The Mariners Swept The Diamondbacks, Part I

I’m really setting myself up for disaster with this title.

Friday’s 6-5 victory was even wackier than the usual wackiness we’re confronted with on a near-daily basis with the Mariners. Tyler Anderson was absolutely DOMINATING through six innings, giving up just the one run and keeping his pitch count crazy-low. It wouldn’t have been outside the realm of possibility to see him get the CG, or at least get through eight innings unscathed.

But, that seventh came around and the train jumped the tracks, killing a town full of people and one medium-sized orphanage. He got zero outs, ultimately giving up two runs in the process, and the M’s required two relievers to get out of the inning with a tie ballgame. Just like that, a 5-1 lead was wiped out. The offense THOUGHT they’d done enough, with a Tom Murphy RBI walk in the first, and 2-run homers by Haniger and Kelenic in the fifth and sixth, respectively.

Thankfully, Steckenrider and Sheffield (reliever extraordinaire!) were the tourniquet that got us to extra innings. From there, a Kelenic single gave the Mariners an unearned run advantage, while Yohan Ramirez worked a clean bottom of the tenth to get his second save of the season.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know a lick about what happened Saturday; all I remember is I had terrible sleep, with this recurring nightmare that the Huskies somehow lost to Montana at football less than a year after losing to them at basketball (but I know that can’t be true). It appears that Marco Gonzales had a get-me-over five innings, giving up five runs on 8 hits (including 2 homers) and 1 walk, while striking out 2. He only ended up with the win because the Mariners managed five runs of their own through four innings, before Seager hit his second 3-run home run of the game in the top of the sixth. The 8-5 victory was cemented then and there, with both bullpens doing excellent work the rest of the way.

Other than Seager’s 2 for 5 day with 6 RBI, J.P. Crawford went 4 for 5 with 2 runs and a 2-RBI single. Toro and Marmolejos both had multi-hit games, and Haniger, France, Kelenic, and Torrens all chipped in with one hit apiece. Diego Castillo returned from the IL to get the save in this one.

The sweep didn’t come easy, even though the Mariners won Sunday’s game 10-4. Would it shock you to know that game went into the 11th inning? It shocked me, and I watched the whole thing!

The M’s manufactured a couple runs in the fourth to take a 2-0 lead, while Chris Flexen was predictably rolling. He finally stumbled in the sixth, though, ultimately giving up three runs before his day was done. Thankfully, the Mariners got right back on the horse in the top of the seventh, where a Kelenic double play still managed to score the tying run.

That was it for a while. Swanson, Sewald, and Steckenrider got the game to extras. The M’s failed to score their ghost runner (or ANY runner, really) in the top of the 10th, but thankfully Yohan Ramirez has morphed into a reliable back-of-the-bullpen arm we can trust. He got through the bottom half unscathed, which allowed the Mariners to score 7 runs in the top of the 11th.

This is a fun one to re-live, because batting around for this team is so rare. Haniger and France walked to get things started. Then, Kyle Seager – as fire-hot as I’ve ever seen him – hit a 2-run double to make it 5-3. The Diamondbacks went to their second reliever of the inning, who gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Toro and Murphy to make it 7-3. He struck out Kelenic and got Moore to pop up before Jake Bauers pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot, who mashed a double to right to score two more, making it 9-3. That led to the Diamondbacks going with their third reliever of the inning, who gave up an infield chopper to Crawford, and a Haniger RBI single to make it 10-3. He would go on to hit France in the arm guard before getting Seager to finally ground out to end the inning.

I got my first look at Matt Andriese in the bottom of the 11th, who got as soft of a landing as you’ll ever see in an extra innings/game-ending situation. I didn’t LOVE what I saw, he appeared to struggle early – almost walking a guy before giving up an RBI single to Ketel Marte – but he settled down and didn’t require us to use a reliever we might desperately need in this Astros series coming up, so I was happy.

The Mariners are 75-62 after that sweep, and would you LOOK at THAT! We’re officially one game AHEAD of the Oakland Athletics! Huh?! That’s not supposed to happen!

We’re officially 4.5 games behind the Astros – playing our final three regular season games against them starting today – but what’s more important is we’re only 3 games behind the Red Sox for the second wild card spot. This is usually where the Mariners start to falter again – so we’re going to Houston right on cue – but it’s still amazing that it’s Labor Day and we’re RIGHT THERE in the thick of it!

Talk to me again in three days and we’ll see where I’m at. But, what a wild ride, huh?

Seattle Mariners – Situation Normal: All Fucked Up

Yovani Gallardo returned to the rotation yesterday, giving up 3 solo homers across 5 innings.  Yet, in spite of his very Gallardo-like start, he left the game with a 4-3 lead, thanks to the Mariners finally doing some damage against a Yankees starter.  That lead wouldn’t last much longer, as the bullpen – led by falling star James Pazos – gave up 3 runs in the sixth inning.

James Pazos has been quietly wretched for the last month.  Over his last 9 appearances, he’s given up 13 runs (10 earned) in 6.0 innings.  Obviously, the defense let him down in a couple of those games, but for the most part he’s been terrible, getting knocked around the park.  I haven’t been watching him that closely, so I don’t know if he’s falling into hitter’s counts, or if they’re just jumping on him early, but either way I think it’s time that he starts to work through some of this in Tacoma, because he’s not doing us any favors up in Seattle right now.

One bright spot was another 3 shutout innings from Emilio Pagan to spare the rest of the bullpen.  He has been absolutely fantastic since his atrocious first two appearances back in early May and it looks like he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

The big hullabaloo out of this game happened in the ninth inning, against closer Aroldis Chapman.  Nelson Cruz smashed an infield single off the pitcher to lead off the inning, and was replaced by pinch runner Taylor Motter.  Motter proceeded to immediately get picked off in just the worst, most lackadaisical way possible.  Considering he’s been pretty awful since the league stopped feeding him fastballs on the inner half of the plate (and he’s never been able to adjust accordingly), during the game the Mariners signed utility infielder Danny Espinosa, which means Motter will be Tacoma-bound.  As such, his getting picked off wasn’t necessarily the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it was a pretty inauspicious way to close out his tenure with the Big League club (at least, for the time being).

On top of that, with the way things shook out in the ninth, he cost us at least 1 run, and really changed the complexion of the inning.  At worst, with Seager’s double, we would’ve had runners on 2nd & 3rd with no outs, which would’ve preceeded a run-scoring wild pitch.  Of course, as it stands, we still had a runner on third with one out and couldn’t get him home, so maybe it wouldn’t have mattered at all.  The point is, you want to see how guys react when confronted with such adversity, and Motter really let him off the hook.

Par for the course, though, if you’ve been following these Mariners.  Their baserunning blunders are commonplace at this point; they did not leave with the trading away of Ketel Marte.  Considering how veteran this team is, it’s VERY discouraging to see them make so many unforced errors, but what can you do?

That makes 3 of 4 lost to the Yankees, with the Red Sox coming to town for three games.  And, don’t look now, but that’s Chris Sale going against Andrew Moore on Wednesday, meaning these first two games are practically Must Wins.  Great.

