The Mariners Got Pounded By The Angels And Oh By The Way Paxton Injured His Back

Fucking great.

Before we all go jumping off of buildings, I’m gonna wait and see how this plays out.  Given the timing of this – with the All Star Break next week – it might not be the worst thing in the world.

Remember last year, when the Mariners were sort of barely clinging to contention for the second wild card spot, and going into the All Star Break I was talking about how we needed – above all else – to maximize James Paxton the rest of the way?  He spent most of the month of May on the shelf, then had a really rocky month of June as he worked his way back to his usual dominance.  Well, it was paid off in July, when he went 6-0 and won the A.L. Pitcher of the Month award.  He had a 1.37 ERA and went at least 6 innings in all 6 of his starts.  I figured:  yes, get him as many starts as humanly possible between now and the end of the year (even if it meant having him pitch every 5th day regardless of off-days, and shuffling the rest of the rotation around him accordingly), and MAYBE the Mariners would be within reach of the wild card by the end of the year.

What happened?  He made 2 starts in August before going back on the DL, struggled through half of September, and had 1 more quality start the rest of the way (on October 1st, the final game of the season).  The Mariners finished under .500 and out of the playoffs, and his absence was one of a million reasons why this team underachieved.

Of course, that made one of the keys to this 2018 season to:  Keep Paxton Healthy.  His entire offseason program was centered around making all of his starts for the first time in his career.  He’s been the ace of this staff through the first half, but obviously it’s all coming to a head with this injury he suffered last night.

After biffing that series against the Rockies over the weekend, the M’s didn’t play their best baseball against the Angels in Anaheim.  In fact, in two of these games they might’ve played their very worst baseball of the season.

On Tuesday, Leake could only make it through 4 innings, giving up 7 runs (5 earned), and the bullpen allowed them to tack on a couple more to really put it away.  Anaheim’s starter left injured in the third, but we couldn’t take advantage of their bullpen and ended up losing 9-3.  Haniger had a good game – with a double, a homer, and 3 RBI – but everyone else was unremarkable at best.

The M’s didn’t completely shit the bed this series, as they notched a win on Wednesday behind Marco Gonzales’ 7 shutout innings, on 2 hits and 0 walks.  David Freitas of all people hit a homer (the first of his brief Major League career), and Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run single to put the M’s up 3-0.  The bullpen was able to keep it that way, with a scoreless inning apiece from Colome and Diaz (for hold #14 and save # 36, respectively).

That led us into last night’s game, with a chance to win the series and feel a lot better about things heading into Colorado this weekend.  But, Paxton apparently never felt right even in his warmups, and just prayed that his back would loosen up during the game.  It didn’t, and he was pulled 2 outs into the first inning.  We were up against Anaheim’s best pitcher, and our bullpen couldn’t keep us anywhere even remotely in it (behind a 4-run inning from the completely inept Nick Rumbelow, who spent most of the year on the DL, and was mystifyingly called up after a short stint in Tacoma – THREE GAMES – even though he really has no Major League success of which to speak whatsoever!  Why are we moving Heaven and Earth to get this guy to the bigs when it’s clear he needs a lot more seasoning in AAA?).

(I mean, Rumbelow has made 8 appearances – all defeats – and has given up at least 1 run in 5 of those games!  How much more do you need to see out of this guy?  You’re telling me there’s absolutely NO ONE ELSE down in Tacoma who can take this guy’s spot?  It’s not like he’s out of options, so what the fuck?).

Anyway, getting back, the M’s lost last night 11-2.  We put Andrew Romine in there to pitch the bottom of the 8th because it got so out of hand (he gave up 2 runs, yet still managed to get Trout & Pujols out, which is something he’ll have to tell the ol’ grandkids one day).  It was ugly, to say the least (I’m glad I slept through this entire series, to be honest).

