Looking At Some Numbers And Stuff About The 2018 Mariners

The Mariners’ season ended with a whimper over the weekend.  The M’s took 3 of 4 against the Rangers to finish 89-73.  That’s good for 14 games behind the Astros for the division and 8 games behind the Athletics for the second wild card (also, 1 game behind the Rays for the first runner up position to that second wild card, but that’s neither here nor there).

The Mariners were -34 in run differential, which comes out to a pythagorean win total of only 77.  They were 45-36 at home and 44-37 on the road.  They were 36-21 in 1-run games and a whopping 14-1 in extras!

Somehow, the Mariners had a winning record against every single team in the division:

  • 10-9 vs. Houston
  • 10-9 vs. Oakland
  • 11-8 vs. Anaheim
  • 10-9 vs. Texas

The Mariners were 23-9 against the AL Central, 19-15 against the AL East.  But, as I talked about before, the Mariners were a dreadful 6-14 against the National League (which, again, if you flip that, then we’re tied with the A’s for that second wild card spot).

Here’s the month-by-month:

  • March/April:  16-11
  • May:  18-11
  • June:  19-9
  • July:  10-13
  • August:  12-16
  • September:  14-13

And just to rub some salt in the wounds:

  • Pre July 4th:  55-31
  • July 4th onward:  34-42

I like to point to July 3rd as the high-water mark, but it was really just the beginning of the end.  The REAL high-water mark was at the conclusion of our game on June 5th, where we beat the Astros in Houston and took a 2-game lead in the A.L. West.  We, of course, lost to the eventual champs the very next day and after another week of hovering around first place, we ended up dipping below for the duration of the season.

*Sigh* those were wonderful, delightful times back in early June.  I was so young and naive in those days!

Let’s move on to some individual accolades.

  • Jean Segura is your 2018 Mariners batting champion, with a .304 average
  • Robinson Cano is your 2018 Mariners OBP leader with .374
  • Mitch Haniger is your non-suspended 2018 Mariners OBP leader with .366
  • Nelson Cruz is your slugging champ with .509
  • And Haniger is your OPS champ with .859 (narrowly besting Cruz’s .850)

Here are all the guys who had 10+ homers:

  1. Cruz – 37
  2. Haniger – 26
  3. Ryon Healy – 24
  4. Kyle Seager – 22
  5. Mike Zunino – 20
  6. Segura – 10
  7. Cano – 10

With all of that, the Mariners were just 11th in the AL in homers.

Some other individual numbers:

  • Cruz beat Haniger in RBI, 97-93
  • Haniger beat Seager in doubles, 38-36
  • Dee Gordon beat Denard Span in triples, 8-6
  • Segura edged Haniger in total hits, 178-170
  • Segura also edged Haniger in runs scored, 91-90
  • Gordon topped Segura in steals 30-20

My MVP has to go to Mitch Haniger, who was amazing this year.  He finished with a 6.1 WAR, which was easily the best on the team, and looks to be just scratching the surface of a great MLB career.

On to the pitchers:

  • Your ERA champ among qualified starters was Wade LeBlanc with 3.72
  • James Paxton led the team in strikeouts with 208
  • Mike Leake led the Mariners in innings pitched with 185.2
  • Marco Gonzales led the team in wins with 13
  • Leake led the team in quality starts with 18

Here’s your pitching section just devoted to the miracle that was Edwin Diaz:

  • (Obviously) led the Mariners in saves with 57
  • 57 is tied for 2nd all time in a season in MLB history
  • He fell 5 short of the all-time leader, Francisco Rodriguez
  • He led the team in pitching WAR with 3.2
  • Paxton was second with 2.9
  • He led the team in K/9 with 15.22
  • Only Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances had higher K/9 in the A.L.
  • Even though he’s just a reliever, and pitched fewer than half the innings of the starters, Diaz’s 124 strikeouts was still good for 5th on the team (one behind King Felix, who pitched 82 more innings)
  • The next-closest reliever in strikeouts was Nick Vincent with 56
  • He led the team in WHIP with 0.79
  • He led the team in ERA with 1.96
  • He led all pitchers in games played with 73 (Vincent was second with 62)

Without making it a whole thing, here are some props to some non-Diaz relievers who had great seasons.  Alex Colome, Roenis Elias, and James Pazos all logged in some serious innings for the Mariners and all had sub-3 ERAs.  I know that stat doesn’t mean much anymore, but I mean, those guys were dealing more often than not.

