bomb in the bottom of the seventh to give us a bit of insurance. Also, not for nothing, but Crawford and Torrens both had multi-hit games again.

My friends and I couldn’t take it anymore, so we had to go to the game last night. We’re all busy this weekend, so really this was our last opportunity to see the Mariners in person (unless, God forbid, we actually make the ALDS). With a team this special, getting to witness them in person, in the thick of a wild card chase, you just have to be there and experience the electricity for yourself! There’s nothing like it. I don’t remember getting to go to a lot of games in 2001; I was a poor college kid at the time. I got to go to one game in 1997 where we clinched either the division or a playoff berth, and that was one of my favorite live sporting events in my entire life (the Kingdome rocked like I’d never heard it before).

This wasn’t that, but it was still pretty fun. Hard to generate a huge crowd for a cold Wednesday night in late September, but I read we had about 5,000 more people there than expected (17K up from 12K?). The product on the field didn’t disappoint, anyway!

Logan Gilbert was rolling, lasting 5.2 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits and 2 walks, with 4 strikeouts. Joe Smith got him out of the minor jam in the sixth (when Logan gave up that run on a solo homer to right), just in time for the M’s to get a go-ahead 2-run double from Jarred Kelenic. Castillo gave it right back with a solo homer to tie it, but we manufactured a run in the bottom of the seventh to re-take the lead, with Abraham Toro hitting an insurance homer in the eighth to salt it away. Sewald once again took care of business in the eighth, and Steckenrider got the save in the ninth.

It’s one thing to deal the final blow to the A’s playoff hopes, but really the Mariners EXCLUSIVELY prevented them from earning a wild card spot, with the way we’ve handled them all year. They thought they were big shots early in the season – and talked shit about us accordingly – but we took it personally (to quote Michael Jordan) and opted to rip out their hearts. Considering all the times they’ve done that very same thing to us over the years, I’ve never felt more gratified. I need a cigarette right now!

89-70. Three games left, against the Angels this weekend. We are a half game behind the Red Sox (unfortunately in the loss column, so we still need a little more help). We’re also a half game ahead of the Blue Jays, and 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the first wild card spot. All three of those teams have four games remaining.

But, as usual, it’s all about the Mariners first and foremost. We MUST sweep the Angels to have a shot. In essence – as has been pointed out by Scott Servais and elsewhere – we’re already watching playoff baseball in Seattle, because these have ALL been must-win games. And, to their credit, the Mariners are performing their very best when they absolutely have to.

The Mariners Swept The Athletics To Make Things Just Interesting Enough

What a series! We probably need to see three more just like them if we want postseason baseball in Seattle, but damn!

Remember that one year recently when the M’s were just a single game out of the second wild card spot? Would it shock you to know that was back in 2014? For some reason, I thought it was in 2018 – when we won 89 games – but we were a whopping 8 games out that year. Nope, in 2014, we finished one game behind Oakland, thanks to a 4-game winning streak to close out the season. BUT, we were only in that position in the first place because immediately preceeding that 4-game winning streak, we were mired in a 5-game losing slump (two games in Houston, three games in Toronto, the latter notorious for a 1-0 defeat where Taijuan Walker went all 8 innings in the loss, giving up just 4 hits).

That’s more or less the story for a lot of these “contending” Mariners teams over the last 20 years. We dig ourselves such a hole that – even though we’re entertaining and somewhat good, and most importantly, close in the standings – there just isn’t enough at the end to overcome our lack of talent. That appears to be the case here in 2021 as well. With 9 games remaining, we are now just 2 games behind the Yankees for the second wild card spot (with Toronto sandwiched in between, a game back). That’s a tall order to overcome, even though our schedule plays out relatively favorably.

What’s different – we hope – is that these Mariners appear to be the start of something significant. So, even if we fail to make those two games up, there’s still reason for optimism for the near-future of the Seattle Mariners.

And we’re in THIS position because of the 4-game sweep in Oakland! That took us from two games behind them, to two games ahead of them, which you just love to fucking see because fuck the A’s. Even if we don’t make the playoffs, knowing we’re a MAJOR reason why they’re also not in the playoffs will give me all the warmth I need in my heart to carry me over into the 2022 season. FUCK. THE. ATHLETICS.

You don’t work a 4-game sweep in Oakland without some great pitching, and the Mariners had it going all week. Tyler Anderson was up first and got the series off on the right note. 7 innings, 1 run (4 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts). The only blip was Diego Castillo giving up a run in a third of an inning, but Paul Sewald got the remaining five outs to preserve the 4-2 victory.

Offensively, France and Seager got the M’s out to a 3-0 lead in the third, then Seager added an RBI single in the fifth (he had a HUGE series, going 3 for 4 with 3 RBI in this game).

Marco Gonzales kept the party going with a quality start of his own (6 innings, 2 runs), and Sadler, Sewald, and Steckenrider worked clean innings to close it out. We saw an early 1-0 deficit after one inning, but Jake Bauers manufactured a run in the second, and Dylan Moore and J.P. Crawford put up three more runs in the fourth to give us a bit of a cushion. Crawford hit a solo bomb in the ninth for a little added insurance in the 5-2 victory (also, Seager was 2 for 5).

Chris Flexen continued the pitching parade with 7 innings of 1-run ball (3 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts). This time, Castillo worked a clean inning, and Steckenrider got his second save of the series (also sparing us the necessity to pitch Sewald a third straight day).

This 4-1 victory was brought to you by a Kyle Seager solo homer (he finished 3 for 5), a Tom Murphy RBI single, a Ty France solo bomb, and a Luis Torrens insurance sac fly in the seventh.

Finally, the sweep came under heavy scrutiny with Yusei Kikuchi going yesterday. Another 3-inning special where he gave up 3 runs. We got a run back on an Abraham Toro RBI double in the top of the fourth, but Yohan Ramirez gave up a solo bomb in the bottom half to make it 4-1 Oakland.

Ramirez was pulled after a third of an inning, but the much-maligned Anthony Misiewicz got the final two outs of the inning to keep the score right there. Cal Raleigh hit a 2-run bomb in the fifth to make it 4-3, and Mitch Haniger hit a solo bomb to tie it up in the sixth. Not to be outdone, Luis Torrens hit a pinch-hit 2-run home run later in the sixth to make the comeback official.

