Some Reasons To Maybe Check In On The Mariners Once In A While 2018

It absolutely sucks being a Mariners fan.  This team has either been terrible or mediocre every year since the 2003 season came to a 93-win playoffs-less end.  I haven’t had much opportunity to write about the M’s this offseason, because they haven’t done much this offseason; it’s very un-Jerry Dipoto-like, someone should check and see if he’s still alive, or if all these podcasts he’s doing are like a Wolfman Jack situation.  The last time I wrote about the Mariners, I wasn’t very happy.  That should be nothing new, of course, but specifically I wasn’t very happy because the starting rotation this year looks like complete and utter shit.  And, that’s the thing about the Mariners:  timing isn’t their strong suit.

How many years did we slog through a lineup that couldn’t hit its way out of a wet paper bag?  How many elite Felix years did we squander?  Remember when we had both Felix and Cliff Lee in their primes, together, on the very same team?  Want to feel old?  That was 46 years ago.

Anyway, this year, it’s the flipside:  the pitching stinks, but the hitting is kinda, sorta okay.  Or it isn’t, I dunno.

I’m going to try to look on the bright side here, and give you some reasons to live.  MIND YOU, don’t try to twist this into some ill-conceived belief that I think this team has something to play for.  In this division, as this team is constructed, the playoffs are not in our immediate future, so go ahead and cast those thoughts right out of your head.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, I give you some reasons to maybe check in on the Mariners once in a while 2018:

Mike Zunino is coming off of his very best season as a professional baseball player, which is VERY exciting to me.  I know it could very well be an aberration, and he could turn right back into a pumpkin this year, but I like to believe he’s really turned a corner in his career, and will be a reliable player for us for many years to come.  Probably not a superstar, but if he can keep it up and get hot at the right times, I could see him making an All Star Game or two.

As long as they’re healthy, guys like Cano, Cruz, and Seager are always worth watching.  Sometimes they run into horrendous cold streaks, but when they get going, they’re pretty fun.

I’ll be curious to see how Jean Segura looks, fresh off of his mid-season contract extension last year.  He finished the season pretty cold from a power perspective, but he still hit .300 and played some solid defense.

Of course, the biggest story as we head into Spring Training (and on into the regular season) is how Dee Gordon is going to look as this team’s starting centerfielder, making the conversion from middle infielder.  I’ll be as interested in his hitting ability as I am in his defensive ability, since so many times you see a drastic reduction in offense when a player makes a Major League position switch.

I’ll be curious to see if Mitch Haniger blossoms this year, after an injury-plagued 2017.  He has all the tools to be a great one, now he’s gotta stay healthy and put it all together.

I was surprised to see Ben Gamel featured pretty prominently in the 2018 promotional give-aways, as those were announced very early on in the off-season.  That was a big indicator that he was going to remain on the Mariners, and not traded for pitching help like a lot of us thought.  I’m torn, because this team absolutely NEEDS pitching help, but I don’t think Gamel alone gets us the quality starter we need, in which case I’m glad he’s staying.  He made a huge leap in 2017, and I’ll be curious to see if he can continue that upward trajectory.

Guillermo Heredia figures to platoon with Gamel in one of the corner outfield spots (or give Dee Gordon an occasional day off), and he too made a nice jump in his production in 2017.  He’s always fun to watch, and seemingly does something amazing almost every time he’s out there, either in the field, at the plate, or on the basepaths.

While the pitching as a whole is pretty suspect, the bullpen has the potential to be pretty awesome.  It’s going to have to be, if this team wants to be a winner.  It’ll require no less than being one of the three best bullpens in all of baseball for this team to simply contend for a Wild Card spot, so there’s your glimmer of hope if you were looking for one.

  • Can Edwin Diaz continue to stay healthy and dominate?
  • After a shaky September, will the Good Nick Vincent return?
  • Will David Phelps be healthy and return to form?
  • Will newcomer Juan Nicasio be our 8th inning lockdown reliever?
  • Will lefties Pazos & Scrabble continue to be reliable?
  • Will we get anything out of Tony Zych or Dan Altavilla?

Finally, I’ll be interested in how this team is managed.  There’s talk of a 6-man rotation.  There’s talk of an extended bullpen.  There’s talk of really limiting the number of innings per start – even more than we’ve already done, out of necessity, thus far in Servais’ Mariners career, because our starting pitching has been so mediocre – and having the bullpen do all the heavy lifting.  What will that translate to?  Seems to me, at the very least, we’re in for more of the same when it comes to shuttling guys to and from Tacoma on the daily.  But, going into the season, with the bullpen knowing it’s going to carry more of the load, how will they respond?