Aside from being super proud of my boy Marco (and, SUPER DUPER proud of my fellow M’s fans for voting Jean Segura into the All Star Game this week), it hasn’t been so hot for the Mariners of late.  That’s 5 losses in 8 games, following our 8-game winning streak, following our 3-7 stretch against the Red Sox & Yankees.  A real rollercoaster; the All Star Break can’t come soon e-fucking-nough.

3 more games.  Felix is on the DL for the break, Paxton looks like he’ll join him there; Zunino has been keeping the shelf nice and warm with his own issues.  This isn’t trending in the right direction.  All of these guys need to come back fast, and not just so we can put a bunch of other guys down; the rest of the team absolutely needs to stay healthy as well.

The A’s have won a million games in a row and are now only 5 games behind us for that second wild card spot.  We’re a full 3 games behind the Astros for the division.  And, even though it’s essentially meaningless, our run differential is all the way down to +5.  We’re 22 games over .500 and just 5 runs over .500!  Do you know how insane that is?  It’s insane, just in case you forgot.

We’ve got Christian Bergman going tonight.  He has 1 start this year with Seattle, where he went 7 shutout innings (in a game we somehow lost 5-1) before being sent right back down to AAA.  He’s been pretty good, but far from amazing, in Tacoma, so while I like him as a spot starter type, I’m pretty lukewarm on the idea of him making many multiple starts for the Mariners this year.

So, get well soon James Paxton!  And, when you do come back, don’t suck balls for a month like you did last year!

The Mariners Had Some Trouble Against The Rockies

The Mariners lost the first two games of the weekend series against the Rockies, and it wasn’t even close.  Losing 7-1 and 5-1, only to win the finale 6-4 is a big reason why we’re only +17 in run differential in spite of the fact that we’re 23 games over .500.

Of course, in the two defeats, we had injuries to contend with.  Mike Zunino is on the DL, which makes an already-bad position a million times worse.  The Mariners have to be among the worst in all of baseball in offensive production from the catcher spot, where our mostly-everyday starter is hitting just .189.  It’s somehow this bad and Mike Marjama still decided to retire from the game of baseball, which is a mind-blowing revelation we just learned about recently.

Anyway, Mike Haniger was also out on Friday, when we lost 7-1.  Felix wasn’t great (lasting only 5 innings, giving up 3 runs), the bullpen was worse, and there you go.  A Denard Span solo homer was the only thing keeping us from being shut out.

We got Haniger back for Saturday, but had to sit Dee Gordon with a hip issue, and the bottom third of our order was John Andreoli, David Freitas, and Andrew Romine.  They absolutely lived up to expectations as the Mariners lost 5-1.  James Paxton was on the hill and the game was a 1-1 tie heading into the 7th inning; then after a 1-out walk and bloop single, he made a mistake with his cutter in the middle of the plate that was turned around for a 3-run home run.  They tacked on another run in the 9th, but that was really all they needed.  This time, it was a Jean Segura solo homer preventing us from being shut out.

We got Gordon back for Sunday and were back to mostly full strength.  Ryon Healy had a 2-run double and a 3-run homer to lead the charge, as Wade LeBlanc muscled through 6 innings (giving up 4 runs) and the bullpen locked it down to give him his 5th win of the season.  Edwin Diaz got his 35th save of the season.

This series was a classic example of how this team could be in trouble if we run into too many injuries down the stretch.  You could say that about every team, but I think it’s especially tenuous with this M’s team and how we’re winning ballgames.  We need everyone, working in perfect harmony, to account for all these close wins; take even one man out, and it starts to break down.

Also, this series was a classic example of the Rockies straight up murdering bad pitches.  It seemed like not a single mistake went by them.  I mean, shit, their backup catcher hit TWO triples on Friday!  That’s a .153 hitter!

We play them again next week, in Colorado, and then God willing that’ll be the last time we ever see this team, so whatever.  In the meantime, the M’s have a day off today, then it’s 6 more road games until the All Star Break.  Time to go down to Anaheim and further bury the Angels, then see what we can do against the Rockies.

Call The Mariners The Sandman Because They’re Sweeping Fools Off The Stage Left & Right!