From there, it was lockdown bullpen time. Joe Smith pitched a perfect inning. Casey Sadler pitched two scoreless innings, Diego Castillo took care of the eighth, and Paul Sewald gave up a relatively harmless solo homer in the ninth before completing the save in the 6-5 victory.

The Mariners are 84-69 now, with three games down in L.A. against the Angels. Then, we return home for our final six games of the regular season (unfortunate, since we REALLY struggle to hit at home). It will probably require some remarkable type of 7-2 finish to secure the wild card spot; at the VERY worst 6-3, but I refuse to play the schedule/matchup game with the other teams in contention.

I’m just going to sit here and enjoy the last week and change of this very entertaining Mariners season. What happens after that will be whatever.

The Mariners Swept The Diamondbacks, Part II: Whoops!

I knew I was in for it when I titled this post the way I did; leave it to the Mariners to lose 2 of 3 to the worst team in baseball.

Since I can’t make this post one huge SIGH, I guess I’ll get into it. The first game was weird, but fine. Marco Gonzales went 6 innings and gave up 3 unearned runs (two separate errors aided in the Diamondbacks scoring in back-to-back innings). The game was tied 3-3 after three innings thanks to a J.P. Crawford solo bomb and a Tom Murphy 2-run bomb. France singled in a run in the fifth, and Murphy hit his second homer of the game in the sixth for a little insurance (which we needed when Diego Castillo gave up a run in the eighth). Otherwise, the bullpen was lights out, with Steckenrider striking out the side in the ninth to get the save, preserving a 5-4 win.

I had high hopes for Saturday, with Chris Flexen on the mound, but he fell apart in the fourth and finished the game after 5 innings, giving up 5 runs. Haniger and Kelenic homered in 3 runs, but that was all she wrote. We ultimately lost 7-3, as the D-Squad bullpen – led by Justus Sheffield giving up 2 runs in 1 inning – was employed to finish out the string.

I had reduced hopes for Sunday, with Yusei Kikuchi going, but he did all right (5 innings, 1 run). It’s weird that a guy who generated 8 strikeouts and only threw 76 pitches wasn’t graced with a sixth inning to pitch through, but I’d put the loss of this game half on Servais (for making the call) and at least partially on Kikuchi himself (for being so unreliable lately, that the team felt it had no choice but to get out from under his start before he had a chance to ruin things). Either way, Anthony Misiewicz gets a good chunk of the blame all by himself, as he came in and immediately fell apart, getting zero outs and giving up 3 runs. Eric Swanson gave up another run later on, and the offense just couldn’t do enough. We went into the ninth inning down 5-2 (Haniger and Moore homered earlier), before Kelenic hit a 2-run bomb to pull it to 5-4. But, the rally died there.

That’s yet another inexcusable series defeat by the Mariners. Add that to us losing 3/4 at home to the Royals and losing 5/6 to the Tigers in the first half of the season; what is it with us getting demolished by shitty teams?

The Red Sox came to town to start their series yesterday; this is REALLY do-or-die stuff here. Other than our remaining games against the A’s, this is the last chance we have to directly affect a team in the wild card hunt with us. Winning this series isn’t just ideal, it’s mandatory. Sweeping would be ideal, of course, but it’s hard to see that happening. Yesterday was a good start, though.

The Mariners Swept The Diamondbacks, Part I

I’m really setting myself up for disaster with this title.

Friday’s 6-5 victory was even wackier than the usual wackiness we’re confronted with on a near-daily basis with the Mariners. Tyler Anderson was absolutely DOMINATING through six innings, giving up just the one run and keeping his pitch count crazy-low. It wouldn’t have been outside the realm of possibility to see him get the CG, or at least get through eight innings unscathed.

But, that seventh came around and the train jumped the tracks, killing a town full of people and one medium-sized orphanage. He got zero outs, ultimately giving up two runs in the process, and the M’s required two relievers to get out of the inning with a tie ballgame. Just like that, a 5-1 lead was wiped out. The offense THOUGHT they’d done enough, with a Tom Murphy RBI walk in the first, and 2-run homers by Haniger and Kelenic in the fifth and sixth, respectively.

Thankfully, Steckenrider and Sheffield (reliever extraordinaire!) were the tourniquet that got us to extra innings. From there, a Kelenic single gave the Mariners an unearned run advantage, while Yohan Ramirez worked a clean bottom of the tenth to get his second save of the season.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know a lick about what happened Saturday; all I remember is I had terrible sleep, with this recurring nightmare that the Huskies somehow lost to Montana at football less than a year after losing to them at basketball (but I know that can’t be true). It appears that Marco Gonzales had a get-me-over five innings, giving up five runs on 8 hits (including 2 homers) and 1 walk, while striking out 2. He only ended up with the win because the Mariners managed five runs of their own through four innings, before Seager hit his second 3-run home run of the game in the top of the sixth. The 8-5 victory was cemented then and there, with both bullpens doing excellent work the rest of the way.

Other than Seager’s 2 for 5 day with 6 RBI, J.P. Crawford went 4 for 5 with 2 runs and a 2-RBI single. Toro and Marmolejos both had multi-hit games, and Haniger, France, Kelenic, and Torrens all chipped in with one hit apiece. Diego Castillo returned from the IL to get the save in this one.

The sweep didn’t come easy, even though the Mariners won Sunday’s game 10-4. Would it shock you to know that game went into the 11th inning? It shocked me, and I watched the whole thing!

The M’s manufactured a couple runs in the fourth to take a 2-0 lead, while Chris Flexen was predictably rolling. He finally stumbled in the sixth, though, ultimately giving up three runs before his day was done. Thankfully, the Mariners got right back on the horse in the top of the seventh, where a Kelenic double play still managed to score the tying run.

That was it for a while. Swanson, Sewald, and Steckenrider got the game to extras. The M’s failed to score their ghost runner (or ANY runner, really) in the top of the 10th, but thankfully Yohan Ramirez has morphed into a reliable back-of-the-bullpen arm we can trust. He got through the bottom half unscathed, which allowed the Mariners to score 7 runs in the top of the 11th.

