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 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 Swept The Athletics To Make Things Just Interesting Enough

What a series! We probably need to see three more just like them if we want postseason baseball in Seattle, but damn!

Remember that one year recently when the M’s were just a single game out of the second wild card spot? Would it shock you to know that was back in 2014? For some reason, I thought it was in 2018 – when we won 89 games – but we were a whopping 8 games out that year. Nope, in 2014, we finished one game behind Oakland, thanks to a 4-game winning streak to close out the season. BUT, we were only in that position in the first place because immediately preceeding that 4-game winning streak, we were mired in a 5-game losing slump (two games in Houston, three games in Toronto, the latter notorious for a 1-0 defeat where Taijuan Walker went all 8 innings in the loss, giving up just 4 hits).

That’s more or less the story for a lot of these “contending” Mariners teams over the last 20 years. We dig ourselves such a hole that – even though we’re entertaining and somewhat good, and most importantly, close in the standings – there just isn’t enough at the end to overcome our lack of talent. That appears to be the case here in 2021 as well. With 9 games remaining, we are now just 2 games behind the Yankees for the second wild card spot (with Toronto sandwiched in between, a game back). That’s a tall order to overcome, even though our schedule plays out relatively favorably.

What’s different – we hope – is that these Mariners appear to be the start of something significant. So, even if we fail to make those two games up, there’s still reason for optimism for the near-future of the Seattle Mariners.

And we’re in THIS position because of the 4-game sweep in Oakland! That took us from two games behind them, to two games ahead of them, which you just love to fucking see because fuck the A’s. Even if we don’t make the playoffs, knowing we’re a MAJOR reason why they’re also not in the playoffs will give me all the warmth I need in my heart to carry me over into the 2022 season. FUCK. THE. ATHLETICS.

You don’t work a 4-game sweep in Oakland without some great pitching, and the Mariners had it going all week. Tyler Anderson was up first and got the series off on the right note. 7 innings, 1 run (4 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts). The only blip was Diego Castillo giving up a run in a third of an inning, but Paul Sewald got the remaining five outs to preserve the 4-2 victory.

Offensively, France and Seager got the M’s out to a 3-0 lead in the third, then Seager added an RBI single in the fifth (he had a HUGE series, going 3 for 4 with 3 RBI in this game).

Marco Gonzales kept the party going with a quality start of his own (6 innings, 2 runs), and Sadler, Sewald, and Steckenrider worked clean innings to close it out. We saw an early 1-0 deficit after one inning, but Jake Bauers manufactured a run in the second, and Dylan Moore and J.P. Crawford put up three more runs in the fourth to give us a bit of a cushion. Crawford hit a solo bomb in the ninth for a little added insurance in the 5-2 victory (also, Seager was 2 for 5).

Chris Flexen continued the pitching parade with 7 innings of 1-run ball (3 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts). This time, Castillo worked a clean inning, and Steckenrider got his second save of the series (also sparing us the necessity to pitch Sewald a third straight day).

This 4-1 victory was brought to you by a Kyle Seager solo homer (he finished 3 for 5), a Tom Murphy RBI single, a Ty France solo bomb, and a Luis Torrens insurance sac fly in the seventh.

Finally, the sweep came under heavy scrutiny with Yusei Kikuchi going yesterday. Another 3-inning special where he gave up 3 runs. We got a run back on an Abraham Toro RBI double in the top of the fourth, but Yohan Ramirez gave up a solo bomb in the bottom half to make it 4-1 Oakland.

Ramirez was pulled after a third of an inning, but the much-maligned Anthony Misiewicz got the final two outs of the inning to keep the score right there. Cal Raleigh hit a 2-run bomb in the fifth to make it 4-3, and Mitch Haniger hit a solo bomb to tie it up in the sixth. Not to be outdone, Luis Torrens hit a pinch-hit 2-run home run later in the sixth to make the comeback official.

From there, it was lockdown bullpen time. Joe Smith pitched a perfect inning. Casey Sadler pitched two scoreless innings, Diego Castillo took care of the eighth, and Paul Sewald gave up a relatively harmless solo homer in the ninth before completing the save in the 6-5 victory.

The Mariners are 84-69 now, with three games down in L.A. against the Angels. Then, we return home for our final six games of the regular season (unfortunate, since we REALLY struggle to hit at home). It will probably require some remarkable type of 7-2 finish to secure the wild card spot; at the VERY worst 6-3, but I refuse to play the schedule/matchup game with the other teams in contention.

I’m just going to sit here and enjoy the last week and change of this very entertaining Mariners season. What happens after that will be whatever.

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 Mariners Swept The Diamondbacks, Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Swept The Athletics; This Is Getting Very Interesting

Sure, it was a 2-game sweep, but that’s two games we picked up on the Athletics! We’re still three games out of the wild card spot, but now we’re only one game behind Oakland, one of the two teams that stands in our way going forward.

