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.

Mariners Tidbit 16: Opening Day

And Seth Smith jumps out to a commanding lead for YOUR Favorite New Mariner!

Boy, that game was something, wasn’t it?  It had it all:  hits, strikeouts, leaving work before 11am, drinking during the day, incredibly long bathroom lines you had to time JUST right (meaning:  you had to step away with Cano at the plate, two outs, and a runner in scoring position, just to run up the aisle and see a man about a horse before 20 people jumped in line behind you).

I had seats right on the edge of the King’s Court, in section 147.  So, the energy was pretty jazzed up, but I got the feeling that the whole stadium was into it from the first pitch.  I don’t have a real coherent narrative, so I’ll just bust out with the random thoughts.

I thought the best at bat of the entire ballgame wasn’t anything by Seth Smith, it wasn’t Trout’s mammoth home run, and it wasn’t even Austin Jackson getting off to a great start.  For my money, you’re not going to beat Robbie Cano’s 2-out RBI single in the third to give us a 2-1 lead.  To that point, Jered Weaver was working his slow-pitch magic.  Sure, the preceding double & triple tied the game, but Weaver isn’t usually one to give up the Big Inning.  He tried to steal a cheap strike to get ahead in the count (where, I’m sure, he’s at his deadliest), and on a day where only one of his pitches surpassed 86 mph, Cano ripped the first pitch he saw in that at bat straight up the middle for the go-ahead score.  That’s what we call using the ol’ noodle.

As it has been noted everywhere, Seth Smith went 3 for 3 with 3 extra base hits (the first Mariner to ever do that on Opening Day).  They won’t all be days this great for Seth Smith, but you gotta like a guy who’s proven capable in pitcher-friendly parks in the past.  He’s put up decent numbers in Oakland and San Diego, which leads me to believe he’s ready to tangle with a place like Safeco.

The bottom two and top two spots in the order did the bulk of the damage.  Nice to see Ackley hit a bomb, nice to see Miller and Jackson get on base twice.  These are the players who will make the biggest difference between us merely contending and us grabbing the division by the horns.

What can you say about King Felix?  Another Opening Day victory, another 7-inning, 10-strikeout, 1-run performance.  You want easy money?  Put it down on the Mariners on Opening Day with Felix on the mound.

The Most Important At-Bat of the Game:  Carson Smith vs. Mike Trout.  2-on, 2-out, top of the 8th.  You might argue the previous at-bat – where Furbush struck out Kole Calhoun to get us to 2 outs – was the more important, because if he walks him there, who knows what happens after?  All I know is, Carson Smith had 9 appearances before yesterday’s game, and he was called in (over Tom Wilhelmsen, over Yoervis Medina) to face the best everyday player in the game of baseball.  And, he struck him out on four pitches.  Outstanding.

Hey!  We get to do this all over again tonight!  And tomorrow night, I’ll be back at Safeco for the second time in three days!  I think I finally understand why Dave Sims continues to be employed by Root Sports; his on-air presence compels people like me to attend more games in person just to grab a little peace of mind.

The Remaining Schedule & Pitching Matchups of the Seattle Mariners

Gonna make this really quick.  Here’s the upcoming schedule for the rest of the season:

Hey there, good lookin' ...

Hey there, good lookin’ …

I like looking at pitching matchups and trying to glean what’s going to happen.  In this scenario, there is everything to like.

Today, we’ve got Iwakuma going against whatever a Tropeano is; that should be a win.

Against Oakland, we’ve got Paxton/Felix/Young vs. Hammel/Gray/Lester.  SOMEHOW, we’ve got to win 2 of 3, and frankly, I like our chances in those first two games.  None of those games will be walk-overs, but I have to believe the Mariners will have adjusted to Hammel by the time we play him a second time.

Then, we go on the road for four in Anaheim.  We’re losing that Monday game, because Shoemaker looks like a stud.  But, the other three?  I like our chances to go 3-1 against the leader of the West.

That brings us down to Houston where we THANKFULLY avoid Collin McHugh.  The three starters they’ve got in his place that series are eminently beatable, so unless our offense goes in the tank, we should be able to sweep that one.

This brings us to four games in Toronto.  Paxton and Felix are slated to go the first two games, with Young and Elias going the next two.  No Toronto starter scares me at all, so another best-case scenario is us beating them all four times (don’t scoff; we managed to sweep them in three games in Safeco in August).

Finally, closing out the season, we have Anaheim here in Seattle.  If the rotation holds, Iwakuma would lead us off, followed by Paxton, and Felix going in the finale if necessary.  They face the same combo we’ll see in Anaheim next week:  Shoemaker/Rasmus/Wilson.  Avoiding Weaver is always a plus, so that’s cool.

Best-case scenario:  the Mariners go 15-3, easily secure one of the Wild Card spots, and possibly make things interesting in the division (but, ultimately lose it by a comfortable margin).

A more-realistic scenario has the Mariners going 11-7, ending the season 90-72.  In this scenario, I have the Mariners going 2-2 to close out the homestand, 2-2 in Anaheim, and losing 1 game per series the rest of the way.  Is 90-72 enough to get us in the playoffs?  To be honest, I’m starting to have my doubts.

Here’s to hoping that the Mariners go on a huge run very soon to end the season.

Week 16 Random Mariners Thoughts (Post All Star Game Edition)

Three games were played in the past week (not counting the All Star Game, obvs).  While Felix did very well in his one inning of All Star Game work as the starter, while Rodney did okay in his 1/3 of an inning as an All Star Game set-up man, and while Kyle Seager and Robbie Cano did pretty much nothing in their All Star Game roles as backup DH and starting second baseman (respectively), I’m not here to rehash the fucking All Star Game, so let’s go ahead and move on.

We played the Angels this weekend.  In Anaheim.  (They’re the Anaheim Angels, I don’t care what anyone tells me).  The Angels came into this series as the leading Wild Card team.  The Mariners came into this series as the second Wild Card team.  The Angels are MUCH closer to the A’s than they are the Mariners, and that hasn’t changed in the subsequent three days.

