The Mariners Are Finally Done With Houston For 2021

The Mariners lost to the Astros on Monday 11-2. It was the fourth time we’ve had to face Lance McCullers since the All Star Break, and the only time we didn’t get beaten was in Seattle on August 31st when we threw that shutout by Kikuchi & Co. and Toro hit the grand slam off of Graveman to win it 4-0 (note: McCullers gave up 0 runs in his five innings of work, still managing to keep us off-balance, even in defeat).

I don’t know what his record is against the Mariners, but it seems like he kills us every single time, and not only that, but it seems like our own pitchers absolutely fall apart. Kikuchi also went in the game this week and couldn’t get out of the second inning, giving up 6 runs (4 earned), all in that fateful second. The only positive in this game was Toro continuing to rake against his old team, getting two hits (including a 2-RBI double).

Tuesday’s game was one of those losses where you think you might have the Astros licked, then they rip your guts out at the last minute. We withstood a Logan Gilbert start where he didn’t quite get through the fifth, but only gave up 2 runs. J.P. Crawford hit a 2-RBI double in the top of the fifth to tie it up, and Kyle Seager hit a solo bomb in the sixth to take a 1-run lead. Our bullpen held it down from there, and our offense even tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth to make it 4-2. Paul Sewald time! We had it in the bag!

But, then, of course, Alex Bregman hit a 2-run home run into their insanely short porch in left field to tie it up. We failed to score in the 10th, and Yohan Ramirez gave up a leadoff ground rule double to end it.

Once again, we were staring down the barrel of a sweep, but somehow pulled out the win on get-away day. Tyler Andersen didn’t quite have it – though, it sounds like the ump was all over the place, of course – giving up 4 runs in a little over 4 innings. But, once again, the bullpen was fucking nails and gave the offense enough time to scratch across the winning runs!

Toro had a 2-RBI double in the first, finishing with two hits on the day. Kelenic hit a 2-RBI double in the seventh to tie it at 4-4. Marmolejos hit a 2-RBI single in the ninth to take the lead, and J.P. Crawford hit a 2-run homer to salt it away at 8-4. Even though Bregman hit yet another homer off of Sewald in the bottom half, it did very little damage, as we won 8-5.

It’s always a relief when you can put the Astros in your rearview mirror. I go into every Astros series wondering just how in the hell are we even going to win AH game?! I don’t do that with any other team. Wins seem more possible against the rest of the league. But, I’ve been watching the Mariners lose to the Astros for so long now, it’s fucking demoralizing.

At press time, we’re 5.5 games behind the Astros for the A.L. West. We’re only 2.5 games behind the Yankees for the second wild card (the Red Sox are still clinging to the first wild card), but the Blue Jays have been scorching hot and went and surpassed us (we’re one game behind them; but two in the loss column).

Thankfully, we’re back home and get three more games against the Diamondbacks. I don’t know what we did to deserve such luxury, but we ABSOLUTELY MUST TAKE ADVANTAGE!

No fucking around anymore, Mariners! We’re just over three weeks away from the finish line; it’s time to put the pedal to the metal here.

The Mariners Extended Dipoto & Servais As They Try To Contend Down The Stretch

After just totally biffing it against the Royals, the Mariners played three winnable games against the Astros, winning two of them in shutout fashion.

The only loss was in the series opener on Monday, where we bafflingly blew it in the 8th by turning a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 loss. Chris Flexen didn’t have his greatest stuff, but still pitched into the sixth inning, giving up just 2 runs. Casey Sadler locked it down through the 7th, giving us just enough time to take that all-too-brief lead in the bottom of the sixth.

The Astros scored their first two runs in the 1st inning, making the Flexen performance even more impressive. Jose Marmolejos – back with the Mariners after going on the warpath with the Rainiers for much of the season – hit a solo homer in his first at bat to make it 2-1. That’s where it remained until Dylan Moore – pinch hitting for Marmolejos – jacked a 2-run homer to make everyone happy.

But, then Joe Smith was tasked with handling the 8th inning. I don’t totally get it. Was Drew Steckenrider simply unavailable? Did Scott Servais lose his mind? Either way, shaky defense and even shakier pitching meant Smith gave up three singles and two runs, before he was pulled for Yohan Ramirez to get the final two outs of the inning. The Mariners were toast from there.

Tuesday saw Yusei Kikuchi take the mound, desperately needing a quality start to help save his Mariners career. And, to his credit, he went out and dominated: 7 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 4. His fastball was lively, he threw it often, and he got ahead of hitters; when he’s able to do that, good things tend to result.

The game was, nevertheless, scoreless as we headed into the bottom of the eighth. Paul Sewald got the job done in the top half against the top of the lineup, setting the stage for Kendall Graveman, who was making his first appearance in Seattle since the infamous deadline deal.

Graveman still has electric stuff, but the Mariners put a tough challenge on him. J.P. Crawford led off the inning with a walk, Seager singled after a Haniger strikeout, and Ty France was hit on the forearm to load the bases. The table was set … for Abraham Toro of all people, the very centerpiece the Mariners got back in return in the Graveman deal.

Toro got in a 1-2 hole early, whiffing hard on Graveman’s sinkers. But, he finally started making contact – fouling off three pitches while working the count even – before unloading on a sinker in the inner-middle of the plate for a grand slam. It was glorious! I’m not going to say the Mariners won the trade in that single at-bat – lord knows this bullpen has been plenty fallible in Graveman’s absence – but I’ve been a fan of Toro since we got him, and that further cements in my mind the value he brings to this team, both this season and in the years to come.

It was Graveman’s first loss of the season – and it dented his ERA pretty good – but he’s still been wildly effective for the Astros since going over there. Just, you know, not against the Mariners. Against us, he’s gone 1.1 innings and given up 5 runs. Shit, maybe he WAS the world’s greatest teammate! He’s so good, he’s STILL helping us win ballgames!

If the 4-0 shutout was impressive, Wednesday’s 1-0 shutout was truly remarkable. Logan Gilbert – another starter who’s struggled over the last month – went 5 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits & 0 walks, while striking out 4. Again, lots of fastballs and he did a good job of staying ahead of hitters.

This game saw the return of Justus Sheffield, now a reliever since his return from the IL. I don’t know if that’s a permanent move, or if that’s even a role he’s well-suited for, but he got through his one inning unscathed to get the win. Because we scored our lone run in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to a Crawford single, walks by Haniger and France, and a sac fly to center off the bat of – you guessed it – Abraham Toro. It wasn’t a deep fly ball by any means, but with Crawford’s speed – and the sun wreaking havoc on the outfielder – it was long enough.

Then, it was shutdown time. Sadler did his job in the 7th. Steckenrider returned to get two outs in the 8th (before putting two runners on), which necessitated Paul Sewald going in there for the 4-out save. Which he managed heroicly, striking out three guys in the process (while only getting into a little trouble in the 9th before slamming the door shut).

It’s a bummer we didn’t manage to take all three games – because at this point in the season, we could’ve really used the boost – but winning this series was very impressive the way we did it. The Astros have the best offense in baseball, and we absolutely shut them down!