Nevertheless, Edwin Diaz is my Mariners Cy Young Award winner and it’s not even close.

Finally, let’s take a look at how some of these Mariners greats stacked up against the rest of the American League:

  • Segura was 7th in batting average, and one of 8 in the A.L. to hit over .300
  • Haniger was 9th in WAR
  • Segura was 15th in WAR (with 4.3)
  • Haniger was 10th in OPS
  • Cruz was 14th in OPS
  • Cruz was 8th in homers
  • Diaz (again, obviously) led the league in saves (2nd place had 43)

So, that’s that.  Another playoffs-less season in the books.  Do it all again in 2019?  Sure, why not?  What the hell else do I have going on in my life?  Might as well continue to root for a mediocre baseball team some more.

Did The Mariners Save Their Season With Yesterday’s 12-Inning Victory?

I dunno, maybe more like delayed the inevitable, but you have to admit that a 2.5-game deficit is much more tenable than a 4.5-game deficit.

Yesterday’s was my favorite type of baseball game.  Just a clean, scoreless bout through 11 innings until the Mariners busted through with a 2-spot in the 12th.  LOVE me some pitcher’s duels!  With the Seattle offense still mired in a ridiculous slump, they needed every bit of Mike Leake’s 8 innings of shutout ball (2 hits, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts); it’s just too bad I had to work and couldn’t see any of it.

I did catch the entirety of the extra innings portion of the game in my car ride home, which was fun, if a little odd.  The Seattle to Tacoma slog down I-5 usually takes anywhere from 60-90 minutes depending on the severity of traffic (there’s always a backup in Fife, for instance, but if that backup extends all the way up into Renton and beyond, good fucking luck), so to make it all the way home (in time to catch the 12th inning on TV) was a bit of a miracle.

I mean, these are the A’s!  They’ve been winning games in remarkable fashion for a while now.  How Khris Davis or Jed Lowrie didn’t walk it off is beyond my mortal comprehension.

Following Leake’s stunning performance – which saw his ERA drop under 4 for the first time since early April – Colome got 4 outs (including Davis to lead off the 10th before being pulled for a lefty), Zach Duke did diddly squat, Nick Vincent got 4 outs, and James Pazos got a critical strikeout of – YOU GUESSED IT – Khris Davis!

If all of that wasn’t amazing enough, the fact that we witnessed a Mike Zunino walk, followed by a Dee Gordon 2-run home run, takes this game right into fantasyland (although, the Gordon homer was certainly a wall scraper in every sense of the phrase).  From there, it was Edwin Diaz with a single and 3 strikeouts to get his 47th save, one shy of the Mariners’ single season record (with 40 games left to play).

That wrapped up a 20-games-in-20-days stretch of baseball for the Mariners that saw them go 9-11, which obviously isn’t going to cut it.  And while there won’t be a stretch of games that daunting the rest of the way (the most they face in a row is 10 games in 10 days to close out the regular season), the opposition doesn’t get a whole helluva lot easier.

Up next, we’ve got a weekend series against the very good Dodgers, followed by three more at home against the Astros.  Then, it’s back on the road against the division-leading Diamondbacks.  Looking ahead, we play Oakland 7 more times, the Yankees 3 times, the Angels 4 times, the Astros 3 more times in September, and the Rangers 7 more times (which, yeah, they have a terrible record, but they also ravaged the M’s just a week ago).

