How Are Certain Ex-Mariners Doing After Two Months?

If you were following along in mid-April, you might’ve caught wind that certain ex-Mariners – guys we traded away, or otherwise didn’t retain for whatever reason – started off the season quite hot.

If you’re still following along today, you might be aware that certain current-Mariners that we brought in to replace those ex-Mariners aren’t doing so hot. Mitch Garver stinks, Jorge Polanco is hurt (and a total disappointment in every way), Luis Urias is so bad he’s in Tacoma right now, Mitch Haniger is playing more like a 43 year old than a 33 year old, Gregory Santos still hasn’t thrown a meaningful pitch in a Mariners uniform. It makes one wonder – two-plus months into the season – did we make a series of calamitous mistakes? Should we have held onto the players we once had?

So, let’s go around the horn, and see if those certain ex-Mariners are still tearing things up, or if they’ve come back down to Earth.

Let’s start with Jarred Kelenic, because why not? Once touted as The Future of the Mariners’ organization, he’s trying to rebuild his career down in Atlanta. I would say he’s doing okay, but definitely reverting closer to career norms. .268 batting average, .717 OPS, not quite a starter, but appears to be the left-handed platoon partner he’s destined to be. Seems like he’s more or less what he was last year, which is leaps and bounds better than he was in his first two seasons in the bigs, but obviously a far cry from the superstar we all hoped he’d be. If you pit him against Luke Raley, I’d say the Mariners have the better platoon bat. But, it’s still early, and this could be a neck-and-neck race for years.

How’s Eugenio Suarez doing down in Arizona? Well, after a torrid first week-to-ten-days, he’s kind of fallen off a cliff. He’s still an everyday third baseman, but his -0.1 WAR isn’t a pleasant number to look at. He has 4 homers in almost 60 games – which, to be honest, is also what Julio has – and he’s batting .205 with a .582 OPS. Considering the player Josh Rojas has been so far this season, this has honestly worked out exceedingly well for the Mariners.

Sticking with Arizona, how about Paul Sewald? Well, he missed the first month and change with an injury, but since he returned on May 7th, he has 5 saves and has given up 1 run in 8.1 innings across 9 appearances. So far in his tenure with the Diamondbacks, he looks like the same ol’ Paul Sewald we knew and loved with the Mariners. It’s too early to say for sure who’s winning that trade, but at the moment Ryan Bliss is just starting to get his feet wet at the Major League level (having gotten his first hit last Saturday), Dominic Canzone has some decent power numbers, but otherwise is who we thought he was, and we’re clinging to Josh Rojas being on this hot pace, which seems destined to cool considerably sooner rather than later. Would I rather have the Sure Thing reliever or the three question marks? Tough to say, but with Dylan Moore eating into third base with Urias down in Tacoma, I’d probably rather have the stud reliever (especially with Brash out for the year, and Santos likely down until the All Star Break, at best).

Next up, we have Teoscar Hernandez with the Dodgers. The Dodgers are a great team, in first place in the N.L. West, with such superstars as Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman. Yet, it’s Teoscar who is leading the Dodgers with 38 RBI. It’s Teoscar who’s 2nd on the team in homers with 12 (two behind Shohei). It’s Teoscar with the .790 OPS, who would be killing all qualified Mariners hitters with that figure (and even leading most non-qualified Mariners, or all the ones who’ve appeared in more than 5 games). Oh sure, he has 76 strikeouts, but tell me that wouldn’t fit in with Cal and Julio (both over 70). He’s got a 1.3 WAR at the moment, which would only be behind Cal and Moore. You’re telling me that’s not worth $20 million? You’re telling me you’d rather have Garver over Teoscar as your DH? If things keep up like this, I can only call the move to not retain Teoscar (while paying the same amount to Garver, albeit over 2 seasons, which is arguably worse because it means we have to suffer his ineptitude for more than just 2024) a total disaster, and one that ultimately might cost us a real shot at contending for a World Series.

Hey, does anyone remember Jose Caballero? We traded him to the Rays for Luke Raley straight up, which is an interesting conundrum for me, because I’m on record as liking Raley over Kelenic. BUT, if you’re asking me if I would rather have Kelenic and Caballero, or Raley and Polanco’s Rotting Corpse … yeah, I think the Mariners would be better off with the former. Caballero is mostly an everyday player at short stop for the Rays – as opposed to sort of a replacement second baseman for the Mariners last year – and he’s having an even better 2024 than he was in limited duty in 2023. He’s 4 hits off of his season total from a year ago, in about half the games; he’s already got 20 stolen bases (after getting 26 last year); he’s got a higher batting average and slugging percentage, though his OBP has taken a dip, giving him a fairly comparable OPS. All in all, I’d say he’s a slightly better version of himself from a year ago, playing a more difficult defensive position. Meanwhile, Polanco is a fucking decomposing mummy shuffling out there with tattered rags and rigor mortis. If Raley wasn’t raking as much as he’s been, I’d be more upset. But, this one hurts a lot more than I thought it would, I’m not gonna lie to you.

I’d like to visit with the San Francisco Giants for a bit, because they have a number of former Mariners and would-be Mariners, if certain fans had it their way. Tom Murphy is there, and finds himself on the 60-Day IL. In other words, the least-surprising development of all time. In spite of his being injured – and being remarkably terrible when he was healthy – I’d say it’s still a wash between him and Seby Zavala.

Then, there’s Robbie Ray, who still hasn’t returned from his injury sustained in the first game of 2023. However, he’s getting close to throwing in extended Spring Training or whatever, so it does indeed look like he’s poised for a second half return, if all goes well over the next month. That being said, would I rather have him for half a season over the rotation we’ve got currently? No way.

And, I thought – for shits and giggles – I’d throw Blake Snell into the mix. Blake Snell: the 2-time Cy Young Award winner. Blake Snell: who signed a 2-year, $62 million contract with the Giants very late into the offseason. Blake Snell: the Seattle resident who very desperately wanted to sign with the Mariners (and who many Mariners fans wanted as well). Well, in 6 games, he’s 0-3 with a 9.51 ERA and a -1.1 WAR. He got a late start to the season, then got hurt for a month, and overall has been pretty abysmal. Is this just a Year From Hell situation? Or is he – at age 31 – not necessarily worth $31 million per year? Again, I would 1,000% rather have the Mariners’ rotation that we have currently.

There’s also Marco Gonzales with the Pirates, who I alluded to in this post, who was having a decent start to the season until he got hurt. There’s Isaiah Campbell with the Red Sox, who’s appeared in 7 games, then got hurt, and looks no better than he was last year (and might be worse). And there’s Justin Topa, who finds himself on the 60-day IL with the Twins, and doesn’t figure to start throwing again for another month.

All in all, I would say the majority of the Mariners who got away were let go for a good reason. Nevertheless, there’s a few moves here and there that we might live to regret.

The Mariners Traded For Gregory Santos

After the last deal, for Jorge Polanco, the Mariners made a weak spot that much more flimsy by raiding from a bullpen that was already down Paul Sewald (as well as promising youngsters Isaiah Campbell, Penn Murfee, and Matt Festa, among others we’ve shipped off over the last couple seasons). The loss of Justin Topa meant that our third-best reliever (and maybe our first-most-consistent reliever) was gone. I mean, can you imagine what a bullpen would look like with Sewald, Brash, Munoz, AND Topa? Well, we had it for most of last damn year, and look at where it got us!

Well, over the weekend, the M’s made a trade with the White Sox. We gave them reliever Prelander Berroa, minor league outfielder Zach DeLoach, and a very nice 69th overall draft pick. In return, we get reliever Gregory Santos.

Berroa was a promising reliever prospect who pitched primarily in AA last year, while drinking a sip of coffee with the Mariners in two appearances. There’s some incredible stuff there, a blazing fastball, tons of strikeouts, but also a little iffy on the command. I find it extremely interesting that the Mariners – an organization prized for developing bullpen arms – would give up on a prospect like Berroa. Maybe they’re worried about his arm holding up, maybe they doubt his ability to rein in his command. Whatever it is, it feels like he was the most talented of The Pile we have on the 40-man roster today. Ultimately, the thinking is: Santos has it right now, whereas Berroa might still be another year away. And if you believe that this team is trying to win in 2024 (which I’m still not so sure they are), then obviously you like a Santos more than a Berroa.

