The Mariners Took 2 Of 3 Against The Angels

Seemingly on the ropes, the Angels brought back Shohei Ohtani just to DH this series, but it wasn’t enough.  Turns out the Angels don’t do a whole lot when Mike Trout isn’t hitting .600 against the Mariners.

I was at the game on the 3rd, sitting in a suite, drinking all I could drink and eating a fair amount to boot.  As I was rightly hammered, I don’t remember a whole lot about this game.  Other than the sweet beer can tower we built out of 16-ouncers:

This took three men and a lot of heart …

Wade LeBlanc signed his extension before the game, which was a bit of good news.  I was all ready for him to fall on his face against the Angels, allowing me to make an endless string of “perfect timing” jokes, but the dude’s a stud and this signing is looking better and better all the time.  7 innings, 1 run on 3 hits & 1 walk with 4 strikeouts.  The M’s built up a 3-run lead in the first and a Nelson Cruz homer late was all we needed.  Edwin Diaz got his 33rd save and we won the game 4-1.

I watched the game on the 4th from home, slightly hungover, but not too damaged.  Mike Leake didn’t really have it in this one and we were 2/12 with RISP.  Lots of mistakes in this one cost us the sweep, but that’s okay.  Angels took it 7-4.

Last night’s game was past my bedtime, but I hear nothing but good things from Marco Gonzales, who gutted out 6 innings of 1-run ball.  Guillermo Heredia had a couple doubles; Dee Gordon had a triple and a single (and a run, and an RBI, and a miraculous diving catch to save at least a run from scoring); and Chris Herrmann had his first homer in a Mariners uniform.  The bullpen was near perfect and Edwin Diaz got his 34th save of the year, as the M’s won again by the score of 4-1.

On the downside, Mike Zunino is on the DL with an ankle injury.  Considering he plays practically every day, maybe giving him a couple weeks to rest isn’t the worst thing in the world for his longevity late in the season.  Mitch Haniger was also scratched before the game, as he ran into a wall and has a bruised knee.  He’s not on the DL yet, as he’s only expected to miss a couple games, so let’s hope that’s the case.

The Mariners now have a 12-game lead over the Angels, who would need to go on a crazy hot streak to get back in contention.  This just doesn’t feel like their year (single sarcastic tear).  I suppose, for the time being, the A’s are our only competition for the second wild card spot, and they’re still a whopping 7.5 games back.

On the brighter side of things, we’re just 2 games back of the Yankees for the first wild card spot, and only 1.5 games behind Houston for the division lead.  Got a long way to go, but the Mariners are here to stay.

The Rockies come to town this weekend, then it’s a quick trip to Anaheim and Colorado, then it’s the All Star Break.  Let’s get ready to rumble and whatnot.

The Mariners Split The Series With The Red Sox

All in all, I’d say that went pretty well.  We lost a close one in that good Felix game; we won one in exciting, high-scoring, come-from-behind fashion; we won a 1-0 nailbiter in that outstanding Wade LeBlanc game; and we got torched on get-away day.

That game on Friday was as exciting as it gets.  I think we all figured the best left-handed starter we’d see this weekend was going to be starting that night, but James Paxton didn’t have his usual stuff.  Also the defense – with its 3 errors that very easily could’ve been 4 or 5 – didn’t have its usual stuff either.  In an absolute disaster of a third inning, Paxton was only able to get one guy out before being pulled, having given up 6 runs (somehow 5 of which were earned).  Chasen Bradford limited the damage to just that, but the M’s found themselves – once with a 3-run lead – down 6-3.

That’s when recently recalled Rob Whalen entered the game to soak up some innings.  (oh shit, if we’d been playing Tampa, I could’ve said “soak up some Rays”!  But we’re all done playing the Rays this season!  I’ll have to save that gem for next year …).  Rob Whalen ended up going 4 scoreless innings to allow the M’s to chip away at that deficit.  Mitch Haniger hit one in in the fifth; Mike Zunino homered in the seventh.  That set the stage for the bottom of the eighth, down 6-5, runners on first and second with one out, and Denard Span pinch hitting for Guillermo Heredia.  He jerked a ball down the right field line for a 2-run double, as the Red Sox outfielder was playing WAY over in right-center for some reason.  With a 7-6 lead, Edwin Diaz came in to shut them down for his 26th save of the season.

If you thought THAT was unexpected, just wait until you get a load of Saturday’s game!  Wade LeBlanc vs. some knuckleballer, on the FOX game of the week!  I have to imagine they were a little underwhelmed with the matchup coming into it, but hot damn were they treated to a pitcher’s duel to end all pitcher’s duels!

