The Mariners Traded For Teoscar Hernández

It’s our first big deal of the offseason! The Mariners sent Erik Swanson and prospect Adam Macko to the Blue Jays for outfielder Teoscar Hernández.

Hernández, you may recall, hit two home runs off of Robbie Ray in that 10-9 wild card clinching performance, so there’s a little bit of a reverse If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em thing going on. We’re stuck with Robbie Ray for a while, so we might as well acquire all the guys who kick his ass.

Expanding beyond that, though, it’s hard not to see this as a huge upgrade for our offense and specifically for our outfield. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know what he brings to the table defensively, but that didn’t stop us with Winker or anyone else. My guess is he’ll slot into left, which will still free us to re-sign Mitch Haniger and possibly platoon him in right with Kelenic or whoever else we bring in.

I should point out that I’m under the assumption we’re going to cut and run with Winker, so this feels like his replacement, and a huge upgrade at that. Whereas Winker struggled to hit for power in Seattle, Hernández should have no problem whatsoever. He’s among the league leaders in hard hit balls. He has a track record of 20+ home runs in 4 of the last 5 years (the holdout being the 2020 COVID year where he still hit 16 homers in 50 games). He’s also hit for a pretty good average in each of the last three years.

This type of deal doesn’t come without downsides, though. He’s going to strike out a lot. Like, A LOT a lot. I also wouldn’t expect a huge on-base percentage boost out of him. He’s here to sit in the middle of our lineup and mash dingers; being our 5th hitter is probably his most likely landing spot. If I had to venture a guess at our lineup – extremely premature, I grant you – it’ll look something like this:

  1. Julio (CF)
  2. Ty France (1B)
  3. TBD (SS/2B)
  4. Suarez (3B)
  5. Hernández (LF)
  6. Raleigh (C)
  7. TBD (RF)
  8. TBD (DH)
  9. Crawford (2B/SS)

I’ll be curious to see how this morphs and changes over the offseason.

Anyway, the other main drawback is that Hernández is on the final year of Arbitration. He’s set to earn a reasonable amount of money in 2023 (projected anywhere from $10-$14 million), but he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2024. Presumably, if we like his fit, we could extend him during the season. But, by the same token, presumably he’ll want to see free agency and cash in as a guy who just turned 30 this past October.

In spite of the rental status – and the fact that he’s another righty, when we could really use a quality left-handed bat in the middle of our lineup – I would do this trade 100 out of 100 times. We’ll see if it pans out, of course, but knowing what we know now, the cost isn’t extreme.

We lost Erik Swanson, which is tough, but not heartbreaking or anything. He had a great 2022 season – after a few years struggling with command/control – but I don’t know how sustainable his stuff is. The key was figuring out a quality Out Pitch, which he seems to have found. But, his fastball doesn’t seem all that impressive; this really feels like we’re selling at the height of his value. We got an elite 2022 season out of him (1.68 ERA in 57 games), but he didn’t often have to take on those high-leverage situations, since we had more elite relievers ahead of him. I was happy we were finally able to get him into a playoff game – in that 18-inning barnburner – but it was odd that it took us five games before we finally trusted him enough to let him in there (and, even then, it wasn’t until the 13th inning).

My ultimate feelings about Swanson are largely positive, even though his career in Seattle started out very negative. He came over with Justus Sheffield in the James Paxton trade, with both guys expected to be starters. Swanson was converted to a reliever fairly quickly -after making 8 starts in 2019 – but even then he looked mediocre-to-bad. So, I was quite impressed with how he worked on his craft and continued to improve every season. I wish him nothing but the best. He might not ever be an elite closer or anything, but he should be a steady presence for years to come.

I don’t know anything about the other pitcher we sent over. Apparently he’s a lefty starter from A-ball. So, he’s a lottery ticket. Odds are, he won’t be anything. And, if he DOES turn into someone great, we’ll all be screaming about it in a few years.

Solid start to the offseason, but there’s a lot more left to do.

What I’d Like To See The Mariners Do This Offseason

It’s impossible to predict the fluctuation of outcomes from individual players year over year. A guy might’ve had a great 2022, then all of a sudden goes in the tank due to injuries, private personal matters, or just total randomness. Baseball can be INFURIATING in that respect.

That being said, there doesn’t appear to be quite as many holes to fill this offseason as usual. Coming off of back-to-back 90-win seasons – the latest being a playoff run into the ALDS – that’s a good problem to have. It’s also one we’re not used to experiencing, as Mariners fans. I almost don’t know what to do with myself!

The starting rotation, for instance, looks to be set, barring trades. My hunch on the order goes like this:

  • Luis Castillo (R)
  • Logan Gilbert (R)
  • Robbie Ray (L)
  • George Kirby (R)
  • Marco Gonzales (L)

Is it perfect? No. But, I think the top end is good-to-elite, and I think the two lefties are solid innings eaters. The depth beyond those five guys is a little suspect, as I don’t know if any of our upcoming minor league starters are ready to ascend (or will even be with the club, since they present as our biggest trade chips), but we at least should have Chris Flexen around as a long relief arm/injury replacement starter.

