The Mariners Traded For Gregory Santos

After the last deal, for Jorge Polanco, the Mariners made a weak spot that much more flimsy by raiding from a bullpen that was already down Paul Sewald (as well as promising youngsters Isaiah Campbell, Penn Murfee, and Matt Festa, among others we’ve shipped off over the last couple seasons). The loss of Justin Topa meant that our third-best reliever (and maybe our first-most-consistent reliever) was gone. I mean, can you imagine what a bullpen would look like with Sewald, Brash, Munoz, AND Topa? Well, we had it for most of last damn year, and look at where it got us!

Well, over the weekend, the M’s made a trade with the White Sox. We gave them reliever Prelander Berroa, minor league outfielder Zach DeLoach, and a very nice 69th overall draft pick. In return, we get reliever Gregory Santos.

Berroa was a promising reliever prospect who pitched primarily in AA last year, while drinking a sip of coffee with the Mariners in two appearances. There’s some incredible stuff there, a blazing fastball, tons of strikeouts, but also a little iffy on the command. I find it extremely interesting that the Mariners – an organization prized for developing bullpen arms – would give up on a prospect like Berroa. Maybe they’re worried about his arm holding up, maybe they doubt his ability to rein in his command. Whatever it is, it feels like he was the most talented of The Pile we have on the 40-man roster today. Ultimately, the thinking is: Santos has it right now, whereas Berroa might still be another year away. And if you believe that this team is trying to win in 2024 (which I’m still not so sure they are), then obviously you like a Santos more than a Berroa.

With Santos, there’s lots of club control, and instead of being a huge maybe, the belief is that he’s a legitimate stud. My concern is his durability and his ability to generate strikeouts.

He appeared in 60 games in 2023, all with the White Sox. In 2022, he pitched in 37 games (mostly in the minors); in 2021, he pitched in 17 games (also mostly in the minors), and in 2020 he didn’t pitch at all due to COVID. So, it’s no wonder he landed on the IL late last year with arm problems; the hope is that it was just fatigue. But, the Mariners tend to be one of those teams that over-taxes their bullpen, so I don’t know if I’m jumping for joy.

As for his strikeouts, it’s not like he DOESN’T strike batters out. But, he’s not in the upper echelon of a Brash or Munoz. He averaged 9.0 stikeouts per nine innings last year; Munoz averaged 12.3 and Brash averaged a whopping 13.6! What’s interesting about Santos is that he has reverse platoon splits. As a right hander, he’s actually BETTER against lefties. It’s a sample size of one season, but still. Lower batting average, on-base, slugging. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is leaps and bounds better. While Brash and Munoz aren’t BAD against lefties, when they do struggle, it tends to be because lefties get to them. Santos might be a salve for this problem. We can mix-and-match a little more, if an opposing team has a run of lefties coming.

What sounds crazy to me is that Fangraphs or someone has projected Santos to be the best reliever in baseball in 2024. If that’s the case, then DAMN is this a good deal!

Obviously, we don’t know what Zach DeLoach is going to turn into (or Gabriel Gonzalez, for that matter, from the Polanco deal), but neither projected to be much of anything for the Mariners in 2024. DeLoach played all of last year in Tacoma, and was presumably their best and most consistent hitter, but was he ever going to crack our ever-growing chasm of Quad-A utility guys? I mean, shit, we already have Haggerty, Raley, Canzone, Marlowe, Moore, Trammell, and Clase. And that’s not even factoring in Julio and Haniger! Frankly, DeLoach going to the White Sox feels like the best thing for him. My guess is, as someone who’s already been traded multiple times, he’s not going to pan out at the Major League level. But, if he does, a place like Chicago, with low expectations and lots of opportunity for at bats, just might do the trick.

In a future post, I’m going to write about the bullpen. There’s still work to do, but I don’t know if that’s going to come from outside the organization. All those developmental coaches are going to have to earn their paychecks this spring!

The Mariners Traded For Jorge Polanco

Going to Minnesota, we have reliever Justin Topa, starter What’sHisButtFromTheGiants Anthony DeSclafani, outfield prospect Gabriel Gonzalez, and pitching prospect Darren Bowen.

Going to Seattle, we have Jorge Polanco, a 30 year old starting infielder (pegged to be our everyday second baseman) with one year left on his contract (and a club option for 2025).

DeSclafani is no big loss. I’m honestly relieved that I don’t have to watch him pitch for the Mariners. Seems like a guy better suited to be a back-of-the-rotation starter and NOT a long reliever like the M’s were going to use him as. I’m going to go out on a limb and say neither prospect will amount to much at the Major League level (because if either one of them do, then this trade absolutely murders the Mariners).

I would say the part that hurts the most is losing Justin Topa, who is going into the first of three arbitration years, and is earning just a million and a quarter dollars this season. He figured to be our third-best reliever behind Brash and Munoz, but I would argue – on the whole – he was more consistent and less blowup-prone than anyone in the pen in 2023. The Mariners were already in need of a pick-me-up or two out of the bullpen (as we’ve talked about ad nauseam, they’ve yet to even replace Paul Sewald, and now we’re talking about replacing Topa too), and now that job is even more important.

Quite frankly, the Mariners’ stance on this – that they can pick up any ol’ scrub off the scrap heap and turn them into ace relievers – is bordering on irresponsible hubris. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mariners’ biggest weakness in 2024 IS the bullpen (and we all know how little I think of the starting lineup, so that’s really saying something).

All that being said, it doesn’t feel like the worst deal I’ve ever seen. The money pretty much evens out (I think it was reported the M’s are sending money to the Twins to make it so). They get a couple of scratch-off lottery tickets to provide some longterm hope, and they get a valuable reliever to add to what I’m told is a strength for them. Plus, you know, the starter could be okay for them in that division (where the hitting is less fearsome than it is in the West). In turn, the Mariners get a VAST improvement over the likes of Josh Rojas, Dylan Moore, Sam Haggerty, et al, when it comes to plugging one of their infield holes.

We already knew going into the season that second and third base would suck for this team. Now, what this deal presupposes is … maybe only one of those spots will suck?

I’m willing to go out on that limb that Jorge Polanco will be a valuable hitter for this team when he’s healthy. One guy I’ve never met on Formerly Twitter telling me so is good enough for me! But, there’s that caveat again, right? Polanco hasn’t played a full season since 2021. The last two years, it’s been knee and ankle injuries. Something like five or six stints on the IL. Sure as shit reminds me of one Mitch Haniger; how could it not? It was pretty much the first point bandied about in the analysis of this deal for the M’s.

If I choose to see the positive in this, it’s nice to see us fill a hole with a bona fide Major Leaguer, and not just another Quad-A nobody. If I choose to see the negative in this, then it’s just another coin flip with the usual questions we have when we bring in ANY new hitter:

  • Can he stay healthy?
  • Can he hit in Seattle, or will his bat be swallowed up in the marine layer?
  • Can he withstand the pressure of playing for a new team?
  • Will he enjoy living here, which is presumably very far away from wherever he considers home?
  • How close is he to falling off of an age-related production cliff?