To his credit, Steven Wright was pretty outstanding.  The knuckleballer went 7 innings, giving up just 1 run on 5 hits & 2 walks with 4 strikeouts.  As it turns out, though, Wade LeBlanc was remarkably better.  He went 7.2 innings of shutout ball, giving up just 2 hits while striking out 9!  My dad asked me what we could expect of LeBlanc before the game, and I said I’d be ecstatic if he gave up just a couple runs in 5 innings, but he really blew my projection out of the water!  It was as dominant a performance as I’ve seen this year, as he allowed a leadoff hit to start the game, and then nothing until – with two outs in the eighth – he allowed a single to end his night as he faced the minimum up to that point.  Honestly, that first hit he allowed was pretty bogus – as the ump didn’t have his strike zone quite figured out yet – and should’ve been a strikeout.  So, we were THAT CLOSE to perfection, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

The one run the Mariners scored was back in third on a single by Cruz, and somehow it held up.  Colome got out of the eighth unscathed, and Diaz worked the ninth for his 27th save of the season.  Easy peasy.

Sunday, I dunno, it got away from us.  Leake didn’t really have it, giving up a 5-spot in the third.  But, he managed to keep it to just that through six innings, so at least he saved the bullpen a little bit.  I think we were all under the impression – as the game went on – that the Mariners would mount a comeback eventually, but it was sort of the opposite.  The Red Sox played add-on, and the M’s really let a lot of opportunities get by them, going 3 for 12 with RISP.  There was, however, another 2.1 innings from Elias, who only gave up 1 run, so that trade is looking better and better.

Hard to be too upset by a 50/50 split, though.  If you offered that to me before the series started, I would’ve taken it in a heartbeat.  Now, the Mariners go on the road for a huge one:  the final east coast road trip of the (regular) season.  The downside to the weekend is that the Astros just completed a 10-0 road trip to take a 1.5 game lead in the division, which is just insane.  In case you thought the division was in the bag or something (unlikely, I know), it’s not.  We are a full 8 games up on the Angels though, so fuck them.

Thankfully, there’s an off-day today before the festivities start.  One last big test before we coast to the finish line.  Up first: the Yankees.  Our likely rivals in that 1-game Wild Card.  My stomach is all in knots just thinking about it.

The Mariners Got The Victory They Needed

There’s been so many tight games this season, but particularly over the last couple weeks, with the offense missing guys like Dee Gordon, Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Jean Segura, and others for various amounts of time.  The margin for error has been ridiculously thin, and we’ve seen some repercussions of that in this Rangers series as the bullpen finally cracked a couple times.  This team desperately needed a breakout from the offense and to cruise to a comfortable victory.  Last night, in a 6-1 win, the Mariners got just that.

On May 3rd, Wade LeBlanc entered the starting rotation for the Seattle Mariners, taking the spot that was briefly held by an injured Erasmo Ramirez.  Up until that day, LeBlanc was a long reliever for this club – who has been on the roster since opening day, but only got in 5 games in the month of April due to all the off days and the fact that the Mariners were involved in so many close, winning games.  So, he obviously has had to be stretched out a little bit this month (he was also quite under the weather last night, which accounts for his only lasting 5 innings on 84 pitches).  But, regardless, LeBlanc has been OUTSTANDING in the month of May (really, all season, but that’s neither here nor there).  He’s 1-0 (though the team is 5-1 in his starts) with a 1.72 ERA.  31.1 innings pitched, 6 runs given up, 25 hits, only 6 walks, with 23 strikeouts in those 6 games.

I mean, if it weren’t for Paxton’s 1.67 ERA, his 2 complete games, his no hitter, his 51 strikeouts (against only 9 walks) and 21 hits in 43 innings of work across his 6 games (again, he’s got to be a lock for American League Pitcher of the Month), we’d be talking about the best starter on this team!

Small sample?  Go fuck yourself!  Wade LeBlanc is magic and I won’t hear anything else!

Pazos, Nicasio, and Chasen Bradford nailed down the final four innings without incident, meaning we were able to save guys like Diaz and Colome for the weekend.  Again, just excellent pitching all around yesterday.

On the hitting side of things, Dee Gordon returned with a vengeance, with a leadoff triple and a run scored off of a very shallow pop up to right field.  Nelson Cruz banged a 2-run homer and later had a 3rd RBI to keep his momentum going in the right direction.  Segura was on base 3 times and scored 3 times; Healy had an RBI single; and Heredia and Span each had 2 hits as the bottom of the lineup looks remarkably improved with those two guys getting regular AB’s.  In 4 games with the Mariners so far, Span has 5 hits (including a double) and 3 runs scored.  I like Gamel as much as the next guy – and I concede he was looking better at the plate right before this trade went down – but overall he’s been terrible for almost a full year now, and he appears to be much better suited to being a team’s 4th outfielder rather than a starter.  How about that?  Everyone went into this season thinking it was Heredia that was destined to be a 4th outfielder (and that might very well be his overarching role when it’s all said and done), but right now Heredia looks like a dynamic weapon and a viable starting outfielder in this league if he can keep it up at the plate.

The Mariners ended up 18-11 in the month of May, which follows a 16-11 month of April.  We are 1 game behind the Astros in the A.L. West (tied in the loss column), and 4.5 games ahead of the Angels as we currently hold the 2nd Wild Card spot (3 full games behind the Yankees for the 1st Wild Card spot).