This is a fun one to re-live, because batting around for this team is so rare. Haniger and France walked to get things started. Then, Kyle Seager – as fire-hot as I’ve ever seen him – hit a 2-run double to make it 5-3. The Diamondbacks went to their second reliever of the inning, who gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Toro and Murphy to make it 7-3. He struck out Kelenic and got Moore to pop up before Jake Bauers pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot, who mashed a double to right to score two more, making it 9-3. That led to the Diamondbacks going with their third reliever of the inning, who gave up an infield chopper to Crawford, and a Haniger RBI single to make it 10-3. He would go on to hit France in the arm guard before getting Seager to finally ground out to end the inning.

I got my first look at Matt Andriese in the bottom of the 11th, who got as soft of a landing as you’ll ever see in an extra innings/game-ending situation. I didn’t LOVE what I saw, he appeared to struggle early – almost walking a guy before giving up an RBI single to Ketel Marte – but he settled down and didn’t require us to use a reliever we might desperately need in this Astros series coming up, so I was happy.

The Mariners are 75-62 after that sweep, and would you LOOK at THAT! We’re officially one game AHEAD of the Oakland Athletics! Huh?! That’s not supposed to happen!

We’re officially 4.5 games behind the Astros – playing our final three regular season games against them starting today – but what’s more important is we’re only 3 games behind the Red Sox for the second wild card spot. This is usually where the Mariners start to falter again – so we’re going to Houston right on cue – but it’s still amazing that it’s Labor Day and we’re RIGHT THERE in the thick of it!

Talk to me again in three days and we’ll see where I’m at. But, what a wild ride, huh?

The Mariners Extended Dipoto & Servais As They Try To Contend Down The Stretch

After just totally biffing it against the Royals, the Mariners played three winnable games against the Astros, winning two of them in shutout fashion.

The only loss was in the series opener on Monday, where we bafflingly blew it in the 8th by turning a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 loss. Chris Flexen didn’t have his greatest stuff, but still pitched into the sixth inning, giving up just 2 runs. Casey Sadler locked it down through the 7th, giving us just enough time to take that all-too-brief lead in the bottom of the sixth.

The Astros scored their first two runs in the 1st inning, making the Flexen performance even more impressive. Jose Marmolejos – back with the Mariners after going on the warpath with the Rainiers for much of the season – hit a solo homer in his first at bat to make it 2-1. That’s where it remained until Dylan Moore – pinch hitting for Marmolejos – jacked a 2-run homer to make everyone happy.

But, then Joe Smith was tasked with handling the 8th inning. I don’t totally get it. Was Drew Steckenrider simply unavailable? Did Scott Servais lose his mind? Either way, shaky defense and even shakier pitching meant Smith gave up three singles and two runs, before he was pulled for Yohan Ramirez to get the final two outs of the inning. The Mariners were toast from there.

Tuesday saw Yusei Kikuchi take the mound, desperately needing a quality start to help save his Mariners career. And, to his credit, he went out and dominated: 7 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 4. His fastball was lively, he threw it often, and he got ahead of hitters; when he’s able to do that, good things tend to result.

The game was, nevertheless, scoreless as we headed into the bottom of the eighth. Paul Sewald got the job done in the top half against the top of the lineup, setting the stage for Kendall Graveman, who was making his first appearance in Seattle since the infamous deadline deal.

Graveman still has electric stuff, but the Mariners put a tough challenge on him. J.P. Crawford led off the inning with a walk, Seager singled after a Haniger strikeout, and Ty France was hit on the forearm to load the bases. The table was set … for Abraham Toro of all people, the very centerpiece the Mariners got back in return in the Graveman deal.

Toro got in a 1-2 hole early, whiffing hard on Graveman’s sinkers. But, he finally started making contact – fouling off three pitches while working the count even – before unloading on a sinker in the inner-middle of the plate for a grand slam. It was glorious! I’m not going to say the Mariners won the trade in that single at-bat – lord knows this bullpen has been plenty fallible in Graveman’s absence – but I’ve been a fan of Toro since we got him, and that further cements in my mind the value he brings to this team, both this season and in the years to come.

It was Graveman’s first loss of the season – and it dented his ERA pretty good – but he’s still been wildly effective for the Astros since going over there. Just, you know, not against the Mariners. Against us, he’s gone 1.1 innings and given up 5 runs. Shit, maybe he WAS the world’s greatest teammate! He’s so good, he’s STILL helping us win ballgames!

If the 4-0 shutout was impressive, Wednesday’s 1-0 shutout was truly remarkable. Logan Gilbert – another starter who’s struggled over the last month – went 5 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits & 0 walks, while striking out 4. Again, lots of fastballs and he did a good job of staying ahead of hitters.

This game saw the return of Justus Sheffield, now a reliever since his return from the IL. I don’t know if that’s a permanent move, or if that’s even a role he’s well-suited for, but he got through his one inning unscathed to get the win. Because we scored our lone run in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to a Crawford single, walks by Haniger and France, and a sac fly to center off the bat of – you guessed it – Abraham Toro. It wasn’t a deep fly ball by any means, but with Crawford’s speed – and the sun wreaking havoc on the outfielder – it was long enough.

Then, it was shutdown time. Sadler did his job in the 7th. Steckenrider returned to get two outs in the 8th (before putting two runners on), which necessitated Paul Sewald going in there for the 4-out save. Which he managed heroicly, striking out three guys in the process (while only getting into a little trouble in the 9th before slamming the door shut).

It’s a bummer we didn’t manage to take all three games – because at this point in the season, we could’ve really used the boost – but winning this series was very impressive the way we did it. The Astros have the best offense in baseball, and we absolutely shut them down!

Before the game on Wednesday, it was announced that Jerry Dipoto was extended (and promoted to President of Baseball Operations). Essentially, he’s still the GM, and he still reports to the owner, John Stanton, but clearly this is a big endorsement of his rebuild. It was simultaneously announced that Scott Servais was also extended to continue managing the ballclub; the terms for their contracts were not disclosed, so it’s unknown how long they’re under contract for.

I don’t really know of anyone who thinks Servais is a bad manager. Quite the contrary, I think most of us are really impressed with how hard he gets his guys to play for him, even when they’re lacking in talent compared to some of the elite teams around baseball. We might get blown out here and there – that’s going to happen – but we tend to be IN most of these games at the very least, and as far as the last two seasons are concerned, winning much more of them than anyone would’ve predicted.