I would say the bullpen is largely set too, though of course there’s room to tinker. We’ve got the following arms under contract (among a host of others):

  • Andres Munoz
  • Paul Sewald
  • Erik Swanson
  • Matt Brash
  • Diego Castillo
  • Penn Murfee
  • Matt Festa

We probably need another left-handed reliever or two, but that’s what Spring Training is there for. We go out and find underappreciated rejects and turn them into monster relievers. I’m sure there are guys out on the scrap heap looking to turn their careers around in Seattle.

The major holes are where you’d expect: the everyday lineup.

Right off the bat, Mitch Haniger, Carlos Santana, and Adam Frazier are all free agents. That’s your starting right fielder, DH, and second baseman. Then, there’s the whole Jesse Winker fiasco, so you’re probably looking at a need to replace your left fielder.

Coming at it from the other direction, we look solid-to-great at center field (Julio), third base (Suarez), first base (France), catcher (Raleigh), and short stop or second base (Crawford).

Internal depth pieces include Kelenic, Toro, Lewis, Haggerty, Moore, Trammell, and Torrens. I don’t think we should be confident in any of those guys. I like Haggerty a lot, but I wonder if he’ll get exposed the more he plays. I like Kyle Lewis a lot, but he can’t stay healthy with his chronic knee issues that probably prevent him from playing everyday outside of DH (and, considering how bad he was at the plate this year, you have to wonder if he even has value with his bat anymore). Trammell, Toro, and Torrens all look to be Quad-A players not to be trusted with starting jobs. And Kelenic is the real wild card in all of this. Highly touted, highly regarded throughout his minor league career, but definitely stalled out at the Major League level. Is it possible for him to figure it out? Of course. But, will he do so in a Mariners uniform? That’s a huge question.

It’s frustrating to see so much of the outfield in flux, because that looked like our area of greatest strength. It was supposed to be Julio, Lewis, and Kelenic for the next 5-10 years. Now, it looks like we’ve hit on 1 out of 3.

I’d love for Mitch Haniger to stick around, but clearly he too can’t stay healthy. The smarter play feels like we should let him move on to another team. Which is a tough pill to swallow, because he’s exactly the kind of guy you want. Works hard, plays quality outfield defense, hits for good average and power when he’s healthy, great teammate. But, if he’s spending more time in the training room than out on the field, that’s not a guy you can count on.

I’m already at the point where I think Winker needs to go, but his value has taken such a sharp hit this year, I don’t know what you’d get in return. The smart play might be to get rid of him anyway, because his attitude and alleged lack of work ethic might be a bigger detriment than whatever good we might squeeze out of positive regression, but I can see why the organization might want to avoid having to replace BOTH corner outfield spots. There’s also the chance that, you know, his severe surgical injuries might have hampered him just a bit. So, maybe he’s on the short list for a bit of positive regression.

Even though the Mariners are in the best spot they’ve been in since 2001, it’s not like this is an EASY fix. Two outfielders, one middle-infielder, and one big bat to DH and maybe help out in the field on occasion.

I think the middle infielder is the key. I think we have to sign one of the big bats that hit the market in free agency to either play short stop (and move Crawford over to second) or second base. From there, I think you take a shot in free agency at a quality outfielder, but more likely will have to make a trade for that guy. Then, as for the other outfielder, I think you maybe find someone to platoon, with the other platoon partner being an internal candidate (either Kelenic, Haggerty, or Moore, whoever produces best in Spring Training). As for the DH, find some vet akin to Carlos Santana (only maybe slightly younger and more spry) who can fill in at first base in a pinch, to give France regular days off to DH in his place.

The Mariners should have a decent amount of money to play around with, so I’m hoping there’s at least one big splash. The trade candidates can be guys with 1-2 years left. Maybe we can flip Winker for someone else’s problem, in a greener pastures sort of situation.

The big story this offseason is where will Aaron Judge go. He’s going to get half a billion dollars, easy. Is that someone I’d want in a Mariners uniform? I dunno, how well did it go the last time we signed away a former Yankees superstar?

Here’s the deal: I would be thrilled if the Mariners signed Judge to play right field. As we all would. In the short term, pairing him with Julio and the other guys on our roster is only going to make them the most formidable pairing in baseball. But, there’s a reason why his numbers have been so insane with the Yankees, and that’s because he plays half his game in Yankee Stadium. Hitting homers there is as easy as breathing. If he moves to Seattle, expect a DRAMATIC downturn in his number of homers. He hit 60+ this year? You might bank on him hitting 40+ with the Mariners. I’d say the 30-40 range is more likely. And that’s assuming he stays healthy.

Of course, long term, I think that contract will be a disaster. What worries me is if it’s a disaster from the start. Think Albert Pujols when he joined the Angels. He went downhill almost immediately, and they had to endure a decade of his creaky knees.

