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.

The Mariners Got One Back Against The Yankees

Masahiro Tanaka really must be broken if the Mariners were able to score 4 runs off of him over 6 innings.

Ariel Miranda had a pretty good outing, giving up 2 runs in 5.1 innings, and was probably pulled a little too early, but I guess I understand the rationale behind it:  Aaron Judge was coming up, and Steve Cishek seemed like as good a righty as any to try to take him down.  Of course, he failed, because Aaron Judge was forged from the gods and inhabits the power of a thousand bat-wielding maniacs, but that’s neither here nor there.

The bullpen let the Yankees tie this one, then the Mariners regained the lead, then they tied it again, then the Mariners won it in extras on a walk-off single.  Much rejoicing was had by all.

Look, I’m pretty damn hungover, and no one is reading this anyway, so let’s call it a weekend and get after it tomorrow.

Mariners Burn My Ass By Trading Tyler O’Neill, Also Fucking Stink Against The Yankees

It’s getting to be pretty hard to “trust the process” when it looks like the Mariners are no closer to the post-season than they’ve ever been.  When it looks like every trade for a pitcher brings in Chase De Jong.  When it looks like this year’s Mariners team might be worse than last year’s variety, in spite of all the offensive upgrades we’ve made in just a year’s time.

Look, I get the whole argument that fans over-value their own prospects.  But, I also see what Tyler O’Neill has done throughout his minor league career:  he’s gotten consistently better each and every year.  And, I see all these other deals go down around the league, some of which a team gets obviously fleeced, and its trade partner gets good value for its fucking high-ranked prospects (even in a farm system that isn’t exactly overflowing with high-ranked prospects).

I just think it’s stupid to trade someone so good – who can potentially be an All Star – for a pitcher so mediocre, in Marco Gonzales.  A pitcher who missed all of 2016 with Tommy John surgery to his elbow.  A pitcher who has done NOTHING at the Major League level but suck total ass in 12 games over 3 seasons.  A pitcher who was drafted in the first round, but whose only claim to greatness has been half a season in AAA this year; 11 games.  A pitcher who I’m hearing might be out of options after this year?  Which, if that’s the case, is the biggest slap in the face of them all, because these guys (out of options, out of their team’s future plans) are supposed to come at a DISCOUNT; they’re NOT supposed to cost you your best minor league prospect!

Oh, and not only is he not here to help out the Mariners THIS YEAR – you know, when we’re in this playoff race and actually need the starting pitching help – but who’s to say he’ll be ready next year?  If he doesn’t have some injury setback (which, yes, is a real concern now and forever), will he be able to win a spot in this rotation?  Odds are, the Mariners are STILL going to have to bring in other starters to compete!  What happens if we have to settle for Gonzales being a reliever?  THEN what have we done???

And the company line continues to be:  trading from a position of strength to fill a position of weakness.  BULLSHIT!  Even if I believe in Ben Gamel (which, we’re talking about half a season or so), Mitch Haniger has NOT been the same since he returned from his injury (as I predicted), and Guillermo Heredia has been slumping pretty hard since he was effectively put in this centerfield platoon.  How is that a strength?  How would the Mariners not be better served with more competition?  Especially considering how Boog Powell isn’t worth a shit, and Taylor Motter has been figured the fuck out.  If OF is such a position of strength, then where’s the DEPTH???  Tell me that, you company man!  You fucking Mariners sycophant!

In other Mariners Trade News:  they gave Mark Lowe and Jean Machi away to the White Sox for cash.  This allows them to potentially continue their Major League careers, and makes the Mariners look enticing to the next batch of over-the-hill veterans who might sign on for minor league deals.  We hardly knew ye or some shit.

In actual Mariners Baseball News:  they got destroyed by Aaron Judge and the fucking Yankees last night.  Andrew Moore gave up 5 runs in 6 innings, Emilio Pagan went the rest of the way shutting them out, and the offense could only muster 1 run, as they went 3 for 12 with RISP.  C.C. Sabathia got the win, because of course he did.  He kills us when he’s great, he kills us when he’s shit, he kills us when he’s young, he kills us when he’s old.  On a related note, Masahiro Tanaka goes tonight, so get ready to be swept in this stupid fucking series.

New day, more Mariners bullshit.  I hate this fucking team.

Mariners Return Home, Hoping For A Miracle

Well, some good news and some bad news out of yesterday afternoon’s drubbing of the Astros, 12-4.  We won!  That’s always good.  Staved off execution for one more day, gotta like that.  We put pressure on our rivals, as their games didn’t start until later in the day.  And, let’s be serious, I’m taking GREAT pleasure in knowing we have all but officially knocked the Astros out of the playoffs (they are 3.5 games out of the second wild card with 3 games to go and would need to win out while Baltimore would need to lose their final 4 games and the other teams ahead of them would need to stumble greatly as well).  The Astros may have had our number for most of the year, but we put the final nail in their coffin!