If you’re looking for soft landings the rest of the way, we have 4 games against the bottom-feeding Padres and 3 games at home against the hapless Orioles.  That’s 7 out of 40 of what you could call push-overs.  Against everyone else?  The Mariners are going to have to continue to scratch and claw.  I can’t say that I have a lot of hope, but maybe they’ll surprise me.

The Mariners Messed With Some Of Texas

The last time I wrote about the Mariners, they just lost a demoralizing “home” series against the Blue Jays and were setting out on a 10-games-in-10-days road trip through the teeth of the American League West, starting with 7 down in the state of Texas.  So, let’s get into it.

Well, it feels like a million years ago, but last Monday we got a much-needed 12th inning win to open up the series against the Rangers.  Wade LeBlanc pitched exceedingly well, but was pulled with one out in the 7th after giving up just 2 hits all day on 82 pitches.  Newcomers Adam Warren and Zach Duke continued their Sucking For The Seattle Mariners campaign, giving up the tying runs, but the rest of the bullpen was good enough to keep it scoreless the rest of the way.  In the 12th, the M’s manufactured the go-ahead run, and Edwin Diaz came in to lock down his 42nd save.

Well, it feels like we’ve talked about it a million times, but last Tuesday was Felix’s last turn in the Mariners’ rotation for a while.  He got off to a great start, keeping it scoreless through two innings, then he (and the defense, thanks Kyle Seager) just fell apart.  Since our bullpen was so wiped out from the previous evening’s game, Felix had to wear it, giving up 11 runs (7 earned) in 6 innings.  I wish I could’ve seen the game where we had a clean defensive effort, because even though Felix was giving up hard contact, it was right at guys (Seager) who should’ve made those plays.  I know you can’t assume double plays (which is why he gave up as many earned runs as he did), but if we did assume some of those double plays, I think Felix would’ve looked a lot more competitive.  But, it is what it is, and you don’t yank a legend from the rotation based on one start alone.  He was essentially going start-by-start, and might’ve indeed been on borrowed time based on his prior outings.  You know how I feel about it; it makes me sad and I never would’ve pulled him from the rotation no matter how he pitched, but I’m in the obvious minority and it has no basis in reality or rooting for this team to succeed.  In almost every situation, I’m a fan of the team first and the player second; in this case I’m a Felix Hernandez fan first, and a Mariners fan, like, 10th.

In spite of that effort, the M’s had a chance to at least win the series, with the reliable Marco Gonzales on the mound, but it wasn’t meant to be.  He just didn’t have it – giving up 7 runs in 5 innings – and while the Mariners were able to put up 7 runs of our own, that wasn’t enough to power through these new bullpen arms.  Zach Duke gave up 4 runs on 4 hits in the 7th inning while only getting 2 outs, and there’s your ballgame.  What a fucking disaster of an addition.

So, yeah, heading into a 4-game series with the Astros, it was looking pretty grim.  On top of it, the Astros apparently shuffled their rotation so we had to run the gauntlet.

Game 1 – Paxton vs. Verlander.  The M’s knocked Verlander out after 2 innings (giving up 6 runs in the process), and we were able to hold on for an 8-6 win (Diaz got his 43rd save).

Game 2 – Leake vs. Cole.  Cole pitched into the 8th inning, but we were able to touch him up to the tune of 4 runs.  Leake went 6, giving up 2, and the bullpen held on for a comfortable 5-2 victory (Diaz got his 44th save).

Game 3 – LeBlanc vs. Morton.  Again, the M’s were able to get to their starter a little bit, as Morton went 6, giving up 3; and again, the Mariners’ starter held his own (LeBlanc went 5, giving up 2).  Both bullpens were clean in this one, and we won a nailbiter, this time 3-2 (Diaz got his 45th save).

