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 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 Split Again With The Rockies

Two-game series in baseball are inherently unsatisfying. Splitting a two-game series, therefore, is unsatisfying to the tenth power (don’t ask me how the math works, I’m just the CEO here). The first game was outstanding! The second game left a bitter and confusing taste in my mouth. Without further ado.

Marco Gonzales has been a collosal disappointment in 2021, and until I hear definitively otherwise, I’m going to believe it’s because he’s secretly injured and trying to power through with mediocre stuff. Like, I’m going to need to see MRI reports, bone scans, blood test results, the works. He’s injured, is my firm belief and I’m sticking to it. See, his stuff is relatively close to what it’s been, but he’s clearly lost a bit off of his fastball. But, what’s really concerning is his command. Too many pitches are catching the heart of the plate, and as a result are either getting mashed or just missed getting mashed. I think it’s more the lack of command that his alleged injury is affecting. He’s trying to gut through the pain, which means he’s losing focus on where the pitches should be going. That’s my theory! Prove me wrong.

Anyway, Gonzo used smoke and mirrors to get through 5 innings, giving up 2 runs. His pitch count was in the 80’s, so under normal (healthy) circumstances, there would’ve been no question that the erstwhile Mariners ace would’ve gone out for one more frame. But, he was already starting to get hit around pretty good in his last couple innings, so it was beyond appropriate to pull him.

It also didn’t hurt that the M’s put up a 4-spot in the top of the sixth to give Marco a 4-2 lead. Cal Raleigh had his coming out party in this one, recording his first Major League hit (a bloop single to center), his first Major League RBI (a 2-run double in the aforementioned sixth inning), while walking once and scoring a run. Dylan Moore capped the scoring in the sixth with a 2-run homer. And Ty France hit a 2-run double in the seventh to add to the fun.

The only black spot on the bullpen’s ledger was a 2-run home run by C.J. Cron off of Paul Sewald in the eighth. Otherwise, Kendall Graveman had little trouble getting his 9th save of the season.

The game on Wednesday was yet another bullpen start that the Mariners lost. What is our record in Bullpen Day games? One of these days I’m going to go through the schedule and try to find out.

Literally everything was stupid and annoying about this one, starting with Keynan Middleton getting the “start”, going 1 inning, and giving up 5 runs on 5 hits and a walk. It’s especially galling because we’d called up Darren McCaughan from Tacoma to fill the bulk of the game’s innings. I hate the Opener in baseball. I think it’s fucking stupid and backfires more often than it is supposed to help. The idea seems based in logic – you get a hard-throwing “good” reliever in there to take out the first 3-4 batters (usually a team’s best hitters), then you give a mediocre starter a soft landing by having to face those batters fewer times over the course of his outing – but it rarely seems to work out as intended. Maybe because a reliever in a starting role gets in his head about it, maybe because the opposing team is more geared up to face the super hard stuff early in games. I don’t know! What I do know is that in this game, Middleton faced all 9 of Colorado’s batters. Meaning that when McCaughan entered the game, he had to start with the top of the lineup regardless.

What’s worst of all is that McCaughan was great! He threw five no-hit innings, giving up 1 run on 3 walks (technically, it was 2 walks and two sacrifices in the fourth inning, but he did give up 3 walks in total) and 0 strikeouts. No one is saying McCaughan is an immediate solution to our starting rotation woes, but as a spot starter, you could do worse. Indeed, the Mariners have done worse this year. A lot worse. In this very game no less!

Seager, Torrens, and Haniger all hit solo homers in this one, as we lost by a respectable 6-3 margin. Oddly enough, you could argue all three of these guys are on the trading block as we head into the July 31st trade deadline. I’m sure we’ll have more to say on the matter next week, but just keep an eye out for those guys.

All right, here we go! Are you ready for this? Four home games against the Athletics, followed by three home games against the Astros. The two teams ahead of us in the American League West standings, and the team (A’s) directly ahead of us in the Wild Card standings. It’s crazy that these games hit just as we’re sliding into the trade deadline, because these next seven games could really make or break our season. If we go 5-2 or better, I think you have to admit the Mariners are officially in contention for a playoff spot. If we go 3-4 or worse, I think it’s probably safe to say the Mariners are who we thought they were.