As I’ve noted before, the month of June looks a lot tougher.  The Rays are hanging around .500 (and we face them 7 times), and we also play the Astros, Angels, Red Sox, and Yankees this month.  In fact, we don’t play a team under .500 again until June 25th!  That’s 22 consecutive games against teams that are either IN the playoffs (if the season ended today) or fighting tooth and nail for the Wild Card spot (in other words, our direct opponents for possible post-season play).  On top of that, out of 28 games, only 12 are at home this month.  We make trips to Houston, Tampa (then back home), then we go out to New York, Boston, and Baltimore (before returning home again).  Make no mistake, everything about this month spells B-R-U-T-A-L.

The good news?  If we can avoid getaway-day rainouts that need to be made up at a later date, once we return from our East Coast road trip in Baltimore, We’ll never have to go any further east than the state of Texas the rest of the season.  The entire month of July, for instance, has us only going to Anaheim and Colorado!  In fact, all of our road trips after the month of June are against the A.L. West or the N.L. West.

Just got to get through this month.  If you offered it to me on a silver platter right now, I would absolutely accept a .500 record for the month of June.  If you gave me 14-14, SIGN ME UP!

The Mariners Are 10 Games Over .500 Somehow!

If this team doesn’t just impress the hell out of you with its grittiness, its guttiness, its chutzpah, its spunk, its tireless determination in the face of ridiculously long odds, then I don’t know what to tell you.

Now, obviously, it’s only May 24th.  Yes, the Mariners are 2.5 games ahead of the Angels for the second Wild Card spot, but there’s oh so many more games left to play.  Oh so many more Mariners left to injure with errant fastballs.  Oh so many more opportunities to disappoint this beleaguered fanbase.  And, believe me, I get all that.  If you don’t want to get your hopes up because you’ve been burned too many times, I’m right there with you.

That having been said, sometimes it’s okay to take a step back and live in the moment.  Too often, as fans, once a game ends, we immediately look to how it’s going to affect the future.  I mean, shit, minutes after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, people were already talking about the possibilities for the 2014 season and the dynasty to come!  If you can’t sit there and just enjoy the moment of a Super Bowl victory, then there’s really no hope.

The future will always be there, a nagging force in the back of your mind, but maybe don’t dwell on it too much until things actually start to get shitty again.  If you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, don’t worry!  It’ll drop!  We’re riding high on a 5-game winning streak right now; I’m sure there’s a 5-game losing streak lurking somewhere over the horizon.  And, when that time comes (not if), go ahead and rip the team to shreds.

Now is the time for praise!

I can’t say enough good things about Marco Gonzales right now.  He’s been a source of massive frustration from the moment Jerry Dipoto traded Tyler O’Neill away to get him.  The fact that O’Neill’s been raking since joining the St. Louis Cardinals organization (this year, in his Major League debut, he’s hitting .333, with a 1.071 OPS, on the back of 3 homers, a double, and 7 RBI in only … 12 games (*stifles throwing up in my mouth*), is not a shock to me.  From what I’ve read, this kid is special.  His work ethic, his talent, his power, it’s going to play and play well, for a long time, at the Major League level.  He might not always be a .300 hitter, but then again he might!  I wouldn’t put it past him to overcome his limitations, whatever they may be!  Of all the players Dipoto has traded away to create this monster, the only one that hurt was O’Neill, and in the long run I’m still not convinced it’ll ever be anything close to an even swap.

So, yeah, the more good Marco Gonzales brings into our lives, the better.  And, I’d say so far this year, he’s been worth the spot in the starting rotation.  He had a really rough patch in mid-April, but he’s pitched into the 6th inning in each of his last 6 starts.  I know that’s not some amazing feat or anything, but given my pre-season expectations, it’s pretty good.  Now, that 6th inning tends to be the money inning for opposing batters to tee off on the youngster – in spite of the fact that he almost always heads into that inning in great shape, from a pitch count perspective.  Which leads me to wonder, is he tiring in this inning?  Does he not have the stamina to be a starting pitcher?  Considering he’s so much better in the first two innings of ballgames – compared to every other inning he pitches in – it would be prudent to wonder if the Mariners traded away a future All Star for a long reliever.

While last night’s game doesn’t provide a definitive answer in the slightest, he was able to go 7 shutout innings against the A’s, giving up only 2 hits and 2 walks, with 6 strikeouts.  It is, easily, his best performance in a Mariners uniform, and it’s also without question his best performance in his Major League career.  It lowered his ERA to 4.05, and it’s now the third game where he hasn’t given up an earned run.  This is all progress towards something useful!  Maybe even impressive!  He’s by no means a finished product, but we can build on this!  I find I’m growing more and more comfortable with him on the mound with each of these quality starts, which is probably the highest praise I can give.  Usually, when I make up my mind about someone, it sticks and I’ll trash them into next Tuesday if I don’t like them.  But, I’m coming around on this guy!  Gonzales!