You can plug those questions in about ANY of the guys we brought in this offseason – Mitch Garver, Luke Raley, Mitch Haniger, Luis Urias, Seby Zavala – as well as any of the guys we’ve brought in over the last few years, and get a wide variety of answers. Inevitably, some will hack it okay, some will become total garbage. And it’s not necessarily always the ones you think. I keep coming back to guys like Jesse Winker and Kolten Wong; we were supposed to be getting – at the very least – solid veterans who could give you professional at bats. What we got, was nothing.

As with all of this offseason’s moves, I’m not holding my breath. Quite frankly, I’m not moving off of my F grade for the Mariners; I still don’t think we’re any better than we were a year ago. If I’m being generous, the Polanco deal has the potential to now put this offense over the top compared to 2023. But, a shaky bullpen was made all the shakier with the loss of Topa. And now our rotation depth – which was razor thin before – is totally evaporated. Unless our top five starters manage to stay healthy for the full year – on top of key guys like Polanco and Haniger for our lineup – there’s a good chance we’re worse across the board. Hence the failing grade.

I will say that – as with all the other trades this offseason – I mostly felt relief that we didn’t actually trade any of our young starters. But, that still isn’t going to move the needle enough for me to vastly change my outlook on this offseason.

Just once, I’d like to see the Mariners make a move that is universally lauded, rather than coming with a thousand caveats. Something tells me it ain’t gonna happen.

What The Mariners Need To Fix Heading Into 2024

Whenever you hear someone from the team talk about what went wrong with the 2023 Mariners, and what they need to do to get back to the playoffs in 2024, they make it sound like it’s just a small tweak here and there. I got into the positives of the 2023 squad, and yeah, there’s a lot of good pieces here. But, I would also say it’s not an insignificant undertaking!

I counted 12 positives, and that’s including Teoscar, who is not a guarantee to be back. He’ll likely be extended a qualifying offer, which everyone believes he will turn down. At which point, either you find a way to sign him as a free agent, or you have to go out and fill that spot in right field. Regardless, 12 is less than half of the Major League roster. Even if you add a few of those bullpen pieces to the mix, you’re still hovering around 50% of the team that could definitely use an upgrade. That’s hardly a small tweak here and there!

If we’re talking about reasons why the Mariners fell short this year, you have to start with Ty France and Eugenio Suarez. Ty has been a regular whipping boy this season, for good reason. He has drastically fallen off a cliff these last two years, to the point where he was barely above replacement level in 2023.

In 2021, I would’ve said Ty France was one of our most important players. His batting average has slipped 41 points, his on-base percentage has slipped 31 points, and his slugging has fallen a whopping 79 points. Its been a disaster, on top of which, his strikeouts are climbing. He’s doing nothing well, and even his defense – by the numbers – has fallen off. He somehow managed to avoid the IL, and he had a career high in HBP; that’s what he has to hang his hat on. He has 2 arb years remaining, and I’m not even sure we should give him that much. It might be better for everyone involved for him to just move on, except I don’t know what’s out there to fill in at that spot. It’s not like we can trust in Evan White. Free Agency sounds like a wasteland. We’ll probably have to fill that spot via trade, and so help me if we bring in another one of these Quad-A guys to try to hit in T-Mobile Park.

The only hope is that his year two arb number doesn’t increase much, and that he follows through with the program at Driveline (and it somehow manages to stick). I know they worked wonders for J.P., but I can’t imagine Ty France has been going out and doing nothing the past two offseasons; Driveline is no guarantee of future success.

Eugenio is a slightly different story. His batting average and on-base percentages year over year are pretty close to one another; it was just his power that took a bit of a dive (31 homers in 2022, 22 homers in 2023). That’s a little trickier to explain. His line drive percentage actually went up this year – which might speak to the uptick in doubles – but his fly ball percentage dropped. His pull percentage spiked, while his balls to center and right fell. His hard hit rate and ground ball percentages were both static, and his strikeout rate actually went down a tick (even though his overall strikeouts went up, mostly due to his playing in every single game). Is that just bat angle? Is that the way pitchers were throwing to him? Were they busting him up and in, and that reduced his effectiveness in getting the ball to leave the park?

He also just turned 32 years old, so we can’t necessarily rule that out. Either way, I don’t see him going anywhere. Or, let me put it this way: I don’t see both him AND France leaving (maybe one or the other). But, you can’t try to replace both of those guys plus Teoscar; that’s just too much to try to accomplish in one offseason.

There wasn’t a bigger (and better) story than Jarred Kelenic for the early part of the season. This was truly a make-or-break season for the youngster, and he seemed to take the biggest step forward of anyone in a Mariners uniform. The first couple months were outstanding! It’s too bad they were overshadowed by the rest of the team struggling as much as they did.

His first 53 games – through the end of May – saw him hit .277/.333/.513, with 14 doubles, a triple, and 10 homers. His final 52 games – June through the end of the year – saw him hit .226/.320/.316, with 11 doubles, a triple, and 1 homer.

So, what was that all about? How much did the stint on the IL for kicking a water cooler have to play into it? Well, considering he was struggling mightily leading up to it – hence his physical display of frustration – you can’t blame it ALL on the layoff. Did pitchers adjust to whatever adjustments he had made in the offseason? Probably. Was he ill-equipped to then adjust again? Sure seems like it. What does this mean for his Major League career going forward?

Well, I think it’s safe to say he salvaged some of his value, which is a plus. But, can you really go into next season with him as your everyday left fielder? Or even your most-days platoon left fielder? For what it’s worth, I don’t know if his splits necessarily dictate that he HAS to be a platoon guy. He had a slightly higher batting average and slugging percentage against lefties, and was actually luckier with BABIP against righties than lefties. So, I think he’s fine to be an everyday outfielder. I still think there’s room for him to grow as he continues getting comfortable at the Major League level. But, he goes in the tank for far too long to be considered dependable, and he doesn’t strike me as an All Star type player. He might luck into a hot half-season and get handed a spot one year. Overall, though, I think he’s destined to do whatever it is he’s going to do in another uniform. I believe this will be the offseason we package him to another team, in hopes to bring in a veteran we can count on.

The rest of the problem children include Jose Caballero, Mike Ford, Kolten Wong, Dylan Moore, Dominic Canzone, A.J. Pollock, Josh Rojas, Sam Haggerty, Cade Marlowe, Taylor Trammell, Cooper Hummel (remember him?), Tommy La Stella, and Brian O’Keefe. I can’t possibly devote an entire paragraph or series of paragraphs to these guys, because we’d be here all day. Suffice it to say, they’re all fringe Major Leaguers (at best), and were eating up WAY too many spots in our lineup for this offense to be even remotely effective. Some of them had decent stretches (Ford had 16 homers on the year, Caballero was an on-base machine for a while, Rojas and Marlowe had brief hot streaks), but on the whole, these are not the types of players you want to pin your hopes on.

On the pitching side of things, you have to begin with Robbie Ray and the fact that he only made the one start this year. Now, do we know if he would’ve been good this year? Remember how poorly the end of his 2022 season went. But, that could’ve been a fluke. The bottom line is that a guy you were expecting to eat up a significant chunk of quality innings wasn’t around for you. It accelerated the development of Miller and Woo – which in the end might’ve been a bonus – but you could see those guys start to wear down towards the end of the year. Would they have been fresher if we could’ve held them back a little longer? We’ll never know, but it sure seems likely.

