Good: The Mariners Won The Season Series Against The Tigers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Beat The Twins In That Stupid Make-Up Game

The Minnesota Twins are dumb.  I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until the end of time until they put a fucking roof on their janky-ass stadium.  Idiots!  Enjoy leading the league in rained out games, you miserable pieces of shit!

Also, the Minnesota Twins are fucking assholes.  We already had to tack this game onto the end of a 6-game Midwestern road trip before flying home to start a series the very next evening – meaning best case scenario we’re still getting home in the middle of the fucking night and somehow need to get up for a game in a little over 12 hours (except there was a 90-minute delay that put our ETA even later than expected) – and then they went and scheduled it at 4:10pm Pacific time, which was 6:10pm Central time.  I mean, what the fuck?!  It’s YOUR piece of shit roofless stadium that caused this make-up game in the first place!  Schedule the fucking game during the late morning/early afternoon hours to accommodate the fucking team you inconvenienced!

And I don’t care if it was raining all day or not.  That’s not the point.  How about a little professional courtesy?  I could understand if it was a make-up game against the Indians or something; they’re your rivals.  IS THIS BECAUSE WE BEAT YOUR ASSES IN LITTLE BIG LEAGUE?!?!

God damn the fucking Minnesota Twins, is what I’m getting at.  They can suck all the cocks and dicks.

It’s why I’m especially glad they lost yesterday.  Not only that, but they were SHUT OUT.  Not by Paxton, not by Felix, not even by Mike Leake!  But, by a RELIEVER, who was cut at the end of Spring Training before joining our crew, who was making just his third start of the season!  FUCK YOU TWINS!  The Mariners have one of the worst rotations in the American League, and you got SHUT THE FUCK OUT BY THE 6TH MAN!

Of course, to be fair, Wade LeBlanc has been pretty great in his starts so far this year.  He’s been pretty great in most of his appearances, but in three starts he’s gone 15 innings and given up just the 1 run.  In this one, we were able to stretch him out to 90 pitches across 6 innings, where he gave up just 3 hits while striking out 4.  James Pazos apparently had a stomach virus yet locked down the 7th.  Nick Vincent appears ready to reclaim his 8th inning role from the sucky Juan Nicasio.  And Edwin Diaz bounced back to nail his 14th save of the season.

The offense wasn’t there – and has been PARTICULARLY spotty with RISP lately – but they were able to scratch just enough across and that’s all that matters.  We never have to go to Minnesota ever again (the rest of the season)!

Mitch Haniger appears to be the guy taking Robbie’s spot in the 3-hole in the lineup, which is appropriate.  We’re nevertheless down an elite hitter and it’s going to be a slog the next however many weeks Cano is on the DL.

We play a quick 2-spot against the Rangers starting tonight, then we have 4 against the Tigers.  Time for some revenge, I’d say.  We CAN’T lose two series to the Tigers in the span of a week, can we?

The Mariners Won A Crucial Series Against The Blue Jays

And we’re back!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Paxton No-Hit The Blue Jays In Canada

This was a real gem that snuck up on me.  I knew he was doing good in the early going, but James Paxton obviously wasn’t as overwhelming as he was in his previous start, when he struck out 16 batters in 7 innings.  The three walks in the first four innings masked the fact that he’d been no-hitting them the whole time, and I don’t think it dawned on me until maybe after the 5th?  Either the announcer alluded to something, or someone on Twitter whispered something, and then I went on ESPN and sure enough, a big ol’ (Canadian) goose egg in the hit column!

From then on, it was all about sitting there, doing the same thing I’d been doing the whole game, not mentioning what was going on to my dad, while smirking at all the people on Twitter with flagrant disregard for the unwritten rules of baseball.  I love it, I subscribe to flouting them whenever they come up, but at the same time I still very much believe in my power to jinx something thousands of miles away, so if Paxton were to lose his no-hitter, it wasn’t going to be MY fault!