Not for nothing, but if the Mariners go 4-3, the season automatically shuts down and the World Series is canceled. I don’t make the rules! I’m just your humble servant reporting the news.

In prior years, this is always when the Mariners have face-planted. But, 2021 feels different somehow. I dunno, it could be an interesting next seven days.

The First Place Mariners Played A Couple Of Doubleheaders In Baltimore

And won three of four! Ain’t that some shit?!

If you thought I had zero interest in the M’s going back to Minnesota later this year for any rainout make-up games, I REALLY had no interest in them going back to Baltimore! There were somehow two rainouts – on Monday, and again on Wednesday – that necessitated two 7-inning doubleheaders (on Tuesday and Thursday, naturally). The largest margin of victory was two runs, in case you saw that I just told you the Mariners won three of four and thought it might have been some dominating week of baseball. It was fine, but these teams are a lot closer to one another in talent level – at least, at the moment – than you like to see.

The first game saw a solid outing out of Justus Sheffield – 6 innings, 2 runs, on 3 hits, 2 walks, with 5 strikeouts – and he would’ve got the win if it weren’t for the third blown save of the young season by Rafael Montero. Look, this is probably just who he is. I don’t think he’s going to be 50% saves, 50% blown saves for the entire season (I mean, obviously, if he keeps blowing them, he won’t be our closer anymore), but I do think he’s shaky and will continue to be so.

France, Murphy, and Haniger helped the Mariners build an early 3-0 lead in the first couple innings. Sheffield gave up a 2-run homer in the fifth, but was able to get through six innings with the lead intact. Montero actually got two quick outs before giving up a double and a single to tie it in the bottom of the seventh. From there, he was able to wiggle out of it to send the game into extras.

Kyle Seager was once again the late-game hero, doubling in the 8th to score Haniger from second to take the lead. From there, Graveman was able to lock it down for his first save of the season.

The second game was wild! Nick Margevicius got the start and was hampered severely by a third inning that saw him give up four unearned runs after the M’s had taken a 4-0 lead in the top half of the inning. Having expended so many pitches to get out of it, he was allowed to start the fourth, but let the first two batters get on before being pulled. They would come around to score, leaving the M’s trailing 6-4.

Sam Haggerty, though, heroically mashed a 2-run homer in the top of the seventh to tie it up! It looked like we might have a double-header replete with extra-innings games! But, sadly (!), after Sadler got two outs, he sort of fell apart and ended up gagging away the game in the bottom half of the inning.

Haniger had three more hits in this one, and Jose Marmolejos – filling in for a banged up Evan White at first base – hit a 3-run home run to stake us to that early lead. Players filling in and helping the team all throughout the roster, it’s wonderful to see!

After the second rainout of the series, the Mariners had to play two on getaway day (that’s two full 7-inning games, followed by an almost-immediate flight from Baltimore to Seattle to play the Astros later tonight; sounds brutal). Marco Gonzales got his third start of the season and promptly gave up a 2-run homer in the first. Here we go. BUT, he settled down nicely, not giving up a hit after the first, the rest of the way, in his five total innings of work. We’re far from ace-level pitching, but it was great to see him settle down like that and get the win.

Mitch Haniger had a 2-run home run in the fifth to tie it up, and J.P. Crawford hit a 2-run double to take the lead in the sixth. Rafael Montero came in for the bottom of the sixth inning – not because he’s lost his closer’s job, but because they want him in there for the highest-leverage situations – to face the heart of the lineup. He got through it while just giving up one harmless hit. Graveman came in for the seventh to get his second save of the series.

I fully expected the Mariners to lose the second game of the doubleheader, but Justin Dunn showed up in a major way! He had much better command, though he did walk two. His stuff was electric, though. He struck out 6 in five innings of work, while only giving up 2 hits and 1 run. Will Vest got the hold and Keynan Middleton locked down his second save of the season in pretty impressive fashion.

It was a 2-1 win, with solo homers by Dylan Moore and Mitch Haniger. Haniger, by the way, is slashing like crazy: .321/.333/.623. You’d like to see more from the on-base percentage, but it’s obviously still insanely early.

Anyway, as the title suggests, the Seattle Mariners – at 8-5 – are in first motherfucking place! How wild is that?! The Angels are right there at 7-5, and the Astros – who come to town severely depleted (thanks to COVID issues) – are 6-6. Also, there are still 149 games to play this season, so it’s really anyone’s race!