The bad news, of course, is that Baltimore came back in the 9th inning to beat the Blue Jays, and Detroit won a rained out game against Cleveland.  So, we remain 1 game behind the Tigers and 2 games behind the Orioles, with 4 games to go for each of us.

I got to listen to some of the game on the radio yesterday, and it sounds like the offense would not be denied.  Smart move.  James Paxton had okay stuff, but could only muster 5 innings against that Astros offense.  Evan Scribner was the real hero of the day, getting us out of a major jam in the 6th and going 2 full innings of relief.  Where has THAT guy been all season?  Oh, right, injured.  Man, if he’d been healthy and pitching like this all year, we’d be in a MUCH different position right now

On the flipside, Doug Fister couldn’t get out of the 2nd inning, as the Astros – with their backs to the wall – went with the quick hook.  They were able to make it as close as 7-4 after six innings of play, but the Mariners were able to pour it on.

Cano hit his 36th homer of the season and Seager hit 30 for the first time in his career, giving the Mariners three guys with 30+ homers for the first time since 1997!  Cano and Seager each had 3 RBI apiece to bring them up to 97 and 99 respectively.  With Cruz already at 102, we’re damn near three guys with 100+ RBI for the first time since – I wanna say – 2001.  I could be having my years mixed up, but I’m pretty sure that’s what I gleaned from Twitter the last few days.

So, here’s where we stand, heading into Thursday:

  • Cleveland at Detroit at 10am.  I’ve heard there’s more rain on the horizon, and they might not even be able to get this game in today.  If they can’t, and it needs to be made up, they’d have to do that on Monday, which will throw a lot of things out of whack.
  • Detroit then heads to Atlanta for a 3-game series.  The Braves are 65-92 and in last place in the National League, so that’s not too encouraging.  On the plus side, no DH, so Victor Martinez will be relegated to pinch hit duty in their most important series of the year.  Of course, given Atlanta’s ineptitude, it’s not likely he’ll be needed, and they’ll have just given him 3 days to rest ahead of the playoffs.
  • Baltimore at Toronto at 4pm.  The Orioles sit 1 game behind the Blue Jays for the top wild card spot.  If they win today, they’ll be tied and – assuming we beat the A’s – we’ll be exactly 2 games behind both of them.  Which, if that’s the case, means Toronto’s back in play.
  • Baltimore then heads to New York for a 3-game series against the Yankees.  Tanaka is one of the scheduled starters, so you’d think Baltimore would at least lose that one for us, but who can be sure anymore?
  • If Toronto loses today, as I noted, they’re back in play.  That means their three game series in Boston, against the division winners, could be HUGE.  Toronto will have Happ and Aaron Sanchez going that series, which makes things difficult.  But, the Red Sox will have David Price and 22-game winner Rick Porcello going to counter.  I don’t know if that means anything – it’s very likely Boston will be VERY careful with their starters’ pitch counts, since they have a guaranteed spot in the ALDS – but it’s some small slice of hope to cling to.

Obviously, it all means nothing if we can’t beat the A’s.  Aside from not having Paxton, we have as ideal of a rotation as possible.  I think the worst part is we don’t have a day off before this series.  The bullpen is expanded, but there have been a lot of pressure innings to pitch through recently.  It’d be nice to give them a breather.  More importantly than that, though, is I’d REALLY like to give Nelson Cruz a day off to rest that wrist.  He’s been as game as anyone in playing through all that pain, but I worry we’re getting diminishing returns the more consecutive days he plays, reaggravating it with every swing, unable to take bullpens before games.

All I ask is that the Mariners sweep this series and keep the pressure on the other teams ahead of us.  At that point, it’ll be in the hands of the sports gods.  KEEP YOUR CHINS UP!!!

All The Good The Mariners Did To Start The Month Has Been Negated

Welp, in case you were wondering, the Mariners still can’t beat the Rangers!

This whole season pretty much started going down the tubes in the first week of June, on a road trip that took us through Arlington.  A 3-game sweep by the Rangers got us going on a dark and miserable path where we’d go 5-15, erasing what was once a 10-games-over-.500 record, and setting us up for a finish where we’d just go through the motions.  The month of July didn’t really do us many favors, but a 10-game homestand to kick off August got everyone back in the (keep) fighting spirit!

At one point, we were even – you guessed it – 10 games over .500!  The Mariners started off the month of August 14-5, were but a game back of the second wild card, and had a healthy lead over teams like the Astros, Tigers, and Royals.

Ever since, the Mariners have won 2 of their last 9 games, have fallen to 3 games back of the second wild card, and must leapfrog the aforementioned Astros, Tigers, and Royals to get there.  The only thing even remotely keeping us in the race right now is the A.L. East owns both wild card spots, and they’ve been duking it out against one another for the last couple weeks.