Three days, three 1-run games.  ALMOST three extra innings games, but alas it wasn’t to be.

On Friday, Hisashi Iwakuma almost got the hard-luck loss, as Jered Weaver was rolling and Kuma gave up two runs in the bottom of the fifth.  Somehow, the Mariners scratched across two runs in the seventh, and that’s the way it was for a while.  Kuma was done after seven innings, and seven relievers followed him.  Until the bottom of the 16th inning, with two runners on, some dude scored some other dude with a double and that was that.

On Saturday, Felix started and got a no decision.  What else is new?  He continued his historic streak of going 7 or more innings and giving up 2 runs or less (in this case, 7 innings, 1 unearned run, with 9 strikeouts and 6 combined walks & hits), but of course the offense couldn’t do much.  This game went into the 12th before the Mariners manufactured two runs.  They gave one right back in the bottom half, but Charlie Furbush of all people locked down the save (as Fernando Rodney was used earlier in the evening).  On this day, the Mariners would use another six relievers.  Keep that in mind.

Because on Sunday, the Mariners blew a save for the first time in a while.  The bullpen has been lights out over the last couple months (and really, on the whole of the season), but they were just fucking gassed yesterday afternoon.  Tom Wilhelmsen was out, because he pitched 4 innings in that Friday game (and probably because they’re saving him for the start on Tuesday).  Danny Farquhar was out because he had arm stiffness or whatever after throwing for two straight days.  Dom Leone had pitched two days in a row and sort of struggled (he gave up the game-losing hit on Friday).  So, there weren’t really a lot of options you’d feel confident in.  Chris Young cobbled together 6 innings and after he had left, the Mariners had a 5-3 lead.  With his pitch count right at 99, and with the Angels’ lineup getting ready to see him for a fourth time, I have no problem whatsoever with LMC going to the bullpen.

Yoervis Medina gave up a run in the bottom of the seventh to pull it to a 1-run game, but he got all three outs, putting us six outs from victory.  Joe Beimel was put into an impossible situation and sort of failed miserably.  He got one out in the 8th, but put a man on.  With the Angels soon to be turning the lineup over to the likes of Trout, Pujols, and other big scary bats, Lloyd pretty much had two options:  see if Beimel could work his way out of a jam (and, for him, one runner on IS a jam), or see if Rodney could come in and get the 5-out save.

For the record, I don’t hate the move to bring in Rodney.  He got us into the 9th inning without incident (unless you count him shooting one of his imaginary arrows towards the Angels dugout – but supposedly at the Angels fans who booed him, if you believe Rodney’s post-game comments – after he got the last out of the 8th inning), but from there he pretty much fell apart.  Trout walked.  Pujols doubled him home to tie the game and blow the save.  Josh Hamilton singled.  Howie Kendrick (who has turned into QUITE the Mariner Killer) was intentionally walked to load the bases.  David Freese hit into a double play to give us some hope.  Efren Navarro was also intentionally walked (he hit the game-winner on Friday, and has looked very good in his short stint in the Majors) to re-load the bases.  And, finally, some guy named Grant Green hit the game-winner for the Angels.

We now have less than two weeks before the trade deadline.  If this series illustrates one thing, it’s that the Mariners are NOT far away from the best teams in baseball.  If you look at the two series that bookended the All Star Game, you’ll see that the Mariners beat the A’s 2 of 3 and lost to the Angels 2 of 3.  All the games were close, and if there’s one thing you can point to as the difference, it would be the Mariners’ lack of hitting.

Let’s face it, the Mariners have made their season so far on timely hitting with runners in scoring position.  There are a couple articles out there about how the Mariners are one of the more fortunate teams when it comes to clustering their hits.  It’s one thing to have 9 hits in a game, but if they’re sprinkled out one per inning, odds are you’re not going to score much (if any) runs in that game.  But, if all 9 hits come in the same inning, you’ve got yourself a good chance of winning.

That’s all well and good, and the Mariners are six games over .500 as a result, but what happens when that luck runs out?

Dustin Ackley had a pretty good series, but seriously, he’s the worst.  Stefen Romero is back up with the team for some reason, and he looks just as lost as ever (both at the plate AND in the field).  I would almost rather see Justin Smoak spend the rest of his Mariners career in Tacoma at this point.  We’re lucky if we can get a bloop single out of Corey Hart anymore; he’s BEYOND done.  Brad Miller is almost a lost cause.  And, I know that LoMo has been hitting the ball hard since his playing time increased, but he’s falling back to Earth and earning his reputation as the Marlins’ version of Justin Smoak (that is, before he was traded here).  Yeah, that’s all we need, TWO Justin Smoaks.

This team could use pretty much ANYONE at this point, including the highly disappointing Billy Butler from Kansas City.  You know what a “disappointing” season out of Billy Butler is?  .269/.320/.348.  Yeah, I’ll bite, that’s not so hot, especially for a DH who brings nothing defensively to the table.  You PROBABLY want more than 3 home runs at this point in the season.  But, I mean, have you seen these numbers out of Hart, Smoak, and LoMo – the three guys currently rotating between first base and DH right now?

  • Hart – .211/.287/.331
  • Smoak – .210/.279/.356
  • LoMo – .222/.280/.368

Right now, if you gave us Butler and nobody else, I guarantee this offense would be VASTLY improved.  That’s just one example, but I think you see what I’m getting at.

We’re NOT that far away from being really, really good!  Two hitters, that’s it!  Two run of the mill, league-average hitters.  Obviously, anything above league average would be a huge bonus, but right now I’m not asking for a whole lot.  Not greedy; Dude just wants his rug back!  The less we have to play Hart and Ackley and Smoak, the better.  For all of us.

And, of course, if we want to be World Series contenders, we’d need David Price, but I’ve already belabored that point ad nauseam.  Nevertheless, my plan is simple:  David Price, Ben Zobrist, and another solid right-handed bat a la Billy Butler or someone slightly better.  Get me those three guys and I’ll guarantee you a World Series appearance for the Seattle Mariners.  SPARE NO EXPENSE!

