Is This Happening? Mariners Took 3 of 4 From Athletics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Keep Winning Series, Defeating The White Sox

I was traveling over the weekend and therefore blissfully unaware of anything going on that was Mariners-related, or intense 100+ degree heat-related. I kept up with events, sort of, by following along on Twitter, but we all know that’s not the same thing as being actually informed.

We blew the doors off of the White Sox on Friday, winning 9-3. Yusei Kikuchi had another solid outing, going 5.2 innings and giving up only 1 run on 2 hits and 4 walks, striking out 6. Looks like he got into some trouble in that sixth inning, walking three guys in total, but we got out of it unscathed. Rafael Montero gave up a couple of harmless runs in the eighth, but otherwise the bullpen was dynamite.

Give it up for the offense in this one, as everyone had at least one hit, with Crawford, Haniger, Bauers, Torrens, and Moore all notching two hits. Everyone got on base at least twice in this one except for Murphy (who still managed to score 2 runs, so figure that one out). Luis Torrens hit two homers, with Jake Fraley also hitting a dinger.

Saturday’s game was rain-delayed and had to be completed on Sunday, which is unfortunate, as Logan Gilbert looked to be dealing through his two scoreless innings. The Mariners loaded up their lineup with lefty hitters to face Lance Lynn, only to be treated to a heavy dose of Dallas Keuchel come Sunday morning (he was originally set to start the actual Sunday game, but got bumped over to this one, as if he needed the soft landing). This one turned into a de facto Bullpen Day; thankfully the Mariners have a pretty great bullpen. Hector Santiago gave up one run in 2.1 innings of work (taking over for Gilbert to start the rest of the game on Sunday), before being pulled, and subsequently suspended for having sticky stuff in his glove. If he was cheating, bravo umpires. But, they still have to inspect the glove to confirm it was actually an illegal substance. I guess pine tar is okay? I dunno, I don’t pretend to understand what the rules are anymore. I also don’t know if this has been resolved yet, but if it has I apologize for even bringing it up. If the suspension holds, Santiago would be the first player in the Major Leagues to be suspended for the rule this year, which is interesting trivia.

Taylor Trammell had two homers, including the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth. Ty France also added a solo homer to help give us the 3-2 victory. Haniger also had two hits in this one, as it appears he’s pulling out of his recent offensive nosedive.

In the series and season finale against the White Sox, the Mariners lost 7-5, but four of our runs were scored after they had a 7-1 lead, in the final two innings of the game. So, it wasn’t THAT close. This was only a 7-inning game, since technically Sunday turned into a Doubleheader, and you have to wonder what might’ve been had we been gifted an extra two innings to play around with against that bullpen (with Keuchel going in the early game, the late game was a White Sox Bullpen Day). The Mariners needed a Bullpen Day of our own, as Marco Gonzales had to leave to be with his wife for the birth of their child. I’m not going to be one of those fans who gets mad at a dad wanting to be there in person, you know, BEING a dad.

Robert Dugger got the nod and … he’s not a Major Leaguer. It’s fine. He ate up almost three innings and gave up 3 runs (2 earned). Will Vest has good stuff, but at times has been unreliable; he gave up 2 runs in 1 inning in this one. Just when you think Rafael Montero is going to turn a corner (after his two extra innings performances against the Rays), here he is giving up another 2 runs in a third of an inning. That’s just too many runs for MOST offenses to overcome, let alone a Mariners offense that has been vastly improved over the last month, but still has its struggles. Haniger, again, had two hits (including a 3-run homer in the seventh), but otherwise offense was tough to come by in this one.

I’m pretty happy with another series win against a good team. The White Sox are in first place in the A.L. Central, and we managed to tie them in the season series 3-3. I’ll take that!

Now, we go to … Buffalo I guess? Where the Blue Jays play? I dunno. The Jays are very close in record to the Mariners (40-36 to our 41-38), and are also third place in their respective division. However, they are +65 in run differential, compared to our -43; they appear to be a MUCH better team than their record would give them credit for (while we remain in the bottom third of all Major League teams, vastly outplaying our level of talent). I would say this series would be a good test for us in where we are, but the truth of the matter is this isn’t a matchup of two similar teams. This is closer to us playing the White Sox, in that it would be equally-impressive if we were to go on the road and steal a series from them.