With Santos, there’s lots of club control, and instead of being a huge maybe, the belief is that he’s a legitimate stud. My concern is his durability and his ability to generate strikeouts.

He appeared in 60 games in 2023, all with the White Sox. In 2022, he pitched in 37 games (mostly in the minors); in 2021, he pitched in 17 games (also mostly in the minors), and in 2020 he didn’t pitch at all due to COVID. So, it’s no wonder he landed on the IL late last year with arm problems; the hope is that it was just fatigue. But, the Mariners tend to be one of those teams that over-taxes their bullpen, so I don’t know if I’m jumping for joy.

As for his strikeouts, it’s not like he DOESN’T strike batters out. But, he’s not in the upper echelon of a Brash or Munoz. He averaged 9.0 stikeouts per nine innings last year; Munoz averaged 12.3 and Brash averaged a whopping 13.6! What’s interesting about Santos is that he has reverse platoon splits. As a right hander, he’s actually BETTER against lefties. It’s a sample size of one season, but still. Lower batting average, on-base, slugging. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is leaps and bounds better. While Brash and Munoz aren’t BAD against lefties, when they do struggle, it tends to be because lefties get to them. Santos might be a salve for this problem. We can mix-and-match a little more, if an opposing team has a run of lefties coming.

What sounds crazy to me is that Fangraphs or someone has projected Santos to be the best reliever in baseball in 2024. If that’s the case, then DAMN is this a good deal!

Obviously, we don’t know what Zach DeLoach is going to turn into (or Gabriel Gonzalez, for that matter, from the Polanco deal), but neither projected to be much of anything for the Mariners in 2024. DeLoach played all of last year in Tacoma, and was presumably their best and most consistent hitter, but was he ever going to crack our ever-growing chasm of Quad-A utility guys? I mean, shit, we already have Haggerty, Raley, Canzone, Marlowe, Moore, Trammell, and Clase. And that’s not even factoring in Julio and Haniger! Frankly, DeLoach going to the White Sox feels like the best thing for him. My guess is, as someone who’s already been traded multiple times, he’s not going to pan out at the Major League level. But, if he does, a place like Chicago, with low expectations and lots of opportunity for at bats, just might do the trick.

In a future post, I’m going to write about the bullpen. There’s still work to do, but I don’t know if that’s going to come from outside the organization. All those developmental coaches are going to have to earn their paychecks this spring!

The Mariners Made A Couple Of Trades To More Or Less Wrap Up Their Offseason

Full disclosure: I’m writing this on Friday afternoon of January 5th, the day these two trades went down. It was noted at this time by Dipoto that these were pretty much it as far as it goes for the major moves this offseason. There might be a small piece here or there coming in, but nothing to write home about. Nothing that’s going to drastically shake-up the organization’s chances to compete in 2024. So, if that’s not correct, and something huge happens between this day, and the day this post hits the Internet, you almost certainly won’t even be reading this paragraph, as I’ll need a new lede.

To recap this offseason so far:

You know what that has the feel of? A tear-down. Not an overwhelming tear-down, but you’re taking guys who were significant contributors to your team last year, you’re cutting them out, and you’re replacing them with …

Suffice it to say, the whole Root Sports brouhaha has been a disaster for our collective fan morale. This was a team that already needed to improve at left field, second base, and DH, and went ahead and added third base and right field to the mix (to say nothing of the uncertainty surrounding first base, with Ty France and his dwindling production). And what did we get for our consternation? Around $20 million.

Okay, so $20 million to play around with. There was some talk about the Mariners having intentions of still finding a way to out-spend our already-middling salary total from last year, so that’s not a zero chunk of change. But, it’s hard to see how you can fill out a whopping five spots on your everyday roster, not without significant trades to deplete your resources elsewhere. And, at this point, based on everything they’ve done, I find it VERY hard to believe we’re even going to spend as much as we did last year, let alone go past that mark.

The Mariners started their hard road back to relevancy by signing Mitch Garver to be our everyday DH (with maybe a start here and there at first base, or as an emergency backup catcher). That accounted for $12 of the $20 million, across two years. Probably means that’s it for free agency.

Which brings us to the flurry of moves made on January 5th:

  • The Mariners traded Robbie Ray to the Giants for Mitch Haniger and starter Anthony DeSclafani (in a deal notable for it being a money-neutral swap for 2024)
  • The Mariners traded Jose Caballero to the Rays for outfielder Luke Raley

If you follow me on Twitter (currently known as X) – and why wouldn’t you? I’m a mediocre-at-best follow – you already know how I feel about these trades, but I’ll reiterate here.

I like Mitch Haniger a lot as a person (and, not for nothing, I’ve never been super-into Robbie Ray as a Mariner, but that’s neither here nor there), but I don’t understand the unconditional love for this deal. Haniger is what we thought he was: consistently injured. Injured guys can’t help you win ballgames (unless it’s addition by subtraction, which at this point you have to put on the table). Haniger played in 61 games last year, with a whopping THREE stints on the IL. He played in 57 games in his final season with the Mariners in 2022. He played a full season in 2021, but no games in 2020, and only 63 games in 2019. 2018 was his last (and his only) great season at the Major League level, and we’re never seeing him play at that level again. At this point, with how broken down his body is, it’s fair to wonder if he’s even someone who’s playable. He might be a sub-.200 hitter for us going forward.

This year’s money is irrelevant (though it’s in excess of $17 million) because the money’s gone either way (we were either giving it to an injured Robbie Ray or an injured Mitch Haniger), but he’s also set to earn over $15 million next year on a player option. Why would he turn that down to become a free agent? Only someone who plays the vast majority of a full season at a relatively competent level would do that!

As for the pitcher, he supposedly “isn’t bad”. A ringing endorsement if I’ve ever heard one. I’ve never seen the guy pitch, so I can’t really sit here and tell you any different. But, based on his numbers (a FIP in the 4-5 range the last two years, a career 7.9 K/9 average – which dipped to 7.1 last year – and someone who in the last five years maxed out at 167.2 innings in a season), he strikes me as a right-handed Marco Gonzales. He also was lost to injury last year in July, and only appeared in 5 games in 2022. So, not even as durable as Marco then. Neat. At least he’s on the last year of his deal.

I think the most interesting aspect of this particular trade is what Dipoto said afterward. First of all, right out of the box it’s being declared that DeSclafani is destined for a long relief role in the bullpen. That’s assuming our five starters – Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, Miller, and Woo – make it through Spring Training healthy.

More importantly, though, Dipoto said that the Mariners looked into the possibility of trading one of their young starters, and “never liked the way it looked.”

I think that’s tremendously informative, and might be the most important thing the Mariners have done to try to salvage the long-term viability of this team going forward.

A lot of us believed in an inevitable trade from one of those five guys, to try to bolster our lineup. Maybe we’d back-fill the rotation via free agency, or in a separate, lesser deal. But, to truly improve our lineup, we’d need to deal from a position of strength (thereby diluting it). The likeliest trade chips were Miller and/or Woo. They were the least-proven of our starters who finished the season last year, which meant they had an unknown upside, but also an unknown downside. The hope being: maybe they’re not as good as we think, so let some other team find that out the hard way, while we get one of their stud hitters.

It doesn’t shock me that the Mariners were looking at all of their trade options. Ownership really tied their hands this offseason, so what other choice did they have? I will say that it’s somewhat surprising to hear the return wasn’t looking as bright as we’d once imagined. But, we don’t know all the ins and outs. We don’t know, for instance, how much salary this organization would be willing to take on. It’s one thing to trade Woo for whatever high-priced slugger is on the trade block at the moment; but, if ownership is unwilling to take on that salary, then obviously the point is moo (you know, a cow’s opinion).