Back-to-back sweeps for ya boys!  7 wins in 7 days!  REFUSE TO LOSE MOTHERFUCKERS!!!

After taking care of business over the course of 4 days in Baltimore, the Mariners returned home to take care of business against the similarly underwhelming Kansas City Royals.

On Friday, we saw the first career complete game out of Marco Gonzales, who came JUST short of getting the shutout, but in the end won handily 4-1 (without the need for our Reliever of the Month of June (and April), Edwin Diaz).

We followed that up with a hearty 6-4 victory on Turn Ahead The Clock Night, where Felix battled a tight back to go 5 innings while giving up just the 3-run homer in the first.  We promptly scored all of our runs in the first three innings of the game, and got mostly solid relief (aside from an unearned run allowed in the Nicasio 7th); Diaz ended up with his 31st save of the season in this one.

Then, on Sunday (featuring James Paxton pitching on his own bobblehead game), we wrapped up the season series with the Royals (winning 5 of 6) with a dominant outing by our ace, who went 8 innings of shutout ball, striking out 11 (while giving up just 2 hits and 2 walks).  Diaz closed out the 1-0 victory for his 32nd save of the season, and the wins just keep on rolling for this charmed ballclub.

I was there on Saturday, sitting on the front edge of the King’s Court (section 146, row 29, seat 1).  I went for the free hat (which doesn’t fit my giant head, so I’ll be giving it away; which is okay because I bought a fitted version of the “2027” hat anyway), I went for the free shirt (a matching maroon King’s Court tee, with sparkly silver lettering that rubbed off on my Husky hoodie), but more than anything I went for the futuristic King’s Court card that I’ve currently got hanging up in my home office.  God damn do the Mariners know how to do promotions up right!

As they say on Star Trek, “Nanu Nanu” …

I was really nervous after that first inning.  I’m usually good luck for King Felix when I go to his games.  I’ve been to a bunch (back when the M’s were terrible – which was always – I’d hold out and try to ONLY go to games where he was starting) and I can’t remember any specific games where he’s looked bad (though I’m sure there must be one or two) while I’ve been in attendance.  I was there on Opening Night when he looked like vintage Felix; I was there in that showdown against the Rays and Blake Snell, when he had his best game of the season (8 innings, 1 run, 7 strikeouts).  I was there on his Supreme Court Night – the game after his perfecto – when the whole stadium was the King’s Court and he pitched into the 8th, giving up just 1 run.  And, my very first King’s Court experience was earlier that same year, which was one of his very best performances in his career (and another game where he easily could’ve been perfect, if not for a few lucky hits), when he shut out the Rangers on 3 hits, 0 walks, with 12 strikeouts.  I’ve yet to ever experience a more fun time at the ballpark, and I was at the game in 1997 when we clinched the division title.

Anyway, I feel bad when the King struggles, so I was happy to see him settle down.  I hoped he could get through the 6th for the quality start, but apparently he was dealing with a tight back, so it’s commendable that he was able to get through five and get the W.

Sitting on the front edge of the King’s Court has its advantages.  Primarily, you don’t have a bunch of signs in your face, so you can still see all the action when it gets down to 2 strikes.  But, conversely, the people around me weren’t all that rowdy or into it, so it felt weird to keep throwing my arms up when we got to 2 strikes.  I was fully prepared to be on my feet at the drop of a hat, but with no one else around me joining in, I mostly kept seated (that is, when I wasn’t being pestered every two minutes by the people in my row who kept wanting to get out in the middle of every fucking inning).  Plus, it seemed like every time I started chanting for the strikeout, the dude at bat would get a hit, so clearly I was jinxing The King and presumed to keep quiet after the first (my plan worked like a charm, so who’s the crazy person now?).

