The Mariners Blew A Series To The Rangers

I’ll be honest, man, I was out of commission the entire weekend. I don’t know if I saw more than a few minutes of the series while at a bar or restaurant. Dates, Mother’s Day, life!

The Mariners won 5-4 on Friday and the series was off to an expected start. Chris Flexen had a very Flexenesque outing: 6.1 innings, 4 runs on 10 hits and 1 walk, with 2 strikeouts. The bullpen shut it down, and the offense did just enough. J.P. Crawford has been hot of late (and earning an improved spot in the batting order as a result), Kyle Lewis has started to come on after returning from injury. Ty France is hopefully pulling himself out of the funk he’d been in for a few weeks.

The Mariners lost 9-8 on Saturday, which was the game we NEEDED to take. Unfortunately, we lost another fucking starter to injury, thanks to Ljay Newsome going on IL after an inning of work. The Bullpen Day approach to these sixth starts clearly leaves a lot to be desired; I don’t know why the Mariners are so married to this 6-man rotation when they BARELY have five competent starters when everyone’s healthy, but I don’t see how it can continue indefinitely.

The M’s had 11 hits in this one, but still were 3 for 11 with runners in scoring position. Half our runs scored via the homer, and that appears to be a trend with this team in general. If we’re not hitting homers, we’re not scoring, and if we’re not scoring, we’re not winning.

The finale was a 10-2 drubbing where Justus Sheffield shit the bed over 5 innings (7 runs, 5 earned). Between the three Mariners errors in this one, and the mistakes in the Saturday game, there was a lot of boneheadedness going on in this series that ultimately lost it for us. That’s not a super concern, but it’s unfortunate. If we miss the playoffs by a game or two, it’s a series like this one where we’ll look back and go: there’s one we should’ve had.

Yesterday’s off-day was well-earned. Now, we wrap up the road trip with two games in L.A. against the Dodgers, before returning home. Spoiler alert: Jarred Kelenic will get the call-up and first Major League start on Thursday, May 13th against the Cleveland Indians at T-Mobile Park. Will the Mariners have a losing record in the pre-Kelenic portion of their season? I can absolutely wait to find out!

The Mariners Took The Weekend Series Against The Angels

The Mariners continue to surprise in delightful ways. No one really knows how they’re doing it, but they’re getting it done and keeping things interesting, against pretty solid-looking competition.

Last Friday’s game against the Angels was a perfect example. Our starter managed to go only 4 innings, our hitters were 3 for 11 with runners in scoring position, with 10 left on base, and yet the Mariners somehow managed to win the game 7-4. How does that happen? In this case, 3 solo homers and taking advantage of other hitting opportunities as they come about (and a whole lotta bullpen dominance).

Chris Flexen didn’t totally have it in this one, and was smartly pulled before the Angels could inflict any more damage. He went 4 innings, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and a walk, with 0 strikeouts. There’s a lot of really good hitters – especially in the upper half of the lineup – so exercising caution is always the prudent way to go.

This was one of those rare games where we got contributions throughout, and particularly by the bottom of the lineup. Sure, Haniger had two hits (including one of the homers), but Moore, Crawford, and Murphy also had two hits apiece (those four players combining for all five extra-base hits).

The bullpen went five innings, giving up just one run in the process, as the Mariners hitters took the lead and played add-on late. I mean, don’t look now, but this is the best bullpen in baseball through a month and change! That won’t last, but it’s fun to watch so far.

Ljay Newsome REALLY didn’t have it on Saturday, giving up 8 runs over two innings. He’s not a starter, but he’s clearly better than this. I just think the Angels pose a tricky matchup for him (on top of him just having a bad day). I was fully expecting the Mariners to have to use a position player or two to get through all nine innings, but the bullpen (with fresh reinforcements coming up to replace injured pitchers on our team) held the Angels to just 2 more runs over the final 7 innings. That afforded the Mariners an opportunity to pull the game to 10-5 over the final couple innings, but clearly the damage was done at the beginning.

The rubber-match was a thrilling 2-0 victory – the first shutout of the Angels this season – where Justus Sheffield battled his way through 6 innings. The bullpen was even more dominant, giving up just 3 hits across the final three innings (I was a particular fan of Kendall Graveman’s work through the heart of the lineup in the 8th; if he was locked into an exclusive 9th inning closer role, a lesser pitcher might’ve been in there gagging the game away).

The hitting remains an issue, but in this one the Mariners were able to scratch across just enough runs to do the job. I won’t be happy until Jarred Kelenic gets the call-up, but in the meantime I hope to see him play in person for the Tacoma Rainiers sometime very soon.

The Mariners Split A 4-Game Series Against The Red Sox

It’s interesting to think about what a 13-9 start for the Mariners means. The strength of schedule has been fucking crazy. Boston is first in the A.L. East. The White Sox are second in the Central; the Twins should end up better than their record indicates right now. The Astros are obviously slumping and will be much better than their sub-.500 record when it’s all said and done. And the Dodgers and Giants are the top two teams in the N.L. West. So, to have this winning record, and only be a game behind the scorching-hot A’s is pretty outstanding!

But, it’s also incredibly early. And maybe the bullpen has been unsustainably hot. And the clutch late-game heroics have been unsustainably … existing. This could all be randomness that just so happens to be taking place against very good teams (and the Orioles).

Or, if you want to look on the bright side – something I’ve been trying to do a little more of lately, in spite of the blog’s name – maybe the Mariners are actually good, and they’ll REALLY start to rack up the W’s when we get to the part of the schedule where we can feast on the dregs of the game! Wouldn’t that be something?!

I mean, I’ll be honest: I keep waiting for the tide to turn and the Mariners to be exposed as the frauds they are … yet here we are, 22 games in, and still going strong! If you play around .500 against the good teams, and something like .667 against the bad teams, well, that’s a playoff team in all likelihood.

So, a 2-2 road set in the city of Boston is something akin to a 2-1 series against a shitty team.

Last Thursday, the Mariners were up to their usual tricks: erasing a 2-0 deficit in the sixth inning with an impressive rally (highlighted by a 2-run double by Ty France), then erasing a 3-2 deficit in the eighth with a J.P. Crawford double. Only to explode for a 4-spot in the tenth inning, featuring a clinching 3-run homer by Mitch Haniger to put it away.

Justin Dunn looked more in control in his 5 innings of work (2 runs on 6 hits and only 1 walk, with 5 strikeouts), and the bullpen was dominant from there (1 run on 2 hits and 1 walk, with 6 strikeouts).

The M’s couldn’t keep the good times going on Friday, but very nearly did pull yet another game out of their asses! Yusei Kikuchi didn’t have it, giving up 5 runs in less than 5 innings of work. The bullpen, however, kept us in it JUST enough to let things get interesting (minus an unearned run attributed to Ljay Newsome, who was otherwise solid). We were down 6-2 in the ninth inning before a 3-run homer by Kyle Seager made things interesting. But, just not enough offense in this one; 4/12 with runners in scoring position, with 9 left on base.