Monday’s game was another Mariners Special. Marco Gonzales got the start and had a very Marco Gonzales kind of performance. He gave up a run in the first and a solo homer in the fourth. The offense got off to its usual slow start, which means the Mariners were down 2-0 heading into the sixth. That’s when we FINALLY got to the A’s starter on a Mitch Haniger 2-run home run to tie it up.

Then Marco did the unforgiveable. With new life, with a low pitch count, he lazily tried to sneak a Get Me Over curveball to one of the best power hitters in the game, Matt Olson, who jacked it out to right for a 3-2 Oakland lead. What are you doing, man?! You’re the leader of this pitching staff! You’ve been the Opening Day starter for the last few years! And this is how you respond to your offense climbing back into the game? When you’re just an inning away from handing it over to the bullpen; a unit that’s been so dominant this year. It’s really infuriating. If this was earlier in the game, I could understand it. You’re trying to conserve your pitch count and whatnot. But, this is late-enough in the game where you know you’re probably only going to be given three more outs to get. You need to be EXTRA careful in this situation, especially against the Athletics’ best hitter!

Marco got through the 6 innings, giving up just the 3 runs, so technically it was a Quality Start. And, yeah, the Mariners won, so how upset can I really be? But, that game really looked grim from there, and if we’re all being honest, that’s a game we lose 9 times out of 10 in a normal season.

This is not a normal season, though! The A’s had some lockdown bullpen work through the 7th and 8th innings, where the Mariners just had no chance against such filth. Thankfully, our own bullpen was able to hold serve with the D-Squad of Erik Swanson and Anthony Misiewicz. That got us to Oakland’s closer, Lou Trivino. He’s blown four saves all year, now two of them against Seattle.

Things immediately got off to a bad start for him, with Ty France hitting yet another game-tying solo homer, this time in the first at-bat of the inning. This was followed up by a Toro single and a Fraley double to put two runners in scoring position for the bottom of the lineup. Unfortunately, Kelenic and Raleigh failed to even make contact, as both struck out swinging. But, unlikeliest of heroes Jake Bauers came through with a solid single to left to put the Mariners up 5-3.

Thankfully, we did it in that spot, because I don’t want to know what this game would’ve looked like had it gone to extras. Paul Sewald was tasked with coming into the game, and you could tell right off the bat that he was fatigued and didn’t have his usual stuff. He managed to get all three hitters out that he faced, including one strikeout, to get the save. Impressive stuff!

Tuesday’s getaway day game was much more relaxing, though no less entertaining. Chris Flexen did what he does best: get deep into the game with a relatively low pitch count. He couldn’t quite get through the seventh, but he finished with 6.2 innings pitched, giving up just the one run on 6 hits and a walk, with 5 strikeouts. Drew Steckenrider came in to get the last out of the seventh … and all the remaining outs of the game! The rare 2.1-inning save!

We chased the A’s starter after three innings; he gave up an RBI single to Kelenic and a 2-RBI single to Torrens, to give the Mariners an early 3-1 lead. Then, for good measure, Kelenic and Dylan Moore both hit in an insurance run apiece in the eighth to give the game its 5-1 final.

VERY good road trip all around for the Mariners, at the best possible time. We swept the Rangers, lost two of three to the Astros, but then swept the A’s to make it 6-2 overall. That’s what REAL contending teams need to do to get over the hump!

Our reward is that we got out of Oakland early yesterday, we have all of today off, before starting a 4-game series against the lowly Royals. I’m not going to make any guarantees, because the Royals have been weirdly hot lately (winning 6 of 8 against the Astros and Cubs, at the time of this writing), but this is a team you SHOULD beat. Hopefully their magic is starting to run out by the time they get to Seattle.

The bummer of this upcoming stretch is that we play our six remaining games against the Astros in a little over a week; hopefully there will be some revenge factor on our side. That just means we MUST take advantage by beating the bad teams on the slate. Between now and September 12th, we have those six games against the Astros, but we also have 10 games against the Royals and Diamondbacks (the 9th-worst and 2nd-worst teams, by record, in the Major Leagues). Ideally, you want to be 10-6 in those games AT A MINIMUM. You should probably win 11 or 12 of those games, if you really want to make the playoffs.

This is something though, isn’t it? Meaningful baseball INTO September, who’da thunk it?!

A Bummer Of A Mariners Series In Houston Could’ve Been Worse

We didn’t get swept! That’s something, anyway. Of course, losing the two games the way we lost them was pretty demoralizing, and it took us 11 innings to get that lone win, but I’ll take what I can get.