I’d anticipated being sick and tired of being surrounded by idiots for Sunday’s Paxton Bobblehead game, so I planned ahead:  I bought a seat in section 339, in the very last row, in the very center of said row.  When I purchased the ticket, there wasn’t another filled seat for many rows around me; that held firm when I went to the game on Sunday.  I got there early, got my bobblehead, and settled in for what turned out to be a pleasant game.  Unfortunately, for some reason I felt like shit.  I didn’t drink the day before, yet I somehow felt super tired and hungover, with my ears still ringing (presumably from all the cheering the night before).  So, I only lasted 3 innings before packing it in.  In the end, the game only lasted maybe 2 hours, so I probably could’ve toughed it out had I known what was in store.  Nevertheless, I doubt that’ll be the last time I see Paxton pitch.

I’m all set to go to the game tomorrow as well, so that’ll be 3 consecutive home games for me, for the first time since the Griffey Hall of Fame Weekend.  Will there be Mariners fatigue?  Not if 12 beers have anything to say about it!

The Mariners Swept The Orioles

As predicted (as soon as we got the hell out of Boston), the Mariners finished their East Coast road trip 5-5.  If you’d offered that to me going in, I gladly would’ve taken it.  Of course, I would’ve assumed that it would go differently; for our peace of mind, it couldn’t have gone any worse.

The Mariners went 4-0 against the terrible, awful, wretched, last-place-in-the-entirety-of-Major-League-Baseball Baltimore Orioles, and a combined 1-5 against the Red Sox and Yankees (you know, the teams we’re destined to face in this year’s playoffs).  So, that’s neat, I guess; and by “neat” I mean fucking whatever who cares?

We got another quality start out of Felix (6 innings, 3 runs) on Monday and the bullpen was able to close out a 5-3 win.  We had a tremendous start out of Paxton (7 innings, 2 runs, 10 strikeouts) on Tuesday in a come-from-behind 3-2 win.  We won a back-and-forth affair on Wednesday, where Colome blew a 5-4 lead by giving up a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 8th, only for Seager to jack a game-tying 2-run homer in the top of the 9th to send it to extras, where we won in the 11th on a sac fly by Span.  And finally, for good measure, we won again in extras on Thursday, scoring two runs in the 10th to win it 4-2.

The Mariners return home (and never have to go any further east than the state of Texas the rest of the regular season) with a record of 51-31, on pace for 100+ wins, but still 3.5 games behind the Astros for the A.L. West.  The Angels have sufficiently fallen apart with a bevy of injuries; somewhere, someone is playing the world’s smallest violin just for them.  The A’s have overtaken them as our primary threat for the second wild card; they’re just 7 games behind us (at a whopping – for them – 6 games over .500).

There’s 15 games between now and the All Star Break.  3 against the Royals this weekend, 6 against the Angels, and 6 against the Rockies.  The Royals should be push-overs; we’re hopefully playing the Angels at the right time (aka: at their most injury-depleted); and the Rockies are the great unknown (but a record of 9-16 in the month of June thus far has seen them spiralling).  We should be able to coast into the break in great shape, at which point we’ll likely spend most of the second half scoreboard-watching and hoping for the worst out of the Astros.

The Mariners Sucked Against The Yankees & Red Sox

1-5 in their first 6 games of this road trip.  Swept by the Yankees, then a pretty bad series against the Sox.

In the finale against the Yankees, Paxton gave up 4 runs in the first and we lost 4-3.  We did about as well as can be hoped against Luis Severino – scoring all 3 in 5.2 innings of work – but couldn’t touch their bullpen.

Then, on Friday, we had a rematch of that crazy Wade LeBlanc game against Boston, only this time it was just as crazy the opposite way.  The knuckleballer gave up 10 runs in 3.1 innings, as the M’s just teed off on him.  But, LeBlanc didn’t have anything either, giving up 6 runs in 4.2 innings of work.  Nevertheless, we held a lead of 4-0 and immediately gave it up in the bottom of the first; then, we built up a 10-5 lead before the bullpen sucked its way to a 14-10 defeat.  Vincent and Nicasio were the main culprits of ineptitude.

On Saturday, Mike Leake dominated with 8 shutout innings and Edwin Diaz got touched up a little bit as he hadn’t pitched in a week.  We still won 7-2.