The Official 2017 Seattle Mariners Preview, Part I: The Hitters

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been doing these season preview posts, and I’ve been splitting them up between hitters and pitchers.  So, you know, why mess with what’s so obviously working?

Last year, the Mariners were third in runs scored in the American League.  They were fourth in hits, fifth in OBP, slugging, and OPS, and seventh in batting average.  They were remarkably low in doubles and triples, but were second in the league in homers.  All in all, they were clearly in the upper third in most batting categories, which makes them the best hitting Mariners team we’ve seen in quite some time.  So, you can see some of the moves already starting to work.  Cano had a bounce-back year, Cruz kept on chugging along, and Seager had his best season to date.  But, the fill-in pieces, guys like Martin, Smith, Aoki, Marte, and Lee all had nice years too.  It was really a pleasant surprise and one of the main reasons why the 2016 Mariners were so much fun to watch.

Now, the pitching was another story, and the ultimate reason why we failed yet again to make the playoffs, but that’s a story for tomorrow.

This year, the Mariners are poised to be even BETTER on offense.  Last year, the Mariners were a good 110 runs behind Boston for first; this year, the M’s might be able to bridge that gap!  It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see this Mariners team lead the league in runs scored, barring injury of course.  The moves they’ve made to bolster this offense has been nothing short of outstanding:

  • Traded Vidal Nuno for backup catcher Carlos Ruiz (opting to let Chris Iannetta walk)
  • Traded a minor league pitcher for Danny Valencia (opting to let Lind & Lee walk)
  • Traded Taijuan Walker & Ketel Marte for Jean Segura & Mitch Haniger (and a minor league reliever)
  • Traded Nate Karns for Jarrod Dyson (opting to trade Seth Smith for a starting pitcher)

Let’s break this down.  Starting at the top, we’re going into 2017 with a combo of Zunino and Ruiz at catcher, as opposed to Iannetta and Clevenger.  Iannetta, as you may recall, had a pretty good start to the season, but quickly settled into everyday mediocrity.  Clevenger was just plain underutilized before he got injured and was lost for the season.  By the time Zunino got his call-up, he was a man possessed, but eventually settled into some bad habits.  His batting average plummeted, though his on-base percentage was a breath of fresh air.  The hope is, his good habits start to outweigh his bad ones, and he’s able to eventually hit for something resembling a respectable average (to go along with all of his natural power, his natural ability to draw HBPs, and his newfound skill for drawing walks).  And, if he doesn’t, Carlos Ruiz is there to pick up some of the slack.  He figures to be an immediate upgrade over Iannetta, with the option to take over full time if needed.  This is a win all the way around, particularly considering we didn’t give up much to get him.

Next, we’ve got Danny Valencia, who for now will be taking over for the combo of Adam Lind and Dae-ho Lee.  Lind was a disappointment for the entirety of 2016, aside from a few clutch late-game heroics.  Lee started off the season as the best story of the year, but as he got more playing time and opposing pitchers got more of a book on him, his numbers declined in the second half, to the point where he had to face a stint in Tacoma to get his swing under control.  Valencia is in no way a perfect, polished player, but he’s been fantastic the last two seasons, particularly against lefties, but improving against righties.  Even if he regresses while starting every day, he should still be a big improvement over Lind and what Lee became in the second half last year.  If Valencia can just hold it together until Vogelbach works on his game in Tacoma and gets called back up, we should be in good shape at first base for the first time in forever.

The deal that everyone’s hoping puts the Mariners over the top is the one that brought in Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger for Walker and Marte.  Marte has already been demoted to Triple-A, meanwhile Segura looks FANTASTIC so far this spring.  He hits for average, he’s got some pop in his bat, he can steal bases; the Mariners might have the biggest upgrade at any position in the entire American League from 2016 to 2017 in their switch from Marte to Segura.  I can’t WAIT for the season to start and I get to watch this guy every day.  Meanwhile, Haniger hasn’t slowed down one iota this spring, as you could make the argument he’s been the best player on the team in the month of March.  I know that means nothing, and I depressingly await his reverting to a pumpkin once the calendar flips to April.  But, if by the grace of all that is holy he manages to be the “surprise” player all the coaches believe he’ll be, we could be talking about this Taijuan Walker trade as highway robbery in favor of the Mariners.  So, you know, remember I said that when both of the Mariners’ guys flop out while Walker wins his second Cy Young Award in a few years.

Rounding out the outfield, we’ve got Jarrod Dyson, who figures to get plenty of playing time in left field.  Between Dyson and Haniger – replacing the likes of Seth Smith and Aoki/Guti – we’re talking about a MASSIVE improvement in our outfield defense.  This is no small thing, particularly when you consider our pitching staff and all the flyballs they tend to give up.  Dyson also figures to be a top-of-the-lineup hitter when he’s in there, who can steal a billion bases for you, so all around speed is the name of the game.  Dyson and Segura will be the primary base-stealers for you, but then there’s Martin (who had 24 last year) as well as Haniger, Heredia, and whoever ends up being our utility infielder.  When you think about late game heroics, I think you’re going to find we’ll be less reliant on the 10th inning home run, and more reliant on pinch runners stealing second and scoring on a single.  This could be HUGE for our record in 1-run games, which tends to be average-to-awful.

So, yeah, the hitting looks good!  As long as the Big Three don’t take significant steps back, or miss significant time with injuries, we should be right around the top of the American League in most important batting categories.  Leaving us with the ultimate question:  will we have enough pitching to win enough ballgames to get a spot in the post-season?

I’ll look into that tomorrow, as well as give you my official predictions on the season.

Very Important Mariners Of 2017: Jean Segura

Click HERE for the list of other Very Important Mariners Of 2017.

On first glance, it feels like this name should be higher on the list, but when you consider he’s the first position player after the Big Three, it feels a little more appropriate.

For what it’s worth, I feel like we’re in good hands with Cano, Cruz, and Seager.  It would be pretty crippling if one or more of those guys got significantly injured or otherwise underperformed in 2017, but if I had to put money on it, I’d say we’ll be okay with those guys.  It’s with Segura – and some of our other new guys brought in to bring even more stability to this offense – that I start to really worry.

Last year, I’d say the Mariners’ offense was slightly above average.  It was good enough to get the job done, had the pitching also been up to the task.  With great pitching, last year’s team could have been a World Series contender, but that’s neither here nor there.  This year’s offense I’m projecting to be even better!  We just need the pitching to not fall apart and we should remain in contention for the full season; halfway decent pitching should be enough to get us over the hump.

I feel that way because with the addition of Segura – who we received in trade for Taijuan Walker – it looks like our Big Three has morphed into a Big Four.  Obviously, there are other additions to this team that I’m factoring into my overall opinion, but Segura is the biggest piece; hence why I’m so worried.

Segura has had four full seasons in the Major Leagues, but he only has the one great one.  Granted, for a change, his great season was last year – which makes him one of the few incoming players we’re NOT trying to bank on a bounceback performance – but still, the fact that we traded one of our biggest assets to get him is a real gamble on our part!