This was also, I want to say, the third 1-0 victory of the Mariners’ season.  We’re also a whopping 13-7 in 1-run games (and, not for nothing, but 4-0 in extra innings games).  You can thank the bullpen for a lot of that.  Juan Nicasio has seemed to gain some more trust from the skipper, as he pitched a scoreless 8th.  And, Edwin Diaz got his 17th save of the season to tie the league lead.

On the hitting side of things, Guillermo Heredia continues to be a great weapon for this team.  Ever since Cano and Dee Gordon went down, he’s been given starter’s playing time, and is making the most of it.  Since May 13th, he’s 9 for 20 with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 4 runs scored, and 3 RBI, go go along with 5 walks and only 5 strikeouts.  The offense overall has been predictably struggling – particularly over the last three games (all victories, I might add), where we’ve scored just 7 runs – and we were all wondering where the spark was gonna come from.  Well, I’ve noticed Heredia up in the 2-hole in the lineup recently, and he’s certainly been that spark so far.

I’ll close with a cool story yesterday.  Outfielder John Andreoli was called up (to replace Vogelbach Altavilla on the 25-man; not Jayson Werth as we all thought, who apparently was pulled from the prior night’s game with a minor injury) and got the start in place of Haniger.  He made his Major League debut, got his first Major League hit (and walk) and made a nice diving play in the field.  So, kudos to the young man.

It’s all going really well, and we get to celebrate Felix Day against the team he absolutely owns.  Relish it!  It won’t always be this good for the Mariners!

The Mariners Keep Losing Guys & Somehow Winning

I’m starting to think if we just murder the entire team and fill it with cast-offs and Rainiers, the Mariners might finally win the World Series!

(that was only for humor, please don’t murder the entire team)

We’re in the middle of the world’s best – yet dumbest – road trip:  three whole games, from Seattle to Oakland and back again.  Considering all the travel the M’s have had to do – to such exotic locales like Minnesota, Kansas City, Cleveland, Toronto, Detroit, Minnesota again, et cetera – it’s actually kind of cool they only have a couple of 2-hour flights to deal with this week.

Anyway, yesterday Dee Gordon went on the DL.  Over the weekend, Nelson Cruz was hit on the elbow and he was missing from last night’s game (hoping to play tonight, but we’ll see).  Then, during the game, Mitch Haniger was also hit by a pitch and had to leave.  It’s a forearm bruise and not a tumor fracture, so we’re all hoping he’ll be back soon; but nevertheless he’s set to miss a few days at least.  And, if all that wasn’t enough, as Jean Segura slid head-first into home to score the winning run, he bashed into the catcher and fucked up his shoulder, so HE could also be missing some time and/or be sent on the DL.  Ain’t that some fucked up shit?

39 year old Jayson Werth was pulled from last night’s Rainiers game, so he figures to play for Haniger for at least a few days.  He hasn’t exactly been tearing it up down in Tacoma – hitting .193 with 4 homers and 5 doubles in 24 games – but I guess you could say he’s been better of late – hitting 3 of those homers and 4 of those doubles since May 14th.  I don’t know how much faith I want to put into those numbers, but maybe it means he’s starting to get his timing back?  Not for nothing, but he really hasn’t been good since 2014, so just because you’ve heard of the name doesn’t mean you should get your hopes up.

As for last night’s game, what a hum-dinger!  (yeah, I didn’t watch it)

Mike Leake pitched around a couple of jams and got into the 7th inning having given up only the 2 runs.  Mike Zunino jacked a game-tying 2-run homer in the top of the 7th off of Trevor Cahill to eventually send this thing into extras.  Pazos and Vincent did their jobs (Vincent getting the win with his 1.1 innings of work), the aforementioned Segura scored from first on a Guillermo Heredia double, and Edwin Diaz had no trouble locking down his 16th save in the bottom of the 10th.  Just a gritty, grind-it-out, hardscrabble, come-from-behind Mariners-type victory!

Today, the A’s have a AAA call-up (who has apparently struggled mightily against the M’s) facing off with Marco Gonzales.  I’m loath to say this – because I know it’s going to bite me in the ass – but I actually feel sort of confident about tonight’s game!  There’s no quit in this team!  Of course, the prospect of having Andrew Romine and Gordon Beckham in the same lineup gives me the willies, so get well soon Jean Segura and Dee Gordon!

Good: The Mariners Won The Season Series Against The Tigers

The Tigers aren’t good, man.  They’re just not.  And yet, we came out of Detroit a week ago having lost 2 of 3, followed by losing the opener to this home series over the weekend to make it 3 of 4.  It just looked dismal at that point, and you had to wonder if all the injuries and suspensions and shaky pitching had finally caught up to this team.  Let’s face it, playoff teams win season series against inferior opponents like Detroit; whereas Mariners teams – that inevitably always fall short of the playoffs – find ways to lose these series to inferior opponents like Detroit.