We lost the season series on Sunday, as Marco Gonzales didn’t have it and Chris Sale ABSOLUTELY had it.  We lost 5-0 to get the fuck out of there.

It’s obviously a bummer, but not a shock that the Mariners lost to these teams in this fashion.  Now, we go to Baltimore for a 4-game set to try to somewhat salvage the road trip.  Winning all 4 would make us 5-5 for the trip, but that’s obviously not how you want to do it.  Nevertheless, I wouldn’t throw a 5-5 road trip out of bed for eating crackers at this point.

I’m on vacation this week, so posting will be sporadic at best.  Go M’s, I guess.

See, It’s Not JUST That The Mariners Are In The Second Tier In The American League …

My hunch is that we’re going to look back on that Saturday game – June 16th against the Red Sox – where Wade LeBlanc mastered the Magical Sword to the tune of an eventual 1-0 victory that saw the Mariners get to 21 games over .500, as the high-water mark on the season.  It’ll never be as good or as promising as it was on that day.

We’re starting to see the cracks in this roster, as the M’s have lost 4 games in a row for the first time all year, and we all come to grips with the fact that there are the Haves … and everyone else in the A.L.  It doesn’t get any easier this weekend, as the Red Sox are surely looking for some revenge.  Also, there’s some lowkey rumblings about Paxton’s health ever since he recently complained of a little forearm tightness that he was able to pitch through (as he’s been pretty pedestrian in his last two starts), which is absolutely not an injury this pitching staff can afford to sustain.  As everyone is aware, the rate of winning the Mariners were on up through last Saturday was pretty unsustainable.  As Robbie Cano isn’t walking through those doors anytime soon, and as the Mariners are otherwise as healthy as can be expected (with the return tonight of Nick Vincent from the DL), this is more or less the team we’ve got to roll with the rest of the way.

The fact that the Mariners – AS IS – aren’t in the same league as the Yankees, Astros, or Red Sox is bad enough.  The M’s have built up enough of a lead in the wild card standings to pretty much coast the rest of the way into the playoffs; but it’s looking like more and more of an impossibility that we’ll be able to do any damage once we get there.  What’s worse, of course, is that not only are those teams significantly better, but all three of them have room to improve and the resources to go out and make those improvements a reality.

Those organizations are STACKED with minor league talent, stuck behind already-talented Major League rosters with no way to advance other than to be traded to other teams looking not only to dump salary but pick up prospects in the process.  On top of that, there are SO MANY teams all across baseball who are terrible, who are playing for nothing in 2018, and who will be looking to bolster their rosters with high-level prospects while trading away proven talent to the few contenders remaining.

I mean, what’s it gonna look like if one or two of the best relievers in the game get dealt to the Astros?  What if some amazing starter gets dealt to the Red Sox?  I don’t know how the Yankees can get any better than they already are, but they have the will and the prospects in their farm system to make it happen.  That doesn’t even factor in the Angels – where money is no object – and any potential surprise contenders for the second AL wild card I haven’t even considered to this point.

It’s gonna be a tough road the rest of the way, because as Mariners fans, our expectations have shifted as this team has ballooned its record while feasting on the dregs of the American League.  Can they continue winning at an unsustainable clip?  Or, are we going to see a long stretch of .500 baseball for the foreseeable future as this team coasts to a date with the Yankees or Red Sox in the wild card game?  I don’t want to say the rest of the season is just a formality – as it’s entirely possible this team collapses and gets overtaken by someone else – but I’m pretty confident that we can rule out any competition whatsoever with the Astros for the division title.

The Mariners Split The Series With The Red Sox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key To The Mariners’ Chances Going Forward

The biggest key to the Mariners’ success to date in 2018 is the starting rotation staying healthy (for the most part) and vastly improving after the month of April (where just about everyone was either adequate or terrible, up to and including James Paxton).  I would argue that even the injury to Erasmo Ramirez was a blessing in disguise, as Wade LeBlanc has made a name for himself with this opportunity.  But, with Paxton, Gonzales, and Leake all overcoming rough starts to the season, turning into reliable and often dominant pieces to this puzzle (alongside LeBlanc’s baffling greatness from Day 1), the Mariners have been able to weather a lot of storms and build up a record that all but guarantees a playoff spot in October.

