The 2021 Seattle Mariners State Of The Young Guys

I promised to get around to talking about the young guys, and here I am delivering on that promise!

As I noted previously, there’s reason for both optimism and pessimism surrounding the immediate future of the Seattle Mariners. If we glom onto the negative, you’ve got an unsustainable offensive model where the team sucks at hitting, except for very specific points in any given ballgame where the team comes together to score JUST enough to win by a run or two. Otherwise, we’re looking at severe blowout losses that throw our run differential out of whack. Furthermore, the people doing most of the hitting are veterans, while many of the young guys struggled mightily.

I’m going to try to look on the bright side with this post, but you know me. Some of that negativity is bound to creep in.

I’ll start with a point I made in Tuesday’s post: J.P. Crawford and Ty France are far from old fogeys. Just because they’ve been around the bigs for a few years doesn’t mean they’re past their primes or anything; Crawford will be 27 in January and France is 27 now. We control Crawford through 2024 and France through 2025; I don’t care about any years beyond those right now, if I’m being honest. The “Win Forever” concept is a nice idea in theory, but let’s just get to the initial “Win” part before we start talking in terms of multiple years or decades down the line.

I would argue there’s a lot to like about the way Jarred Kelenic finished his season. Sure, his rookie season was miserable for the vast majority of it – finishing with a -1.7 WAR in 93 games – but his September/October were leaps and bounds better than the rest of his year. It can be easy to discount a late-season surge like that, but this wasn’t a guy getting a cup of coffee at the end of a losing year. This was a guy who worked through his initial struggles – largely at the Major League level – and found a breakthrough after a lot of trial and error. It doesn’t mean he’s necessarily going to start 2022 on fire and be an All Star the rest of his career, but it doesn’t rule it out either. Regardless, I would expect a huge improvement in his overall numbers next year; I don’t think we have much to worry about when it comes to Kelenic. We know, if nothing else, he’s going to continue to put in the work to be one of the greats.

I also want to talk about Logan Gilbert up top, as another young stud who should be a mainstay for a good, long while. On the whole, he made 24 starts, had a 1.0 WAR and was up and down with his production at the Major League level. But, he also saved his best and most consistent work for the final month of the season; only one game out of the final six featured him giving up more than 2 runs (and that was 4 runs against the Angels, in 5.1 innings of work). He ended up being one of our better pitchers down the stretch, in a playoff chase, which is very encouraging for his career going forward. He’s got the kind of stuff that can be dominant at the Major League level, so I’m very much looking forward to what he has to offer next year and beyond.

In the next tier down, I’d like to talk about a few guys who showed some promise, but also might end up flaming out.

There’s a lot to like about what Abraham Toro did as a Mariner, and I’ll staunchly defend that trade with the Astros anytime and anyplace. Even if he never makes it as a consistent, reliable everyday player, the idea was sound. All you can ask from your GM is to make good decisions based on the information he has available at the time, and then hope for the best that the players he brings in pan out. Toro will be 25 in December and we control him through 2025; that’s easily worth a reliever rental in my book.

On top of which, Toro made an immediate impact as soon as we acquired him! His first month on the team was outstanding, culminating in a game-winning Grand Slam against Kendall Graveman on August 31st. He scratched the surface of being a .270 hitter in that time, but did falter pretty severely down the stretch. His slash line was overall better as a Mariner than it was as an Astro, but there was a little bit of a dip in his slugging. He finished the year – across both teams – with 11 homers in 95 games, which is okay, but not amazing. He might have more left to unleash upon the game of baseball, but it kinda looks like he’s dependant upon his batting average to provide offensive value, so if his BABIP slumps, he’s going to be a pretty miserable hitter (aren’t we all?).

In a vacuum, there are two openings across the infield – at second and third base – and one of those spots needs to be filled by a quality, proven veteran who’s a middle-of-the-order type hitter. I’m okay with Toro getting one of the other spots as we head into 2022, but he’s going to need to produce more than he did in 2021 if he wants to stick around long term.

I’d also like to throw Cal Raleigh into this bin, even though he had a worse year than anyone I’ve mentioned so far. It’s hard out there for most any rookie at the Major League level; the jump from the minors is extreme and will quickly weed out those who don’t belong. I would argue it’s the hardest of all for rookie catchers, who not only have to worry about their own hitting and defense, but they have to lead an entire team full of pitchers through every ballgame they’re in.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you Raleigh will be fine. He might be a total bust! The Mariners have been calling up catchers for years now, and I’ve spent all this time expecting one of them to pan out; none of them did. Mike Zunino was as sure a bet as you’ll see as a catcher and he still managed to strike out a bazillion times. Only this year did he pull it all together as an All Star who hit 33 homers – with the Rays – and that was with a whopping .216 batting average with 132 strikeouts in 109 games. I think we all were hoping Raleigh would be better than Zunino, but I have my doubts.

A lot will be learned next year. Like Kelenic, Raleigh is an extremely hard worker and a natural leader behind the plate. If he’s able to flush his .180/.223/.309 slash line, maybe he can make strides towards being a viable starter going forward.

