The Mariners Are Starting To Fade With That Weekend Series In San Diego

Let’s just pretend last night’s game against the Astros didn’t happen. Football season being what it is, it necessitates my writing about the Seahawks most Monday mornings. And I’ll be damned if I’m posting twice on the same day when I don’t have to!

So, imagine it’s yesterday morning when I’m writing this. The M’s are 23-30 and coming off of a series defeat to the Padres. The fact that we won once – and took the finale to extra innings – is impressive-enough, but with the Cheating Astros winning 2/3 over the weekend, they took an insurmountable 4-game lead heading into the Seattle series this week.

Friday’s 6-1 defeat was a bust any way you slice it. Yusei Kikuchi gave up 5 runs in 4 innings; his season hasn’t been ideal by any stretch of the imagination. In spite of decent bullpen work the rest of the way, the offense couldn’t generate more than three hits (one of them a solo homer by Evan White).

That made Saturday’s 4-1 victory all the more exciting, though. Legitimate cause for celebration – Justus Sheffield – tossed another gem, going 6 innings, giving up 1 run. He has been a true revelation this season! Kyle Lewis hit a solo homer (his 11th on the season) and two guys we brought in from the Padres in that Austin Nola deal – Ty France and Luis Torrens – combined for 4 hits and 3 RBI in this one. Nola, meanwhile, has shockingly been ice cold since going to San Diego, with only 10 hits in 49 at bats, for a slash line of .204/.316/.388, which has to be a disappointment for both him and his new team. Maybe the pressure is too much? Maybe it’s just a flukey cold streak. We’ll see. Anyway, this one got hairy in the ninth inning, with Yoshihisa Hirano loading the bases before getting out unscathed.

The finale on Sunday was pretty bonkers, with both starters getting into the fifth inning without giving up any hits. The M’s actually managed to draw first blood in the bottom of the fifth with a single and a double to take a 1-0 lead. Justin Dunn didn’t give up a hit until he got two outs into the sixth inning, before a walk, a double, and 3-run homer ended his outing. The Mariners tied it in the eighth on a Dylan Moore 2-run bomb, which eventually got us into extras. With the dumb Start A Runner On Second Base rule in effect, the Padres scored in the top of the tenth and the Mariners did the same to make it 4-4 heading into the 11th. The Padres did significant damage this time around, scoring three runs to ultimately take the game, 7-4.

Again, heading into Monday, the Mariners and their 23-30 record were good for tenth in the draft order next year. Still well within shouting distance of a much better pick! How will we do against the Astros? I’m predicting three more defeats!

(Would you look at that?! After last night’s game, I’m already wrong in my prediction!)

In Spite Of Everything, The Mariners Have Made Things Interesting

To be fair, the Houston Cheatin’ Astros have also made things interesting (by losing more than expected), but that’s neither here nor there.

1.5 games is all that separates the Seattle Mariners from an end to the playoff drought that dates back nearly 20 years. 2001 was the last time we made the post-season, making us the most suffering franchise in all of the four biggest North American sports. I wonder if that’s changed? Like, if you ranked the top ten biggest North American sports, would we be the losingest among ALL sports?! I mean, at some point we have to be the worst, and I think I would’ve heard about an organization that’s somehow been more inept than the Mariners.

Anyway, if you thought this 60-game season was a sprint, get ready, because we’ve got 12 games between today and September 27th; 12 games to try and overtake the Astros. I don’t think we can do it, but it’s 2020: crazier things have happened.

The series against the Diamondbacks over the weekend didn’t start off as fabulously as I’d hoped, with a 4-3 defeat. Yusei Kikuchi battled his way through 6 innings, giving up all 4 runs by the third before settling down. Dylan Moore hit a solo homer in the third, Jose Marmolejos hit an RBI single in the seventh, and Ty France hit a solo homer in the eighth, but otherwise the offense just couldn’t get going and we ultimately ran out of innings.

It was doubly unfortunate because the M’s went on to win the next two games, both with a score of 7-3.

Determined to get off to a hotter start on Saturday, we were up 5-0 after the second inning. Justus Sheffield quietly dominated in this one, going 7 innings, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits & 3 walks, with 7 strikeouts. Marmolejos and France both busted out multi-hit games (including homers for each), as did Luis Torrens and Phillip Ervin (sans the homers).

Sunday’s victory felt a little costly, as Justin Dunn was all over the place in his 2-inning start. He threw 66 pitches and while there was some good there (1 hit, only 1 run given up, and 5 of his 6 outs were strikeouts) the bad (5 walks) was too much to bear. The Mariners required seven pitchers in total to get through this one, which wouldn’t have been so bad if we had a scheduled off-day coming up (don’t get me wrong, we DID have one of those, but the A’s had to go and get COVID right before our previous series with them, and MLB was forced to schedule a doubleheader on Monday to help make up for it).