The biggest hit to the Mariners’ chances going forward is NOT the loss of Robbie Cano for all those games (plus the playoffs) but rather the depth of the Mariners’ bullpen (or lack thereof).

It’s truly remarkable what the Mariners are doing with this scotch taped-together bullpen.  Phelps went down in Spring Training; he was supposed to be an 8th inning type guy (who could also go multiple innings in a pinch).  Scrabble was so terrible at doing his one job (getting lefties out) that he was DFA’d.  Juan Nicasio hasn’t been nearly the dominant force we thought he’d be when we signed him to that big 2-year deal (and is currently on the DL).  Nick Vincent had a rough start to the season and is also currently on the DL (having just had a setback with his groin injury).  Dan Altavilla has had multiple DL stints this year and might be out for a very long time with his arm injury.  Casey Lawrence – while tearing it up in Tacoma as a starter right now – got off to a rough start and had to be sent down after 4 appearances.  Ryan Cook was hot when he returned from the DL, but has been hit around in 3 of his last 4 appearances.  Alex Colome has closer-type stuff, but he’s been far from perfect since coming over from the Rays (especially AGAINST those very Rays).

And yet, if you didn’t get into specifics and just asked me, “How’s Seattle’s bullpen doing this year?”  I’d likely tell you, “Pretty great!”

Edwin Diaz is taking the league by storm in his third year in the bigs.  James Pazos – in his second year on the Mariners – has been outstanding.  Chasen Bradford came out of nowhere to be a reliable back-of-the-bullpen guy to eat a lot of innings for us.  And even those guys who’ve had their struggles from time to time – Nicasio, Vincent, and Colome in particular – have also been successful in a lot of high leverage situations.

With a number of those guys on the DL (hopefully Nicasio & Vincent will be back soon), though, it’s hard not to be concerned about the future.  There are a lot of high leverage innings left this season!  With the way this team plays, with all the close games, it seems like there’s zero margin for error every single night!  Sure, a lot of the guys are young and healthy now, but will they succumb to over-use?

The good thing is, I don’t believe for a minute that the Mariners are finished making moves to improve the big league club.  We have a number of quality starters down in Tacoma, in the event we need long relief help or spot starts.  Nick Rumbelow is another guy who figured big in the Mariners’ bullpen plans before he got hurt; he’s coming back from injury and getting his feet wet in Tacoma as we speak.  Also, it usually doesn’t take a whole lot in trade to get a quality reliever back before the deadline, and with plenty of teams tanking this season, the supply should be pretty significant.

Either way, though, if you told me the Mariners would have to roll with a playoff bullpen consisting of Diaz, Colome, Nicasio, Vincent, Pazos, Bradford, Cook, and Elias, I’d be okay with that.  Two dominant closer types, two solid 8th inning guys behind them, two solid 6th/7th inning guys who can shut down rallies and go multiple innings if need be, along with a wildcard in Cook (who has 8th inning stuff, he just needs to work on his command a little bit) and a spot-starter/long-reliever in Elias … I just don’t know how you improve upon that a whole lot.  Obviously, a lot can happen between now and October.  Guys can get injured, guys can lose their stuff or their confidence, but for the most part that’s a reliable bullpen group.

What most concerns me is what happens if a lot of guys get injured, and we have to start replacing too many of these pieces.  As we’ve seen this year with the bullpen, last year with the rotation, and on and on and on, injuries can mount in a hurry.  We lose Diaz, we’re pretty much shit out of luck.  We lose too many of our 8th inning guys, same deal.  We already use Diaz too much as it is; I don’t want to see him in there for too many save opportunities where he has to get more than 3 outs.  At least not until we’re actually IN the playoffs.