I like Servais. I don’t have a lot of regard for managers in baseball in general; I think, for the most part, these teams sort of manage themselves. They get too much of the blame when things go wrong, and probably an appropriate amount of the credit when things go right. But, you can really see how Servais has built the culture here. It’s different than it was under Lloyd McClendon, Don Wakamatsu, Eric Wedge, and on and on dating back to the glory days of Lou Piniella. Honestly, Servais might be the best manager in all of baseball right now, and I’ve been saying for a while: I’d LOVE to see what he does with a team that’s as talented as the Astros or Dodgers or Yankees.

And, for what it’s worth, I do think Servais makes a high percentage of the correct calls when it comes to sticking with a pitcher vs. pulling him for a fresh arm. I mean, that probably has a lot to do with the analytics department, but it’s a credit to Servais that he actually follows the numbers and not just his fucking gut (*cough* Lloyd McClendon *cough*).

As for Dipoto, he’s MUCH more divisive. Fans seem to either love him and lap up the Kool Aid like the thirsty sheep that they are; or fans seem to hate him and want to ride him out of town on a rail.

I’m in the middle. If I had my druthers, we would’ve backed up the Brinks truck to Theo Epstein’s house and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse YEARS ago. But, obviously, that’s never happening. We hired Dipoto after the 2015 season, and while his moves have been hit-or-miss, I think there’s a lot unexplained from his tenure. He inherited an aging roster that was still trying to break the playoff drought. How much did ownership hamper him when it comes to tearing it all down back then and rebuilding immediately? I would argue they meddled quite a bit, with guys like Felix, Cruz, Cano, and Seager playing at the tops of their games.

It wasn’t until after the 2018 season – when we won 89 games, but again fell well short of making the playoffs – that we FINALLY committed to a real, official rebuild. I would say, by and large, Dipoto’s moves before that point were largely disappointing and underwhelming. Again, how much was he hampered by ownership, who likely limited his spending? I would argue quite a bit, with Felix’s dying contract, Seager’s bloated deal, and Cano’s albatross hanging around our neck.

I contend that SINCE the end of the 2018 season, Dipoto has been largely on fire with his trades, his under-the-radar dart-throw free agent signings, and his draft picks. In that time, he turned around a farm system that was one of the worst – if not THE worst – in all of baseball, into one of the best this year (including one publication ranking us #1 overall). The trade of Cano & Edwin Diaz for Jarred Kelenic (and others) is the big draw. But, he also pulled off the Austin Nola deal (for Ty France and Luis Torrens) and the aforementioned Graveman deal for Toro.

It hasn’t worked out perfectly since then. The Mariners really bottomed out in 2019, for instance. But, we played much better in a COVID-shortened 2020 season. And, this year, we find ourselves firmly in contention for a wild card spot with a month left to play.

You can argue that many of the young position players are failing to make the leap from AAA to the Major Leagues, but if that’s Dipoto’s fault, then it’s also on all the scouts and pundits who continue to laud these players as among the most talented of all the prospects coming up in the last two years. They’re still young-enough in their careers to turn things around. Plus, there are more prospects where they came from if they do, indeed, fail at this level.

On top of which, the Mariners have cheaped out long enough. It sounds like after having this year to analyze the guys we’ve got, the purse strings are going to be loosened, allowing us to go out and make some splashy free agent deals. Between that, and the trades we can make by having one of the best farm systems in baseball, as long as we don’t fuck things up COMPLETELY, we should be watching the Seattle Mariners in the post-season sooner rather than later.

So, no, I’m not a Jerry Dipoto hater. But, I’m also not drinking the Kool Aid completely either. He still needs to finish the job. Lots of teams throughout baseball have been in the position we’re in now. VERY few actually manage to morph into World Series champions, let alone enjoy the kind of sustained success you see out of teams like the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox.

I’ll fully believe it when I see it. Don’t do what the Mariners always do: get swindled in trades for mediocre veterans who come here and shit the bed. DO do what good teams do: ship off shaky prospects for quality starters, and let’s go win us a fucking World Series title!

The Mariners Swept The Athletics; This Is Getting Very Interesting

Sure, it was a 2-game sweep, but that’s two games we picked up on the Athletics! We’re still three games out of the wild card spot, but now we’re only one game behind Oakland, one of the two teams that stands in our way going forward.

Monday’s game was another Mariners Special. Marco Gonzales got the start and had a very Marco Gonzales kind of performance. He gave up a run in the first and a solo homer in the fourth. The offense got off to its usual slow start, which means the Mariners were down 2-0 heading into the sixth. That’s when we FINALLY got to the A’s starter on a Mitch Haniger 2-run home run to tie it up.

Then Marco did the unforgiveable. With new life, with a low pitch count, he lazily tried to sneak a Get Me Over curveball to one of the best power hitters in the game, Matt Olson, who jacked it out to right for a 3-2 Oakland lead. What are you doing, man?! You’re the leader of this pitching staff! You’ve been the Opening Day starter for the last few years! And this is how you respond to your offense climbing back into the game? When you’re just an inning away from handing it over to the bullpen; a unit that’s been so dominant this year. It’s really infuriating. If this was earlier in the game, I could understand it. You’re trying to conserve your pitch count and whatnot. But, this is late-enough in the game where you know you’re probably only going to be given three more outs to get. You need to be EXTRA careful in this situation, especially against the Athletics’ best hitter!

Marco got through the 6 innings, giving up just the 3 runs, so technically it was a Quality Start. And, yeah, the Mariners won, so how upset can I really be? But, that game really looked grim from there, and if we’re all being honest, that’s a game we lose 9 times out of 10 in a normal season.

This is not a normal season, though! The A’s had some lockdown bullpen work through the 7th and 8th innings, where the Mariners just had no chance against such filth. Thankfully, our own bullpen was able to hold serve with the D-Squad of Erik Swanson and Anthony Misiewicz. That got us to Oakland’s closer, Lou Trivino. He’s blown four saves all year, now two of them against Seattle.

Things immediately got off to a bad start for him, with Ty France hitting yet another game-tying solo homer, this time in the first at-bat of the inning. This was followed up by a Toro single and a Fraley double to put two runners in scoring position for the bottom of the lineup. Unfortunately, Kelenic and Raleigh failed to even make contact, as both struck out swinging. But, unlikeliest of heroes Jake Bauers came through with a solid single to left to put the Mariners up 5-3.