The Mariners Are Super-Good At Baseball In The Month Of March

It was Opening Day.  Some people say Opening Day should be a national holiday, but then again some people should shut their damn mouths until the day after the Super Bowl is a national holiday.

I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this season, as I anticipate being beaten down like a mule by all the mediocrity around me, but I figured I had to at least watch Robinson Cano’s first at bat and Felix’s first inning.  What can I say?  I’m an old softie.

So, I watched the first inning end scoreless as Cano grounded out weakly to the short stop.  And I watched Felix give up a leadoff single and a home run to Mike Trout.  And I figured, “Eh, that’s enough of baseball.”

What did I do with my evening?  It’s entirely possible I spent the next three hours plowing through the final six episodes of How I Met Your Mother, balling my eyes out as I was hugging Mr. Teddy and eating bonbons; but I can neither confirm nor deny.  Most likely, I was doing something rugged and tough, like fighting my way through a rabid grizzly bear parade wearing nothing but a pair of brass knuckles and a jock strap.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

The point is, it was 10 o’clock when I finished … whatever it was that I was doing, and the game was still on.  Not only that!  But, those plucky Mariners actually managed to take a lead!  I had been flipping over to the Internet to check on the score between episodes maulings, and when I saw we were down 3-1, I figured it was over.  Hell, if I had money and I was near a sportsbook before the game, I most likely would have put heavy cabbage down on the Angels winning this game.

Are you kidding?  The Mariners, on a 7-game winning streak on Opening Day coming into yesterday; playing the Angels in Anaheim, a team that Felix traditionally struggles against; with a healthy Jered Weaver and a Mariners lineup fresh from an offensively-dynamic Spring Training just waiting to disappoint … the table was set for an Angels walk-over.

I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t anywhere near a sportsbook, because I would’ve lost even MORE money on something that I’m not particularly good at:  betting on sports, or anything else.

I missed Felix’s 11 strikeouts over six innings.  I missed Tom Wilhelmsen’s mastery of the thrown baseball to preserve the lead to the ninth.  I even missed the first two hits by Robinson Cano in a Mariners uniform.  But, I turned the game back on right as Justin Smoak stepped into the batter’s box with two on and two out.  “Surely,” I thought, “this will be a weak fly ball just short of the warning track, and then we’ll be greeted by Fernando Rodney blowing his first save of the season.”

Instead, Smoak straight up jacked one out to right field.  Three straight walks followed, with Dustin Ackley sending them all home with a triple.  A 4-3 lead ballooned to 10-3, and I’ll tell you, it’s JUST what the doctor ordered.

Almonte had two hits (leading off, a questionable move to say the least, given his limited experience and crappy Spring numbers); Cano had two hits; Smoak had two hits, three RBI, and three runs scored; Ackley had two hits and three RBI … every Mariners hitter reached base by at least a hit or a walk.

As for the lineup, I’ll say this:  I’m willing to have a wait-and-see approach with Almonte leading off.  As long as he’s finding ways to work counts and get on base, I’m cool.  But, if he goes into a super-slump, I’ll want him moved down in the order REAL quick.  Also, what the shit was that:  having Logan Morrison batting fifth over Kyle Seager?  On his BEST day, that goon isn’t a better hitter than Seager!  I expect that to change sooner rather than later, but what does it say about the skipper?  Is Seager in some sort of doghouse?  He went from batting second, to fourth, to fifth in the lineup during Spring Training … and now he’s sixth?  I don’t get it.  Granted, which spot a guy bats in probably doesn’t matter a whole lot; but, you DO want to have your better hitters getting more of the at-bats.  I think Seager’s quality work will speak for itself and he’ll move back up in the order in no time.

Today, we’ve got Erasmo Ramirez vs. C.J. Wilson.  We also get to see Corey Hart for the first time when it matters.  I’m … I’m worried, but I think I’m always going to worry about that DH position until second-year prospect D.J. Peterson mashes his way into our hearts.

The 2013 Seattle Mariners Will Make The Playoffs

As I stated yesterday, we’re going to run the gamut this weekend, from the highest highs to the lowest lows.  We’ll start with the happy times, because this afternoon in Seattle can’t be any more beautiful, and by golly I feel great!

Now, before we get too deep into this, I’m going to warn you that there won’t be any logic to this thing.  I’m not going to pull any numbers out of my ass to make my argument.  This thing is coming straight from my gut.  As I’ve said before, sometimes crazy shit just happens.  Everyone tries to give their predictions about how a season is going to unfold, but no one is ever 100% correct.  There are always a handful of surprises, and with this Mariners team, that’s exactly what it’s going to be.

For starters, just about everything is going to have to go right for us.  That doesn’t just mean a team full of players out-performing their projections, but it also means other teams under-performing theirs.

Obviously, the Mariners don’t HAVE to win their division to guarantee a spot in the playoffs, but it would be awfully nice.  As I see it, the Angels are our primary target.  It’s hard to discount the Rangers, but you can’t deny that they’ve lost some major pieces.  I just feel like their time has come and now they’re on the downside of their prime.  Let’s face it, the way they gagged the division away last season doesn’t bode well for their chances in 2013.  And as for the A’s, I’m not buying them for one minute.  They played out of their minds and you’re looking at a LOT of regression in 2013.

So, let’s focus on the Angels.  They’re stacked, no doubt about it.  But, they are far from the perfect team.  Josh Hamilton had a crappy second half to his 2012, which was one of any number of reasons many Mariners fans didn’t want him signed to Seattle.  I think he’ll still be good in 2013, but I’m far from convinced he will put up a full season of All Star-quality play.  He’s a strikeout machine and when he slumps, he’s as bad as anyone the Mariners have had in their lineups the past few seasons.  Combine that with the pressure of signing that insane contract, playing in front of a new fanbase (who will surely have a short leash on a guy they’ve grown to despise over the last few seasons as he was a Ranger), and if he gets off to a slow start, that could very well snowball into a mediocre season.