I’ll say a little bit about Fraley, Torrens, and Bauers: I think they’re okay, but I don’t think any of them are starters. Torrens is a likely trade candidate – since he can catch and play first base – and Fraley feels like a reserve/fourth outfielder on a good team. Bauers has all the tools – and apparently puts on a great batting practice show with his bat – but he’s yet to really put it all together; it felt like a lot of his hits were lucky bloops and dribblers that narrowly evaded opposing gloves.

There aren’t a lot of promising young pitchers at the Major League level, but I’ll talk about a couple of relievers here. Yohan Ramirez took what seemed like a significant step forward in 2021 over his 2020 season. In 2020, he was mostly put into losing games and blowouts; in 2021, that largely continued, but he was also put into some high-leverage situations and came out okay! The team is trying to harness his stuff, as he’s got a great splitter to strike guys out, but he can be wild at times and get behind in the count. I’m curious to see if he can continue to get better.

Andres Munoz is a guy who can throw triple-digits; he got the shortest cup of coffee at the end of the year, playing in Game 162. But, he’ll be 23 in January, and we control him through 2025, so hopefully he can parlay that confidence boost into a great Spring Training.

There are, of course, young pitchers in the minors we’ve still got to look forward to; I’ll save my breath on them until we know what the 2022 roster looks like, as I expect to see multiple veteran starters brought in to round out the rotation (though our bullpen looks largely set with in-house guys).

You can’t talk about the young guys with promise without throwing 2020 Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis into the mix. He was injured for most of 2021 – the same knee he tore back as an A-ball player – and his long-term prospects appear to be dwindling. It’s not great that he tried to rehab the knee without surgery, only to have a late-season setback that cost him the rest of the year. It’s going to be super frustrating if he does need surgery, causing him to miss 2022 as well.

There’s no denying his talent when he’s healthy, but Kyle Lewis gets tossed onto the Maybe Pile when it comes to talking about future mainstays on the Mariners.

Which is more than you can say about guys like Evan White, Justus Sheffield, and Justin Dunn. I don’t know what the fuck is going to happen there. White sucked in 2020 as a rookie, then played in only 30 games before going down with a hip injury that required season-ending surgery. In those 30 games, he also sucked. His defense is, of course, elite, but at this point so is France’s. White’s bat just doesn’t play at this level, even a little bit. He’s got power, but misses balls too consistently. And he’s not even a cost-effective prospect since we signed him to that 6-year, $24 million deal before he even played a single Major League game! He made a combined $2.6 million for his last two worthless seasons, is set to earn $1.4 million in 2022, then that figure jumps to $3 million in 2023 and $7 million and $8 million in 2024 and 2025. What do you do with that? If France sniped his job at first base, do you try to trade White? What do you get for a guy with that kind of contract, who can’t hit? Do you try to move him to a different defensive position; make him a super-sub?

As for Sheffield and Dunn, I’ve lost all faith in them ever panning out. They just don’t have the stuff to be good or consistent at this level.

Thankfully, as I mentioned, there are lots of prospects in the minor leagues to pull from in the next year or two. The State of the Young Guys is pretty strong for the Mariners, with one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. Here’s to hoping we trade away the duds and manage to hang onto the superstars!

The 2021 Seattle Mariners State Of The Union

We just wrapped up a wildly entertaining and overachieving season by the Seattle Mariners. They won 90 games for the first time since 2003 and fell just two games short of the playoffs. We’re in the thick of a full-on rebuild, but it’s the fun part of the rebuild: where things turn from being a perennial loser to hopefully a perennial winner. If things go according to plan, the 2022 Mariners should make the postseason for the first time since 2001 – breaking the longest drought in all of the major North American sports – and the 2023 Mariners should start contending for American League pennants and World Series championships.

There’s also a Glass Half Empty outlook to this whole thing. Because this is Seattle, and these are the Mariners, so of course we have every reason to believe it’ll all go to shit like everything else in our sports universe.

Let’s start with the hitting: the Mariners were dead-last in the American League with a .226 batting average. We were second-to-last with a .303 on-base percentage and .385 slugging percentage. That’s all good for a second-to-last OPS of .688; we were one of only two teams (the Texas Rangers, at the exceedingly UNFUN portion of a rebuild, where they’re legitimately one of the worst squads in all of baseball) with an OPS under .700. And, as far as pitching goes, we were very much middle-of-the-road across the board.

We were 90-72, but ninth in the American League with a -51 run differential. Our Pythagorean win/loss record indicates we should’ve been 76-86 (per Baseball Reference). So, how do you make sense of a season like this? Well, the M’s were 11-28 in blowouts (games decided by 5 or more runs), but we were 33-19 in 1-run games.

It boils down to the starters being good enough to keep us in most ballgames, our manager pulling the right strings regarding when to take them out of harm’s way, and a bullpen that, in part, was one of the best units in the league. And, our hitters being among the most clutch I’ve ever seen. They didn’t hit much, but when they did, they made those opportunities count! Often late in games, to either come from behind, or break a tie to win it in thrilling fashion.

So, where do we attribute the Mariners’ success and ultimate failure?