Game 4 – Ramirez vs. Keuchel.  Erasmo Ramirez took Felix’s spot in the rotation, coming back from the DL.  Ramirez didn’t look great in the minors, but the M’s didn’t need great, they just needed reliable.  He gave us all more than we ever could’ve expected, going 5 shutout innings before giving way to the bullpen.  Alex Colome had pitched the three days prior, so he was out.  That left everyone else in play, which equates to Diaz (for a 4th game in a row) and a bunch of twits.  We were able to get 2 runs off of Keuchel, in his 7 innings of work, but we couldn’t hold that 2-0 lead for long.  Pazos and Vincent were the turds in this one, giving up 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th.  Shockingly, Warren and Duke were real heroes, putting up zeroes in multiple innings of work for each of them (by multiple innings, I mean 4 outs apiece).  The Mariners were able to spoil a save opportunity in the 9th, with a homer by Ryon Healy to tie it; and we took a 1-run lead in the 10th on a double by Haniger (with Dee Gordon running on the pitch from first base).  That was all we needed, as Diaz got his 46th save on the year (so close to an emaculate inning).

So yeah, that’s an interesting week of baseball to say the least!

The good news is, obviously, we picked up 4 games on the Astros when we absolutely needed them.  The bad news is we’re still 4 games back in the division.  We go to Oakland for a 3-game set (1.5 games out of the second wild card), almost certainly without the services of Edwin Diaz at least for Monday’s game.

It feels unfathomable – even with all of Houston’s injuries – that the Mariners should win ANY games down there, let alone sweep all four.  They’re going to need that impossible magic to continue if we hope to chip away against the A’s.

There’s No Shame In Being Tier 2, Mariners Fans

This isn’t to say the Mariners aren’t good.  They are!  They’re fine.  They’re still almost certainly going to make the playoffs this year, and if I had to do a power rankings of the American League, I’d still put them ahead of Cleveland, Anaheim, and most of the rest.  But, the Mariners just aren’t the Best of the Best.  They’re not in Tier 1.  And that’s okay.

Tier 1 includes Boston, Houston, and the Yankees (and that’s it).  Those are the three best teams in the A.L. and if you let me, I’d bet everything I own that it’ll be one of those three teams that makes it into the World Series.

The Mariners, on the other hand, are not quite on their level.  We’re probably at the top of Tier 2, but there’s still a drastic difference in quality between the two tiers, as we’ve seen over the course of the last two days.

On Tuesday, Marco Gonzales got rocked, and the Mariners’ offense was held in check as we lost 7-2.  We hung in there for a bit – we were competitive, as is our trademark this year – but a 4-run Yankees fifth inning put it away.

On Wednesday, King Felix looked like the King Felix of Old again, at least through the first four innings.  He had a little bit of a hiccup in the fifth, but still escaped with a 5-2 lead before handing it off to the bullpen.  The M’s were able to ding up a guy making just his second career Major League start (who nevertheless has remarkable stuff, if he ever figures out how to cool it on his pitch count), and things looked pretty good.  But, that Yankees lineup – with power hitters for days – was just too much for our meager bullpen to match up with.  Pazos gave up a run, Colome gave up the blown save with a game-tying 2-run homer, and Cook walked it off with yet another 2-run homer.  What at one point was a 5-0 Mariners lead turned into a 7-5 defeat, as of course we couldn’t do anything with their superhuman bullpen after the fifth inning.

This is 2 years in a row where the Yankees have just bashed the fucking shit out of us.  We went 2-5 against them last year, and all I can picture is Aaron Judge mashing towering moonshot after towering moonshot against our poor excuse for a pitching staff.  This year, we’ve got Giancarlo Stanton playing that role, having homered in both games so far (including the game-winner).

It helps to take a step back and try to remember why we were so excited heading into this road trip.  Well, we split a 4-game series with the Red Sox; that’s something, huh?  Yeah, except it took a crazy come-from-behind rally and an even crazier dominant LeBlanc start to do it.  Does that feel like something that could be replicated in a playoff series?  There was the 3-game sweep of the Angels, but of course they’re super injured and are essentially just Mike Trout and a lot of nobodies.  There was that 2-game split with Houston a couple weeks ago …

Other than that, the Mariners have beaten up on a lot of shitty teams this season.  Which, believe me, I’m not complaining.  You need to beat up on the shitty teams to climb to the top of Tier 2 and make the wild card!  That’s what’s separating us from the Angels, A’s, and the rest of the wild card contenders.  But, if we’re all in agreement that the Mariners are going to make the playoffs (barring a historic collapse), then your expectations have to shift a little bit.  Now, we have to start thinking about what the Mariners are going to do when they get there.