Their other big thumper is Albert Pujols.  He got off to one of the all-time pisspoor starts last season, but managed to turn it around to put up overall quality numbers.  I mean, there’s no way anyone is going to mock 50 doubles and 30 homers; they have S.T.U.D. written all over them.  But, you know, he’s getting up there.  In 12 full seasons in the Majors, he’s never missed any extended time due to injury.  What are the odds that continues in his unlucky 13th season?  I wouldn’t wish injury on anyone, but let’s face it:  an extended stint on the DL would be a big boost to the Mariners’ chances.

Obviously, Trout is the best player in baseball right now, so even if Pujols goes down (as I suspect he might), and even if Hamilton struggles (which is entirely possible), and even if Trumbo continues his backslide into obscurity (which is highly likely), Trout & Friends would still keep this team in contention through the end of the season.  But, he can’t do everything.  Their starting pitching is pretty scrubby after Weaver, so let’s just hope they don’t have what it takes to take games into the later innings.  Bad starters will tax a bullpen, which all spells doom for the Angels’ chances.

There.  Consider the window officially open (by my very specious argument).  Now, what are the Mariners going to do to make their division-winning dreams a reality?

First thing’s first:  this is officially the year where Justin Smoak figures it the fuck out.  His added muscle, his shorter swing, his level-headed mindset:  they’re all going to come into play.  He’s going to come out of the gates crushing the ball!  And those closed-in fences in left and left center are going to provide additional extra base hits.  What once were warning-track outs will now bounce off the wall for doubles (or occasionally slip on over them for home runs).  Success is going to beget success as Smoak’s confidence will soar; in short, he will be the big, impressive first baseman we all thought we were getting when we traded Cliff Lee for him.  His 2013 will be a revelation, and it will be just the beginning of a long and fabulous career.

Which brings us to Jesus Montero.  Montero wasn’t terrible last year in his first full season in the Majors.  He hit .260, knocked in 20 doubles and 15 homers.  He got his feet wet as a catcher.  Maybe not an everyday catcher, but he wasn’t ready to be an everyday catcher yet.  Now, he’s had that offseason where he learned how to run.  Oh, you heard that right.  When Eric Wedge and company sent him off for his offseason to train, they gave him one primary objective:  get better at running.  Now, nobody is saying that he’s going to be the speediest guy in the world, but you have to figure if he put in the work, he’s going to be in much better shape with regards to conditioning.  That extra conditioning should work wonders for his stamina over the course of a gruelling regular season.  On top of that, he’s working within a defined role:  Jesus Montero IS your everyday backstop.  No more being bounced around from catcher to DH to bench.  He’s going to play the regular allotment of games as a catcher (probably somewhere in the 120 to 130-game range), he’s going to be backed up by a quality veteran in Shoppach, and with that full rookie season under his belt, he should be much more comfortable in his standing with the team.

All of that spells GREAT things for Montero the batsman.  He knows what it takes to be a Major League catcher, he’s had some experience, he’s been given the job of a lifetime out of Spring Training, so all he has to do now is hit.  Which shouldn’t be a problem for him, because he’s not going to have the weight of the world on his back in that regard either.

Thanks to guys like Morse and Morales, guys like Smoak and Montero won’t be shoe-horned into the heart of the lineup like they were in the past.  They’ll bat 5th, 6th, or 7th.  They don’t have to be THE guys who knock in all the runs.  They can sit back, relax, and just focus on putting bat to ball.

People would make you think it’s all so simple, but I’m a firm believer in the “protection” theory.  Baseball is almost entirely a mental game.  If you’re constantly worried, being bowled over with pressure to try to be The Man all the time, you’re just setting yourself up for failure.  Everyone expects the #3 and #4 hitters in a lineup to be the big swinging dicks.  No one expects the #6 and #7 hitters to do squat!  So, when you get good production out of those spots in the lineup, that’s just an added bonus.

Speaking of which:  Morales and Morse!  Hot damn!  I know everyone is anticipating the Mariners trying to trade one or both of these guys at the deadline, but I’ve got news for you:  they’re not going anywhere!  We’re going to get big-boy production out of these two guys, and we’re going to hang onto them for the stretch run into the playoffs.  Minimum:  50 home runs between them.  You gotta love these guys!

So, those are your four big boppers.  They’re all going to be real and they’re all going to be spectacular.  Now, we just have to get guys on base ahead of them so they can bulk up on all those RBIs.

Seager, I’m looking at you, buddy!  You’re the wild card in this whole thing.  You too had a pretty solid year in 2012, but we’re going to need more!  I know you picked up a lot of the slack for a punchless lineup, with your 20 homers, 35 doubles, and 86 RBI, but your on-base percentage was only a paltry .316.  That’s got to go WAY up.  Like, at least another 50 points.  We don’t NEED you to be a 20-homer guy.  But, we need you to get on base a ton.  From the sounds of things, Wedge might start you out batting somewhere in that 5-6-7 spot in the lineup.  But, I fully expect you to play the bulk of your games in the 2-hole.  You are tailor MADE for the 2-hole (no Mind in the Gutter guy).  You’ve hit for good average at every level.  We’re going to need you to bat near or above .300, and we’re going to need your patience at the plate to result in lots more walks.  Look, you’re going to have big thumpers hitting behind you, so you should get some pitches to hit.  Then again, they might try to get too cute with you and avoid the plate altogether.  Do your thing, Seager, and I guarantee you’ll score 100 runs this season.

The other big ‘un is going to be our leadoff tandem.  Against a right-handed pitcher, we’ll see Michael Saunders.  Against a left-handed pitcher, we’ll see Guti.  Saunders, you took a big step forward last season.  But, like Seager, we’re going to need to see MORE out of you.  Like Seager, we don’t necessarily need you to be a 20-homer guy.  Like Seager, you’re going to need to be much more patient at the plate.  Unlike Seager, we’re going to need you to be even MORE aggressive on the basepaths.  You had 21 stolen bases last year.  Let’s get over 30 in 2013, huh?  I think you can do it.