I mean, this is a team that’s actively tanking 2018 to try to build a better ballclub in 2019 and beyond!  The Mariners, conversely, have been building to this year for a while now, and are pretty actively trying to go for it all, farm system be damned!  With two franchises going so clearly in opposite directions right now, it couldn’t be any more demoralizing to lose a bunch of games to this team.

Before we get to the Tigers, I should point out that the Mariners split their 2-game set against the Rangers.  Honestly, with all the travel, the make-up game, and the weird scheduling times, I’m more impressed that the Mariners avoided a sweep at all.  We came back to win that 9-8 thriller on Tuesday, only to shit the bed on Wednesday afternoon, but who can get mad about that?  Sure, the Rangers are crap, but circumstances, man.

It was that Thursday loss to the Tigers, though, that really got to me.  Marco Gonzales did his thing (and might’ve even gotten through that sixth inning had Kyle Seager not made a run-scoring error), and in spite of the run, we were still up 2-1 headed into the eighth inning.  With Juan Nicasio being held back to work on his stuff, Nick Vincent came in off of quite a roll, only to blow it.  Will anyone ever take command of the 8th this year?

I was at a comedy show on Friday, so I missed this one, but things looked pretty dire heading into the 7th, down 4-0.  Thankfully, turnabout is fair play, and the M’s put on a 5-spot in the bottom of the 7th to take the lead, with Nicasio and Diaz able to hold the fort for the save.

Saturday was just a marvelous night all the way around.  James Paxton got his second career complete game (the first being his no-hitter a few games back) as the Mariners won 7-2.  He struck out 8 while giving up just a walk and 3 hits; I could’ve done without the 117 pitches – particularly with the game so well in hand – but we’ll see if that matters or not.  I know Paxton is a big, strong animal and everything, but if he goes on the DL in a week, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.  I mean, maybe it’s a nice morale boost or whatever, but we were beating them by 5 runs; seemed unnecessary to throw an extra 20 pitches on his arm just to get that 9th inning.  It’s not like the bullpen was massively overworked or anything; you still had a guy warming up just in case someone got on base!

That brought us to Sunday, where Francisco Liriano damn near no-hit us.  As it was, he went 8, giving up just 1 hit and 3 walks, before he gave way to the team’s closer, up by a comfortable 2-0 margin.  The Mariners once again saw Wade LeBlanc pitch into the sixth inning, giving up both of those runs, and got clean bullpen work from newly called-up Ryan Cook, as well as Pazos, Altavilla, Nicasio, Diaz, and Vincent.  With one out and Segura on second, Mitch Haniger stepped up in the 3-hole and belted a massive game-tying homer to ultimately send this game into extras.  Then, in the 11th, Dee Gordon singled, swiped second, and was hit in by Segura to send the fans home happy.

I’ll say this:  Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger have been absolutely carrying this team so far this year!  With Cano gone, and with Cruz being a magnet for opposing pitchers to hit on damn near a daily basis (as well as with Seager not doing a whole helluva lot at the plate, with Healy being his streaky self, and with the rest of the outfield being more Small Ball than Long Ball), it’s been a godsend to see Segura and Haniger develop into not just The Future, but The Present.  Could that Taijuan Walker trade have gone any better for the Mariners?

Now, here we are – with a Monday off-day – 27-19, in second place in the A.L. West (2 games behind the Astros and 1.5 games ahead of the Angels to lock into that second Wild Card spot.  I’m still not convinced this is a playoff team and probably never will be until it actually happens, but this is as good as I’ve ever felt about a Mariners team this late into the season for a long, long time.

Getting back to winning that season series against the Tigers, we’ve also won the season series against the Indians, and are 2-1 against the Twins, Royals, White Sox, and Blue Jays.  We’re 3-2 against the Rangers and 4-2 against the suddenly-surging A’s.  The only teams we have losing records against are the Angels (1-2) and the impossible Astros (1-3).

Obviously, the hitting is the story of the season.  Segura, Gordon, and Haniger are leading the way.  Cano was having a fantastic season until he got popped and broke his hand.  Zunino, Cruz, and Seager could be better, but are still providing the power this lineup needs.  Healy overcame a disaster of a start to be a dynamic force towards the bottom of the lineup.  Heredia has not shied away one little bit with his increased playing time.  All we need is for Gamel and our bench guys to pick it up just a tad and the offense should be able to weather the storm (for the most part) of losing Cano for 80 games.

I’ve been a little intrigued by the pitching of late, though.  Obviously, Felix and Leake have been pretty big disappointments, even based on my lowered expectations, but they’ve kind of been keeping us in games for the most part.  He never looks great, but Felix has only looked BAD a couple times; other than that, he has a bad inning here and there, but is usually able to limit the damage and hold it down until the offense can pick him up.  And, while I think most people expected Leake to be better heading into the season, he’s only a little bit worse than what I predicted, based on his overall experience in the MLB (and not just his last 2 amazing months of 2017).