I think the game of baseball is really on the brink of a revolution.  Starters are pitching fewer innings than ever before, and that number might continue to fall.  How will that affect roster construction?  Will the game adapt and finally increase roster size?  Will there be 6-man rotations?  Or, perhaps 3- or 4-man rotations (pitching 3-4 innings per start), with extra long relievers in the bullpen?  The way guys are getting injured every year, this might be the way to limit those arm injuries and keep guys fresher throughout the season.  Essentially, treat the pitching staff like you do in the World Series, all year long.

Everything is on the table.  I don’t expect it to be to that extreme, of course, but it’ll be interesting to look at the trends the Mariners start to implement.  If they can somehow “hide” their rotation by limiting its importance on the game, maybe they can get something going.  Or, maybe they’ll tire out their bullpen and flame out after a couple months.

The 2018 Seattle Mariners:  come for the toasted grasshoppers, stay for the trainwreck!

The Mariners Signed Reliever Juan Nicasio & Other Things Happened

Juan Nicasio (2 years, $17 million) is a 7-year pro, starter-turned-reliever from the right side, who had a very good year last year.  He was great for Pittsburgh, was waived at the end of August for some reason, picked up by Philly, and was traded a week later to St. Louis for minor league prospects.  I don’t know and I don’t want to know.  He averaged a strikeout per inning and apparently has pretty good stuff (mid-90s fastball, good slider, not-so-good change).  Throw him on the pile of potential late-inning relievers with closer Diaz, Vincent, Phelps, Zych, and sometimes Altavilla from the right side; with Scrabble and Pazos on the left side, and you’ve got the makings of a pretty good bullpen.  Not great, not out-of-this-world or anything, but pretty good.  Potentially.  Or maybe not.  Maybe some of them are good, some are bad, and some are injured.  That’s the way the cookie crumbles in this thing, doesn’t it?  It’s all one big, stupid, pointless crapshoot.

Yeah, sure, I like the move, but bullpens are so volatile and random, it’s hard to get too excited about anything anymore.  “We’ll see.”  That’s gonna be my motto with this Mariners team, this year and forever.  We’ll see.

The Mariners also traded away some of their International Slot Money to the Rays for a minor league reliever they’d originally traded TO the Rays last year for God knows what.  So, that’s something.  They also traded some slot money to the Indians for a reliever by the name of Shawn Armstrong.  He’s actually got some Major League experience, so I feel like he’s actually worth mentioning.  But, not a ton of experience, so let’s go ahead and store that name and move on.

And, the Mariners took Mike Ford in the Rule 5 Draft from the Yankees’ organization.  It was to be expected that the M’s would go after someone in the Rule 5 Draft this year, as they had ample roster space, but I figured it would be for a pitcher (most likely a reliever), because you need to keep anyone you pick in the Rule 5 Draft on your roster for a full season, otherwise the player’s rights revert back to his original team.  Considering there’s been all this chatter about the M’s going with a 6-man rotation for at least part of the season, or an 8-man bullpen for a lot longer, it made sense.  What doesn’t make sense is that Mike Ford is a first baseman.  A first baseman who has never played an inning of Major League ball.  Who, indeed, has only 25 games’ worth of AAA experience.

Now, of course, it’s always possible the Mariners and Yankees work out a trade, if indeed 25 games’ worth of AAA experience isn’t enough to land you on a Major League roster for a full season, but it’s a puzzling move any way you slice it.  Obviously, when we’re talking about Rule 5 players, we’re not talking about an organization’s best prospect.  This is a guy the Yankees felt they could leave off of their 40-man roster and risk losing to another club.  Maybe they figured – as most anyone would – that no one would bother with a 25 year old 5-year minor league first baseman whose numbers aren’t really all that eye-popping.  But, that’s the Mariners for you.  The same Mariners, mind you, who just traded for first baseman Ryon Healy.  It didn’t look like he needed a platoon partner, so again, I guess we’ll see.

In yet other minor news, Andrew Albers was granted his release so he could go play in Asia.  That’s one less useful AAA starter we could spot start in a pinch.

And finally, I’ll end with this:  Drew Smyly ended up signing a 2-year, $10 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, which I guess was more than we were willing to go.  He gets $3 million this year just to recover from surgery, and another $7 million in 2019, with $6 million in incentives if he returns to starting.  Thus ends the Drew Smyly era in Seattle.  He never threw a pitch in a regular season game, he earned a little under $7 million, and he cost us three prospects.  If that isn’t the epitome of the perfect Seattle Mariners transaction, I don’t know what is.