The Mariners, on the other hand, are predictably faltering at the end of a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, and 33 games in 34 days.  They’re also, let’s be honest, not the greatest team.  They’re ESPECIALLY not great against good teams like the Rangers.  Or teams with good pitching like the White Sox.  And, if Iwakuma didn’t shit the bed every time he faced another starter from his homeland (Tanaka last week, Darvish last night), we might be in slightly better shape!

There are many culprits for why the Mariners have been as inconsistent as they’ve been.  Injuries have hurt (literally!) (zing!), the bullpen has been unreliable for long stretches, the rotation has been unreliable for even longer stretches, and the starting nine are wearing down from overuse due to poor roster construction, a weak bench, and the needlessly archaic rules of Major League Baseball.  Ultimately, what it all boils down to is that when this team pitches well, it tends to win; when it pitches poorly, there’s usually not much even a reliable offense (like Seattle’s has been for most of the year) can do to turn it around.  They’ve maintained well enough with substandard pitching thanks to some late-game heroics, but ultimately there’s not enough magic in that old silk hat they found to carry this team to the North Pole the playoffs.

I feel the same way, Karen ...

I feel the same way, Karen …

So, what’s it going to take to get this team back on track?  Well, there are 31 games left to go.  To get to 90 wins, the Mariners would need to go 22-9.  To get to 22 wins, the Mariners would have to win every single series the rest of the way, including the last two games of this series against the Rangers (which seems like a pretty tall order, considering they have Cole Hamels and we don’t).  That means the Mariners would have to win 2 of every 3-game series, and 3 of every 4-game series the rest of the way (there are two 4-game series the rest of the way; both at home, one against the Rangers, the other against the A’s).

And, mind you, that just gets the Mariners to 90 wins.  There’s no guarantee that even 90 wins is enough to get into that wild card game.  Remember, there are 5 teams ahead of us vying for those two spots, and all 5 of them have easier roads to 90 wins and beyond.

Betcha didn’t realize that the Mariners’ season ended and we all blinked and missed it!  That’s what a 2-7 stretch of baseball will do to you when you’re already a fringe playoff team and there’s only a month left to go in the season.  Not that our caring any more would have mattered, but go ahead and remember all of those assholes back in April and May who kept telling us “it’s still early” when we lost yet another heartbreaker.  Them shits adds up.

This Is Why You Can’t Blow 3-Run Save Situations, Mariners

You want to know why I was so irate about the Mariners losing to the Brewers on Sunday?  I mean, shit, look on the bright side, the M’s still won the series!

Yeah, except, you had to know the Mariners weren’t going to win every single series from here on out, right?  At some point, the Mariners were going to run into just a dud of an offensive night, against an aging-yet-at-times-effective veteran pitcher, and follow that up by being manhandled by that team’s ace.

C.C. Sabathia didn’t look anything remotely like the C.C. Sabathia of old last night, but he was able to change speeds and work the edges of the plate and just generally be a pain in the ass all night.  He was able to spread 3 hits and 1 walk across 7 innings while only giving up 1 run in a 5-1 defeat.  Indeed, this was his best performance in over 2 months, which makes it all the more galling, but that’s the whole point:  the offense isn’t going to dominate EVERY SINGLE GAME.  Sometimes, you’re just going to have an off night.  You just have to hope it doesn’t become a trend, but nothing about this season would suggest that’s happening.

What’s worse, and what makes Sunday’s abortion so unforgivable, is that today we have to go up against Masahiro Tanaka, who – in 4 career appearances – has manhandled the Mariners.  There’s no reason to expect that to change, which means we’re going to need Iwakuma to be at the very top of his game and hope for the best.

In reality, it means we’ve already lost this series.

This series loss could’ve been mitigated if the bullpen and the outfield defense didn’t completely fall apart on Sunday, but that’s baseball, I guess.

Losing this series isn’t the end of the world, of course.  But, for starters, it’s a bad sign that we can’t seem to play our best baseball against teams in contention.  If THAT continues, then you better get ready for Texas to eat our lunch in the next couple weeks.

Here’s where it really comes to bite us in the ass.  We hit the road this weekend for a 4-game series against the White Sox, where we have to see both of their studs in Sale and Quintana.  Then, guess what, in Texas next week, we have to face Darvish and Hamels, two MORE guys we have a whale of a time trying to hit!  If the Mariners don’t take advantage of these winnable games (like the one on Sunday!), then they have to work that much harder to try to get those games against the really good pitchers.

I mean, how many more miracle finishes could the Mariners possibly have left?

The Mariners Won More Than They Lost Against The Yankees

It’s Monday, which means it’s time to talk about the weekend that was.