Well, for the highlights, look no further than J.P. Crawford, Ty France, Mitch Haniger, and Kyle Seager, on the hitting side of things. They had an inordinate amount of impact on just how well the Mariners performed this season. It’s not even close; the drop-off after those four guys is insane. You don’t LOVE to see something like that, because Seager is gone next year, and Haniger only has one year of Arbitration left before he might walk in free agency.

What you want to see is the young guys stepping up and assuming huge roles; I’ll discuss these guys in a separate post, but suffice it to say, they weren’t quite up to the task just yet.

But, Crawford and France are still pretty young, with lots of team control remaining. They’re not nothing!

If you think about the Mariners in 2-3 year chunks, then we’ve got at least those two guys in the fold and producing at a high level. We can always extend Haniger after next year, or if we don’t, that means we likely have someone else of a high calibre who can fill his shoes (Julio Rodriguez, for instance).

In the meantime, as I’ll get into another time, it’s far from doom-and-gloom with the young guys. Plus, it’s not like we’re going to rest on our laurels with the guys in the farm system. We’ll bring in veterans in free agency and trades to fill out the lineup, and make up for the loss of Seager.

As for the starting pitching side of things, who doesn’t love what Chris Flexen did as a bargain-basement signing? He led the starters in innings pitched, WAR, ERA, and wins, and he did it with sustainable stuff that should continue to play as a solid #2 or #3 starter. Marco Gonzales continued to do Marco Gonzales things. And, Logan Gilbert had a strong first season, seeming to improve as the year went on (more on him later).

The downside is, that’s pretty much it. James Paxton got injured on day one. Yusei Kikuchi likely pitched his way off the team (losing a 4-year, $66 million option in the process), though he could always exercise a 1-year player option for $13 million (but, that seems unlikely, as you’d think someone else would fork over more guaranteed dollars and try to fix his issues). Justus Sheffield was one of the biggest disappointments on the team and his future is very much in doubt. Justin Dunn lost half his season to injury, but wasn’t all that effective in the half he was healthy. Tyler Anderson was a competent back-of-the-rotation starter we acquired at the trade deadline, but he’ll be a free agent this offseason and will be looking for a significant raise.

I would argue the Mariners need at least two starters, and it’s debatable as to whether or not the young guys in our farm system are ready yet. If we’re trying to make the playoffs in 2022, entrusting two more rotation spots to rookies seems like a bad idea. But, we have to do better than Sheffield and Dunn, so they better figure something out.

The bullpen was the biggest pleasant surprise on the team. Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider, and Casey Sadler were all lights out! Diego Castillo was fine, though it’s hard to want to trust him in the highest-leverage situations. Kendall Graveman was excellent when he was here, and he netted us a nice little return in Abraham Toro; plus we could always sign him again this offseason if we wanted!

The thing is, we have team control with all of those guys (save Graveman), and I haven’t even gotten to the younger guys who I’ll talk about later. Nor did I mention Ken Giles, who missed this year with injury, but is signed through the 2022 season and is slated to return and be a big part of this group! The bullpen went from being arguably this team’s biggest weakness heading into the 2021 season, to being arguably its biggest strength heading into 2022. That’s HUGE (with the usual caveat being: bullpens are notoriously volatile from year-to-year, so they could all shit the bed as well).

So, what’s the state of the union as we exit 2021 and head into 2022?

I know the marketing materials would tell us it’s all looking up, and I’m buying right into the rose-colored glasses this organization is trying to peddle, but I think they’re right! I like the looks of things for the Mariners in the coming years. I’m not going to sit here and guarantee a playoff spot in 2022; I could easily see this team taking a step backwards.

Odds are, the 2022 Mariners won’t be quite so lucky in 1-run games. Odds are, the 2022 Mariners won’t hit quite so well in the clutch. Odds are, the 2022 Mariners will continue to suffer injuries to key guys (anyone remember Kyle Lewis?).

The thing is, we could see all of that; we could even see the 2022 Mariners end up as a sub-.500 ballclub in the overall standings! That having been said, we could see all of that while the team itself continues to grow and get better. Maybe we start out slow, losing games we expected to win, but in the process we get to watch more young guys make their Major League debuts. We get to see other young guys continue to blossom into Major Leaguers and All Stars. Maybe 2022 is the final step-back before things all skyrocket in 2023 and beyond.

The point is, there will be more bumps in the road. Things never EVER go according to plan. But, that doesn’t mean the overall outlook isn’t high. Just don’t put too much pressure on the year right in front of us. It might take two years, and that’s okay.

But, if we’re not in the playoffs by 2023, there should be hell to pay. Because how do you fuck up an organization with a farm system this stacked? Well, if anyone can fuck it up, you know the Mariners can!

The Mariners Are Doing Everything They Can To Stay In This Wild Card Race

This has been the most fun Mariners team I can remember since we last made the postseason. That’s not hyperbole. That’s not recency bias. As I’ve mentioned recently, there was a Mariners team that got to within a single game of the wild card within the last decade; this Mariners team could just as easily fall apart over the final three games and finish further behind that team (at least, in the standings). But, what they’ve done over the last couple of weeks – indeed, across the entire month of September, where they’re 18-8 – is truly remarkable.