Wasting No Time: The Mariners Traded For Their New First Baseman

So, I guess the Danny Valencia/Yonder Alonso experiment is over.  They were both thrilling and aggravating, but ultimately not a very major reason why the Mariners failed to make the playoffs in 2017.  They’re now free to return to the Oakland A’s, or any other team they see fit.

Speaking of the Oakland A’s, the Mariners traded with them again.  To bring in another first baseman again.  For the third time in a row.  Ryon Healy is his name, which isn’t a totally annoying way to spell the name Ryan, but that’s neither here nor there.  He’ll be 26 years old in January and has spent the past season and a half in the Big Leagues.  In that time, he’s been solidly productive:

  • .282/.313/.475/.788 with 38 homers, 49 doubles, a whole mess of strikeouts and not very many walks

Without knowing how good he is defensively (I assume he’s fine), this feels like a quality addition to the right side of the plate.  More importantly, the Mariners don’t feel like they’ll have to platoon him, which should free up a roster spot on the bench.  I suppose that spells doom for Dan Vogelbach’s future in a Mariners uniform, but more than anything he feels like trade bait for one of the 50 other deals Jerry Dipoto is going to do between now and the end of the year.

Another cool thing about this deal is that Healy is still two full seasons away from being arbitration eligible.  The Mariners, if things go well, should have him for 5 full seasons before he’d earn any sort of significant money!  And, if he’s already flashing this type of power and batting average as a second year player, one would think the sky is the limit.

He’s going to fit in quite well in the 2018 batting order, too.  Check out my way-too-early projection:

  • Segura (SS)
  • Haniger (RF)
  • Cano (2B)
  • Cruz (DH)
  • Seager (3B)
  • Healy (1B)
  • Gamel (LF)
  • Zunino (C)
  • Heredia (CF)

I highly doubt that’ll be the Opening Day 9, but you get the idea.  Bank on the top 6 guys being THE guys.  Toss in Zunino in the bottom third with one, maybe two new outfielders, and you’ve got yourself a lineup.

I think my favorite part of this deal is that the Mariners won’t be subjected to a first base retread.  I don’t have to worry about the return of LoMo, for instance, who was a name being bandied about when people discussed possible solutions to this first base quandary.  Same goes for Justin Smoak (though, I have to figure Toronto is pretty happy with him after last year), Brad Miller, and the duo from last season.  Danny Valencia is a nice player, and it was awesome to have his defense over there, but he is who he is.  He’ll have hot streaks and cold streaks and he’ll struggle quite a bit against right handed pitching.  Yonder Alonso, I think, is more flash in the pan than player on the rise.  Before 2017, his season high in homers was 9; last year, he hit 28.  I’m not going to bring steroids into the conversation, because I think the league has done a pretty good job to test those drugs out of the sport, but it does feel like an unsustainable leap.  Also, not for nothing, but the bulk of his damage last year was done pre-All Star Break (where he made his first-ever All Star Game).  He fell off a pretty mighty cliff and never really righted the ship after he was traded.  His on-base ability was a breath of fresh air, but the M’s didn’t bring Yonder Alonso over to walk guys in.

And that’s where I think we get a little too in the weeds with on-base percentage.  Sometimes, you just want a guy to mash you a 3-run homer.  Yeah, if you can, get you a man who can do both, and hold onto him for the duration of his career.  But, if I had to choose what I want out of my first baseman, batting out of the 6-hole?  Give me doubles n’ dingers.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about who the Mariners gave up:  Emilio Pagan and minor leaguer Alexander Campos.  Pagan, you may recall, was a rookie last year and one of our very best relievers.  Long relief, late in games, high leverage situations, extra innings, you name it and more often than not he came through the trials with flying colors.  Considering how cheap he is, and how much team control he has left, that’s a guy you could see anchoring your bullpen for many years to come.  But, if he can get you a starting first baseman – and not just for a season or two, but for up to 5 years or more, if you opt to extend him long term – that’s a no-brainer.  I mean, let’s face it, odds are Emilio Pagan won’t be the next Mariano Rivera.  Duh.  I would also say the odds are we’re trading him at his very highest value.  If we’d kept him even one more year, and he struggled, he couldn’t be traded for much more than Jack Squat (see:  Vogelbach).

As for Campos, he’s a 17-year old infielder.  We almost certainly won’t read about him ever again.  And, if we do, it almost certainly won’t be for at least 3-5 years, and by that point I hope to be long dead, having probably never again seen the Mariners in the post-season.