He hit 20 homers last year; his previous high was 12 (he also had seasons with 5 and 6 homers).  He hit 41 doubles last year; his previous high was 20 (with seasons of 14 and 16).  His slash line last year was .319/.368/.499/.867; his previous best season was in 2013 when he slashed .294/.329/.423/.752 (with his 2014 and 2015 seasons being pretty unremarkable in this department as well).  Now, if you sat me down and GUARANTEED me we’d get his exact 2013 production (with the aforementioned 20 doubles and 12 homers), or we could roll the dice to see if he could replicate his breakout season of 2016 (or, God forbid, actually improve upon it), I think I would shake your hand and take those 2013 numbers all day every day.  Because those numbers are LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than what we got out of Ketel Marte (who also went over to Arizona in this trade), and most other short stops we’ve had around here, since the A-Rod days.  However, my concern is – due to the perceived Seattle Mariners curse – he reverts even further and gives us those crappy numbers from 2014 or 2015.  It would be just so Mariners to give up two young, cheap, cost-controlled potential superstars for a guy who had one great season and then went right back to being a pumpkin.

I know they’re different circumstances, and different players, but I’m catching a big Adrian Beltre vibe off of this move.  Recall Beltre had the best season of his career the year before the Mariners signed him to a huge deal; then he reverted right back to his old numbers or worse.  Sure, his Hall of Fame defense made up for a lot of that – and if Segura gives us that type of defense (which, signs point to Probably Not), then fine – but it was still a case of a team paying for recent past performance and getting bit in the ass.

All that having been said, there are some encouraging parts to this thing.  Like I got into a little bit above, I think regardless of what we get, it’s a step up from Ketel Marte.  Marte is a fringe guy right now and might never develop into anything.  If he does, he’s probably a couple-two-three years away from being a bona fide regular MLB player.  For a team like the 2017 Mariners, in obvious Win-Now Mode, you can’t waste your time spinning your wheels trying to develop someone like Marte, who – for all the good he has in him – makes too many mental and physical mistakes to be a net positive.  With Segura, you’ve got a productive, veteran guy you can slot somewhere in the top of your order.  He’s also a guy I’m pretty confident can get on base at a good clip, which slides right into my next plus:  he’s speedy.  122 stolen bases the last four years.  With some of the speedy outfield guys we’ve got that can slot next to him in the lineup, it’s pretty alluring with the likes of Cano, Cruz, and Seager lined up behind them.  Segura, if nothing else, should score around or over 100 runs if nothing else, so long as he stays healthy.

And, hey, not to dump on Marte too much, but Segura’s defense should be good enough that he doesn’t give you a lot of the boneheaded throws and whatnot.

I’m not sold on Segura until I see him in some regular season action, but I’m better-than-50% confident he’ll be a quality player for this team, and I think that really bodes well for the offense and this team’s overall chances.

Mariners Traded Walker & Marte For Segura, Haniger, & Curtis

In a Thanksgiving Eve shocker, the Mariners and Diamondbacks made a 5-player deal.  The Mariners essentially gave up on Taijuan Walker ever being an ace starting pitcher because they felt they couldn’t wait for Ketel Marte to finally develop into an everyday, starting short stop.

Walker was drafted in 2010, had a couple cups of coffee with the Mariners in 2013 & 2014, then got a rotation job in 2015.  For the last two seasons, he’s flashed brilliance, but more than anything has wallowed in inconsistency.  There’d be games where he’d overwhelm the opponent, followed by games where he struggled to get to three innings.  When he was coming up through the organization, in large part he was overshadowed by other starting prospects like Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, but Walker always had the highest ceiling.  With his make-up, his fastball, and his devastating change up, many had him pegged to be the heir apparent to Felix Hernandez.  In many people’s eyes, he was as untouchable as Felix Hernandez himself, which is why this trade was difficult for a lot of people to stomach.

You can’t help but remember the prospect, and how highly he was rated within this organization and among the best in all of Major League Baseball.  Walker was always talked about in terms of the king’s ransom he could get for us, but we always opted to keep him because he was more valuable than anything we could get back for him.

Well, here he is, 26 years old (he’ll be 27 next August), after two years in the Majors, and it turns out he’s worth … this.

Part of me thinks we’re giving up too early on the kid, but at some point you have to ask:  how long should we wait for him to make the jump?  The main problem with this team the last couple years, as we brought in Cano and Cruz, and as Seager proved himself to be one of the best third basemen in all of baseball, is that for a team THIS CLOSE to reaching the playoffs, we were trying to have it both ways.  We were a veteran team, but we were also trying to break in a bunch of young players.  We over-spent on some veterans, and so we were trying to cut corners at some pretty high-profile positions to get by.  When you’ve got so much of a core that’s ready and capable of making a deep playoff run, you can’t be waiting around for all these young guys to take it to the next level.

Taijuan Walker might very well develop into an Ace of sorts.  It’s been alluded to that a lot of his issues are related to maturity and/or confidence and/or work ethic.  That’s aside from the obvious issues with his mechanics breaking down, and his frequent injuries (that probably helped in throwing off his mechanics in the first place).  I mean, you don’t just send down your third or fourth best starting pitcher to Tacoma – in the middle of a Wild Card chase – unless the kid has some real issues to work out.  If it is by and large related to maturity, then obviously in a few years he should be ready to truly break out.  Or, maybe it’s this trade to Arizona – with his first ballclub essentially giving up on him – that’s the wake-up call for him to finally bloom.  Maybe, if we’d kept him forever, he’d never take stock of his career and make the changes necessary to be great.  We’ll never know.

It’s also highly likely that he’s already reached his ceiling, and 2015/2016 is as good as it gets for him.  That he’ll be some variation of what he’s been for the next 5-10 years and then call it a career.  I tend to believe, with the switch to the National League, that should be good for a moderate boost to his numbers.  They have the fucking pitchers batting and everything; that’s a free out 9 times out of 10.  But, I’m more inclined to believe that Walker might top out as a #3 type pitcher, but not really a dominant Cy Young contender.

In which case, I think we’re selling on him about as high as we could’ve hoped.  If you’re like me, and you don’t believe he was primed for a huge improvement in 2017 – if you think he pretty much would be this up-and-down guy we’ve seen the last two years – then the longer we would’ve kept him, the lower his value would’ve gotten.

Quite frankly, getting a starting short stop, who’s a whiz with the bat at the top of our lineup, for even an improved version of Taijuan Walker, is well worth the swap.

That’s because there was no way in hell Ketel Marte was ever going to make the leap, ESPECIALLY not in 2017.  Let’s face it, the Mariners are in Win-Now mode.  Cano is still great, but he’s getting up there.  Cruz has probably peaked, so the question now his how fast will his decline torpedo his career?  King Felix was decidedly off his game in 2016, so who knows that that means going forward?  The Mariners might just have this one shot in 2017 to get to the playoffs and see what happens.  Come 2018, everything might fall apart.