On the flipside of things, James Paxton has been on the roll of all rolls in the month of May.  Wade LeBlanc continues to be on the run of his life (and absolutely should not be returned to the bullpen if/when Erasmo Ramirez gets healthy).  And even Marco Gonzales continues to be the most economical of starters that we have.  If he EVER figures out how to make it through the sixth inning without handing over the lead he’s been given – and God forbid starts working his magic into the seventh inning and beyond – I might actually be able to one day forgive this GM for trading away future superstar Tyler O’Neill.  That’s not even getting into Christian Bergman’s 7-inning 0-run start and Ariel Miranda’s 5-inning 1-run start.

As for the bullpen, that’s always going to be volatile.  Scrabble hasn’t been anything close to what we need from a lefty specialist.  Nicasio has had moments of greatness, but too many slip-ups for comfort from an 8th inning guy.  Vincent has been a little bit up and down (probably right on track, from my pre-season expectations).  But, Diaz has been extra-special, Pazos has been very stout, Altavilla’s been a little better than expected, and if Ryan Cook can hold it together, he could be a pretty big addition to this group.  Also, Chasen Bradford has been a nice innings eater and someone I didn’t even come close to expecting anything from.

All in all, I think the bullpen will have its bad moments (as they all do), but is overall better than I thought.  And, while the starters are far from elite (aside from Paxton), I’m coming away very impressed with this unit.  I’ll never be confident with these guys, but I think they’re managed very well.  If that continues, it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility for this to be a Wild Card team in 2018.

Cano’s Fucked & The Mariners Are Gone

Not too long ago, it was a broken bone in Robinson Cano’s hand of unknown severity that was causing all of our sleepless nights this week, fretting the fate of a Mariners team seemingly on the verge of breaking a playoff drought longer than any other in major American professional sports.  Yesterday, we learned of his 80-game steroid suspension, and it doesn’t even matter that the Mariners beat the Rangers in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the 11th last night.  This season has gone so far sideways that we can’t even sit around and mope about one thing for a single day before some other atrocity befalls this cursed franchise.

I mean, seriously, on the same day Cano gets clipped, some dickhole hits Nelson Cruz on the foot with a breaking ball?  Sure, he should be back in a few days, BUT WE GET IT BASEBALL GODS!!!  It can always get fucking worse for the Seattle Fucking Mariners.  ENOUGH!

The earliest Cano can come back is mid-August.  He should be weeks healed from the broken bone by then, but I’m not sure all that matters much.  The real ramifications are, of course, that this essentially doubles his time away from the Mariners this season, which severely affects their chances to sneak into that Wild Card game.  What’s even worse, of course, is that even if by some grace of the baseball gods the Mariners do manage to somehow grab that second Wild Card spot, Cano won’t be allowed to play in it.  Or any of the other possible post-season games this year.

Just when you thought it was safe to be a Mariners fan again.

I’m obviously much less concerned with how this affects Cano’s legacy.  I’m also less concerned with how or why it happened.  Did he knowingly take something against the rules and then try to cover it up?  Sure seems like it.  Even if he didn’t knowingly take something against the rules, he’s an idiot and SEVERELY negligent for not knowing what’s going into his body.  Either way, I guess this is a black mark on his otherwise Hall of Fame career, but again, what do I care?  He did most of his Hall of Fame damage in a Yankees uniform anyway, and Hall of Fame inductions don’t win the Mariners any World Series titles, so fuck all that noise.

Before the season, I was dubious at best about the Mariners’ chances of making the post-season; with the hand injury, my doubts only intensified.  With this suspension now?  Forget it.  While my overarching opinion hasn’t changed – this isn’t a playoff team, and more shit like this will chip away at the good start they’ve enjoyed – I have an even more concrete opinion of the 2018 Mariners and it’s absolutely unimpeachable:

Even IF the Mariners make the playoffs in 2018, as it’s currently constructed, there’s no hope of even sniffing the World Series, let alone winning it.  Not with the level of competition that looks to vie for the other playoff spots.

So, Cano can get injured, he can get suspended, he can even retire in disgrace, it’s not going to matter.

What I hope for is that the Mariners take this $12 million they’re going to save and rent a quality starter for the remainder of the year.  Might make things more interesting.

As for all the talk of moving Dee Gordon back to second base, I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance that it would happen until the team acquired another proper starting outfielder.  I mean, this was a team already too uncomfortable to play Guillermo Heredia on an everyday basis (settling on someone in Ben Gamel who’s been the fucking worst since the All Star Break last year and hasn’t re-adjusted to the way the rest of the league has adjusted to him), now we’re going to start BOTH of them?  I guess when you take a look at our second base alternatives, it doesn’t sound totally crazy, but at some point I have to believe this team goes after a better outfielder (likely to stick in left field, with a platoon in center until Cano returns and Dee can move back).  I know this team has more pressing needs elsewhere (like up and down the pitching staff), but figure outfielders are more prevalent and shouldn’t necessarily cost as much to acquire in trade.

