The Luis Torrens Era Comes To An End With The Mariners

Before the Mariners headed to Texas yesterday to start their road trip tonight, they made a couple more roster moves. As expected, Julio Rodriguez came off of the IL, with Jarred Kelenic being sent back down to Tacoma. This means that in the short term, Jake Lamb gets a stay of execution. But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a little disappointing with regards to Kelenic.

Kelenic started the year on the Major League roster and lasted through May 11th before being sent down. At that time, he was hitting .140/.219/.291. In this most recent stint, he appeared in nine games, and all of those numbers have managed to go down. That’s in spite of some promising developments at the AAA level, which is just demoralizing to me as a fan, so I can only imagine what it’s been like for him. Last year, after he was sent down, he returned and made an impact at the big league level. Part of me was hoping that would be the case again this year, but it’s clear there’s something broken with … whatever he’s doing at the plate. I mean, I’ve never seen a more uncomfortable-looking batting stance in my life. I feel like going back to the drawing board might be in order there.

He had 2 hits (1 of them a homer in that 6-run first inning Gerrit Cole game) in 27 at bats, with 0 walks and 11 strikeouts. I will say that the defense was still there, but you can’t really make a career out of just competent outfield defense. I think that nails it as far as 2022 being a total and complete Lost Year for him. I also think – barring a very dramatic development between now and next year – that we’re going to have to forever temper our expectations when it comes to Kelenic. In all likelihood, he’s never going to pan out, and if he does it’ll be with another franchise.

You know what gets me? He used to be so delightfully cocky. It was 90% of his charm! He was so dominant through the minors, and he really let his personality shine through in interviews. Now, all I can see is someone who appears to be internally struggling with confidence. And that’s a recipe for disaster in professional sports. I really hope he gets it figured out, but I’m not holding my breath at this point.

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This was supposed to be a Luis Torrens post, and there I go talking about Kelenic!

The other roster move the Mariners made yesterday was to call up Curt Casali off of the IL. He’s the backup catcher we traded for with the Giants, in a very necessary move to help give Cal Raleigh some rest.

Raleigh has been playing in a crazy number of games this year for a catcher, appearing in 72% so far. It’s even more impressive when you figure the M’s had a whopping three catchers on their roster to start the season, before Tom Murphy had a season-ending injury. And that also factors in a short stint in Tacoma where Cal was sent down to work on his swing (he left Seattle with a slash line of .083/.214/.208 in late April; it’s up to .207/.276/.458 now). Ever since Murphy went out – and since Cal started raking the ball – Raleigh has been playing virtually every day. Not literally, of course. Usually if there’s a day game after a night game, he’ll get a blow, but even then he might still come in to pinch hit or take care of the 9th inning catching duties.

I’m guessing, since he’s a big, strong kid without a lot of miles on his legs, the Mariners feel they can get away with it in the short term, but you can’t run him into the ground. They saw that at the deadline, and hence the Curt Casali deal.

As I mentioned at the time, Casali isn’t anything special. It’s not like we nabbed some other team’s starting catcher and brought him over here to back up Cal. He’s a clear #2. But, he’s also a competent one, by all accounts. And, unfortunately, that’s just not Luis Torrens.

Torrens came over in that famed fleecing of the Padres, where we brought in Ty France, Andres Munoz, and Taylor Trammell for Austin Nola and a couple of scrub relievers. I mean, that one goes in the Mariners Hall of Fame for best trades ever, but here we see the first chink in the armor.

Torrens’ bat was always the draw when it came to his overall package. No one ever really expected him to be an “everyday” starting catcher. I remember there being questions about him eventually moving to another infield spot. That came to a head in 2021. He was sent down early in the year because of his hitting, and when he returned he started to seriously rake, but never really got behind the plate again. He was primarily a DH, with a sprinkling of first base opportunities (and some work behind the scenes, I believe, at second or third base).

With his offensive woes seemingly rectified, he returned in 2022 with a new lease on life. We figured, again, he’d play some DH, but also opted to work him back in at catcher when we had that 3-man rotation (and Cal was struggling). That proved to be quite necessary when Murphy got hurt. I don’t remember there ever being a time this year when Torrens was the main starter – it seemed pretty simultaneous that after Murphy went on the IL, Cal took over as the team’s starter thanks to his offensive resurgence (to say nothing of his skills handling the pitching staff and calling games).

The main problem with Torrens is the fact that his offense has totally cratered. And he’s out of options, so we can’t just send him to Tacoma to work on it.