I’d rather put that money into a short stop who’s a better long-term fit, and then trade for a value bat in the outfield. That’s easier said than done, obviously. But, I will say that now that we’ve had this success, and we’ve got a lot of our core locked up, Seattle is a more attractive place to come and play. Obviously, it’s not perfect. There’s a lot of travel involved. The home park isn’t easy, especially in the colder months. But, locating the right guys who fit our dynamic and what we’re trying to do offensively will be critical to getting over the hump.

As Napster guy said to Facebook guy in The Social Network, “The wild card isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Winning the division and getting a top two seed.”

2022 Seattle Mariners: In Memoriam

It’s fun to look back at my prediction post to see what I thought about the Mariners heading into the season. Long story short: I was right about some guys, VERY wrong about some guys, and I had this team pegged as an 84-win squad who would go on to miss the playoffs once again.

It’s funny how this season ebbed and flowed. We started out 11-6, which kind of gets lost in the shuffle in the narrative to this season, because the next stretch was so terrible. As late as June 19th, we were infamously 10 games under .500 at 29-39 (meaning in that span of almost two months, we went 18-33). Then, amazingly, we finished the year 61-33 (winning at a .649 clip), including a 14-game winning streak to close out the first half. This was a year removed from another 90-win Mariners team who had a pretty shabby record in May/June before turning it on the rest of the way. The main difference is that we had three wild card teams to go along with three divisional winners making the playoffs in each league. So, this time around, 90 wins was just enough.

There are so many fun storylines that came along this year, with the top being Julio Rodriguez. He’s a superstar! He’s the superstar we’ve been waiting for since Ken Griffey Jr. left. He hits for average (.284), he hits for power (28 homers, 25 doubles, 3 triples), he steals bases (25 against 7 caught stealing), he plays tremendous defense in center field, and he’s by all accounts a fantastic leader and teammate. He’s everything you could want in a 6-WAR player, and oh by the way, he also had an absolutely atrocious month of April before figuring out how to play at this level. Meaning he did all he did in 5 months, which is absolutely incredible. He’s your American League Rookie of the Year, and unlike the last Mariners ROY (Kyle Lewis), he figures to play at a high level for many years to come (hence the humongous mega-deal he signed during the season).

You know who else was a really cool story? Cal Raleigh! He struggled in 2021, and was off to another rough start in 2022, to the point where he was briefly sent back down to Tacoma to work on some things. He ultimately was forced to return due to catcher injuries, but this time he made the most of it. He doesn’t hit for much average, but he was among the best catchers in the game with his power (27 homers, 20 doubles, and one improbable triple) and he obviously has a great defensive game (both in handling pitchers as well as throwing runners out and pitch-framing). As far as Pleasant Surprises go, he’s way up there for me and a lot of Mariners fans.

Another guy I wasn’t expecting a ton from was Eugenio Suarez. I wondered – as did many people – if his best days weren’t behind him. Instead, he was probably the best version of what he can be: a 4-WAR player who hit 31 homers, 24 doubles, and 2 triples. He also played very good defense at third base, and is amazingly an upgrade over what we had with Kyle Seager over the last few years. His batting average isn’t stupendous, but his on-base percentage is very good.

One more pleasant surprise before we get to the guys we expected to be good, and that’s Sam Haggerty. It’s a rough go that he wasn’t able to make it to the playoffs – suffering a major injury in the final week of the regular season – but as a bench guy, he finished with 2.2 WAR. It got to the point that he forced his way into an almost-everyday role on this team (bouncing around from various outfield AND infield spots) through sheer grit and talent. I don’t know what his role is long-term, but he’s one of those guys every playoff team needs: someone who hits for average, plays amazing defense, and will steal you a money bag in a pinch.

We got Ty France and J.P. Crawford through almost a full season intact, and they produced about as well as you’d expect, with 3.0 and 2.8 WAR respectively. I think you’d still look to improve at one of the middle infield spots this offseason (potentially moving J.P. over to second), but you have to like what both of these guys give you, as far as leadership and production go. Ultimately, you wonder how both of them will handle the rigors of a full season (as nagging injuries seem to creep in and sap their effectiveness as the season wears on), but for now I have no complaints.

Finally, pour one out for Mitch Haniger and Carlos Santana. Both were on the final years of their respective deals (Santana was a trade acquisition who didn’t hit a lot, but when he did, they seemed to be in the biggest of moments). Santana is probably washed as an everyday bat, while Haniger proved once again that he can’t stay healthy for a full (or multiple) season(s). I would say Haniger was great while he was in there, but even with his 1.4 WAR across 57 games, he still went in the tank for long stretches (and didn’t really give us much in the playoffs).

As far as pitching goes, there are plenty of kudos to go around. Logan Gilbert led the squad in WAR with 3.2. He built on his impressive rookie season with an even better one, throwing 185.2 innings in 32 starts. It looks like Gilbert is going to be a workhorse for many years to come.