We bounced back in a huge way on Saturday behind a STRONG Chris Flexen start (7 innings, 1 run on 4 hits & 1 walk, with 7 strikeouts). The offense blew the doors off, with France, Seager, White, and Haggerty all contributing multi-hit games in the 8-2 victory. Can’t say enough good things about how Flexen has looked the first few times through the rotation. He is a VERY welcome surprise, after the dud of a bottle rocket that was the return of James Paxton.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t pull off the series victory on Sunday, as Nick Margevicius couldn’t get more than a single out and we had to go with a Bullpen Day. After being pulled prematurely in his previous start, Margevicius was put on the IL today with shoulder inflammation; we’ll see who takes his place (though Newsome figures to be a safe bet).

You’d think a Bullpen Day – with the way the bullpen has been going – might not be the worst idea. And, indeed, they were excellent, holding the Red Sox to 1 run over 7.2 innings. But, the damage was done with the 4-spot Margevicius gave up, as we lost 5-3. Again, the offense scuffled, going 2/11 with RISP and striking out 11 more times. That’s going to happen, as the offense isn’t elite after the first couple batters, and as we go up against top tier starters. Hopefully, things start to level off on both ends (where we’re not facing so many guys with Ace-like stuff, and our hitters regress to a more competent level of baseline).

Now, it’s four in Houston. So, maybe the swoon starts today? We’ll see! I’m still waiting.

Chris Flexen Is A Guy The Mariners Might Be Counting On (and Some Thoughts On The Six-Man Rotation)

The six-man rotation for the 2020 season felt like a great way to give our guys some semblance of experience this year, while at the same time protecting them during a wonky situation where we had a long break, then the ramp-up to Spring Training, then another long break, then a quick ramp-up, followed by a 60-game season. Pitching baseballs for a living under normal circumstances is quite taxing, but this had the potential for real leaguewide disaster!

The six-man rotation also offered the Mariners an opportunity to get a good sample size from numerous starters. Going in, we had two guys who were deserving locks to crack the rotation (Marco Gonzales and Yusei Kikuchi), two guys who were coming off of devastating injuries and multiple years away from the game (Taijuan Walker and Kendall Graveman), and two rookies who had never (to my knowledge) cracked an Opening Day starting rotation (Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn). That’s four unproven guys, plus a number of minor leaguers (including Nick Margevicius and Ljay Newsome) who we would end up throwing in there when Walker was traded and Graveman went down with another injury (and ultimately landed in a bullpen role). As the M’s are in the middle of a full rebuild, it was necessary to get a good look at as many different guys as possible. Hence, the six-man rotation was born.

But, now we’re talking about carrying over the six-man rotation into 2021, when things are (hopefully) returning back to normal. Part of that has to do with protecting the guys (we don’t know how their arms will respond, going from pitching so few innings in a year, to a full 162-game season), part of that has to do with the Mariners still being smack-dab in the middle of a full rebuild (though ideally closer to being contenders than having to scrap it all and start over), but an interesting wrinkle is that part of the decision might reside in this is just where the game of baseball is headed. The Mariners MIGHT be on the ground floor of revolutionizing the sport in a major way. That’s kind of exciting!

The thing is, it’s going to be difficult to quantify whether or not this is an effective way to run a pitching staff. We likely won’t know until we’ve had multiple seasons of data on injuries and effectiveness; it would also be helpful if other teams joined in on our quest to normalize the six-man rotation, to give us all even more data on the matter (but, that also might take away our competitive advantage, if indeed this will be the new normal). The thing is, professional sports are inherently risk-averse. If the Mariners come out and shit the bed in 2021, they might be inclined to blame it on the six-man rotation (particularly if our starters struggle in spite of the extra rest they’re getting between starts), and then the concept will likely die.

I’m always in favor of trying new things in sports. It gets back to that competitive advantage notion. When you reach the highest levels of your sport, everyone has the same information. Every team has an analytics department. Teams have the smartest minds working as hard as possible, all in an effort to get the SLIGHTEST edge over their opponents. To the point where it feels more like luck than anything else when a team has sustained success.

It’s jarring when a pro team does anything remarkably outside of the ordinary. Teams in recent years have dabbled with the “Opener” – a relief pitcher starting a baseball game, pitching one or two innings (to get out the opposing team’s very best batters) before the actual starter comes in and goes the next 5-7 innings while hopefully seeing the top of the order fewer times in that particular game (because the stats say the more times a batter gets to go up against the same pitcher in a game, the more success they’ll have as the game goes along). There have been decidedly mixed results on how the Opener has worked out, but I think consensus is trending toward the direction that it’s a flop. Too many of these relief pitchers starting games are getting pounded and putting their teams in big holes (which leads me to wonder, with the top of the order properly warmed up against a fireballer like that, are they having more success against the softer-tossing starting pitchers who follow them out there?). But, hey, you can’t gain a competitive advantage without breaking some eggs!

The last really successful organization that found an edge against the rest of the league was the Oakland A’s around the turn of the century. They were the first team to really adopt the concepts of Bill James and other prominent analytical baseball minds to their advantage. They were a roaring success, though weren’t quite able to translate that into World Series titles (all they did was infuriatingly make it so the Mariners were denied two more opportunities to make the postseason, in 2002 and 2003, the last two truly great M’s teams).

It’s hard for me to say that a six-man rotation will be on par with what the A’s were doing, but I do believe it has significantly more value than the Opener.

For starters (!), the Mariners really don’t have an elite rotation. Marco Gonzales continues to shatter my expectations, but I also wouldn’t put him on par with the best of the best ace starters in the game today. Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn also impressed me a lot in their rookie campaigns, but they too have clear ceilings that aren’t at that ace level. Yusei Kikuchi has been a disappointment through two years, but it’s still too early to give up on him as he transitions from Japan to America. Margevicius and Newsome are not likely to be long-term rotation guys, as we have younger pitchers we will be looking to promote either in 2021 or 2022 at the latest. Graveman, as I mentioned, is now a bullpen guy going forward, due to his chronic neck issue that he apparently refuses to have surgery on, yet doesn’t prevent him from throwing really hard for an inning or two every other day. Taijuan Walker could always be re-signed if the price is right, but for now the Mariners have gone in another direction.

I had never heard of Chris Flexen before word came down that the Mariners signed him to a 2-year, $7 million deal. This obviously has the feel of another one of those buy-low Jerry Dipoto deals where he’s trying to squeeze out significant value from a candidate to have a bounce-back in his career. Except, in this case, Flexen was NEVER good … until he went over to the Korea Baseball Organization for the 2020 season. He had a lot of success over there in his 21 games started. Strikeouts were up, walks were down, it was everything you could ask for. With the caveat that the level of competition is obviously not where it is in the Major Leagues. It sounds like he was able to take advantage of their aggressive style of play in getting hitters to swing at his stuff outside of the strike zone. So, it’s hard to say if his stuff will translate back to the U.S.