It’s a bummer. I really liked Torrens’ bat. You don’t see a lot of guys with his kind of power, especially to the opposite field (especially in Seattle). He had some big hits with the Mariners since 2020, most recently in that epic 1-0 victory over the Yankees in the 13th inning as a pinch hitter.

But, it’s becoming clear that he’s a man on an island in some respects. He’s just not what you want, defensively, from a catcher. He’s not atrocious; he’s passable. But it seems like whenever he has to take on too many defensive responsibilities, his bat goes down the tubes. And he’s not good enough defensively to make up for those kinds of limitations on offense.

Thankfully, the National League has embraced the DH, so I think he’ll be back again. I had my doubts that Daniel Vogelbach would stick around very long after leaving Seattle, and yet we still see videos of him popping up on Twitter from time to time, doing something fucking rad. Torrens is a DH, and an emergency fill-in at a couple of spots defensively. If he’s free to just focus on hitting, I think he’ll be okay and stick around a little while. Of course, he’d have more value if he hit lefty, but that’s neither here nor there.

Also, I guess there’s a slim chance that no one claims him and he accepts a demotion to Tacoma. After all, we’re one more injury away from him being back with the Mariners in that scenario. But, after his struggles this season, a change of scenery might be in his best interests.

3-DAYS LATER UPDATE: The slim chance comes to fruition! But, the M’s DFA’d Ken Giles over the weekend for some reason. That’s going to be annoying if he jumps to a contender and dominates in the playoffs.

The Mariners Won Another Wildly Impressive Series Over The Yankees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 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 Astros Put The Mariners Out Of Their Misery

The Mariners went into the weekend series against the Astros 13-2, wildly successful against the dregs of the A.L. Central, a slow-starting Red Sox team, a mediocre Angels team, and an A’s team playing the villain in Japan. This weekend was to be the first real test since Expectations shifted ever-so-slightly.

And they just pounded us into submission. On Friday, it was a more traditional pounding, as the Astros clubbed two grand slams en route to a 10-6 victory. One could almost write it off, and find a silver lining in the Mariners’ scoring 6 runs yet again, but even those good vibes were countered by the loss of Wade LeBlanc to an oblique strain that will keep him out at least two months.

That makes Erik Swanson the first of the brand new pitching prospects to get his crack on our 25-man roster. Of course, he already made a relief appearance earlier in the week, but it’s looking like he’ll take LeBlanc’s role in the rotation, which should prove interesting. I can’t envision high hopes for him right out of the gate, but this was never supposed to be about Winning Now. If he improves over time, or at least shows flashes of potential, I’ll be hopeful.

As we got to Saturday and Sunday, it was time to face the Astros’ big guns. Would the Mariners’ New & Improved lineup pose a challenge to Verlander & Cole?

Well, Verlander gave up 1 run on 2 hits while walking 0 and striking out 11. The only thing our lineup was good for was to get his pitch count moderately high. He threw 105 across 6 innings, which simply means we prevented him from going 8 or 9 innings, because seriously his shit was filthy and we had no chance whatsoever (Felix put up a nice game, though, for what he is now; 6 innings of 3-run ball you’ll take every time).

The Mariners were only marginally better against Cole, who went 6 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits, with 0 walks and 11 strikeouts on 101 pitches. Again, all we managed to do was keep their starter from the CG. Marco Gonzales did his damnedest, but he ultimately faltered in the 6th and the bullpen gave it away in the 7th.

So, now we’re 13-5. The Astros, in one 3-game series, clawed their way back to within a game of the M’s (tied in the loss column), and we can stop envisioning Ewing Theory scenarios. The 13-2 start was, as we all expected, just a hot streak that randomly happened at the very beginning of the season. The only thing the Mariners accomplished this weekend was to extend their streak of games to start a season with at least one home run, now at 18. I’ll be curious if we can get to the point where we start talking about the all-time Major League record for games with a home run regardless of whether or not it’s the start to a season.

The Mariners Messed With Some Of Texas

The last time I wrote about the Mariners, they just lost a demoralizing “home” series against the Blue Jays and were setting out on a 10-games-in-10-days road trip through the teeth of the American League West, starting with 7 down in the state of Texas.  So, let’s get into it.