So, enter Jean Segura.  He was one of the best players in all of baseball last year, and we get him for a couple of prospects.  Even if he doesn’t quite reach his lofty peak of 2016 – which, not for nothing, I wouldn’t expect him to – he’s still bound to be better and more consistent than Ketel Marte.  He hits well, gets on base, steals bases, and has some pop in his bat.  And, you gotta figure he won’t be so prone to the bone-headed fielding mistakes, which gives me peace of mind already!

If Walker and Segura are the main components of this deal, Marte and Mitch Haniger pose as the high-level prospects of the deal.  Marte definitely has all the tools, but like Walker, I think he needs a few more years’ worth of maturity to take his game to the next level.  One would hope Haniger doesn’t have that problem, but he’s also not necessarily someone we’re counting on.  I’m told he’s a good defensive outfielder, who gives us depth in case Leonys Martin gets injured.  He’ll be thrown onto the pile with Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia and Shawn O’Malley and whoever else in this team’s outfield battle.

Speaking of, you figure Martin is a lock for center, so that’s nice to not have to worry about.  Seth Smith is locked into at least a platoon job in one of the corner outfield spots (likely left field); Danny Valencia has experience playing outfield and should find himself there when he’s not covering first base.  I still sort of expect Guti to come back and maybe take over the other half of the Seth Smith platoon, as well as probably another cheap veteran signing to compete for a spot.  Otherwise, in effect, we traded one inexperienced spot (short stop) for another (right field).

But, at the very least, we’ll be athletic.  With all the studs in our infield, we can really maximize our defense in the outfield.  I just hope that one or two of these younger outfielders can show SOMETHING in Spring Training.

The final piece of the deal is lefty reliever Zac Curtis.  It’s pretty blatant how hard the Mariners have gone after trying to bolster their bullpen from the left side.  Consider Curtis another arm on the pile.  He’ll get a shot in Spring Training, but in all likelihood he’ll need to go to Tacoma to start out.  It’s depth, which is nice, but he’s really just a throw-in guy.  The Mariners gave up a lot of potential upside in this deal, so you figure getting one bona fide regular, one upside guy back in Haniger, plus a reliever, is a pretty good return value.

This sets us up for a nice little lineup, that could look something like this:

  1. Jean Segura – SS
  2. Seth Smith – LF
  3. Robinson Cano – 2B
  4. Nelson Cruz – DH
  5. Kyle Seager – 3B
  6. Danny Valencia – 1B
  7. Zunino/Ruiz – C
  8. Leonys Martin – CF
  9. Right Fielder

From top to bottom, that’s not bad.  The first six guys in the lineup are proven veterans; the catcher position is both veteran with some pop; Leonys Martin had a great first year for the Mariners and if he continues to give us that, we’d all be ecstatic; and you figure the right fielder will at least have some speed and some on-base ability, so if nothing else he’ll help give the top of our order someone to hit in on occasion.

Of course, on the flipside, the pitching staff is very much in flux.  I won’t try to cobble together a predicted bullpen – as everything is still WAY too fluid right now – but you figure Edwin Diaz and most likely Steve Cishek will feature pretty prominently.  It’s the rotation that’s currently the cause of most concern though.

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma
  3. James Paxton
  4. Ariel Miranda

That 4-hole was vacated by Walker in this deal, so who fills it?  For what it’s worth, I think this bolsters Miranda’s chances of making the Opening Day roster, so long as he doesn’t completely fall apart in Spring Training.  Even so, he’s no more than a 5th starter right now, and we’ll likely be looking for a right hander to fill that gap between Paxton and Miranda.

There’s obviously Nathan Karns, but he ended the 2016 season in a bad way with injuries, and I still have yet to hear about whether he’s recovering and whether he’ll be ready for Spring Training or not.  Beyond that, the cupboard would appear pretty bare.  Dipoto is already on record as stating that starting pitching is his next target, likely via free agency to start.  But, I wouldn’t expect a huge splash in this arena.  Figure some sort of mid-range deal, maybe for a guy looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued or just plain down 2016 season.  And, you figure, a few smaller deals to bolster our starting pitching in Tacoma, as I don’t feel like there’s too much coming up through the system at the moment.

Considering you figure the hitting is going to be improved in 2017, barring injuries, and it was already pretty good (at least, good enough to keep us in contention) in 2016, the 2017 Mariners will only go as far as its pitching can take it.  This was also true in 2016, so what I’ve said to you just now isn’t anything you didn’t already know.  But, you have to think that we’re coming from a stronger starting point than we were last year.

Last year, we weren’t sure Iwakuma could stay healthy for a full season; now we know he can (whether that just means he’s more likely to get injured in year 2 remains to be seen, but that’s neither here nor there).  Last year, Paxton started out the year in Tacoma; this year, you figure he’ll be ready from the jump to build upon an exciting breakout season.  And Miranda showed a lot in a lot of high-pressure situations, while still being coddled a little bit in his innings counts; it’ll be interesting to see how he fares when the reigns are loosened a bit.

Regardless, the Mariners were always going to go out and get a veteran starter to compete in Spring Training (or, at least, force some competition at the bottom of the rotation among Walker, Paxton, and Miranda).  With Walker now gone, this changes nothing.  The Mariners could very well go out and sign TWO guys, leaving them with the option to start Miranda in Tacoma until he’s needed, because as I always like to remind everyone, it’s damn near impossible for the same five guys to make ALL the starts in a single Major League Baseball season.

As always, it’s best to look at all the moves as a collective, when we get to Spring Training.  On its surface, I like the Walker deal mostly because I have my doubts about the pieces we gave away, and I also like shoring up a prime spot like short stop.  But, if this means we’re only able to bring scrubs into our starting rotation, then obviously you have to look at the Walker trade in a different light.

And, like I always say, I don’t want no scrubs!

In Conclusion: My Final Thoughts On The 2016 Seattle Mariners

I’m finding it harder and harder to get angry over the end result of yet another season without the playoffs.  But, let’s just let that sink in for a while and see if the rage comes back.

With every regime change, it feels like you start your fandom all over again.  True, the Seattle Mariners have gone 15 consecutive seasons without reaching the playoffs, but Jerry Dipoto’s Seattle Mariners are only on an 0 for 1 streak!  He improved over the 2015 Mariners, and had us contending for that second wild card spot up to the very end of the season.  Had a couple things gone differently, maybe we’re in there against either Baltimore or Toronto, fighting for an opportunity to get into the ALDS.

This year was especially different, because it not only saw the Mariners bring in a new GM, but also a change in ownership.  No more Howard Lincoln to kick around!  Whether it had any bearing on the 2016 season, or the direction of this franchise going forward, it feels – as a fan – like a clean slate.  That dark cloud of incompetence has lifted with the infusion of fresh blood.  This isn’t the team with the longest playoff drought in the entirety of the Major Leagues; for all intents and purposes, we’re looking at an expansion team, and a stacked one at that.