On Gilbert’s heels came George Kirby, who had a similar rookie year this year to Gilbert’s last year: very restricted innings, yet still impressive output. What Kirby had this year – which Gilbert never got a chance to show last year – was a phenomenal playoff run. You would expect Kirby to have a similar increase in his innings next year, followed by the training wheels coming all the way off in 2024.

Luis Castillo was our big deadline acquisition, and he showed why the cost was worth it. To the point that he earned himself a long-term extension to stick around and be this team’s ace for the foreseeable future. He’s like a harder-throwing Felix with a similarly-impressive change up.

Robbie Ray was the leader of the pitchers throughout the year, but he had a number of rough patches to endure. His start was rocky as hell, until he started incorporating his 2-seam fastball. That led to improved results, but ultimately it seemed like he struggled against better teams. I don’t know what tweaks are in his future, but he’s going to need to rein in his command if he’s going to be worth the huge wad of money the Mariners are giving him over the next few years.

The rotation was wildly healthy this year, which is pretty insane. Marco Gonzales did Marco Gonzales things, finishing pretty well in line with his career norms, throwing 183 innings across 32 starts, and being about league average as you can get. Chris Flexen also did Chris Flexen things, and earned himself a nice little bump in pay in 2023 (to be this team’s long reliever, I guess, if he’s not traded at some point).

The bullpen – for the second year in a row – was this team’s heart and soul, and they needed every bit of the talent on offer. What’s interesting is that – aside from Sewald – we got it from a gaggle of new guys. Andres Munoz was the obvious breakout star, throwing 100+, with a 90+ slider. But, Erik Swanson dramatically improved his game, Penn Murfee was a nice surprise, Matt Festa was a competent arm, Diego Castillo got better once he was dropped from the highest-leverage spots, and Matt Brash was a revelation once the team demoted him from starter to reliever. If Brash sticks with relief, I think the sky is the limit with this kid, which is great news when you figure he’ll slot alongside Munoz and Sewald for the next few years at least.

It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops for the 2022 Mariners, though.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jesse Winker was this team’s biggest disappointment. He came over in that first big trade with the Reds (alongside Suarez), and everyone pegged Winker as the cornerstone of that deal. For good reason, because all Winker has done is produce at the plate in his Major League career. Especially in 2021, when he played at an All Star level.

Winker’s production fell dramatically this year. He suffered the Seattle curse. At home, his slash line was .203/.331/.294; on the road, it was dramatically higher: .232/.354/.382. 10 of his 14 homers came on the road. Ironically, the book on him was that he struggled against lefties but crushed righties; however that flipped for some bizarre reason in 2022. Across the board he was better against lefties, which is crazy to me!

The final nail in the coffin appears to be his work ethic, and his chemistry in the clubhouse as a result of that (lack of) work ethic. I’ll say this: I agree with Divish, I don’t think he looks very strong or athletic whatsoever. His defense isn’t just mediocre, it’s an outright liability. Sure, his eye at the plate is pretty strong, but you can’t build a career on crap defense and walks. That’s not going to work on a team that has a razor-thin margin for error when it comes to our offensive struggles at times. This is a team with a whole lotta alpha dogs who are in it to win it. I don’t know what Winker’s vibe is exactly – he struck me as an easygoing, comedy relief type of presence, but I don’t know if that’s totally accurate given the RBF we’ve come to witness so often – but clearly it doesn’t mesh with this team. Either he gets traded, or they try to make it work with an offseason meeting of the minds. My hunch is we cut and run, though I hope there’s at least a little value, since I think his bat would play in a friendlier offensive environment.

Adam Frazier was also a pretty significant offseason acquisition that was also a major disappointment. You bring in a guy like Frazier for his high batting average and on-base percentage. Competent defense at second and in the corner outfield is a bonus, but he’s supposed to be a regular baserunner for other guys to hit in. That’s what makes his 2022 season so befuddling, because his bat SHOULD play anywhere he goes. We’re not relying on him to be a dynamic power source like Winker, we just want him standing on first base for other guys to knock him around. He only turned 30 this year, so he should still be close enough to his prime to be effective. But, regardless, he started in a pretty deep hole and could never fully get out of it, in spite of occasional hot stretches. As I mentioned, there’s room for improvement up the middle, but that was always going to be the case. Frazier was on a 1-year deal, so we were going to have to look to fill this spot either way. Between left field and second base, we need to find at least ONE bigtime bat to help prop up this offense to get closer to league-average in scoring.

I’ll just rattle off really quickly: the other major disappointments were Luis Torrens, Abraham Toro, and Jarred Kelenic.

Kelenic had a fantastic finish to his 2021 season, which gave us all hope that he’d be here to stay in 2022. Instead, he sucked hard in the early going, spent MOST of the year down in Tacoma, had a nice little blip in the last couple weeks of the regular season, but ultimately wasn’t able to continue that through the playoffs. There’s still a lot he needs to do to be a more consistent Major League presence, and I just don’t know if he’s ever going to stick in Seattle.