What do we make of this start so far? I don’t think the Mariners are elite yet, but I do think they could potentially be among the better of the rest. They’re clearly beating up on teams that are either bad or middle-of-the-road. Being middle-of-the-road themselves is, honestly, probably an upgrade over initial expectations. If they continue to do this, they WILL compete for a Wild Card spot (mostly by default, because there are so many wild card spots, but still).

But, they could also just be really, extremely lucky in these first two weeks. 6 of their 8 wins are by 2 runs or less. The Mariners are 6-1 in games decided by 2 runs or less; that feels extremely unsustainable, especially with Montero seeing the highest-leverage situations. The Mariners are also 3-0 in extra innings games; again, it’s unsustainable. The M’s have a -8 run differential, which is more indicative of a team that would be under .500 in record.

There’s A LOT of noise in the first month of the season, so it’s obviously too early to start declaring trends. But, you know, 8-5 and in first place is fun! So, enjoy it you fucking nerd and quit trying to spot every dark cloud on the horizon!

The Mariners Toppled The Twins

Last Thursday’s 10-2 drubbing of the Mariners by the hot Twins bats feels like a decade ago. We shouldn’t forget about it, though, because that’s the second start in as many outings for Marco Gonzales where he looked decidedly un-ace-like. After giving up 3 walks and 3 homers on Opening Day, Marco gave up two of each to the Twins. His ERA now sits at over 10, and while it’s not time yet to completely panic, there’s a version of Marco out there in the Multiverse who REALLY breaks bad, and this is the start of it all.

I don’t think that’s the Marco of our universe, though. But, I’m not throwing that out with the bathwater, either. I pause because it’s the very start of the season, after an unusually-short 2020 season. His command/control is clearly off, and it just might take him a little bit to get it going again. I hope that’s it, and that he rights the ship in a hurry.

Based on that game, you’d be right to worry about … well, everything! But, then Yusei Kikuchi stepped onto the mound and spun 6 innings of 2-run ball to keep us in it! His only blemish was a 2-run homer by Nelson Cruz (on a pretty good pitch on the outside of the zone, hit the other way over a very high wall), and can you blame him for being mashed by one of the best in the game today? I’m always surprised when Nellie makes an out!

This was a nice little coming-out series for Taylor Trammell, who had his first Major League homer in this one. Haniger also had a solo blast that contributed to the Mariners’ temporary lead. Kyle Seager would also come up big in this series, hitting a go-ahead RBI in the eighth inning before Rafael Montero blew his second save of the season in the bottom of the eighth (why he was in there so early is anyone’s guess; I refuse to research this insignificant detail). Ultimately, Haniger hit the winning sacrifice fly in the tenth to help put this one away. Sadler, Graveman (who also got the win), and Middleton (who ended up with the save) all did their jobs with a scoreless inning of bullpen work each. Lots of help up and down the lineup in this one; it seems like this team – more than most – is going to need the whole “Team Effort” thing to be a big part of their victories this season, at least until the superstars separate themselves. All in all, a nice 4-3 victory for the M’s.

The rubber match on Sunday looked like as big of a lost cause as I’ve seen. I tuned in specifically to see Chris Flexen – because I missed his first start with the M’s – and it was an interesting one! He was in a nasty little jam in the first, but got out of it while giving up only the one run. It looked like he might cruise for a while after that, but the third inning happened with lots of unlucky balls finding grass they shouldn’t have (including a pretty harmful error to help things along). Flexen limited the damage to three more runs (two earned), only to pretty much fall apart in the fifth. In all, he went the five innings, giving up six runs (five earned), while throwing only 84 pitches.

The Mariners were down 6-0 at that point, and I officially switched over to watch The Masters, so I missed the four runs the Mariners scored in the top of the sixth. Including a homer by Seager, and a 3-run blast by Trammell! Once I saw what was happening on Twitter, I switched it back, and was rewarded by a pretty entertaining little comeback!

The Mariners got one more back in the seventh, and it was a 6-5 game until the ninth, when Kyle Seager stepped to the plate with two on, jacking his second homer of the game. The bullpen was truly remarkable in this one. Will Vest went two scoreless, Drew Steckenrider pitched a scoreless eighth to earn his first victory, and Rafael Montero bounced back with his second save of the season, with an easy 9-pitch affair.