The rotation and the solid hitting will carry us to where we want to go, but to do any significant damage once we get into the post-season, it’s going to rest precariously on the all-important bullpen arms.  I hope they’re up to the challenge.

Fuck You Angels! The Mariners Got The Sweep

When I was a kid, I gave much more of a shit about baseball rivalries than I do now.  I hated the Yankees, obviously.  I disliked the Rangers quite a bit (especially when they signed A-Rod).  In the early 2000’s, I REALLY hated the Athletics, because even though the Mariners won 90+ games from 2000-2003, the A’s were the reason why we only made the playoffs twice (in spite of a couple 93-win campaigns).  In recent years, I guess I hate the Astros, but I don’t even know if they qualify as a rivalry, from my fan’s perspective.  It’s more of a looming dread whenever I see HOU coming up on the little pocket calendar I have hanging up at my desk.  When the switch flipped and Houston became HOUSTON, it’s been utter annihilation (and even before they were good, they still won an annoying amount of times).  Besides, this is really the first year where the Mariners and Astros have been on the same level, record-wise.  They may indeed grow to become my most hated baseball enemy when the season’s over.

But, for now, I think I hate the Angels the most.  Granted, they’re clearly the better franchise.  They’ve actually WON a World Series, for instance.  They’ve been to the playoffs 10 times to our 4; they’ve consistently been more of a winning team in general (and haven’t had those bottom-out years like the Mariners have).  Nevertheless, with the Astros way up there, I’ve always seen the Angels as more of our peers.  Whenever you find the Mariners contending for a wild card spot, the Angels always seem to be right there with us.  Also, from 2010 onward, the Angels only have the 1 playoff appearance, so it’s not like they’ve been super awesome of late.  And, they’ve had a number of players I couldn’t help but despise, from Mike Trout to Jered Weaver to (retroactively) Chone Figgins to John Lackey to Troy Glaus to Tim Salmon to Chuck Finley.  The only Angels player I ever really liked was Vlad, because he was fucking amazing and I secretly never forgave the Mariners for not making a bigger push to sign him when he was a free agent after 2003.  Can you even imagine?  That would’ve been so much fun!

Anyway, the Mariners just swept the Angels yesterday in the 3-game series, and I couldn’t be happier.

I didn’t hold out a ton of hope in yesterday’s game, even when the Angels’ starter was pulled after 2 innings with an injury.  Marco Gonzales really wasn’t as sharp as he’d been of late, only lasting 5 innings, giving up 3 runs.  We knew ahead of time that Edwin Diaz wasn’t going to be available, after pitching 3 games in a row, and in 4 games in 5 days.  That slotted the bullpen all kinds of wonky, and accordingly the bullpen wasn’t as sharp as it had been of late either.  Newcomer Mike Morin – in just his 2nd appearance since being called up from Tacoma – gave up a run on a triple and a sac fly.  Chasen Bradford – who has been all kinds of good this year – gave up 2 solo homers in the 7th to put us behind by 2 runs.  And, there we were, late in the game, facing the prospects of losing for just the third time in the month of June.

That’s when the offense went back to work.  Gamel and Zunino had RBIs in the 2nd to stake the Mariners to a 2-0 lead.  Then, after an RBI by Trout (who somehow didn’t homer in this one, though he did have two hits and two intentional walks), Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run bomb (which is his 5th in the last 5 games) to put the M’s up 4-1.  In the 7th, after Bradford gagged up the homers, Segura hit a guy in on a double; followed by Healy solo homering in the 8th to re-tie the game; ultimately setting the stage for a bottom of the 9th showdown (thanks to a couple scoreless innings out of eventual winner Roenis Elias).

With one out, Segura on at first, Mitch Haniger took a mistake by the Angels pitcher and deposited it into the left field stands for his second walk-off home run of the season.  Not for nothing, but that’s his 16th homer of the season (tying his mark of 2017) and his 52nd RBI (surpassing what he did in 2017, in 29 fewer games).  Can you imagine what it’ll be like if he can stay healthy all year?  He truly is deserving of a slot on the All Star team.