As for Guti, repeat after me:  “I will not go on the disabled list!  I will stay healthy all season long!  I will return to my 2009 form!  And I will bang 50,000 chicks over the next six months!”  Also, Guti, wrap it up.  It would be just like you to miss some games with an STD.  We don’t need that!

Brendan Ryan won’t be as bad at the plate as he was in 2012.  He will bat over .225.  He will stay healthy.  And he will win another Fielding Bible Award when it’s all said and done.

So, that just leaves Dustin Ackley.  He took a bit of a step back.  Tried to bite off more than he could chew.  But, that’s okay.  He’s got a year and a half under his belt.  He’s tasted sweet success and he’s suffered bitter defeat.  He’s also had surgery to remove bone spurs from … some body part I can’t remember right now.  By all accounts, that was hampering his ability to … do good things … so with that out of the way, it’s all blue skies from here on out!  Wedge has dumped him near the bottom of the lineup, so really he has ZERO pressure on him.  As long as we keep it that way for a few months, he very well could earn his way back up the lineup.

Then again, with how well this lineup is going to kick ass, there probably won’t be any ROOM for him to move up!  Move over 1927 Yankees, because here’s the 2013 Mariners!  And they … they’re going to hit some balls too!

***

It’s unthinkable to come on here and say the Starting Rotation of all things will be the biggest question mark on the 2013 Mariners (I mean, have you SEEN these hitting numbers from the past few seasons?), but that’s exactly what I’m saying.  And I’m saying that knowing full well that Felix Hernandez is the best pitcher alive.  But, fear not M’s fans, because this rotation won’t let you down!

First and foremost, Felix is GOING to win the Cy Young Award this year.  So, know that.  He’s also going to win 20 games in a season for the first time in his career.  Good for him!

Iwakuma is going to build on his splendid second half to dominate for the full 2013.  Saunders is going to do Saunders-like things, keep us in most ballgames, and win more than he loses.  Beavan, I’m not gonna lie to you, he WILL surprise a lot of people.  His new throwing motion is going to generate more ground balls.  His ancillary pitches will generate more strikeouts.  And he’s going to stick with the big ballclub all year long.

Here’s a switch:  look for the Mariners to go to a 6-man rotation in the last couple months!  Erasmo Ramirez will most certainly earn his way back to the Majors, but he’s not going to bump anyone out because Brandon Maurer is going to light the world on fire!  He will officially be a #5 starter, but he will in reality be our second-best starting pitcher.  In an effort to conserve his innings-count, the Mariners will bring up Ramirez to spell him, so we can stretch him out to a full season (before we shut him down for the playoffs and give Ramirez his spot in the rotation).  It’s all going to be good with the starters.

Which will pretty much guarantee us the division, because this bullpen is going to be lights out!  Wilhelmsen will have a sub-1 ERA for most of the first half and earn his way into the All Star Game.  Capps will show everyone why he’s the next great closer of this generation.  And everyone else will fill their roles perfectly.

95 wins.  That’s what it’s going to take to win the AL West, and that’s exactly what the Mariners will do.  95-67.  They’ve got a fairly tough first month, but they’re going to be a couple games over .500 when it’s all said and done.  They’re really going to start turning it on in early May and be one of the hottest teams going into the All Star Break.  August will be a bit of a test – the Angels might even pull even with us for the division lead.  But, in September we will break away from the pack and cruise on into the playoffs.

From there, it’s every man for himself.  But, I like any team’s chances in a short series when you’re looking at Felix Hernandez pitching twice.  Felix Hernandez.  In his first ever playoff game.  I won’t deny it, I MIGHT cry a little bit blubber like a little baby.

Team of destiny, baby.

Free Agent Watch: Mariners Trade Vargas For Morales

Well, yeah, duh, it’s not a “free agent” type of transaction, but I’m too stubborn to stop now with this theme I’ve created.

So, yesterday I had this post all written out.  It was titled, “The Mariners Make Me Sad” and I think you can guess the subject matter.  Essentially, I was lamenting the market as it stands; how would the Mariners ever get better without trading away the whole farm or giving a billion dollars to the likes of Nick Swisher?

Overpaying.  That’s the theme of this (and every) offseason.  If you’re a team in desperate need (and, believe you me, the Mariners are in desperate need), and everyone knows you’re a team in desperate need, then they’re going to take advantage of you.  As I said before, these other general managers and player agents, they’re NOT your friends!  They’re out to swindle you every chance they get!  The smart agents & GMs prey upon the weak, so they can have praise heaped upon them in large shovelfuls by the media.  And they knew:  either the Mariners were going to have to trade a bunch of prospects in the high minors (because they don’t have any good prospects who have already reached the Major League level), or the Mariners were going to have to shell out a huge, crippling contract to whatever free agent is leftover.  The Nick Swishers of the world (mainly, just Nick Swisher).

That was, essentially, a depressing thought.  That no matter what the Seattle Mariners did this offseason, they were guaranteed to jeopardize the organization for years to come.  Either by way of a burdensome contract to overcome for a player not worth the salary, or by depleting your prospect reserves, or by simply doing nothing, sucking for another year, and coming one year closer to death without a Championship.

And then this trade fell in our laps.  And it rendered a few hundred words completely obsolete.

First, we say goodbye to Jason Vargas.  He’s a #3 starter who was thrust into the role of a #2 starter and performed admirably for the Mariners.  I honestly can’t say enough good things about the guy, and not just because he’s leaving.  Over the last three years, he’s given you around 200 innings per and he’s been either 2:1 or 3:1 in strikeouts-to-walks.  Are his home/road splits pretty glaring?  Sure.  Does he tend to give up homers in bunches?  What flyball pitcher doesn’t?  But, you’re talking about a Mariners team which, for the last three years, has been known for its pitching.  If they’ve been in (or won) ANY games, it was because of their pitching.  Yes, Felix has a lot to do with that.  But, on the very next tier down, you have Jason Vargas.  He’s been a big reason why this team has had ANY success lately.  He won’t be remembered as one of the greats in Mariners history, but at least he’ll be remembered fondly.  When you consider how bad this team has been over the last decade, just being remembered fondly is a pretty rare thing.