Well, it feels like a million years ago, but last Monday we got a much-needed 12th inning win to open up the series against the Rangers.  Wade LeBlanc pitched exceedingly well, but was pulled with one out in the 7th after giving up just 2 hits all day on 82 pitches.  Newcomers Adam Warren and Zach Duke continued their Sucking For The Seattle Mariners campaign, giving up the tying runs, but the rest of the bullpen was good enough to keep it scoreless the rest of the way.  In the 12th, the M’s manufactured the go-ahead run, and Edwin Diaz came in to lock down his 42nd save.

Well, it feels like we’ve talked about it a million times, but last Tuesday was Felix’s last turn in the Mariners’ rotation for a while.  He got off to a great start, keeping it scoreless through two innings, then he (and the defense, thanks Kyle Seager) just fell apart.  Since our bullpen was so wiped out from the previous evening’s game, Felix had to wear it, giving up 11 runs (7 earned) in 6 innings.  I wish I could’ve seen the game where we had a clean defensive effort, because even though Felix was giving up hard contact, it was right at guys (Seager) who should’ve made those plays.  I know you can’t assume double plays (which is why he gave up as many earned runs as he did), but if we did assume some of those double plays, I think Felix would’ve looked a lot more competitive.  But, it is what it is, and you don’t yank a legend from the rotation based on one start alone.  He was essentially going start-by-start, and might’ve indeed been on borrowed time based on his prior outings.  You know how I feel about it; it makes me sad and I never would’ve pulled him from the rotation no matter how he pitched, but I’m in the obvious minority and it has no basis in reality or rooting for this team to succeed.  In almost every situation, I’m a fan of the team first and the player second; in this case I’m a Felix Hernandez fan first, and a Mariners fan, like, 10th.

In spite of that effort, the M’s had a chance to at least win the series, with the reliable Marco Gonzales on the mound, but it wasn’t meant to be.  He just didn’t have it – giving up 7 runs in 5 innings – and while the Mariners were able to put up 7 runs of our own, that wasn’t enough to power through these new bullpen arms.  Zach Duke gave up 4 runs on 4 hits in the 7th inning while only getting 2 outs, and there’s your ballgame.  What a fucking disaster of an addition.

So, yeah, heading into a 4-game series with the Astros, it was looking pretty grim.  On top of it, the Astros apparently shuffled their rotation so we had to run the gauntlet.

Game 1 – Paxton vs. Verlander.  The M’s knocked Verlander out after 2 innings (giving up 6 runs in the process), and we were able to hold on for an 8-6 win (Diaz got his 43rd save).

Game 2 – Leake vs. Cole.  Cole pitched into the 8th inning, but we were able to touch him up to the tune of 4 runs.  Leake went 6, giving up 2, and the bullpen held on for a comfortable 5-2 victory (Diaz got his 44th save).

Game 3 – LeBlanc vs. Morton.  Again, the M’s were able to get to their starter a little bit, as Morton went 6, giving up 3; and again, the Mariners’ starter held his own (LeBlanc went 5, giving up 2).  Both bullpens were clean in this one, and we won a nailbiter, this time 3-2 (Diaz got his 45th save).

Game 4 – Ramirez vs. Keuchel.  Erasmo Ramirez took Felix’s spot in the rotation, coming back from the DL.  Ramirez didn’t look great in the minors, but the M’s didn’t need great, they just needed reliable.  He gave us all more than we ever could’ve expected, going 5 shutout innings before giving way to the bullpen.  Alex Colome had pitched the three days prior, so he was out.  That left everyone else in play, which equates to Diaz (for a 4th game in a row) and a bunch of twits.  We were able to get 2 runs off of Keuchel, in his 7 innings of work, but we couldn’t hold that 2-0 lead for long.  Pazos and Vincent were the turds in this one, giving up 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th.  Shockingly, Warren and Duke were real heroes, putting up zeroes in multiple innings of work for each of them (by multiple innings, I mean 4 outs apiece).  The Mariners were able to spoil a save opportunity in the 9th, with a homer by Ryon Healy to tie it; and we took a 1-run lead in the 10th on a double by Haniger (with Dee Gordon running on the pitch from first base).  That was all we needed, as Diaz got his 46th save on the year (so close to an emaculate inning).

So yeah, that’s an interesting week of baseball to say the least!

The good news is, obviously, we picked up 4 games on the Astros when we absolutely needed them.  The bad news is we’re still 4 games back in the division.  We go to Oakland for a 3-game set (1.5 games out of the second wild card), almost certainly without the services of Edwin Diaz at least for Monday’s game.