Thankfully, we did it in that spot, because I don’t want to know what this game would’ve looked like had it gone to extras. Paul Sewald was tasked with coming into the game, and you could tell right off the bat that he was fatigued and didn’t have his usual stuff. He managed to get all three hitters out that he faced, including one strikeout, to get the save. Impressive stuff!

Tuesday’s getaway day game was much more relaxing, though no less entertaining. Chris Flexen did what he does best: get deep into the game with a relatively low pitch count. He couldn’t quite get through the seventh, but he finished with 6.2 innings pitched, giving up just the one run on 6 hits and a walk, with 5 strikeouts. Drew Steckenrider came in to get the last out of the seventh … and all the remaining outs of the game! The rare 2.1-inning save!

We chased the A’s starter after three innings; he gave up an RBI single to Kelenic and a 2-RBI single to Torrens, to give the Mariners an early 3-1 lead. Then, for good measure, Kelenic and Dylan Moore both hit in an insurance run apiece in the eighth to give the game its 5-1 final.

VERY good road trip all around for the Mariners, at the best possible time. We swept the Rangers, lost two of three to the Astros, but then swept the A’s to make it 6-2 overall. That’s what REAL contending teams need to do to get over the hump!

Our reward is that we got out of Oakland early yesterday, we have all of today off, before starting a 4-game series against the lowly Royals. I’m not going to make any guarantees, because the Royals have been weirdly hot lately (winning 6 of 8 against the Astros and Cubs, at the time of this writing), but this is a team you SHOULD beat. Hopefully their magic is starting to run out by the time they get to Seattle.

The bummer of this upcoming stretch is that we play our six remaining games against the Astros in a little over a week; hopefully there will be some revenge factor on our side. That just means we MUST take advantage by beating the bad teams on the slate. Between now and September 12th, we have those six games against the Astros, but we also have 10 games against the Royals and Diamondbacks (the 9th-worst and 2nd-worst teams, by record, in the Major Leagues). Ideally, you want to be 10-6 in those games AT A MINIMUM. You should probably win 11 or 12 of those games, if you really want to make the playoffs.

This is something though, isn’t it? Meaningful baseball INTO September, who’da thunk it?!

The Mariners Traded For Diego Castillo

We learned about this one in the early evening hours yesterday, and the first tweet I saw about it – from a non-reporter – was something to the effect of, “Ho-hum, this guy’s just whatever, he’s no Kendall Graveman.” I mean, that’s very possible; he could come here and totally shit the bed, just like countless other relievers have done throughout the years, but I feel like that’s still residual reaction from the vitriol incited by the Graveman trade more than it is an accurate reflection of that person’s feelings on this deal in a vacuum.

Diego Castillo looks like he has amazing stuff! A fastball that hits triple digits, and a slider that sits in the low-90’s? Does that remind you of someone we recently traded away in the Robinson Cano deal, who was seen as the real prize of that acquisition? As we’ve seen from Edwin Diaz since putting on a Mets uniform, that combination isn’t a guarantee of a sub-1.00 ERA forever. But, I would argue that Kendall Graveman’s stuff isn’t going to remain in that otherworldly realm forever either. He’s bound to return to normal and start blowing some saves. At which point, he’ll be no better or worse than Diego Castillo.

Yes, Castillo blows some saves every now and again. That’s going to happen to just about anyone who isn’t having an unsustainably lucky/flukey season. But he’s also – assuming he stays healthy, which is a big assumption; given how hard he throws, his arm could blow at any time – going to be good-to-great most of the time. On top of which, he’s just entering his Arbitration years, meaning we can keep him for the next three seasons after this one.

He cost us J.T. Chargois – a guy we picked up off the scrap heap before this season – and Austin Shenton, a third base prospect (who, it sounds like, doesn’t have the defensive acumen to stick at third base). Think “Ty France Type” as his ultimate ceiling. So, you know, that’s tough – it sounds like he’s got the hitting part down – but this is also the first I’ve ever heard of him, so he couldn’t have been THAT elite of a prospect.

I know, I know, “what I don’t know could fill a book.” Speaking of which … it also comes in Kindle.

The Rays apparently love Chargois’ stuff, but I think they mostly like his cheapness (he’s not arbitration-eligible until 2023, so they could easily flip him this time next year if they’re so inclined). And, I’m sure they’ll get the most out of that Shenton guy, but I still like this deal for the Mariners.

Taken as a whole, it’s a Graveman for Castillo swap (a guy who’s a free agent at the end of this season, vs. a guy who will be here for three years BEYOND this season); a Rafael Montero for Joe Smith swap (two duds, but at least we’re able to recoup something for the Montero debacle); and a Shenton for Abraham Toro swap (a guy who just this year made it to the AA level, vs. a guy who is a Major League-ready prospect right now and could take a leap forward at any time); plus two prospects for Tyler Anderson (guys likely to never have much of an impact on this game, vs. a viable starting pitcher we can use starting this weekend in our push to make the playoffs).

I don’t know about you, but to me that looks like Jerry Dipoto sticking to his plan: going for it in 2021, while at the same time not sacrificing our major pieces of this rebuild.

Look, I think we learned A LOT about this team over this most recent homestand. It wasn’t a total success – we didn’t hit that 5-2 mark that I’d talked about – but it wasn’t a total failure either. It was a 4-3 homestand. If I’m being honest, kind of what I expected, in some way, shape, or form. We learned that the Mariners are indeed in contention for one of the 2021 Wild Card spots (3-1 against the A’s, one of the favorites to be in that play-in game), but we also learned that the Mariners probably aren’t in contention for the A.L. West (a lucky 1-2 against the Astros), and probably aren’t one of the elites.

Have you seen the deals they’re swinging in New York and Los Angeles? The Yankees and Dodgers are going ALL-IN on 2021 like nothing I can remember! These are mega, MEGA blockbuster trades, made by teams who are there. They’re not rebuilding, they’re BUILT. And they’re throwing any and all available minor league prospects away to get the superstars they need. And, you know what? They probably still have great farm systems plugging away behind those guys they just jettisoned! That’s what happens. That’s what success looks like.