Unlike most every other Mariners team you think about, this one is faced with adversity and is stepping up to the challenge. This isn’t the Same Old Mariners; this is a Brand New Mariners! There have been mediocre Mariners teams who’ve dug themselves a deep hole, then went on a hot streak to start to climb back out of it. But, as soon as the spotlight shone on those teams, they would wilt under the pressure; they were – for lack of a better phrase (because it is literally the perfect phrase, and applies to all of sports) – who we thought they were.

The 2021 Mariners are decidedly NOT who we thought they were! Don’t get me wrong, because they do have their problems. You don’t accrue a -48 run differential without problems. That’s not to say good teams don’t get blown out once in a while, but they generally don’t get blown out as regularly as the Mariners have been blown out this season. Granted, we’ve seen less and less of that as the year has gone on, which points to the brighter future we’ve all been clamoring for.

What’s been great about the Mariners is what we’ve seen since the start of the last road trip. When our backs were against the wall, this team came out fighting. The Mariners have lost two games in that span (winning 11). Yes, this team will lose in frustrating ways; yes, this team will get blown out on a fairly regular basis. But, this team always bounces back and rights the ship before things get swallowed up by Davy Jones’ Locker.

What’s also been great about the Mariners is their utter DOMINANCE of the Oakland A’s. Are you shitting me?! How fucking fun has THIS been?!

This week’s sweep makes it 12 wins in a row as we head into next year. 15-4 on the season. And, with yesterday’s win, we officially knocked them out of the playoffs.

The whole 3-game series this week was fun. Monday’s 13-4 victory started off pretty awful, with Chris Flexen giving up a wall-scraper of a 3-run homer in the first to put the M’s in a potentially-early grave. To our credit, though, Ty France hit an RBI single in the third, and Luis Torrens might’ve had the biggest hit in the game with a 2-RBI single later that same inning to tie it up. Flexen didn’t have that good stuff in this one, as he gave up another run in the fourth (he finished five innings, giving up those four runs, but it wasn’t the usual crisp, efficient game we’ve come to expect from him). But, the offense more than picked up the slack. I know the offense has been super clutch, but it’s about time they made things easy on this pitching staff with a good old fashioned blowout on the positive side.

We went with Sadler in the sixth – when the game was still within reach of a collapse – but then got to use the D-Squad to eat up the last three innings and save our studs. Crawford went 3/5 with 3 runs and an RBI. France went 4/4 with 3 runs and 4 RBI. Haniger hit two 3-run homers to put this game to bed! Torrens had 2 hits, Kelenic had 2 hits and 2 runs, Murphy had 2 runs, Dylan Moore chipped in with a hit, a walk, and a run. Nice day all around, but especially because it was a comeback victory (emphasis on the victory part). That game could’ve gone sideways in a hurry, but this team wouldn’t let it.

The next two wins were much more Mariners-like, both with a score of 4-2.

Tuesday’s game has entirely shifted my perspective of Tyler Anderson. I ripped him a little bit after that meltdown against the Angels, and was kinda ready to write him off. But, now I’m rethinking my stance on bringing him back! To set the stage, he could only manage 2 innings against the Angels on Saturday, but he threw only 54 pitches in that game. His next start was supposed to be Friday against the Angels, and I could squint and maybe see him bouncing back improbably against the same team that just thrashed him a week prior. But, it was always a shame he wasn’t set to get a start against the A’s, because I feel like that lineup is more his speed.

As it turns out – with Tuesday set to be his “throw day” (all starters have days where they throw in between starts, for reasons that elude me, but I’m sure there’s a good explanation out there on the Internet somewhere) – so the team and Anderson came to an agreement that he’d just make a spot-start in lieu of his off-field work. Matt Brash was also called up that day – because regardless, Kikuchi has been struggling too much of late to be trusted in such a high-leverage situation as a playoff chase – but it makes more sense to NOT start a AA prospect making his first-ever appearance in the Major Leagues, and hold him in reserve in case we need to eat up innings should disaster strike.

But, man, Tyler Anderson was fucking nails! He threw 46 pitches, but lasted 4 full innings, just giving up a solo homer in the 4th. In total, he only gave up 2 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 2. Just a HUGE game from a guy who really stepped up and put it all out there on the line. I know the point has been made elsewhere, but that’s a huge deal for someone who will be a free agent at the end of this season, looking for his first career big payday. At the same point, teams are going to see that and know he’s a team-first kind of guy, even with a team he just joined a couple months ago. That should be worth a few sheckles, I would think. I know I’m now more willing to bring him back on the right deal. I don’t know what that is, exactly, but it’s like porn, you know it when you see it.

From there, we had the entirety of the A-Squad Bullpen (plus Misiewicz, who did manage to get two outs before two hits got him pulled). Casey Sadler got 4 outs, Diego Castillo got 2, Paul Sewald got 4, and Drew Steckenrider got the save in the ninth.