The Elite Mariners Exploded All Over The Mediocre Rays

A 4-game sweep over the erstwhile A.L. East-leading Tampa Bay Rays? Only in America!

What a fun and exciting series if you’re a Mariners fan. And really just totally unexpected. The enjoyment kicked off with a 6-5 come-from-behind victory on Thursday, where Justin Dunn managed only two innings before leaving with an injury to his throwing shoulder, the same shoulder that landed him in the IL just a couple weeks prior. It’s apparently non-surgical, but it is something that’s going to keep him on the shelf for a while, so that’s a bummer. It’s especially bad because Justus Sheffield has been sucking, and there really aren’t any high-profile prospects on the horizon to fill in. I guess the hope is that Dunn won’t have to stay on the IL again for TOO long, and there are enough off-days to get us to his return, but I have my doubts.

The bullpen didn’t totally have it in this one, as JT Chargois, Rafael Montero, and Anthony Misiewicz combined for 5 runs in 5 innings of work. But, somehow, there was JUST enough pitching in this one, to give the hitters time to mount the comeback. J.P. Crawford singled in a run in the third, Torrens and France homered in a combined three runs, Shed Long doubled in a run in the bottom of the 9th to tie it, and Kyle Seager singled in a run right after that to walk it off.

Friday’s game was an impressive 5-1 victory, for obviously different reasons. Yusei Kikuchi dominated once again, going 7 innings of 1-run ball, with 4 hits and 3 walks allowed, while striking out 6. He is just absolutely on a tear this season, and it’s wonderful to see. The offense got it all done early, taking a 4-1 lead after one inning, and tacking on the insurance run in the third. Crawford, Seager, France, Bauers, and Torrens all had multi-hit games, with Long and Haniger also chipping in on the fun.

Saturday was another thrilling 6-5 victory, this time in extras. The M’s jumped out to a 5-2 lead after two innings, before the Rays slowly chipped away at our lead over the rest of regulation. Logan Gilbert went 5.2 innings, giving up 4 of those runs on 6 hits, striking out 7. He ALMOST had a quality start in there, but couldn’t quite make it. We still had the lead into the 9th until Kendall Graveman – who hasn’t quite been as spotless since his COVID IL stint – gave up a tying homer. Rafael Montero pitched a clean 10th, though, and we won it in the bottom half on a first-pitch single.

J.P. Crawford hit a grand slam in that second inning to lead the way. Jake Bauers had the first RBI of the game on a single, and Mitch Haniger had the walk-off single to end it. Bauers has been red-hot since the Mariners signed him, and it would be utterly fascinating to see if he can keep this going for the rest of the season. He was once a highly-touted prospect, so it would make sense for him to eventually put it all together. Then again, it’s unprecedented for the Mariners to be the team to ever benefit from such a turnaround. Also, don’t look now, but Crawford’s 2021 season is insane! At the end of April, his slash line was .250/.313/.295; at the end of May, it was .246/.310/.328; and as of today, it is .281/.341/.404. How about THAT? I mean, we’re not even halfway through the season yet – so there’s plenty of time for those numbers to plummet – but this is highly encouraging! I don’t know if there were a lot of people banking on Crawford being such a huge piece to the rebuild, but it’s looking like – for the moment – he’s the best of the young bunch!

Sunday’s 6-2 victory might’ve been the best of the weekend. Marco Gonzales was stellar, going 6.1 innings, giving up just 2 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 6. His pitch count was good-enough (87) to allow him to at least finish the 7th, but we were actually losing 2-1 at the time of his departure, and it was clear Marco was starting to falter (having given up a run in back-to-back innings to close it out).