First and foremost, they’re going to have to play a Tier 1 team in that wild card game, which means on that one day, we’re going to have to be almost perfect.  It’s something we’re capable of, but it’s also something that you can’t count on.  If we do luck our way into the ALDS, then that pits us against yet another Tier 1 team (with the way they’re going, figure Houston will have the best overall record by that point).  Who’s excited about the Mariners facing the Astros in a 5-game series?  If that isn’t a 3-game sweep, I’ll eat my hat.  Meanwhile, the Indians get to bumble their way into a guaranteed ALDS spot simply by winning the worst division in baseball.  What a bunch of fucks!

Thankfully, after this week, we’ll be done with the Red Sox and have only 3 more against the Yankees (at home) and that’s it.  Just get us through this East Coast road trip without any fucking rainouts and I’ll take whatever record I can get.

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.

Trout Keeps Hitting Homers & The Mariners Keep Winning Ballgames

Look, all I’m saying is MAYBE Ryan Cook isn’t the guy you want on the mound to face Mike Trout.  Also, MAYBE just walk Mike Trout’s fuckin’ ass every single time he steps up to the plate, because this shit is getting ridiculous.  He’s in Barry Bonds In His Prime Minus All The Steroids Allegedly territory, where at this point as long as it doesn’t mean the go-ahead run comes in, I’d walk Trout with the bases fucking loaded!

And even then … I mean, do you have another set of at-bats coming up?  Maybe walking in that go-ahead run is better than the alternative of him clearing the bases?

He’s fucking Superman, what can you say?  I hate him.  I wish he was on any other team outside of the A.L. West (in which point, I’d probably love him).  He’s like Griffey in his prime, minus all the personality.  The fact that he isn’t the biggest superstar on the planet is ridiculous, because I’d venture to say he’s better at baseball than any other guy is better than everyone else in any other sport (aside from LeBron, of course).

Or, I dunno.  Maybe he’s just this great against the Mariners, and he’s a little more mortal against the rest of the league.  31 homers is the most against any team he’s faced in his career; 81 RBI is the second most against any team behind the 86 he’s hit in against the Rangers; 9 triples (tied for the most; again with the Rangers); 93 runs are again the second most (Rangers, 103).  I guess Texas has a claim in this argument.  Also, Trout’s 117 career strikeouts against the Mariners are the most against any team, but I would argue the lion’s share of those came against Felix in his prime.

Anyway, that’s all preamble to say Trout had 2 more homers last night, after having hit 2 homers on Monday.  He’s already at 23 homers on the season, and 5 of them have come against the Mariners.  Also, his slash line in 5 games is .636/.680/1.545; so if it feels like Mike Trout has fucking obliterated the Seattle Mariners this season, take whatever you’re feeling and quadruple it.

I should point out that the Angels have lost both of those games, so if we’re going to beat the Angels every time Mike Trout hits 2 homers in a game, then sign me up!

On Monday, Wade LeBlanc gave up back-to-back solo homers in the first and didn’t look to be long for this world.  He managed to gut his way through 5 innings, keeping them to just those 2 runs, and allowing the Mariners to overtake them.  Nelson Cruz matched Trout homer for homer, hitting a game-tying 2-run bomb in the bottom of the first, then a go-ahead solo homer in the fourth.  Ryon Healy hit the game-winning 2-run home run in the fourth as well, and the Mariners were able to hold onto a 5-3 victory.  Ryan Cook gave up the second Trout homer in this one, spoiler alert.

Aside from that, the bullpen was rock solid on Monday, going 4 innings and giving up just the 1 run.  Bradford and Pazos both took care of business, and Edwin Diaz got his 24th save of the season, no problem.