Before the game on Wednesday, it was announced that Jerry Dipoto was extended (and promoted to President of Baseball Operations). Essentially, he’s still the GM, and he still reports to the owner, John Stanton, but clearly this is a big endorsement of his rebuild. It was simultaneously announced that Scott Servais was also extended to continue managing the ballclub; the terms for their contracts were not disclosed, so it’s unknown how long they’re under contract for.

I don’t really know of anyone who thinks Servais is a bad manager. Quite the contrary, I think most of us are really impressed with how hard he gets his guys to play for him, even when they’re lacking in talent compared to some of the elite teams around baseball. We might get blown out here and there – that’s going to happen – but we tend to be IN most of these games at the very least, and as far as the last two seasons are concerned, winning much more of them than anyone would’ve predicted.

I like Servais. I don’t have a lot of regard for managers in baseball in general; I think, for the most part, these teams sort of manage themselves. They get too much of the blame when things go wrong, and probably an appropriate amount of the credit when things go right. But, you can really see how Servais has built the culture here. It’s different than it was under Lloyd McClendon, Don Wakamatsu, Eric Wedge, and on and on dating back to the glory days of Lou Piniella. Honestly, Servais might be the best manager in all of baseball right now, and I’ve been saying for a while: I’d LOVE to see what he does with a team that’s as talented as the Astros or Dodgers or Yankees.

And, for what it’s worth, I do think Servais makes a high percentage of the correct calls when it comes to sticking with a pitcher vs. pulling him for a fresh arm. I mean, that probably has a lot to do with the analytics department, but it’s a credit to Servais that he actually follows the numbers and not just his fucking gut (*cough* Lloyd McClendon *cough*).

As for Dipoto, he’s MUCH more divisive. Fans seem to either love him and lap up the Kool Aid like the thirsty sheep that they are; or fans seem to hate him and want to ride him out of town on a rail.

I’m in the middle. If I had my druthers, we would’ve backed up the Brinks truck to Theo Epstein’s house and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse YEARS ago. But, obviously, that’s never happening. We hired Dipoto after the 2015 season, and while his moves have been hit-or-miss, I think there’s a lot unexplained from his tenure. He inherited an aging roster that was still trying to break the playoff drought. How much did ownership hamper him when it comes to tearing it all down back then and rebuilding immediately? I would argue they meddled quite a bit, with guys like Felix, Cruz, Cano, and Seager playing at the tops of their games.

It wasn’t until after the 2018 season – when we won 89 games, but again fell well short of making the playoffs – that we FINALLY committed to a real, official rebuild. I would say, by and large, Dipoto’s moves before that point were largely disappointing and underwhelming. Again, how much was he hampered by ownership, who likely limited his spending? I would argue quite a bit, with Felix’s dying contract, Seager’s bloated deal, and Cano’s albatross hanging around our neck.

I contend that SINCE the end of the 2018 season, Dipoto has been largely on fire with his trades, his under-the-radar dart-throw free agent signings, and his draft picks. In that time, he turned around a farm system that was one of the worst – if not THE worst – in all of baseball, into one of the best this year (including one publication ranking us #1 overall). The trade of Cano & Edwin Diaz for Jarred Kelenic (and others) is the big draw. But, he also pulled off the Austin Nola deal (for Ty France and Luis Torrens) and the aforementioned Graveman deal for Toro.

It hasn’t worked out perfectly since then. The Mariners really bottomed out in 2019, for instance. But, we played much better in a COVID-shortened 2020 season. And, this year, we find ourselves firmly in contention for a wild card spot with a month left to play.

You can argue that many of the young position players are failing to make the leap from AAA to the Major Leagues, but if that’s Dipoto’s fault, then it’s also on all the scouts and pundits who continue to laud these players as among the most talented of all the prospects coming up in the last two years. They’re still young-enough in their careers to turn things around. Plus, there are more prospects where they came from if they do, indeed, fail at this level.

On top of which, the Mariners have cheaped out long enough. It sounds like after having this year to analyze the guys we’ve got, the purse strings are going to be loosened, allowing us to go out and make some splashy free agent deals. Between that, and the trades we can make by having one of the best farm systems in baseball, as long as we don’t fuck things up COMPLETELY, we should be watching the Seattle Mariners in the post-season sooner rather than later.

So, no, I’m not a Jerry Dipoto hater. But, I’m also not drinking the Kool Aid completely either. He still needs to finish the job. Lots of teams throughout baseball have been in the position we’re in now. VERY few actually manage to morph into World Series champions, let alone enjoy the kind of sustained success you see out of teams like the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox.

I’ll fully believe it when I see it. Don’t do what the Mariners always do: get swindled in trades for mediocre veterans who come here and shit the bed. DO do what good teams do: ship off shaky prospects for quality starters, and let’s go win us a fucking World Series title!

A Bummer Of A Mariners Series In Houston Could’ve Been Worse

We didn’t get swept! That’s something, anyway. Of course, losing the two games the way we lost them was pretty demoralizing, and it took us 11 innings to get that lone win, but I’ll take what I can get.

The Mariners lost 12-3 on Friday, giving up all of those runs in the first five innings. Yusei Kikuchi had easily his worst game of the season, 2.2 innings, giving up 7 runs. It’s a shame for him that he didn’t get to appear in the All Star Game this year, because I don’t know if he’ll ever get a chance again. Through July 1st – just before he was named to the All Star team – he was 6-3 and had a 3.18 ERA. Since then, he’s had two Quality Starts out of eight. His last two appearances in particular have been pretty brutal. We’re in the stretch run here! We need to win every game we can possibly win! He failed to go five innings against the Blue Jays, then couldn’t even make it through three against the Astros (his overall record has fallen to 7-7). The Mariners have a HUGE decision to make on Kikuchi after this season, whether or not they pick up his remaining option years. Before the All Star Break, I would’ve said it’s a no-brainier to keep him around. But, if he continues to lay eggs the rest of this season, I don’t think it’s smart to sign on for more at that salary. If he can’t handle THIS pressure, what makes you think he’d handle the pressure of being on a team in an actual pennant race (which is our stated goal) in the next 2-3 years?

Kikuchi wasn’t the only bad thing about Friday’s game. Wyatt Mills (a guy presumably only up here to eat innings in these very types of situations) gave up 3 runs in 1.1 innings of work (he has an ERA over 10 in his 10 appearances). Erik Swanson continued his slide by giving up another 2 runs in his 1 inning of work (looking much more like the Erik Swanson we’ve been used to the last couple years). The only pitching bright spot on Friday was Yohan Ramirez’s two innings of shutout ball, striking out 4.

The offense didn’t stand a chance, obviously. Ty France had 3 hits (including a solo homer). Kyle Seager had a solo homer, and Abraham Toro had an RBI single.

If you thought 12-3 was bad, wait until you get a load of 15-1!

Logan Gilbert had to wear this one. 4.2 innings, 9 runs on 8 hits (including 2 homers) and a walk, with 5 strikeouts. Obviously, he’s in a very different point of his Major League career than Kikuchi, but he’s nevertheless been just as up-and-down in his rookie campaign. He just needs to work, to refine his breaking pitches, and to get used to the talent at this level. I think he’ll be fine, but it would be encouraging for him to take a step or two in his development over the next few weeks. We need him to be a foundational starter for this team in 2022 and beyond.