The upside is: there is precedent for someone to go to the KBO and come back and pitch well. Also, the money is quite nice. $7 million over two years is nothing in MLB terms (even in the wake of a pandemic-related financial collapse). If he turns into a useful starter, then he’s an absolute bargain! And, if he stinks, then hey, no sweat off our noses.

Probably best not to expect too much out of Flexen, but feel free to leave yourself open to believing that he might keep the good times rolling. My hunch is he’ll look good out of the gate, then the league will start to adjust to what he’s doing out there, and then we’ll know if he’s worth a damn or not. If he can adjust to how the batters adjust to him, then we might have something. But, if he can’t figure it out, then it was a nice idea that just didn’t pan out (but maybe he can still be a useful bullpen guy for a while).

I think we were all hoping for a little more out of free agency when it came to bolstering the rotation, but if this is indeed truly it, then I think I’ll be slightly disappointed. Yes, the Mariners have a lot of highly-rated prospects working their way through the minor leagues in the next two years, but not ALL of them are going to pan out, for one reason or another. Remember “The Big Four” of Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, and Brandon Maurer? Hultzen never pitched in the Majors with the Mariners due to injuries, Walker had middling success until he was traded away, and Maurer eventually had to convert to a bullpen role and hasn’t pitched since 2018. Paxton was the only guy who panned out, and he still had his share of injuries throughout his career, ultimately getting traded to the Yankees for Sheffield when we started our rebuild.

Nothing is a given, is my point. And, if we’re truly going to go forward with this six-man rotation, it seems like there should be plenty of room for a guy like Flexen, as well as a free agent with more substance. We’ll see if the Mariners think the same way as I do or not.

The 2020 Mariners Are Giving People A Lot Of Hope For 2021

The best-case scenario for the 2020 Mariners would’ve been going 60-0 with the players we had on our original roster (without calling up any of our prized prospects), followed by a rampage through the playoffs and our first (of many) World Series titles; my second and third wishes – for the record, if there are any lamp-imprisoned genies out there reading this – would be a billion tax-free American dollars given to me through no criminal means, and my very own Perpetual Orgasm Machine that I’m able to plug into Matrix-style for my own nonstop indulgence.

Since we obviously didn’t reach that apex of baseball achievement, I’d have to say the 2020 Mariners season was a qualified success! I’ll rate it a 7 out of 10 batting doughnuts (you don’t rate baseball success on a scale of batting doughnuts?). Based on expectations as a long-suffering Mariners fan, though, I’d have to bump it up to an 8 out of 10.

There was every reason to expect the worst this year. Key guys getting injured. Potential stars failing to develop. Botched trades. Useless free agent signings. Listless or negative clubhouse chemistry compounded exponentially as losses mounted. The Mariners have been in some form of rebuild since plummeting back to Earth in 2004. You can say they’ve never really torn the franchise down to the studs until this time around – and I’m inclined to agree with you – but there’s also no one right way to rebuild a franchise. As it turns out, hindsight being what it is, we know that all the ways we’ve tried it over the last 16 years have been utter failures, largely due to the reasons listed at the top of this paragraph; we’ve seen it all and then some!

So, to have the relative success this team was able to achieve is pretty remarkable. For the first time in a VERY long time, there is reason for actual hope. This feels real! Not based on a mountain of lies and unsustainably-lucky performances. We finished 27-33, and even with the playoffs expanded to eight teams per league, we still failed to get there. Honestly, I think that’s great! We didn’t overachieve! Because let’s face it, the last time there was this much hype around a bad, yet-hopefully-rebuilding Mariners squad, we did overachieve (in 2007 and again in 2009) and were crushingly disappointed (in 2008 and again in 2010).

Our general managers in those eras made what now feels like panic moves, to bolster a house of cards and see if we could parlay unlikely success into a return to meaningful, post-season baseball. And, we ended up losing over 100 games in response both times, falling apart under the weight of too-high expectations.

That isn’t to say the Mariners should stand pat going into 2021; just stick to the plan. The plan all along was to strip away the rotting, dead wood, give our young prospects an opportunity to flourish, and then add on complementary, quality veterans to slingshot into the stratosphere. While a 60-game, COVID-shortened season isn’t the ideal form of development for our young guys, it’s better than nothing. And, you can argue they flourished all the same.

The M’s are in desperate need for young, cheap, homegrown stars (not necessarily draft picks or international free agent signings, but really anyone acquired to work their way through our minor league system). Kyle Seager was really the last one to stick in any sort of meaningful way, and he obviously has a ceiling to his level of production; before him you’re probably looking at King Felix. That’s NOT a lot of stars over the last 15 years, which makes the futility all the more understandable.

With the crop of youngsters we have on the team now, and the guys in the upper levels of the minors (who figure to be called up pretty early on in the 2021 season), there are a considerable number of candidates who could be stars for this team. That’s so exciting!

As a change of pace, I’m going to rank the top Mariners I’m most excited about, with a little blurb for each.

