Sorry folks, I’ve been busy on another (secret) writing project that has absolutely nothing to do with Seattle sports. And, while it’s been a refreshing change of pace (that I still don’t know what I’m going to do with yet), it’s taken a lot of my attention away from this blog. But, you know, considering the malaise that is the Seattle Mariners, with the impending bummer of a season from the Seahawks (that many fans are still fighting against tooth and nail, as if the only problem last year was a poor kicking game and shaky offensive line – and as if those problems have been dramatically improved in the subsequent months since that team unceremoniously finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs for the first time since Tarvaris Jackson was running the show), it’s not like I’ve been all that inspired to bloviate on the local sporting landscape.
Since the last time I wrote about the Mariners, we kicked off a 7-game homestand with a weekend series against the A’s. The A’s aren’t very good. You could say the same thing about the Mariners (both teams have underwhelming pitching staffs and get by on their offense), but the A’s also haven’t had the misfortune of playing the Astros yet (more on that in a minute) and they still have a worse record than the M’s, so take that for what it is. The Mariners had 2 great offensive days and took the first two games of the series; then dropped the Sunday finale as Sean Manaea out-duelled King Felix to the tune of a 2-1 heartbreaker. No matter, the good guys still won the series, but that lack of offense would be a harbinger of things to come.
Following that set, the Mariners hosted the Astros for 4 games, and things got off to a dynamic start with James Paxton flashing his ace stuff through six innings. He out-pitched Dallas Keuchel of all people (who seemingly always owns the M’s), who went the distance but surrendered 2 runs in a game that finished 2-1. Paxton gave up a leadoff homer to George Springer to kick off the game (because of course), but cruised the rest of the way, and the usual bullpen suspects kept the Astros off the board through the final three innings. It was an impressive game any way you slice it, and you might forgive Mariners fans for being a little excited (or a little cocky) heading into the other three games of the series.
But … did you guys see who was starting those other three games? The Astros had Lance McCullers Jr., Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton all lined up. The Mariners? Ariel Miranda, Mike Leake (who, yeah, okay, he’s been pretty good so far in his Mariners career), and Marco Gonzales. I’m sorry, but it’s no contest. The Mariners won the one game they did because their ace showed up and the bullpen didn’t blow it, but they were SO CLOSE to getting swept, and quite frankly I’m shocked they weren’t.
As I tweeted before the series, the Mariners just aren’t in the Astros’ league. They’re not in the Astros’ universe for Christ’s sake! I don’t even think they’re playing the same sport! We play them 15 more times this year, and barring about a million Astros injuries (particularly to their pitching staff), I wouldn’t even expect the Mariners to play at a .250 pace. Winning 25% of the games we play against the Astros would be a miracle, and if you offered it to me right now, I’d gladly take it and avoid the actual drubbing we’ll inevitably have to sit through. The only saving grace for me was that these games were played on Monday through Thursday, either too late for me to stay up and watch, or during the hours I was at work, so I didn’t have to watch or listen to a minute of that nonsense.
The Mariners have since hit the road for 10 games, starting with a weekend series in Texas. Friday’s game was super fun. King Felix looked like his old self through the first two times around the order. But, with one out in the sixth, the Rangers started to knock him around until he was knocked out of the game entirely. Scrabble came in and shit the bed, so Felix ended up giving up 2 runs. Down 2-1 at this point, things looked a little bleak, but the bats finally came alive. Mitch Haniger hit a bomb in the 8th to tie it, and the rest of the team nearly batted around in the 9th, scoring 4 runs on a number of clutch hits. The bullpen was lights out after Scrabble left the game in disgrace, and we won 6-2.
That was followed by last night’s barnburner. James Paxton was pretty terrible throughout, leaving after 4 innings, giving up 5 runs, with the M’s losing 5-3. It was 6-4 in the top of the 7th when the Mariners’ bats came alive once again, putting up a 5-spot, including a 2-run double by Segura, and homers by Cano and Haniger. With Juan Nicasio unavailable, and with Scrabble once again faltering in his 1/3 inning of work, Edwin Diaz – having just pitched the night before in a non-save situation – had to come in for the 4-out save. He got out of the 8th unscathed, but the 9th was a real adventure. A walk and a single had runners on the corners before the first out of the inning (on a strikeout). From there, Diaz really lost command of his stuff, as both fastball and slider were running off the plate to the right. A groundout scored the runner from third, and back-to-back walks loaded the bases with 2 outs and 0 mound visits remaining. Fortunately, Diaz was able to muster just enough (either command or blind stinking luck) to generate a harmless fly ball to left to close it out for his league-leading 8th save of the year. 9-7 final.
There’s a day game today before the Mariners go to Chicago to play the White Sox. Then, it’s off to Cleveland to close out our season series with the Indians (in the first month of the season no less!).
Just to kind of put a bow on things, I’ll say this: The Mariners are 11-8 and in third place in the A.L. West. The Astros have reclaimed their rightful spot atop the division, with the Angels (falling just a little since their torrid start) a half game back. Again, barring significant injury woes, this is where I’d expect these teams to finish the season.
The Mariners AREN’T terrible, so don’t get me wrong on that. This team, with this amazing offense, should beat up on a lot of mediocre teams around the game of baseball. They should also compete with some of the better teams, or the teams at their Wild Card-ish level. But, against the truly ELITE teams? The Astros? The Red Sox? Maybe the Angels? I would expect the Mariners to continue to struggle.
Best (realistic) case scenario for the Mariners is that they get dominated by the Astros and Red Sox (and any other team that really distances themselves from the middle of the pack), while they play around .500 ball against the Angels. Worst case scenario involves the Mariners getting bombarded by the Astros AND Angels, because that’s a combined 38 games in their schedule. If they can play the Angels tough half the time, though, they should be in line to steal that second Wild Card spot (again, assuming the worst doesn’t happen again like last year). But, they’ll have no shot if they’ve got two huge whales in their own division making them the Little Brother getting blasted with noogies all the live long day.