But, we also don’t know how other teams value our pitchers. Maybe they weren’t as high on Miller or Woo as we are. Maybe everyone was holding out for Kirby or Gilbert, and we’re steadfast on keeping them. OR, maybe we’re the ones over-valuing our starters, and other teams refused to match our demands. There’s a lot of variables we don’t know about.

I find it somewhat encouraging, though, knowing that we’re taking a stand. We’re holding strong to our young, vibrant rotation. We’re keeping our strength, and at least heading into 2024 knowing we’re set somewhere. It may not be enough to get us to the playoffs, but at least it’s a plan.

I’m encouraged by that, even knowing how pisspoor this lineup is likely to be.

I can already tell this post is too long, so I’ll save my Robbie Ray thoughts for another time. Spoiler alert: the upside for the Giants is significantly higher than it is for the Mariners in this trade, even though it’s likely to be inconsequential-to-bad for both teams.

I’ll tell you what, though, I actually like the trade with the Rays! Maybe that’s a bad sign; when have the Rays ever NOT swindled us? But, getting rid of Caballero and bringing back a potentially-useful outfield bat – without having to throw in more prospects to get the deal done – is pretty sweet!

I was not a Caballero fan. I know I’m in the minority here, but so be it. His best attributes consisted exclusively of bothering the shit out of the Astros and Rangers (among other teams, I’m sure), because I guess he fucked with them when it came to the pitch clock. But, I mean, we’re talking about a guy who didn’t hit for average, didn’t hit for power, was okay defensively and on the basepaths, but who also made a lot of mistakes in both areas. He started off last year relatively hot – mostly in on-base percentage – but by the end of the season he was only getting on base if guys plunked him. He was hit by 17 pitches, and I’m willing to bet a good number of those were on purpose because he was so annoying.

I was not looking forward to another year of Caballero as this team’s mostly-everyday second baseman. Now, watch the Rays turn him into an All Star.

Luke Raley, on the other hand, is a little more seasoned, and is coming off of a year where he had a 126 OPS+. In 118 games, he had 45 extra base hits, to go along with 14 stolen bases. He does garner his fair share of strikeouts, but with the loss of Kelenic, we had a need for some lefty power.

In fact, there’s a pretty interesting comparison to be had between the 2023 seasons of Kelenic vs. Raley:

  • Kelenic: 105 games, 416 PA, .253/.327/.419/.746, .359 BABIP, 25 2B, 2 3B, 11 HRs (2.6% HR rate), 13 SB, 41 BB (9.9% BB rate), 132 K’s (31.7% K rate)
  • Raley: 118 games, 406 PA, .249/.333/.490/.824, .330 BABIP, 23 2B, 3 3B, 19 HRs (4.7% HR rate), 14 SB, 28 BB (6.9% BB rate), 128 K’s (31.5% K rate)

Pretty comparable, honestly. But, Raley clearly has the better home run power, with maybe not quite as good of an eye at the plate, but also maybe better bat-to-ball abilities. In looking at their respective batted ball rates, we see some more interesting similarities and differences in 2023:

  • Kelenic: Exit Velo 90.9, Hard Hit 45.6%, Line Drive 29.8%, Ground Ball 43.8%, Fly Ball 24.4%, Pull 33.1%, Center 52.1%, Oppo 14.9%
  • Raley: Exit Velo 89.6, Hard Hit 45.7%, Line Drive 17.2%, Ground Ball 40.9%, Fly Ball 27.6%, Pull 39.7%, Center 47.0%, Oppo 13.4%

Kelenic is hitting more line drives, which contributes to a higher BABIP and a higher batting average. But, Raley is hitting fewer grounders and more fly balls, and is hitting drastically more to the pull side, which contributes to his increased home run numbers. I feel like, if anything, that’s going to help him play a little better at T-Mobile Park, considering the short porch in right. How frustrating was it to see Kelenic hit the ball hard to center or the other way, only for it to be gobbled up by an outfielder? Hopefully, we’ll see less of that from Raley.

This post is WAY off the rails, so I’ll stop here. At some point in the near future, I’ll talk about what this means for our lineup in 2024.

The Mariners Traded Eugenio Suarez For Junk

I’d be lying if I told you I understand what the Mariners are doing. Usually, when it’s this early in the offseason, I’ll sit back and say, “Let’s wait and see what other moves are coming. Because surely THIS can’t be the plan!”

The last move that made sense from a roster construction perspective was a little over a year ago, when we traded for Teoscar Hernandez. Your miles may vary on whether or not the move actually worked out, but at least it made some kind of sense. Then, starting with us giving away Kyle Lewis for nothing, trading for Kolten Wong, and bringing in A.J. Pollock and Tommy La Stella – while extending Dylan Moore and essentially guaranteeing him a near-everyday spot in the lineup – the moves started to get blurry to me. They stopped making sense. I kept waiting and TRYING to see, but the closer we got to the start of the season, the more it became clear that this was it. This was the team. We were done making moves, and content to suck it.

We all saw how that turned out.

There hasn’t been a lot going on with the M’s so far this offseason. We let Teoscar Hernandez go away without a fight, which seemed like a bad move at the time, considering I figured there was little risk of him signing his qualifying offer. I haven’t heard of him signing anywhere, but I also don’t think he’s finished as a Major League baseball player. In conjunction with that, comes the news that the Mariners traded away Eugenio Suarez to the Arizona Diamondbacks, just as they did with Kyle Lewis, Ketel Marte, and Paul Sewald. In return for this deal, we get back Carlos Vargas (a relief pitcher) and Seby Zavala (a backup catcher). Pretty much the least you can get in return for a viable starting third baseman.

If I squint, I can sort of see what’s going on here: the Mariners just shed themselves of 425 strikeouts between Hernandez and Suarez. They were the second and third-most strikeouts in all of Major League Baseball last year. Nevertheless, they also accounted for a combined 4.3 WAR between them. That’s not an insignificant amount of production we need to recoup somehow, someway.

There was another deal that happened a couple weeks ago – indeed, on the first day of my honeymoon – that I was going to let slide under the rug and never think about, because it seemed so inconsequential. However, in the wake of the Suarez deal, there have been rumblings. Distressing rumblings.

The Mariners traded reliever Isaiah Campbell – one of our bevy of rookie arms from this past season who was fine at times, but far from great – to the Red Sox for infielder Luis Urias. I had assumed Urias was just another Quad-A utility infielder to throw on the pile. I think I had good reason for this assumption: he’ll be 27 next year, he hasn’t done much of anything at the Major League level, he’s coming off of really a nothing season, and his good numbers were from 2-3 years ago when he played for Milwaukee. That’s a prototypical guy you take a flier on in Spring Training, who maybe ends up as your 25th or 26th man.

However, once the Suarez deal went down, there were some people In The Know saying that this paved the way for Urias to be our starting third baseman, which is absolutely shocking to me! I really want to dismiss it, and again retreat into my cocoon of Wait & See, but coming off all the inaction of our previous offseason, I have to at least somewhat take this threat seriously.

I guess Urias doesn’t strike out as much. That’s something. He also doesn’t hit for average, hit for power, walk a ton, or steal any bases. Maybe his defense is good? That’s fine, but so was Geno’s. This feels like a significant downgrade, and that’s before you consider the hit to morale in the clubhouse. A clubhouse that’s been pissing and moaning for the better part of two years, whenever we get rid of highly-regarded teammates (Graveman, Sewald, now Suarez).

The fact of the matter is, the 2023 Mariners already had at least one significant hole to fill in our everyday lineup (probably more like two or three, but let’s not be greedy). Now, with the loss of Hernandez and Suarez, that’s a MINIMUM of three major holes (and, again, probably more like four or five). We’re going the wrong direction. Our goal was supposed to be improving upon the 2022 playoff squad, to start fighting for a World Series. We sat on our hands last season and regressed our way right out of the playoffs. Now, we’re actively ridding ourselves of productive players, and potentially replacing them with cheap nobodies who will do nothing for us.

Granted, in defense of Mariners brass, both Hernandez and Suarez took steps back in 2023 compared to 2022. If either one of them had managed to just maintain their level of production, we easily would’ve been in the playoffs. But, you can’t dismiss the possibility that they just had down years, and will bounce back in 2024. These are pros, and baseball is wonky as hell. Sometimes you have a bad season for unexplained reasons. That doesn’t mean you’re just finished forever.