  1. Jarred Kelenic – We did it! We kept him in the minors for the entirety of the 2020 season! That buys us an extra year of club control, and if we keep him down there for the first month or so in 2021, that’ll earn us one MORE year. This is important, see, because he’s far and away the best prospect we’ve had in the organization since King Felix, the best position player prospect we’ve had since Adam Jones, and probably the best position player prospect who we’re not going to foolishly trade away since Alex Rodriguez! If it all breaks as it should, his floor should be as a perennial All Star, with his ceiling being an MVP-calibre superstar.
  2. Kyle Lewis – Our should-be Rookie of the Year, he’s really exceeded expectations both in his 2019 cup of coffee and his 2020 surge forward. Of course, in both instances, we saw some struggles; his final month of this season was a pretty collosal nightmare from a batting average perspective. But, he remained a tough out – with a resepctable on-base percentage throughout – and took a huge leap in his defense, in locking down the everyday centerfield job. You never root for someone to do poorly, of course, but I don’t think his end to the season was a bad thing. He’s not a finished product, that’s clear. That’s also really exciting, because we know what the floor is (and that’s a really good player); we have no idea what the ceiling is, though, which allows us to dream as big as we want!
  3. Evan White – On paper, his rookie season wasn’t all that good, but there are still promising signs of things to come. For starters, he’s already among the best defensive first basemen in baseball. That’s going to paper over a lot of things for someone who slashed only .179/.253/.352. Anecdotally, though, I think we all saw some good improvement with his approach at the plate. In 54 games, he hit 7 doubles and 8 homers; extrapolate that out for nearly a full season and you’re looking at a 20/20 player. As a rookie? I’ll take that. This was good, pain-free experience for a still-developing prospect; I know I’ve said this a lot over the years, but I really believe he’s only going to get better from here. When he makes contact, the ball really explodes off his bat! This isn’t a Justin Smoak/Warning Track Power sort of swing; he’s got some pop that will play at this level! He just needs to improve his eye at the plate and his contact rate; everything else will work itself out in the years ahead.
  4. Marco Gonzales – What a stud. Just an absolute horse for this team. Someone to lead a new generation of exciting pitchers both with his outstanding on-field performance and his in-clubhouse guidance. I’ll be honest, I forgot we already extended him through 2025, but now that I confirmed it (and at a pretty reasonable salary to boot), I’m even more thrilled! When the M’s originally acquired him from the Cardinals in 2017, I thought we were getting just another ho-hum, soft-tossing lefty who at best would translate to a #5 starter, but more likely fizzle out of baseball entirely. Boy am I happy to be so wrong! He has gotten better every year he’s been here, to the point where you can legitimately have him in the Cy Young conversation! I thought his 2018/2019 level of production was his peak – a 4 ERA type of guy who might give you 175-200 innings and keep you in most games – but what he was in 2020 was a legitimate … ALMOST ace. He’s so close! If he can do what he did this season over 30+ starts next year, then I’ll absolutely give him that mantle for as long as he’s still in Seattle.
  5. Mitch Haniger – Don’t think I forgot about you! You know what’s exciting? Having an All Star locked and loaded and ready to go (hopefully) in 2021. He’s still young, he’s still at the Arbitration level for two more seasons, he’s STARVING to be back on the diamond and among the greats in this league again (so you know motivation won’t be an issue), and he’s still talented in all the ways you want in a right fielder. Sure, he might be a little rusty at first, but he hasn’t irrevocably declined; he’s just had nagging, freak injuries. Injuries, mind you, that should fully heal and shouldn’t hamper his ability going forward. I’m under the assumption that – before too long – he’ll return to his 2018 level, where he was a 6-WAR type of player. This further helps matters because, while the Mariners do have a considerable glut in outfield talent, they don’t necessarily have to call them all up right away. We’ve got Haniger here to soften the blow! Also, with the DH spot up for grabs, if we do end up extending Haniger beyond 2022, he can always transition there and prolong his career that way.
  6. J.P. Crawford – Before the final series of the season – where he raised his batting average nearly 30 points in four games – I think there was a lot of consternation about Crawford’s 2020 season. To that I would say: this is the same guy who was hitting nearly .400 through July 31st; he’s streaky! In great and maddening ways! If you offered me .259/.335/.343 out of him every year, with the quality defense he plays at short stop, I think I’d take that and be happy. I don’t think anyone loves the idea of him being this team’s leadoff hitter – though, he was pretty great at working counts and looking at a lot of pitches this year – but as a bottom-of-the-order type of guy with plus-defense? Yes please! But, more importantly, he’s young enough that there’s still plenty of potential for him to get better as he gets used to playing at this level. I think he’s fine, and I’m happy to continue rooting for him.
  7. Justus Sheffield – There was a lot of concern for him as I’ve noted before, the bloom had come off the rose a little bit (even though he only just turned 24 this year). He was always going to start this season in the Majors and be given every opportunity to work his way through any growing pains. I think he came out of it wildly successful given my pre-season expectations! Six of his ten starts were of the quality variety, and I’d argue it would’ve been seven of ten had the manager left him in there longer in his final appearance of the season (there was no reason to push him, since we weren’t playing for anything, but he had plenty left in the tank). The fastball isn’t great, but his slider is phenomenal, and I thought his command improved tremendously from where it was in 2019. When we traded James Paxton to get him, we’d hoped we were getting a future ace; I don’t think that’s in the cards here. But, he can be a quality #2 or an elite #3 in a great rotation if he continues to progress.
  8. Ty France – He’s not the biggest name we got in the Austin Nola deal, but he’s the most Major League-ready bat, which is just what this team needs. The question remains: where does he belong? Is he a DH until Kyle Seager moves on? Does he take over at third base after that? Do we try to transition him over to second base? Do we shoehorn him into left field until Kelenic gets called up? Or, is he simply trade bait for someone else who has a more established defensive fit for this team? What I’m excited about is the fact that his production at the plate didn’t falter one bit in going from San Diego to Seattle. You never know what you’re going to get when you trade for someone; sometimes the transition causes them to press and try to do too much (leading to mistakes). His bat plays anywhere in the 2-6 range in the lineup – depending on who you’ve got around him – and it should continue to be productive as long as he’s here (under team control through the 2025 season).
  9. Dylan Moore – He’s your frontrunner for the starting second baseman job next year, but he too can play all over the field if you need him. This is VERY impressive for someone who appeared to be nothing more than a utility guy (at best) or a Quad-A level talent (at worst). We’ve seen TONS of Dylan Moore types who never took the next step into being an everyday starter, which is why his story is so special. He came into this season and really set all of our expectations on fire! His defense has DRASTICALLY improved since the beginning of 2019, and now his bat – particularly his power numbers – has taken that leap as well. He’s yet another diamond in the rough this team was able to pluck from obscurity who should be a valuable player on the roster, as well as a valuable trade chip if we need him to be.
  10. Tom Murphy / Luis Torrens – Let’s just lump both of our prospective catchers in here. This has long been a troubled position for the Mariners (as an organization with LOTS of trouble spots they’ve failed to properly fill over the years, that’s really saying something). It’s so reassuring that we not only have this spot 100% locked down in 2021, but for many years to come (with prospect Cal Raleigh knocking on the door of the Majors, who figures to be our regular starting catcher as soon as 2022 or 2023). Murphy, of course, spent 2020 injured, but he should return at full health (and to his quality 2019 form). This, fortunately, afforded us ample opportunity to get a good, long look at Torrens, who also came over from San Diego, and was really reliable in all facets of the catching game for the M’s.
  11. Justin Dunn – Our other big rookie starter getting a “full” season’s worth of experience didn’t have quite as promising of a year as Sheffield. He too has a rather disappointing fastball, but makes up for it with tons of movement. Which means that he didn’t give up very many hits (or even a ton of hard-hit balls), but he walked a bunch of dudes (31 in just over 45 innings). You wonder, if he is able to harness things and stay within the strike zone more, if that’ll translate to giving up more hits and extra-base hits. BUT, if he’s able to put it ALL together, he could be a really special guy. As it is, this was just a year to get his feet wet, and he did that, while staying healthy throughout. He’s worked his arm up, accounting for four quality starts out of ten, and now it’s time to take what he’s learned this year and advance things in 2021 and beyond. Once again – with Sheffield – he’ll be given every opportunity to walk out of Spring Training with a starting rotation job, which means he has a significant head start over the younger guys we’ve drafted in recent years, who are champing at the bit to make their marks in the Major Leagues.
  12. Yohan Ramirez – The bullpen was an unmitigated disaster in 2020, but Ramirez – the Rule 5 guy we got from the Cheating Astros’ organization – managed to not only stay up all year, but be probably our best overall reliever, as well as the guy most poised to be our Closer of the Future. He made 16 appearances, got 3 saves, and had the best ERA on the team (of guys who finished the season on the 25-man roster). He had 26 strikeouts in 20.2 innings, so he’s got electric stuff; but he also had 20 walks in that span, which means he’s yet to fully harness it. Bullpen is such a crapshoot, and we’ve probably got 20 guys right behind him who all have potential to be at least competent, so I don’t know if it makes a ton of sense to go crazy here. I’m just happy we came out of this season with ONE guy I like!