The M’s won an impressive one on Friday, 7-1, scoring in each of the final six innings to put it away.  Cruz and Cano had big games, we got a lot out of the DH combo of Smith & Guti, Adam Lind had something of a breakout game with a couple of hits, and Iannetta continued his torrid start to the season, which has been the most welcome of surprises.  Most everyone got in on the action offensively, except of course for poor Kyle Seager, who can’t buy a hit (but has plenty of Double Play foodstamps to throw around – THANKS OBAMA!).

Nathan Karns had a very Nathan Karns type of outing:  5 innings, 5 hits, 4 walks, 1 run, 7 strikeouts.  He got himself into and out of trouble in almost every inning, which is just something we should all get used to seeing, because that’s going to be the norm with this guy.  His inability to consistently pound the strikezone and get guys to hit into our defense is going to mean high pitch counts, low innings counts, and potentially a lot of crooked numbers.  In games like on Friday, where he was able to wiggle off the hook time and time again, he’ll resemble a bulldog like Erik Bedard.  You take the good with the bad with a guy like Bedard/Karns.  A tendency to Five & Dive, but at the same time (ideally) someone who can give you a QUALITY five innings.  Which, compared to some of the 5th starters we’ve seen in years past (weak-throwing flyball pitchers like Beavan and such), this might be a welcome change.  But, if Karns starts getting beat up more often than not (BECAUSE he’s putting so many people on base early in innings), then you’ll likely see him replaced by Paxton sooner rather than later.  It’ll be an interesting first few weeks of his Mariners career.

As the Mariners played add-on, the bullpen locked it down for the final four innings, including Peralta, who had been savaged in recent games by the long ball.

The Mariners won again on Saturday, 3-2, in a very Mariners-like performance, where the team scored three runs in the fifth inning, and no runs in any other inning.  Felix got the start, and for a while, this looked like the prototypical Hard Luck Felix Game.  C.C. Sabathia was working his magic through the first four innings, and it looked like a return to form for the erstwhile ace.  Felix, meanwhile, struggled in Karns-like fashion each and every inning, as he too was limited to five innings on the day.  It was a really weird day, if I’m being honest.  Felix had some of the most unhittable stuff I’ve ever seen out of him, but the downside was that he had pretty much no control over anything.  He threw about 80% offspeed stuff, and that shit was flying every which way but inside the strikezone.  As such, he only gave up 5 hits, but he gave up 6 walks.  When you add Saturday’s performance to his opening day start, there might be cause for concern.  I, however, choose to believe in the King, and like to see that he’s got such strong movement this early into the season.  He’ll harness everything, and get control over his command, and once he does, we could see a nice long run of dominance out of him this season.  As it is, he’s only got a 1.00 ERA, so the Felix Haters can eat all the dicks.

When Felix left the game, he had a 3-1 lead, and you sure as shit know none of us Mariners fans thought that lead was REMOTELY safe.  Vidal Nuno came in on his second consecutive day to throw shutout ball for an inning; he’s going to be a HUGE piece to this bullpen when it’s all said and done.  In the 7th, Nick Vincent gave up a solo homer to make it 3-2, and it was Hold Your Nuts time from there on out.  Benoit returned from his shoulder soreness to throw an uneventful scoreless inning, and Cishek came in for the 9th, gave up a couple hits, but ultimately got the job done for his first save of the year.  Last year, that game is a loss 11 times out of 10 games, so good on the bullpen to snap back after a rough homestand.

Yesterday, the Mariners lost 4-3, in a game that necessitated a dominant starting pitching performance, and ultimately didn’t see one.  Masahiro Tanaka was going for the Yankees, and he’s always been a tough cookie against the Mariners.  Quite frankly, seeing the Mariners get even 3 runs was laudable, as more often than not you’re lucky to get more than a single run against the guy.  Ultimately, when you get three runs off of a team’s ace, you need to find a way to win that game, and the Mariners just couldn’t hack it.

Hisashi Iwakuma is one of the more infuriating pitchers I’ve seen in a good, long while.  Not the same kind of infuriating as guys like J.A. Happ, or Carlos Silva, or even Jeff Weaver.  Unlike those guys, we’ve SEEN Iwakuma do really well in a Mariners uniform.  We KNOW he has greatness in him.  In the last two seasons, he’s had decent, if injury-plagued years, and in 2013 he had near-Cy Young quality stuff over 33 games.  When we all think of Iwakuma, we think of him in that 2013 context, where he solidified his reputation as a legitimate #2 starter on this team.  But, the truth is, even in 2013, he’s prone to these dumpy runs of mediocrity.  THAT’S what makes him so infuriating!  It’s not like he runs into a bad game here and there; even Felix has a bad game every now and again.  But, Iwakuma tends to string his bad games, or his so-so games, all in a row, before he has these prolonged stretches of quality starts.