(I’ll also say this, when a couple guys on Twitter who’d been suspiciously quiet all night *COUGH Softy and Mitch COUGH* suddenly chimed in with pre-bottom-of-the-ninth-inning Tweets, I thought I’d lose it)

And boy did he almost lose that no-no a few times last night!  Dee Gordon with the diving catch in center in the first, that crazy falling-down foul ball catch by Ryon Healy (who knows what the batter would’ve done if the at-bat was extended?), the pick of the throw in the dirt from Segura to Healy, that unbelievably amazing diving stop & throw by Seager on what could’ve easily been a double and what SHOULD’VE been an infield single, that scary deep fly to Gamel when the outfield had been playing in, that other tough catch of a liner into center by Gordon, and, of course, my heart stopped for a beat on the final at-bat with that hard grounder to Seager.  I thought – FOR SURE – 2 outs, 2 strikes, that ball was going to find a hole to break all our hearts.

I mean, you just can’t say enough about that defense.  When people talk about how ERA is a bullshit stat, a lot of people point to the fact that errors tend to make a pitcher look better, but just as much – if not moreso – it’s the other way around with an amazing defense lifting up the guy on the mound.  You tend to always see at least one or two amazing plays in any no-hitter situation, but all night long those Mariners out there carried the mail.  That’s as much of a Team No-Hitter as the 6-pitcher one a few years back.

Still, all that being said, James Paxton is the man.  That was a helluva show!  We all knew he had it in him and it would come out eventually.  I’m just glad I was there to watch the whole thing from start to finish.

Offensively, it was more of the same.  These guys, for the most part, put constant pressure on opposing teams.  You can hold the M’s down for a while, but eventually we’re going to lean on you, and more often than not break through.  We manufactured 2 runs in the third with the top of our lineup, Zunino hit a jack to right field for 2 more runs in the fourth, and Haniger chimed in with a sac fly to score Cano.  Dee Gordon had 3 hits and a stolen base; Cano, Cruz, and Healy each had 2 hits apiece; and Seager and Gamel got in on the action with singles.

This is an important series.  The Blue Jays are one of the three teams in the A.L. East vying for a playoff spot.  We need to do everything in our power to stay comfortably ahead of them, as we already have our hands full with the fucking Angels.  Getting this win is a great start to the series and the road trip.

Getting the no-hitter is the most perfect icing on that cake.

The Mariners Lost The Series To The Angels

This was kind of a big deal:  the first series of the year against REALLY your primary rival for the Wild Card.  You figure there are three teams in the A.L. East who are vying for two spots – a division winner and that other Wild Card spot – you figure there’s only one team coming out of the A.L. Central (unless one of the sub-Indians teams goes on a real hot streak), you figure the Astros are eventually going to separate themselves as the clearcut winner of the A.L. West, and it’s going to be a 2-team race for 1 spot between the Mariners and Angels.  If that all proves true, and we figure the Mariners are going to struggle mightily against the Astros, and beat up on most of the lesser teams around baseball, then the measure of the 2018 season is going to come down to how we play against the Angels.  This was, as I said, the first look at how we’d fare against them, and honestly it wasn’t pretty.

Shohei Ohtani was always going to dominate the Mariners.  If you’ve followed the Mariners for any period of time, that was completely obvious to you, because why wouldn’t he?  It’s a guy we all wanted, a guy we thought might want to come here throughout the courtship, and a guy who ultimately not only spurned us, but spurned us for a division rival.  This was – while not a 1 to 1 complete match – A-Rod going to the Rangers all over again.  This was every major prospect we traded away.  This was every guy who stunk for the Mariners and ended up being amazing somewhere else the very next year.  All of that, all rolled into one guy who’s both an amazing hitter and a guy who can throw upwards of 100 miles per hour, while having just the most devastating off-speed pitches in baseball.  There was never a chance he WOULDN’T kick our asses, in spite of some early-season struggles with command or whatever.  That was never going to come into play; he was always going to throw 6+ innings and quite frankly we were LUCKY to get the 2 runs off of him that we got.  I wrote off that Sunday game as a loss the second I saw confirmation he was going to be the starter.  The fact that we lost 8-2 is very disappointing, but I won’t say I was surprised by the number of runs we gave up either.  Felix just isn’t going to be very good against the better offenses of this league, so when the guys aren’t hitting for him, those games are going to be pretty ugly more often than not.