Toro was a deadline acquisition in 2021 who has had a number of big hits in clutch moments, but by and large he’s been atrocious. He had to play for the Mariners quite a bit this year due to injuries and ineffectiveness around the roster, but he’s a huge wad of nothing. Time to move on.

Torrens, we thought, figured out his bat in 2021, and was supposed to be a steady middle-of-the-order type of guy, either as a backup catcher, or as this team’s DH. But, once again, he fell off the map and found himself DFA’d. He passed through without anyone claiming him, so we were able to get him to Tacoma until late in the regular season, when he returned to Seattle (with Raleigh’s injury issues) and saw an uptick in his offensive production again. I couldn’t tell you what his future holds, but I’ll go out on a limb and say the Mariners need improvement at backup catcher.

I don’t have a ton of complaints about the pitching. Again, it would be nice if Robbie Ray was better against good teams, since we clearly need him if we’re going to make it back to the playoffs. It was also disconcerting to see Sewald get beaten around so much late in the year. But, other than some minor quibbles, most of the guys who sucked (Steckenrider sure didn’t last long, did he?) were jettisoned in a timely fashion.

The overarching analysis for the 2022 Mariners is a rousing success. We made the playoffs for the first time since 2001! Even if it was last year’s playoff format, we would have made it to the Wild Card play-in game, and we would have prevailed to advance to the ALDS. So, I’m not taking anything away from the Mariners. Quite frankly, it’s insane there haven’t been more playoff teams for a while now. After a 162-game season, there needs to be proper representation! There are so many good teams in baseball who deserve a shot every year, why deprive markets of fun opportunities?

This is a team that outperformed expectations. It’s also a team that can easily keep things going, barring injuries. A couple of key additions should leave us contending for the A.L. West next year. And, as long as we don’t totally strip the farm system, there should be enough studs coming up through the pipeline – especially on the pitching side – to keep us playing at a high level for years to come.

The last time the Mariners were good, we had a nice 9-year run of success. Unfortunately, in that span, we only made it to the postseason 4 times, and never advanced beyond the ALCS. That needs to change here. Hopefully, we have the talent and the scouting to make the leap. It’s time for the Mariners – the only team to never play for a world championship – to make the World Series. Will that happen in 2023? A lot would have to go right, but I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. Of course, the odds are super long. But, it’s just nice to have a fun baseball team to root for again. It’s been FAR too long!

The Mariners Were Swept In The ALDS

The Astros needed to record considerably more than 27 outs – 54 outs, to be precise; 18 full innings – to celebrate on our field. But, in the end, this series concluded in the most predictable way possible.

Just goes to show how critical that first game is. You hold on for game one, Saturday’s 1-0 thriller doesn’t matter quite as much.

You gotta give it up to the Mariners for fighting as hard as absolutely possible. It’s not easy to hold the Astros scoreless for three innings, let alone 17. George Kirby – who locked down the save in that crazy 10-9 Blue Jays victory – rightly got the start in game three. With the way Robbie Ray has been abused this post season – not to mention how much he’s been destroyed by the Astros all year – it would’ve been a fireable offense to start him in this series. Kirby was up for the challenge and then some, going 7 innings, giving up 6 hits, 0 walks, while striking out 5. It’s the kind of performance that gives you extreme hope for the future.

I’ll say this, between what Luis Castillo, Logan Gilbert, and George Kirby have done – especially in the playoffs – that’s as good as it gets! If you can make Robbie Ray – a former Cy Young Award winner – essentially your fourth starter (though I think he’ll slot between Gilbert and Kirby, just to change things up), that’s a rotation worth writing home about.

There were some great redemption stories for the bullpen. Andres Munoz had little trouble, striking out the side in his inning of work. Paul Sewald pitched two full clean innings, striking out 4 over 38 pitches. Erik Swanson was finally allowed to see the mound, throwing a clean inning of his own. Festa went two scoreless. Even Penn Murfee – the hard-luck loser, giving up the game-winning homer to Jeremy Pena – got out of a jam in the 17th to give us yet another opportunity to walk it off. And, finally, even Robbie Ray got us out of the 18th – getting our final two outs of the game – while keeping the game at a 1-0 deficit. I don’t think Ray is finished as a starter by any stretch – though I was as irate at him as anyone – but I think it’s time to lower our expectations going forward. He won’t be winning any more Cy Young Awards, but he can still be a fine back-end starter against lesser opponents.

Lots of amazing, elite pitching by the Mariners in this one. But, of course, the Astros did us one better. They had the luxury of throwing out a fourth elite starter (Luis Garcia) to pitch the final five innings (giving up only 2 hits in the process), and we never even came close to ending this thing in favor of the good guys.