Meanwhile, Jake Fraley hit a 2-run double in the bottom of the fourth – right after Anderson gave up the homer – to take the lead. Tom Murphy hit an RBI single to make it 3-1. And, after Castillo gave up a run to make it 3-2, Haniger hit a solo bomb in the bottom of the seventh to give us a bit of insurance. Also, not for nothing, but Crawford and Torrens both had multi-hit games again.

My friends and I couldn’t take it anymore, so we had to go to the game last night. We’re all busy this weekend, so really this was our last opportunity to see the Mariners in person (unless, God forbid, we actually make the ALDS). With a team this special, getting to witness them in person, in the thick of a wild card chase, you just have to be there and experience the electricity for yourself! There’s nothing like it. I don’t remember getting to go to a lot of games in 2001; I was a poor college kid at the time. I got to go to one game in 1997 where we clinched either the division or a playoff berth, and that was one of my favorite live sporting events in my entire life (the Kingdome rocked like I’d never heard it before).

This wasn’t that, but it was still pretty fun. Hard to generate a huge crowd for a cold Wednesday night in late September, but I read we had about 5,000 more people there than expected (17K up from 12K?). The product on the field didn’t disappoint, anyway!

Logan Gilbert was rolling, lasting 5.2 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits and 2 walks, with 4 strikeouts. Joe Smith got him out of the minor jam in the sixth (when Logan gave up that run on a solo homer to right), just in time for the M’s to get a go-ahead 2-run double from Jarred Kelenic. Castillo gave it right back with a solo homer to tie it, but we manufactured a run in the bottom of the seventh to re-take the lead, with Abraham Toro hitting an insurance homer in the eighth to salt it away. Sewald once again took care of business in the eighth, and Steckenrider got the save in the ninth.

It’s one thing to deal the final blow to the A’s playoff hopes, but really the Mariners EXCLUSIVELY prevented them from earning a wild card spot, with the way we’ve handled them all year. They thought they were big shots early in the season – and talked shit about us accordingly – but we took it personally (to quote Michael Jordan) and opted to rip out their hearts. Considering all the times they’ve done that very same thing to us over the years, I’ve never felt more gratified. I need a cigarette right now!

89-70. Three games left, against the Angels this weekend. We are a half game behind the Red Sox (unfortunately in the loss column, so we still need a little more help). We’re also a half game ahead of the Blue Jays, and 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the first wild card spot. All three of those teams have four games remaining.

But, as usual, it’s all about the Mariners first and foremost. We MUST sweep the Angels to have a shot. In essence – as has been pointed out by Scott Servais and elsewhere – we’re already watching playoff baseball in Seattle, because these have ALL been must-win games. And, to their credit, the Mariners are performing their very best when they absolutely have to.

My Football Teams Disgust Me, So I’m Writing About The Mariners Today

Well, it wasn’t the ideal scenario for the Mariners over the weekend, but it’s hard to be perfect all the time, even when you really NEED to be perfect. After looking totally inept on Saturday, I was thoroughly impressed with how we bounced back on Sunday, especially with Shohei Ohtani on the mound, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Before we dive in, it’s nice to take a bigger picture look at what just happened. The Mariners were left for dead after the Red Sox series. Really, that entire homestand was a disaster, when you factor losing 2/3 to the Diamondbacks into the equation. But, we hit the road against three teams and won 8 out of 10! Outstanding!

After the 4-game sweep down in Oakland, I can understand being a little disappointed in only taking 2/3 to the Angels this weekend. But, even though they’re injury-depleted, and their pitching has been suspect, there’s still some talent in that dugout that can do some damage. Getting off on the right foot was imperative, and to their credit, the Mariners succeeded on Friday.

Logan Gilbert got the start and cruised through the first five innings. With his pitch count in pretty good shape, and with the bullpen severely overworked from the series with the A’s, it would’ve been nice to see him squeeze out a sixth inning, but that was not to be. After getting the leadoff man out, he gave up a single and then walked his final batter in an at-bat that is somehow still going on. Joe Smith came in to clean up the mess, but gave up an RBI single and sac fly beforehand.

That turned a 4-2 lead into a tie ballgame. We manufactured a couple of runs in the top of the seventh though – giving one back in the bottom half – and that was the ballgame. A nice and tidy 6-5 victory, with Steckenrider and Sewald getting the last 2.1 innings for the hold and save.

Ty France loomed large in this one, going 2 for 4 with 3 RBI. Mitch Haniger went 1 for 3 with 2 RBI, and Luis Torrens went 2 for 4 with an RBI. Ohtani loomed large in all three games, but we contained him in this one. By which I mean he went 0 for 1 with 4 walks (2 of them intentional).

Saturday’s game was a 14-1 laugher. But, you know, I wasn’t laughing. Tyler Anderson had all of Seattle’s praise after his game down in Oakland, but this is also what he’s capable of! 2 innings, 9 runs on 9 hits, 1 walk, and 0 strikeouts. He’s not an ace! He’s an okay, middle-of-the-road starter with mediocre stuff. To expect this guy to be worth upwards of $15 million a year is insane; guys like him are a dime a dozen! That’s why we were able to trade for him for practically nothing. It’s games like these that lead me to say I don’t think the Mariners need to break the bank to extend him longterm. Especially when he’s been an N.L. pitcher his entire career; the more the A.L. gets a look at him, the more he’ll be exposed as the mediocre starter that he is. The Mariners need to go out and get a bona fide ace! Spend money on THAT guy, whoever he is!