Marco Gonzales only made it 10 starts this year, and continued his gradual downturn ever since 2020. We’re still stuck with him for one more year, and I find it hard to believe we’ll be able to find a trade partner for him. On the one hand, he’ll be healthy by the start of 2024, and you can’t have too much starting pitching; on the other hand, he’s useless as a member of the bullpen, and if he keeps Woo or Miller from starting for too long, it’s going to be enraging.

The biggest tragedy of this year might’ve been the injury to Emerson Hancock. We only got about two and a half starts out of him, but he looked fairly promising in his limited action. And it happened right around the time Bryan Woo was returning from his brief IL stint, when we were supposed to head into the dog days of summer with a 6-man rotation, to hopefully keep everyone fresh. How important was THAT in derailing our season? Who’s to say? It’s one more What If to throw onto a season full of ’em.

And we’ve already gone into the bullpen of it all. There were gods and clods, and the clods were pretty damn mediocre. Trading Sewald, so far, looks like a disaster. But, that’s one of those things you can’t measure in two months’ time. You have to look at it over the next 2-3 years and see where everyone lands. I’ll say this: I don’t have any confidence in Canzone or Rojas. But, I also think we’re right around the corner from Sewald turning into a pumpkin. In which case, it was all for naught, and very well might’ve been the single biggest factor in sinking our season.

So, TL;DR, what do we need to fix? Well, we need to upgrade at either 1B or 3B. We need to fill RF with either Teoscar or Other. We need a bona fide fucking DH, because this horse shit we’ve been doing isn’t going to fly.

The Mariners are so full of shit with this DH thing, by the way. It was supposedly a means to give regular guys off-days, but how often was it used for that purpose, really? Suarez played at third damn near every day. France rarely went off first. J.P. never sits. Instead, that spot went to Teoscar on occasion (which was really a means to improve our outfield defense), Cal once in a while (when Murphy was healthy and able to back him up), and people like Ford, Pollock, Haggerty, Rojas, and the like. Lots of bullshit bench guys getting DH starts and doing nothing with them! Just sign a great hitter and park him there! Enough with this experiment that you’re not even using as you say you will!

Also, we need a proper second baseman, a proper backup catcher (who can stay healthy all year), and an outfielder or three (depending on what happens with Teoscar and Kelenic). Oh, and replenish the bullpen with at least one heavy duty arm (so it’s not just Brash, Topa, and Munoz and that’s it).

So, yeah, there’s a lot to do, and only one offseason to do it.

What We Can Be Happy About With This 2023 Mariners Season

I get it: being out of the playoffs is pretty irritating. This isn’t what we expected coming into the season; we were supposed to be a team on the rise and a team taking a step forward, after finally breaking the playoff drought in 2022. We had the core nucleus, we had the pitching, we just needed guys to play to expectations and we should’ve been all right. Did we do enough to get over the hump and become a division winner? No. We had a chance! Houston came down to Earth a little bit – which is something we definitely needed to happen for that to come to fruition – but we never expected Texas to be as good as they were, and that wrench ultimately ended our season.

Now, we have to move on. We have to look forward to next year. With a little bit of time to sit in our resentment, and reflect on what’s been done and what’s been said, now it’s time to rationally look back at what went right. We know what went wrong. The bottom of the order and the bench stunk. Many guys didn’t play to expectations. But, there were some positives as well, and we can’t just ignore them because we’re mad at the end result.

This organization isn’t going to blow everything up. The front office is staying intact. The manager and coaches are all being retained. There are guys under contract who likely aren’t going anywhere, and players with club control who still figure into our future plans. Unfortunately, we’re in a similar situation as the end of the 2022 season: needing to fill in around the margins. We didn’t get it right last offseason; we must get it right this offseason.

First and foremost, how do you not love what we got from J.P. Crawford? He came into 2023 as a legitimate fringe player. His 2022 season was arguably the worst of his Mariners career. He had terrible Spring Training numbers. He started out the year batting 9th, as everyone was calling on this team to upgrade at the short stop position. 2023 was as Make Or Break as it gets. And, to his credit, he put in the work last offseason at Driveline, he picked himself up, and he had the very best season of his career. He was a 5.0 WAR player; that’s leaps and bounds better than he’s ever been. He got his batting average back up to where it’s been in the past, he increased his on-base percentage quite a bit, and he slugged off the charts at .438. He hit 19 homers; 10 more than he’s hit in any other year! His 54 extra base hits were a career high. He pretty quickly found himself at the top of the batting order and never relinquished it, which I find most encouraging. That means he didn’t suffer a lot of prolonged, aggravating slumps. He was a guy we could always count on; for most of the year, he was the ONLY guy we could count on.

That’s a tremendous foundation on which to start. Short stop is secure for the foreseeable future. His defense seemed to bounce back a bit, he’s probably the best leader we could hope for among this player group, and where do you need to be strongest on a baseball field? Up the middle.

Which brings us to Julio. I can’t say it was a better season than 2022, but I do believe he took a step forward. Julio had a rough April in 2022, before going on a tear. In 2023, he REALLY struggled through June. Sophomore Slump was being bandied about. I think we all believed he’d pull out of it at some point, but I wasn’t sure he could get anywhere near where he was as a rookie.

Then, in July, he started picking it up. And that August, MY GOD. .429/.474/.724 slash line for the entire month; he was otherworldly! All of a sudden, he DID start to get back to where we all expected. But, then he cooled again in September. His slugging was still there, but everything else severely diminished. His WAR was 5.3 – tops on the team – but his entire slash line was a little bit worse compared to 2022. He had more doubles, homers, and stolen bases, but he also played in 23 more games.

All in all, I’m not worried about Julio. I think 2023 was a great learning experience for the young superstar. But, it wasn’t a wasted year for him, either. He didn’t have a learning experience while taking an extreme step back; he was still the best and most important player on this team, and I expect him to take these first two years and move forward as one of the best players in all of baseball.

Finishing with the Up The Middle motif, we have Cal Raleigh. Thank Christ for Cal Raleigh! This was his first full year. His first full year as the unquestioned #1 at catcher. And his first year where he wasn’t in jeopardy of being sent down to Tacoma to work on some things. He improved his batting average and on-base percentage, while taking a quiet step back in slugging. He had career highs in homers and doubles, but again, played in 145 games (compared to 119 in 2022). Where he REALLY took a step forward was with his defense; he was throwing dudes out left and right, really shutting down the run game of opposing offenses (in spite of the fact that this pitching staff isn’t always the greatest at holding runners).

I wouldn’t say Cal is a finished product either, though I don’t know if I would expect him to hit considerably above his .232 batting average. What matters is, like J.P., he didn’t suffer crazy lulls. He was pretty consistent all year. And, if you’re going to give me 30 homers from a catcher, I’m going to take that every time! Going forward, we don’t have to worry about Cal; he’s the guy. He’s going to be here for a good, long while. Hopefully, we can sign him to a long term extension sooner rather than later, because I think he’s going to be worth every penny. The concern lies in who his backup is going to be. Tom Murphy is a tremendous backup – when healthy – but he’s proven that we can’t count on him in that regard. We don’t want to blow Cal out with overuse, even though he’s a stud and wants to be out there every single day.