Here are some of the stretches to which I’m referring (not counting his first year in the Bigs, as he was still getting over some shoulder issues):

  • 2013 – a five-game run where he gave up at least 4 runs per game
  • 2014 – a six-game run where he couldn’t get through the 6th inning in 5 of 6 games (and, more often than not, couldn’t even get through the 5th inning)
  • 2015 – a four-game run to start the season where he gave up at least 4 runs per game

I don’t know if it’s fair to saddle him with this run of three games to start the 2016 season as it being one of his bad runs, but he hasn’t been great by any stretch.  In 18 innings, he’s given up 22 hits and another 6 walks.  While he’s only given up the one homer (to A-Rod yesterday, ugh), teams are stringing their hits and walks together just enough to force him into this 0-2 start.  I wouldn’t say it’s dire straits yet with Kuma, but it would be really nice to see him overwhelm one of these teams soon with a dominant performance.

All in all, as I said before, a commendable hitting performance out of the M’s yesterday.  We were able to tie it in the fifth, but Kuma went right out in the bottom of the inning and gave up the fourth run of the day for the Yankees.  Even though Kuma was able to go 7 innings, and let the bullpen relax a little bit, those four runs proved to be too much.  Tanaka was also able to go 7 innings, and once the Yankees have a lead going into the 8th inning, you might as well forget it.  Dellin Betances is a fucking beast, and Andrew Miller is rock solid.  Can you even imagine what that bullpen is going to look like when Aroldis Chapman returns from suspension?  You better pile your runs up early, because you’re not budging that bullpen an inch in the late innings!

I do have to say something about Kyle Seager, though, because he’s been an absolute mess through two weeks.  He’s down to a line of .119/.245/.238, he was benched on Saturday to give him a day off to mentally unwind, and he’s just been a machine at grounding out to the right side of the infield (into the shift, which I have to believe is in his head more than anyone wants to let on).  I have confidence in his ability to turn it around, as I’ve seen these slow starts out of him almost every year of his career, but if this team wants to avoid digging a hole impossible to get out of, it’ll need Seager to start pulling his weight.

I like what I’ve seen out of Cruz and Iannetta.  Smith and Guti have had truly professional starts to the season.  Aoki’s been on a nice little run, and Martin has showed better power than I would’ve given him credit for prior to the season.  Dae-ho Lee has brought exactly what I expected to the table.  It’s really only a matter of time before Cano goes on a hot streak to get his numbers back to career norms.  Sardinas has brought what you like to see out of a guy off the bench.  Marte has had a rough go of it, but he’s young, and he has a knack for getting on base and using his speed to his advantage.  Lind’s rough start can’t be sugar-coated, but at least he looks like a guy who can hit it to all fields, so he’ll find some of those balls dropping in for hits sooner or later.  That just leaves Seager, who is bringing up the rear like a maniac.

When you think of a lineup, you’re going to see lots of peaks and valleys out of guys.  For instance, Iannetta is having a tremendous start to his Mariners career.  But, that other shoe is going to drop in a minute, and it would be NICE to see someone else hit one of his peaks at the same time as Iannetta’s inevitable valley, so the offense doesn’t go completely in the tank.  Iannetta is giving us Seager-like production right now, but that won’t last forever (if it even lasts much longer than these first two weeks); we’re going to need Seager to step it up just to maintain the status quo we’ve got going on right now!  That’s a scary thought, especially if it takes him much longer to pull out of this nosedive he’s been in.

The Plight of the Rookie, Roenis Elias

I was going to write this last week, but Roenis Elias got stomped into the ground by the New York Yankees, so I put it off, waiting for a better game with which to really bring my point home.  That game took place yesterday afternoon, against the Padres, where he went 7 innings, giving up 1 run, walking 0, striking out 6, and giving up only 3 hits.

Speaking of the Yankees, there’s a “rookie” out there by the name of Masahiro Tanaka.  He’s 25 years old and he’s amazing.  He’s absolutely crushing everyone in his path and is a shoo-in for the A.L. Rookie of the Year award.  I mean, just print his name on it now and give it to him as he’s starting the All Star Game next month.

It should be pointed out that he has been pitching since 2007 in Japan, where he was a 5-time all star as well as a 2-time winner of the equivalent of the Cy Young award.

I should also point out that it’s silly to complain about this, since the Mariners have benefited twice in this Japanese rookie deal, with Kaz Sasaki and Ichiro, who won the ROY in back-to-back years.  But, still.  Roenis Elias is an ACTUAL rookie.  He made the jump from AA, which is impressive all by itself, and he has proven that he’s the third best pitcher in a rotation featuring two aces in King Felix & Iwakuma.  Elias is not a perfect, finished product.  And we’re not even halfway through the season yet.  But, it should be noted that he would be in consideration for the ROY award in any other year.

I’m not coming on here saying that the system should be changed, or that voters should discount players who come over from Japan.  I’m mostly just saying that it’s disappointing that Elias appears to be overlooked from a national viewpoint.  He’s not even mentioned among the game’s best Cuban players in the Major Leagues today!  Granted, his resume is relatively light, but you’ve got that game yesterday, you’ve got that complete game shutout against the Tigers, you’ve got the 10-strikeout game in Yankee Stadium, and you’ve got that great game down in Texas – in his third start – when he gave up 1 run while pitching into the 7th inning.  It’s a small sample of great games, but it’s growing by the month.