The Mariners lost 12-3 on Friday, giving up all of those runs in the first five innings. Yusei Kikuchi had easily his worst game of the season, 2.2 innings, giving up 7 runs. It’s a shame for him that he didn’t get to appear in the All Star Game this year, because I don’t know if he’ll ever get a chance again. Through July 1st – just before he was named to the All Star team – he was 6-3 and had a 3.18 ERA. Since then, he’s had two Quality Starts out of eight. His last two appearances in particular have been pretty brutal. We’re in the stretch run here! We need to win every game we can possibly win! He failed to go five innings against the Blue Jays, then couldn’t even make it through three against the Astros (his overall record has fallen to 7-7). The Mariners have a HUGE decision to make on Kikuchi after this season, whether or not they pick up his remaining option years. Before the All Star Break, I would’ve said it’s a no-brainier to keep him around. But, if he continues to lay eggs the rest of this season, I don’t think it’s smart to sign on for more at that salary. If he can’t handle THIS pressure, what makes you think he’d handle the pressure of being on a team in an actual pennant race (which is our stated goal) in the next 2-3 years?

Kikuchi wasn’t the only bad thing about Friday’s game. Wyatt Mills (a guy presumably only up here to eat innings in these very types of situations) gave up 3 runs in 1.1 innings of work (he has an ERA over 10 in his 10 appearances). Erik Swanson continued his slide by giving up another 2 runs in his 1 inning of work (looking much more like the Erik Swanson we’ve been used to the last couple years). The only pitching bright spot on Friday was Yohan Ramirez’s two innings of shutout ball, striking out 4.

The offense didn’t stand a chance, obviously. Ty France had 3 hits (including a solo homer). Kyle Seager had a solo homer, and Abraham Toro had an RBI single.

If you thought 12-3 was bad, wait until you get a load of 15-1!

Logan Gilbert had to wear this one. 4.2 innings, 9 runs on 8 hits (including 2 homers) and a walk, with 5 strikeouts. Obviously, he’s in a very different point of his Major League career than Kikuchi, but he’s nevertheless been just as up-and-down in his rookie campaign. He just needs to work, to refine his breaking pitches, and to get used to the talent at this level. I think he’ll be fine, but it would be encouraging for him to take a step or two in his development over the next few weeks. We need him to be a foundational starter for this team in 2022 and beyond.

Thankfully, we were able to save the rest of the bullpen by calling up Robert Dugger and getting him to mop up the remaining 3.1 innings. He, nevertheless, gave up 6 more runs and was immediately DFA’d before Sunday’s game.

The only run for the Mariners came on a Haniger solo homer in the sixth.

For all of the pointlessness of the first two games, Sunday’s was quite a thriller!

Houston got two runs off of Tyler Anderson in the second inning, but that was it, as Anderson went 5.1 innings to at least give us a chance. The bullpen was pretty lights out from there. Joe Smith closed out the sixth. Anthony Misiewicz got four outs in a nice comeback for him. Steckenrider got five outs, and Paul Sewald had the greatest inning of relief I’ve seen all year! More on that in a moment.

The Astros starter, Framber Valdez, went 7 shutout innings, giving up only 3 hits and a walk, striking out 6. This one looked grim, especially with Kendall Graveman taking the hill in the 8th. BUT, we scratched a run off of the ex-Mariner to make the game 2-1 in the ninth inning. It’s only the second run he’s given up since we traded him over there at the deadline, but the first time he actually contributed to an Astros loss. That run meant a lot when Ty France hit the game-tying solo homer in the ninth to eventually send this game to extras.

The M’s botched their chance in the 10th, as Torrens – the ghost runner – got taken out at third base on a running error with the ball being hit to the short stop. Cal Raleigh’s double managed to get Fraley to third, but would’ve scored Torrens had he done his job. J.P. Crawford struck out to end the threat, in spite of some questionable umpiring that went his way.

Sewald came in to pitch the 10th and immediately gave up a single to Altuve to put runners on the corners. We intentionally walked Michael Brantley to load ’em up and get a play at any base. Sewald struck out Correa looking (on yet another terrible call by the home plate ump) for the first out, then overpowered the next guy at the top of the zone to get another strikeout. That brought up Yuli Gurriel, a notorious Mariners killer. He wasn’t biting on the slider, but fouled off two high fastballs to make the count even. Sewald threw a perfect slider on the low-and-outside corner for what should’ve been strike three, but the umpire AGAIN blew the call. The count was full, with Gurriel fouling off the next two fastballs, before swinging through the last one – the 8th pitch of the at-bat – to end the inning. What a performance!

In the top of the 11th, Haniger walked before Ty France hit a single the opposite way to take a 3-2 lead. Kyle Seager promptly extended the lead to 6-2 with a 3-run home run, his 29th of the season (his career high is 30). It turns out, we needed all of these runs, because now we were getting back into the dregs of our bullpen.