I will say that it’s a little scary to trade from a position of weakness (pitching) to further bolster a position of strength (hitting).  To say nothing of the issues with the rotation, how good will this bullpen be when you trade away arguably your 2nd most talented reliever after Edwin Diaz?  I know, Nick Vincent will likely start as your 8th inning guy, but I don’t know if I buy him having back-to-back amazing seasons.  And, besides that, you need more than two quality relievers to win games consistently.  Aside from David Phelps when he was healthy, and our lefties Pazos and Scrabble, I didn’t see a lot of uber-promising young talent coming through Tacoma into the Bigs last year.  With the minors as depleted as they are, I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of impact trades for pitching, unless you’re cool giving up on Ben Gamel (who I ASSURE you will not bring back the type of prize Mariners fans would expect from someone who looks like he could be a solid starter for many years to come; so be ready to be VERY disappointed at some point this offseason).

All that being said, I think this is a great trade, and it’s a deal I would do again and again in a heartbeat.  If I’m being perfectly honest, aside from maybe re-signing Jarrod Dyson, I don’t think I’d do very much to turn over the offense.  I like our outfield!  I like Haniger and Gamel and the combo of Dyson and Heredia!  That’s great defense across the board, with solid plate production and speed on the basepaths.  It’s unrealistic to believe that the hitting/defense side of the game is going to stay as is, especially with Dipoto running the show, and especially since we’re almost certainly going to have to trade from that position of strength (hitting) to improve our pitching.  But, whatever you do, you’ve got to keep that outfield defense as a strength, without sacrificing too much in the way of hitting.  Edgar Martinez can’t do it all!

Bad Bullpen/Bullpen Tanks Mariners

Again, I didn’t watch a minute of this game.  Again, I really don’t care.

Andrew Moore pitched 6 innings of 2-run ball.  He hung a curve that was destroyed for a 2-run homer, but other than that he was fine, and he left the game with a 3-2 lead.  Somehow, the Mariners actually chased Lance McCullers in the sixth inning and things probably looked pretty good.  Then, Scrabble came in and stunk again, Nick Vincent appears to be in a slump now, and in a tie game in the top of the ninth, Edwin Diaz gagged away a 2-run homer to lose it.

The Mariners were predictably swept by the Astros this week, but not quite in the way I imagined.  We had a legitimate chance to win all three of those games, but the bullpen fucked it all away in all three games.  For a team that’s built this season on the back of its record in 1-run games (and close games in general), this is not the way you stay in contention.

Thankfully, the Mariners get an off-day today before trying to right the ship against the Angels this weekend.  A 3-game sweep would pull us into a tied record, so let’s shoot for the moon, huh M’s?  At a whopping 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card, with a whopping 6 teams standing in our way, just “winning series” isn’t going to be enough.  Sweeping series needs to be the new motto, starting tomorrow.

The Mariners (Minus Seager & Erasmo) Took Labor Day Off

Ho hum, Dallas Keuchel dominated the M’s and the Astros won 6-2.  This isn’t news.  This isn’t shocking, to say the least.  This is Astros > Mariners, end of story.

Frankly, the most shocking thing about this game was the fact that the Mariners held a 1-0 lead into the fifth inning before the Astros finally took control.  That’s when Erasmo Ramirez gave up a couple solo homers to relinquish the lead.  Then, the second most shocking thing happened:  the Mariners tied the game at 2-2 in the sixth on a Kyle Seager homer, his second RBI of the day.

Had we played our cards right, and the bullpen not totally collapsed, maybe we could’ve squeezed in a third run and stolen a victory!

Instead, Scrabble brought zero to the table, and what’s worse, Nick Vincent gave up his first two runs in Safeco Field this season, a feat that probably should’ve gotten more recognition around these parts.  Those four combined runs buried the Mariners, and it was a sprint to the finish.

Yeah, the bullpen gagged this one away, but I find it hard to get mad at anyone when they’re going up against the Astros.  Those guys just have our number!  Anytime the Mariners hold them under 10 runs I think it’s a miracle from the heavens.

Two more days of this shit, then an off-day, then the Mariners can get back to winning some baseball games again.  Just try to ride out the next two days in a bunker of some sort; avoiding contact with the outside world.  It’s really the only way.

Mike Leake’s Mariners Debut Goes Swimmingly

I’ll admit I had my doubts.  After the trade was made, going into the game yesterday, during and after the first inning, doubts were swirling!  While Mike Leake isn’t like every other Quad-A, flyballer Jerry Dipoto has brought into this organization, he was still a different kind of Meh.

Then, single-single-RBI double happened to lead off the game, and HERE WE GO AGAIN!  You could’ve cooked an egg on my forehead.  I mean, holy hell, what does this team have to do to get some competent fucking pitching in here?

Thank God he settled down.  After staking the A’s to a 2-0 lead in the first, he shut them out over the next six innings – OH YOU HEARD THAT RIGHT – he went seven innings, giving up just the two runs in getting his first Mariners victory!