Hell, even if Tanaka didn’t exist, I don’t know if Elias would be a front-runner.  But, he’d be in the running.  The rest of baseball should take notice.

I Visited The Mariners Hall Of Fame Yesterday

Which, unfortunately, means I was at the Mariners/Yankees game.


Where the Mariners would go on to lose 4-2 …

I don’t understand Mariners fans who only go to MAYBE one game a year, who insist on seeing the Yankees.  Or the Red Sox.  It’s like:  don’t you want to have a GOOD time at a baseball game?

People pick those games, because those are the teams they know.  Those are the big, famous teams from the East who rarely come to town anymore, so they just have to see them in person if they’re going to go to a game at all.  Maybe it’s because they hate those teams, and want to relish in beating those teams.  But, regardless, they’re never prepared for the brutal onslaught of opposing fans in attendance.

There’s a reason these games cost more than regular games, and there’s a reason why they attract bigger crowds than regular games.  And it’s not just the rubes in Seattle who root on the Mariners and never attend games.  It’s asshole transplants, and worse:  bandwagon jumpers.

Look, I get it if you live here and you don’t want to root for the Mariners.  BELIEVE me, I get it.  But, why would you immediately jump to the Yankees or Red Sox without a damn good reason?  I’m not saying the only thing that’s sacred is to root for an underdog; but, there are plenty of good teams out there that aren’t the fucking Yankees and Red Sox!  Root on the Giants!  Or the Dodgers, or the Braves, or the Tigers.  Plenty of other teams that are good on a near-yearly basis.

I didn’t want to go to this game last night.  But, I was handed a free ticket to the Terrace Club, with a voucher for $8, good for food and/or beer.  I’d need a good excuse to weasel out of this game, especially with my 82 year old grandmother doing the inviting.  Why she picked this game, I’ll never understand.

I knew Masahiro Tanaka was going to wipe the floor with us!  As soon as the Yankees scored their first run, I knew it was over.  After they hit that 3-run bomb to go up 4-0:  that’s when I spent the next hour wandering around the stadium.  We left after the seventh inning, because that game was total horseshit.  When I got home, I would be pleasantly surprised that Robinson Cano hit a 2-run bomb in the 9th.

In my hourlong walk around the stadium, I found the Mariners Hall of Fame.  It’s REALLY tucked away in this little enclave with a bunch of restaurants with food nobody likes (vegan people, please …).  I took some pictures because I was bored and sober at a Mariners game.  They’re phone pictures, so they’re nothing special.

Griffey ...

Griffey …

There were lots of full-body cutouts and mini-busts.

Bat & Ball ...

Bat & Ball …

This was Ichiro’s bat and a game ball from the first game at Safeco Field.

Crotch Shot ...

Crotch Shot …

Bob Wolcott really getting some air with that win in ’95.

Random stuff ...

Random stuff …

I’m a sucker for old-looking baseball crap.

Perfecto ...

Perfecto …

I really got into this Felix perfect game window.

Lineup Card ...

Lineup Card …

Signed ball ...

Signed ball …


The Mariners Lost To The Yankees Last Night, and I’m Predictably Upset

I really wish Tanaka had pitched yesterday, instead of tonight.  If we end up losing this series – which, I’m putting at about a 95% certainty – at least part of the blame can go to that FUCKING Kansas City weather on Sunday raining out their start against the Yankees.  Because, let’s face it, all along I was writing off that Tanaka start, no matter WHO went up against him.  But, knowing that he’s going up against Chris Young tonight makes it all the more scary.

Of course, we had no business losing LAST NIGHT, but that’s neither here nor there.  This team has a REAL problem winning games at home.  It’s what’s going to ruin this team if they don’t pick it the fuck up.

Ahh, but if only we could blame all of our problems on the Kansas City weather.  Alas, there is plenty of blame to go around for last night’s 3-2 defeat.

For starters, I was pretty hard on Charlie Furbush last night on Twitter, and for good reason.  He really only had one job last night, in spite of the fact that he ended up going 1.2 innings.  His JOB, was to keep that runner at second base from scoring, to keep the game at a 2-2 tie.  And, for two pitches, he was on point.  He got Jacoby Ellsbury into an 0-2 hole, and then served up the fattest, juiciest, most mouth-watering meatball I’ve ever seen.  Since Ellsbury is a human with two arms, two legs, and two eyes, he was easily able to discern that this pitch was, in fact, right in his wheelhouse.  He carefully lined a single into the outfield and that was the ballgame.  Furbush managed to get out of the inning – and through the next inning – without giving up any more damage, but that was it.  That was the ballgame.  The run was credited to Hisashi Iwakuma, the loss was even credited to Hisashi Iwakuma, but this game rested on the shoulders of Charlie Furbush and HE is the reason why this game didn’t go into extra innings.