It feels unfathomable – even with all of Houston’s injuries – that the Mariners should win ANY games down there, let alone sweep all four.  They’re going to need that impossible magic to continue if we hope to chip away against the A’s.

The Mariners Are Now Tied For The Second Wild Card Spot

Sigh.

That’s right, after being 11 games up back in June, we’re now tied with the A’s for the second wild card spot.  The A’s have won a million games in a row and the Mariners have lost every single day since I can remember.  Everything sucks and now Toronto and their shitty fans invade our stadium for the next four days.

That series with the Astros started off promising enough.  James Paxton out-duelled Gerrit Cole to take the first game 2-0.  It was all down hill from there, though.  We got a very Mike Leake-y start the next day (6 innings, 3 runs) and the offense couldn’t do shit.  The bullpen gave up a 2-run ding dong late, and we lost 5-2.  That left us with an opportunity to still win the series, with folk legend Wade LeBlanc on the mound.  Bad time for him to have his worst start of the season, though, as he was knocked out after 4.1 innings, having given up 7 runs in the process.  He left meatballs out over the plate all day and was getting crushed accordingly.  The offense had few opportunities to make a comeback, and couldn’t take advantage of any of them as we lost 8-3.

So, that’s that, then.  The A’s are here to stay, and the Mariners are pretty much done.

This is just the worst feeling, you guys.  We’re talking about a team with the longest playoff drought in all of the major North American professional sports.  A team that – FINALLY – 17 years later, got off to just a torrid start.  Heading into the 4th of July holiday, the Mariners were 55-31.  They were locked into that 2nd wild card spot with no enemies in sight.  We were talking about maybe even challenging the Astros for the division!  Sure, it was a pipe dream, but those were simpler times!  We could afford to daydream, because THIS was the year!  We were finally going to break the curse!

We’re also talking about a team, mind you, with a very narrow window for contention.  The farm system is garbage.  Some of our very best players are getting up there in age (and some of them are over the hill already).  There’s a nice core of guys in Haniger, Segura, Diaz, Gonzales, and Gordon, but by and large this team is made up of guys no one else wanted.  We’re not laden with young, superstar talent like the Astros or Yankees or Red Sox or Athletics.  The Mariners are a fragile ecosystem that needs everything to go right just to eke out a victory; but if even one little thing goes wrong, it all implodes and we lose by a ton!

This wasn’t a team built for the long haul; it’s a team built for 2018 and that’s it.  We’re 18 games over .500 with a -9 run differential; it’s not a sustainable model and it never has been!  This is a once in a generation type of team that’s been coasting on the very best luck the league has seen in years.  You could make carbon copies of every single player on the roster and try running it all back again in 2019 and you know what you’ll get?  A Mariners team desperately trying to stay around .500.  We were always going to be screwed in 2019 and beyond; at some point, it’s going to crumble, and with no help on the horizon in the form of a development system, the Mariners will crater and be among the very worst teams in all of baseball.  That time is coming, and it’s coming very soon.

Which is what made 2018 so important.  If we don’t break this playoff drought this year, it might not happen for another decade or more.  That’s why this sucks as much as it does.  Because it now feels inevitable that the A’s are going to keep on winning, and the Mariners are going to play .500 ball the rest of the way.

Sure, the hitting has been abysmal, and even with the return of Cano, how much better can we reasonably expect it to get?  Jean Segura is starting to slow down from his unsustainably hot pace.  Same with Dee Gordon.  Ben Gamel had been one of the team’s hottest hitters of late, and they just sent him to Tacoma for no fucking reason, just so we could keep the black hole that is Guillermo Heredia on the roster.  Nelson Cruz still has plenty of pop in his bat, but his average is dipping down into the .260s (showing his age, and the need for this team to probably move on from him after this season is over, if for no other reason than to move Cano to DH next year).  Haniger’s been slipping, Healy is an 0’fer on most nights, we’re mired in Seager’s very worst year as a Major Leaguer, and Mike Zunino STILL can’t manage to bust through the Mendoza Line!

That’s not even factoring in how we have absolutely no business having any faith in any starting pitcher not named James Paxton or Marco Gonzales.  LeBlanc has been ridiculously good, but that can’t last.  Leake is who he is, and Felix looks like he’s just about done.  And you think Erasmo Ramirez is going to save this rotation?  Please!  Also, I love Edwin Diaz as much as the next one, but a string of blown saves is coming, mark my words.  No closer is this good for this long without at least a little hiccup along the way.  We won’t be able to blame using him in tie games for his struggles, is all I’m saying.