The Mariners are still 0.5 games ahead of the Astros, but are now 7.5 games ahead of the Angels, which is just the best.

Now, we’ve got a 4-game series against the Red Sox.  I hope you like a lot of annoying Boston fans, because they’re coming out in force!  The good news is Chris Sale pitched yesterday, so we lucked into avoiding one of the best lefties in the game.  The bad news is the rest of their rotation is also really fucking good.  And, James Paxton is saddled with Friday’s “Fireworks Night” game, which I believe the Mariners have lost every fucking time they’ve done it.  Here’s to hoping for a little of that old Felix magic tonight as he squares off against David Price.  This series could get REAL dicey in a hurry.

The Mariners Won 3 of 4 Against The Rays

And 6 of 7 in the season series!

The game on Thursday saw the Rays creep back into it late before the Mariners slammed the door.  How would the rest of the weekend look?

Pretty much as expected, all things considered.  Marco Gonzales took the hill on Friday and continued this streak of greatness he’s been on.  He advanced his career high in innings pitched – this time going 7.1 innings of 2-run ball – before giving way to the bullpen.  We put up 4 runs thanks to some solid small ball.  Daniel Vogelbach returned – and had an RBI single – as the Mariners had to put Nicasio and Altavilla on the DL (Nicasio with a minor knee issue; Altavilla with what looks to be a serious arm thing that might keep him out for an extended period of time).  Jean Segura had another hit to bring his average to .340, second in the American League at the time.  And, Mitch Haniger drove in the other two runs as he continued his push to be an All Star.  Alex Colome got one out in the 8th, but ended up allowing the Rays to once again pull within 1 run, necessitating Edwin Diaz needing to get a 4-out save.  He did his job to get his 22nd save on the season.

Saturday was a rematch of the previous week’s duel of Felix vs. Snell; this time, it was a collosal bummer.  Felix struggled through 3 innings, giving up 6 runs; and while Roenis Elias was able to limit the damage in his 4 innings of work, giving up just 1 run, the offense couldn’t quite chip away at the deficit (going 0 or 11 with RISP).  So, we lost by a score of 7-3.  Newcomer Mike Morin joined the relief corps; he hasn’t had a good season at the Major League level since 2014, but he ended up striking out 2 in his scoreless inning of work, so we’ll see how he does in Nicasio’s absence.  He obviously won’t be thrust into an 8th inning role, but that’s neither here nor there.

The Mariners bounced right back on Sunday.  James Paxton struggled a bit (for him), but still went 7 innings, giving up 3 runs and striking out 10.  Pazos let a runner get on in his 0.1 innings of work, who would eventually come around to score with Alex Colome on the mound (he would let all three victories get to within 1 run, just to make things interesting against his old club).  Nevertheless, Edwin Diaz got his 23rd save of the season, thanks to some suspect baserunning from the Rays, making the final, baffling out at home plate.  Cruz, Zunino, and Seager all homered to account for the 5 runs the M’s scored.

We now sit atop the A.L. West with the Houston Astros (1 game better in the loss column, 1 game worse in the win column), 4.5 games up on the Angels, who come to town for a 3-game series starting tonight.  They just saw their prized offseason acquisition – Shohei Ohtani – go on the DL (with a chance he might need Tommy John surgery and not return until the 2020 season), so things are going pretty poorly down in Anaheim.  With the Mariners flying high – and Felix not set to start until the Boston series – now is the perfect time to pounce on our greatest rivals for that 2nd wild card spot (while hopefully keeping the Astros at bay for the division).  It’s sad that we have to start dreading every Felix start, but that’s apparently the world in which we live.

We’re officially entering the teeth of the schedule:  3 vs. the Angels, 3 vs. the Yankees, and 7 vs. the Red Sox (4 at home before an East Coast road trip next week).  After some cupcakes, we’ll face the Angels 6 more times before the All Star Break, so it’s time for the Mariners to play their very best!