Were the 2016 season Year 8 of the Jack Zduriencik regime, I think I’d feel a lot differently than I do.  A new regime brings with it new hope.  A winning season falling just short of the playoffs – knowing you’re THIS CLOSE to being relevant – means that we’re just a couple pieces here and there from taking the next step NEXT year.

But, just because there are new people in place at the top, doesn’t mean we forget what’s come before this.  These still are the Seattle Mariners!  An inept franchise for the bulk of its existence, with a brief window of competence from 1995 to 2001.  I’m into my third decade of rooting on this team, and it’s been a non-stop parade of misery from the start.

I really wanted 2016 to be the year to break the string.  Our stars aren’t getting any younger, for one, and it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll have many stars coming up through the pipeline in the next few seasons.  I REALLY wanted to see Felix get a taste of post-season life, because he deserves it more than anyone.  And, quite frankly, I’ve seen this group of guys go on a hot streak.  If we could’ve maintained our high level of performance from our pitching staff, the sky was the limit for this team.  With Paxton on the hill, I like our chances in a 1-game playoff.  From there, let the chips fall where they may and see what happens.

As it stands, the lasting image I have for this team – the image I can’t get out of my head – is Felix in the dugout, with his head against the railing after the Mariners lost to the A’s on October 1st to officially eliminate us from the playoffs.  That’s 12 years of frustration and anguish, personified.  One more year on the outside looking in.  One more year of utter failure.

I feel you ...

I feel you …

In spite of what I’ve written before (which you really should read, if you want more vitriol in your season-ending Mariners wrap-up post), there’s a lot to like about our chances in 2017.  We’ve still got our core guys locked in place – Felix, Cano, Cruz, Seager, Kuma – and a bunch of other guys who helped us go pretty far this year – Smith, Diaz, Cishek, Paxton, Walker, Miranda, Martin, Zunino, Iannetta, Marte.  While you’re right to be concerned about Dipoto’s trades thus far in his Mariners career, you have to admit he was able to find some diamonds in the rough in his free agent signings.  If Dan Vogelbach can stick – and truth be told, he’s been able to hit well at every level so far in his young career – we could be poised to make a big jump next year.

But, I’ve got a whole offseason to talk about that.  For now, you know what?  I’m going to feel okay about the 2016 Mariners.  This was a fun team to root for, that gave us a lot of wonderful memories.  Huge walk-off hits from Lind, Martin, Cano, and Dae-ho Lee, among others; the epic Ken Griffey Jr. Weekend in early August to kickstart our comeback drive to contention; and a wild September run that saw us fall JUST short.  Feel however you want to feel, but any season that allows me to check the standings on a daily basis down the stretch to try to figure out our path to the post-season is ultimately an entertaining one, if nothing else.

Maybe don’t go overboard.  Failing to make the playoffs isn’t something to be proud of.  I’m not going to say “Good Job,” or “You Did Your Best,” or any of those other pithy platitudes.  We’ve been down this road before.  We’ve been close to the playoffs as recently as 2014; we’ve had winning seasons in 2009 & 2007.  Each of those years have seen bountiful hope and optimism heading into subsequent seasons.  In 2015, the Mariners won 11 fewer games than the previous year, ending up 76-86; in 2010, the Mariners won 24 fewer games than the previous year, ending up 61-101; in 2008, the Mariners won 27 fewer games than the previous year, ending up 61-101 again.  In this run of futility that started with the Bill Bavasi regime, winning seasons haven’t been building blocks so much as edges of cliffs for the franchise to fall from.  There are plenty of reasons to think 2017 will be different, but that’s what we said after 2007, 2009, and 2014 as well.

Be careful out there, is what I’m getting at.  Don’t set yourself up for a big fall by setting expectations too high.  I’m mostly saying this to myself, because every year I get suckered in, and every year I’m left drained.  Let’s take the Wait & See approach and hopefully the Mariners will prove they’ve broken the curse.

I don’t know what Seattle did to deserve the Mariners, but at some point we have to be rewarded for sticking by this team all these years, right?  I mean, Cleveland can’t have ALL the sports glory, can it?

The 2016 Mariners Had A Legit Hitting Lineup

In 2010, as difficult as it seemed at the time, I knew this day would eventually arrive.  The Mariners had been a great hitting team Back In The Day, in the glory years of the early 2000’s.  And, with steroids largely policed out of the game, we couldn’t reasonably expect a return to those types of insane power numbers.  Nevertheless, whatever “Good” means in this brave new world of lower power numbers and better overall pitching, whatever the new normal would end up being, ONE DAY, the Mariners would once again have a good lineup.

And, it appears, that time has come.

This is going to be very rudimentary, so I wouldn’t come here expecting a vast expanse on sabermetrics.  My little pea brain has a general fixation on what good hitting should be, and that number is .250.  If you’re hitting .250 or above, you’re doing all right.  If you can pack your lineup with those types of guys, you’re generally going to score lots of runs and, hopefully, win lots of games.  It’s not a hard and fast rule, but more of a glance.  There are obviously other ways to contribute – a lower average, with a higher OBP, for instance, will bring a lot to the table; ditto a guy with a high slugging percentage – but I like it when I can look at the Mariners’ stat-sheet and see a bunch of guys hitting .250 or above.  It warms my fuzzies right up.

Currently, the Mariners have 6 regulars hitting .250 or above (Cano, Cruz, Marte, Martin, Smith, and Seager).  Aoki and Iannetta are lagging behind a little bit, but they do make up for it with OBP.  The only guy struggling too much for comfort is Lind, with a .216 batting average to go with all of 5 walks on the season, and a paltry .319 slugging percentage.

On the plus side, that’s really only ONE black hole.  You could make an argument that Guti is another, but he doesn’t play nearly enough to qualify for that type of slur.  If he’s still struggling in July, then maybe you think about his role on this team.

But, as far as I’m concerned, having just the one regular struggling is FANTASTIC!

I started this post back on May 25th, and then for some reason I just abandoned it to my drafts folder.  I don’t know why; I guess I just didn’t feel like getting into a whole thing.  I was apparently pretty high on the Mariners’ hitters on May 25th, and that carried through – for the most part – the rest of the season.

I already got into Cano, Cruz, and Seager in a separate post, so feel free to read about my thoughts on them over there.  Spoiler alert:  I like those guys.  But, there were other guys I liked too, so let’s talk about them for a while.  In no particular order:

Leonys Martin

As a centerfielder (as a hitter and defensively), Leonys Martin was the definition of “Meets Expectations”.  Damn near a .250 hitter, 15 homers, 24 stolen bases, and absolutely elite, top-shelf fielding.  We’re not talking about Ken Griffey Jr. numbers or anything, but that’s as ideal of a centerfielder as you can expect.  Now, as a Mariners fan, when I think of Leonys Martin, I’d have to actually put him in the “Exceeds Expectations” category, because God damn have we been tortured with a bunch of mediocre outfield crap since Mike Cameron left!  We got nearly 2 seasons of Guti in his prime before he fell apart, but other than that, it’s been a wasteland of Meh out there.  When you factor in Martin’s declining offensive numbers in Texas in 2015, I was CONVINCED that he’d be a dud this year.  But, as I said, he really did shock the world with his level of play, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.  He’d never shown that kind of power before!  When all of us were expecting the equivalent of Brendan Ryan As Centerfielder at the plate, Martin was a revelation.  Consider me delighted we have him under club control for two more seasons.