Speaking of Iwakuma, boy did HE have a shitty first inning.  I’m not going to heap nearly as much scorn upon him – as he did a marvelous job of settling down after throwing over 40 pitches in the first two innings – but he knows better than to leave all those pitches up in the zone.  When he pitches up in the zone, he loses most of his natural movement.  And, besides that, he doesn’t have the strongest arm, so he’s not going to blow anybody away with his fastball in the upper 80s.

Lloyd McClendon, for the most part, at least in my estimation, has gotten a pass this year.  You have to do that when you’re dealing with a new manager.  Let him get his feet wet, give him time to give you a solid impression of what he’s about, and see if his wacky tactics end up paying off.

I generally like him.  I like the way he manages, I like the way he’s brunt and forthright with the media.  I’m not always crazy about his bullpen usage, but I feel like almost every manager has bullpen usage issues.  Last night, he did something else I liked:  he left his starter in the ballgame.  Iwakuma was cruising after that aforementioned second inning.  He put up zeroes every inning after the first and ultimately saw the Mariners tie the game at 2-2 in the 7th.  Each inning seemed to be getting easier than the last for Iwakuma.  He was right around 100 pitches, which by no means should dictate whether you take a pitcher out of a game or not.  Like some of these other old school guys, I long for the days where starters would throw 120-130 pitches.  Maybe that’s not safe, or to the benefit of a pitcher’s long-term health, but men were men God dammit!  Chewing tobacco and jock straps and tattoos and moustaches!

Anyway, I was all in favor of Iwakuma going out to start that 8th inning.  My only concern was the Yankee batting order turning over to the top of the lineup again.  They’d proven to give him fits in the first inning, and they’d likely prove to give him fits upon seeing him a fourth time in the game.  My strategy would have been:  leave Iwakuma in until he looks like he’s done.

And then Brett Gardner yanked a ball that was just a few feet foul.  What would have been a homer, was only a long strike in the count, but you could tell.  Iwakuma was leaving the ball up and out over the plate again.  Obviously, you don’t yank a pitcher in the middle of an at-bat unless he’s injured, but if you were EVER going to do that, immediately following that foul ball would have been the time.  Gardner eventually smashed a deep drive that was caught in center field.  He hit that ball on the button and just missed a double or a triple (with his speed).  Once we lucked into that first out, it was time.

Instead, LMC left him in to face Jeter, who also jacked a deep fly to left center.  This time, Jones couldn’t bring it down and it went for a ground rule double.  Iwakuma was pulled for Furbush, but the damage was done.

LMC also made a few bonehead decisions with the lineup that he’s regretting right about now.  Willie Bloomquist in the leadoff spot, for instance.  0 for 4 with a strikeout on 13 total pitches for the game.  Two foul outs to first in his first two at-bats, a fly out to center, and a strikeout in the seventh.  That’s the one that really got my goat.  With two outs, we’d just come up with a clutch RBI single by Ackley to tie the game.  Brad Miller followed with an infield chopper that he was able to beat out at first.  That turned over the lineup to the top of the order again.  Unlike the Yankees – who seem to know what they’re doing at the top of their lineup – the Mariners have been swinging their dick like a helicopter when it comes to the top of the lineup.  Just standing there, swinging their dick, making helicopter noises.

Regardless of what he’s done recently – and I can’t believe I have to fucking say this again – THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR WILLIE FUCKING BLOOMQUIST TO EVER BE YOUR LEADOFF HITTER!  Shit, there’s no excuse for him to ever NOT hit 9th in the lineup unless you’re in a National League park, and even then I’m not so sure!  You don’t give Willie Bloomquist the opportunity for the most at-bats in your lineup, I don’t care how shitty and inexperienced the other options are!  If LMC could get that one hint through his thick fucking skull, I’d die a happy man.

So, of course, bottom of the seventh, runners on first and second – go-ahead run in scoring position, meaning all we need is a harmless single to the outfield to take the lead and seal the win – Bloomquist strikes out.  Great.

Also, what was that shit with pinch hitting for Cole Gillespie in the 6th?  I understand that Dellin Betances is this smoke-throwing righty with insane strikeout numbers, but Cole Gillespie has not only been the team’s best right-handed bat over the last few weeks, he was the best right-handed bat LAST NIGHT!  1 for 1 with a walk and the team’s first RBI; leave him in there!  I like Endy Chavez as much as the next guy, but Gillespie is better than Endy Chavez right now!  Ride the wave!  You batted him cleanup in your lineup last night for a reason – AND IT PAID OFF – why are you second-guessing yourself later?  LMC is that fantasy football owner who tinkers with his lineup on the Saturday night before the playoffs, and then again on the Sunday morning before the games start.  Just let your best players play!