As for our return in the Geno deal, Seby Zavala looks like a disaster at the plate. Maybe I’m being a little hard on him, but we’ll see. This surely means the end of Tom Murphy, which I’m fine with. I like Murph as much as the next guy, but he can’t stay healthy, and this team (and Cal Raleigh in particular) is severely taxed whenever he goes down. Zavala appears to be a quality defensive backstop, and if he can just be better than Brian O’Keefe, or whoever in the hell we had in 2022, then bully for us. But, a backup catcher isn’t going to move the needle on this team’s playoff chances.

Carlos Vargas has appeared in exactly 5 Major League games, all in 2023. He’s only 24, and allegedly throws the ball hard, but he also doesn’t seem to have great command yet. This trade will work out if we can harness his power and get him in the strike zone (without getting hit too hard in the process), but I read somewhere that there isn’t a lot of movement on his pitches. It seems like we just traded Isaiah Campbell for an Isaiah Campbell clone. Which means we traded Suarez for Urias and Zavala. Which feels like an absolute massacre for the Mariners.

My faith in the Mariners was already dwindling. Now it’s almost gone completely. I hope they do something awesome soon.

What We Can Be Happy About With This 2023 Mariners Season

I get it: being out of the playoffs is pretty irritating. This isn’t what we expected coming into the season; we were supposed to be a team on the rise and a team taking a step forward, after finally breaking the playoff drought in 2022. We had the core nucleus, we had the pitching, we just needed guys to play to expectations and we should’ve been all right. Did we do enough to get over the hump and become a division winner? No. We had a chance! Houston came down to Earth a little bit – which is something we definitely needed to happen for that to come to fruition – but we never expected Texas to be as good as they were, and that wrench ultimately ended our season.

Now, we have to move on. We have to look forward to next year. With a little bit of time to sit in our resentment, and reflect on what’s been done and what’s been said, now it’s time to rationally look back at what went right. We know what went wrong. The bottom of the order and the bench stunk. Many guys didn’t play to expectations. But, there were some positives as well, and we can’t just ignore them because we’re mad at the end result.

This organization isn’t going to blow everything up. The front office is staying intact. The manager and coaches are all being retained. There are guys under contract who likely aren’t going anywhere, and players with club control who still figure into our future plans. Unfortunately, we’re in a similar situation as the end of the 2022 season: needing to fill in around the margins. We didn’t get it right last offseason; we must get it right this offseason.

First and foremost, how do you not love what we got from J.P. Crawford? He came into 2023 as a legitimate fringe player. His 2022 season was arguably the worst of his Mariners career. He had terrible Spring Training numbers. He started out the year batting 9th, as everyone was calling on this team to upgrade at the short stop position. 2023 was as Make Or Break as it gets. And, to his credit, he put in the work last offseason at Driveline, he picked himself up, and he had the very best season of his career. He was a 5.0 WAR player; that’s leaps and bounds better than he’s ever been. He got his batting average back up to where it’s been in the past, he increased his on-base percentage quite a bit, and he slugged off the charts at .438. He hit 19 homers; 10 more than he’s hit in any other year! His 54 extra base hits were a career high. He pretty quickly found himself at the top of the batting order and never relinquished it, which I find most encouraging. That means he didn’t suffer a lot of prolonged, aggravating slumps. He was a guy we could always count on; for most of the year, he was the ONLY guy we could count on.

That’s a tremendous foundation on which to start. Short stop is secure for the foreseeable future. His defense seemed to bounce back a bit, he’s probably the best leader we could hope for among this player group, and where do you need to be strongest on a baseball field? Up the middle.

Which brings us to Julio. I can’t say it was a better season than 2022, but I do believe he took a step forward. Julio had a rough April in 2022, before going on a tear. In 2023, he REALLY struggled through June. Sophomore Slump was being bandied about. I think we all believed he’d pull out of it at some point, but I wasn’t sure he could get anywhere near where he was as a rookie.

Then, in July, he started picking it up. And that August, MY GOD. .429/.474/.724 slash line for the entire month; he was otherworldly! All of a sudden, he DID start to get back to where we all expected. But, then he cooled again in September. His slugging was still there, but everything else severely diminished. His WAR was 5.3 – tops on the team – but his entire slash line was a little bit worse compared to 2022. He had more doubles, homers, and stolen bases, but he also played in 23 more games.

All in all, I’m not worried about Julio. I think 2023 was a great learning experience for the young superstar. But, it wasn’t a wasted year for him, either. He didn’t have a learning experience while taking an extreme step back; he was still the best and most important player on this team, and I expect him to take these first two years and move forward as one of the best players in all of baseball.

Finishing with the Up The Middle motif, we have Cal Raleigh. Thank Christ for Cal Raleigh! This was his first full year. His first full year as the unquestioned #1 at catcher. And his first year where he wasn’t in jeopardy of being sent down to Tacoma to work on some things. He improved his batting average and on-base percentage, while taking a quiet step back in slugging. He had career highs in homers and doubles, but again, played in 145 games (compared to 119 in 2022). Where he REALLY took a step forward was with his defense; he was throwing dudes out left and right, really shutting down the run game of opposing offenses (in spite of the fact that this pitching staff isn’t always the greatest at holding runners).

I wouldn’t say Cal is a finished product either, though I don’t know if I would expect him to hit considerably above his .232 batting average. What matters is, like J.P., he didn’t suffer crazy lulls. He was pretty consistent all year. And, if you’re going to give me 30 homers from a catcher, I’m going to take that every time! Going forward, we don’t have to worry about Cal; he’s the guy. He’s going to be here for a good, long while. Hopefully, we can sign him to a long term extension sooner rather than later, because I think he’s going to be worth every penny. The concern lies in who his backup is going to be. Tom Murphy is a tremendous backup – when healthy – but he’s proven that we can’t count on him in that regard. We don’t want to blow Cal out with overuse, even though he’s a stud and wants to be out there every single day.

There’s a steep drop-off from there, as far as everyday players are concerned. I don’t want to get too into the weeds with Teoscar Hernandez – because I don’t know where he’s going to be next year – but I thought he did okay. He gave us almost what he showed he was in Toronto in 2022. Worse slash line, WAY too many strikeouts, but he was a 2.1 WAR player and that’s not nothing. He hit 26 homers and 29 doubles, while playing in 160 of 162 games. Yes, he had an abysmal start to his Mariners career, but he got it going as the season went along (and also enjoyed a torrid August), showing you what he’s capable of. I get the feeling it took him some time to figure out how to hit in this ballpark, but to his credit, he figured it out. He wasn’t a total waste of space like Jesse Winker and some of these other guys we’ve brought in. His overall numbers and production were pretty much what I would’ve expected out of a healthy Mitch Haniger, though I will say the defense was often a problem.

That’s all I got for the offense. On to the pitching.

Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, excellent work, no notes! They had wonderful seasons. All 190+ innings pitched, all sub-4 ERAs, all with 179+ strikeouts, all with WHIPs 1.10 or lower. All 3.1 WAR pitchers or above. They obviously didn’t win as many games as we’d like (between 13-14), but that’s a reflection of the team as a whole. All had 18+ quality starts (out of 31-33 starts). It’s as ideal of a Top 3 in a starting rotation as you could hope for: all young, under contract/club control for years to come, and all elite in their own ways. On top of which, it was just Logan’s third Major League season, and Kirby’s second. The training wheels are off for all of these guys; we get to head into 2024 knowing that 3/5 of our rotation is not just set, but among the best in all of baseball. They continue to get better! They continue to introduce new pitches and find new ways to get batters out! Hell, I welcome the further influx of George Kirby knuckleballs! Bring it all on!

Now, were they all totally consistent all year long? No. Castillo and Kirby really came up short in that final week and a half. There were enough instances this season where their lines really left me scratching my head. But, that’s pretty nit-picky. On the whole, all three of these guys were tremendous, and I’m happy to go forward with them.