There’s a steep drop-off from there, as far as everyday players are concerned. I don’t want to get too into the weeds with Teoscar Hernandez – because I don’t know where he’s going to be next year – but I thought he did okay. He gave us almost what he showed he was in Toronto in 2022. Worse slash line, WAY too many strikeouts, but he was a 2.1 WAR player and that’s not nothing. He hit 26 homers and 29 doubles, while playing in 160 of 162 games. Yes, he had an abysmal start to his Mariners career, but he got it going as the season went along (and also enjoyed a torrid August), showing you what he’s capable of. I get the feeling it took him some time to figure out how to hit in this ballpark, but to his credit, he figured it out. He wasn’t a total waste of space like Jesse Winker and some of these other guys we’ve brought in. His overall numbers and production were pretty much what I would’ve expected out of a healthy Mitch Haniger, though I will say the defense was often a problem.

That’s all I got for the offense. On to the pitching.

Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, excellent work, no notes! They had wonderful seasons. All 190+ innings pitched, all sub-4 ERAs, all with 179+ strikeouts, all with WHIPs 1.10 or lower. All 3.1 WAR pitchers or above. They obviously didn’t win as many games as we’d like (between 13-14), but that’s a reflection of the team as a whole. All had 18+ quality starts (out of 31-33 starts). It’s as ideal of a Top 3 in a starting rotation as you could hope for: all young, under contract/club control for years to come, and all elite in their own ways. On top of which, it was just Logan’s third Major League season, and Kirby’s second. The training wheels are off for all of these guys; we get to head into 2024 knowing that 3/5 of our rotation is not just set, but among the best in all of baseball. They continue to get better! They continue to introduce new pitches and find new ways to get batters out! Hell, I welcome the further influx of George Kirby knuckleballs! Bring it all on!

Now, were they all totally consistent all year long? No. Castillo and Kirby really came up short in that final week and a half. There were enough instances this season where their lines really left me scratching my head. But, that’s pretty nit-picky. On the whole, all three of these guys were tremendous, and I’m happy to go forward with them.

Sticking with the rotation, how do you not like what we got from Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo as rookies? They very much WERE under strict pitch counts and innings limits. They weren’t perfect, but they had ERAs of 4.32 and 4.21 respectively. They had K/9 rates of 8.2 and 9.5, which slots them quite nicely with our Top 3 listed above. Going into 2024, a rotation of just those five guys looks – on paper – to be outstanding!

We don’t know exactly what they are yet, though. They’re still very raw, very young, very inexperienced. I don’t know that they have a great command of their secondary/off-speed pitches. They were both fucking bananas against righties, but really had their struggles against lefties, and that has to get fixed if they expect to stay in the Major Leagues for the long haul.

  • Miller vs. Righties: 7.20 K/BB, .200/.234/.315, in 282 PA
  • Miller vs. Lefties: 2.94 K/BB, .303/.358/.558, in 255 PA
  • Woo vs. Righties: 7.25 K/BB, .179/.226/.268, in 191 PA
  • Woo vs. Lefties: 1.52 K/BB, .283/.389/.540, in 180 PA

That’s too stark of a difference. It’s a little Matt Brash-y. Excellent numbers for a reliever, but not so hot if you want to hack it as a starter.

With Marco Gonzales coming back for one more go-around – assuming we can’t find a trade partner for him – and with Robbie Ray still on the books for a tremendous amount of money (though, I was dismayed to hear he likely won’t be back until midseason, which means he probably won’t be back to normal until 2025), I think there’s a general sense among the fanbase that one of Miller or Woo won’t be here next year. That one will be traded to help bolster other areas of need. It makes sense, though it’s unfortunate. I can’t help but feel like it’s a case of We Can’t Have Nice Things. Just when we lock down the rotation as solidly as possible, we have to bust it up – YET AGAIN – to help out our feeble offense. I was surprised to hear that Woo is more liked than Miller, as far as the scouts and analytical people are concerned. That’s interesting, considering Miller passed the eye test a little bit more. He’s a little further along in his development, has more innings under his belt, and doesn’t have the injury history of Woo. But, whatever, I guess. Both guys looked awesome, and I hope we’re able to find a way to keep ’em around.

I can only go as far as Matt Brash, Justin Topa, and Andres Munoz with the bullpen. We had other nice-ish pieces – Gabe Speier, Tayler Saucedo, Isaiah Campbell all got an extended run, and looked decent as back-end of the bullpen kind of guys – Eduard Bazardo had good-looking stuff, Ty Adcock got a cup of coffee and looked decent, Prelander Berroa got a tiny cup of espresso and looked like a guy with tremendous upside, but I don’t know how much you can count on ANY of those guys. Especially when you consider, in 2022, we had the likes of Diego Castillo (who spent most of 2023 in Tacoma), Matt Festa (who had solid numbers in Tacoma, but isn’t even in the organization anymore), Penn Murfee (who got hurt, and isn’t expected to be healthy in time to start 2024), not to mention Paul Sewald (who famously was traded at the deadline). There’s so much flux with any bullpen, year to year, that it’s kind of pointless to project. If we get anything out of any of these lower tier guys in 2024, it’ll be gravy. I’m expecting nothing; I’m not even expecting they’ll be on the team.

You have to say Matt Brash was the best reliever on the team, especially after Sewald went to Arizona. There’s a lot to like here. 107 strikeouts was fifth on the team, behind our top four starters. 13.6 K/9 led the team. 3.06 ERA was very respectable. I wouldn’t say he gave us quite what we were expecting, but I think that’s because we were expecting the moon and the stars. Every report about his offseason was about how he might have the best slider of all time, in baseball history. Shit like that. As your #3 reliever behind Sewald and Munoz coming in? I think I expected something like a sub-1 ERA and maybe no more than 1 or 2 blown saves. Instead, you know, he was on the hook for 5 blown saves, and he got dinged with 4 losses. He had a somewhat rocky first couple months, but then improved over the rest of the season, and became the pitcher we all thought he’d be. He was the most reliable reliever we had by season’s end. And I think he improved enough – and worked on his pitch mix enough – to get even better in 2024.

Justin Topa came out of nowhere, as an older pre-arb player – to totally blow away expectations. Before 2023, he had played in no more than 7 games in any given season with the Brewers; this year he was in 75. He had an 8.0 K/9 rate, and had the best WAR of any Mariners reliever with 1.6 (over Brash’s 1.3). He wasn’t perfect – none of these guys were – but he was maybe the most consistently-good reliever we had, with no prolonged slumps. Every once in a while he didn’t have it, but you could say that about anyone; Topa didn’t cost us very many games, and was an incredible asset overall.

Andres Munoz, at least for me, barely qualifies for the theme of this post. But, he’s under contract through 2028 and isn’t going anywhere. He was fine. He wasn’t what he was in 2022, but an early-season injury took him out of commission for a good chunk of games. For as amazing as his stuff is, he was a little too inconsistent for me. As one of five regular relievers with 10+ K/9 (12.3), it’s clear his arm talent is pretty rare. But, his walk rate spiked, his K/BB rate dropped considerably (6.4 in 2022, 3.0 in 2023), and his splits vs. lefties and righties flip-flopped. He was better against lefties than righties in 2022; though still amazing against righties. But, while he was still strong against righties in 2023, he took a big dive against lefties, for whatever reason.