On Tuesday, Mike Leake’s only blemish was a solo homer to Trout in the fifth.  He went 6 innings, giving up that 1 run on only 4 hits and 3 walks, with 4 strikeouts.  Both Haniger AND Healy hit 2 homers apiece to pace Trout in this one, which is pretty cool.  It’s been a while since the Mariners brought their big boy sticks to the ballpark.  Haniger hit a solo homer in the first to take the lead; then a 2-run homer in the bottom of the fifth to RE-take the lead.  Healy’s homers were both of the solo variety (in the sixth & eighth), and Segura tacked on an RBI double in the seventh.  Trout’s 2-run homer (again, off of Cook) made it a 1-run game temporarily, but we put them away late by the score of 6-3.

Again, aside from Cook, the bullpen was great.  Pazos got us out of the 7th, Colome took care of business in the 8th, and Diaz got his 25th save of the season … oddly enough by striking Trout out swinging.

This obviously puts the Mariners in a better position.  We were 1-2 against the Angels heading into this series; after today, we can be no worse than .500 against them.  We’re 0.5 games up on the Astros for the division, and a whopping 6.5 games up on the Angels for the second wild card.

I know I made a lot of noise about how difficult June was looking, but with Tampa shitting the bed, and now the Angels losing a lot of important players to injury, the nagging doubter in my brain wants to poo-poo what the Mariners are doing.  But, this shit is seriously impressive any way you slice it.  If we’re all going to boil this season down to how the Mariners play against the Red Sox and Yankees, then feel free to be my guest.  I mean, odds are we’ll have to play one of those teams in the wild card game, and the other of those teams in the ALDS (if we get that far), so we better figure out a way to either beat them or avoid them.  All I’m trying to say is that this is pretty fun, and let’s keep the ball rolling!

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!

The Mariners Got The Victory They Needed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Lost Two In A Row To The Rangers? Sure, Why Not?

This is baseball, the good times weren’t going to last forever.  Still, the Rangers?

The pitching had been on this unbelievable, unsustainable roll, pretty much since the last time we played the Rangers two weeks ago.  Remember that 2-game series, coming off of that hard-luck road trip that had us make a layover in Minnesota on the way back?  We came back to win the first game 9-8, then fell apart the next day, losing 5-1.  Ever since that series – up through Monday – the most runs the Mariners gave up in the ensuing 11 games was 4.  That has since changed the last two days.

Felix struggled in his latest start, on Tuesday, giving up 5 runs in 5 innings.  It might’ve been 2 runs in 5 innings, but he was brought out to start the 6th and promptly loaded the bases without getting an out.  With a little better play from the bullpen – or our catcher – we might’ve salvaged some of those runs.  Instead, Pazos allowed them all to score.  We were able to tie it up in the 8th, but Edwin Diaz fell apart in the 9th and that was that.  A 9-5 loss.  Not a problem.  Diaz is usually great, he’s been criminally over-worked, and these games happen from time to time.

Besides, we had James Paxton all lined up to go last night!  He’s essentially got the Pitcher of the Month award all locked up!  We got this!

Yeah, except we didn’t.  Paxton had a rough go of it in the 5th inning and apparently expended all the energy the manager was willing to allow him to expend.  We nevertheless handed a 2-run lead to the bullpen and asked them to get the final 12 outs.  They were unable to do this without gagging the game away.

Another passed ball by Zunino (the second in two games; perhaps he too is criminally over-worked) led to an unearned run allowed by Altavilla in the 6th.  The Mariners were able to get that run back in the bottom half, so all was well as we headed into the later innings.  Yet, in the 7th, Ryan Cook allowed two runners to get into scoring position, and Scrabble came in to fuck everything up like he always does (when is it going to be time to dump his ass?  Because I don’t think he’s ever going to figure it out).  He gave up a game-tying single, then walked the bases loaded before Juan Nicasio gave up the go-behind runs.  We got one back in the bottom of the 9th, but it wasn’t meant to be.  We lost this one 7-6.