I’m so not interested in talking about this game, other than to point out that Justus Sheffield was asked to help mop up some innings; he went 1 inning and gave up 3 more runs in the process. He walked 5 guys and needed 34 pitches just to do that. What the hell are we supposed to do with him?! Does he have options? Can we start him in Tacoma next year? He’s clearly a junkballer, and not even a move to the bullpen has seen any uptick in his MPH. At this point, maybe we can just cut our losses and hope some other team sees something in him. I wouldn’t expect a significant return, but maybe we can tack him onto some REAL prospects in deal.

Oh, and before I forget, Ohtani went 2 for 3 with 2 triples, 2 walks, 3 runs, and 3 RBI. But, then again, just about everyone for the Angels had a good game in this one.

That left me feeling pretty grim about our chances on Sunday, especially with Ohtani on the mound. He certainly failed to disappoint, which in turn greatly disappointed me! He went 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and striking out 10. But, one of those hits was a Jarred Kelenic solo homer in the 7th! Why is that important? Because Marco Gonzales bowed up in this one, also going 7 innings and giving up just the 1 run (a solo homer in the 2nd). He was almost as impressive, since he held the Angels to 3 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 5 (including holding Ohtani to a 1 for 3 day).

We busted out with a significant rally in the eighth inning – with Ohtani finally out of the game – by scoring 5 runs. Haniger hit a go-ahead RBI single, and Jake Fraley hit a bases loaded/bases-clearing double to make it 5-1. Paul Sewald locked down the bottom half of the eighth, and Diego Castillo finished off the ninth.

So, here’s where we stand: one week left to go! Six games, all at home. Three vs. the Athletics, an off-day on Thursday, and three more vs. the Angels.

We’re 5 games behind the Astros for the division; write that one off, if you haven’t already (you really should’ve written that off about a month ago, if not at the beginning of the season).

The Yankees currently inhabit the top wild card spot, thanks to them sweeping the Red Sox. The Red Sox currently inhabit the second wild card spot, one game behind the Yanks. The Blue Jays are one game behind the Red Sox, the Mariners are two games behind the Red Sox, and the Athletics are three games behind the Red Sox.

That’s what we’re looking at. I’m still not going to go through all of the remaining schedules of the other teams in contention; all you need to know is that the Mariners need to keep winning. The Mariners, indeed, probably need to win out to have a reasonable shot at overtaking the teams they need to overtake.

As far as our rotation, it shakes out pretty favorably: Flexen, Kikuchi/TBD, and Gilbert against the A’s; Anderson, Gonzales, and Flexen against the Angels. There’s a lot of chatter about minor leaguer Matt Brash getting called up to take Kikuchi’s start; he’s been tearing it up this year, so that could be exciting! I can’t imagine he’ll have the longest leash, so I would still expect Kikuchi to make an appearance in that one. I’ll be interested to see how he responds to the demotion.

Here we are, 86-70. It’s crazy that we just need to go 4-2 the rest of the way to get to 90 wins. It’s even crazier that we have a legitimate chance at all to make the postseason! What a time to be alive!

The Mariners Beat The Royals To Quasi-Hang Around

It wasn’t a sweep – like it needed to be – but there were still some good things to come from this weekend series win.

On Friday, Flexen got the start and went 5.2 innings, giving up 1 run on 6 hits and 2 walks, with 3 strikeouts. He left with the lead and got the win (he’s an impressive 12-6 on the season, with a 3.66 ERA; everything you could’ve asked for from him this season and then some) thanks to the bullpen snapping back into form. 6-2 was the final.

Anyone paying even slight attention to this series came away very encouraged by Jarred Kelenic. He had 2 homers on Friday (2 for 4 with 4 RBI and 2 runs scored). Torrens and Fraley both had good games (2 hits apiece) as did Ty France; you love to see it.

Saturday’s loss had to be the final nail in the coffin for Yusei Kikuchi, if he hasn’t already been buried under six feet of cement. 3 innings, 3 runs on 8 hits, with only 3 strikeouts (and it took him 86 pitches just to do that). I guess kudos to him for not giving up a lot MORE and battling his way through, but that’s just not the type of production you want out of a guy making the kind of money he’s making (not to mention the kind of money he’d be set to receive if we picked up his option). It’s weird that our only All Star will likely be off our roster next year – with the team essentially letting him walk – but it’s looking almost certain to be the case.

The offense did nothing in this one though, as the M’s lost 7-1. Kelenic did have two walks, which is good. And, of course, France had two hits. But, he can’t do literally everything. The D-squad bullpen got us through, giving up 4 runs in 5 innings of work.