Just a rotten, rotten day any way you slice it.

The Mariners Won A Crucial Series Against The Blue Jays

And we’re back!

I was listening to the Brock & Salk show this week, and one of the callers bemoaned the fact that the Mariners keep winning these series, but they’re totally incapable of sweeping them.  And, while obviously the hosts were right to laugh at him because when you think about this organization … I mean, your expectations can’t be that high!  It’d be like the Cleveland Browns starting to turn around their fortunes and being upset they’re not immediately in the Super Bowl.  These are the MARINERS, just be happy they’re winning any games at all!

And yet … I kinda sorta get where that caller was coming from!

Dating back to the first series of the year, the Mariners had chances against the Indians in that loss, but the offense couldn’t push us over the top.  Then, in the finale against the A’s, we lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to lose out on the sweep.  There was the finale in Texas where Erasmo Ramirez stunk up the joint; the opener against the lowly White Sox where Mike Leake stunk up the joint; and once again against the Indians, where a late rally against Kluber & Co. fell just short.  Then, we had Paxton’s 16-strikeout game against the A’s that should’ve given us the sweep, until finally we get back to this Toronto series.

Game 1 – no hitter.  Glorious.  Game 2 – sigh.

The headline of Game 2 was:  Juan Nicasio melted down in the 8th inning with a 2-1 lead, giving up 4 runs and costing us the game.  But, I’m here to argue it never should’ve come to that.  The Blue Jays were running out a starter on a terrible streak – Jaime Garcia – and we had MULTIPLE chances early in the game to put him away.

Bases loaded in the first, but only managed 1 run.  Multiple runners on in the third, but again managed just 1 run.  Two more walks in the fifth, but couldn’t push a runner home.  Garcia allowed runners in 4 out of 5 of his innings pitched, but in the end all we could muster against a guy who walked 5 and hit 1 batter was a measly 2 runs (1 earned).  I mean, that was the game right there, and it was vastly overshadowed by people bemoaning our bullpen woes.

And I get it.  We have two guys – Nicasio and Diaz – and right now Nicasio, I’m not sure, is the guy we thought we were getting.  He’s been fantastic most nights, but he’s been shakier a whole lot more often than we were hoping.  And I don’t know if anyone else is really stepping up.  Nick Vincent maybe, but I feel like we need more right now.  Hopefully James Pazos can be a guy like that, though he’s got to handle all of our left-handed duties with Scrabble sucking as hard as he is.

It’s a shame too, because we wasted a really good start out of Wade LeBlanc.  Sure, he only lasted 5 innings, and sure he threw less than 60 pitches, but he held the Blue Jays to 1 run off 4 hits with 0 walks and 3 strikeouts, and I agree with the decision to turn it over to the bullpen at that point, with a narrow 1-run lead.  The fact that the offense let it remain so close is what’s really the overriding factor of why we lost that game.

Too bad, too, because we ended up crushing Game 3.

7 out of 9 guys had at least 2 hits (only Cruz and Heredia lost out on the fun).  Seager hit two homers, including a first inning grand salami, and most importantly everyone kept piling on the rest of the way, scoring in 6 out of 9 innings.  We knocked J.A. Fucking Happ’s ass out of there in a hurry, and went on cruise control the rest of the way.

Mike Leake rebounded in a big way, going 7 innings, giving up just 2 runs.  And, some shaky bullpenning in the 8th inning notwithstanding, we got out of the series with a much-needed win against a potential Wild Card rival.  I said it before, but keeping the Blue Jays at bay is going to be critical to our chances, as we need to keep it to a 2-team race for that second wild card, between us and the Angels.

The Mariners are in Detroit right now and already had one rained out, so there’s supposed to be a doubleheader today.  We’ll see how this goes.  The Tigers are bad, so we gotta find a way to squeeze out another non-sweep series win!

The Mariners Had Their Asses Handed To Them In San Francisco

Look, this just isn’t going to be the greatest road trip in the history of the world unless the pitching shows up.

The Mariners are 2-1 since Nelson Cruz was injured, but don’t let the winning record in the small sample size fool you.  This team is severely hamstrung without their best power hitter locking down the middle of that lineup.  Haniger and Cano, God bless ’em, are doing the lord’s work driving in runs; as are Gordon and Segura, getting on base.  But everyone Seager and below in the lineup is pretty mediocre right now, and I don’t care if you’re the cluster-luckiest team in all of Major League Baseball, you’re not going to win many games with only 4 guys producing.  Thankfully, the stupid series with the Giants is over after only 2 games, so we don’t have to suffer our stupid pitchers trying to swing a bat again until the middle of July.

Of course, you’re not going to win many games if your starting pitcher gives up 8 runs in 4 innings either.  It hurts my heart whenever King Felix struggles, so I’m not going to dwell on it too much.  I mean, what sort of cold-hearted bastard gets mad at Old Yeller for succumbing to rabies; IT’S NOT HIS FAULT ALSO I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE THE ONE WHO IS CRYING!