I was much more disappointed in the 5-0 drubbing on Friday.  Mike Leake didn’t look like anything special and the offense was just overwhelmed.  Midway through the game on Saturday – when the Mariners were losing 1-0 and looking similarly overwhelmed offensively – I thought there was a legitimate chance (with Ohtani going the next day) that the Mariners would not only be swept at home, but completely SHUT OUT in a 3-game series, which would have to be up there all-time on the futility list.

I was at the game on Friday and ended up leaving early, which was the appropriate thing to do.  I got my Han Seago bobblehead, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a bobblehead, so I’m happy.  I was also at the game on Saturday, and thank Christ the Mariners started piling on some runs, because I would’ve been pretty distraught if I would’ve paid to watch two demoralizing defeats in a row.

It was 90’s Night on Saturday, and while we got there too late (or went in through the wrong entrance) to get the James Paxton Fanny Pack that I wanted, it’s probably for the best.  Do I really need one more Mariners thing I’m never going to use?  That’s awkward to display?  No thanks.  Losing out on the bobblehead would’ve been far worse.

Anyway, they played like it was the 1990s, as the Mariners hit a bunch (winning 9-8 in 11 innings) and got some really shoddy pitching (particularly from the bullpen, as our top two guys did everything in their power to give this one away).  I had a feeling before the start of the game that it would be high scoring, and even predicted there’d be more than 12 combined runs scored, but I never could’ve imagined the way it happened.  For starters, as I said before, it was 1-0 into the sixth inning.  The Angels hit a 3-run jack to ensure Marco Gonzales wouldn’t survive a 6-inning start totally unscathed.  Down 4-0, that’s when the Mariners embarked upon the big comeback.  There were 2 runs in the bottom of the sixth, then another 4 more in the eighth to take a 2-run lead into the ninth.  That’s when all hell broke loose.

With two outs, Mike Trout hit a double off of Edwin Diaz, and with two strikes, Justin Upton hit a game-tying 2-run home run for Diaz’s first blown save of the year.  Juan Nicasio came in for the 10th and gave up a go-ahead run, followed by the Mariners tying it up in the bottom half of the inning on a single and a throwing error.  Newcomer Erik Goeddel gave up another go-ahead run in the 11th, but this time the Mariners were able to walk it off thanks to an RBI double by Seager and a game-winning single by Healy.

It was one of the more improbable victories you’re ever going to see, and if there’s ANY reason for optimism based on this series, that’s what you’d point to:  this team’s fight.  This team’s elite hitting.  But, overall, the starting pitching was pretty miserable all three games, and the bullpen has proven over this past week that you’re not going to be able to rely upon them 100% of the time.  They’ve shown cracks.  There’s still only 2 guys you can REALLY count upon, and even those guys aren’t perfect.  The more they struggle, the more this team is going to struggle, and the less likely this team will break the playoff drought.

The Mariners went 1-2 against the Angels in this series, and they were MUCH closer to being 0-3 than they were 2-1.  If that continues throughout the season, and we end up somewhere around 6-13 or so against them, that’s ultimately going to be the deciding factor in whether we reach the Wild Card or not.  Anything worse than 9-10 against the Angels is a guaranteed No Playoffs For The Mariners; anything around .500 and we have a shot if we get lucky; anything 11-8 or better and I’ll go on record as saying that’s good enough to get the Mariners in.