Finally, on Sunday, it was the Gilbert and Kelenic show! Logan Gilbert went 7 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits. It’s nice to see him picking it back up late in the year, after going through a slump for a while. It’s even nicer to see Kelenic hit his 3rd homer of the series, and 13th on the season (as well as two more doubles); he went 3 for 4 with 3 RBI, 2 runs scored, and chipped in another walk for good measure.

Through the weekend, Kelenic has raised his slash line to .178/.258/.349, and yeah, when you see it, it looks awful. But, at the end of August, it was .151/.236/.272, and at the end of July, it was .119/.201/.200 (not for nothing, but at the end of June, it was .096/.185/.193). It’s steady improvement! He’s not an All Star or anything, but he’s getting better as the season goes along, and I think it’ll be a life-changing experience for him as he heads into 2022. I’m still a Kelenic believer (even though, just to watch him play, he looks like a wildly unpleasant person to be around), so I’ll be expecting pretty great things from him next year, with him a mainstay in the All Star Game starting in 2023.

Not a lot to say about the playoff chase; we ended the weekend 4 games out of the second wild card spot. The A.L. East teams – instead of beating up on each other – are trading off hot streaks. For a while, it was the Yankees, then the Blue Jays came back from the dead, and now the Red Sox are on a roll again. Meanwhile, we get to tangle with the A’s – heading into this series, which started last night, two games back – so that’s mildly interesting. We did get our 80th victory on the season against the Royals, bringing us that much closer to locking in a winning season. I don’t know how many people would’ve predicted that; I’m pretty sure we’ve soared WELL past the over on the projected wins listing heading into this season from Vegas. You gotta like that.

The Red Sox Were The Straw That Broke The Mariners’ Back

It’s funny how two days can totally change the outlook of your entire season.

On Monday, the Mariners prevailed 5-4 over the Red Sox and pulled to within two games of the second wild card spot, with two more games to go against the very team they needed to overtake. Logan Gilbert gave us six hard-fought innings, holding the Red Sox to two runs. It was pretty impressive, given his struggles this year. You could argue two of his best games were against the Red Sox this week, and that Yankees start where he went 7 innings of 1-hit ball; that’s two formidable national opponents who he absolutely handled.

Diego Castillo got through the seventh, just in time for Mitch Haniger to hit a 3-run tie-breaking homer (all three runs unearned thanks to some timely terrible Red Sox defense). Paul Sewald gave up back-to-back solo homers to give the game its final score, but Drew Steckenrider got the save in the ninth. Kudos to Haniger for going 4 for 4, and J.P. Crawford going 3 for 4.

There was reason for hope on Tuesday night, though the final third of the game saw to it to crush our hearts. Tyler Anderson gutted his way through 4.1 innings, limiting the Red Sox to just one run. They were starting to get to him in the fourth and fifth innings, and with the Mariners’ offense struggling (we managed to take a short-lived 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth), I thought Scott Servais made the right move in getting Anderson out of there and going to his bullpen. Casey Sadler got us out of a jam in the fifth, but things went downhill quickly from there.

For some reason, Servais decided to go to Anthony Misiewicz in the sixth. The Red Sox had JUST seen a ho-hum lefty all day, and here they were getting a shot against another ho-hum lefty. Misiewicz got through the first two batters unscathed, but the wheels fell off and when the inning was over, the game was tied.

Servais then went to Joe Smith – the guy I would’ve thrown in there instead of Misiewicz – and he did what he was supposed to do: 1 inning of shutout ball. Unfortunately, Servais then opted to try to squeeze a second inning out of Joe Smith, which proved fatal. A leadoff triple in the top of the eighth sealed Smith’s fate. Drew Steckenrider was tasked with trying to prevent that runner from scoring; he managed one harmless groundout (sandwiched around two harmful walks) before a double cleared the bases. I had given up on the game by this point, so I couldn’t tell you what happened after that, other than the M’s lost 8-4.

The M’s would lose the finale on Wednesday 9-4. Once again, we got what we needed from our starter – 6 innings, 3 runs from Marco Gonzales – but pretty much the entire bullpen seems to be running out of gas, down to the last man. Sadler, Sewald, and Castillo got us to extra innings, but of course the offense kept shitting all over itself. A combination of Swanson, Sheffield, and Ramirez gave up 6 runs in the tenth inning to seal our fate. Why would we go to Sheffield with no outs, the bases loaded, and losing by a run? I can only assume the lack of Mariners offense has led to lesions on Servais’ brain, because he’s the LAST guy you’d go to in that situation, unless your intent was to blow the whole game to kingdom come.

That loss drops us to 78-68. We are an impossible 7.5 games behind the Astros in the A.L. West; we’re also a whopping 4 games out of the wild card, with three teams we’d have to leap over. All of this with 16 games left in the season. Sure, there are 9 winnable games against teams under .500 (three at the Royals this weekend, then six more against the Angels), and the other 7 games are against ONE of our wild card foes – the Oakland A’s – but that’s just too big of a mountain to climb in too short of time.