Ultimately, I’m not too worried. Though, I will say it’s concerning that he got hurt again. Remember, he missed all of 2020 and most of 2021 coming back from injury. He might just be a guy – with the way he throws – that he’s going to break down sooner than you’d hope. The M’s will want to take a good, hard look at this bullpen, and have more contingencies in place, so we’re not forced to rely on guys like Trent Thornton, Dominic Leone, Luke Weaver, and Juan Then types.

So, when you hear about the Mariners talking up their core guys, these are who they’re talking about. It’s a fine core! I like all these guys. But, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. There are guys who had really BAD 2023 seasons that need to be called out; we’ll get into that next time.

The Mariners Just Blew Their Season Once Again At The Hands Of The Astros

This Mariners season is swirling down a flushed toilet bowl like so many mushy turds enveloped in wadded up toilet paper and a soupçon of piss. What was once a massive fucking disappointment – and ever-so-briefly a crowning achievement – has returned to being what is this franchise’s destiny: The Same Ol’ Mariners.

With our season in our hands, we lost game one against the Astros 5-1. It wasn’t even as close as the score indicates. Justin Verlander – who we’ve had SOME success against a time or two – went out there and almost threw a complete game shutout. To combat that, we had our own ace, Luis Castillo, who was pretty fucking terrible when we needed him the most (6 innings, 5 runs).

With our backs against the wall, we won game two against the Astros 6-2. It was everything this team has been lacking all fucking month. George Kirby went 6 shutout innings. We jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the third, added on three more in the fifth, and got some timely insurance in the eighth thanks to a Ty France home run. Raise your hand if you can remember the previous time he hit a homer, because I sure as shit forgot!

But, this series was a microcosm of some VERY questionable decision-making by Scott Servais. First, he pulled Kirby at 84 pitches, even though we had a 5-0 lead. That’s back-to-back-to-back starts with his pitch count in the 80’s after the big stink with him complaining about going over 100 (and then immediately walking it back). Is this giving the baby his bottle? Or, was he legitimately tiring after 80? Servais put in Topa, and yanked him after three batters when it was obvious he didn’t have it (smart). But, then he proceeded to throw Brash out there for 2 innings, and roll with Munoz in the ninth even though it wasn’t a save situation. Odd.

What’s even worse has been his lineup construction lately. The Mariners don’t have an ideal roster of hitters, but Servais seems to be committed to this lefty/righty thing, and also going quickly to pinch hitters in the middle innings as soon as a different-handed reliever is brought in. This series showed us a perfect example of how this can go terribly.

Tuesday probably featured our ideal lineup: J.P., Julio, Cal, Teo, Kelenic, Suarez, Ford (DH), France, and Rojas. We scored 6 runs, won a game, let’s go.

Wednesday featured a lefty by Houston, which meant this: J.P., Julio, Suarez, Teo, Moore, France, Cal, Haggerty, Caballero. We scored 3 runs, lost a game, fuck me.

I would’ve told you this team has no business playing Haggerty or Caballero ever again. I would’ve told you batting Ty France higher than 8th is a fool’s errand. I even would’ve told you that Dylan Moore was as cold as he’s ever been this month. I might have been wrong about Moore – since he hit two blistering balls in his first two at-bats – but what does Servais do? He pulls Moore for Kelenic after those two at-bats, even though there were plenty of other alternative people for Kelenic to pinch hit for (and even though Kelenic hasn’t done much more than walk and hit singles since his return from the IL). It’s goofy! I’ve always liked Servais and thought he made smart decisions; or, at least, decisions you could defend. But, I can’t defend this. Before, he always seemed to get the best out of his players. Now, he’s like an uncoordinated child tossed into the deep end of a pool, flailing as he tries to stay afloat.

Of course, what does it matter when Bryce Miller can’t get beyond the fourth inning, having given up a 4-spot on two massive homers. We got it to 4-3 in the bottom half of that inning, but they tacked on four more runs to make it an 8-3 final. Julio struck out four times, was taunted with homophobic slurs by their relief pitcher, causing the benches to empty. That’s about as exciting as this game got. Showing no heart or backbone whatsoever, the Mariners did nothing with that bit of fuel for the fire.

Now, we’re 4 games behind Texas with 4 games to go (against Texas). We can’t win the division, unless we come up with some fakakta 3-way tie with the Astros, which would require us to beat the Rangers 4 straight times. We’ve beaten the Rangers exactly 1 time this year, so that doesn’t seem extremely likely. And, now, our wild card chances are on life support. We’re 1.5 games behind the Astros, making tonight’s game a must-win just to get it to 1 game. But, we don’t have any control over our destiny. We need the Astros to lose at least once to the Diamondbacks (spoiler alert: they won’t), or we need the Blue Jays to lose at least twice to the Yankees/Rays. And, again, that’s the bare minimum, which would also necessitate us beating the Rangers four straight times, which is something we absolutely will not do.

Shit, we probably won’t win more than 1 game this weekend. What a terrible way for a season to go. This whole year – minus a month and change – has been fucking miserable. But also REALLY fucking predictable. Coming out of a magical 2022 season, expectations sky high, OF COURSE the Mariners are going to blow it in the most agonizing way possible. They’re going to get off to a terrible start, they’re going to go on a crazy run where they win the most games in any single month in franchise history, and just when our hopes are at their peak, they’re going to throw this fucking diarrhea festival in the month of September at us to totally crush our spirits. Taking it all the way down to the very last weekend, for maximum agony, while losing to two of the most loathesome teams on the planet.

Four more days. Soak it in. It’s almost over.

The Mariners Stopped The Bleeding With A Series Win Over The Angels

That 10-game road trip felt like a month, didn’t it? It’s a good thing literally all the good players on the Angels are hurt. But, even then … couldn’t get the sweep.

Monday’s 8-5 loss was as irritating as every other loss we’ve had recently. We took a 3-0 lead in the first, gave it all back by the fourth. The game remained tied at 3-3 until the ninth, when the Mariners had a chance to walk it off. Three straight sharp singles loaded the bases with nobody out and Kelenic coming to the plate. He promptly struck out. Dylan Moore grounded into a fielder’s choice with the infield pulled in. Then, Canzone rolled over to first base to send it to extras.

The Angels hit a 2-run bomb in the top of the 10th to take a lead, but miraculously, Julio tied it with a 2-run bomb of his own in the bottom half. But, then the wheels came off in the 11th, as the Angels added three more to put it out of reach. We ended 3/12 with RISP, and left with more questions than answers from a bullpen that’s been repeatedly failing us in the later innings. I don’t know what the analytics say, but anecdotally, this group has been ass in the highest-leverage situations (unlike in previous years, when maybe we were luckier than we should’ve been). More and more, I think we’re going to point to the loss of Paul Sewald as the reason why this team fails to go all the way. Canzone sure hasn’t done much, and Rojas has once again cooled off considerably after a hot streak.

Turning things around, the Mariners executed a much-needed 8-0 victory on Tuesday. Bryan Woo looked outstanding (5.2 innings of 4-hit ball with 8 strikeouts), and we managed to close it out with Eduard Bazardo eating up 2.1 innings, and Dominic Leone finishing the ninth. THIS is the role those two were meant to fill; unfortunately, games haven’t been this out-of-reach lately to utilize them properly.