That’s not totally true. While we could only muster 7 hits across 18 innings, Julio Rodriguez did hit a screaming double in the bottom of the eighth that was mere feet from clearing the wall. He also walked and stole second in the 13th inning, but Ty France couldn’t hit him home. Nor could Adam Frazier – the hero in that Toronto comeback – get a hit with a runner on second in the 17th.

That’s a hard pill to swallow. Made worse, of course, because it was the Astros. Fuck those frontrunning pieces of shit. I hope they suffer in the most agonizing way possible.

The Mariners Are Making People Awfully Nervous Heading Into The Final Homestand Of The Season

The off-day yesterday couldn’t have come soon enough. Let’s get everyone home on Sunday night, let’s take a day to relax and reflect, and then let’s end this season the right way.

Which, again, is with the Mariners finishing with the third wild card slot.

And don’t give me this shit about “Well, you don’t necessarily want to play Cleveland either, because they’re hot and blah blah blah.” They’re not the Astros. They’re not the Blue Jays in Toronto. Those are the teams I’m looking to avoid the most. Of course, every team that makes the playoffs is good. Of course, any team that gets to that point can go all the way; look at the Braves last year. But, it doesn’t matter how you finish the REGULAR season as long as you get in. It matters that you flip the switch when the games are do-or-die.

The Mariners have the kind of pitching that should keep them in every single game. The Mariners have the kind of hitting that’s frustrating as hell, that goes in the tank for long stretches of season, before pulling out of the nosedive and doing just enough to get this team over the hump. We’re in a nosedive now. That doesn’t mean we’ll be in a nosedive forever.

I’m still not worried. We’ve got a good-sized lead over the Orioles. We’re still only a half game behind the Rays (who have been just as bad as we’ve been over the last couple weeks, but nobody’s flipping the fuck out about the Rays). It’s fine. We’re all good here!

That being said, sure, I get the worry. We lost two of three to another bottom-dwelling team in the Kansas City Royals. That’s three series in a row, to three of the very worst teams in the American League. We just finished a 3-7 road trip against those teams, which is far from ideal. Looking big picture, I understand why people are nervous. If we’re losing to THOSE teams, how are we ever going to beat the teams in the playoffs? Well, we’ll see!

It was a 5-1 loss last Friday. Marco had a very Marco start (5 innings, 4 runs, 3 earned), and the offense was very much our offense. Cal Raleigh had a solo homer and that was that.

Saturday’s 6-5 victory was as thrilling as it gets. Logan Gilbert gave up 5 runs in 5 innings, but the bullpen came to play.

We were down 5-3 heading into the top of the sixth, where Cal Raleigh showed up once again. With a runner on, he jacked a homer to tie it at five apiece. Then, in the top of the ninth, he jacked a double (that was almost another homer) to give us the go-ahead run. Paul Sewald pitched two scoreless for the win, and Andres Munoz got his fourth save of the year.

That brought us to Sunday, where the offense very much continued that hot streak. We were up 11-2 at one point! Then, Luis Castillo fell apart in the sixth inning (immediately after signing a bigtime extension to stay with the Mariners for the next five years or whatever). He led off with a strikeout, then walked a guy and gave up a homer. Then, he walked another guy and was pulled. From there, Festa walked a guy, gave up a single to load the bases, and let someone score on a fielder’s choice. With two outs, Festa was pulled for Brash, who gave up a 2-RBI double, two walks, and an RBI infield single. Having gotten zero outs, Brash was pulled for Swanson, who gave up a 2-RBI single, a 2-RBI double, and another RBI single for good measure before the runner got thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Really, one could argue, Swanson got zero outs, but his defense saved his bacon.

So, that’s a bullpen meltdown of a lifetime! I hope we don’t see that again this year!

This was a game where the Mariners had scored 8 runs in the fifth inning, and we were somehow out-done by 11 runs in the sixth. We were down 13-11 after all that chaos, got one back on a Torrens sac fly, but the game ended 13-12. It’s a good thing everyone was watching the Seahawks blow it to give too much of a shit.

I don’t really know what else to say about a series like that. Technically, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have beaten the Royals; that was as flukey of a loss as you’ll ever see. How does 4-6 look compared to 3-7 for that road trip? Not ideal, but obviously would’ve appeared better on the surface if we’d ended it with back-to-back victories.

I’m discouraged to see Luis Castillo gag away two games to the A’s, then turn around and fuck it up so severely against the Royals. What did we get ourselves into? This better be a temporary blip; he’s supposed to be our Game One starter in the playoffs!

I’m pretty encouraged by Jarred Kelenic though. It’s an extremely small sample size and everything, but he’s got at least one hit in all four of the games he’s played in this month, with three doubles and a homer. Not to mention our outfield defense hasn’t skipped a beat with Julio hitting the IL.

We’ve got Texas tonight for the first of three. Then, we’ve got the A’s over the weekend (I’ll be there on Saturday to oversee the righting of the ship). Then, it’s 4 games in 3 days against Detroit Monday through Wednesday. Then it’s the playoffs, however that ends up shaking out. Pretty significant next 10 games, I’d say!