His numbers with the Mariners:

36-42, 4.09 ERA, 119 Games, 110 Games Started.  6 Complete Games, 3 Shutouts.  702.2 IP, 691 hits, 192 BB, 442 Ks, 91 homers.

I’m sure Vargas will settle down that Angels starting rotation and if they make the playoffs, I think you look at this deal as a major reason why.  What were the Angels lacking last year?  Pitching help behind Jered Weaver.  Off the top of my head, I can’t remember exactly who else they’ll have starting for them, but to know that 40% of your rotation is set and somewhere around 450 of your innings are in the bag, that’s gotta be a good feeling.  Vargas by no means scares the bejesus out of an opposing lineup, but he figures out a way (more often than not) to get the job done.  That’s all you can ask out of a mid-rotation guy.

As for who the Mariners got, let’s take this holiday season to tear through the wrapping paper and play with our new toy.

Kendrys Morales.  He was somebody that you used to be able to plug into a corner outfield spot.  But, these days, thanks to that ankle injury that caused him to lose a year and a half, he’s strictly a DH/1B.  That’s where he’ll play for the Mariners.

I’m not interested in his numbers pre-injury, but they at least give a glimpse of the potential for Morales.  His 2009 season:

152 games, .306 BA, 34 homers, 43 doubles, 108 RBI, 86 runs, .924 OPS

Essentially, that’s as good as it gets for Morales.  I don’t think he’s ever going to put in a season that’s BETTER than that.  I’m not saying that because I think his injury has forever worsened him as a player.  I’m just saying that feels to me to be as good as it gets for him.  He’s 29 right now, he’ll be 30 next June.  That’s about the time most guys start declining.  Sure, there are exceptions, but just look at the human body in general:  you’re as fit and as athletic as you’re ever going to be in your 20s.  It’s all downhill from there.  Your 20s is where athleticism meets wisdom and that’s where you have your prime.  After that, your athleticism declines and you’re forced to rely on your wisdom to get you by.  See:  Raul Ibanez (seriously, how is he still playing?  He’s got all the athleticism of your Great Aunt Mildred trying to ice skate!).

Just because I don’t think he’ll be any BETTER than that doesn’t mean I don’t think he can still approach those numbers.  Let’s look at his more-relevant 2012 season:

134 games, .273 BA, 22 homers, 26 doubles, 73 RBI, 61 runs, .787 OPS

Taking a look at the 2012 Mariners, when you compare his numbers to players who were involved in a comparable number of games (so, excluding John Jaso, because he only appeared 108 times, and who knows how his numbers would look with another 161 plate appearances tacked on), you see a guy who is better than just about anyone we had last year.  To wit, his .273 batting average out-classes everyone on the Mariners last year.  His 22 homers would’ve led the team.  His 26 doubles would’ve been 3rd on the team (behind Seager & Saunders with 35 & 31 respectively), his 73 RBI would’ve been 2nd to Seager, and his 61 runs would’ve been 4th.  His OPS would’ve been tops (again, not counting Jaso).

So, what does this mean?  Essentially, it’s reinforcement.  We don’t necessarily have to abandon the rebuilding plan we’ve got going now.  Essentially, we just slide him into the lineup and replace whoever happens to be struggling.

Last year, that would’ve been Justin Smoak.  If we had Morales doing his thing, with Smoak simply backing him up on an occasional basis, this team would’ve been a lot better.

This year, who knows?  Will Smoak come out of the gate sucking ass again?  No matter!  We’ve got Morales to play first!  Or, will Smoak’s adjustments take hold and finally transform him into the middle-of-the-order hitter we’ve been lacking for so long?  Then, maybe we play Morales at DH and have a strict platoon at catcher with Jaso & Montero.  Regardless, it means we don’t have to be the same team we were last year.  We can count on at least ONE guy to be that thumper in the middle of our lineup.  That’s one more guy than we’ve had in AGES.

For the time being, I’m going to ignore the Vargas-shaped hole in our rotation and instead focus on all the good things we’ve got going on in our starting lineup.  As you can plainly see, this Mariners lineup is going to be QUITE formidable:

  1. Jaso – Catcher
  2. Seager – 3rd Base
  3. Morales – 1st Base
  4. Ackley – 2nd Base
  5. Ryan – Short Stop

Hot dog!  How about THAT, huh?  I can already smell the runs being scored … like Great Aunt Ibanez’s Mildred’s apple pie cooling on the windowsill.  Who needs Josh Hamilton?

Will Golden Spikes Award Winner Mike Zunino Be Great For The Mariners?

Uhh, so yeah, what I’m about to write here has pretty much nothing to do with … anything.  I’m just going to list off some of the past Golden Spikes Award winners – the award given to the best amateur baseball player of a given year – and how awesome (or not awesome) they have been.

2011’s winner, Trevor Bauer, has only made two recent starts in the Major Leagues for Arizona.  I’d say the jury is still out.  However, 2010’s winner, Bryce Harper, has been one of the most exciting rookies in all of baseball this year for the Nationals.

I think everyone’s aware of 2009’s winner – Stephen Strasburg – the guy we missed out on by drafting #2 overall.  I think the Nationals are pretty happy with their All Star so far.  As I think the Giants are pretty happy with 2008’s winner, Buster Posey.  Hell, here’s another catcher!  He wins the award in 2008, he makes his Major Legue debut in 2009, and in the middle of their World Series run in 2010 he takes over as their starting backstop!

I’d say 2007’s winner, David Price, has carved out a nice career for himself with the Rays.  He came in 2nd to Felix in the Cy Young race in 2010.  2006’s winner, Tim Lincecum, has famously won back-to-back Cy Young awards while not playing for the Seattle Mariners Who Could Have Drafted Him (the official title of the team, apparently).

The first guy on this list (going backward from the present) who has been kind of a dud thus far in his career is 2005’s Alex Gordon, third baseman for Kansas City.  Yes, he’s been in the show since 2007, but until 2011’s breakthrough (23 homers, 45 doubles), he has been subpar at best.  But, bouncing right back is 2004’s winner, Jered Weaver.  He’s only been one of the AL’s best starting pitchers since forever.