We had great games from Julio and J.P., as well as much-needed sparks from Suarez, France, and Moore. There hasn’t been a lot of production of late from the bottom of our order. Guys like Haggerty, Ford, Canzone, Rojas, Caballero, and O’Keefe have all been balls for the better part of a month and a half. It would be nice if we can get a blistering streak out of someone like Moore to fill that void. Also, it was nice to see Luis Torrens return and hit a rather meaningless double late in the game. O’Keefe is NOT a Major Leaguer, and Tom Murphy isn’t coming back anytime soon (if ever). We can’t afford to play Cal literally every single game the rest of the way.

On Wednesday, we got back to basics with some good ol’ fashioned Mariners baseball, in a 3-2 victory where Castillo pitched another Quality Start (6 innings, 2 runs, 3 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts), and the bullpen was nails from there (Topa, Brash, and Munoz locking it down). All of the scoring was completed by the end of the fifth inning, so it really was a lot of pressure pitching down the stretch. Good to see, after so much shakiness lately.

That caps off the Angels for 2023. We went 8-5, which is pretty appropriate. We’re 8-2 against the Astros, and 9-1 against Oakland, so let’s hope we can keep beating those teams. For what it’s worth, we’re 1-5 against Texas, making the seven times we see them in the last 10 games vitally important. Can we go 6-1 against them? Seems unlikely, but will be necessary if we hope to win the A.L. West.

We have this weekend series with the Dodgers coming up, before we close out against the remaining divisional opponents. We are 81-65, a half-game behind the Rangers (in the loss column), with them playing in Toronto today. We’re 1.5 games behind the Astros for the division (one in the loss column, two in the win column), and they’re off today as well.

We are currently one full game ahead of Toronto for the third wild card. The Blue Jays have lost three straight against the Rangers in this series, which is honestly pretty good for us, because they were on a massive hot streak before that (albeit, against a lot of the same bad teams we played in August). Toronto has 6 against the Yankees, 3 against the Red Sox (both have fallen WAY out of playoff contention), and 6 against the mighty Rays. We will be rooting heavily for the Rays over the next couple weeks.

So, that’s it. There are three teams all within a game and a half of one another for two wild card spots, and there are three teams all within a game and a half of the A.L. West. Win the west, earn a first round BYE, and you’re able to set your rotation and rest your overworked bullpen. Win the second wild card, and you “earn” a series against either the Rays or Orioles in their home stadium. Win the third wild card, and you get the privilege of facing the lowly Twins (who are currently 7.5 games up on the Guardians).

This is very stressful! I sure hope the Mariners do well!

I should point out – since it’s been a while where this has been a topic of conversation – that the Mariners have improved their record in 1-run games to 23-25. That is a mighty jump from where it was pre-August! We are, however, 6-13 in extra innings games, which has been an absurd drain on our emotions. Wouldn’t mind seeing that go in the positive direction asap.

Also, Paul Sewald Update: after a bad blown save early, he’s been pretty great. He had 8 consecutive scoreless appearances before his next blown save. He’s since gone 5 for 5 in save appearances in September. Right now, the Diamondbacks are tied for the third wild card spot (with two more teams right on their heels).

The Mariners Won 1 Game Per City On Their Last Road Trip

I guess it’s lucky the Rangers have been so atrocious lately, but the Mariners are free-falling, and I don’t know if there’s anything that can be done to fix it.

We lost 2 of 3 to the awful Mets. Then, we lost 2 of 3 to the average Reds. After a 1-0 victory to open up the Rays series, we lost the next 3 games to fall to 79-64, and as of Monday morning, up by only half a game over the Rangers for the final wild card spot (lost in all this has been the fact that the Blue Jays have been on a tear, winning 8 of 10 as we lost 7 of 10 on that road trip).

And, really, we were lucky to win two of those games. So, this hasn’t been the funnest September, after a record-breaking August.

The 1-0 win was everything this team needed. Dominant Luis Castillo start (6 innings, 4 hits, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts) and lockdown bullpen work by Campbell, Brash, and Munoz.

My hopes for a bounce-back series against the Rays were dashed the very next night, with another off-kilter performance by Kirby. He gave up 2 runs in a ragged first inning where he couldn’t throw strikes, then settled down through the sixth. We had a 4-2 lead heading into the seventh, but then we tried to squeeze another inning out of Kirby (who, in spite of a tough first inning, had a reasonable pitch count and probably should’ve been able to go one more). Kirby ended up getting one out before giving up a double and a game-tying homer before being pulled, turning a quality start into a no decision. Campbell entered the game and gave up a 2-run home run of his own, before Dominic Leone gave up a solo homer in the eighth to give the game its final score of 7-4.

Kirby didn’t have pleasant words to say about being put out there for the seventh. He questioned the manager’s decision, which I’m sure a lot of fans did as well. Kirby predictably walked those words back the next morning – heat of the moment and whatnot – but I’m sure a lot of fans were mixed. There’s the younger fans – who’ve become accustomed to what baseball is in today’s age – and a segment of Anti-Servais Mariners fans, who probably sided with Kirby.

Then, there’s the old timers, and the Unwritten Rules crowd (usually comprised of ex-players like Roger Clemens, who got his ass roasted on Twitter for wading into the conversation). Someone even had the gall to compare Kirby to Erik Bedard for … reasons. They point to Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan, who would regularly throw 120-150 pitches per game, trying to go the full nine if at all possible.

I don’t like this argument. Yeah, complete games are cool. But that’s not what baseball is today. Instead, you’ve got starters regularly throwing in the high-90s, and that kind of strain isn’t conducive to throwing 110+ pitches very often, if ever (unless you’re a unicorn). Not if you want them to make it through an entire season, or multiple seasons, without arm surgeries. It’s a Get Off My Lawn stance, and I won’t hear it. Just accept that things change, and it’s never going to be the way it was when you were younger.

That being said, you have to take it in context. It’s early September. We’re in the midst of a 10 games in 10 days East Coast road trip. We don’t have an off-day until this upcoming Thursday, and after that we only have one more off-day until the end of the season. We’re also breaking in not one but TWO rookie starting pitchers, whose outings need to be carefully managed (including the occasional skipped start, as with what happened to Woo on Saturday). That means the bullpen gets taxed. We also – for better or for worse – traded our best and most-consistent reliever at the deadline, which means that taxed bullpen is that much less-effective. We brought in three veterans (Thornton, Weaver, and Leone) who look(ed) objectively terrible, we have another rookie in Campbell who is just trying his best, but is by no means a lockdown guy, and other veterans we brought in – like Saucedo, Speier, and even Topa – have shown serious cracks as this season has gone on.

To be blunt, the bullpen is over-worked, and that falls on the starters. That falls predominantly on guys like Castillo, Gilbert, and Kirby, who have experience, and should be able to go out there in the seventh inning, on 94 pitches, and take care of business for another three outs.

The home run Kirby gave up was to the #9 hitter! It’s not like we were asking him to take on the heart of the order for the fourth time through. This is a backup catcher!