Sticking with the rotation, how do you not like what we got from Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo as rookies? They very much WERE under strict pitch counts and innings limits. They weren’t perfect, but they had ERAs of 4.32 and 4.21 respectively. They had K/9 rates of 8.2 and 9.5, which slots them quite nicely with our Top 3 listed above. Going into 2024, a rotation of just those five guys looks – on paper – to be outstanding!

We don’t know exactly what they are yet, though. They’re still very raw, very young, very inexperienced. I don’t know that they have a great command of their secondary/off-speed pitches. They were both fucking bananas against righties, but really had their struggles against lefties, and that has to get fixed if they expect to stay in the Major Leagues for the long haul.

  • Miller vs. Righties: 7.20 K/BB, .200/.234/.315, in 282 PA
  • Miller vs. Lefties: 2.94 K/BB, .303/.358/.558, in 255 PA
  • Woo vs. Righties: 7.25 K/BB, .179/.226/.268, in 191 PA
  • Woo vs. Lefties: 1.52 K/BB, .283/.389/.540, in 180 PA

That’s too stark of a difference. It’s a little Matt Brash-y. Excellent numbers for a reliever, but not so hot if you want to hack it as a starter.

With Marco Gonzales coming back for one more go-around – assuming we can’t find a trade partner for him – and with Robbie Ray still on the books for a tremendous amount of money (though, I was dismayed to hear he likely won’t be back until midseason, which means he probably won’t be back to normal until 2025), I think there’s a general sense among the fanbase that one of Miller or Woo won’t be here next year. That one will be traded to help bolster other areas of need. It makes sense, though it’s unfortunate. I can’t help but feel like it’s a case of We Can’t Have Nice Things. Just when we lock down the rotation as solidly as possible, we have to bust it up – YET AGAIN – to help out our feeble offense. I was surprised to hear that Woo is more liked than Miller, as far as the scouts and analytical people are concerned. That’s interesting, considering Miller passed the eye test a little bit more. He’s a little further along in his development, has more innings under his belt, and doesn’t have the injury history of Woo. But, whatever, I guess. Both guys looked awesome, and I hope we’re able to find a way to keep ’em around.

I can only go as far as Matt Brash, Justin Topa, and Andres Munoz with the bullpen. We had other nice-ish pieces – Gabe Speier, Tayler Saucedo, Isaiah Campbell all got an extended run, and looked decent as back-end of the bullpen kind of guys – Eduard Bazardo had good-looking stuff, Ty Adcock got a cup of coffee and looked decent, Prelander Berroa got a tiny cup of espresso and looked like a guy with tremendous upside, but I don’t know how much you can count on ANY of those guys. Especially when you consider, in 2022, we had the likes of Diego Castillo (who spent most of 2023 in Tacoma), Matt Festa (who had solid numbers in Tacoma, but isn’t even in the organization anymore), Penn Murfee (who got hurt, and isn’t expected to be healthy in time to start 2024), not to mention Paul Sewald (who famously was traded at the deadline). There’s so much flux with any bullpen, year to year, that it’s kind of pointless to project. If we get anything out of any of these lower tier guys in 2024, it’ll be gravy. I’m expecting nothing; I’m not even expecting they’ll be on the team.

You have to say Matt Brash was the best reliever on the team, especially after Sewald went to Arizona. There’s a lot to like here. 107 strikeouts was fifth on the team, behind our top four starters. 13.6 K/9 led the team. 3.06 ERA was very respectable. I wouldn’t say he gave us quite what we were expecting, but I think that’s because we were expecting the moon and the stars. Every report about his offseason was about how he might have the best slider of all time, in baseball history. Shit like that. As your #3 reliever behind Sewald and Munoz coming in? I think I expected something like a sub-1 ERA and maybe no more than 1 or 2 blown saves. Instead, you know, he was on the hook for 5 blown saves, and he got dinged with 4 losses. He had a somewhat rocky first couple months, but then improved over the rest of the season, and became the pitcher we all thought he’d be. He was the most reliable reliever we had by season’s end. And I think he improved enough – and worked on his pitch mix enough – to get even better in 2024.

Justin Topa came out of nowhere, as an older pre-arb player – to totally blow away expectations. Before 2023, he had played in no more than 7 games in any given season with the Brewers; this year he was in 75. He had an 8.0 K/9 rate, and had the best WAR of any Mariners reliever with 1.6 (over Brash’s 1.3). He wasn’t perfect – none of these guys were – but he was maybe the most consistently-good reliever we had, with no prolonged slumps. Every once in a while he didn’t have it, but you could say that about anyone; Topa didn’t cost us very many games, and was an incredible asset overall.

Andres Munoz, at least for me, barely qualifies for the theme of this post. But, he’s under contract through 2028 and isn’t going anywhere. He was fine. He wasn’t what he was in 2022, but an early-season injury took him out of commission for a good chunk of games. For as amazing as his stuff is, he was a little too inconsistent for me. As one of five regular relievers with 10+ K/9 (12.3), it’s clear his arm talent is pretty rare. But, his walk rate spiked, his K/BB rate dropped considerably (6.4 in 2022, 3.0 in 2023), and his splits vs. lefties and righties flip-flopped. He was better against lefties than righties in 2022; though still amazing against righties. But, while he was still strong against righties in 2023, he took a big dive against lefties, for whatever reason.

Ultimately, I’m not too worried. Though, I will say it’s concerning that he got hurt again. Remember, he missed all of 2020 and most of 2021 coming back from injury. He might just be a guy – with the way he throws – that he’s going to break down sooner than you’d hope. The M’s will want to take a good, hard look at this bullpen, and have more contingencies in place, so we’re not forced to rely on guys like Trent Thornton, Dominic Leone, Luke Weaver, and Juan Then types.

So, when you hear about the Mariners talking up their core guys, these are who they’re talking about. It’s a fine core! I like all these guys. But, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. There are guys who had really BAD 2023 seasons that need to be called out; we’ll get into that next time.

The Mariners Won 1 Game Per City On Their Last Road Trip

I guess it’s lucky the Rangers have been so atrocious lately, but the Mariners are free-falling, and I don’t know if there’s anything that can be done to fix it.

We lost 2 of 3 to the awful Mets. Then, we lost 2 of 3 to the average Reds. After a 1-0 victory to open up the Rays series, we lost the next 3 games to fall to 79-64, and as of Monday morning, up by only half a game over the Rangers for the final wild card spot (lost in all this has been the fact that the Blue Jays have been on a tear, winning 8 of 10 as we lost 7 of 10 on that road trip).

And, really, we were lucky to win two of those games. So, this hasn’t been the funnest September, after a record-breaking August.

The 1-0 win was everything this team needed. Dominant Luis Castillo start (6 innings, 4 hits, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts) and lockdown bullpen work by Campbell, Brash, and Munoz.

My hopes for a bounce-back series against the Rays were dashed the very next night, with another off-kilter performance by Kirby. He gave up 2 runs in a ragged first inning where he couldn’t throw strikes, then settled down through the sixth. We had a 4-2 lead heading into the seventh, but then we tried to squeeze another inning out of Kirby (who, in spite of a tough first inning, had a reasonable pitch count and probably should’ve been able to go one more). Kirby ended up getting one out before giving up a double and a game-tying homer before being pulled, turning a quality start into a no decision. Campbell entered the game and gave up a 2-run home run of his own, before Dominic Leone gave up a solo homer in the eighth to give the game its final score of 7-4.

Kirby didn’t have pleasant words to say about being put out there for the seventh. He questioned the manager’s decision, which I’m sure a lot of fans did as well. Kirby predictably walked those words back the next morning – heat of the moment and whatnot – but I’m sure a lot of fans were mixed. There’s the younger fans – who’ve become accustomed to what baseball is in today’s age – and a segment of Anti-Servais Mariners fans, who probably sided with Kirby.

Then, there’s the old timers, and the Unwritten Rules crowd (usually comprised of ex-players like Roger Clemens, who got his ass roasted on Twitter for wading into the conversation). Someone even had the gall to compare Kirby to Erik Bedard for … reasons. They point to Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan, who would regularly throw 120-150 pitches per game, trying to go the full nine if at all possible.