I don’t know if it was his brilliance, or the A’s just being the A’s, but he only walked 1 and struck out 7, while inducing them into 2 double plays.  Honestly, it was refreshing more than anything.

As for the Mariners’ offense, I wouldn’t say they’re cured, but they got a rare win while scoring fewer than 4 runs, so that’s something.  A Mike Zunino opposite-field homer got the scoring started, followed by a Mitch Haniger RBI single (back in the 2-hole, plating Jean Segura), followed by a Kyle Seager sac fly to score Haniger, all scored in the third inning.

With Leake out of the game, Scrabble and Vincent shared the eighth, and Diaz had no trouble getting his 31st save of the season.

We’re officially into September, and with it the call-ups.  Jarrod Dyson returned from the DL and got a start last night.  Reliever Shae Simmons – who spent the better part of the last two months in the minors as he worked his way back from injury – was called up for the first time since we got him from the Braves.  Familiar faces Dan Altavilla and Andrew Moore are returning, both headed to the bullpen, where they’ll find Marco Gonzales – who was officially taken out of the rotation with the trade for Leake.  Also newcomer Ryan Garton – who we got from the Rays for nothing – will get a shot to help out in the ‘pen.  Finally, recently acquired catcher Mike Marjama will be the team’s third catcher for the month, because that’s apparently a thing that teams do.

To make room on the 40-man roster, subtractions had to be made.  David Phelps was put back on the DL, to no one’s surprise.  Christian Bergman was outrighted to the Rainiers, which I guess ends his season with us.  And, in the most shocking news, Sam Gaviglio was waived – and immediately claimed by the Royals.  That’s slightly disappointing, if only because he’s clearly better than both Marco Gonzales and Andrew Moore, though I guess those guys are younger with more club control.  It’s been real, Sam Gaviglio!  You were the Charlie Brown of this rotation, under-appreciated and the constant butt of our jokes, but always there and always … I dunno, existing I guess.

I don’t know if all these moves will put the Mariners back into contention (now 3.5 games back of the second Wild Card), but I do know this:  it won’t matter one iota.  Because the Astros did what everyone else was too chickenshit to accomplish:  they traded for Justin Verlander.  So, you know, go ahead and pencil in the Astros and Dodgers into the World Series now, because it’ll be a doozy!

Also, not for nothing, but the M’s better sweep the A’s this weekend, because have you seen the starters the Astros are going to throw at us Monday thru Wednesday?  How about Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander (in his Astros debut), and Lance McCullers?  I’m going to do myself a huge favor and not watch any of those fucking games.

Ariel Miranda: Human Fucking Jugs Machine

Apparently, durability gets you the utmost praise in the Mariners organization nowadays.  The Mariners just traded for someone named Mike Leake from the St. Louis Cardinals for a minor league infielder and cash.  Cash towards the international free agent signing market and just plain ol’ cash to offset Leake’s high contract.  He’s apparently owed $53 million after this year (counting a $5 million buy-out in 2021), and the Cardinals have forked over $17 million, meaning the Mariners essentially have Mike Leake on a 3-year, $12 million deal.

So, who is Mike Leake?  Well, he’s a career National League pitcher who got his start in the Bigs in 2010.  Since 2012, he’s made at least 30 starts per year, peaking in the first half of 2015 before he was traded from the Reds to the Giants.  He signed as a free agent with St. Louis in 2016 and has seen a sharp decline in his abilities.  Or, maybe just his results, but I’m willing to bet it’s both.  This year, he’s 7-12 with a 4.21 ERA, so he immediately becomes the Ace of the Seattle Mariners.

And, of course, right there in Jerry Dipoto’s quote, he calls Leake, “one of the most durable starters over most of the last decade.”  That’s the bar you have to clear to make it on the Mariners, because this season can seriously go fuck itself.

Ariel Miranda, about to give up another home run …

Ariel Miranda is another one of those durable types.  He tends to get lavished with praise for the simple ability to not land on the DL, though less praise is coming by the start, because YEESH is he fucking terrible.

Staked to a fucking 6-2 lead, Miranda proceeded to fuck that all away and couldn’t even get through the fifth inning in the process, giving up 4 MORE home runs, to put him at a Major League-leading 35 on the year, in 27 fucking starts, or nearly one and a third home runs per start.

That’s what you get when you combine a shitty fastball with a shitty arsenal of off-speed pitches and a general shitty command of all of it.  Fastballs in the 91 mph range might be considered “average”, but to me they’re shit.  Anything below 94 mph – if you don’t have a significant amount of movement – is a worthless fastball at the Major League level.  You’re only going to get swings and misses if you totally fool the hitter into expecting that you’re going to throw something else.  Combine that with a change-up that tends to float out over the middle of the plate more than dive towards the dirt, and you’ve got a recipe for one of the worst fucking pitchers in the league, from a homers-given-up perspective.