We had a less-than-stellar James Pazos sighting, as well as an inning-gobbling appearance out of Wade LeBlanc to save the rest of our bullpen ahead of today’s sub-freezing game in Minnesota.

On the hitting side of things, guys sort of got theirs, but Johnny Cueto did an excellent job of spreading out the damage and avoiding the big inning (which, unfortunately, with zero command of his fastball, Felix couldn’t match).  Gordon and Cano both had a couple singles apiece; Haniger had a hit and two walks to rub it in everyone’s faces that he’s got the best approach at the plate right now; Mike Marjama had the first hit of his 2018 season (and a double to boot); but Dan Vogelbach was the star of the show (so to speak), with his two hits, including an RBI double (the only run the Mariners would score all day).

Look, these things happen, and I get that.  But, as I’ve been preaching all week, this team is in desperate need of the bottom of its lineup to start pulling its weight.  I hope, like I’ve never hoped before, that we eventually get to see this team at full strength, with Cruz, Zunino, and Gamel all back to full strength and starting everyday (along with all the other starters we have going now).  I have no doubt Cruz is a major upgrade over anyone else at DH; same with Zunino over anyone else at Catcher; same with Gamel over the likes of Ichiro or Heredia in left field.  At that point, I think the weakest part of the lineup is at first base, and I’m not so sure we wouldn’t be better off with Vogelbach getting the lion’s share of starts over there (with Healy in a strict platoon against left-handed pitching).

Also, I’ll say this:  if Ichiro doesn’t get hot at the plate in a hurry, I think he could be waived just as soon as Gamel is ready to come off the DL.  Clock’s ticking for our Hall of Famer; I hope the Mariners do the right thing here.

Mariners Offense Continues Humming Along

With Nelson Cruz joining Mike Zunino, Ben Gamel, David Phelps, and Erasmo Ramirez on the DL, I’ll admit I didn’t have the highest of hopes for the Mariners yesterday.  We’re rolling with two nobodies at catcher, left field and first base haven’t provided a whole lot on the offensive side of the ball, and there we were in San Francisco, playing in a National League park.  With Seager’s usual early-season struggles in full effect, it seemed like a day where the offense might shit the bed.  And, with Marco Gonzales on the mound, I more than have my doubts that he can hold it together this season.

Happily, my fears were unfounded, at least for a day.  Though, with these injuries to Cruz and Zunino, the bottom of the order is pretty pathetic.  The bulk of the damage yesterday was done by hitters 1-5 (Gordon, Segura, Cano, Haniger, Seager).  Sure, Healy & Heredia both had their first hits of the season, but neither is really going to be an offensive force this year (or ever); more like complementary players who might chip in some production here and there.

While it was nice to see Seager get a couple hits and a walk, the top four guys are really dominating so far this season.  Dee Gordon was 3/5 with 2 stolen bases and a run scored.  Jean Segura was 3/4 with a walk and 2 runs scored.  Cano was 1/4 with a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored.  And Haniger continues to be this team’s MVP through four games, going 1/5 with a run and 2 RBI.  Here’s hoping his hot streak continues at least until Cruz can come back.

Marco Gonzales looked about as impressive as I’ve ever seen him through 6 innings yesterday.  At that point, he’d only given up 1 run off of 4 hits, 0 walks, and 1 strikeout on a measly 80 pitches.  So, it made perfect sense to try to squeeze one more inning out of him.  Heading into the bottom of the seventh, the M’s were up 6-1.  Gonzo struck out the leadoff hitter, but that was followed by a single and a 2-run homer (on a pitch that was about as middle-middle as they get) to unceremoniously end his day.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a great way to start his season (probably the most important season of his professional career), but God damn would it have been a lot cooler to see him only give up the 1 run.  Not that I think a late-game 2-run homer will completely shatter his confidence, but I do think confidence is his friend, and the more of it he has, the better off we’ll all be.  Don’t forget, he’s out of options.  It’s not like we can just stash him in Tacoma for another season to work on his craft.  It’s now or never!

Nick Vincent got us out of the seventh with a couple scary-looking fly-outs.  Juan Nicasio struggled in his second consecutive appearance (giving up 3 hits and 1 run to make things interesting and get Dan Altavilla warming up in the bullpen).  It did look like he was starting to throw harder than before, so maybe he’s still rounding into shape.  I’m still sort of expecting him to land on the DL any day now with arm issues that will explain away why he’s looked so mediocre through three outings.  Thankfully, Edwin Diaz is still red hot, as he closed out the game with no trouble.

I still have a lot of concerns about this offense as we continue on this week without two of our biggest boppers.  Things look okay now, because we’re 3-1, but after we leave Frisco we’ve gotta go to Minnesota and Kansas City before we start to see some guys return.  In that time, we’re gonna need some of these guys who aren’t hitting to pick it up in a big way.  I don’t think cluster luck is going to be our friend for too much longer.