I don’t like this argument. Yeah, complete games are cool. But that’s not what baseball is today. Instead, you’ve got starters regularly throwing in the high-90s, and that kind of strain isn’t conducive to throwing 110+ pitches very often, if ever (unless you’re a unicorn). Not if you want them to make it through an entire season, or multiple seasons, without arm surgeries. It’s a Get Off My Lawn stance, and I won’t hear it. Just accept that things change, and it’s never going to be the way it was when you were younger.

That being said, you have to take it in context. It’s early September. We’re in the midst of a 10 games in 10 days East Coast road trip. We don’t have an off-day until this upcoming Thursday, and after that we only have one more off-day until the end of the season. We’re also breaking in not one but TWO rookie starting pitchers, whose outings need to be carefully managed (including the occasional skipped start, as with what happened to Woo on Saturday). That means the bullpen gets taxed. We also – for better or for worse – traded our best and most-consistent reliever at the deadline, which means that taxed bullpen is that much less-effective. We brought in three veterans (Thornton, Weaver, and Leone) who look(ed) objectively terrible, we have another rookie in Campbell who is just trying his best, but is by no means a lockdown guy, and other veterans we brought in – like Saucedo, Speier, and even Topa – have shown serious cracks as this season has gone on.

To be blunt, the bullpen is over-worked, and that falls on the starters. That falls predominantly on guys like Castillo, Gilbert, and Kirby, who have experience, and should be able to go out there in the seventh inning, on 94 pitches, and take care of business for another three outs.

The home run Kirby gave up was to the #9 hitter! It’s not like we were asking him to take on the heart of the order for the fourth time through. This is a backup catcher!

I 100% see why Servais did what he did. If this was April or May, or if our starters had been rolling a little more of late – allowing our bullpen to stay fresh – Kirby would’ve handed over the ball after getting out of the sixth inning, and all would’ve been right with the world. But, it’s early September, in a pennant chase, and we desperately needed our second-best starter to squeeze another inning out of his arm. He failed. He failed with a questionable mix of pitches and locations. And, if he missed his spot, that’s on him. If he hit his spot, that’s still partially on him and partially on whoever was calling this game (either the catcher or the manager in the dugout). Maybe Servais should’ve walked him. I dunno. That’s a conversation. But, I’m not blaming Servais for his handling of the bullpen. And, I’m certainly not blaming him for his handling of Kirby. Kirby, more often than not, has had it easy. The team doesn’t ask him to over-exert himself very often. He could’ve done us this solid. And, quite frankly, he should’ve taken his loss like a professional, rather than whine about it to the press after the game.

Saturday was, *sigh*, a bullpen day. Trent Thornton got the opener role, couldn’t throw strikes in the first, and ended up going 2 innings, giving up just the one run. He gave way to Luke Weaver, who gave us the Luke Weaver Special (4.1 innings, 4 runs), and then was thankfully DFA’d by Sunday. I hope we never see him again, unless it’s on an opposing team’s pitching staff.

We, at one point, led 4-1. Then, the Weaver Experience left us trailing 5-4. We miraculously tied it in the eighth, before Saucedo lost it in the bottom of the ninth with a 2-run homer. We were 1/8 with RISP, and once again starting a backup catcher who failed to finish the game, necessitating us to overwork Cal Raleigh, as per usual this time of year.

I’m happy to say I didn’t see one iota of our 6-3 loss on Sunday, what with NFL football dominating the day. Bryce Miller stunk up the joint (5 innings, 5 runs), and I don’t even feel like talking about the rest.

Next up, we have the Angels in town. Then, it’s the Dodgers, then it’s the home stretch. One way or another, this season is almost over.

The Mariners Looked Like Their Old Selves, Losing 2 of 3 To The Mets

I hated almost every minute of this weekend when it came to the Mariners. I’m not going to say I saw the losing series coming, but I also can’t say that I’m entirely surprised.

The 2-1 loss on Friday was easily the most frustrating game of the series. It’s frustrating that we struck out 13 times, it’s frustrating that we were 0 for 7 with RISP, it’s frustrating that we squandered another awesome start by Logan Gilbert, it’s frustrating that Andres Munoz blew yet another one late (how he ended up winning the Reliever of the Month Award for August is beyond me), it’s frustrating that he just STOPPED throwing off-speed pitches to Daniel Vogelbach (who was timing him up pretty well, and only needed a bleeder of a single to get the go-ahead run home), and it’s even frustating that we got saddled going up against their lone quality starter, in an otherwise miserable season for the Mets.

We won Saturday’s game 8-7, but it shouldn’t have been that difficult. We were up 3-0 early, before Castillo gave it all back. Then, we took a 7-3 lead, before the combination of Castillo and Speier gave most of it back again. 5 innings and 5 runs for our “Ace”. Saucedo ended up blowing the save in the bottom of the 8th, but luckily J.P. Crawford was there to homer in the top of the 9th to give us the margin of victory.

Sunday’s game was a real nothing-burger from the whole team. George Kirby had an even-worse start than Castillo, going only 3 innings, giving up 4 runs (3 earned). From there, the bullpen was just eating innings, with oldcomer-turned-newcomer Dominic Leone, Isaiah Campbell, and Trent Thornton going 5 and giving up 2. We hit back-to-back homers (Canzone and Ford) to score our only three runs in the 4th, but otherwise the offense was garbage against a lot of garbage pitching.

What, did we spend all weekend going to Broadway plays and partying until five in the morning? Cincinnati should offer much less in the way of distractions. Of course, they more than make up for it in having a better baseball team to go up against, including one of the most exciting players in the league in Elly De La Cruz. So, that’s fun.

The Mariners Completed A Team-Record 21-Win Month Of August

It’s kind of incredible that the Mariners went 21-6 in the month of August. Incredible in that this was the franchise record for wins in any single month, especially when you consider the team won 116 games in 2001. But, also, just compared to where we came from to start this season.

We were 12-16 through April. We went 17-11 in May, but 7 of those wins came against Oakland. Then, we went 9-15 in June to further send this season spiraling, culminating in a 15-4 loss to the Rays that had the fans in T-Mobile Park booing like we haven’t seen in quite some time. 38-42 felt like the nadir, and a real tipping point for this team. With two weeks to go before the All Star Break, and a month to go before the trade deadline, you had to wonder if this team had what it takes.

After that, we started to turn it around, going 7-2 to close out the first half. In the entire month of July, we went 17-9, in spite of some hiccups in the immediate aftermath of the All Star Break. That kind of play brought us to 55-51, but not a whole lot in the way of activity at the deadline.

Then came August. Two 8-game winning streaks in that span. An 8-2 road trip – including a sweep of the Astros – and a 5-1 homestand at the end, against the dregs of the sport.

We won 2/3 against the A’s this week, which isn’t as disappointing as it appears when you consider the loss came in a game where everything that could’ve gone wrong DID go wrong.

Let’s kick it off on a happy note: an easy, breezy 7-0 victory on Monday. Bryan Woo – in his second start coming out of an IL stint – was still on a restricted pitch count, but managed to go 6 innings, giving up 3 hits and a walk, while striking out 5, all on 69 pitches. Boy, that’s huge! I know the level of competition is sus, but he still had to go out there and do a lot with a little, if we wanted to preserve our bullpen, and he passed with flying colors. The Mariners jumped all over the Oakland starter – scoring 4 runs in the first three innings, and 6 runs in the first four – affording us the opportunity to utilize the back-end of our bullpen (Saucedo, Campbell, and Thornton all feasted).

The heart of our line up – one through five – did all the damage. J.P. led off the game with a homer, had 2 hits total, with 3 runs scored. Julio went 4/5 with a homer, 3 RBI, and 3 runs. Suarez had 2 hits and a walk, with a run. Teoscar also had 2 hits and 2 RBI. And Ty France went 2/3 with a walk. 12 of our 14 hits came from those five guys; simply remarkable!