Thankfully, we were able to save the rest of the bullpen by calling up Robert Dugger and getting him to mop up the remaining 3.1 innings. He, nevertheless, gave up 6 more runs and was immediately DFA’d before Sunday’s game.

The only run for the Mariners came on a Haniger solo homer in the sixth.

For all of the pointlessness of the first two games, Sunday’s was quite a thriller!

Houston got two runs off of Tyler Anderson in the second inning, but that was it, as Anderson went 5.1 innings to at least give us a chance. The bullpen was pretty lights out from there. Joe Smith closed out the sixth. Anthony Misiewicz got four outs in a nice comeback for him. Steckenrider got five outs, and Paul Sewald had the greatest inning of relief I’ve seen all year! More on that in a moment.

The Astros starter, Framber Valdez, went 7 shutout innings, giving up only 3 hits and a walk, striking out 6. This one looked grim, especially with Kendall Graveman taking the hill in the 8th. BUT, we scratched a run off of the ex-Mariner to make the game 2-1 in the ninth inning. It’s only the second run he’s given up since we traded him over there at the deadline, but the first time he actually contributed to an Astros loss. That run meant a lot when Ty France hit the game-tying solo homer in the ninth to eventually send this game to extras.

The M’s botched their chance in the 10th, as Torrens – the ghost runner – got taken out at third base on a running error with the ball being hit to the short stop. Cal Raleigh’s double managed to get Fraley to third, but would’ve scored Torrens had he done his job. J.P. Crawford struck out to end the threat, in spite of some questionable umpiring that went his way.

Sewald came in to pitch the 10th and immediately gave up a single to Altuve to put runners on the corners. We intentionally walked Michael Brantley to load ’em up and get a play at any base. Sewald struck out Correa looking (on yet another terrible call by the home plate ump) for the first out, then overpowered the next guy at the top of the zone to get another strikeout. That brought up Yuli Gurriel, a notorious Mariners killer. He wasn’t biting on the slider, but fouled off two high fastballs to make the count even. Sewald threw a perfect slider on the low-and-outside corner for what should’ve been strike three, but the umpire AGAIN blew the call. The count was full, with Gurriel fouling off the next two fastballs, before swinging through the last one – the 8th pitch of the at-bat – to end the inning. What a performance!

In the top of the 11th, Haniger walked before Ty France hit a single the opposite way to take a 3-2 lead. Kyle Seager promptly extended the lead to 6-2 with a 3-run home run, his 29th of the season (his career high is 30). It turns out, we needed all of these runs, because now we were getting back into the dregs of our bullpen.

Keynan Middleton started the bottom of the 11th, getting a first-pitch groundout to Seager. He then gave up a first-pitch single to the next guy to make it 6-3. The bases ended up loaded after the next two guys singled and walked respectively (the walk, of course, being helped greatly by a CLEAR strike being called Ball 4). Servais had to pull Middleton, who clearly didn’t have it. The only other alternative was Yohan Ramirez, who struck out Altuve on a nasty slider at the bottom of the zone. Michael Brantley – the leading hitter in the American League heading into the game – lined out to center to end it.

This was the first save of the season for Ramirez – the Rule 5 guy we took from the Astros prior to the 2020 season – and it’s nice to see him starting to develop into someone we might be able to trust in higher leverage situations. His problem has always been his control; he has a live fastball and a nasty slider. If he can rein it in a little bit, that’s another diamond in the rough reliever who could be good for us for a good, long time (or, at the very least, a nice little trade chip in the offseason).

Now, we’re off to Oakland for a quick 2-game series. We’re three games behind them in the standings, so it would be nice to get the series win here.

The Mariners Somehow Did Not Sweep The Rangers

I was so thoroughly annoyed by Tuesday’s extra-innings loss to the Rangers, I couldn’t even enjoy the subsequent two wins. We should’ve HAD THAT GAME!

For starters, the amount of struggling we did in this series is insane. The Rangers are hands down one of the worst teams in baseball. They might be, pound for pound, the worst team of the 30 at the moment. And yet, every game in this series was decided by 2 runs or less. Every step of the way was a gargantuan fucking challenge.

The last thing I want to do is rehash the 5-4 defeat, but it has to be done because it’s the perfect incapsulation of how much the M’s played down to the talent level of their opponent. The Rangers jumped out to a 1-0 lead off of Logan Gilbert thanks to a solo homer in the second. He settled down pretty good – finishing 6 innings, giving up just 2 runs on 5 hits, while striking out 5 and walking 0 – but ended up with a no decision. Haniger and Seager hit back-to-back solo bombs in the fourth; the Rangers hit an RBI double in the fifth to give the game its score at that point.

It was tied heading into the ninth, when Paul Sewald got jumped for a solo bomb to potentially cost us the game. We were facing the Rangers’ closer in the bottom half down a run, and already I was super pissed off.

But, then a little of that late-game Mariners magic returned! Bauers and Kelenic walked, and Raleigh singled to load the bases (after a couple of laughably bad attempts to bunt the runners over) for Jake Fraley … who also walked to tie the game at 3-3. With no outs. And the top of the order coming up.

HOW DO YOU LOSE?! The closer is wild as fuck, he’s decidedly being left in there to take his lumps even though he clearly doesn’t have it, and we had J.P. Crawford, Mitch Haniger, and Kyle Seager up. ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS HIT A LAZY FLY BALL TO THE OUTFIELD! Or work a walk, or take one off the shoulder, or get a fucking ball to roll through the pulled-in infield.

Just flabbergasting. J.P. Crawford – who has been so good in these situations, and especially when he just needs to make contact – struck out swinging. By this point, the Rangers’ closer seemed to gather his control, as he pretty easily struck out Haniger swinging as well. Then came Seager, who gave us the lazy fly ball we needed, two outs too late.

Erik Swanson came in for the 10th, and was catching too much of the heart of the plate; the Rangers scored both the ghost runner AND an actual runner to take a 5-3 lead. The Mariners immediately singled in the ghost runner in their first AB of the bottom half of the inning, but Toro grounded into a double play to pretty much end the threat.

I gave up on the series from there. I also, not for nothing, am washing my hands of this Toronto series this weekend for other reasons, but even if I were totally free, I think I’d find something else to do with my time.

So, I missed the thrilling 2-1 come-from-behind, walk-off win on Wednesday. But, read that again. Why in the hell are we only scoring two runs against this pitching staff? Why are we down a run to them in the first place? Why do we need a heroic bottom-of-the-ninth walk-off situation to win it? Kudos to our pitching staff, I guess. But anti-kudos to the hitters, who have REALLY been shit in the month of August.

Tyler Anderson went 5.1 innings, giving up 1 run. I like how we’re controlling him, and pulling him before any late damage can be done. I also like how he’s giving us ALMOST-quality starts every time out; this is what we weren’t getting from all those bullpen days. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn are ready to return.