The Mariners Losing Games Isn’t So Much A Concern As Losing Players

The good teams can withstand a few injuries and still be great. The good teams can withstand players underperforming expectations, or otherwise going through prolonged slumps, because they have enough depth to fill things out and compete at a high level.

The Mariners aren’t there yet. The Mariners are on a shoestring tightrope they’re trying to walk, with pretty much zero depth and therefore zero margin for error when it comes to players getting injured. That’s why, this slew of guys either suffering severe injuries, or otherwise playing through nagging ones, is much more of a nightmare scenario than the Mariners having a sub-par road trip.

Julio Rodriguez had to be pulled from the outfield yesterday, as he’s dealing with back tightness that it sounds like will land him on the IL. Eugenio Suarez is famously already on the IL with an injured hand that might prevent him from playing third base again this season (rendering him as exclusively a DH, which really does a number on our team defensively). Mitch Haniger is playing through aches and pains. Ty France is playing through aches and pains (and has to try his glove at third base for the first time in years). J.P. Crawford missed yesterday with a leg issue or some damn thing. Cal Raleigh has an injured thumb on his glove hand.

This is forcing us into a position we’d rather not be in. Like having Carlos Santana out there every day (when he’s probably best served with regular rest days, at his advanced age). Like being forced to use Winker in spite of his struggles both at the plate and in the field. Like riding Sam Haggerty and Dylan Moore, when you figure both will come with diminishing returns the more they’re exposed to MLB pitching. Like playing Toro even though he’s a nonsense man with zero bat-on-ball skills whatsoever. Like taking stabs in the dark, with Kelenic called back up even though he can’t hit Major League bendy pitches (and, from what I recall, his prowess at hitting Major League straight pitches isn’t all that elite either).

Everyone feels this need for the team to fight to the bitter end for that top wild card spot, when that’s just asinine to me. Rest everyone who needs to rest – putting them on the IL for 10 days, if need be – and let’s just back into the playoffs as Wild Card #3!

There’s no way Baltimore is catching us. They play Houston for 4, the Red Sox for 4 on the road, the Yankees for 3 on the road, and the Blue Jays for 3 to close out their season. They won’t have the wins when all is said and done. And the White Sox aren’t even on my radar; they’re too far back. I don’t give two shits about the #1 or #2 wild card slots. Just give me #3 and let’s call it a season.

Meanwhile, let’s use these remaining 2 weeks to get healthy! We need all these guys for the post-season. How we finish the regular season is irrelevant! We did it! We’re good enough with the pitching we have to coast into that third wild card slot. But, if we keep pushing guys before they’re fully healed, then it’ll all be for naught.

I only care about what happens in the playoffs, against the Guardians of Cleveland, the Yankees of New York, and whoever we might face in a potential ALCS.

So, you can panic about this Oakland series all you want. It’s not phasing me. We lost 4-1 on Tuesday after managing all of one hit. Seems like a bad luck game to me more than anything (Luis Castillo falling apart against that lineup for a second time is a bit perturbing, though). We lost 2-1 on Wednesday, but that was even crazier of a scenario, where Robbie Ray went 6 shutout innings and some poor defense behind Erik Swanson doomed us.

Sanity was restored (at least for one day) in yesterday’s 9-5 victory. Sure, Julio had to leave, but Kelenic had a couple of monster hits (has he FINALLY turned a corner? We’ll see over the next week and change), and France and Haniger seem to be waking up from their slumber. It wasn’t a good outing by Kirby, but it was nice to see the offense overcome against a team they’re supposed to beat.

One final trip – to Kansas City – and then we’re home until the playoffs. We’ve only got a half-game cushion with the Rays keeping us in that third wild card spot. We’re still 4 up on Baltimore (but really we’re 5 up, since we hold the tiebreaker).

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!

The Mariners Won A Series In New York Against The Yankees

I know, I’m as shocked as you are!

It’s the Yankees and the Asstros as the top two teams in the American League, followed by a HUGE gap, followed by everyone else. And, you know, depending on the day, the Yankees are the very best. They’re impressive from top to bottom, and as they absolutely should do, they only got better at the trade deadline. You can’t say there were many holes – if any – on their active roster, but they filled them and then some, with the big gets being the outfielder from Kansas City, and the pitching package they brought in from the A’s.

Of course, the one that got away – Luis Castillo – plays for our hometown Mariners, and that might ultimately change the entire landscape of the MLB playoffs this year. Had he landed with the Yankees, there might’ve been no stopping them. But, as it is, I don’t envy any team that has to face them in the A.L.D.S.

Even though the Mariners are firmly wild card contenders, this series always felt like a lost cause to me. Much in the way the M’s fared against Houston since the All Star Break (winning 1 out of 7 games), the Yankees are flat out a better team, and it would’ve made all the sense in the world to go into New York and get swept.

And, through one game, that looked very much in play.