In case it wasn’t abundantly clear by now, THIS is the reason why he was a sixth starter heading into this season (before Drew Smyly got hurt), and THIS is the reason why the Mariners still have a lot of work to do before next year to shore up this rotation.  Because I don’t think we can afford to suffer through another year of Ariel Miranda making 30+ starts, unless he makes a dramatic improvement in his overall pitching presence.

You know what’s odd?  He doesn’t even necessarily get more homer-prone the second and third times through the lineup.  Of his 35 homers, 13 of them have been given up in the first inning, his worst inning by far.  He seems to settle down in the second inning, but this would still make him a miserable candidate for the bullpen, because out of the gate he’s throwing meatballs right down the middle of the plate!  After the second inning, he slowly but surely gets worse as the game goes on, until you get past the sixth inning, when the sample size is too small (ostensibly, if Miranda is pitching into the seventh, eighth, or ninth innings, he’s probably on top of his game that day, which is exceedingly rare).

So, yeah, the Mariners blew a 6-2 lead yesterday, ultimately losing 8-7.  David Phelps got injured again, probably because he was rushed back into pitching after his last DL stint.  Christian Bergman was used in a rare (for him) late-game, short-inning appearance, going 2/3 of an inning, giving up a hit and a walk before being pulled by Scrabble, who allowed the game-winning run to score on his only pitch of the day.

Just a perfect end to a disaster of a road trip.  5-7, including a 5-game losing streak to close it out.  The Mariners went 12-15 in August (not shocking, considering the road slate they were faced with) and have fallen 4 games back of the second Wild Card, behind the likes of Tampa, Texas, Baltimore, Anaheim, and Minnesota.

Day off today followed by a 10-day, 9-game homestand.  The M’s don’t have to travel any farther than the state of Texas the rest of the regular season, but considering all the teams (save Oakland) are legitimately better than us, I could see September being a real ball-buster.

Thank Christ football season is officially upon us starting tomorrow.  God Awgs!

To Save Time: We Should Just Consider Everyone In The Mariners Organization As Day-To-Day

On the day when the Mariners DFA’d Leonys Martin for the second time this season, this time to call up David Phelps from the DL, Robinson Cano pulled up gimpy on a double with hamstring tightness (will have an MRI in New York today) and Guillermo Heredia had his wrist smashed in with a fastball (will have x-rays in New York today).  Both are considered Day-To-Day, of course pending their diagnostic exams.

The only good thing to come out of yesterday was the Mariners winning another series.  That brings them up to 4-2 on the road trip and if they can duplicate that next week, sign me up!

Erasmo Ramirez out-pitched R.A. Dickey.  I know, I’m as shocked as you are!  It didn’t look like that was going to be the case early, as Erasmo got into some first inning trouble (where have I seen that before?  Oh, that’s right, from every single other Mariners starter save Paxton) (no, really, someone, please save Paxton!!!).  He gave up a leadoff infield single, thanks to the ball hitting off of his glove that he feebly tried to field.  Segura was in position to make the out, which sets us up for the rest of the inning.  The next hitter singled to put runners on first & third, then a double scored the guy from third as the runner from first over-ran the bag at second and had to go back and touch it before moving on.  Erasmo got a grounder back to himself for the first out of the inning, which probably should’ve been the second out of the inning.  As such, the subsequent sac fly made the game 2-0 when it should’ve been 1-0 (or, maybe even 0-0, if what’s his name had the same trouble rounding second in this hypothetical situation).

Self-inflicted wounds.  Knowing where your defense is set up and letting your defense do its job.  This is all part of the over-arching problem with this team:  too many fucking brain farts!

Anyway, the M’s got it going in the second, with a Heredia sac fly and an Erasmo Ramirez RBI single down the right field line.  That wouldn’t be the only time Erasmo got a hit, either.

Those first inning runs wouldn’t be it for Erasmo either, as he gave up another run in the bottom of the second, but then he settled down splendidly.  He gave up all of 2 base runners over the next four innings to lock down the quality start.  After throwing a bunch of pitches the first couple innings, he left the game having only thrown 90; indeed, he was all set to come in for the seventh inning (a thought so foreign-sounding to this club, I didn’t think it was actually allowed in the game of baseball anymore), but the offense in the top of the seventh managed to put two runners on with two outs.  Rather than give Erasmo his fourth at-bat (remember, he was 2 for 3 on the day with an RBI), Servais opted to let Nelson Cruz pinch hit.  He would dribble a grounder to the pitcher for the final out of the inning.