Sure, the Mariners have a Top 5 or Top 10 farm system now, but I would argue that’s mostly top-heavy, with guys who are either in the Major Leagues right now (Kelenic, Raleigh, Gilbert), or guys who are a year or two away (J-Rod, Kirby, maybe Hancock). Now, I think it’s definitely deeper than it’s been in the last 15-20 years, but it’s not a well-oiled machine like the Yankees and Dodgers have been producing for decades. Until we get THERE, the topic of going All-In really means something. It means totally depleting what we’ve built in the minors. So, we better be good and fucking sure that we’re ready to contend NOT JUST FOR A WILD CARD SPOT, but the whole fuckin’ thing. I’m not interested in mortgaging our future just to break the playoff drought for a single-elimination play-in game. I want to be regarded as among the greats, the Astros and Dodgers and the like. I want a fucking World Series championship in my lifetime; is that too much to ask?!

So, I’m fine with these cursory deals. These players on the edge of the roster. Little upgrades here and there, while still taking shots on guys like Toro to be bigger pieces of the puzzle. While it hurts losing Graveman from a morale standpoint, you can’t say we threw him away for nothing. Castillo mitigates that loss considerably (I hope). Toro gives us a boost at second base for now (again, I hope). And we brought in a starter who couldn’t be any worse than the Bullpen Days and sub-replacement level guys we’ve been starting (almost definitely).

But, this whole “contention” business was always going to hinge on the players we have on the active roster right now, continuing to play out of their fucking minds. To be the clutchest motherfuckers on the planet. To mostly get hits with runners in scoring position, and to be the winningest team in one-run games in the Major Leagues. There’s no crazy amount of deals that was going to turn this Mariners team into that Astros team. This is it. You need the J.P. Crawfords and Dylan Moores and Cal Raleighs and Mitch Hanigers and Ty Frances and Luis Torrenses to lead the way. You need this starting rotation – held together by duct tape and fishing line – to keep us in most every ballgame. And you need this bullpen to be lockdown 9 times out of 10. Hell, maybe even 10 times out of 10, since we’re in the home stretch.

Two months to go! We are 55-48 heading into the dog days of summer. We’re 2.5 games behind the Athletics for the second wild card spot. We’re a mere 1 game ahead of the Yankees, and would you look at that! We go to their ballpark to play them on this upcoming road trip we’re on. Considering the way they manhandled us at T-Mobile Park, on top of their additions of Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo (a notorious Mariners-killer with Texas), I expect we won’t be too happy with what happens at Yankee Stadium.

But, you know, once an optimist, always an optimist.

The Mariners Probably Should’ve Been Swept By The Astros

There’s an obvious narrative going around that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. It goes as follows: the Mariners were one of the hottest teams in the league – having won four in a row over their immediate divisional rivals ahead of them in the standings – then they traded their apparent Heart & Soul of the team, Kendall Graveman, and all of a sudden are now in the tank, having lost two straight. It’s further punctuated by the fact that their last victory was an amazing come-from-behind affair where the M’s were down 7-0 before coming all the way back in dramatic fashion to win 11-8 (where, again, Graveman got the win and played a role in getting us to the point where we took the lead).

But, you know what I see when I look at this series against the Astros? I see three games the Mariners should’ve lost, and we were lucky to get the win we got.

Coming back from a 7-run deficit is as flukey as it gets. That was followed immediately by a game where we gave up a 3-spot in the top of the first and eventually found ourselves down 8-2 before coming back to lose 8-6. And then, of course, the finale saw us lose 11-4 in a game we were never even competitive in.

I mean, you can argue the wind was taken out of the team’s sails by the disappointment of seeing Graveman go to the opposing team’s clubhouse, but I think that notion is thwarted because on the very same day as the trade, you still saw this team scratch and claw to get 4 runs in the final 4 innings to make it interesting.

No, what this series featured was a clinic in disappointing Mariners starting pitching.

Monday was a disaster from the jump, as Darren McCaughan was making his Major League starting debut (recall he had pitched in the week prior, coming in after Keynan Middleton shit the bed as the Opener). McCaughan followed up his five no-hit innings by giving up 6 runs in the first in this one, ultimately managing to last 4 innings, giving up 7 runs, before being almost immediately sent back down to the minors. In case you were wondering why the Mariners traded for mediocre starter Tyler Anderson, this is why. This and all the previous Bullpen Days, where the Mariners amassed a whopping 1-8 record.

The Mariners started mounting their comeback in the bottom of the fourth, immediately after the Astros scored their 7th run, with a Cal Raleigh 3-run double. The Astros got one back in the top of the fifth to make it 8-3, but Kyle Seager hit a 3-run homer in the bottom half to cut it to 8-6. Then, Shed Long hit an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 1-run game, and you know what the Mariners do in 1-run games!

Well, usually it’s “win them”, but this time they turned it into a 3-run victory thanks to a grand slam by Dylan Moore in the bottom of the 8th inning.

To set the stage, Middleton pitched in this one as well, giving up that 8th Astros run. But, the bullpen was nails from there. Erik Swanson pitched two scoreless innings. Kendall Graveman came in for the 8th – Mariners down a run – and kept the score where it was. He doesn’t often come in when the M’s are trailing, but there was blood in the water and Scott Servais was pulling out all the stops.

Anyway, France singled to lead off the bottom of the 8th, but then two quick outs followed. Things looked grim. Jarred Kelenic – who really hasn’t been a whole lot better since being called back up – managed to work a walk. Tom Murphy – the third catcher used in this one – pinch hit for Shed Long and also walked, to load the bases. That brought up Moore, who jacked a high fastball (“fastball” in quotes, because this guy didn’t have much velo) to the upper deck in left field, knowing he had it all the way.

Fireworks continued from there, as the Astros reliever pretty clearly went headhunting for the very next batter, in this case J.P. Crawford. The pitcher would be ejected, after some choice curse words and yelling from Servais. Crawford would immediately be picked off at first, before the next reliever – now a Mariner, Joe Smith – even threw a pitch.

Paul Sewald – presumably our closer going forward – got the final three outs of the game to send everyone home happy.