The bullpen was lights out from there. Joe Smith continued his scoreless streak since the trade from Houston. Casey Sadler continued his phenomenal run since returning from the IL. Diego Castillo looked sharp in his 8th inning. And Drew Steckenrider continued being one of the most improbably-effective relievers on this team! He ended up earning his fourth win of the season for his troubles.

The Rangers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead before Kelenic, in the sixth, walked in a run. That was it until the ninth, when Kelenic led off with a double. One out later, Fraley hit an infield single to move him to third, for Luis Torrens who also singled him home (though it sounds like it might’ve been a double under normal circumstances).

Even though yesterday’s Day Game was another close affair, it was actually a breath of fresh air, with the M’s prevailing 3-1. That’s because Marco Gonzales turned in easily his best game of the season, getting the complete game, giving up 2 hits, walking 1, and striking out 9. THIS is the #1 starter we’ve been waiting for all year! Now, if he can just do it against an actual Major League Baseball team, we’ll be all set.

Again, we had to come back from an early 1-0 deficit. Kelenic hit a sac fly, and Crawford and Fraley both hit solo bombs.

It’s nice to see Kelenic’s average get up to .150. That, obviously, is a terrible number for a hitter to have, but it’s 50 points higher than it was not too long ago. Unless he bats 1.000 the rest of the way, he’s not going to end this season with a good-looking average. But, as long as he finishes the last couple months strong, I think that’s something he can really build upon heading into next year.

Even though there’s a lot to like about getting this series win, it’s a missed opportunity. You have to sweep a team as bad as the Rangers, especially at home, especially when it’s the bottom of the ninth, with the bases loaded, and no one is out.

It still makes my blood boil.

I mean, you do realize you’re in a wild card chase, right? I know you all were exasperated with the front office after the trade of Graveman, but that doesn’t mean you just give up!

You know how the Mariners can win me back? Sweep the Blue Jays this weekend. Take them out behind the woodshed and leapfrog them in one fell swoop. The Mariners are 2 games behind the Blue Jays (who are, themselves, 2.5 games out of the last wild card spot). This is our opportunity to eliminate them as a threat and set our sights to ending this playoff drought.

I guess, if I had to settle for a mere series win, that would be okay too, though it would obviously still leave us a game behind them. But, losing this series is NOT an option.

The Yankees Are Not A Good Matchup For The Mariners

It’s funny, you could easily make that same argument about every Yankees team ever, except for 1995.

The Mariners lost 3 of 4 to the Yankees over the long weekend in The Bronx, going exactly as well as I’d expected:

If we win one of these games, it’ll be a miracle.

– Some super genius

Although, credit to both teams: they did find some creative ways to get to the end result in these four games.

The last time we played the Yankees, it was about a month ago back in Seattle. We were riding high, having gone 5-0-1 in our previous six series, only to be swatted away pretty handily by the Yankees in 2 of 3 games, with Logan Gilbert’s career day preventing the sweep.

This time around, it’s post-Trade Deadline, it’s at the end of a 10-game road trip, and the Mariners are really starting to feel the pressure now of this wild card chase. At one point in recent weeks, the Mariners were ahead of the Yankees and Blue Jays for the second wild card spot. Now we’re 2.5-3 games behind them, needing to turn this ship around in a hurry.

This series could’ve gone so differently. It’s hard to see us go 1-3 – when all games are decided by 2 runs or less – and not immediately think about what might’ve been had Kendall Graveman still been here. He’s made four appearances for the Astros so far, and still hasn’t given up a run.

Anyway, Mitch Haniger and Kyle Seager spotted the Mariners to a 2-1 lead that was immediately ripped away in the bottom half of the fourth last Thursday. The score remained tied until the top of the seventh, when Jared Kelenic hit a solo home run just over the wall in right. That’s when we brought in the big guns: Paul Sewald, to face the heart of the Yankees’ order. He got the first two hitters out before Judge and Stanton singles started making trouble. That culminated in a wall-scraper of a home run by Joey Gallo. We tried to mount a comeback against Aroldis Chapman in the ninth, but it wasn’t to be (even though he found himself on the IL after the game, clearly suffering from some sort of injury or arm fatigue). Team RISP: 2/9.

Chock up Friday to another game blown by the bullpen. Again, the offense didn’t give us much leeway, but we DID hold a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth. Marco Gonzales was a wizard out there, throwing 6.2 innings of scoreless ball. Joe Smith got the final out of the seventh, leading us to bring in Diego Castillo. He promptly walked two guys and hit a third to load the bases, for Judge to hit a sac fly to tie it. It could’ve been so much worse, but Stanton hit into a double play to end the threat. The game eventually went into extras. Both teams scored one in the tenth; only the Yankees scored in the eleventh. That’s how you get to a 3-2 ballgame. Team RISP: 2/8.

The Mariners had a 4-1 lead after two innings on Saturday; I think you can see what’s coming next. Chris Flexen pitched five outstanding innings in this one, just giving up an Aaron Judge homer in the first. However, he was allowed to start the sixth inning and promptly gave up a 2-run bomb to Rougned Odor without getting another out. Anthony Misiewicz and shoddy defense finished the job that very inning, giving up the go-ahead runs to the Yankees. The 5-4 score remained as is through the rest of the game. Team RISP: 1/7.

We were able to salvage a 2-0 victory on Sunday thanks to five scoreless innings by Kikuchi (the team seemingly learning its lessen from the Flexen debacle the night prior, not having him pitch into the sixth). Sewald was a man possessed, striking out 4 of 5 batters faced. And Drew Steckenrider got the 2-inning save! We didn’t score until the eighth, when a Seager double and Raleigh single brought home the game’s only runs. Team RISP: 2/8.

It’s hard to see the Yankees as anything but our kryptonite, given the way they’ve handled us this season. Especially this series, they shut us down in the two ways we were most effective: our bullpen, and our clutch hitting. In case you weren’t following along, the Mariners’ hitters were a whopping 7 for 32 with runners in scoring position, WELL below our season averages. On top of that, as you saw, the bullpen was responsible for all three losses.

Now, I don’t know if Graveman would’ve been able to stop the bleeding in EVERY game, or if he even would’ve been effective against this lineup, but it sure felt like we were destined to lose this series from the jump. Regardless, it’s not anyone’s fault in that bullpen for the way the offense went in the tank.

As was discussed up top, the Mariners have dug themselves quite a wild card hole. All hope isn’t lost, but the team better get hot in a hurry. Starting tomorrow, as the lowly Rangers come to town. Probably need to sweep that 3-game set. Then, we have our top three pitchers going against the Blue Jays (who won’t have the throngs of Canadians coming into our country – due to borders being closed – but I’m sure it’ll still be a solidly road team-favored crowd). That’s as good of an opportunity as we’ll get to face off against another of our wild card rivals. Picking up a game would be in order here, though sweeping this series would also be ideal. I’d love to see the Mariners get to 5-1 in this homestand in some way, shape, or form (ideally sweeping away the Blue Jays, if I had to pick one).

Then, we turn right back around to hit the road in Texas, with three against the Rangers and three against the Astros, before a quick 2-game jaunt down in Oakland. All of those will be vitally important.