Before that, you’ve got 2003’s Rickie Weeks, second baseman out of Milwaukee.  While has made one All Star Game, I wouldn’t put him as high as everyone else.  Nevertheless, hes’ been a starter for a long time, and fairly productive.  Before that, we have Khalil Greene in 2002, short stop for San Diego.  I’ve never heard of him, and for good reason, because he hasn’t been too great.

I’ll stop with 2001’s winner, Mark Prior.  He was going to be a Hall of Fame type flame-thrower until injuries killed his blossoming career.  And I’ll stop there because going back any further is going to make me less and less excited about Mike Zunino winning this award.

For the record, if you JUST look at recent past winners of the Golden Spikes Award, you’ve got to like our chances.  But, if you take a step back and look at the fact that this is the SEATTLE Mariners, then your expectations will be tempered accordingly.  Still, I’d bet that the Golden Spikes Award Winner goes on to greater things – on average – than the Heisman Trophy Winner in football.  We’ll see, I guess.

That 17-Game Losing Streak Was A Thing of Beauty

It’s been a long, crazy week of Seahawks madness, but I would be completely remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge the 17-game losing streak before the week ends.

Of course, every fucking person with an Internet connection and some tie to Seattle has written about this thing, so I’m gonna do something a little different.  I hereby present 17 mini recaps of 17 historical losses.  And I do mean historical.  I don’t know what you want to consider official (I choose to go by Geoff Baker’s list because it’s right there), but by Baker’s count, there were 16 teams with streaks longer than 17 games.  The top of the shitpile was the Cleveland Spiders with a whopping 24 losses in a row.  Almost made it.

Game 1 – @ Oakland, 2-0:  We came into this game 43-43, having already won the series with the A’s right after taking the series against the Padres.  We were 2.5 games behind Anaheim & Texas and all anyone could talk about was:  will the Mariners ACTUALLY be buyers at the Trade Deadline?  Then, some guy named Guillermo Moscoso made us look absolutely ridiculous as he combined with two other guys to 2-hit us and start the streak that would officially end our season.  Vargas was your hard-luck loser going the full 8 and striking out 6 while only giving up 5 hits.

Game 2 – @ Anaheim, 5-1:  This was Doug Fister vs. Jered Weaver, so what did you expect?  Run support?  Ha!  Yeah, Weaver went the full 9, striking out 6.  Our lone run started off the scoring, but ultimately the Angels were too much for Fister as they came right back in the bottom half of the third to take the lead for good.

Game 3 – @ Anaheim, 4-3:  A Blake Beavan Special!  My man actually did enough to win this, giving up 2 runs over 6.1 innings (while Ervin Santana gave up 3 runs in 7), but then Jamey Wright came in and gave up a homer to light-hitting catcher Hank Conger.  David Pauley would go on to give up the game-winning homer to Mark Trumbo in the 9th, hanging the most miserable changeup you’ve ever seen.

Game 4 – @ Anaheim, 9-3:  If you want an MVP for this losing streak, look no further than Michael Pineda who looked particularly bad in at least two all of these games.  Here, he got knocked around for 7 runs in 5 innings (including two homers to Torii Hunter).  Meanwhile, Joel Pineiro slopped his way through 7 innings  (giving up 10 hits but only 3 runs, thanks to 7 strikeouts).  We were 4 for 12 with runners in scoring position, yet only scored the 3 runs.  Sad.

Game 5 – @ Anaheim, 4-2:  Getaway day.  Last game before the All Star Break.  Felix vs. Haren.  The King did his part, holding them to 2 runs over 7 innings, but Haren also held serve, giving up 2 runs over 8.2 innings.  Co-MVP of the streak David Pauley gave up yet ANOTHER game-losing homer, this time to Alberto Callaspo in the 8th.  Again in this game the Mariners had an early lead, our 2 runs coming in the first inning.  Unfortunately, Felix isn’t always perfect, and Pauley rarely is.

Game 6 – vs. Texas, 5-0:  Vargas gave up 12 hits in 6 innings, giving up all the runs.  Derek Holland continued the mastery left-handed starters have over our hitters (to be fair, right-handed starters are also very damn good against us), going the full 9, striking out 8.  Also, count this as the start of the Jeff Gray Showcase.

Game 7 – vs. Texas, 4-0:  After this game, we were at a streak of 26 consecutive scoreless innings.  Righty Colby Lewis did most of the damage in this one, going 8.2 and striking out 8.  Fister, shockingly, got no run support again.  Of course, he did himself no favors by giving up 4 runs in 7.2.

Game 8 – vs. Texas, 5-1:  The scoreless streak went a full 30 innings.  Not nearly as impressive as 17 straight losses, but I’d say we were about 15 innings away from giving 17 losses a run for its money.  The hero here?  Ichiro singling home Guti.  Meanwhile, Wedge left Felix in the game too long, turning a 2-1 deficit into an out-of-reach 5-1 drubbing in the 8th inning.  The King’s Court, unfortunately, could not carry our ace to the finish line.  Brandon League followed up his so-so All Star appearance with a scoreless 9th to get in some work.

Game 9 – vs. Texas, 3-1:  Beavan!  Mitch Moreland jacked a 3-run homer in the second inning and this one was done.  Nevertheless, my boy had a quality start, going 6.2 innings.  Meanwhile, Matt Harrison dominated.  We scored 2 runs in this 4-game series; just in time to hit the road for a 9-game East Coast swing.

Game 10 – @ Toronto, 6-5 (14 innings):  Another poor Pineda performance.  5 runs in 6.1 innings.  The Mariners had a lead in this one too:  1-0 in the first, 5-2 after the 2nd inning.  5-2 into the 7th inning, actually, then Pineda couldn’t get anyone out.  Technically, Jeff Gray got the blown save, giving up Pineda’s 5th run on a Jose Bautista single, but he went on to go 2.1 scoreless.  David Pauley came in to go another 3 scoreless.  Jamey Wright had AH scoreless inning, then we tried to push him for two and that was that.  Meanwhile, the Mariners missed a ton of scoring opportunities in extras, and the whole thing got blown up when Rajai Davis single-handedly socked us all in the gut by stealing 2 bases and scoring on a sac fly (even though Wright did all he could do to keep him close to the bags).