Nori Aoki

I get the feeling, with Nori, that more people are down on him than high on him after what amounts to a 1-year experiment.  I’ll admit, while I’m not crazy about him defensively, and he obnoxiously ran himself into more outs than I care to remember (caught stealing 9 times out of 16 attempts, are you kidding me?), I think I’ll look back on him fondly overall.  It doesn’t hurt that he really tore shit up over the last two months of the season, after he’d been sent down to Tacoma to work on his swing (among, I’m assuming, other things).  On June 23rd, he was hitting .245, along with his crappy defense and baserunning, making him a total liability in all phases of the game.  He was called up about a month later, played for a month, had to go back to Tacoma for about a week due to other injuries and the roster crunch therein, and then finished the season playing mostly everyday.  He got that average back up to career norms in that time (.283) while adding 100 points to his OPS from his June low.  His main competition when it comes to returning in 2017 is:

Seth Smith

Both are left-handed corner outfielders who bring more with their bats than in the field.  Smith has a little more pop in his bat, but Aoki has slightly better on-base abilities.  Given Smith’s foot speed is absolute zero, Aoki has him there on the basepaths, and overall as an offensive weapon.  Smith’s already under contract though (for a sensible $7 million) while Aoki is an unrestricted free agent.  I don’t know if Aoki will draw a Qualifying Offer, or if that’s even an option with him, but at a hefty price tag of $17+ million, I doubt the Mariners would be willing to bite.  You’d think you could get Aoki to come back on a reasonable contract, but I would assume there’d have to be assurances made (i.e. the trading away of Seth Smith).  You really don’t need both of these guys on your roster, and it doesn’t sound like the Mariners are going to try to keep both.  One thing the team will have to consider is Smith’s rapid decline over the last two months of the season.  He barely hit .215 in August and September combined, and even with his mini power surge in September (5 homers, 2 doubles), his overall OPS really bottomed out as he rolled over into shift after shift.  Seth Smith is always lauded for his professional at bats, and his ability to get on base, which shouldn’t be discounted.  But, he sure does seem to wear down the more he plays, and the second halves to his seasons sure look pretty mediocre.  At some point, it would be ideal for the Mariners to shore up the corner outfield with a more permanent, everyday option.  But, for now, I guess we can live with another platoon year.

Guti, Gamel, Heredia

Let’s just lump all these guys together and wrap up the outfield portion of this post.  I won’t be shocked when the Mariners re-sign Guti to another 1-year deal, considering he’s a veteran right-handed bat with pop.  He appeared in all of 98 games in 2016, and his overall offensive numbers took a bit of a hit, but he didn’t totally flatline.  We got Gamel from the Yankees and didn’t really see enough of him in September.  He’ll be competing with Heredia most likely to be this team’s final outfielder.  For the most part, I liked what Heredia brought to the table, but I’d like to see some more power out of him.  Slap-hitting singles hitters don’t tend to stick at the Major League level very long.

Dae-ho Lee & Adam Lind

Ahh, the ol’ first base platoon.  Dae-ho Lee was another really pleasant surprise, who sort of struggled as the season went along.  He’s a free agent, but I wouldn’t mind having him back for another go-around if the price is right.  As for Lind, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  His averages across the board took a huge nosedive, with his worst OPS since 2010.  Which just adds more fuel to the fire that guys get signed by Seattle and promptly lose the ability to hit.  Safeco isn’t even that bad to hit in anymore, compared to what it used to be before the fences were moved in!  Besides, it was never all that bad for lefties!  He just stunk.  For whatever reason – maybe the reputation of Safeco got in his head – he got off to a horrid start and was never able to fully recover.  I’m sure he’ll sign elsewhere and bounce right back to his usual self, in which case he can promptly and savagely go fuck himself with a bat right in his cornhole.

Ketel Marte

This was a guy I was pretty stoked about early in the season.  He was a little raw defensively, but his speed on the basepaths was top notch, and his bat was coming around.  Then, he hurt his hand and went on the DL, and was never the same.  Tack on another DL stint for mono, and you have one of the great lost seasons in Mariners history.  He played out the stretch run, but his bat never really recovered, and his defense never really developed.  He was making the same dumb, rookie mistakes in the field as he was at the beginning of the season.  I don’t expect the world out of a guy defensively, but you’ve GOT to make the routine plays!  When one of his blunders helped cost us a game in the final week of the season, I essentially wrote him off.  I might back off that stance eventually, but if the Mariners go out and deal for an upgrade at short stop, I won’t be crushed.  As I’ve said before, we’ve got to win while the winning’s good.  Cano, Cruz, and Felix won’t be in their primes forever.  I don’t know if we have the time to hold Marte’s hand as he works his way through these growing pains.

Zunino, Iannetta, Clevenger, Sucre

My overarching take-away from Mike Zunino’s 2016 is that he’s turned the corner.  Then, I looked at his numbers and now I’m starting to wonder if that’s true.  The power is still there, which is his saving grace, but it looked like he started to fall into the same old traps over the final two months of the season.  His strike out percentage was right there at his career norms (33.9%), his batting average was barely over the Mendoza Line, but I’ll give him credit:  his eye at the plate is VASTLY improved over what it was in 2015.  His walk rate jumped up to 10.9% from 5.1% over his first three seasons, which is incredible.  I’d also say that while he’s still striking out as much as ever, he’s not necessarily falling for those breaking balls low and away as much as he was before.  Baby steps, maybe.  But, there’s still a big ol’ hole in his swing, which is going to necessitate a quality catcher to either platoon with him, or spot him more days off than we’ve been giving him.  Obviously, this year, we had no choice but to play him mostly everyday, because he was so clearly better than any other catcher in this organization (in spite of Sucre’s random surge in production in September).  Iannetta is under contract for 2017, which is less than ideal, as he brings nothing to the table offensively, and even less to the table defensively.  Hopefully, we can trade him for a bag of batting donuts, because I’d almost rather have Sucre out there, if he can continue working on his batting skills.  Clevenger seems to be a non-starter, unless the team really wants to work with him on the whole Racist Tweets shitstorm.  I wouldn’t be totally against it; seems like having a left-handed catching partner with Zunino would be a good thing for this team (plus, he’s under club control for 2 more years, so it’d be nice to see what he’s got in him as a baseball player).

And The Rest

Which is really just Shawn O’Malley.  He’s a step up from Willie Bloomquist, so that’s something.

The Mariners Are Forced To Depend Upon The Kindness Of Strangers

Well, this is it.  We’re right up against it now.  Three games to go to decide which two of the four teams remaining in contention will make the playoffs.  The Astros thankfully have been eliminated; suck an egg Houston!  See you never again!  (or next year, I guess).