Indeed, all the games the rest of the way are vitally important. We have 49 games left to go. We’re 59-54. Just to get to 90 wins, we’d have to go 31-18; that seems like the bare minimum to get one of the wild card spots, though I’d feel a lot safer if we got to 95 wins. That’s an absurd finish of 36-13. Possible, but not very probable.

Here’s why it COULD be possible, though. We have 6 games against the Rangers. We have 6 games against the Diamondbacks. We have 7 games against the Royals. We have 6 games against the Angels, who are injured beyond belief. That’s 25 games right there against teams we absolutely should beat. Then, there’s the three against the Blue Jays and Red Sox, and 9 more against the A’s; all wild card contenders. That brings our total games against teams we either should beat, or could beat, to 40. The remaining 9 games are against the Astros, who are always tough to beat, but it’s not like it’s impossible. We’re 4-6 in the season series so far. If we can go 5-4 against the Astros, that means we have to go 26-14 against everyone else to get to 90 wins (do-able), or 31-9 to get to 95 wins (extremely difficult, but again, not totally unheard of).

There’s always a team that gets hot around this time every year. Why couldn’t it be the Mariners this time around?

The Mariners Continued Beating Up On The Rays

It would’ve been crazy to sweep the Rays a second time this season, but I’m just happy the Mariners got the series win. Keep on punchin’.

After the disaster that was the Rangers series, it was nice to have Chris Flexen going on Monday to calm things down. He went 6.2 innings, giving up 2 runs, which was plenty good since we amassed an 8-2 lead by that point. The score wouldn’t change from there.

France, Haniger, Crawford, and Fraley all had multi-hit games, including a double and a homer for France (who accounted for 3 RBI). Fraley had 2 RBI, and Seager and Kelenic had 1 RBI each. This was a thorough drubbing, with Joe Smith getting 4 scoreless outs to (so far) be a value-add to this team since the Graveman deal with the Astros. Speaking of which, Abraham Toro had a walk and a run scored to continue being the steal of the trade deadline.

Yusei Kikuchi followed that up with a quality start of his own, going 6 innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned), even though he didn’t really have his greatest stuff. He spread out 6 hits and 2 walks while limiting the damage just enough to keep us in it while we amassed all of 4 runs to take the game 4-2. There was some nice lockdown bullpen work with Sadler, Sewald, and Castillo going Hold, Hold, Save over the final three innings.

I’m interested in seeing what Sewald’s role will be the rest of the way. Castillo really does give off a Fernando Rodney Experience vibe, which is usually effective, but mostly heart attack-inducing. Since Sewald very clearly appears to be the best reliever on this team, it would be nice if we continued to use him in the highest leverage situations, whether that means going the 7th, 8th, or 9th innings. I hope Castillo is okay with sometimes getting saddled with a non-save situation every now and then, because I feel like this is what needs to happen for the Mariners to maximize their bullpen’s potential. With the promise of so many more close games, it’s going to be necessary to blow as few of them as possible.

Toro and Kelenic each had homers in this one, with Toro scoring 2 runs on the day, and Cal Raleigh hitting in two runners on a sac fly and a fielder’s choice.

Unfortunately, we didn’t quite have enough to get the sweep, losing yesterday afternoon by a score of 4-3. Logan Gilbert had just the one bad inning, giving up 3 runs total over five. 4 hits isn’t bad; 4 walks is far from ideal. We might’ve been able to take this to extras, but Steckenrider gave up a solo bomb in the sixth to Mike Zunino, and our late rally fell JUST short. Crawford and Haniger combined for 5 of our 7 hits, and 2 of our 3 runs; Toro also had another hit and walk.

In 8 games since the trade, Toro has safely reached in every one. He’s hit 12/28 (.429), with 3 doubles, 3 homers, 5 RBI, and 8 runs scored. I mean, it’s silly how good he’s been in such a short time! He’s already almost equalled the WAR he had in 35 games with Houston this year!

Next up: 4 games in New York against the Yankees before we return home. The Yankees notoriously mash against left-handed pitching. So, great news! Three of our four projected starters are lefties! If we win one of these games, it’ll be a miracle.

The Mariners Probably Should’ve Swept The Rangers

I don’t know what happened, you guys. I left to go camping on Saturday morning near Mt. Rainier and everything went to shit with the Mariners in the two days I was without cell service. I blame Internet trolls.

The Texas Rangers are fucking awful, so Friday’s 9-5 victory went absolutely according to plan. Logan Gilbert pitched into the sixth inning, almost giving us a quality start in the process, and the bullpen was fairly lights out from there. On top of which, we had a Kelenic bust-out game (a homer and 4 RBI); Abraham Toro’s consecutive games with a homer streak ended at four, but he still went 3 for 5 with a double and 2 runs scored; and every player in our lineup either had a hit, an RBI, and/or a run scored to contribute in some way to this dominating victory. Five stars, no notes!

Saturday’s 5-4 loss in extra innings was just fucking stupid. I’m getting the sense that Diego Castillo got a lot of crap for losing this one, but he’s so far down my shit list, he might as well be the second page of any Google search. For starters, how do we chase the Rangers’ starter in the fourth inning and only score two runs off of him? Furthermore, how do we find ourselves down 3-2 in the top of the ninth inning, before Ty France finally bails us out with a solo homer to send it to extras in the first place? These are the Rangers for Christ’s sake, and we let their long reliever pitch three shutout innings?! The ultimate travesty is blowing our first start from Tyler Anderson, who did exactly what you’d expect him to do: 5.1 innings of 3-run ball. That line epitomizes him so much it should be written on his tombstone.

The obvious culprit is the offense, who has been a throbbing, explosive success throughout the season in clutch situations, but went only 2 for 7 with runners in scoring position in this one. One of those hits came in the 10th, after Kelenic did his job getting the ghost runner to third. Jake Bauers popped up to second base, necessitating a J.P. Crawford 2-out RBI single.

The sneaky culprit is pitch sequencing, which I don’t entirely blame Castillo for. With their own ghost runner at second, trailing 4-3, the Rangers had catcher Jonah Heim at the plate. I don’t think anyone’s confusing him for Johnny Bench. Yet, for some reason, we started him off with four consecutive sliders to get to a 1-2 count (the fourth of which was fouled off) before throwing his first fastball. Then, he went right back to a fifth slider, middle-low and away that was jacked for the game-winning 2-run home run to right. This is supposed to be a strikeout pitch; why is Tom Murphy – by proxy for manager Scott Servais – calling for so many sliders early in the count to this guy, Jonah Heim, who again is nothing special?! I don’t understand, but he can throw triple digits. You FEATURE the fastball that hits triple digits, and you occasionally sprinkle in the slider to get swings and misses! THAT’S THE DEAL! Take it or leave it!

What can you say about Sunday’s game, other than it was a total meltdown by a bullpen guy who had otherwise been aces all season? Marco Gonzales seems like he’s slowly, but surely, turning things around; he had a quality start in this one (6 innings, 1 run) after nearly getting one against the A’s in his previous start. The offense even did enough, giving him a 3-1 lead after seven innings (though, again, seems a little feeble that we could only manage those three runs against a Rangers team this inept). But, the bullpen was pretty well gassed after the first two games of the series, so Erik Swanson was called upon to get the final three outs.