That, my friends, was the environment everyone was walking into the next day, when the Graveman trade was announced. And, like clockwork, Chris Flexen showed up with a rare clunker: 4 innings, 7 runs. Nope, this wasn’t a rerun of the night before, he was literally as bad as a guy who got demoted to AAA the very same day. Hector Santiago returned from his suspension to throw 2 innings of 1-run ball, and the rest of the bullpen was scoreless from there (including Joe Smith throwing a clean inning), but 8 runs is clearly too much. You can’t expect an 11-run outburst every fucking day.

Nevertheless, Seager had a 2-run homer in the first, Kelenic had a 2-run single in the sixth, and newcomer Abraham Toro hit a 2-run homer in the ninth. You’d love to be undefeated in games where you score 6 runs, but unfortunately that’s baseball for you.

Yusei Kikuchi wasn’t QUITE as bad yesterday, but he only went 5 innings, giving up 4 runs (3 earned). On top of that, the bullpen was atrocious, as it will be from time to time, giving up 7 runs the rest of the way.

There was another Seager homer, another Toro homer, and a Kelenic bases loaded walk to give us our 4 runs. But, obviously, not enough.

Some bright spots include Seager being hot, and Toro hitting his fourth homer in four games (two with the Astros, two with the Mariners). Toro being good and shoring up the second base spot would be a great fix for the team’s chemistry woes at the moment. Him eventually taking over the starting third base job in 2022 and beyond would make this Graveman trade one of the all-time greats. So, you know, maybe stop pissing all over yourselves to dump on it.

Today’s an off-day before tomorrow’s trade deadline, so I expect to see lots of moves happening soon. Some of the rumors are CRAZY, so it’ll be really interesting to see how far Mariners management goes in trying to Win Now.

Is This Happening? Mariners Took 3 of 4 From Athletics

Last week, when I talked about the Mariners being in contention if they go 5-2 against the Athletics and Astros, I know there’s a number of ways to get to 5-2, but what I specifically had in mind was a 3-1 series win against the A’s and a 2-1 series win against the Astros. Just keep winning series, regardless of whether the teams are great or terrible.

Well, it’s four days later and here we are with a 3-1 series win against the A’s. It could all come crumbling down against a hot Astros team, but for now I’m encouraged.

What this series showed me is that the Mariners are just as good as the Athletics. That’s not insignificant, because Fangraphs still gives the A’s a 41.3% chance of making the playoffs, while the Mariners sit at an abysmal 4.9% (below even the Angels, who are somehow at 9.1%). This is in spite of the fact that the Mariners currently sit 1.5 games behind the A’s (and 4 games ahead of the Angels).

Of course, “as good as” isn’t the same as better. Even though the Mariners won the series – and lead the season series 6 games to 4 – I wouldn’t go out on a limb and say we’re better than the A’s just yet. The Mariners have their issues, and still seem like they’re inordinately lucky, but I refuse to say it’s ALL luck. The Mariners have talent, and they’re extremely strong in a number of key areas (bullpen being the top of the list), and I don’t see that going away anytime soon.

This series got off to a rough start last Thursday, though, as Sean Manaea eats the Mariners for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 7 innings, 1 run (solo homer by Tom Murphy in the 7th), 13 strikeouts. Just outstanding. Over his two appearances against the M’s this year, he’s thrown 16 innings, given up 1 run on 7 hits and 5 walks, while striking out 21. If I never see him mash the living daylights out of the Mariners again, it’ll be too soon.

Chris Flexen was game for a bit, but ultimately gave up 2 runs in 5.1 innings of work. The bullpen did their best, but Rafael Montero once again sucked any joy out of this one, giving up 2 runs in 1 inning of work. That – FINALLY – earned him his walking papers; get a load of this run over his last 8 appearances: 11 innings, 17 runs, 25 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts. That’s an epically atrocious stretch, but that was already on top of a vastly mediocre season. I mean, it’s never a good sign when a team trades for you to be its closer and you blow three saves in the first two weeks of the season. He’s been dubbed the unluckiest pitcher in baseball, but at some point you have to create your own luck, don’t you? By not being totally and completely inept? I have no doubt whatsoever that Rafael Montero will be picked up by another team and immediately reverse his fortunes. If not the rest of this year, then definitely in 2022 (and possibly beyond). At which point, I will be annoyed, but not surprised.

With that unpleasantness behind us, the Mariners started kicking asses and taking names.

Friday night saw the return of Yusei Kikuchi and his Quality Starts: 6 innings, 3 runs, 12 strikeouts. It was a shame he had to leave with a no decision, because he was dealing in this one. But, at the same time, it was frustrating to see him blow a 3-0 lead.

Cal Raleigh hit his first career Major League home run, 444 feet to right center, to put us up 2-0. Luis Torrens immediately followed with a solo homer (all in the 2nd inning), to keep his string of hotness going. With this Mariners team, giving us a tie game heading into the 7th is everything you could ask for. Both starters were out of the game by that point, and I’ll put our bullpen up against anyone’s. Indeed, the combo of Erik Swanson, Paul Sewald, and Kendall Graveman shut it down from there. While, the A’s gagged this away in hilarious fashion.

With two outs in the bottom of the 7th, Dylan Moore reached on an infield single. He stole second base pretty easily (against a left-handed pitcher, no less), before advancing all the way home on two separate wild pitches. That was it! 4-3 Mariners win!

Saturday’s game showed you how much the Mariners wanted this one. The whole weekend really had a playoff vibe, from the way the teams played, to the way the managers managed, to how into it the fans were in the stands. I had high hopes for Logan Gilbert – making his third start against the A’s in his young career – but he struggled wildly, unable to get out of the third inning after throwing 40-something pitches in that frame alone. Yet, when it was said and done, after three full innings, the Mariners were only down 3-2.

Mitch Haniger was a man possessed in this one, as he hit two home runs and was a few feet away from hitting a third (settling for a double off the wall). Indeed, he scored three of our first four runs and staked us to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth.

That looked like it might’ve been enough, but Drew Steckenrider gave up a hard-luck solo homer around the right field foul pole to a backup catcher going the other way in the 7th inning to tie it back up. That’s one of those bad omens you’d see countless times by the Mariners that would totally derail everything. Indeed, my instincts as a Mariners fan kicked in and I was convinced we’d lose it late.

But, the bullpen kept the game tied into the bottom of the 9th, where Luis Torrens led off with a single against the Athletics’ closer. Kelenic walked to move the pinch runner to second. Then, after a Shed Long strikeout, Jake Bauers walked to load the bases. After a J.P. Crawford fielder’s choice – with the infield drawn in – got the runner out at home, that set up Haniger to be the hero once again.