I didn’t have high hopes for this 2-game set yesterday. BUT, we had Marco Gonzales going for us in Game 1. If there was ever a time for one of his patented, dominating seven-inning starts, this would’ve been the one (recall all doubleheader games have been reduced to seven innings this year, which in hindsight was a brilliant call by the league, because there have been approximately one billion doubleheaders so far, across all of baseball, thanks to all the various COVID outbreaks). My hopes waned considerably once Oakland took a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning. Marco was a trooper in this one, and it looked like he might’ve had to wear an even worse outing just to save the team (because we decided to have a Bullpen Start in Game 2), however he also settled down and limited the damage to just those five runs, over a six-inning start.

Things started to get interesting in Game 1 in the bottom of the fourth. Luis Torrens hit a solo homer to make it 5-1. Then, in the fifth, Jose Marmolejos hit a solo homer, followed by a Kyle Lewis two-run home run, closing the gap to 5-4. THEN, in the sixth, Tim Lopes – recalled specifically for this doubleheader, and inserted into the starting lineup as the designated hitter – hit his third double of the game to tie it at 5-5! What followed was only slightly anticlimactic, but the bases were loaded on walks from that point on, and Kyle Lewis ended up walking in the go-ahead run to make it 6-5. From there, Yoshihisa Hirano had no trouble locking down the seventh for his second save of the season.

At that point, we were playing with house money. And, if sports gambling were legal here (or easy to come by), I had the perfect wager. The Taylor Family Farm would’ve been doubling in size if I had my way! Because there was NO way the Mariners were winning the second game of that doubleheader. Not with a Bullpen Start. Not a chance.

I was right, the Mariners lost 9-0, though it was interesting for about two innings. The A’s gave our “starter” all sorts of fits in the first, but with the bases loaded and two outs, Kyle Lewis saved our bacon (temporarily) by jumping as high as I’ve seen anyone jump to rob the other team from a Grand Slam. It was absolutely phenomenal, and gave everyone visions of a young Ken Griffey Jr. robbing a home run in one of his early seasons on the team. This kid is SPECIAL, I’m telling you, and if he’s not the Rookie of the Year this year, I’m going to be very upset.

The only way the Mariners were going to win this one is if it was one of those oddball 10-9 affairs. Instead, the offense mustered all of two hits, as the A’s starter ended up going the distance. Ehh, it happens.

Nothing changes the fact that we are, again, 1.5 games behind the Astros. Of course, I think I read somewhere that the first tiebreaker is record in head-to-head matchups, which the Mariners have already lost even though we have three more games against them. So, in reality, it’s like we’re 2.5 games behind the Astros. We can’t just tie them in record and play it out, we have to be one game better by the end of the season.

Still, no one expected that! Our over/under was 24.5 wins; we need to go 3-9 the rest of the way to hit the over! What were my thoughts on the matter heading into the season? NEVER YOU MIND!

Okay, so listen, I need to win some money and I need to win it fast. The Taylor Family Farm is once again in trouble! No, I don’t know why I do these things! Clearly, I have a problem with gambling! Just float me some cash for a week, you know I’m good for it!

The Mariners Giveth, The Mariners Taketh Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blockbuster: The Mariners Traded Austin Nola & Duds For Prospects (and probably some duds too)

The San Diego Padres are making a move, ladies and germs. From what I can tell, this is the equivalent of pushing your chips out and declaring yourself All In. At the time of this writing, they’ve made four deals, and the trade deadline is still some hours away yet.

One of those deals was to acquire Sicilian Army Knife (seriously, according to Wikipedia anyway, the Nolas emigrated from Sicily) Austin Nola from the Mariners. Since the deal was padded out from there, here’s the nuts and bolts:

  • Padres acquire: Austin Nola, Austin Adams, and Dan Altavilla
  • Mariners acquire: Taylor Trammell, Andres Munoz, Luis Torrens, and Ty France

The rumors started swirling yesterday morning, when Nola was not-so-suspiciously out of the lineup (he had just played the night before, and catchers usually get day games off following night games), but the Mariners DID suspiciously call up a third catcher just in case. Of the players the Mariners might be willing to part with (in other words, the players NOT currently factored into the overall rebuild), Austin Nola had the most value of anyone. He’s currently in the prime of his career, he plays multiple positions well (catcher, first base, the corner outfield spots, maybe even a little third base in a pinch), and he’s still under club control for five more years beyond 2020 (meaning for the duration of his prime, he figures to be extremely cost-effective).

At that point, you have to wonder – as a Mariners fan – why we’d want to give away someone with so much value? If he’s so good, and he’s cheap for so long, isn’t that someone you try to build around?

Well, he turns 31 years old in December. Asked and answered. If we don’t expect the Mariners to seriously contend until 2022 at the earliest – which will be Nola’s age-32 season – is it wise to expect he’ll still be as good when he’s entering his mid-30’s? It’s likely Nola’s trade value will never be higher than it is right this very minute. If his on-field production starts to decline, that value is going to plummet. So, it’s probably smarter to strike while the iron is hot. Nevertheless, when I started reading the rumors, I was adamant that the Mariners better get a king’s fucking ransom in return! We can’t keep trading quality players for pennies on the dollar if we’re ever going to turn this ship around!