Keynan Middleton started the bottom of the 11th, getting a first-pitch groundout to Seager. He then gave up a first-pitch single to the next guy to make it 6-3. The bases ended up loaded after the next two guys singled and walked respectively (the walk, of course, being helped greatly by a CLEAR strike being called Ball 4). Servais had to pull Middleton, who clearly didn’t have it. The only other alternative was Yohan Ramirez, who struck out Altuve on a nasty slider at the bottom of the zone. Michael Brantley – the leading hitter in the American League heading into the game – lined out to center to end it.

This was the first save of the season for Ramirez – the Rule 5 guy we took from the Astros prior to the 2020 season – and it’s nice to see him starting to develop into someone we might be able to trust in higher leverage situations. His problem has always been his control; he has a live fastball and a nasty slider. If he can rein it in a little bit, that’s another diamond in the rough reliever who could be good for us for a good, long time (or, at the very least, a nice little trade chip in the offseason).

Now, we’re off to Oakland for a quick 2-game series. We’re three games behind them in the standings, so it would be nice to get the series win here.

The Mariners Almost Didn’t Sweep The Rangers

The M’s have been on a nice little tear since the last time we lost a game to the Rangers, having won 7 of 8 games to improve our record to 66-56. We’re 3 games behind Oakland for the second wild card spot. Not ideal, but considering what this team is, it’s where you want to be. Or, at least, you don’t want to be any further behind at this point in the season.

It’s a little disconcerting how close these games against the Rangers have been this season. The Mariners went 13-6, which is good, but 14 of those games have been decided by 2 runs or less. I guess a win is a win is a win, but like most of this season for the M’s, there seems to be an inordinate amount of good luck at play.

Tuesday’s 3-1 win went completely according to script. Tyler Anderson pitched 6 innings, giving up one run, and our top three bullpen guys shut it down from there (Steckenrider, Castillo, Sewald). All told, our pitchers gave up 6 hits, 0 walks, and struck out 8. And, as per usual, the offense did just enough. Two sac flies gave us a 2-1 lead, and a Torrens homer in the 9th gave us an insurance run. Bingo, bango, bongo.

Wednesday’s 3-1 win was a little more strenuous. Marco Gonzales continued his dominant run of pitching – giving us 5.1 innings of shutout ball – and was really only hampered by the Rangers inflating his pitch count just a few days after he’d gone a complete game against them. He was able to spread out 6 hits and a walk, getting out of jams, and handing the game over with a lead intact.

Kyle Seager gave the M’s a 2-0 lead with his homer in the first. The only blip against us was Erik Swanson giving up an RBI double in the 7th. But, J.P. Crawford hit a sac fly in the 8th to give us another insurance run. We needed five bullpen guys to lock the game in place, with Steckenrider getting the save and Sewald getting a hold in the 8th.

The season finale was another one of those great rallying moments by the Mariners. The offense grabbed the bull by the horns early, scoring six runs in the first 3 innings of play, knocking out the Rangers’ starter in the process. Guys were getting on base throughout, but the top half of the lineup really carried the mail, with all 9 RBI coming from Haniger, Seager, France, and Toro; Crawford and Bauers also chipped in with 2 hits and 2 runs apiece.

With Chris Flexen pitching 7 innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned), this one was a laugher heading into the bottom of the 9th, with the M’s up 7-2. Even though the offense exploded in this one, there were still plenty more runs left on the table (4/14 with RISP), and that ultimately came to bite us in the ass when the bullpen unraveled in the bottom of the 9th.

Anthony Misiewicz was tasked with getting the final three outs. Having not pitched at all in this series, he was one of the only relievers we had left who was completely fresh. He proceeded to get exactly zero outs, giving up two singles and a double before being pulled.

Unfortunately, Diego Castillo was tasked with mopping up from there, now with a 7-3 lead and two runners in scoring position. He hadn’t pitched the night before, and we were REALLY trying to save Sewald’s arm since he’d thrown the previous two games. Castillo struck out the first batter he faced, before a walk and a wild pitch made it 7-4. He struck out the next batter, but then the Rangers hit a 3-run homer to tie it and send the game to extras.

Things looked somehow even more bleak in the tenth, when the Mariners failed to score. But, Joe Smith danced around some terrific defense behind him to keep it all knotted up heading into the 11th. That’s when Ty France decided to take matters into his own hands, hitting a 2-run homer. With no other choice, we had to go back to the Sewald well one more time, who did give up the ghost runner, but otherwise locked it down for his sixth save.

This team impressed the hell out of me in getting the sweep. Of course, they absolutely SHOULD have won all three games, because the Rangers are terrible. But, now this gives us a chance. It’s not a great chance, but a chance just the same.

This weekend series in Houston will be huge.