Except: surprise! The hero was, I shit you not, another wild pitch! Kelenic was able to easily scamper home and give us the walk-off 5-4 victory. Two games in a row where the winning run was scored late on a wild pitch; what are the odds?!

I was busy on Sunday and missed the finale; it sounds like I missed a great one! Marco Gonzales was on the hill – better the A’s than having him face the Astros, I’ll tell you that much – and he was okay. 5.2 innings, 2 runs. You’re really not asking him for much more than that, given the season he’s had so far.

Thankfully, the hitters didn’t hang him out to dry, putting up 4 runs in the bottom of the third to take a 4-2 lead to the bullpens. Seager, Torrens, and Murphy were the offensive heroes in this one, giving the Mariners just enough. Casey Sadler returned from the IL over the weekend – he was the guy taking Montero’s spot on the roster – and was dominant on Saturday, before getting touched up for a solo homer on Sunday. That was it, though, as the bullpen once again was phenomenal.

Tough break on this Astros series though, needing Darren McCaughan to make the spot start later today. It’s kind of difficult to see us winning this one, which would require us to win the next two games in a row to win the series. Not impossible, of course, but you always hate to lose that first game of a series. It doesn’t always turn out so amazingly – like it did against the A’s.

Then, after an off-day on Thursday, the Mariners embark on a massive 10-game road trip to Texas, Tampa, and New York. I know the Rangers are awful – and we get to see them a lot in the next month – but the Rays and Yankees are elite, and should pose significant tests. Are the Mariners REALLY a playoff team? Well, how we fare against the Astros, Rays, and Yankees will go a long way in determining if we are or not.

The Mariners Split Again With The Rockies

Two-game series in baseball are inherently unsatisfying. Splitting a two-game series, therefore, is unsatisfying to the tenth power (don’t ask me how the math works, I’m just the CEO here). The first game was outstanding! The second game left a bitter and confusing taste in my mouth. Without further ado.

Marco Gonzales has been a collosal disappointment in 2021, and until I hear definitively otherwise, I’m going to believe it’s because he’s secretly injured and trying to power through with mediocre stuff. Like, I’m going to need to see MRI reports, bone scans, blood test results, the works. He’s injured, is my firm belief and I’m sticking to it. See, his stuff is relatively close to what it’s been, but he’s clearly lost a bit off of his fastball. But, what’s really concerning is his command. Too many pitches are catching the heart of the plate, and as a result are either getting mashed or just missed getting mashed. I think it’s more the lack of command that his alleged injury is affecting. He’s trying to gut through the pain, which means he’s losing focus on where the pitches should be going. That’s my theory! Prove me wrong.

Anyway, Gonzo used smoke and mirrors to get through 5 innings, giving up 2 runs. His pitch count was in the 80’s, so under normal (healthy) circumstances, there would’ve been no question that the erstwhile Mariners ace would’ve gone out for one more frame. But, he was already starting to get hit around pretty good in his last couple innings, so it was beyond appropriate to pull him.

It also didn’t hurt that the M’s put up a 4-spot in the top of the sixth to give Marco a 4-2 lead. Cal Raleigh had his coming out party in this one, recording his first Major League hit (a bloop single to center), his first Major League RBI (a 2-run double in the aforementioned sixth inning), while walking once and scoring a run. Dylan Moore capped the scoring in the sixth with a 2-run homer. And Ty France hit a 2-run double in the seventh to add to the fun.

The only black spot on the bullpen’s ledger was a 2-run home run by C.J. Cron off of Paul Sewald in the eighth. Otherwise, Kendall Graveman had little trouble getting his 9th save of the season.

The game on Wednesday was yet another bullpen start that the Mariners lost. What is our record in Bullpen Day games? One of these days I’m going to go through the schedule and try to find out.

Literally everything was stupid and annoying about this one, starting with Keynan Middleton getting the “start”, going 1 inning, and giving up 5 runs on 5 hits and a walk. It’s especially galling because we’d called up Darren McCaughan from Tacoma to fill the bulk of the game’s innings. I hate the Opener in baseball. I think it’s fucking stupid and backfires more often than it is supposed to help. The idea seems based in logic – you get a hard-throwing “good” reliever in there to take out the first 3-4 batters (usually a team’s best hitters), then you give a mediocre starter a soft landing by having to face those batters fewer times over the course of his outing – but it rarely seems to work out as intended. Maybe because a reliever in a starting role gets in his head about it, maybe because the opposing team is more geared up to face the super hard stuff early in games. I don’t know! What I do know is that in this game, Middleton faced all 9 of Colorado’s batters. Meaning that when McCaughan entered the game, he had to start with the top of the lineup regardless.

What’s worst of all is that McCaughan was great! He threw five no-hit innings, giving up 1 run on 3 walks (technically, it was 2 walks and two sacrifices in the fourth inning, but he did give up 3 walks in total) and 0 strikeouts. No one is saying McCaughan is an immediate solution to our starting rotation woes, but as a spot starter, you could do worse. Indeed, the Mariners have done worse this year. A lot worse. In this very game no less!

Seager, Torrens, and Haniger all hit solo homers in this one, as we lost by a respectable 6-3 margin. Oddly enough, you could argue all three of these guys are on the trading block as we head into the July 31st trade deadline. I’m sure we’ll have more to say on the matter next week, but just keep an eye out for those guys.

All right, here we go! Are you ready for this? Four home games against the Athletics, followed by three home games against the Astros. The two teams ahead of us in the American League West standings, and the team (A’s) directly ahead of us in the Wild Card standings. It’s crazy that these games hit just as we’re sliding into the trade deadline, because these next seven games could really make or break our season. If we go 5-2 or better, I think you have to admit the Mariners are officially in contention for a playoff spot. If we go 3-4 or worse, I think it’s probably safe to say the Mariners are who we thought they were.

Not for nothing, but if the Mariners go 4-3, the season automatically shuts down and the World Series is canceled. I don’t make the rules! I’m just your humble servant reporting the news.

In prior years, this is always when the Mariners have face-planted. But, 2021 feels different somehow. I dunno, it could be an interesting next seven days.