Still, helluva game for Erasmo!  I don’t want to alarm anyone (are you sitting down for this?), but Erasmo Ramirez has three quality starts in his last three appearances.  I KNOW, RIGHT?!  That’s clinically insane.  I can unequivocally say that Erasmo Ramirez is the best healthy starter on this team right now.  The odds of me ever saying that EVER was about as remote as you can imagine, but there we have it.

Also, not for nothing, but isn’t it sad that I’m sitting here jerking myself off over a guy with three straight 6-inning starts?  I mean, look at what this pitching staff has reduced all of us to!

I assume you’re sitting there jerking yourselves off over this too, right?

In the bottom of the seventh, it looked like the decision to pinch hit for the pitcher was gonna backfire like a motherfucker, as the bullpen really didn’t have a lot going on.  Scrabble gave up an infield single, then his God-awful pickoff move allowed him to go to third base.  He walked the next batter before getting a strikeout and getting pulled from the game.  Servais opted to go to David Phelps, which seemed a bit rash, having this situation be his first appearance coming off of the DL, but with Zych gone beggars can’t be choosers.

At this point, the Mariners had long ago re-taken the lead at 4-3, thanks to some clutch hitting in the third inning.  But, since we failed to drive the final nail into Dickey’s coffin at the time, the game was still 4-3 when Phelps came in.  He ended up giving up a single to tie the game at 4, then a fielder’s choice gave the Braves a 5-4 lead.  At that point, with two innings to go, I was prepared for the worst.

Playoff teams CAN’T lose two of three to the lowly Braves; they just can’t!  Thankfully, the lineup answered the call.  Jean Segura busted out of a slump with a leadoff double.  Yonder Alonso followed that with a walk and both runners advanced on a wild pitch.  Then, Taylor Motter – hitting for Robbie, who left the game back in the third – dumped a 2-RBI single to left-center to allow the M’s to re-take the lead at 6-5.  Danny Valencia, getting the start in right field and batting cleanup, hit a single, followed by Kyle Seager’s mammoth 3-run home run to center to finally put this one to bed.

Nick Vincent started the eighth and got himself into a bit of a jam, and almost got himself out of it.  But, after giving up an RBI single with two outs, Edwin Diaz was called in for the 4-out save.  He would only need 12 pitches (11 strikes) to get the four outs (3 strikeouts) for his 29th save on the season (16 since the All Star Break).

So, yeah, that was huge.  Just as huge was the fact that the Twins and Angels both lost (the Royals won, however).  So, we’ve got the Twins still in the second Wild Card spot, the Angels and Royals a half game back, and the Mariners a full game back (with the Rangers two games back, and everyone else too far away to matter).

Today is another much-needed off-day (at this point in the season, they’re ALL “much-needed”).  We’ll also probably hear about Robbie’s hamstring and Guillermo’s wrist.  You have to figure more moves are going to be made (we’ll need another infielder if Cano is bound for the DL; the outfield is probably okay considering Valencia can play in right, so he can at least hold the team over for another week until September rolls around).

The first half of this road trip has been a huge boon for the Mariners, but the second half could still make or break it.  If the Mariners fall apart over the next six games – all against Wild Card opponents – it could get pretty dicey.

Please, dear God, don’t let Cano’s injury be too serious.

The Mariners Cling For Dear Life Against The Braves

Albers are off when you’ve got Andrew Albers on the mound!

The Mariners have used, what, 37 different pitchers this season?  35 if you take out the two position players who had to mop up in extreme blowout defeats?  And, in that, we’ve got 16 different pitchers who made at least 1 start this year.  We’ve had injuries, BOY have we had injuries!  And, beyond that, we’ve had a whole lotta ineffectiveness.  From De Jong to Bergman to Overton to Heston to Whalen to Gaviglio to Moore to Gonzales to Gallardo and so on and so forth.  Aside from the injuries, there really hasn’t been anything we could depend upon with this rotation besides Ariel Miranda, I guess.  And, while we’ve had to muddle through all these starts to get back to the brief healthy times we’ve enjoyed, I’ve been sitting here and waiting.  Waiting and hoping.  Hoping and praying that just ONE guy would come up to Seattle and blow us all away.  Even if it’s the most unsustainable, unrepeatable string of starts, I DON’T CARE!  All these Quad-A pitchers have absolutely lived up to their mediocre expectations; can I just get one guy to surpass them, even if it isn’t real?