It’s all darkness and evil thoughts.  Thank God football season is starting back up again.

The Mariners Have Played Some Baseball Games Since I Last Wrote About Them

Sorry folks, I’ve been busy on another (secret) writing project that has absolutely nothing to do with Seattle sports.  And, while it’s been a refreshing change of pace (that I still don’t know what I’m going to do with yet), it’s taken a lot of my attention away from this blog.  But, you know, considering the malaise that is the Seattle Mariners, with the impending bummer of a season from the Seahawks (that many fans are still fighting against tooth and nail, as if the only problem last year was a poor kicking game and shaky offensive line – and as if those problems have been dramatically improved in the subsequent months since that team unceremoniously finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs for the first time since Tarvaris Jackson was running the show), it’s not like I’ve been all that inspired to bloviate on the local sporting landscape.

Since the last time I wrote about the Mariners, we kicked off a 7-game homestand with a weekend series against the A’s.  The A’s aren’t very good.  You could say the same thing about the Mariners (both teams have underwhelming pitching staffs and get by on their offense), but the A’s also haven’t had the misfortune of playing the Astros yet (more on that in a minute) and they still have a worse record than the M’s, so take that for what it is.  The Mariners had 2 great offensive days and took the first two games of the series; then dropped the Sunday finale as Sean Manaea out-duelled King Felix to the tune of a 2-1 heartbreaker.  No matter, the good guys still won the series, but that lack of offense would be a harbinger of things to come.

Following that set, the Mariners hosted the Astros for 4 games, and things got off to a dynamic start with James Paxton flashing his ace stuff through six innings.  He out-pitched Dallas Keuchel of all people (who seemingly always owns the M’s), who went the distance but surrendered 2 runs in a game that finished 2-1.  Paxton gave up a leadoff homer to George Springer to kick off the game (because of course), but cruised the rest of the way, and the usual bullpen suspects kept the Astros off the board through the final three innings.  It was an impressive game any way you slice it, and you might forgive Mariners fans for being a little excited (or a little cocky) heading into the other three games of the series.

But … did you guys see who was starting those other three games?  The Astros had Lance McCullers Jr., Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton all lined up.  The Mariners?  Ariel Miranda, Mike Leake (who, yeah, okay, he’s been pretty good so far in his Mariners career), and Marco Gonzales.  I’m sorry, but it’s no contest.  The Mariners won the one game they did because their ace showed up and the bullpen didn’t blow it, but they were SO CLOSE to getting swept, and quite frankly I’m shocked they weren’t.

As I tweeted before the series, the Mariners just aren’t in the Astros’ league.  They’re not in the Astros’ universe for Christ’s sake!  I don’t even think they’re playing the same sport!  We play them 15 more times this year, and barring about a million Astros injuries (particularly to their pitching staff), I wouldn’t even expect the Mariners to play at a .250 pace.  Winning 25% of the games we play against the Astros would be a miracle, and if you offered it to me right now, I’d gladly take it and avoid the actual drubbing we’ll inevitably have to sit through.  The only saving grace for me was that these games were played on Monday through Thursday, either too late for me to stay up and watch, or during the hours I was at work, so I didn’t have to watch or listen to a minute of that nonsense.

The Mariners have since hit the road for 10 games, starting with a weekend series in Texas.  Friday’s game was super fun.  King Felix looked like his old self through the first two times around the order.  But, with one out in the sixth, the Rangers started to knock him around until he was knocked out of the game entirely.  Scrabble came in and shit the bed, so Felix ended up giving up 2 runs.  Down 2-1 at this point, things looked a little bleak, but the bats finally came alive.  Mitch Haniger hit a bomb in the 8th to tie it, and the rest of the team nearly batted around in the 9th, scoring 4 runs on a number of clutch hits.  The bullpen was lights out after Scrabble left the game in disgrace, and we won 6-2.

That was followed by last night’s barnburner.  James Paxton was pretty terrible throughout, leaving after 4 innings, giving up 5 runs, with the M’s losing 5-3.  It was 6-4 in the top of the 7th when the Mariners’ bats came alive once again, putting up a 5-spot, including a 2-run double by Segura, and homers by Cano and Haniger.  With Juan Nicasio unavailable, and with Scrabble once again faltering in his 1/3 inning of work, Edwin Diaz – having just pitched the night before in a non-save situation – had to come in for the 4-out save.  He got out of the 8th unscathed, but the 9th was a real adventure.  A walk and a single had runners on the corners before the first out of the inning (on a strikeout).  From there, Diaz really lost command of his stuff, as both fastball and slider were running off the plate to the right.  A groundout scored the runner from third, and back-to-back walks loaded the bases with 2 outs and 0 mound visits remaining.  Fortunately, Diaz was able to muster just enough (either command or blind stinking luck) to generate a harmless fly ball to left to close it out for his league-leading 8th save of the year.  9-7 final.