It was reasonable to think – before this past weekend – that Trammell might be on a fast track to Tacoma for a long-ish stint in AAA, but hopefully he’s starting to turn a corner. Hopefully success begets success. He’s still sitting with a sub-.200 batting average, so obviously there’s work to be done. But, now pitchers know they’re going to have to be reasonably careful with him. At the very least, I’d love to see what he looks like when Kyle Lewis reclaims his spot in the middle of the order. If nothing else, our outfield coverage should be insane!

Also, props to Kyle Seager for his output so far this season. This is the guy I was hoping to see, as it may be his final year with the team that drafted him.

Wins like these are important to teams like this. That attitude of never saying die or whatever is a pretty big deal when it comes to Scott Servais-managed Mariners squads, which is why I’m really rooting for him to make it through this rebuild unscathed. I do think Servais is one of the good ones; if managers do anything other than decide when to take out pitchers and be scapegoats for underperforming teams, I think they can help breed a culture, and I like the culture he’s breeding here. Given what the Mariners have had to endure in all the years since Lou Piniella was here, it’s HARD to turn around a culture like the one that had set in!

That’s all I got. Four more in Baltimore starting today. They’re pretty bad, the Mariners should be somewhat better, so you’d hope another series win is in the cards, as we get to the real meat of the April schedule coming up.

2021 Mariners Preview Extravaganza: We Have A Rest Of The Team

Yesterday, I wrote about the starting rotation. Today – the day of the Mariners’ first game of the season – I’ll be writing about everything else.

If you’ve been following along all offseason, I’ve already written about most of these guys. But, now we have an official roster, so let’s run through it.

We’re pretty set with the infield:

  • Kyle Seager (3B)
  • J.P. Crawford (SS)
  • Dylan Moore (2B)
  • Evan White (1B)
  • Tom Murphy/Luis Torrens (C)

All healthy, present, and accounted for! All of them, of course, come with question marks. Does Seager have anything left in the late-career resurgence tank? Can Crawford build on his Gold Glove campaign to be a more consistent (and somewhat more powerful) hitter? Was 2020 a mirage for Moore? Will White EVER hit, period? And, is the catcher position as strong as I expect it to be? How many of these guys – if any – will be longterm solutions at their respective positions? I gotta believe that the Next Great Mariners Team has at least a few of these guys playing roles; they can’t ALL still be in the minors or other organizations!

One guy we don’t have to worry about is:

This guy can hit! No notes! Also, since I believe in him so strongly, watch him struggle mightily. This is the way.

The outfield is my favorite part of this team, now and especially in the future. With Kyle Lewis starting on the 10-Day IL, it’s a little underwhelming at the moment, but obviously the M’s have to play it super safe with our 2020 Rookie of the Year.

  • Mitch Haniger (RF)
  • Jake Fraley (CF)
  • Taylor Trammell (LF)
  • Sam Haggerty (INF/OF)
  • Jose Marmolejos (INF/OF)

The story of camp has been Trammell making the Opening Day roster. Not just as an injury replacement to the injured Lewis, but as a legitimate starting left fielder for this team. He’s another one of those great guys we traded for from the Padres last year when we sent them Austin Nola – making us three for three of guys coming over in return making the team in 2021, with France and Torrens – whose prospect stock has fluctuated wildly over the course of his minor league career. But, he appears to be putting it all together now at just the right time: ahead of Kelenic and Rodriguez. This glut of highly-touted outfielders will only make things that much easier for the M’s as they fill out the rest of the roster to try to build a championship ballclub. Of everyone on this 26-man roster, Trammell is the one I’m most excited about.

And Haniger is the one I’m most curious about. He’s had a long road back to full health; at one point in his career he was one of the top 25-or-so players in the American League. It wouldn’t shock me to see him right back in that area; it also wouldn’t shock me to see him totally shit the bed. He no longer seems to be the future of the franchise, but he’s currently the present, and will have every opportunity to rebuild his value in the game of baseball.

Fraley and the rest are just guys. Placeholders until our young superstars return from injury and/or get called up from the minors.