I 100% see why Servais did what he did. If this was April or May, or if our starters had been rolling a little more of late – allowing our bullpen to stay fresh – Kirby would’ve handed over the ball after getting out of the sixth inning, and all would’ve been right with the world. But, it’s early September, in a pennant chase, and we desperately needed our second-best starter to squeeze another inning out of his arm. He failed. He failed with a questionable mix of pitches and locations. And, if he missed his spot, that’s on him. If he hit his spot, that’s still partially on him and partially on whoever was calling this game (either the catcher or the manager in the dugout). Maybe Servais should’ve walked him. I dunno. That’s a conversation. But, I’m not blaming Servais for his handling of the bullpen. And, I’m certainly not blaming him for his handling of Kirby. Kirby, more often than not, has had it easy. The team doesn’t ask him to over-exert himself very often. He could’ve done us this solid. And, quite frankly, he should’ve taken his loss like a professional, rather than whine about it to the press after the game.

Saturday was, *sigh*, a bullpen day. Trent Thornton got the opener role, couldn’t throw strikes in the first, and ended up going 2 innings, giving up just the one run. He gave way to Luke Weaver, who gave us the Luke Weaver Special (4.1 innings, 4 runs), and then was thankfully DFA’d by Sunday. I hope we never see him again, unless it’s on an opposing team’s pitching staff.

We, at one point, led 4-1. Then, the Weaver Experience left us trailing 5-4. We miraculously tied it in the eighth, before Saucedo lost it in the bottom of the ninth with a 2-run homer. We were 1/8 with RISP, and once again starting a backup catcher who failed to finish the game, necessitating us to overwork Cal Raleigh, as per usual this time of year.

I’m happy to say I didn’t see one iota of our 6-3 loss on Sunday, what with NFL football dominating the day. Bryce Miller stunk up the joint (5 innings, 5 runs), and I don’t even feel like talking about the rest.

Next up, we have the Angels in town. Then, it’s the Dodgers, then it’s the home stretch. One way or another, this season is almost over.

This Mariners Road Trip Has Been Pretty Fucking Miserable

The Mariners have gone 2-4 on this road trip so far, and have seen their lead in the A.L. West become eliminated. Now we’re a game behind the red-hot Astros, and it’s starting to feel like that cartoon dog inside the burning house meme.

We lost to a Bullpen Day on Monday, 6-3. Bryan Woo stunk up the joint at first, eventually going 5 innings and giving up 5 runs. The offense consisted of solo homers by Julio and Mike Ford, and a meaningless RBI single by J.P. Crawford in the ninth. Disaster times.

We followed that up with one of your more brutal losses of the season, 7-6. This was a game we – at one point – led 5-1, and at another later point still led 6-3. Then, Justin Topa gave up a 3-run bomb in the bottom of the 8th to tie it, followed by Andres Munoz VERY predictably blowing it in the bottom of the 9th.

We managed to get a relatively good start out of Bryce Miller (5 innings, 1 run), but then turned the game over to Dominic Leone, who gave up 2 homers in 2/3 of an inning. Between Leone and Weaver, I don’t know what the hell we’re doing. These guys are useless bums and you can’t magically turn around a player’s fortunes in the middle of a fucking pennant chase!

While Leone’s underwhelming performance was expected, Justin Topa has been pretty phenomenal this season. Nevertheless, you could tell right away he didn’t have it, and was a 3-run home run just waiting to happen. Munoz, I still don’t understand how he got August Reliever of the Month. You’re telling me there weren’t ANY relievers who didn’t blow two games and lose a third in the month of August? So far, his September is so bad I’m hoping it convinces the MLB to rescind the award and retroactively give it to literally anyone else.

It’s too bad, because the offense did more than enough to win this one. Teoscar continued his hot run he’s been on, with a first inning 2-run home run. Julio broke things wide open with a 3-run dinger in the fifth, and then he backed it up with another homer in the seventh. It’s a little concerning that we scored so many of our runs this series off of the long ball, but the Reds do play in a bandbox, so what do you expect?

We were at least able to salvage an 8-4 victory yesterday, though even that wasn’t particularly easy. Logan Gilbert was rolling until he wasn’t, finishing with 5.1 innings of 3-run ball. Even though we scored 7 runs in the first four innings, winning this game was all that mattered, so we went right to the top-end of our bullpen. Brash got us out of the sixth, Speier and Topa bridged the gap, and Munoz closed it out for the not-save (giving up a solo homer in the process, of course). You shouldn’t have to use those guys in a game where you lead by 4-5 runs, but that’s what happens when you blow so many fucking winnable games on this road trip. You have to buckle down and still struggle to keep it all together.

Ford had a 2-run homer, J.P. had a 3-run bomb, Cal added a solo homer, and Ty France had his first good hitting day in (seemingly) months. I am, nevertheless, done with France. He should be gone after this season. Fresh start somewhere else or whatever. But, he’s clearly a guy already on the decline, and it’s only going to get worse.

This was also the first great Suarez game we’ve seen in quite some time. Really need one of those two guys to get things going down the stretch if we want to get over the hump.

Now, we’ve got a 4-game set in Tampa, one of the best teams in all of baseball. Just what a slumping ballclub needs: a fucking freight train coming right for ’em.

The Mariners Completed A Team-Record 21-Win Month Of August

It’s kind of incredible that the Mariners went 21-6 in the month of August. Incredible in that this was the franchise record for wins in any single month, especially when you consider the team won 116 games in 2001. But, also, just compared to where we came from to start this season.

We were 12-16 through April. We went 17-11 in May, but 7 of those wins came against Oakland. Then, we went 9-15 in June to further send this season spiraling, culminating in a 15-4 loss to the Rays that had the fans in T-Mobile Park booing like we haven’t seen in quite some time. 38-42 felt like the nadir, and a real tipping point for this team. With two weeks to go before the All Star Break, and a month to go before the trade deadline, you had to wonder if this team had what it takes.

After that, we started to turn it around, going 7-2 to close out the first half. In the entire month of July, we went 17-9, in spite of some hiccups in the immediate aftermath of the All Star Break. That kind of play brought us to 55-51, but not a whole lot in the way of activity at the deadline.

Then came August. Two 8-game winning streaks in that span. An 8-2 road trip – including a sweep of the Astros – and a 5-1 homestand at the end, against the dregs of the sport.

We won 2/3 against the A’s this week, which isn’t as disappointing as it appears when you consider the loss came in a game where everything that could’ve gone wrong DID go wrong.

Let’s kick it off on a happy note: an easy, breezy 7-0 victory on Monday. Bryan Woo – in his second start coming out of an IL stint – was still on a restricted pitch count, but managed to go 6 innings, giving up 3 hits and a walk, while striking out 5, all on 69 pitches. Boy, that’s huge! I know the level of competition is sus, but he still had to go out there and do a lot with a little, if we wanted to preserve our bullpen, and he passed with flying colors. The Mariners jumped all over the Oakland starter – scoring 4 runs in the first three innings, and 6 runs in the first four – affording us the opportunity to utilize the back-end of our bullpen (Saucedo, Campbell, and Thornton all feasted).

The heart of our line up – one through five – did all the damage. J.P. led off the game with a homer, had 2 hits total, with 3 runs scored. Julio went 4/5 with a homer, 3 RBI, and 3 runs. Suarez had 2 hits and a walk, with a run. Teoscar also had 2 hits and 2 RBI. And Ty France went 2/3 with a walk. 12 of our 14 hits came from those five guys; simply remarkable!