There’s a day game today before the Mariners go to Chicago to play the White Sox.  Then, it’s off to Cleveland to close out our season series with the Indians (in the first month of the season no less!).

Just to kind of put a bow on things, I’ll say this:  The Mariners are 11-8 and in third place in the A.L. West.  The Astros have reclaimed their rightful spot atop the division, with the Angels (falling just a little since their torrid start) a half game back.  Again, barring significant injury woes, this is where I’d expect these teams to finish the season.

The Mariners AREN’T terrible, so don’t get me wrong on that.  This team, with this amazing offense, should beat up on a lot of mediocre teams around the game of baseball.  They should also compete with some of the better teams, or the teams at their Wild Card-ish level.  But, against the truly ELITE teams?  The Astros?  The Red Sox?  Maybe the Angels?  I would expect the Mariners to continue to struggle.

Best (realistic) case scenario for the Mariners is that they get dominated by the Astros and Red Sox (and any other team that really distances themselves from the middle of the pack), while they play around .500 ball against the Angels.  Worst case scenario involves the Mariners getting bombarded by the Astros AND Angels, because that’s a combined 38 games in their schedule.  If they can play the Angels tough half the time, though, they should be in line to steal that second Wild Card spot (again, assuming the worst doesn’t happen again like last year).  But, they’ll have no shot if they’ve got two huge whales in their own division making them the Little Brother getting blasted with noogies all the live long day.

The Mariners Feel Their Rotation Is Set?

So, I guess there was this interview with Jerry Dipoto on 710am recently where he said the Mariners are more or less set with the starting pitchers they have.  Don’t expect any major moves – either via free agency, or trades – between now and Spring Training.  This, in spite of the fact that at the moment, there are a TON of starting pitchers on the free agent market.  The supply is high, the demand appears to be low for now, and so you know what that means:  good pitchers could be brought in for a song.

And the Mariners aren’t going to take advantage of this?  Are they fucking NUTS?

This feels like a Once in a Decade type of thing.  Usually, Major League Baseball’s free agency period is a feeding frenzy of 30 ravenous coyotes all going after one small, dying group of deer.  The biggest, toughest ones snatch the best players for themselves, leaving the rest of the league trying to squeeze blood from a stone (lots of weird metaphors here, I apologize).  Every once in a while, the Mariners go big game hunting, but more often than not, we’re among the lower-level teams picking off the scraps.

But, this year, there’s actual talent on the market!  That the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, and Angels have all passed over!

On the flipside, you’ve got the Mariners, whose plan apparently involves going into 2018 with the same set of rotation pitchers they had at the end of 2017.  I know I ranted my way down this rabbithole on Twitter earlier in the week, but let’s run down everyone:

  • James Paxton – has never stayed healthy in his entire career
  • Felix Hernandez – clearly on the downside of his career, also coming off of multiple seasons of injuries
  • Mike Leake – who was very good with the M’s late last year, but those were his first 5 games as a member of the American League, so he had the element of being an unknown on his side (he also out-pitched his career numbers to an amazing degree, so it’s safe to say 2018 Leake is in for some heavy regression)
  • Ariel Miranda – who is just a so-so fifth starter type as it is, who faltered GREATLY at the end of the season last year
  • Andrew Moore – who just got POUNDED almost each and every appearance
  • Marco Gonzales – who also got POUNDED almost each and every appearance
  • Erasmo Ramirez – who probably had his best-ever sustained run of greatness last season after being traded back to the M’s, but you’re a fucking FOOL if you believe that’s going to continue on into 2018 and beyond
  • Hisashi Iwakuma – who is coming off of a lifetime of injuries, who is currently on a minor league deal, and who knows if he’s even recovered from last year’s debilitating arm issues?

And that’s not even getting into all the other AAA nobodies we have in this organization who are all surely just as bad as all the AAA nobodies we had to suffer through in 2017 thanks to all the injuries and nonsense.  At least we don’t have Yovani Gallardo wasting our fucking time with his bullshit.