So, the question is:  can they do that?  Based on what I saw this weekend, I don’t think so.  Based on what these teams are right now, on paper, if nothing significantly changes, I don’t think the Mariners will be better than the Angels, and I ultimately believe they’ll be maybe 2-3 games out of the Wild Card when the season ends.  Take that or what it’s worth.  It’s still early, there’s a lot that can happen.  I’ll say this:  I don’t think the Angels are DRAMATICALLY better than the Mariners.  I think they’ll have their ups & downs just like we will; they’ll have series where they look like crap too.  But, in the head-to-head matchups, I don’t think we match up well with them, and I think that’s ultimately what’s going to torpedo this season.

The Mariners Won The One They Weren’t Supposed To Win

Oh so close to a series sweep.  Oh so close to first place in the A.L. West.

Just like they drew it up, right?  Blow the game where Paxton has the best game of his career, come back with a spot starter and beat the other team’s ace!  This is baseball, everyone.  It’s dumb as fuck.

We squeezed 4 shutout innings out of Wade LeBlanc last night, as we stretched him out to 70 pitches.  Assuming he stays in the rotation, I’d think the goal next time out is 85 or 90 pitches, and then full go by his third start.  But, that’s getting ahead of ourselves.  For now, it’s just nice to get this one win.  LeBlanc has truly been a godsend this season, coming in super late, locking down the long relief role in the bullpen, and now entering the rotation following an injury to Erasmo Ramirez.  I don’t know if we can expect this type of dominance going forward, but I’ll take whatever I can get when I can get it.

Chasen Bradford is another guy who just came out of nowhere.  I guess he was a reliever for the Mets in the second half of last year, but other than that, this is his first real opportunity to earn a bullpen role on a Major League ballclub.  I mean, I dunno, he had pretty decent numbers last year, all things considered, and they just cut him out of nowhere before Spring Training this year!  Is their bullpen really so great?  Is he out of options?  These are the questions I don’t have answers to, because I don’t give a shit, but their loss is our gain.  Bradford has done nothing but his fucking JOB this year, and he’s been wonderful!  Back-end of the bullpen guy, there to eat up innings.  That’s it, but he does it like a champ!  Last night, to wit:  2.1 innings, 1 run, to bridge the gap between LeBlanc and the late inning guys (and get his THIRD win of the season, no less!).

After Pazos closed out the 7th, it was hang-on time, and Scott Servais did the prudent thing:  he went right back to Nicasio & Diaz, hot off their blown save/loss combo the night prior.  Nicasio burned through the A’s for 3 strikeouts in the 8th, and Diaz had a ho-hum 1 strikeout in the 9th to get his 13th save of the year.

Dee Gordon continues his absolute mastery of the leadoff position, going 3 for 4 with 2 runs and 2 more stolen bases.  Robbie Cano had a 2-hit, 2-RBI night.  And Nellie Cruz had a 2-run bomb to put the game away.  The night wasn’t anything extra special; it was a very workmanlike 4-1 victory where the top of the lineup carried the bulk of the mail.

That’s another series win!  7-1-2, with a 3-game set against the Angels coming up, starting tonight.  The Mariners are now 18-12, 0.5 games out of first place (behind the 20-13 Astros and the 19-12 Angels).  So, yeah, you could say this series is pretty huge, as far as early-May series go.

I’m going to the game tonight (Han Seago Bobblehead WHAT?!) and I’m going to the game tomorrow (James Paxton Fanny Packs WHAT?!?!?!).  The last time I went to multiple games in the same series against the Angels, we were swept, so let’s not let that happen again, huh?

The Mariners Finally Blew One

We were bound to see it sooner or later.  What more perfect, Marinersiest time to do it than in a start where James Paxton is as dominant as can be?

He went 7 innings of shutout ball, leaving with what you’d assume to be a comfortable 2-0 lead.  It sounds like every Felix start from 2010-2013 (ESPECIALLY against the A’s).  But, unlike most Felix starts, Paxton did something so remarkable the King hasn’t even reached this height:  he struck out 16 batters.  And he did it while only throwing 105 pitches!  He sprinkled in 5 hits and a walk, but was otherwise as dominant as can be.  In that respect, it was very much in line with a Classic Felix start.