There’s one game left in the month, and one game left in this Rangers series.  It would be nice to get the split.  It would also be nice if the offense just pounded the Rangers into submission.  And, it’ll be nicest of all to have Dee Gordon back at second base instead of the black hole we’ve had there in his absence.

How Did The Mariners Get So Damn Good?

Or, at least, so damn lucky?

The last time I wrote about the Mariners, it was to comment on the big trade for Colome and Span.  The time immediately before that was to comment on the loss to the A’s.  It sort of felt like the beginning of maybe a little down period for the M’s – because, with all the injuries and whatnot, how could they possibly continue to keep winning?  And yet, in spite of my obvious negativity, the Mariners bucked the odds and went right back to winning!

They beat the Twins in all three games over the weekend – some sweet revenge over that stupid make-up game – then they took the first game over the Rangers.  Three 1-run victories and a 2-run victory; I’m telling you, either we’re witnessing the hottest stretch of the season for this pitching staff, or I’m going to have to admit that they’re a lot better than I originally thought!

On Friday, we were all treated to a James Paxton Special:  7 innings, 1 run, 3 hits, 0 walks, 11 strikeouts.  Nick Vincent held down the 8th and Edwin Diaz got his 18th save of the season, as the Mariners won 2-1.  It was a game where the offense was really held in check, but Cruz and Haniger were able to knock home a couple guys from second base.

On Saturday, we were all treated to a Wade LeBlanc Special:  6 innings, 2 runs, 4 hits, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts in 77 pitches.  There was a little hiccup with the bullpen – after the offense was able to overcome a 2-run deficit with a 3-run bottom of the 6th on homers from Segura and Cruz – as Vincent and Pazos combined to allow the tying run.  However, the rest of those guys got us through the 12th (anchored by Juan Nicasio’s scoreless 2 innings with 5 strikeouts), when Mike Zunino – with 2 outs – jacked a homer to left to walk it off.

On Sunday, we were all treated to a Mike Leake Special:  8 innings, 1 run, 4 hits, 0 walks, 2 strikeouts in 86 pitches.  Newcomer Alex Colome got his first save in a Mariners uniform (allowing the team to rest Edwin Diaz) as we won 3-1.  The M’s were down 1-0 early, then Seager tied it with a solo homer in the 4th, followed by Healy knocking in the winning runs in the 8th with a double.  Combined, both pitchers threw less than 100 pitches, which is kind of insane in this day and age.

On Monday, we were all treated to a Marco Gonzales Special:  6.2 innings, 1 run (0 earned), 4 hits, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts.  Pazos finished up the 7th on 2 pitches, Colome embraced his new 8th inning role without trouble, and Diaz got his 19th save.  Offensively, Cruz and Seager hit in a couple guys from second and that’s all we needed as the Mariners won 2-1.

I haven’t been tracking it – mostly because I wrote them off in the off-season – but the pitching staff has really been terrific.  I vaguely remember them struggling in the early going, but right now the Mariners are 5th in the American League in ERA (behind the obvious suspects:  Houston, Boston, Anaheim and New York).  Yeah, our run differential is pretty crappy, which points to a number of issues with this team; but without this pitching staff, we’d be looking at A LOT more losses.  If they pitched like I thought they’d pitch heading into the season, we might be talking about a 9-game or a 10-game losing streak right now.  Instead, the Mariners are 33-20, 1 game behind the Astros (tied in the loss column), and 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the top Wild Card spot.  Yes, that’s correct, we’re closer to the division lead than we are the top Wild Card spot!  How insane is that?

Three more games against the lowly Rangers to close out the month, then a weekend series against the Rays to close out this 10-game homestand.  Very important to keep this ball rolling, because June looks insanely difficult.  The 7 games against the Rays, 4 games against the Orioles on the road, and 2 games against the Royals are the easiest games of the bunch.  But, on the flipside, we face the Astros twice, the Red Sox 7 times, the Yankees 3 times, and the Angels 3 times.  So, we’ll get a good look at how good these Mariners really are.