I mean, this is a joke, right?  That the Mariners are “set” with their starting rotation?  You do realize we’re in the FUCKING American League West, with the best team in all of baseball (the Astros) who have done nothing but get BETTER this offseason (especially if they figure out a way to bring in Gerrit Cole).  Then, there’s the Angels who finished 2 games ahead of the Mariners in 2017, who still have the best player alive (Mike Trout), and who brought in the consensus best free agent pitcher/hitter in the world (Shohei Ohtani).  Then, there’s the Texas Rangers, who had the same record as the Mariners last year, and had injury issues of their own to contend with.  Oh, and you can’t dismiss Oakland out of hand, because they always deal in up-and-coming prospects and you never know when it’s all going to come together for them out of nowhere.

What have the Mariners done?  They traded for a second baseman that they’re converting to a centerfielder, they signed a reliever, and they traded for a first baseman who might not be any good (and who might not even be any better than the first basemen we had last year).  That’s it.

This is a team, mind you, with a majority stake in their own fucking regional sports network!  They’re practically printing money!  And this is all we can muster?

Don’t forget, this is also the team that refuses to tear it all down and start a rebuild.  Which, fine (they probably couldn’t anyway, because no one in their right minds would give legitimate prospects for the likes of aging veterans like Cano, Cruz, or Felix, no matter how much the fans are clamoring for it).  We’ve got these veterans, we’ve got a solid offense, let’s play to win now.

Well, then LET’S GO!  Let’s sign one of these stud starting pitchers still out there on the free agent market!  What, we had all this money to pursue Ohtani, but we don’t have a few sheckles for Yu Darvish or Lance Lynn or any of the numerous starting pitchers out there who are BETTER and MORE RELIABLE than the ones we have under contract?

You know what really gets me?  Every time the Mariners decide to bite the bullet and hit the free agent market in earnest, they have to over-pay to bring in the guys they sign.  Sometimes it works out (Cano and Cruz have been great signings, for instance), but a lot of times they’re busts (Carlos Silva anyone?  Jarrod Washburn?  ET FUCKING AL).  Now, we have a chance to get some really GOOD players on the cheap (what are they going to do, retire in protest?  GTFO), and what do we do?  Clutch our purse strings and claim poverty.

Bullshit.  Fucking BULLSHIT!

God damn these fucking Mariners!  WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING HERE YOU GUYS???  You do realize the M’s are WAY WORSE than both the Astros and Angels!  You do realize we have to play everyone in our division 19 times apiece!  That’s 76 games – almost HALF YOUR FUCKING SCHEDULE – and you’re not even fucking trying.

Well, if you’re not going to try, then blow the fucking thing up.  But, these half measures are fucking killing me.  Normally, when I write a season off before it starts, it’s because the Mariners are fucking miserable failures.  But, this year, if you planted the Mariners in any other mediocre division, they’d probably net at least 10 more victories than they will in the A.L. West.  Fucking unbelievable.

Except, no.  VERY believable.  Welcome to YOUR Seattle Mariners, everyone!  Just shoot me in the fucking head right now and get it over with.

Yesterday’s Game Was The Most Poorly Managed of Scott Servais’ Career

It really felt like our manager threw one away last night.  Now, I know, Gerrit Cole was rolling, and it might not have mattered either way.  In the end, he pitched a complete game, giving up 1 run on 3 hits, no walks, and 6 strikeouts.  He very well could have done the same exact thing had the game stayed at a more reasonable 3-1 score.  But, it’s impossible to know the type of effort we would have seen out of the Mariners hitters.  I mean, let’s face it, I wouldn’t hold it against anyone if they were a LITTLE more engaged in a 2-run game, as opposed to a game you’re losing by 6, and then 9 runs.  And, that’s ignoring a potential save situation if the game is still close; would Pittsburgh have gone to their closer had it been 3-1 in the 9th?  We’ll never know.

The problem isn’t that Servais botched this one game; it happens.  But, what’s truly galling is that this might have long-term (relatively speaking) ramifications for a recently-acquired, struggling relief pitcher in Drew Storen.

We know his story, we just heard all about it the day before when the Mariners traded Joaquin Benoit for him.  Storen is a guy who has been great as recently as 2015, but who has been God-awful this year, to the point that the Blue Jays had released him just before trading him to the Mariners.  Our general manager admitted this is a Change of Scenery deal, in hopes to get him on the right track.  “Change of Scenery” are just words until you think about the meaning behind them:  getting a player out of a bad situation in hopes that he’ll clear his head, and the fresh start will help get him back to playing like his glory days.