The Mariners got a 3rd inning homer from Luis Torrens to take a 1-0 lead, and a 7th inning homer from Ty France to re-tie the game at 2-2. Lockdown work from the bullpen got us to the 10th inning, where once again Rafael Montero pitched around the ghost runner on second base to keep the game tied heading into the bottom half. From there, it looked like the M’s might squander a golden opportunity. Dylan Moore bunted over the runner to third (reaching on the fielder’s choice as a result), and after a Bauers fielder’s choice that eliminated the runner at home, the M’s loaded the bases on a Torrens walk. With one out, Jake Fraley flied out to shallow left field, bringing up Shed Long, who hit a wall-scraper of a Grand Slam to initiate a party at home plate.

It’s been very cool to see Shed Long do a few things since returning from injury. After last year’s abomination – due almost exclusively to a leg injury that hampered him all season – he’s hitting much closer to his career norms. He has 10 hits and 10 RBI in 11 games, with 5 of those hits going for extra bases. We’re obviously talking about a small sample there, but it’s always more fun when our guys do good as opposed to when they do bad. Also, big shout-out to Torrens, who has been superb since he was called back up from Tacoma. We’re talking about another very small sample, but in five games this month – including three against the Rays – he’s hit 3 homers and 5 RBI. That’s obviously huge because Tom Murphy is still sucking at the plate. It’s even bigger for Torrens because Cal Raleigh has been going supernova down in Tacoma and it’s absurd at this point that he hasn’t been called up.

No Weak-Willed Motherfucker-Guy, but remember when I said the Mariners were stacked at catcher and thoroughly jinxed Murphy and Torrens in the process? Because I don’t remember that at all.

Anyway, there aren’t quite as many healthy regulars who are hitting under .200 at the moment. Murphy and Dylan Moore are probably the closest to getting over that hump, with Taylor Trammell probably needing more opportunities to adjust. Anyway, the hitting hasn’t been quite as atrocious this month, and that’s been nice.

Two games against the Rockies close out this homestand on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then, we have a jaunty little 6-game road trip to close out an otherwise exciting month of June. We’re sitting at 38-36 at the moment, so it’s nice to be above .500 for the time being.

The Mariners Won The Season Series Against The Twins

Well, it wasn’t perfect, but the Mariners did just win 2 of 3 against the Twins at T-Mobile Park. That gave us a 4-2 season series win over one of the more disappointing clubs in the American League.

On Monday, we saw Marco Gonzales’ climb out of the IL depths with a mediocre 5-inning, 3-run performance. He thankfully ended up with a no decision, and the bullpen was awesome from there, as the Mariners scratched a run across in the 8th inning (if by “scratched” I mean Jake Bauers hit a solo bomb to center) to pull ahead 4-3. Eight Mariners had at least one hit, with Jake Fraley going 2 for 2 with 2 walks, an RBI, and a run scored.

Tuesday’s game saw the Mariners score a season-high 10 runs in a 10-0 victory. Chris Flexen went 8 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and striking out 8. Crawford, France, Bauers, Torrens, and Long all had multi-hit games, with Crawford, France, and Torrens all hitting homers. This one was pretty fun. The M’s were up 5-0 after two innings, and ended up scoring at least one run in four additional innings after that to really put the game away.

The sweep, unfortunately, was just out of reach, as Justus Sheffield continued his shit-slide, giving up 7 runs in 5 innings. 10 hits, 2 walks, 2 homers. He’s not good. His fastball is slow and straight. His slider isn’t nearly the weapon it was last year. He keeps catching too much of the plate and is easily crushable. There’s nothing dynamic or special about his game, and I feel like it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a throw-in on a trade for another fringey, Quad-A type prospect who will also do nothing for us. As seems to be the case with most MLB trades, this is yet another one where both organizations managed to lose. Thankfully, there are lots of other more exciting pitching prospects in the pipeline; we shouldn’t have to devote too many more seasons to seeing if Sheffield is going to pan out or not (spoiler alert: he’s not going to pan out).

On the plus side, we’ve found my new favorite Mariner to dump on! I can’t wait to mock Sheffield mercilessly for as long as he remains an albatross in our starting rotation!

The Rays come to town starting tonight, so I hope you enjoyed the last couple wins we just saw, because that feeling figures to be on hiatus for the foreseeable future.