Narrator: “He got zero outs.”

They were swinging early and often against Swanson, just so you know what’s in his scouting report. He throws strikes now, in case you hadn’t heard. But, in this one, Swanson’s strikes were too meaty and juicy. The leadoff hitter singled on the second pitch thrown to him. The next guy hit a homer off of a slider hanging in the center of the plate on just his third pitch. That tied the game for Jonah “Nothing Special” Heim, who this time saw nothing but fastballs in his five pitches, before depositing the last one again to right field for the walk-off home run. I guess, you could question the pitch sequencing, but obviously he’d just hung a slider to the previous guy to blow the save, so maybe he didn’t have any feel for it. Nevertheless, when a guy gives up three runs without recording an out – to blow the save AND catch the loss – it’s hard to blame anyone else but the pitcher himself.

Still, don’t go searching for his family on social media and threaten them! God, what’s the matter with you people? If you’re a Mariners fan, you’re probably from the Pacific Northwest. And, if you’re in the Pacific Northwest, you do as we all do: passive aggressively talk shit behind their backs and subtweet the living daylights out of them! You don’t tag them, and you DEFINITELY don’t get into it with their friends and family. Have a little decorum, won’t you?

Look, I get it, that series sucked! The Rangers are one of the very worst teams in all of baseball. The Mariners – in spite of the lack of popularity of their recent deals – are still somewhat in contention for a wild card spot. But, you MUST beat teams like the Rangers, and ideally you should probably be sweeping them. They had these games somewhat in hand, and blew the final two. I just hope the hangover doesn’t continue as we head to Tampa and New York.

I’m sure the chatter on Twitter was endless about Kendall Graveman almost certainly locking down those last two games for saves. He looked phenomenal as usual in his first appearance with the Astros, getting 4 outs, three via strikeout. I’m not touching that one with a ten foot pole.

The Mariners Traded For Diego Castillo

We learned about this one in the early evening hours yesterday, and the first tweet I saw about it – from a non-reporter – was something to the effect of, “Ho-hum, this guy’s just whatever, he’s no Kendall Graveman.” I mean, that’s very possible; he could come here and totally shit the bed, just like countless other relievers have done throughout the years, but I feel like that’s still residual reaction from the vitriol incited by the Graveman trade more than it is an accurate reflection of that person’s feelings on this deal in a vacuum.

Diego Castillo looks like he has amazing stuff! A fastball that hits triple digits, and a slider that sits in the low-90’s? Does that remind you of someone we recently traded away in the Robinson Cano deal, who was seen as the real prize of that acquisition? As we’ve seen from Edwin Diaz since putting on a Mets uniform, that combination isn’t a guarantee of a sub-1.00 ERA forever. But, I would argue that Kendall Graveman’s stuff isn’t going to remain in that otherworldly realm forever either. He’s bound to return to normal and start blowing some saves. At which point, he’ll be no better or worse than Diego Castillo.

Yes, Castillo blows some saves every now and again. That’s going to happen to just about anyone who isn’t having an unsustainably lucky/flukey season. But he’s also – assuming he stays healthy, which is a big assumption; given how hard he throws, his arm could blow at any time – going to be good-to-great most of the time. On top of which, he’s just entering his Arbitration years, meaning we can keep him for the next three seasons after this one.

He cost us J.T. Chargois – a guy we picked up off the scrap heap before this season – and Austin Shenton, a third base prospect (who, it sounds like, doesn’t have the defensive acumen to stick at third base). Think “Ty France Type” as his ultimate ceiling. So, you know, that’s tough – it sounds like he’s got the hitting part down – but this is also the first I’ve ever heard of him, so he couldn’t have been THAT elite of a prospect.

I know, I know, “what I don’t know could fill a book.” Speaking of which … it also comes in Kindle.

The Rays apparently love Chargois’ stuff, but I think they mostly like his cheapness (he’s not arbitration-eligible until 2023, so they could easily flip him this time next year if they’re so inclined). And, I’m sure they’ll get the most out of that Shenton guy, but I still like this deal for the Mariners.

Taken as a whole, it’s a Graveman for Castillo swap (a guy who’s a free agent at the end of this season, vs. a guy who will be here for three years BEYOND this season); a Rafael Montero for Joe Smith swap (two duds, but at least we’re able to recoup something for the Montero debacle); and a Shenton for Abraham Toro swap (a guy who just this year made it to the AA level, vs. a guy who is a Major League-ready prospect right now and could take a leap forward at any time); plus two prospects for Tyler Anderson (guys likely to never have much of an impact on this game, vs. a viable starting pitcher we can use starting this weekend in our push to make the playoffs).

I don’t know about you, but to me that looks like Jerry Dipoto sticking to his plan: going for it in 2021, while at the same time not sacrificing our major pieces of this rebuild.

Look, I think we learned A LOT about this team over this most recent homestand. It wasn’t a total success – we didn’t hit that 5-2 mark that I’d talked about – but it wasn’t a total failure either. It was a 4-3 homestand. If I’m being honest, kind of what I expected, in some way, shape, or form. We learned that the Mariners are indeed in contention for one of the 2021 Wild Card spots (3-1 against the A’s, one of the favorites to be in that play-in game), but we also learned that the Mariners probably aren’t in contention for the A.L. West (a lucky 1-2 against the Astros), and probably aren’t one of the elites.

Have you seen the deals they’re swinging in New York and Los Angeles? The Yankees and Dodgers are going ALL-IN on 2021 like nothing I can remember! These are mega, MEGA blockbuster trades, made by teams who are there. They’re not rebuilding, they’re BUILT. And they’re throwing any and all available minor league prospects away to get the superstars they need. And, you know what? They probably still have great farm systems plugging away behind those guys they just jettisoned! That’s what happens. That’s what success looks like.

Sure, the Mariners have a Top 5 or Top 10 farm system now, but I would argue that’s mostly top-heavy, with guys who are either in the Major Leagues right now (Kelenic, Raleigh, Gilbert), or guys who are a year or two away (J-Rod, Kirby, maybe Hancock). Now, I think it’s definitely deeper than it’s been in the last 15-20 years, but it’s not a well-oiled machine like the Yankees and Dodgers have been producing for decades. Until we get THERE, the topic of going All-In really means something. It means totally depleting what we’ve built in the minors. So, we better be good and fucking sure that we’re ready to contend NOT JUST FOR A WILD CARD SPOT, but the whole fuckin’ thing. I’m not interested in mortgaging our future just to break the playoff drought for a single-elimination play-in game. I want to be regarded as among the greats, the Astros and Dodgers and the like. I want a fucking World Series championship in my lifetime; is that too much to ask?!

So, I’m fine with these cursory deals. These players on the edge of the roster. Little upgrades here and there, while still taking shots on guys like Toro to be bigger pieces of the puzzle. While it hurts losing Graveman from a morale standpoint, you can’t say we threw him away for nothing. Castillo mitigates that loss considerably (I hope). Toro gives us a boost at second base for now (again, I hope). And we brought in a starter who couldn’t be any worse than the Bullpen Days and sub-replacement level guys we’ve been starting (almost definitely).