And, to their credit, it sounds like the Mariners did just that!

Taylor Trammell is the big prize here. He’s a Top 100 prospect who, oddly enough, is also an outfielder. Including the two guys we have in the minors (until at least a month into the 2021 season) as well as Kyle Lewis, that gives the Mariners four very highly-coveted outfielders. Which, on the one hand, gives us insurance in case someone doesn’t pan out, while on the other hand gives us a valuable trade chip in the unlikely event that they ALL pan out.

Andres Munoz is a reliever who can throw triple digits with ease. At least, he could, until he required Tommy John surgery back in March. Pitchers usually return from this surgery intact, so that’s not much of a worry. He’s 21 years old and already has 22 games of Major League experience from 2019, when he showed that electric stuff (30 strikeouts in 23 innings, albeit with 11 walks and 10 runs given up). I know fans are going to want to immediately declare him the “Closer of the Future”, but let’s hold our horses a little bit. It’s fun to get excited over guys who throw as hard as he does, but these types of pitchers flame out just as easily as they succeed (and it’s pretty rare that any reliever is successful over a long career). I think the best we can hope for is that he puts together one or two magical years when all the stars seem to align for the Mariners; but, banking on him being any consistent presence over the next half decade or longer is simply unrealistic. That being said, his stuff is CLEARLY better than anyone else in the Mariners’ minor league system (saying nothing of the Major League roster, which is a dumpster fire).

Luis Torrens is a 24 year old catcher with moderate MLB experience, where the best he’s shown is promise. He should get a significant look the rest of this season. To his credit, he’s looked better in 2020 than he ever has at this level, and he’s young enough to still build himself into a viable Major League catcher. But, it’s clear the Mariners are banking on Cal Raleigh – currently on the Jarred Kelenic/Julio Rodriguez track – to be this team’s Catcher of the Future. At best, Torrens figures to be his backup, if he’s still around in a few years. In the meantime, he could be the bridge to Raleigh if everything breaks right for him.

It doesn’t sound like Torrens is much of a defender behind the plate. But, so far I’ve really liked the Mariners’ coaching staff when it comes to improving catcher defense. They’ve been able to turn Austin Nola into a star, they got the most out of Omar Narvaez (rated as among the very worst defensive catchers when we traded for him before last season), they turned Tom Murphy’s career around before his injury this year. It seems like they can work with someone like Torrens and build him into at least a league-average catcher.

Ty France is a 26 year old third baseman, who is in his second year in the bigs. Fans have taken that as a sign that Kyle Seager could be moved later today (seems unlikely, given his contract), but he really seems like just another prospect to throw onto the pile. His bat in the minor leagues was insane, but he struggled quite a bit in his Major League debut last year. He’s been better this year – in a small sample, of course – but obviously it’s too soon to make any sort of definitive statement about his development. Like Torrens, I would expect France will get a LONG look the rest of the way, either at DH or subbing in for Seager. Hopefully, his bat stays as hot as it’s been to this point of the season, as losing Nola is going to put a serious damper on this Mariners offense the rest of the way.

I also understand – thanks to U.S.S. Mariner – that France can also play second base, which could be significant because Shed Long looks … bad. Don’t get me wrong, physically he LOOKS cool as shit, but he can’t hit, he lost all his power it would seem, and his defense is nothing to write home about. Since there’s clearly an immediate hole at second base, and there figures to be a hole at third base in the next year or two, if France pans out with his bat, that’s a big worry off our collective plates.

On top of this, the Mariners were able to rid themselves of Dan Altavilla, who – as I’ve lambasted repeatedly this year (and in years prior) – has never been able to parlay his strong arm into Major League success (even more reason to caution against over-hyping Munoz). Austin Adams was a good reliever for the Mariners in 2019, but there’s a reason why I refused to learn any of these relievers’ names this year: none of them figure to be here when the Mariners are good again. Adams hasn’t pitched at all in 2020 because of his ACL surgery (which doesn’t figure to be a serious ailment for a pitcher, but nevertheless requires a buttload of rehab to come back from), which makes his inclusion in this deal all the more surprising. From what I recall, he’s been throwing … somewhere, and may in fact return to Major League action before the season ends. But, I mean, that’s a lot to ask from someone – to jump right into the fire like that – who hasn’t pitched an inning in anger since last September.

This is a pretty exciting deal for the Mariners, all things considered. This further bolsters our farm system and makes our current youth movement at the Major League level all the more interesting. It’s also an exciting deal for the Padres! I have no reason for any animosity towards them; they’re another franchise who hasn’t been good in a LONG time. It’s commendable for them to play for the championship right now, as opposed to playing it safe and seeing if their own guys can develop on their own. I don’t really have any other ponies in this race (particularly with King Felix sitting the season out), so yeah, I’ll root for the Padres! Go get ’em boys! May Austin Nola be the last piece to the championship puzzle!