I could go on and on; there are a few pitchers in the minors I’m pretty excited about, but I know almost nothing about them, and I don’t know what exactly they were able to accomplish in Tacoma this year, without any real games happening (and facing the same Mariners prospects over and over). Many of them won’t be ready until 2022 at the earliest, and even the guys who are on the cusp will still likely have to start 2021 in the minors just to prove they’re ready to be called up.

But, if you just look at the guys I talked about here, 2021 looks like it could be quite fun. By midseason, Kelenic, Lewis, and Haniger could be our outfielders. Seager, Crawford, Moore, White, and Murphy/Torrens could be our infield, with Ty France as our DH (and any number of good-looking bench/utility guys behind them, like Jose Marmolejos, Sam Haggerty, Tim Lopes, and Shed Long). What do you think about this lineup?

  1. Dylan Moore (2B)
  2. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  3. Kyle Lewis (CF)
  4. Kyle Seager (3B)
  5. Ty France (DH)
  6. Evan White (1B)
  7. Jarred Kelenic (LF)
  8. Tom Murphy/Luis Torrens (C)
  9. J.P. Crawford (SS)

Obviously, of course, Kelenic will eventually ascend toward the 2-4 range in the lineup, but as a rookie? Let’s give him a soft landing, at least until he’s worked through his inevitable struggles.

That’s a fun lineup, though, right?! Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais are already talking about the 2021 team contending for the playoffs – which is a good year (at least) earlier than most projections had us heading into this season – and that has to be a considerable reason why. Those guys can hit, defend, steal bases, get on base; everything you want! That’s a viable Major League everyday roster that can win a lot of ballgames.

On the pitching side of things, it’s a little more iffy. It sounds like we’re going to continue with a 6-man rotation, with four of the slots going to Marco, Justus Sheffield, Yusei Kikuchi, and Justin Dunn. Figure that Nick Margevicius and Ljay Newsome will compete for a fifth spot (with the other likely heading to the bullpen as a long reliever), and a sixth spot going to a free agent (maybe bring back Taijuan Walker, who was KILLING it in Toronto after we traded him; it’s a bummer that it doesn’t look like he got a chance to pitch in the playoffs, before they lost to the Rays). With all the money the Mariners have to spend, I have to imagine that whoever we sign in free agency will be of high quality. So, if you figure he’s at least on Marco’s level, that’s two high-quality starters at the top of the rotation, with two promising young guys in Sheffield & Dunn, and Kikuchi who will hopefully figure it out at some point (considering his pedigree in the Japanese league). Also, not for nothing, but Margevicius and Newsome both threw lots of strikes and consistently kept the M’s in ballgames, so I have no problem with either one of them.

It’s not a dominant rotation, but as long as guys don’t regress too bad, you can win a lot with them.

The bullpen is another matter, of course. You figure the M’s will also look to free agency here to shore it up, but I won’t be holding my breath. The variance from season to season when it comes to relievers makes them too unpredictable to project. It’s going to take a lot of luck – in finding the right guys, as well as helping our homegrown guys improve in their development – but if the Mariners somehow hit the lottery with their bullpen configuration, then 2021 could very well be the year we end the streak.

It could be the first year since 2001 that we make the post-season!

(it would also help if MLB kept the playoff format as is, with eight teams per league advancing, but that’s neither here nor there).

As I mentioned, every time I’ve left a season allowing myself to dream big about the future, the Mariners have fallen on their faces. This time DOES feel different, though. The foundation doesn’t seem like it’s being held together by 15 year old duct tape, with a leaking roof and spiders crawling all over the basement. The veterans are still in their primes, the young guys look poised to develop early, and if we can just catch a fucking BREAK for once, maybe there will be cause for real, legitimate celebration in 2021!

Or, you know, maybe everything falls apart again, the front office all gets fired after making all these promises of contention, panic moves – made in hopes to save their jobs – all bite us horrifically in the ass, and we’re left to do this all over again in another 5-10 years.

When I put it that way, when do the Seattle Kraken start playing?

The Mariners Are Clinging For Dear Life (But No, They’re Not Really)

If the Mariners beat the A’s four times in a row, and the Cheating Astros lose to the Rangers four times in a row, then you can say there’s a sliver of a chance. I’m just glad Houston didn’t get the opportunity to celebrate a playoff berth on our field.

There’s also still allegedly a chance at the Wild Card, if the Mariners win out and Toronto loses out. All told, according to ESPN, the Mariners currently have a 0.2% chance of making the playoffs. I’m not really a betting man – as you well know – but I’d have no problem putting up everything I own on the Mariners’ season concluding this Sunday.

It was a fun ride while it lasted, but like every year (except four) in the team’s history, it’s going to end without the playoffs.

Monday’s game was rather inspiring! We had a good ol’ fashioned pitcher’s duel, between Marco Gonzales and Lance McCullers. Nothing but zeroes through the first six and a half innings, before we put up four unearned runs in the bottom of the seventh, off of a Ty France double and an Evan White 3-run home run. As if that wasn’t enough of an insurmountable lead, Kyle Seager chipped in with a 2-RBI single in the eighth to really hammer this one home. Gonzo ended up throwing eight shutout innings, giving up 7 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 6. The shutout wasn’t meant to be, as Joey Gerber gave up a run in the ninth (we’re still waiting on that first shutout for this pitching staff), but I’ll take a 6-1 victory every single time.

What I got on Tuesday, instead, was a 6-1 defeat! Were you NOT paying attention?! Ljay Newsome battled through 4.1 innings of 1-run ball, but the bullpen is what it is, and sometimes that means it gives up 5 runs in 4.2 innings. Kyle Seager and J.P. Crawford had two hits apiece, but that was about it for the offense.

To get just our third victory against the Cheating Astros of the season – and our first 3-game series victory over them since 2018 – it required a massive team effort last night. Nick Margevicius was a champ, going 6 shutout innings (giving up 3 hits and 3 walks) while getting out of numerous jams along the way. I’ll be interested in what the team does with him next year. As a fifth starter, he seems like a pretty good fit. He might project more as a bullpen/long-relief/spot-starter type of guy though. We’ll see. Anyway, Kyle Lewis, Seager, and France all had two hits apiece, with Seager and France providing all the RBI in this one. We led 3-0 going into the ninth, before Yoshihisa Hirano scared the bejesus out of everyone. He gave up 2 runs in acquiring his fourth save of the season, but did just enough to preserve the 3-2 victory.

Our record is 25-31 now, which is actually a half game behind the Angels, who have gotten hot of late! We’re still tied for tenth in the draft order next year, with four games to go: an off-day today, followed by a Friday night game, a Saturday doubleheader, and a Sunday matinee, all down in Oakland. I’ll be honest, I hope we lose all four. We’ve done what we came to do, we got some guys some valuable experience, but now is the time to do some serious tanking. We can still pretty easily leap over about six teams to get a Top 5 draft pick! I think; I’ll be honest, I haven’t looked at every team’s schedule here to do the specific math.