But, this whole “contention” business was always going to hinge on the players we have on the active roster right now, continuing to play out of their fucking minds. To be the clutchest motherfuckers on the planet. To mostly get hits with runners in scoring position, and to be the winningest team in one-run games in the Major Leagues. There’s no crazy amount of deals that was going to turn this Mariners team into that Astros team. This is it. You need the J.P. Crawfords and Dylan Moores and Cal Raleighs and Mitch Hanigers and Ty Frances and Luis Torrenses to lead the way. You need this starting rotation – held together by duct tape and fishing line – to keep us in most every ballgame. And you need this bullpen to be lockdown 9 times out of 10. Hell, maybe even 10 times out of 10, since we’re in the home stretch.

Two months to go! We are 55-48 heading into the dog days of summer. We’re 2.5 games behind the Athletics for the second wild card spot. We’re a mere 1 game ahead of the Yankees, and would you look at that! We go to their ballpark to play them on this upcoming road trip we’re on. Considering the way they manhandled us at T-Mobile Park, on top of their additions of Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo (a notorious Mariners-killer with Texas), I expect we won’t be too happy with what happens at Yankee Stadium.

But, you know, once an optimist, always an optimist.

The Mariners Probably Should’ve Been Swept By The Astros

There’s an obvious narrative going around that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. It goes as follows: the Mariners were one of the hottest teams in the league – having won four in a row over their immediate divisional rivals ahead of them in the standings – then they traded their apparent Heart & Soul of the team, Kendall Graveman, and all of a sudden are now in the tank, having lost two straight. It’s further punctuated by the fact that their last victory was an amazing come-from-behind affair where the M’s were down 7-0 before coming all the way back in dramatic fashion to win 11-8 (where, again, Graveman got the win and played a role in getting us to the point where we took the lead).

But, you know what I see when I look at this series against the Astros? I see three games the Mariners should’ve lost, and we were lucky to get the win we got.

Coming back from a 7-run deficit is as flukey as it gets. That was followed immediately by a game where we gave up a 3-spot in the top of the first and eventually found ourselves down 8-2 before coming back to lose 8-6. And then, of course, the finale saw us lose 11-4 in a game we were never even competitive in.

I mean, you can argue the wind was taken out of the team’s sails by the disappointment of seeing Graveman go to the opposing team’s clubhouse, but I think that notion is thwarted because on the very same day as the trade, you still saw this team scratch and claw to get 4 runs in the final 4 innings to make it interesting.

No, what this series featured was a clinic in disappointing Mariners starting pitching.

Monday was a disaster from the jump, as Darren McCaughan was making his Major League starting debut (recall he had pitched in the week prior, coming in after Keynan Middleton shit the bed as the Opener). McCaughan followed up his five no-hit innings by giving up 6 runs in the first in this one, ultimately managing to last 4 innings, giving up 7 runs, before being almost immediately sent back down to the minors. In case you were wondering why the Mariners traded for mediocre starter Tyler Anderson, this is why. This and all the previous Bullpen Days, where the Mariners amassed a whopping 1-8 record.

The Mariners started mounting their comeback in the bottom of the fourth, immediately after the Astros scored their 7th run, with a Cal Raleigh 3-run double. The Astros got one back in the top of the fifth to make it 8-3, but Kyle Seager hit a 3-run homer in the bottom half to cut it to 8-6. Then, Shed Long hit an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 1-run game, and you know what the Mariners do in 1-run games!

Well, usually it’s “win them”, but this time they turned it into a 3-run victory thanks to a grand slam by Dylan Moore in the bottom of the 8th inning.

To set the stage, Middleton pitched in this one as well, giving up that 8th Astros run. But, the bullpen was nails from there. Erik Swanson pitched two scoreless innings. Kendall Graveman came in for the 8th – Mariners down a run – and kept the score where it was. He doesn’t often come in when the M’s are trailing, but there was blood in the water and Scott Servais was pulling out all the stops.

Anyway, France singled to lead off the bottom of the 8th, but then two quick outs followed. Things looked grim. Jarred Kelenic – who really hasn’t been a whole lot better since being called back up – managed to work a walk. Tom Murphy – the third catcher used in this one – pinch hit for Shed Long and also walked, to load the bases. That brought up Moore, who jacked a high fastball (“fastball” in quotes, because this guy didn’t have much velo) to the upper deck in left field, knowing he had it all the way.

Fireworks continued from there, as the Astros reliever pretty clearly went headhunting for the very next batter, in this case J.P. Crawford. The pitcher would be ejected, after some choice curse words and yelling from Servais. Crawford would immediately be picked off at first, before the next reliever – now a Mariner, Joe Smith – even threw a pitch.

Paul Sewald – presumably our closer going forward – got the final three outs of the game to send everyone home happy.

That, my friends, was the environment everyone was walking into the next day, when the Graveman trade was announced. And, like clockwork, Chris Flexen showed up with a rare clunker: 4 innings, 7 runs. Nope, this wasn’t a rerun of the night before, he was literally as bad as a guy who got demoted to AAA the very same day. Hector Santiago returned from his suspension to throw 2 innings of 1-run ball, and the rest of the bullpen was scoreless from there (including Joe Smith throwing a clean inning), but 8 runs is clearly too much. You can’t expect an 11-run outburst every fucking day.

Nevertheless, Seager had a 2-run homer in the first, Kelenic had a 2-run single in the sixth, and newcomer Abraham Toro hit a 2-run homer in the ninth. You’d love to be undefeated in games where you score 6 runs, but unfortunately that’s baseball for you.

Yusei Kikuchi wasn’t QUITE as bad yesterday, but he only went 5 innings, giving up 4 runs (3 earned). On top of that, the bullpen was atrocious, as it will be from time to time, giving up 7 runs the rest of the way.

There was another Seager homer, another Toro homer, and a Kelenic bases loaded walk to give us our 4 runs. But, obviously, not enough.

Some bright spots include Seager being hot, and Toro hitting his fourth homer in four games (two with the Astros, two with the Mariners). Toro being good and shoring up the second base spot would be a great fix for the team’s chemistry woes at the moment. Him eventually taking over the starting third base job in 2022 and beyond would make this Graveman trade one of the all-time greats. So, you know, maybe stop pissing all over yourselves to dump on it.

Today’s an off-day before tomorrow’s trade deadline, so I expect to see lots of moves happening soon. Some of the rumors are CRAZY, so it’ll be really interesting to see how far Mariners management goes in trying to Win Now.

The Mariners Made A Couple Of Unpopular Trades

Yesterday was pretty enjoyable, at least through the early afternoon. We were all firmly in the afterglow of Monday night’s thrilling comeback victory over the Astros (which I’ll write about tomorrow, when I get to the series recap). That all shifted ON A DIME the moment the Mariners made their first deal of the day.