Game 11 – @ Toronto, 11-6:  Can’t say the bats didn’t come out to play in this Blue Jays series.  Unfortunately, our arms were sleeping on the job.  Vargas completely fell apart, giving up 5 runs in 3 innings.  Jamey Wright and Aaron Laffey combined to give up 6 runs in 4 innings, and there you have it.  Meanwhile, Dustin Ackley is still the man.

Game 12 – @ Toronto, 7-5:  This game was depressing as shit until the top of the 8th inning.  Once again, Fister had to go up against an ace in Ricky Romero; once again, Fister got zero run support while he was standing on the mound.  Then, all of a sudden, POW, Miguel Olivo jacks a Grand Slam to tie the game at 5.  Of course, David Pauley came in and promptly hung another changeup, allowing Rajai Davis to double in 2 runs in the bottom of the inning.  In related news:  I hate Rajai Davis.  A Lot.

Game 13 – @ Boston, 7-4:  So, of course, we have Felix vs. Lackey, and of course Lackey holds us to 1 run over 7 while Felix gets battered to the tune of 6 runs in 6.1 innings (11 hits, 4 walks, 2 K’s).  Mike Carp hit a 3-run homer in the 8th after we were down 7-1, so there’s that.

Game 14 – @ Boston, 3-1:  For a while there, Blake Beavan was dealin’.  He matched Josh Beckett 0 for 0 through 6 innings, then found himself with a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the 7th.  Mike Carp (AGAIN!) with a homer, this time when it mattered.  Of course, hindsight being what it is, we probably should’ve went straight to the bullpen.  Instead, Wedge left Beavan in and the Sox scored 3 in the bottom frame.  It was over after that.

Game 15 – @ Boston, 12-8:  How about three terrible starts for Pineda; is something wrong with him?  This time:  7 runs in 4.1 innings.  Tim Wakefield also gave up 7 runs over 6.1 innings, but it didn’t matter because our bullpen again fell apart when given a chance to hold things close.  This was another game that wasn’t nearly as close as its score.  It was 11-3 before Brendan Ryan of all people hit the second Mariners Grand Slam of the season (and, ironically, of the streak) to pull us to within 4.  After Wakefield left to a rousing ovation, that was that.

Game 16 – @ New York, 10-3:  Vargas – shitty.  Defense – shitty.  Hitting – shitty.  Freddy Garcia – shitty yet effective.  No one wants to re-live this game, so let’s just move on.

Game 17 – @ New York, 4-1:  You could play this game 1,000,000 times and the Mariners’ record would be 0-1,000,000.  AGAIN with Fister going against an ace!  That guy needs to face some team’s fifth starter like you would NOT believe.  He was game for the challenge though, giving up only 3 runs in 7 innings.  Unfortunately, the offense had to go up against C.C. Sabathia.  We got the bases loaded in the 8th with no outs and could only muster a run when Figgins grounded into a fielder’s choice that should’ve been a double play to end it.  Thanks to Eric Chavez, we got the run.  Oh, and let us not forget, Sabathia was perfect through 6.1 innings.  Brendan Ryan got a clean single to the outfield.  Sabathia ended up striking out 14 over 7 innings (including 2 short rain delays) and as a team the Yankees struck out 18 Mariners.  Like I said, we could’ve played this game a million times and we would’ve lost each and every time.  I would refute any simulation of this matchup by simply showing you the Mariners’ lineup card.

So, there you have it. 17 games.  From 43-43 to 43-60; from 2.5 back in sole possession of 3rd place in the AL West (5.5 games up on Oakland) to 15.5 games back and in dead last (3 games behind Oakland).  From quasi-contenders to written-in-stone pretenders.  From potential buyers to certain sellers at the Trade Deadline.  From feel-good story to national laughingstock.

From Wednesday, July 6, 2011 through Tuesday, July 26, 2011, the Seattle Mariners were the worst team in baseball; and one of the worst baseball teams of all time.

Vernon Wells

We just lost because Vernon Wells hit two home runs.

We LOST.  Vernon Wells!  I can’t even formulate sentence-type things because WE JUST LOST TO VERNON WELLS!

With Vargas approaching 100 pitches after 6 full innings, I went to bed and the good guys had the lead 3-2.  I figured, okay, time for that lockdown bullpen we’ve been talking so much about this year.  1 inning for Pauley, 1 inning for Wright, 1 inning for League; shouldn’t be too hard for each of those capable young gentlemen to get 3 outs without giving up any runs.  CERTAINLY, they’ve done it before!

Except, no.  Pitch counts be damned!  Jason Vargas MUST GO SEVEN INNINGS.  That surely was what went through Eric Wedge’s brain.  Forget the fact that he was probably tiring – after all, we ARE just wrapping up a 20-games-in-20-days stretch of baseball.  FORGET the fact that he was about to face the teeth of the Angels’ lineup a fourth time with his pitch count nearing triple digits.  This isn’t a team that’s going to be a slave to pitch counts!

Look, I get that.  We’re a team with a 6-man bullpen (except, we’re REALLY a team with a 4-man bullpen that occasionally throws bones to the likes of Ray and Gray); our starters HAVE to pick up the slack.  But, you know what?  As the team’s manager, you have to recognize an important game when you see one.  Yesterday’s game was an important game.

Win:  and it doesn’t matter quite so much what we do against Jered Weaver tonight.  Lose:  and now we’re fucked because Jered Weaver’s going to no-hit us and Doug Fister’s going to get knocked the fuck out!

Yesterday’s game just decided this series.  We could’ve had a chance had we gone with the bullpen to start the 7th.  Instead, we got Vernon Wells’d right in the ass.