His final questionable decision I didn’t have a huge deal with.  Bottom of the 9th, two outs, Ackley walks, bringing up Brad Miller’s spot.  With a righty on the mound, some people would have liked to have seen what Miller was capable of.  He did just help us with a 9th inning victory down in Tampa the day before.  But, he’s batting .172 for a reason.  Maybe, if he could prove he’s capable of at least hitting above the Mendoza line, he’d get the benefit of the doubt more often.  Personally, I have no problem with pinch hitting for him there.  To be fair, I wouldn’t have had a problem with him hitting there either.

Others feel that pinch hitting was correct, but that John Buck was the questionable choice.  When you’ve got Stefen Romero also on the bench, why go with the old, slow catcher?  That’s LMC relying on the veteran just because he’s a veteran.  Granted, Buck recently hit that 2-run homer down in Atlanta to give the team the lead.  And also granted, just last year he hit 15 homers, so you know he’s got some pop in his bat.  And FINALLY granted, Romero isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire with his .210 average and his .355 slugging percentage.  Nevertheless, if I had to rank my choice for that at bat, John Buck probably would have been my third choice.  I’m still waffling on whether I’d go Miller or Romero, but I know Buck wasn’t it.

That having been said, going with Buck there isn’t the reason we lost this game.  It wasn’t even LMC’s worst move of the night (I think that still has to be leaving Iwakuma in there to face Jeter).  The move that probably backfired the most has been essentially glossed over and forgotten from history.

I’ve said it repeatedly, and I’ll say it again here:  I hate it when athletes “play through pain”.  If you’re in pain, you’re not helping ANYONE!  Just shut it down and get right.  YOUR presence isn’t the difference between making the playoffs and sitting at home in October (especially when it’s still early June and there’s still plenty of time left in the season).  I won’t belabor the point any more, but I have to wonder where Michael Saunders is at in his recovery from that shoulder aggravation.  Is he fine?  Is he 100%, or at least as close to 100% as can be expected in a sport where it’s a daily grind?  Or, is he 50% and trying to nut up and avoid a stint on the DL?  Are we going to find out that his playing on this shoulder is just making it worse, eventually requiring that DL stint he’d gone to such lengths to previously avoid?

Or, did he just have the shittiest game of any Seattle Mariners player last night?

I know at least that last part is true.  But, because he’s not Charlie Furbush or Lloyd McClendon (or Brad Miller in the bottom of the first, making a miracle diving stab at a grounder, only to throw wide of first base when he had PLENTY of time to nab the slow-footed Brian McCann – who is, in my estimation, one of the worst blocking catchers I’ve ever seen – thereby letting a second run score), Michael Saunders kind of gets lost in the shuffle.  Yet, if you’re going to blame any player for this loss – and ultimately, it’s the players who have to get the job done, regardless of bonehead manager decisions – Michael Saunders gets the biggest slice of that pie.

  • Bottom of the 2nd:  One out, Zunino doubles, then takes third on a wild pitch.  Saunders at the plate:  strikes out.  A fly ball could have tied the game; instead, Ackley closes out the inning harmlessly and we’re still down 2-1.
  • Bottom of the 4th:  One out, Gillespie walks, then Seager singles and Gillespie goes to third.  Zunino hits a shallow fly ball to left, can’t bring in the runner, but allows Seager to tag up and go to second.  Two outs, two runners in scoring position, Saunders at the plate:  Flies out to center.  A single into the outfield gives us the lead; instead, we’re still down 2-1.
  • Bottom of the 7th:  One out, Zunino hit by pitch, then advances to second on a wild pitch.  Saunders at the plate:  strikes out.  Ackley would go on to single in that run (himself avoiding the same overall misery as Saunders in this game); but, it eventually led to Bloomquist getting that final out.  Perhaps if Saunders had hit that run in and continued the inning, things would have been much different.  We’ll never know.
  • Bottom of the 9th:  One out, Saunders at the plate:  strikes out.

Three strikeouts on the game.  0 for 3 with runners in scoring position.  4 left on base.  Goat of the game:  your name is Michael Saunders.

And, tonight:  Tanaka.  I’ll be at that game, so let’s see if my in-person mojo has enough to keep this one close and turn it over to the bullpens.  But, I have my doubts.  I REALLY have my doubts.  We’re really close to getting swept in this series, with a 3-game series against the Rangers on the weekend.  All of that goodwill that came from last week’s 6-1 road trip could be slipping through our fingers like sand through an hourglass.  Pretty soon, if we’re not careful, we’ll be able to say, “If the season ended today … we’d just miss out on that Wild Card.”

P.S.  Fuck Derek Jeter.  I’m going to pick about a million fights tonight (and not just with my grandmother, who’s coming with me to the game) with Yankees fans in attendance.