We went into this series a little undermanned with our bullpen, having relied on them so thoroughly just to keep it close against the Asstros in Houston. As such, we really needed Marco Gonzales to give us a quality start on Monday. He proceeded to give up a 3-run home run to Anthony Rizzo in the first, a 2-run home run to Aaron Judge in the second, and a solo homer to Jose Trevino in the fourth. I guess you could say he settled down a little bit after that, but he ultimately only made it 5.1 innings, and those 6 runs were more than enough to bury us. We went on to lose 7-2, with very few offensive bright spots to speak of.

I really want to like Marco Gonzales. He’s the kind of crafty, gritty fighter with underwhelming stuff that seems to be getting phased out of the game of baseball nowadays. And, he indeed goes through stretches where everything clicks into place and he’s able to baffle opponents with his change up and cutter combo. But, while I don’t have concrete evidence in front of me, it seems like whenever you need him to step up in a big moment, that’s the moment where he gets shelled instead.

You can’t count on him. You look at Marco’s numbers at the end of the year and they’re always kinda the same: 140-200 innings (depending on injuries), an ERA right around 4.00, and usually a winning percentage just over .500 (though this has been a hard-luck year with his 6-11 record to date). You can set your watch to Marco, and yet his route to get there is completely unpredictable. It’s not just that he gets destroyed by good teams and mops up against the bottom-feeders … sometimes he gets roughed up by those bad teams as well. I can almost guarantee he’ll come back this weekend and give us an unimpressive quality start of 6 innings and 3 runs given up, with no rhyme or reason to it.

I was a little annoyed when I saw on Twitter that the Phillies were scouting him in that game against New York, as a potential trade candidate. But, I don’t believe we would’ve traded him anyway. They would’ve lowballed us, and at this point his leadership and chemistry fit with the rest of the team isn’t worth whatever low-level prospect we would’ve gotten in return.

What would’ve been worth it is not having him under contract the next two years, when his guaranteed dollars start to balloon, but that’s neither here nor there.

I don’t know a lot about the Yankees’ starter in Tuesday’s game, but at that point it didn’t really matter who they threw out there, because their offense is so good it seemed like they’d just rake their way to victory. Nevertheless, the Mariners’ offense also decided to join the party, and not a moment too soon.

We kicked things off with a Suarez 2-run bomb in the first, followed by a Raleigh solo homer in the second. To cap it, Carlos Santana hit a sac fly in the third to put the M’s up 4-0. That only carried us to the bottom of the fourth, where Logan Gilbert gave up a 3-spot to close the gap. However, a Santana 2-run double in the next half-inning put us up 6-3, as we chased their starter.

Once again, our lead was short-lived, as Gilbert got abused in the sixth, giving up a pair of homers to tie the game 6-6. From there, it was a battle of the bullpens, and with all due respect to Seattle’s unit, this one seemed like it was slipping away.

Thankfully, the offense wasn’t done. In the next half-inning (again), Sam Haggerty (this time) hit a solo homer to put us up 7-6. Then, the resurgent Adam Frazier knocked in an insurance run in the ninth to make it 8-6.

We still needed the bullpen to hold things down though, which they did a superb job of. Penn Murfee got us out of the sixth. Paul Sewald took down the top of the order in the seventh. A combo of Swanson and Brash made it through the eighth. And, Andres Munoz got two quick strikeouts before the wheels started to fall off in the ninth. A single and two walks loaded the bases, before he got one more strikeout to finish it. Huge moment for Munoz, since there wasn’t anyone else. He was going to either get the save or wear it, and he managed to regain his command.

That takes us to our would-be pitchers duel between our respective aces on Wednesday: Luis Castillo vs. Gerrit Cole. It ended up being a pretty soft landing for our newcomer, as not only did Aaron Judge get the day off, but the M’s pounded Cole for six runs in the top of the first to blow it wide open.

There was a Suarez 3-run homer, followed by a Santana solo job, followed later by a Kelenic 2-run bomb. Cole was catching too much of the plate in that first inning, and the M’s were making him pay. To his credit, he settled down to go 6 innings, giving up just those 6 runs, but the damage was done. We added a Winker solo homer in the seventh for good measure.

Castillo was very good in his Mariners opener, going 6.2 innings, giving up 3 runs (two of them on a home run that ended his day) on 5 hits and 3 walks, with 8 strikeouts. He was hitting the upper 90’s with some nasty off-speed stuff in the high 80’s/low 90’s. Everything was as advertised; it was awesome to behold. The bullpen shut it down from there for the 7-3 victory.

The Mariners get a deserved day off today (after flying home across the country yesterday) before hosting the Angels tomorrow for a 4-game weekend series (including another scheduled doubleheader on Saturday). My how our fortunes have changed since the last time we faced off against the Angels! I’ll be curious to see if we’re met with cooler tempers this time around. I’m sure the fans will be all riled up, if that matters at all. Here’s hoping the Mariners give fans something to be riled up about.

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.