But it doesn’t FUCKING work unless you put him in a position to succeed, you jackass!

The Mariners were smart to put him in a game right away.  James Paxton had his usual James Paxton performance:  one bad inning marring what was otherwise a fine – albeit short – day.  Storen came into the game in the 6th inning after the Mariners had just manufactured a run to bring the game to 3-1.  Awesome.  I’m all for it.  Get him in there, see what he can do, hope for the best.  He was facing nothing but righties, the Mariners were losing (so it wasn’t a pressure-packed situation with blown-save potential), but it was still close enough that it didn’t TOTALLY feel like a soft landing.  It felt like game we were capable of coming back in, ergo, it felt like we were trusting the new guy to keep us in it.

And he didn’t let us down!  He did his exact job:  getting 3 groundball outs in a clean inning of work.  Boom.  Successful day achieved.

That should have been the start of a beautiful working relationship between a struggling relief pitcher and his new team.  Instead, it was just the beginning of a nightmare scenario, as bewildering managerial decisions dictated his demise.

The Mariners (obviously) failed to score in the 7th inning.  And, even though he had thrown somewhere around 15 pitches, here was Drew Storen coming out for another inning of work.  WHAT?  WHY?

The Mariners have had 2 off-days in the last week, with another off-day yet to come (today).  The bullpen was NOT tired!  The bullpen was NOT over-worked!  The bullpen would have PLENTY of time to recover!

When you factor in we’ve got Karns in there, I think Servais lost his fucking mind.  Storen gave up two hits before getting a strikeout, then proceeded to give up another single to load the bases.  And yet, Servais KEPT HIM IN THE GAME WHEN HE WAS CLEARLY GASSED!  What the fuck?  It wasn’t until Storen walked in a run that he finally pulled him.  It’s like Servais was trying to haze the new guy with diabolical Mean Girls tactics, to mentally destroy a hated rival.

The cherry on top, of course, is that with the bases loaded and only 1 out, he put Karns in a shitty spot.  Karns promptly giving up a bases-clearing 3-run double was the cherry on top.  Storen’s ERA gets to skyrocket, AND Karns gets to feel like shit as well!  Servais got to fuck up two relievers for the price of one!

Had he simply done the sensible, SMART thing, and put Karns in to START the seventh, we might have been looking at a completely different ballgame.  Instead, Servais decided to get cute, and in the process made a bad season worse for the newcomer Storen, as well as Karns.  Bravo, Mr. Manager, you had your worst game ever.  How does it feel?

Mariners Sign Danny Hultzen

UPDATE:  $8.5 million for 5 years; worth up to $10.6 million with incentives (I suppose).

Shameless ploy for hits there with the title, but what can you do?  The blog has been effectively dormant since last Wednesday.

Been able to keep track of things for the most part on my vacation.  Mariners won some games, Mariners lost some games.  Ho hum.  Haven’t had a chance to pore through the box scores to see what I really missed; but the bottom line is it’s only been a few days, so nothing too dire could’ve happened (with apologies to Smoak’s nose).

Tonight, however, things were dire, at least somewhat.  Would the Mariners sign their top overall draft pick?  If they didn’t, then the Mariners would hold the #3 pick in next year’s draft (as well as whatever pick they would regularly get).

On the one hand, who cares?  If he didn’t sign, we’d just go after another guy next year anyway.  Besides, there’s no guarantees in baseball.  Just because Hultzen was taken #2 overall (a shock by many who thought he’d be picked lower in the first round) doesn’t mean he’s destined to be the next Randy Johnson.

On the other hand, though, not signing Hultzen would’ve just pushed back our rebuilding project that much further (providing Hultzen is actually the front-line starter people say he’ll be).  And you don’t want to be a team that’s perceived to be cheap.  You don’t want to be pushovers, but you gotta dish out the cheddar when you just finished losing 100 games with the 2nd worst record in baseball.

And, as it turns out, the Mariners did dish it out.  In fact, from what I’m reading, they paid Hultzen more than the Pirates paid for the #1 pick Gerrit Cole.  I’m sure we’ll get the details in the coming minutes/hours, but that’s just amazing.  To be a guy who was legitimately surprised to be drafted #2 overall, who is now making more money than the only guy drafted ahead of him.

Hell, maybe we are pushovers.  Hultzen better be worth it.