As was the way the bullpen decided to shit all over it.

Again, it was bound to happen.  After some struggles through the first two weeks, Juan Nicasio racked up 7 consecutive scoreless appearances, looking better and better each time out.  So, giving up a 1-out, 2-run, game-tying homer to the best hitter on the A’s, Jed Lowrie (who, not for nothing, ALWAYS kills the Mariners for some reason) is something I’m willing to forgive.  Of course, had I been watching the game last night, I might’ve thought differently, and flown into a rage on Twitter the likes of which … would’ve made no difference whatsoever.

Then, I mean come on, what more does Edwin Diaz have to do?  He gave up 1 inconsequential run in his first 15 appearances, going 12/12 in save opportunities (and winning the April Relief Pitcher of the Month).  In a tie game, in the top of the 9th inning, at home (where – at that point – it’s impossible to save your closer for a save opportunity in that game), with some very capable boppers coming up in the bottom of the 9th, OF COURSE you use your best reliever in that situation!  The sooner we get people out of the mindset that you can only use your closer in save situations, the sooner I’ll be saved from having to read all the idiots complaining to the beat writers about why they put Edwin Diaz in there in a tie game.  THINK ABOUT IT!  ASSHOLES!

So, anyway, yeah, I’m willing to forgive Diaz too.  It sucks that we lost, it sucks that a peach of a start was ruined, but it’s what the Mariners do.  Not for nothing, but it’s what a lot of other teams do too.

Also not for nothing, there is NO WAY I’m bringing Paxton out there for the 8th.  He threw 105 pitches!  Nicaso and Diaz have been amazing this year!  AND, oh by the way, Paxton is constantly getting injured.  Why would you risk that?  When you’re up 2-0, at home, with your best relievers set to lock it down … no.  Just no.  Scott Servais does plenty of things I disagree with, but this is far from one of them.

I’m more concerned about why the offense couldn’t do more than they did against a guy making his first start in the Major Leagues in 2018.  I know Brett Anderson is a veteran, but our offense has been on fire!  Eventually, we’re going to need to get some actual production out of our catcher and left field positions.  Cruz and Segura can’t do fucking everything!

If this turns into a trend, then we have a serious problem.  But, for now, let’s see how it plays out.  The A’s stole one that the Mariners should’ve won; maybe the M’s can do the opposite tonight.  Wade LeBlanc gets the nod against the best starter on the Athletics, Sean Manaea.  We’ve already seen this Manaea guy once this year; he went 7 innings and gave up 1 run in an A’s victory.  4 out of his 6 appearances against Seattle in his brief 3-year career have been quality starts, so obviously he’s not intimidated by our Mariners-ness.  Let’s change that tonight, huh?

The Mariners Won The Series Opener Against The Athletics

And also sent a couple pitchers onto the DL.  So, you know, you take the good, you take the bad, and so on and so forth.

Got another Felixy good start in this one!  6 innings, 3 runs, 3 hits, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts.  Numbers probably would’ve been better, but as has been the case just about every single game, he was brought out to start an inning he shouldn’t have started, gave up a couple baserunners immediately without getting an out, then the bullpen was left to fend for itself.  Maybe in another 10 or 20 years, the Mariners will find a manager who has a clue and runs a pitching staff the way it’s supposed to be run in the 21st century.

Dan Altavilla was one of the arms to go on the DL.  He has a minor strain of something or other that shouldn’t keep him out too long, but I dunno.  Are we sure this isn’t something that’s going to nag at him all season?  We’ve got five months to go!  Knowing absolutely nothing about the injury, I’m setting the over/under at 2.5 months of Major League action out of Altavilla, and right now I’m staring hard at the under.  Because when do pitchers ever just bounce back like nothing happened, without further repercussions down the line?  Everyone’s always super optimistic right when the injury happens, then there’s setbacks, shutting him down, ramping him back up, rehab assignments, a return a few weeks later, then after a bunch of subpar performances, BAM, shut down for the season.  Maybe that over/under was too high.  Maybe 1.5 months is more accurate.