The obvious wildcard on the Mariners is the bullpen:

  • Rafael Montero
  • Kendall Graveman
  • Nick Margevicius
  • Anthony Misiewicz
  • Keynan Middleton
  • Casey Sadler
  • Will Vest
  • Drew Steckenrider

Oof. Like I said, I have avoided learning too much about the bullpen; I’d rather watch them with my own eyes and draw my own conclusions. But, to get me started, I guess I’ll look up some info and regurgitate it here, for my own benefit if nothing else.

The Mariners traded for Rafael Montero from the Rangers in the offseason. He had 8 saves for a terrible Rangers team last year, and I guess figures to be our closer out of the gate? He doesn’t have a ton of Major League experience, but maybe he’s put it all together. We’ll see. He’s not a bad buy-low candidate, at least in the short term.

Graveman we all know. He was here last year, signed to be a starter after missing a lot of time with injuries. He ended up with a neck issue that somehow allows him to throw very hard in short bursts as a reliever, but hampers him too much to go too many innings in a row. I don’t understand this one iota (mostly, I don’t understand why he doesn’t just have some surgical procedure to fix it and return 100% healthy), but whatever. He’s generally pretty good for an inning most of the time, so that makes him a quality set-up candidate in my mind.

Margevicius was neck-and-neck with Justin Dunn for the sixth starter job. He will be one of the long men in the bullpen to eat up innings and keep us in ballgames when a starter falters. He’ll also be the first man to join the rotation if there’s an injury (and there will be an injury). He’s fine, I like him in this role a great deal. He’s also one of just two lefties in the ‘pen, so there should be no shortage of work for him this season.

Misiewicz is presumably our top lefty reliever. We drafted him in 2015 and he made his debut last year. He was pretty good, I think! I dunno, we’ll see I guess.

Keynan “Don’t Call Me Kenyan” Middleton was a free agent signing who played for the Angels’ organization the last four years. His 2020 looked pretty atrocious. The three years prior look better, just as long as you don’t go sniffing around his FIP too hard. He might be just a guy. A cheap guy, but a guy nevertheless. He’s still young enough to put it all together, but don’t hold your breath.

Sadler is a veteran we claimed from the Cubs last year, who has bounced around multiple organizations. He’s someone else with big Just A Guy energy.

Will Vest is a Rule 5 guy we poached from the Tigers this offseason. He will be making his Major League debut this year, which will be somewhat fun! Other than that, I dunno. He’s the Rule 5 guy, that’s the nugget I’m going to keep in my brain and promptly forget as soon as he makes it into an actual game.

Drew Steckenrider sounds like one of those names I always fuck up when it comes to those Lookout Landing Sporcle quizzes asking you to name all the Mariners’ pitchers from a particular season. He came over from the Marlins organization on a minor league deal and was apparently one of the last guys to make the team. He’s another one I’m not holding my breath about.

***

The world is our oyster here! The Mariners could be a Bottom Five team, but I really don’t think that will be the case. There’s a lot of young talent in the organization just waiting to break through. There’s a TON of athleticism. There’s promise bursting at the seams. This is a team that WANTS to be great, that has just enough leadership at just the right spots – including the coaching staff – to potentially make it happen. We could be looking at a team that hangs around and FINALLY becomes the one to break the playoff drought!

Or, you know, it could be another year with another mediocre record.

But, the hope is that the young guys will improve. That’s really all that matters. 2020 was a roaring success because we saw improvement from the guys we needed to see improvement from. 2021 needs to be more of the same. Winning and losing isn’t quite as irrelevant as it was last year, but that’s not the ultimate agenda quite yet. The experience of winning isn’t quite as important as the experience of just playing at this level, but there is a lot of value there. That’s why I won’t be as maniacal as in years past when it comes to getting a high draft pick for next season.

Do what you’re going to do, Mariners!

My prediction is that the M’s easily surpass the 72.5 win total that Vegas has them at. But, ultimately I don’t see us getting one of those Wild Card spots. Instead, we’ll probably be drafting in the teens next year.

I’m reserving all predictions beyond that. I’m not making ANY specific player predictions, because so much can happen. Injuries, regression, breakouts, it’s all on the table. My only hope is that I don’t exit this season feeling worse about the Mariners than I do right now. Right now, I’m full of optimism! So, let’s just work in service of that and try to make 2022 and beyond really special!