What a brutal last three weeks. If you want to know where the season went wrong, go back to that first Royals game on August 26th. Heading into that game, we were 11 games over .500, with 10 games against bottom-feeders in those very Royals, as well as the Diamondbacks. We managed to go 5-5 in those games; unforgivable. We somehow managed to go 3-3 against the Astros – which is great, for us – but then this Red Sox series slapped us right back down again. Every time we got on a little roll, we’d drop a brutal series in agonizing fashion. We had to win this Red Sox series, minimum, and we had to go at least 8-2 in those games against the bottom-feeders. Do that, and we’d be right there in the mix. We didn’t, and now the playoffs have slipped away.

There will be time for post-mortems after the season is officially over, but these next two and a half weeks feel like the walking dead. It’ll be interesting if we can end things on a high note, or if we really fall apart.

The Mariners Are Finally Done With Houston For 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Mind-Bogglingly Fucking Blow Their Postseason Chances To The Royals

What a predictable fucking clusterfuck. How did we not see this coming from fifty fucking miles away?

If you didn’t anticipate the Mariners dropping 3 of 4 to the lowly Royals – at home, in the middle of a wild card chase – before the first game of the series, it became clear from the very first inning. The Royals trotted out some dud by the name of Brad Keller – who has a name like a villain in an old 80’s ski movie, but who looks like that villain’s pool cleaner – and he IMMEDIATELY started shitting all over himself. Leadoff walk, fielder’s choice, Seager double (which required an amazingly perfect throw by the short stop to cut down Haniger at the plate), walk, infield single, RBI walk. That’s the first six batters of the game, yet somehow we were down to our final out of the inning with the bases loaded; of course, Kelenic struck out looking.

WE SHOULD HAVE KNOCKED KELLER OUT OF THE GAME RIGHT THERE! It should’ve been 5-0 before the second inning, and we only had a 1-0 lead. Yusei Kikuchi was dealing through five innings before completely falling apart in the sixth. We were finally able to knock Keller out of the game in the fifth, but that was after a Kyle Seager solo homer, and only because he came up with a tricep injury. The Mariners had all of a 2-0 lead at that point (increased to 4-0 on a Fraley homer in the fifth against the reliever who came in), and of course it was gagged away in the sixth, when Kikuchi started getting pounded, and Joe Smith – tasked with cleaning up the mess – gave up an immediate grand slam to Salvador Perez. That made it 5-4 Royals (it would be extended to 6-4 in the seventh inning), and the Mariners had absolutely no fight left against the rest of the Royals’ bullpen.

The series went to shit from there. Logan Gilbert is fading HARD; he gave up 5 runs in 4 innings and can’t seem to be counted upon to keep us in games anymore. We were able to put up 5 runs of our own in the first two innings, but failed to add on until the game hit extras and we added a couple of unearned ghost runs to our score. But, we lost 8-7 in the 12th inning after totally depleting our bullpen.

Then, for good measure, we wasted a quality Tyler Anderson start on Saturday, who went 7 innings, giving up 3 runs, because the offense couldn’t do jack shit. That was a 4-2 defeat.

Only on Sunday – thanks to a rejuvenated Marco Gonzales (who went 7 innings, giving up 2 runs) – did we managed to salvage one game, getting a 4-3 win (almost blowing THAT in the process, because Salvy Perez is an unstoppable killing machine).

You want to know the story of this series?

  • Game 1 – 2/8 with RISP
  • Game 2 – 5/17 with RISP
  • Game 3 – 1/7 with RISP
  • Game 4 – 1/4 with RISP

This series should’ve been a fucking laughingstock, with the Mariners easily winning all four. Instead, it was a laughingstock of inept hitting, which I know sounds ridiculous to complain about – because the Mariners have been abnormally on fire all season when it comes to clutch hitting – but when your hitters are so bad under regular, non-clutch circumstances, this is the kind of outcome you’re going to come across eventually. It’s called Regression To The Mean, and I know we all know what that … means. This shit is inevitable when a team is that unsustainably hot at a certain flukey aspect of the game.

The Mariners have dropped to 70-61, 7.5 games out of the division lead, and what’s worse: 4.5 games behind the Red Sox for the second wild card spot (2 games behind Oakland, for what that’s worth). It’s an unforgivable sin the Mariners just exposed us to over the long weekend. And for our reward: three games against the Astros, a team we are 5-8 against on the season, and have traditionally struggled against since they joined the A.L. West. I would also argue – if memory serves – that a number of those victories earlier this season came when they had a bunch of players on the IL for actual injuries or COVID issues; the Astros have since returned to mostly full-strength.

The next three days are going to suck, is what I’m getting at. To salvage this homestand, the Mariners will need to do the impossible: they’ll need to sweep the Astros in a 3-game series. That’s literally never going to happen, in any alternate universe, nor in this one we’re in now. The best we can hope for is just a regular ol’ series win, but even that seems totally unlikely.

We were always expecting a Mariners swoon this season; there was one relatively early on, but otherwise the M’s have continued to pleasantly surprise us. I think Cinderella’s coach is turning back into a pumpkin as we speak, though. It’s a shame. In spite of the frustrations of this abysmal Royals series, this has been a fun team to watch and root for. I’m not ready for the good times to end.

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.