I won’t sweat it too much, though. If the Mariners are going to rebound into a championship-calibre team, then the pieces we need to do that are already in the organization. I just think, you know, you can never have too many Top 5 draft picks, right? Right.

So, lose away, Mariners! You have my permission (not that you’ve needed it all these decades).

The Mariners Have Been Smoked Out Of Seattle; Things Are Clearly Going Great Right Now

We got that doubleheader in against the A’s on Monday – in far-less than ideal conditions, smokewise – but with the air quality failing to improve, MLB made the probably-smart decision to move the 2-game series against the Giants to San Francisco, where I guess things have improved dramatically since the last time we played them (on September 9th) and the sky made it look like they were on Mars. That pushed things back to where our Tuesday/Wednesday do-si-do this week became a Wednesday/Thursday whathaveyou, which necessitated a flip-flopping of my Seahawks preview post and this Mariners post-series post, so what I’m REALLY getting at is this whole thing is a huge inconvenience to me above everyone else!

I am, of course, kidding. The smoke in the Pacific Northwest continues to be a huge dumpster fire to the point that even our 3-game home series against the Padres had to be moved to San Diego this weekend. Between these five games, and the additional make-up game against the A’s that’s already been tacked onto our season-ending series in Oakland, that’s at least six home games the Mariners will have had to play on the road this year. So, on top of being a rebuilding team that has improbably found itself on the fringe of playoff contention in spite of trades shedding the roster of a couple of our best guys, we’re saddled with a 24/36 home/road split. If we figure out some way to make the post-season with all of this going against us, then truly there is a higher power who is improbably a Mariners fan (to whom I would like to ask: WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN THE LAST 20 YEARS?!).

Anyhoozle, the Mariners were just beaten two more times by the Giants, so I’m pretty glad to be the fuck away from THAT team for a while.

Wednesday’s 9-3 defeat was pretty demoralizing. Ljay Newsome – fresh off of a shortened start when he was hit in the pitching hand by a line drive – was clearly rusty, giving up 5 runs in 3 innings. Erik Swanson was recently called back up – fresh off of either being demoted for sucking, or maybe an injury, I forget/don’t care – and clearly hasn’t learned how to pitch since he was with the Mariners last, giving up 3 more runs (2 earned) in 1/3 of an inning. There was some okay bullpen work beyond that, but the damage was done. Kyle Lewis had a couple hits in this one, but he’s been pretty cold of late, with his batting average dipping below .300. I hope his Rookie of the Year chances aren’t in jeopardy!

Thursday’s 6-4 defeat was demoralizing in a completely different way. After five innings, the Mariners held a 4-1 lead (scoring all of our runs in the second, as we chased the Giants’ starter from the game), but proceeded to slowly, but surely, give it all away. Nick Margevicius was spectacular through five, but he couldn’t get a single out in the sixth inning, and two more runs were allowed in the process. Things were still in okay shape, with Kendall Graveman coming in for the seventh inning. But, he just didn’t have it in this one, giving up three more runs while getting only two outs. It’s been a while since we’ve had a prolonged slump from our bullpen, but we appear to be in the throes of one right now, and it’s not much fun.

Our only chance to make the playoffs seems to be as the A.L. West’s second place team, as the Wild Card looks to be out of reach. The Cheating Astros were working with us on that goal by losing a bunch of games, but they have the easiest remaining schedule in all of baseball the rest of the way, while I believe the Mariners have one of the hardest. We currently sit three games behind Houston, which is really four games, because they own the tiebreaker in the head-to-head matchup already.

It’s not looking likely that we break the streak, is my point. As I mentioned, we have three more games down in San Diego over the weekend. If we can somehow get through that without losing any more ground on the Astros, then we have a three-game set against Houston that we SHOULD be able to play in Seattle next week! If we hold serve in San Diego, and sweep the Astros next week, that would put us in a dead heat; from there we’d have four games down in Oakland to try to make up one game’s worth of ground against Houston to overtake them.

I apologize if you wasted your time reading the previous paragraph, because none of that is EVER going to happen. My hunch is: we’ll continue to spiral this weekend, and be officially eliminated at home in Seattle next week, making our final series in Oakland totally meaningless.

Which brings us back to draft positioning! We’re 22-28 right now. That puts us squarely in the 10th spot in the draft next year. I don’t want to alarm you, but given our difficult schedule, we have a VERY legitimate opportunity to leapfrog anywhere from 4 to 8 teams. To get to the #2 overall draft position, we’re only four games separated from the Texas Rangers! Obviously, they’re terrible, but you never know!

The floor is the limit, everyone!

The Mariners Giveth, The Mariners Taketh Away

It’s a common theme with Seattle Mariners fandom: the team does something unexpectedly exciting – like, say, a 6-game winning streak and winning 11 of 14 after being among the worst three teams in all of baseball for the entire season to date – to climb back into improbable playoff contention; what happens next WON’T shock you! They go to San Francisco and get swept in a 2-game series.

Both of these games started at 6:45pm and I know that’s actually earlier than a normal year – where most games start at 7:10pm – but, I mean, that’s late, right? They want us to stay up until all hours of the night to finish these games! I’m pretty sure I was asleep not long after these games started, so obviously I should be your go-to source on what happened.

Tuesday’s game sounds like it was a hard-luck 6-5 defeat. Ljay Newsome – who’s been quite good since being called up and thrust into the starting rotation – took a line drive off of his pitching hand and had to come out of the game. It sounds like he’s on track to make his next start, but he was limited to just four outs in this one, which meant we had to rely on Brady Lail to eat up some innings. He managed 2.2, but cost us 4 runs in the process, to gag away what was at one point a 5-1 lead.

Kyle Lewis, Ty France, Evan White, and Luis Torrens each had two hits apiece to lead the way, but it’s unfortunate that the offense couldn’t find a way to add any more runs after the third inning. The team was 2/10 with runners in scoring position, and that’s just not going to get the job done on most nights. After Lail was pulled from the game, the bullpen settled down, but still couldn’t help but give up a go-ahead solo homer in the seventh inning to seal the deal.

The less said about last night’s 10-1 defeat, the better. Nick Margevicius has been mostly good since he entered the rotation, but they eventually figured him out in this one. He went 4.2, giving up 7 runs. Some guy we just picked up went 1.1 and gave up the other three runs; after that, all we had left to wonder was if the M’s would score at all. Finally, a Seager sac fly in the eighth put us out of our misery, but it was too little, too late. The only bit of goodness in this one was Aaron Fletcher striking out the side in the seventh inning, only giving up one hit in the process. That’s something, anyway.

The Mariners get to enjoy one of their precious few off-days today before a 3-game set in Arizona over the weekend. It would be nice to use this series to re-set things for a fun finish. Of course, by the time we get to Sunday – and Seahawks football – will anyone give a shit anymore? Your guess is as good as mine!