Well, we’re only two starts in, but there’s a lot I’ve liked about those two starts with Andrew Albers on the mound.  He came over in a nothing trade with the Braves a couple weeks back and immediately gave us 5 innings of 1-run ball against the Orioles (one of the plethora of teams we’re in Wild Card contention with).  And then he followed that up with last night’s performance.

Through five innings, he’d only given up 2 runs.  His pitch count was low, and the M’s had a 6-2 lead, so he was allowed to pitch into the sixth.  An error and a single ended his night without getting another out, and both of those runners ended up scoring after Emilio Pagan cleared the bases by allowing a triple to center, but that’s just bad luck more than anything else.  I thought Albers looked fantastic last night!  Of course, that’s based on the lowest of expectations, particularly when you consider all those meatball pitchers I mentioned above, but nevertheless it’s nice to have someone finally come around and exceed expectations for a while.  I hope it lasts.

It was nice to see the offense jump out early and play add on throughout the game.  The Mariners managed a run in the second, then after falling behind 2-1, poured it on.  Another rally in the third produced a run, and the M’s put up a 3-spot in the fourth on hits by Alonso and Cano.  Alonso would double again in the sixth to knock in our final run, which ended up being huge considering all the damage the Braves were able to do with Pagan on the mound.

Also, don’t look now, but Yonder Alonso has been on fire after something of a quiet start since joining the club and taking over for Danny Valencia at first.  He’s rocking an 8-game hitting streak, going 13 for 30 with 4 extra base hits, 6 runs scored, and 8 RBI.  I know the Mariners’ offense was pretty good before he got here, but you’ll always take those kinds of numbers.  I think an infusion of production like that is just what this team needed.  Yesterday especially, what with Nelson Cruz riding the pine (and not even getting a pinch hit AB, due to circumstances of the game) in the National League park.  God the National League’s rules are stupid (hashtag Embrace The DH).

Quick shoutout to the rest of the bullpen.  After Pagan got knocked around (he’s been a little dicey the last couple times out), Scrabble, Vincent, and Diaz came in and locked it down.  That’s 28 saves for Diaz.  And Scrabble has been nails over the last week or so, and really for the entire month of August.  As for Vincent, he’s the MVP of this pitching staff, without question.

So, not too bad of a start to this road trip.  That victory puts the Mariners at 3-1 through the first third of this trip; which, if they could just match that for the next 2/3 of this trip, sign me up TODAY!  Yesterday’s win also brought their road record to 30-30 on the season, which is pretty insane when you consider they started out the year 8-20.  Since that nadir in late May, after the second game in Boston, the M’s have gone 22-10 on the road.  Unbelievable!

That victory also puts the Mariners at an even 1 game behind the Twins for the second Wild Card.  Predictably, the Angels fell back and are now just 0.5 games ahead of the Mariners.  The Royals are still lingering, 0.5 games behind the Mariners; and the Rangers are too, just a game back of the M’s (tied in the loss column).

Looking ahead, there are two more games down in Atlanta before another off-day, featuring the two worst Mariners pitchers currently in the rotation – Marco Gonzales and Erasmo Ramirez.  Gonzales has yet to pitch over 4.1 innings and I have to believe is one more poor start away from being sent back to Tacoma, so today will be REALLY interesting.  Erasmo, meanwhile, is on a 2-game hot streak, so you have to wonder how long it will take for that house of cards to topple over.

Then, in the Yankees series this weekend, the Mariners have – in theory – their three best healthy starters going (Miranda, then Gallardo, then Albers again).  But, the Bronx Bombers feature C.C. Sabathia (who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS fucking destroys us), Sonny Gray (the ex-A’s starter they traded for at the deadline), and Masahiro Tanaka (who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS – except last time – fucking destroys us).  It could be a really yucky, miserable weekend, is what I’m saying.

So, Mariners, let’s try REAL HARD to win these next two against the Braves, so we can justify what’s surely going to be a series sweep this weekend.

Mariners Hang On To Win Again In Tampa

I wouldn’t call it a bounceback performance out of Ariel Miranda, but 5 innings and 3 runs is somewhat acceptable, if less than ideal.

The Mariners blasted into this game on a Mitch Haniger grand slam, fresh off the DL – replacing Jarrod Dyson’s groin injury – and continued piling on the very next inning with an Alonso RBI single and a Cruz 2-run homer.  7 runs by the fourth inning, and the M’s made it stick.

Miranda pitched into the sixth inning, when he gave up his third run, then was replaced by Emilio Pagan, who gave up a 2-run home run of his own.  Scrabble, Zych, and Vincent got the game into the ninth at 7-5, where Edwin Diaz gave up a solo homer to LoMo of all people, but was able to shut it down from there.

Great job all around.  Finale this morning.  Let’s sweep ’em boys!