Where was I when I heard about Kendall Graveman being traded? I was in my bedroom, listening to a podcast from 710 ESPN where the radio hosts did an interview with Scott Servais. I wanted to lap up every last drop of the previous night’s win. As soon as it was over, I looked at my phone and noticed the “Breaking News” alert at the top of the screen.

I saw something to the effect of “Graveman Traded To The Astros” and my mind was on fire. So many conflicting thoughts!

  • Wait, our closer?
  • Wait … to a divisional rival?
  • Wait, doesn’t this fill the Astros’ most glaring hole?
  • Who did we get?
  • The Astros have a pretty deep roster and farm system, I bet it was somebody really good!
  • I mean, after all, you don’t trade to a team in your own division unless they’re willing to pay a king’s ransom, right?
  • Oh shit, it’s going to suck when we have to try to hit off of this guy now.

I ran to the office, opened my laptop, and continued scrolling through Twitter until I got all the details.

Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero to the Astros for Abraham Toro and Joe Smith.

Okaaaaaaay. Who dey?

Abraham Toro is an infielder (primarily third base, but can also play second) who is 24 years old and under organizational control through the 2025 season. All right! Not bad! Except, he’s played in parts of three seasons now and his career slash line is: .196/.278/.364. Yikes. So, he hits poorly, AND he doesn’t really have much power to speak of. And even his minor league numbers aren’t super eye-popping. He was originally drafted in the fifth round in 2016, so it’s not like he has this amazing pedigree.

But, I’ll say this: scouts seem to really believe that he’s due to break out anytime now. That’s encouraging. On top of which, he has homered in three straight games now (including Monday night against the Mariners, and last night against the Astros). I know that’s not a lot, but Mariners fans – and the players on that active roster – really needed to see him do something as a pinch hitter last night, considering the mood on the team.

If you haven’t read the Seattle Times article in the immediate aftermath of the trade yesterday, do yourself a favor and check it out. Odds are you’ve seen the quotes elsewhere, but the players – anonymously, of course – really let the organization have it, including Jerry Dipoto specifically. They DO NOT LIKE that guy! I mean, obviously, this is a continuation of the Kevin Mather nonsense from earlier this year, but now it’s all out in the open and actively harped upon: the Seattle Mariners – from the perspective of not just the fans, but the players too – do not care about winning ballgames at the Major League level.

I guess I had no idea how much the players liked Kendall Graveman! The amount of tears the article talks about is astonishing to me. I mean, I always liked the guy. He’s gutty and tough – playing through his degenerative neck issue, that has taken his ability to be a starter from him – and oh by the way, he’s also really fucking good! 0.82 ERA, 10 saves, 4-0 record across 30 games; he was far and away the best reliever in this bullpen that’s one of the best in all of baseball. That’s saying something!

But, also, he’s only signed through the end of this season. He’s on a cheap contract now, but with the way he’s been dominating, he’s going to be commanding a salary ten times that amount next year and beyond (getting it, almost certainly, from a team other than the Mariners). And, we absolutely cannot forget the fact that he has that injury issue, and could go down at any time. This is, 100%, the peak of Kendall Graveman’s value, and the Mariners would’ve been insane to NOT trade him.

However, yesterday afternoon was also 100% the peak of Worst Timing Ever when it comes to dealing Graveman, as again, we were all living in the afterglow of the previous night’s dramatic come-from-behind 11-8 victory, where Graveman came in for the 8th inning and shut the Astros down, to give the Mariners offense an opportunity to hit the go-ahead Grand Slam. He was instrumental in that victory, as he’s been in just about every game he’s appeared in this year. And, apparently he was also one of the most respected and beloved leaders on that team.

In a vacuum, taking out all of the emotions, it’s not a bad deal for the Mariners. We traded Graveman, again, at the apex of his value. We also were able to unload Rafael Montero, who’s a guy we’d just Designated For Assignment. In return, we get a relatively highly-touted Major League-level prospect (in other words, not a guy we have to wait on to develop in the minors), who we control through 2025 … and sure, we take on a veteran reliever in Joe Smith who’s been struggling this season with a bloated 7.48 ERA (but has otherwise been rock solid throughout his 15-year career). Joe Smith and Rafael Montero are essentially the same – two proven guys who need a change of scenery – which makes this a Graveman for Toro swap.

To get a guy of Toro’s potential, and not have to give up ANY prospects whatsoever? I’d do that in a heartbeat every time!

Now, obviously, the downside is specifically 2021-related. As I mentioned, the Astros are a great team with one major flaw: their bullpen. Kendall Graveman immediately slots into the back-end of their bullpen, shoring that up in a big way in the short term. With their offense and starting pitching, it shouldn’t be difficult to get the lead in most games. If they can hold that lead to the 7th or 8th inning, with Graveman in the mix, they should have no problem whatsoever holding onto those victories. A guy like Graveman, on a team that good, is worth his weight in gold. If I’m the A’s or the rest of the American League, I’m super-pissed at the Mariners right now, because we just handed the Astros a FastPass to the ALCS.

And, considering everyone on the Mariners believed this team had the potential to overcome the deficit and at least earn a Wild Card spot, you can see why helping one of your most direct rivals in this way is a slap to the face. We were already playing with one hand tied behind our backs when it comes to how many games behind we are, and the overall deficit in talent (necessitating additions, not subtractions), now we’re that armless and legless knight in that Monty Python movie, trying to fend off our opponents with no limbs and a plucky attitude.

The other deal of the day was a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Tyler Anderson. In return, the Mariners dealt two minor leaguers I’ve never heard of and don’t feel compelled to mention here (okay, you got me, they are Carter Bins – a catcher – and Joaquin Tejada – a pitcher). These appear to be low-level prospects (outside of our organizational Top 20, maybe even outside of our Top 30) who are more or less just lottery picks for the Pirates.

Tyler Anderson, meanwhile, is somewhat interesting. He’s a starter, so that’s good. He’s a lefty, which seems like overkill a little bit (with Kikuchi, Gonzales, and eventually Sheffield). He doesn’t throw particularly hard, his stuff isn’t amazing, his numbers aren’t spectacular. But, he’s an innings eater who shouldn’t embarrass himself as a member of this rotation. Indeed, if he pitches to his potential, he’ll probably be in our top three starters the rest of the way. He’s also only costing us the pro rated portion of $2.5 million. The downside is, of course, the fact that he’s only signed through this season, making him the dictionary definition of a deadline rental. But, we’ll get a good look at him and see if he’s someone who might be worth re-signing after this season. I can’t imagine he’d be super expensive even if he puts up good numbers here; Tyler Anderson is who he is: a competent back-end of the rotation starter.

Jerry Dipoto had a lot to say after the first deal of the day. He acknowledged that the Graveman trade doesn’t look great by itself, but he seemed to promise that more moves were coming. The trade deadline is July 30th at 1pm (for some reason, GMs can’t make deals on a Saturday? What is this, Shomer Fucking Shabbos?), so I still expect more deals to be made between now and then.

They better be made, because if this is it, it’s a pretty pisspoor way for the organization to say it believes in this 2021 squad. Kyle Seager said it best the other day; I’m paraphrasing here, but at some point it has to be about winning now, it can’t always be about future contention.