The series sweep leaves the Mariners tied for 8th in draft order next year, in case you were wondering. With only 17 games to go in the season, this weekend – combined with the double-header against Oakland on Monday – should tell us quite a bit. If the Mariners can go 4-1 or better, then I believe there’s at least a legitimate chance we can make a push in the final two weeks. Even though the A’s are among the very best teams in all of baseball, I haven’t seen enough of them to be all that impressed. In the four games we’ve played against one another, the Mariners were IN three of those games (winning one and losing the others by one run each). Yeah, the A’s are good, but I don’t think we’re looking at automatic losses the rest of the way.

I dunno. I’ll be very interested in these next five games. Feels like a real inflection point in this season. Play well, and who knows? Play mediocre-to-poorly, and, well, I guess WE know, don’t we?

These Damn-Fool Mariners Almost Swept The Padres Too!

Everything about this series was impressive, even the defeat!

After a harrowing stretch where the Mariners went 1-8, we damn near went 6-0; a funny thing for a terrible team to do when I’m over here talking about draft positioning in 2021.

We kicked things off on Tuesday with a rather satisfying 8-3 victory. Marco Gonzales wasn’t the sharpest I’ve ever seen, but he battled through five innings, giving up three runs on nine hits. Thankfully, the bullpen was able to shut it down from there.

The offense jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Marco gave up his runs to make things tight in the third inning. From there, though, the M’s were able to play add-on in the sixth and seventh innings to put it away. Austin Nola had three hits (including a homer), Evan White added three hits, and J.P. Crawford had a double and a homer to turn things around after a little slump. This was a fairly impressive victory against a really hot Padres team.

Then, on Wednesday, the Mariners decided to participate in the rash of pro sports boycotts this week over the latest high-profile police shooting (kind of sad that’s a sentence that gets to be written, but there you go). I’m dubious that Wednesday will be a day that goes down in history – as some people are writing – but I’m supportive of what they did anyway. It’s better than doing nothing, than ignoring the issue and hoping it goes away. I don’t know how much good it’ll end up doing in the grand scheme of things, but if it gets people talking and gets people focused on something important, I’m for it. I do think it would’ve been interesting – as someone on Twitter pointed out – what the reaction would’ve been if there were paying fans in the stands when these boycotts/walkouts happened. It’s one thing to postpone a game in an empty stadium/arena that will just be made up at a later date; it’s another for the franchises to have to issue refunds and to be face-to-face with thousands of potentially-angry fans who might not care about social issues when they’re trying to experience a ballgame.

Anyway, this meant that on Thursday, we got to experience our first doubleheader of the 2020 season! The COVID rules dictate that all doubleheaders are 7-inning affairs, which I don’t know why, but it tickles me to my core. My friend brought up a good point: in fantasy baseball, if you throw a 7-inning complete game shutout, does that count towards your CG/SHO stats? I’m sure it does, which is such delightful fantasy chaos I can’t even stand it! Of course, there wasn’t any worry about the Mariners doing that, so let’s hop to it.

In the first game, Taijuan Walker was supposed to start, but, well, you know … so instead Ljay Newsome was given the opportunity, and I’d say he made the most of it! You might recall he made his Major League debut against the Dodgers and spun three innings of relative gold against a pretty potent lineup. I would argue the Padres have just-as-potent of a lineup, and what do you know? More relative gold! 4 innings, 1 run on 3 hits and 0 walks, with 4 strikeouts. Work ended up distracting me from most of his outing, but I like what I hear about him so far anyway! He only threw 60 pitches, which leads me to believe the organization is still trying to build up his arm strength, on top of showing an abundance of caution for a guy who might be a legitimate member of this pitching staff (in some capacity) for many years to come.

After three shutout innings by both sides, the Mariners put a 3-spot on the board in the fourth inning. Evan White apparently strained his shoulder while diving for a ball earlier in the game and had to be pulled after his at-bat in the second inning. Jose Marmolejos – who was recently called up for this road trip – took over at first base and in his first AB crushed a 2-run homer the opposite way. Shed Long followed shortly after that with an RBI single to give the M’s a nice little cushion … that was wiped away completely in the bottom of the sixth thanks to Matt Magill.

Undaunted, the Mariners came out in the top of the seventh – the final inning of the game, remember – with a 4-run explosion! It was honestly one of the more impressive offensive displays I’ve seen out of this team! Sam Haggerty is a kid I’m liking more and more every time I see him; he got it started with an infield RBI single. Kyle Lewis followed with another infield RBI single, then Kyle Seager did the same damn thing! Austin Nola’s sacrifice fly made it 7-3 and gave us all the feeling that the game was put to bed.

Then, in walked Taylor Williams. The Taylor Williams Experience isn’t quite as entertaining as the Fernando Rodney Experience, but he’s just as much of a terrifying rollercoaster every time he steps on the mound! This was one of the more impressive blow-ups I’ve ever seen.

The TWE started off with two relatively quick outs! That’s part of what’s so insane about all of this. With a 4-run lead, the Padres were down to their final out of the game, and then things totally unravelled. A hit batter. A walk. A wild pitch. Another walk to load the bases. A single to score two. A passed ball to advance the runners. Another wild pitch to score one. A single to tie the game.

That last single was TWE’s 29th pitch of the inning, and here’s where things get interesting. Part of me expected – with a second game coming up in just minutes after the first – that Scott Servais would stick with TWE to at least close out the inning, lose or tie. If he gets the final out of the inning, then we’re going to extras regardless, and there are only so many bullpen guys to go around (on top of which, Yusei Kikuchi was to start the second game, and there’s no telling with him how many innings he’ll go in any given start). Instead, Servais made the curious choice to insert Dan Altavilla, Resident Buffed-Up Punching Bag. I’m a firm believer that neither Altavilla nor TWE will be part of the next Great Mariners Team if-and-when we ever see it come to fruition, but using both of these guys in such high-leverage situations – when they’ve proven time and again to be dangerous out there, if not outright inept – can only mean the team is (smartly) intentionally tanking as much as possible (without making it LOOK like they’re tanking) to get that higher draft pick that I keep harping on.

Call me crazy! I know it sounds like those Flat Earth people who say that Australia isn’t a real place that exists, but I’m just saying that it’s AWFULLY fishy that Altavilla – of ALL people – is brought in to try and preserve the tie. Of course, he promptly gave up a single, followed by a 3-run home run, to allow the Padres to walk it off. Seven innings scored in total, to give them the 10-7 victory. Incredible!

Game Two kicked off, I dunno, 30-60 minutes later? I was reading a short story when the Mariners put up a whopping SIX runs in the top of the first; out of sight/out of mind indeed! Who was in the middle of it all? Jose Marmolejos! With a GRAND SLAM! Are you kidding?! I don’t know if the team expected him to play at all on this road trip – I think he was mostly here just as insurance – and yet he enters in the middle of game one and manages to hit a homer in each game of a doubleheader! This is, apparently, why we have insurance; who knew?!