The Mariners, again, did their job.  It wasn’t pretty.  It wasn’t as dominating as you’d like, considering the minor league lineup the A’s were running out there, and the fact that we’ve had Kendall Graveman’s number all season.  No, but you know what?  The Seattle Mariners, last night, were CLEARLY the better baseball team, and they did what they needed to do.

Truth be told, the Mariners will CLEARLY be the better baseball team tonight, tomorrow, and on Sunday, but that’s neither here nor there.

We got the Ariel Miranda start out of the way!  I don’t know why I still worry about his starts; he’s been solidly unspectacular since he got here, but in a good way.  In his very worst start (which is probably debatable), he gave up 3 runs in 4 innings before getting the quick hook because we’re in a playoff race and we don’t have time to be stroking egos right now.  That was tied for his shortest start of the year, anyway.  Much more talented starters have had much shorter outings for us, so that’s not too bad.  And, the most runs he’s given up in an appearance is 4, which again, much more talented starters have given up much more runs in a game this year.  A lot of that has to do with the fact that he’s been getting the quick hook since we traded for him, but he’s only 27 years old and this is his first year in the Majors, so you can forgive the Mariners for being a little cautious (especially considering his talent level proves he’s capable of being a regular part of this rotation for years to come).

Anyway, Miranda was rolling and got us into the 6th inning while giving up only 1 run, so kudos again!  The bullpen hero of the day was Steve Cishek, who came into the game in the 7th inning with a couple runners on and got us out of it unscathed.  He then dominated his way through the 8th inning (most likely because Evan Scribner wasn’t available due to recent overuse).  That got us to Edwin Diaz in the 9th, who’s on one of his rocky roads again.  The A’s mashed him around for 3 hits and a run – to bring the game to 3-2 – but he was able to shut it down to eventually strike out the side for what’s already his 18th save of the year.

The Mariners got the bulk of their damage done with the bottom of the lineup, which is huge.  Lind, Martin, Zunino, and Marte combined for 8 of our 12 hits and all three of our RBI.  Martin hit a single to score one in the 4th inning before getting stuck in a rundown, Zunino hit a solo blast in the 7th to re-take the lead, and Ketel Marte of all people hit in the winning insurance run to help atone for his bungling on Tuesday.  That was an awesome job; gotta give credit where it’s due.  The Big Three can’t do everything, so it’s nice to see the role players step up in a game like this, where obviously not everything is clicking offensively.

As suggested before, the Tigers game was rained out.  That means they’ll have to play on Monday if their game has any meaning whatsoever for the playoff race (i.e. if the Tigers are either in the 2nd wild card spot, up by 0.5 games; or just out of the 2nd wild card spot by 0.5 games).  So, now Detroit heads to Atlanta for the weekend.  Not for nothing, but someone on Twitter posted something that said the Braves are one of the hottest teams in the month of September.  So, maybe there’s hope?  Either way, the Mariners are behind the Tigers by 0.5 games right now.

The problematic part of this whole thing is that the Orioles took out the Blue Jays yesterday.  That puts those two teams in a dead heat, tied for both wild card spots, 2 full games ahead of us.  With, again, three games to play.  It’s Baltimore at the Yankees, and it’s Toronto at Boston.

So, we know one thing for SURE:  the Mariners must win out.  Now, they SHOULD win out, but this is baseball and weird shit can happen.  But, in this case, weird shit CAN’T HAPPEN!

Assuming that, then we need the Tigers to lose at least once down in Atlanta, and we need either the Orioles or the Blue Jays to lose twice (or, preferably both teams lose twice, but maybe not since I’m not super clear on the 3-way or 4-way tiebreakers).

This weekend’s going to be about the Mariners kicking butt and watching the scoreboard obsessively.  Should the Mariners fail to kick butt, then this race could be over as soon as tonight.  I just want a chance.  Just give us a shot, Mariners!  Just do what YOU have to do, and let the chips fall where they may!  If, in the end, those other teams don’t lose enough games, then at least you can take pride in knowing you did everything you possibly could have, and in the end just didn’t have enough luck to make it all the way.

On the flipside, if the M’s start gagging games away to the Athletics, I’m going to be like a tantrum-throwing 4 year old.  I don’t want to see me when I’m angry … because it’s fucking embarrassing!

The Mariners Don’t Have Time For Bullshit Rookie Mistakes

Felix starts against the Astros of late – even when it looks like he might be going well – are still tense affairs that can turn on a dime.  I mean, Jose Altuve is batting over .500 against him for his career, and the rest of the heart of their lineup is solid-enough to take Felix out of his comfort zone.  So, when you’re in a situation like we were in yesterday, where Felix was into the 6th inning with a 4-2 lead, you thank your lucky stars and you hope nothing happens to derail him.  Even the slightest breeze by the Astros’ meaty part of the lineup can turn what would’ve been a surefire victory just two years ago into a 6-run nightmare that effectively eliminates you from serious contention.

Bottom of the 6th, Altuve leads off with a single.  Because of course he does.  Carlos Correa follows with another single, pushing Altuve to second, and you’re just glad he didn’t hit a 2-run homer to tie it.  Put those two guys on, fine!  Just as long as they’re not both in scoring position, you can probably get out of this inning with a lead.  Felix then gets Evan Gattis to strike out and now you’re in business:  you’re just a double play away from getting out of the inning perfectly unscathed.  Of course, double plays are hard to force, but Felix had already induced two to that point.

Third baseman Yulieski Gurriel walks to the plate.  He hits a grounder to the short stop, Ketel Marte.  With Cano already standing at the second base bag, Marte foregoes the easy flip and instead takes it to the bag himself in plenty of time:  one out.  He makes a strong throw towards first that pulls Adam Lind off the bag; Lind is unable to secure the ball and it goes behind him; Altuve scores.  4-3 Mariners.  We can still get out of the inning, but then Felix follows that with a walk.  Then an RBI single.  Then a numbnuts error by Lind, followed by 4 unearned runs, all attributed to Felix Hernandez.  Before you know it, our offense goes in the tank and Vidal Nuno is in the game, mopping up yet another defeat.

ALL COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED, if either Marte flipped to Cano, who had an easy turn with plenty of time to get it to first base; or if Marte had just done his fucking job and made a good throw to first himself.  But, this is the same sort of bullshit we’ve seen out of Marte since he was brought up last year.  He has failed to improve his defense, and really that should be the ONLY fucking reason he’s up here right now, because it sure as shit isn’t his bat!  His line is .258/.288/.325!  He can’t hit for power, he can’t take a walk, he BARELY hits for a decent average, and all the good he brings you on the basepaths is 10 times negated by his shitty defense.  He’s no wizard with the diving backhand, and he all too frequently bungles the routine play.  Last night was another example of a routine play being botched by a little bitch who can’t focus on what needs to be done.

Ketel Marte is the reason why the Mariners spent most of the July trade deadline trying to get a deal done with Cincinnati for their short stop.  Ketel Marte is most certainly the reason why the Mariners will try again this offseason.