Anyway, in his place, Struggling Nick Vincent handled the 7th inning, gave up both of Felix’s runs, then managed to get out of trouble.  Juan Nicasio did his thing in the 8th (he’s REALLY looking like the guy we signed to the big bucks this past offseason), and Edwin Diaz worked around a couple walks in the 9th to strike out two guys in getting his 12th save of the season.  Absolutely mind-blowing!

On offense, Dee Gordon went 5/5 with 2 stolen bases and a run scored.  Nelson Cruz had a 3-run bomb in the 5th to take the lead for good in the game.  And Jean Segura tacked on a couple of RBI – including a crucial late insurance run – to salt the game away.

The Mariners are now 17-11, and notably, +1 in run differential.  That’s somewhat concerning, as you gotta wonder when the other shoe is going to drop with the back-end of that bullpen.  I’m not saying it’ll fully collapse, but Diaz and Nicasio won’t be this dominant every single game.  On the flipside, with the offense fully healthy, we gotta hope that we’ll see more GOOD Mariners blowouts as opposed to the bad ones that have hindered our run differential thus far.  I’ll be more curious what that figure is in another month, as we get more time with our full roster.

Or, as close to it as we can get.  The bigger of the two DL drops yesterday goes to Erasmo Ramirez, who we can’t confirm was brought back too quickly from his Spring Training injury … but he was totally brought back too quickly from his Spring Training injury.  It’s disappointing, I guess, but I dunno.  I wasn’t expecting Ramirez to replicate his August and September of 2017, because for him, that was an unsustainable run.  Now, by the same token, I didn’t expect him to be as bad as he was in his first two starts this year, but again THE TEAM RUSHED HIM BACK TOO SOON!  My overall feeling on this injury – which looks like it could keep him out for a month at a minimum, but probably a lot longer – is No Big Loss.  It’s Erasmo Ramirez, it’s not James Paxton.  It’s not Felix Hernandez.  It’s not even Mike Leake!  Replacing Erasmo Ramirez with Wade LeBlanc (which is the plan this week) or Ariel Miranda at some point down the line, or a couple of the other no-names in Tacoma, isn’t a huge drop-off from Ramirez.  It might not be ANY drop-off!  And, dare I say it, if the baseball gods are on our side, could we be talking about addition by subtraction?

What I do know is, with Hisashi Iwakuma’s latest setback, don’t count on him filling this role.  He’s done.  It’s not official, but he’s done.  It’s time to stop CPR and call the time of death.  He had a nice career with the Mariners, made more money than he should need for the rest of his life, so I tip my cap and let’s move on.

Paxton goes tonight.  Hopefully, with the new calendar month, he figures it out and gets it going.  Should probably win this one if we hope to win the series, as LeBlanc is a huge question mark going tomorrow.

The Mariners Are Kinda Good

The last time I wrote about the Mariners, they just barely grinded out a series win against the pretty hapless Chicago White Sox.  It wasn’t pretty, it was far from impressive, but it felt so very Mariners and what they are in the early going of 2018.  They were headed to Cleveland to wrap up a 10-game road trip with a 4-spot against a team that’s been to the playoffs the last two years, including a World Series trip.

And somehow not only won 3 out of 4, but DOMINATED in the final two to put an exclamation point on the month of April.

Paxton took the hill on Thursday and left with a 4-2 lead after 6 innings, but the bullpen – behind the struggling Nick Vincent and the outright shitty Scrabble, alongside the hard-luck Blown Save Guy Dan Altavilla – coughed it up in the 7th.  Thankfully, Kyle Seager doubled in the go-ahead run, and Nicasio & Diaz were able to slam the door shut.  That’s 11 saves for Diaz in the first month of the season, who is on quite a pace right now.