Staked to such a seemingly-insurmountable lead, Yusei Kikuchi went out there and was fine. Like Marco earlier in the week, he went 5 innings, giving up 3 runs (on 7 hits and 0 walks), with 6 strikeouts. He threw only 81 pitches, and never seemed to be in any huge jams, so it was curious to not try to squeeze one more inning out of him (especially when the bullpen had just done what it did earlier in the day), but again *Guy Tapping Head Meme* Scott Servais knows you can’t have your bullpen blow a save if you don’t go to your bullpen!

With a 6-3 lead at our disposal, we went with Aaron Fletcher in the bottom of the sixth. In just his third Major League appearance, he REALLY looked like he was going to oblige in blowing this game! A walk, a walk, a strikeout (SEVERELY aided by the umpire not knowing what a “strike zone” was), and a single loaded the bases before Servais had no choice but to pull him in favor of Joey Gerber (you know, to keep up appearances … *WINK*). Gerber has been mostly great in his first season in the Majors; if I were a manager who was trying to actually win games, I might’ve considered using him over Altavilla in Game One, for instance, as he’s been pretty reliable. Anyway, depending on where your interests lie, he either DID or DIDN’T disappoint, when he threw one pitch and managed to get a double play to get out of the inning without giving up any runs.

From there, the M’s added two more runs to their ledger, thanks to yet another clutch Sam Haggerty RBI (a double this time, giving him two hits in the game and three hits on the day), followed by another clutch Austin Nola RBI (a single this time, which was his lone hit of the game – though he had two walks – but his second hit on the day – in addition to his third walk earlier). Veteran reliever Yoshihisa Hirano closed this 8-3 victory out without too much trouble, giving the Mariners quite an impressive series win (that was, again, one out away from a series sweep).

And guess what! Now, we go to Anaheim to play the last place Angels for four games! Not only are the Angels last in the A.L. West – with a 10-22 record – but they’ve got the very worst record in all of Major League Baseball! Unbelievable, right?

At 13-20, the Mariners currently hold the seventh draft pick (based on winning percentage), which is kinda crazy. There are also five teams with a worse run differential than our -31. We could easily explain-away the sweep against the Rangers as them just being terrible. But, this Padres series was a little eye-opening. Truth be told, I know I’m all about that high draft pick, but THIS is actually what we wanted to see from the 2020 Mariners. Start off in a huge hole, but over time, everyone (especially the young guys) gets better until this team starts to look somewhat competent out there. THEN, you parlay that into further improvement in 2021, with maybe a hot finish putting us in or near playoff contention, just in time for this team to truly be great in 2022 and beyond.

It would, of course, be idiotic for us to get our hopes up for this 2020 team, with just a month left to play. But, you know, talk to me in four days when we sweep the Angels and are sitting at a quite-respectable 17-20. At that point, I might just be dumb enough to believe anything!

The Mariners Managed To Beat The Dodgers One Out Of Four Times; That’s Something

I watched a GREAT DEAL of the home half of this Dodgers series, including almost all of the game on Wednesday. I had to be awake past 9pm for cryin’ out loud! Is there any way we can make all the games start at 4pm Pacific Time? Some of us wake up at the buttcrack of dawn for a living!

Wednesday’s game was legitimately fun … you know, for baseball. While I’m in Tank Mode for a higher draft pick, obviously the M’s can’t lose EVERY game, nor would I necessarily want them to. That’s not enjoyable! You’ve gotta give the kids a little success here and there to feel better about themselves!

Taijuan Walker took the hill in this one, and had thrown over 50 pitches through two innings, in giving up two runs. With a solo homer flying out of here in the third, it didn’t look like this was going to be Walker’s day. It happens. Sometimes you just don’t have it, plus the Dodgers are one of the very best teams in all of baseball. He was letting his pitches get too much of the plate; he REALLY had a lot of movement on pretty much everything he threw. It was one of those performances where I kept thinking, “Just aim for dead center and let the ball move away from that spot on its own!”

Anyway, he figured something out, because after that he settled down tremendously, giving up zero additional runs through the seventh inning, in throwing only 106 pitches. It was a sight to behold! Taijuan Walker is angling for a big-money payday in 2021 and beyond, and if he keeps pitching this way, he’ll deserve it!

The Mariners’ bats managed to knock the Dodgers’ starter out of there before he got through two innings, but we only had one run at that point to show for it. Nevertheless, in a de facto bullpen day, our bats continued to hit well, as we put up a 4-spot in the bottom of the third to take the lead for good.

Dylan Moore hit his fifth homer of the season, Austin Nola hit his third (with two runners on base, to bring his RBI total to 13), and Kyle Lewis and Tim Lopes each had two hits apiece.

This game was also highly entertaining because one of the Dodgers got called out on a legitimate strikeout (at the very bottom of the zone) in the third inning (which he wasn’t happy about at the time). Then, in the sixth, he took another iffy strike call in his at-bat – that, again, was legitimately a strike – and both the Dodgers’ hitting coach and manager were tossed from the game for arguing with the ump. The manager even came out to further argue his point, which led the Mariners’ DJ to play “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” by The Police, which was the height of hilarity for a stadium DJ in these COVID-times. After all of that, when the batter struck out swinging, he must’ve said something under his breath that the ump heard, because HE TOO was thrown out!

Anyway, things calmed down after that. With a 6-3 lead heading into the eighth, the bullpen only gave up one run the rest of the way, though Taylor Williams certainly made it interesting in getting his 4-out save. The bases were ultimately loaded with two outs and Corey Seager at the plate, but Williams got ahead and finished the game with a strikeout and a 6-4 victory.

The Mariners weren’t nearly so good or fortunate last night. Clayton Kershaw pitched for the Dodgers and that’s all you really need to know. Against this Mariners lineup? Nothing about his performance was shocking to me: 7 innings, 1 run off of 4 hits and 1 walk, with 11 strikeouts. Honestly, the only thing even remotely surprising is the one run he gave up, but that’s mitigated by the fact that Kyle Seager is the owner of that one, with a solo homer; one of the most underratedly great things about Seager is his ability – as a lefty – to mash against left-handed pitching.

Yusei Kikuchi took the bump for the Mariners after missing his previous start with a minor neck strain. He was good through two innings, struggled in the third, bounced back nicely in the fourth, but appeared to tire in the fifth. 4.2 innings, 5 runs, 4 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts. Some of that could be rust; I’ll be more interested in how he responds next week.

As I noted, the offense was nil in this one, as the M’s lost 6-1. Other than Seager continuing to be Seager, the good news from this one was Ljay Newsome – a 26th round draft pick by the Mariners in 2015 – finally making his Major League debut. And, in risking another jinx, he looked really good! He went three innings – to REALLY save our bullpen in this one – and only gave up a solo homer. On top of that, in his final inning of work, he got into quite a little jam and was able to pitch out of it without giving up further damage. Considering the opponent, that’s a debut you can really hang your hat on!

The Mariners are 8-19 now, with a series against the Rangers over the weekend, before we hit the road again. With the Red Sox winning a couple, we’re now the second-worst team in the Major Leagues, in both record and winning percentage! We’ve got a ways to go to catch the Pirates, but I’m liking so much of what I’m seeing right now.