It’s hard to say whether or not this would’ve been a sweep had everyone been healthy, but things got off to a VERY rocky start on Tuesday when George Kirby was scratched due to a stomach bug. It looked even more grim when Julio was also scratched with what was later revealed to be a nerve issue with his foot, that has a mysterious origin no one can seem to pinpoint.

Given the last-minute nature of things, Luke Weaver was forced into action, and the results were as predictable as they were aggravating. It really does look like he has quality stuff: the fastball is live, with some movement; the breaking pitches are solid, and he’s got a great mix of different ones to go to. But, his command and/or control is EXTREMELY lacking. He catches WAY too much of the plate, and was pounded accordingly. Since he wasn’t stretched out, he only went 3.2 innings, giving up 7 hits (including 2 homers) and 3 runs, with 0 strikeouts. I don’t know how many hard hits he gave up to batters with two strikes, but it was appalling. And, to make matters worse, he had one of the worst pick-off moves to first I’ve ever seen, spiking it so bad it bounced up and bashed into Ty France’s thumb/wrist, resulting in him being pulled from the game out of an abundance of caution and hand swelling.

Weaver had a tremendous Mariners debut against the White Sox, pitching 2 flawless innings, striking out 5. But, he’s followed that up with two appearances where he’s gone 4.2 innings, giving up 4 runs. Just scrolling through his game log with the Reds this season, I would say the latter two performances are more on brand with what he is. I don’t understand how this is something we’re valuing over a guy like Tommy Milone, who can at least induce weak contact and get the defense involved. You can’t utilize your defense if you’re giving up bombs to the cheap seats!

All that being said, the bullpen did everything it could to keep us in this one; the A’s never scored again after Weaver was pulled with runners on base. Campbell, Thornton, and Saucedo each pitched on no rest, and ate up 4.1 innings of 1-hit ball, with Matt Brash sprinkling in a scoreless inning as well.

Unfortunately, the offense just didn’t have it in this one. The A’s starter was wild – giving up 5 walks – but he held us to 1 hit and 1 run in 4 innings of work. And the bullpen behind him was pure filth, striking out 9 across 5 innings, probably pitching better than they have all season. Just hitting the corners, keeping us off-balance, and making us look ridiculous. Down 3-1, with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, we did manage a little rally. Rojas singled and J.P. doubled to give us two in scoring position with Suarez at bat. But, alas, we couldn’t complete the rally and that was that.

On getaway day yesterday, we were still without Julio, though France had healed up enough to go 0 for 3 with a walk. Bryce Miller didn’t have his best stuff, but he gutted through 6 innings, giving up 3 runs. Teoscar tied the game with a 3-run bomb in the third, which was precisely what this team needed to get going. Justin Topa didn’t have good stuff either, giving a run back in the seventh to put us in a 4-3 hole.

Our offense really lit them up in the bottom half of the inning, though. With a lefty on the mound, Canzone doubled, Ford singled, and Moore walked to load the bases. One out later, J.P. doubled home two runs to give the M’s a 5-4 lead. Too bad we couldn’t play add-on, but Brash and Munoz had it going on to preserve the victory.

We head into September tied for the A.L. West lead. We’re also comfortably ahead of the Blue Jays for a wild card spot. Not SUPER comfortable; I’m not dropping the ol’ Mission Accomplished banner just yet. But, they seem to be the only competition outside of our division for the wild card, if worse comes to worst.

29 games to go. 7 against Texas, 3 against Houston, 4 against Tampa, and 3 against the Dodgers. There’s also 6 against the Angels and A’s. In our immediate future, we have our final East Coast swing until maybe the playoffs, at the Mets, Reds, and the aforementioned Rays. The Mets are bad, the Reds are average, and the Rays are still ahead of us by a fair amount. It’s gonna be edge-of-your-seat entertainment from here on out!

The Mariners Are All Alone In First Place In The A.L. West, For Now (Maybe Forever)

Oh that’s just a jinx! That’s a jinx waiting to happen! That’s so much of a jinx it just burped its way through a murder confession while still on microphone!

The Mariners swept the Royals over the weekend. This series wasn’t quite as rough and tumble as the one in Kansas City last week. Not a lot of crazy back and forth. Just some solid, all-American good play by the home team.

Friday, we had Bryce Miller not giving us his best stuff; he went 4 innings and gave up 3 runs before we opted to pull him and overwhelm the Royals with bullpen arms. Thankfully, the offense came to play, scoring two in the 1st, two in the 4th, and two in the fifth. The bullpen wasn’t perfect – Matt Brash gave up a 2-run bomb (I have some real concern about his arm wearing down, based on recent comments by management in the media) – but thankfully that was the only blemish.

We had 16 hits in this one, including a very respectable 5/15 with runners in scoring position. Crawford, Suarez, and Raleigh all led the way with 3 hits each; Canzone and Julio had 2 hits each. This was a 7-5 victory that, quite frankly, we should have against a team like that, with the terrible pitching they’re saddled with.

Saturday’s 15-2 drubbing was an onslaught for the ages. Between the bottom of the third and the end of the game, we scored in every inning, with a 7-spot leading the way. The following players had two hits: J.P., Cal, Teo, Ford, and Rojas. Teo led all parties with 6 RBI, including 2 homers. Cal, Julio, Ford, Rojas, and Marlowe also homered (giving us 7 on the day). It was just pure annihilation!

To add insult to injury, Logan Gilbert made it look easy. He finished 7 innings, giving up 1 run, 2 hits, 1 walk, while striking out 7. That’s all on only 83 pitches, so he easily could’ve gone longer if need be. Luke Weaver – after a marvelous Mariners debut where he struck out 5 White Sox in 2 innings – came down to Earth with a run given up on a couple hits, but that was it.

Sunday’s 3-2 victory was the game most in jeopardy, but we managed to hold it together at the end. Luis Castillo went 7 strong, giving up zero runs on 1 hit and 1 walk, while striking out 6. We had cobbled together a 3-0 lead through that point, thanks to another Teo homer, and another Julio 2-run bomb. Gabe Speier gave them two runs right back in the 8th inning to make it tight, but Topa got us out of the jam, and Munoz sealed it with an easy 9th.

Most importantly here, as the title indicates, the Mariners have climbed all the way into first place by themselves in the A.L. West. That’s thanks to the Mariners going 9-1 in their last 10 games, while the Rangers have gone 1-9 (I shit you not), with the Astros going a mediocre 4-6. We’re 74-56, one game over Texas and Houston. We have the third-best run differential in the American League. And, even if the shit hit the fan over the next month, we’re still riding a 3.5 game lead over the Blue Jays (the first team on the outside looking in on the wild card).

But, clearly, we’re not thinking about the wild card anymore. I mean, we’d take it if we had to settle for it, but we’re 130 games into this season and we’ve got the division in our grasp!

Remember when we were 50-50? That was a thing! In the last 30 games we’ve gone 24-6, which is IN-sane!

We start a 3-game set against an already-eliminated Athletics team, before an off-day and then a lengthy 10 games in 10 days East Coast road trip. It’s going to be fun, boys and girls!