Ketel Marte is not a Major League short stop.  He’s, at best, a bench guy you use to pinch run in later innings.  But, really, he belongs in the minors, or out of baseball entirely.  Because if he’s not good at defense now, if he struggles to make the routine plays at his physical peak, what makes you think he’s going to be any BETTER in the seasons to come?

There is nothing about Marte’s game that leads me to believe he has a future as a successful Major Leaguer.  Maybe if he was given a brain transplant, but I don’t think we have the technology for that just yet.

It’s unfortunate to have your season derailed by a rookie you’re forced to depend upon.  This team is one of the most veteran teams in the league, we’re rock solid up and down the lineup and all around the field.  Where our outfielders fail defensively, they make up for it at the plate, and this month we have reserves to put in during the later innings for a little defensive boost.  But, at short stop?  It’s Marte, or it’s O’Malley – who may be smarter with the routine play, but has even LESS range than Marte, so is not really that much of an upgrade – or it’s someone even worse.

I’m telling you, we needed this game last night.  Had we secured the double play, we would’ve been up 4-2 after six.  Felix’s pitch count would’ve been low, the bottom of the order was coming up with no one on base, it would’ve been a WHOLE DIFFERENT GAME!  I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t have gotten the King through 7 innings, leaving us with just two innings of bullpen work to go to get the save.  Plus, Houston’s bullpen usage might have been different had they been trailing, so maybe we score more runs to boot?

And don’t tell me it’s Felix’s job to overcome bullshit defense.  For starters, Houston has the best approach to Felix’s arsenal of any team I’ve ever seen, and he was on a massive slump against them.  So, for peace of mind he needed a clean game from his defense.  Giving any team extra outs, regardless of the pitcher on the mound, is never going to be helpful.  But, given the circumstances, the Mariners really found a new way to let down their ace (usually it’s by the offense taking a huge shit, or the bullpen blowing a lead).  Except, the thing is, THIS ISN’T NEW!  He’s been dogged by shitty defense seemingly all season!  9 of the runs he’s allowed have been unearned!  That doesn’t take into account all the other errors he’s managed to overcome, as well as the plays like Marte’s (where you can’t assume the double play, so he technically wasn’t awarded the double-error he so rightfully deserved).

What did this cost the Mariners?  Well, putting the final nail in the Astros’ coffin, for starters.  They’re a half-game behind us with one more game to play this morning.  The Tigers easily defeated the Indians last night – thanks to the Indians clinching the night before, and resting all their starters against Verlander as a reward – so we’re 1 game behind the Tigers again.  AND, the Orioles lost to the Blue Jays, so we missed out on an opportunity to be 1 game back of the second wild card.

All because little Ketel Marte made boom boom in his diapers instead of finishing a double play that would’ve kept us in the race.  Now, we’ve got 5 games to go, and pretty much need a miracle to pass the two teams we’re trailing.

If the Mariners are going to make a go of it next year, they need guys they can count on.  They can’t be going with useless rookies who don’t excel at any aspect of baseball.  But, even then, will it be enough?

Picture Me Rolling: Mariners Pull One Out Of Their Asses To Stay In The Race

Last night was a good one for the M’s.  It started off with me not watching a single minute of the debate, because holy shit who needs that noise, right?  As we motored on, the Mariners were able to scratch one across in the first, and another in the third (the latter of which was the first Cano homer of the night).  Considering Collin McHugh was on the mound, and he has some supernatural mastery over the Seattle Mariners, getting anything at all – let alone MULTIPLE runs(!) – was more than I ever could’ve hoped for.

To his credit, Hisashi Iwakuma brought his A-Game.  Boy did we need that!  TBH, we need that from literally everyone on this team, for the next 6 games and (hopefully) beyond, but that’s neither here nor there.  Kuma went 6 innings of 1-run ball, and was pulled with 84 pitches to his credit.  No fucking around, here.

As the bullpen dug in to do its thing, word was coming down from around the league:  the Blue Jays lost to the Yankees and the Tigers lost to the Indians.  It’s not super important for the Blue Jays to lose – indeed, it would be nice for us if they proceeded to walk all over the Orioles this week – but I suppose there’s a remote chance the Jays fall off the face of the Earth and blow a sure thing.  The real big win was the Indians over the Tigers, which put us (spoiler alert) into a dead heat, and an even 2 games behind the idle Orioles with, again, 6 games to go.

Our seventh & eighth inning guys were able to handle their business with no problem, and our offense even managed an insurance run when the pitcher threw away a sacrifice bunt attempt, allowing Ketel Marte to score from first base.

With a 2-run lead, even though he’d pitched the day before, Edwin Diaz was handed the ball to close it out.  Unfortunately, he was stuck trying to get through the heart of the Houston order, which is like Dip to our pitchers’ cartoon arms.

Look at poor Edwin Diaz, blowing a save again ...

Look at poor Edwin Diaz, blowing a save again …

They tied it up in the 9th, and I couldn’t watch anymore, so I didn’t see how Diaz managed to get out of the inning.  Nevertheless, he managed to keep it tied, and we had extras to contend with (and I was able to turn the game back on without throwing the remote through my TV).  Thankfully, again, this is September, so we have a surplus of pitchers at our disposal.  We were able to keep it scoreless in the 10th, and that allowed Robbie Cano – with two outs in the top of the 11th – to be the hero we so desperately needed.  His solo homer – the second such homer off his bat last night – put us up 4-3.  We handed the game to Nick Vincent, who also had to go through the heart of the order, but fortunately the two singles he gave up didn’t come around to hurt us.

I’m going to keep writing about the Mariners this week as long as it continues being fun, so let’s keep the good times going!

As a reminder, here’s what the schedule looks like the rest of the week:

  • Mariners:  2 more @ Houston, 4 vs. Oakland
  • Detroit:  3 more vs. Cleveland, 3 @ Atlanta
  • Baltimore:  3 @ Toronto, 3 @ NY Yankees

King Felix goes tonight against Mike Fiers.  So help me God, if the Mariners don’t lay off the curveball in the dirt, my head is going to explode.

Also, not for nothing, KINDA wish we could’ve somehow avoided Felix having to play against Houston again, particularly after his rocky start against them two weeks ago in Safeco.  He already doesn’t have the greatest career numbers against the Astros (4.07 ERA in 9 games, with a .292 batting average against, an .815 OPS against, and an INSANE .372 BABIP – which is his highest BABIP among teams he’s played more than once in his career), but take a look at his last two appearances against them, spread out over the last two years:

  • 9/16/2016 – 4.1 innings, 6 runs, 5 earned, 9 hits, 2 homers, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts
  • 6/12/2015 – 0.1 innings, 8 earned runs, 5 hits, 2 homers, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Boy does THAT not inspire confidence in our King.  He actually had great numbers against the Astros pre-2015, but that also coincides with the Astros being a last place team.  They’ve been considerably better the last two years, and Felix has not been able to find an adjustment that works.  Hopefully, that changes tonight, or our season is screwed, and I’ll have to listen to all the Felix haters all over again.