It’s hard to say whether or not this would’ve been a sweep had everyone been healthy, but things got off to a VERY rocky start on Tuesday when George Kirby was scratched due to a stomach bug. It looked even more grim when Julio was also scratched with what was later revealed to be a nerve issue with his foot, that has a mysterious origin no one can seem to pinpoint.

Given the last-minute nature of things, Luke Weaver was forced into action, and the results were as predictable as they were aggravating. It really does look like he has quality stuff: the fastball is live, with some movement; the breaking pitches are solid, and he’s got a great mix of different ones to go to. But, his command and/or control is EXTREMELY lacking. He catches WAY too much of the plate, and was pounded accordingly. Since he wasn’t stretched out, he only went 3.2 innings, giving up 7 hits (including 2 homers) and 3 runs, with 0 strikeouts. I don’t know how many hard hits he gave up to batters with two strikes, but it was appalling. And, to make matters worse, he had one of the worst pick-off moves to first I’ve ever seen, spiking it so bad it bounced up and bashed into Ty France’s thumb/wrist, resulting in him being pulled from the game out of an abundance of caution and hand swelling.

Weaver had a tremendous Mariners debut against the White Sox, pitching 2 flawless innings, striking out 5. But, he’s followed that up with two appearances where he’s gone 4.2 innings, giving up 4 runs. Just scrolling through his game log with the Reds this season, I would say the latter two performances are more on brand with what he is. I don’t understand how this is something we’re valuing over a guy like Tommy Milone, who can at least induce weak contact and get the defense involved. You can’t utilize your defense if you’re giving up bombs to the cheap seats!

All that being said, the bullpen did everything it could to keep us in this one; the A’s never scored again after Weaver was pulled with runners on base. Campbell, Thornton, and Saucedo each pitched on no rest, and ate up 4.1 innings of 1-hit ball, with Matt Brash sprinkling in a scoreless inning as well.

Unfortunately, the offense just didn’t have it in this one. The A’s starter was wild – giving up 5 walks – but he held us to 1 hit and 1 run in 4 innings of work. And the bullpen behind him was pure filth, striking out 9 across 5 innings, probably pitching better than they have all season. Just hitting the corners, keeping us off-balance, and making us look ridiculous. Down 3-1, with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, we did manage a little rally. Rojas singled and J.P. doubled to give us two in scoring position with Suarez at bat. But, alas, we couldn’t complete the rally and that was that.

On getaway day yesterday, we were still without Julio, though France had healed up enough to go 0 for 3 with a walk. Bryce Miller didn’t have his best stuff, but he gutted through 6 innings, giving up 3 runs. Teoscar tied the game with a 3-run bomb in the third, which was precisely what this team needed to get going. Justin Topa didn’t have good stuff either, giving a run back in the seventh to put us in a 4-3 hole.

Our offense really lit them up in the bottom half of the inning, though. With a lefty on the mound, Canzone doubled, Ford singled, and Moore walked to load the bases. One out later, J.P. doubled home two runs to give the M’s a 5-4 lead. Too bad we couldn’t play add-on, but Brash and Munoz had it going on to preserve the victory.

We head into September tied for the A.L. West lead. We’re also comfortably ahead of the Blue Jays for a wild card spot. Not SUPER comfortable; I’m not dropping the ol’ Mission Accomplished banner just yet. But, they seem to be the only competition outside of our division for the wild card, if worse comes to worst.

29 games to go. 7 against Texas, 3 against Houston, 4 against Tampa, and 3 against the Dodgers. There’s also 6 against the Angels and A’s. In our immediate future, we have our final East Coast swing until maybe the playoffs, at the Mets, Reds, and the aforementioned Rays. The Mets are bad, the Reds are average, and the Rays are still ahead of us by a fair amount. It’s gonna be edge-of-your-seat entertainment from here on out!

This Is Not A Drill: The Mariners Swept The Astros In Houston

Well, then I guess there’s only one thing left to do

I can’t even begin to tell you how unlikely all of this is. We’re now 14 games over .500; remember the All Star Break? We were one game over .500, and needed to go 45-28 to get to 90 wins. Remember the next week after the All Star Break? Remember how we lost a series at home against the lowly Tigers, and were in the midst of breaking even against the Twins? Remember how – at that point – we’d dipped down to one game below .500? It’s insane to think of how this season has turned around in such a short period of time.

Now, all we need to do is go 21-17 to get to 90 wins. Not that 90 wins are any sort of guarantee. Might take 93-95 wins this year, with the way things are going in the American League. Regardless, as of this weekend, we are in the third wild card spot by half a game. Time will tell if this is our emotional high-water mark on the season, or if we’ll power through to the finish. But it’s been a lot more fun to watch this team over the last month.

It was especially fun to watch the Mariners this weekend, because fuck the Astros! As you know from my post on Friday, I didn’t have high hopes. It just seemed like our bullpen was taxed, our starters were iffy, and we were in their home (where we’ve rarely done well). I don’t think this weekend could’ve gone more perfectly.

On Friday, we just barely scraped by with a 2-0 victory. Bryce Miller had his good stuff going in this one, completing 6.1 innings, giving up only 2 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 2. Justin Topa – who was pretty fresh – bridged that gap to the ninth inning, where Andres Munoz (also pretty fresh) nailed down the save.

Offensively, this was the Julio Rodriguez Show. It’s been his show for the last week, and really since the All Star Break. He went 4/5 in this one with a solo homer in the third. Mike Ford had the other solo homer in the sixth off of J.P. France, who was otherwise very good.

On Saturday, Julio went 4/6 with 2 runs scored en route to a 10-3 Mariners victory over Framber Valdez (who went 5 innings, giving up 6 runs). It was largely a team effort in this one, as Teoscar Hernandez had a big game (3/5 with 2 RBI and a run), as did Dylan Moore (2 home runs, 3 RBI), Ty France (2 hits, 2 runs), Sam Haggerty (2 hits, including a homer), and Jose Caballero (1 hit, 1 walk, 1 run, and 1 fight instigated by the Astros battery, who just hate him).

Logan Gilbert gave us 6 innings of competent pitching in this one, giving up 2 runs on 8 hits and a walk, with 3 strikeouts. Thankfully, we kept adding on runs throughout, so we got away with our back-of-the-bullpen arms to finish this one. That ended up being pretty fortuitous, considering what happened on Sunday.

It looks like Emerson Hancock’s season might be done. He left the game after 2 innings with a right shoulder strain. He had a lat strain in 2022 that delayed the start of that season, so I would say this is pretty concerning. For him, anyway. The Mariners were all set to bring back Bryan Woo from the IL in this upcoming series in Chicago. Now, the intention was to go to a 6-man rotation for a spell, and that appears to be in jeopardy. But, maybe the time off was all Woo needed to at least get us to the finish line. Either that, or maybe we sprinkle in a spot start or two out of one of our AAA starters. It’s already almost September, so it’s not like the guys have a ton of starts remaining.

Anyway, on Sunday, the M’s had built up a 6-0 lead heading into the bottom of the third, when our bullpen was forced to take over. Unfortunately, that bullpen gave us quite a scare right off the bat. Tayler Saucedo had zilch, getting no outs, giving up 5 runs on 4 hits and a HBP. Of course, two of those runs came around to score by his successor, but that’s still his fault.

The rest of the bullpen was pretty much nails! Thorton ate up 1.2 innings (including getting us out of that Saucedo scrape with a lead intact), Brash went 1.1 innings, Campbell went 1 inning (giving up the Astros’ sixth run, after we’d already gotten our seventh), and Topa, Munoz, and Speier locked it down from there, keeping the score where it was, 7-6. As it happened, I was at Wild Waves, following along on my phone. I saw that Munoz did the 8th inning – taking out the top of the order – and was sure he’d be in there for the 2-inning save. Instead, Speier of all people got the job done, starting with Destroyer Of All Things Mariner Yordan Alvarez and striking him out. I’m glad Y.A. was relatively cool in this series; it’s nice not to see him homer against us literally every single day.