Corey Kluber got the start on Friday, against Erasmo Ramirez who apparently was rushed back to the Majors off of his injury and doesn’t quite have his usual stuff.  Why this happened, I have no idea, but obviously the M’s didn’t stand a chance in this one.  Erasmo gave up 6 runs in 5 innings; Kluber almost got the complete game.  AND YET, the combo of Scrabble and Wade LeBlanc kept the damage to those 6 runs, while the Mariners were able to chip away.  Mitch Haniger hit a 2-run homer in the 7th, and Mike Zunino hit a 3-run homer in the 9th to make it VERY interesting.  Unfortunately, one batter later, Ben Gamel lined out to end the threat.  Pretty impressive showing, nevertheless.  You have to wonder if someone like Ariel Miranda might’ve limited the Indians to fewer runs … maybe we’re talking about the second hard-luck loss for Kluber against the Mariners this season!

On Saturday, it didn’t matter who got the start, as the Mariners blew the Indians away, 12-4.  Leake did his job, going 6 innings, giving up 4 runs, and the lesser bullpen guys wrapped this one up in a nice little bow.  But, this one was all about the offense.  Gordon had 2 hits, including a double, as well as a stolen base and 3 runs scored.  Segura had 3 hits, including a homer, as well as 4 RBI and 3 runs scored.  Cano had a hit, a run, and 2 RBI.  Cruz went 4/5 with a homer and 2 RBI.  Seager had a 2-run homer.  Even Healy joined in on the action with a 2-run homer of his own!  Nothing but mashing, up and down the lineup in this one.  It’s too bad I was busy all day, this one would’ve been fun to watch.

On Sunday, again, who started?  I have no idea.  Marco Gonzales, I guess.  6 innings, 2 runs allowed off of 6 hits and a walk, with 4 strikeouts and only 89 pitches.  That’s not a bad little line right there!  Back-to-back quality starts for the kid; let’s build on this!  Keep your chins up!  But, again, the offense just laid them to waste.  Dee Gordon 4/5 with a run and an RBI.  Segura with a hit, run and RBI.  Cano with a 2-run homer.  Haniger with a triple, homer, RBI, and 3 runs scored.  And good ol’ Ryon Healy – BACK FROM THE DEAD – with 2 more homers, 3 runs and 4 RBI in the 9-hole in the lineup.  I wouldn’t expect that to last (I don’t get why we keep putting the slowest players in the 9-hole for Gordon to bat behind), but it is kinda cool to think that the lineup, 1-9, is as stacked as it is, especially if Healy can keep it up.

We had an off-day yesterday, allowing a road-weary team a chance to rest before a quick 6-game homestand.  3 against the A’s, followed by 3 against the Angels this weekend.  It looks like I’m going to both the Friday and Saturday games, which means I’ve got a VERY good chance of seeing Shohei Ohtani.  I know he’s probably going to destroy us, but I’m going to be screaming my lungs dry just in case we’re able to knock him out.  Fingers crossed!

Anyway, I dunno, it’s kinda fun to be a Mariners fan right now.  After all the expectations I had for the 2017 team, and how miserably they started in the month of April, it’s nice to see us at 16-11, in second place in the A.L. West (half game ahead of the Angels; 2.5 games behind the Astros), and locked into that 2nd Wild Card spot (half game ahead of the Angels & Blue Jays; 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the 1st Wild Card spot).  Unrelated in all of this:  it looks like the winner of the A.L. Central gets a free ride into the ALDS, as all the Wild Card contenders right now appear to be in the East & West.  Must be nice to play in such a shitty division; if the Mariners were in the Central, we’d be competing for the top record in the American League right now!

As things stand, the Astros are who we thought they were, the Angels are pretty much who I thought they were (going to hang around that Wild Card area all year), the Rangers are much worse than I thought they’d be, and the A’s are a little better than I thought they’d be.  If the A’s turn out to be a serious player for the Wild Card, it’s going to make our lives miserable having 3 fucking good teams in same division to play 19 times apiece.  So, let’s nip this thing in the bud right now, starting tonight.  Sweep these fuckers out of Seattle and send them down a shame spiral for the rest of the year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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