Julio doubled in the first in this one, before coming around to score. Otherwise, he was quiet, but if he’s not the Player of the Week, there’s some shenanigans going on. Canzone was 4/5 with a RBI and a run, Moore was also 4/5 with a RBI. Rojas had 2 hits and 2 runs; Suarez had a 2-run homer; and even Brian O’Keefe had a 2-run double (though he’s still yet to finish a game he’s started, with Cal pinch hitting late both times).

The Mariners got all the way to be within a half game of the Astros (tied in the loss column). On top of that, we have officially taken the season series against them! So, bring on the tiebreaker! Again, we’ll see if this is our high-water mark or not. We have three more against the White Sox starting tonight, before we get to go back home for what – ON PAPER – looks like the cheesiest of all homestands (3 vs. the Royals, 3 vs. the A’s), but we saw what happened the last time we faced the Royals. Off-days are starting to get scarce, but we rustled up a well-deserved one this Thursday.

On the plus side, we finally get J.P. Crawford back from his concussion. On the downside, we’ll see how long it takes him to get back in the groove.

The Mariners Completed An Exhausting Series Victory Over The Royals

Is anybody else wiped out by this 4-game series? I mean yeah, the Mariners had to fly from Seattle to Kansas City without an off-day and play in four hard-fought back-and-forth games, down to the bitter end each and every day, in sweltering heat, minus their short stop and regular backup catcher (Murphy, who landed on the IL this week), with just a pesky, free-swinging opponent that didn’t play for one minute like the bottom-feeders they are. But, as fans, I would argue it was even MORE exhausting! Yeah, I said it! I need a cigarette and a nap!

On the one hand, you hate to lose even one of those games against a team like the Royals, who are pretty clearly the second-worst team in the entire MLB, in a tier with only the A’s as the absolute beans of baseball. But, on the other hand, I think I’m just relieved we won the three we did, and didn’t endure an insufferable split. Following our recent scorching hot stretch by blowing two games against the Orioles, and then treading water against KC would’ve been a nightmare, if not totally on brand for the Mariners.

Still … could’ve had the sweep. The M’s were three outs away from one of the most impressive potential comeback victories of the year, with ostensibly their best reliever on the mound starting a clean 9th inning with a 1-run lead. That’s the table that was set on Monday, after an absolutely abysmal first 7 innings of that game, where we were no-hit through most of them. We headed into the top of the eighth nursing our wounds down 5-0, when finally the offense got things going.

With one out, Mike Ford doubled to right and Dylan Moore reached on a HBP. Josh Rojas singled sharply to load the bases for Julio Rodriguez, who mashed a double to left to clear them. After a J-Rod steal of third, Suarez singled him home to make it 5-4, before Raleigh and Canzone struck out to end it.

No matter, with two on and two out in the top of the ninth, Rojas singled to tie the game, and Julio singled to take the lead. What a reckoning! If only …

All you can say is that Brash didn’t have it. He gave up three hits, managed only one out, and even that was a sac fly to tie the game. I’m hard-pressed to say he was even overworked in that one; sure, he pitched the night before against the Orioles, but that was coming off of three days off.

As for Tuesday’s 10-8 victory in ten innings, I don’t even know what to tell you. I missed the whole thing, as full disclosure, I was out in the sweltering heat sweating my way through engagement photos; I hope our photographer can photoshop out my perspiration. I’m kinda glad I didn’t have to sit through the nonsense of this game though.

Not to be out-done by the Royals gagging away a 5-run lead the previous day, the M’s decided it would be fun to somehow send a game that was once 7-0 into extra innings. We scored those 7 runs in the fourth, with a massive deluge of hitting prowess. Suarez homered, France homered, Cal walked and Teoscar homered. Caballero doubled in a run, then Rojas homered him in. I don’t know if there are many things I love more in baseball than when my team fully bats around; it’s always a tremendous amount of fun!

Unfortunately, Emerson Hancock had a bit of a crushing rookie moment. He was more or less cruising through two outs in the fifth inning, but then gave them 5 runs back, including a grand slam that I don’t know how didn’t end his day right then and there. 5 of his 9 hits given up were in that inning; I don’t know if he got tired, or if the Royals just figured him out in their second and third time through the order. I’m not inclined to freak out about the results (again, I wasn’t able to witness the actual stuff), because the Royals kind of did that to all of our starters in this series. Maybe not in such a massive clump like that, but no one was safe.

Certainly not our bullpen! We even went so far as to add on an insurance run in the seventh with another Teoscar RBI (he was 5 for 5 on the day with a homer, a double, and 3 RBI) to make it 8-5, but Andres Munoz – on the heels of back-to-back late-game suck-jobs against the Orioles – gave up a whopping 3 unearned runs in the bottom of the ninth to send this to extras. Luckily, he was bailed out by Ty France with his 2-RBI single, and we won 10-8.

Wednesday’s victory I want to say was less frustrating, but how can I? The Royals went with a de facto bullpen day, gave us 4 runs in the first two innings, with Luis Castillo on the mound; how WASN’T that a cake walk?! Well, with the bullpen so taxed over the last few days, Castillo was forced to get us 7 innings if we wanted to survive this series. That meant pitching more to contact – with less focus on strikeouts – to keep his pitch count down. Quite frankly, he didn’t have his best stuff, and for whatever reason, when he managed to throw a good pitch out of the zone, they were hitting them fair.

Anyway, the offense went into hibernation from the third through the seventh innings. Well, I can’t say that’s totally accurate; we were getting guys on base, but not hitting them in (finishing a disrespectful 4/15 with RISP, with 13 LOB). That gave the Royals enough time to tie the game 4-4 heading into the eighth, when we finally woke up. We didn’t quite get the big hit we needed, but Teoscar hit a medium foul ball to right field and the resultant throw just BARELY missed the sliding Dylan Moore. For good measure, Julio knocked in another run in the ninth to give us some extra cushion (his 4th hit and 2nd RBI of the day), which was absolutely necessary since Brash gave up a solo homer before recording just his third save of the season.

To wrap it all up, we had Kirby going yesterday morning, coming off of his 9 innings of shutout ball. Even HE had trouble with this lineup, ultimately giving them 4 runs in 6 innings of work. Three of those runs came in the sixth inning, taking a 2-1 lead and turning it into a 4-2 deficit. It all started to feel a little hopeless until the eighth, when Julio mashed a 3-run bomb to give us the lead. Cal hit a pinch hit bomb in the top of the ninth, and this time Brash worked a clean bottom half to get his fourth save.

What does this all mean? Well, for starters, I can’t envision a scenario where Brash pitches tonight, since he’s gone 4 games in 5 days, all of them extremely high-leverage. Campbell and Thornton helped mop up Thursday’s in-between later innings, so that should free up the rest of our (better) bullpen members to take the reins.

But, I dunno. That series looked like we played 8 games in 4 days. No rest, no easy ones, constantly battling for nine and sometimes nine-plus innings. Now, we gotta go to Houston to play a team that’s gone 20-11 since the All Star Break? A team that’s still 3.5 games up on us, that’s had our number (especially in their home ball park) for ages now, without our top two starters (Castillo and Kirby). I just can’t envision a scenario where we win this series. We likely won’t even win a game! J.P. France dominated us earlier this year, and Framber Valdez has been a force against us (and everyone in baseball). The only guy we’ve had success against – Hunter Brown – goes up against Emerson Hancock, who I have to imagine is going to struggle mightily in this ballpark, against that offense.

Don’t forget, the Astros have four guys who are slugging well over .500, with Alex Bregman to boot, who always gives us fits.

This is NOT the time you want to play the Astros. That doesn’t even mention how we’re riding a 3-game winning streak; you want to know the best cure for that? The best cure for Mariners fan excitement? Play a series down in Houston and rant and rave while getting swept and it’s not even particularly close. And oh by the way, it’s not even a given that we’ll have J.P. Crawford back yet, as he still needs to play at least one rehab game in Everett.

Weather’s still nice, folks. I’d recommend making other weekend plans. I’ve got a Paul Reiser stand up comedy show in Tacoma on Saturday night, and a trip to Wild Waves on the agenda for Sunday morning. I’ll see y’all there!