The Mariners Dropping A Series In Anaheim Isn’t The Worst Thing Ever

The most important thing regarding the Mariners is simply Making The Playoffs. In that sense, it might not have been too cool if we’d been swept in that 4-game series. But, I wouldn’t have been totally opposed to that either.

We sit 5 games ahead of Baltimore, all alone as the third wild card team. That’s the sweet spot. Honestly, we could probably stand to give the Rays and Blue Jays a little bit of a cushion. Because, the second-most important thing regarding the Mariners is holding onto that third wild card spot. That means we avoid the aforementioned Blue Jays and Rays in the wild card round, plus we avoid the Astros in the ALDS (if we are to make it that far). A 3-game road trip to Cleveland is absolutely my top choice for the Mariners. And, losing 3 of 4 to the Angels went pretty far towards reaching that goal.

I will say this was a fairly ugly series, for numerous reasons. The pitching shit the bed on Friday, with Robbie Ray giving up 5 runs in 5 innings. Matt Festa followed by giving up a 3-run home run in the sixth to really put us away. The offense somehow managed to claw its way back (thanks to homers by Julio and France, and two homers by Carlos Santana), but ultimately we didn’t have enough, and lost 8-7.

Then, the hitting went to sleep for a couple games. That’s not too surprising when you factor in the injuries to Suarez (who hit the IL after getting hit on the hand with a pitch on Friday), Julio (who has yet to hit the IL, after tweaking his back in batting practice), Haniger (who did … something; maybe fielding for a ball?), Raleigh (who has a left thumb/hand injury from sliding into a base), and Ty France (who is allegedly dealing with a nagging something or other, and is playing through it in spite of his struggles at the plate). The only “good” injury news – if you want to call it that – is the fact that Dylan Moore returned from the IL, to help mitigate some of this damage.

Anyway, on Saturday we lost 2-1. Ohtani went 7 shutout innings. Kirby gave up 2 runs in 6 innings. Trammell homered against their bullpen, but that was it.

We lost 5-1 on Sunday, with Marco having one of those Bad Marco days, giving up 5 runs in 6.1 innings. Not a lot of positives to hang our hat on here.

In the rare 4th game of a series landing on a Monday, we salvaged one on the back of Logan Gilbert going 6 innings, giving up 1 run while striking out 11. It’s in the running for most dominant outing of his career, that’s for sure. And, it came with a relatively soft landing, as the bats decided to wake up again. France hit an RBI double in the first, Santana hit a grand slam in the fifth, France hit a 3-run bomb in the seventh, and Santana added a solo homer in the ninth (all adding up to a 9-1 victory). It’s been cool to see Santana get hot at exactly the right time, with France and Haniger starting to find their swings again.

The hope is for Julio to return sometime this week. But, we’ll see about Raleigh, and obviously Suarez is a HUGE concern (since he’d been red-fucking-hot over the last month or so). At this point, I think we’d be thrilled if Suarez is back by the playoffs, but you have to worry about his health at that point; will he be able to return to form? Or, will this injury essentially wipe out his season with ineffectiveness, even if he does return to the field? I think it’s safe to say the Mariners need EVERYONE to be healthy and producing, if we want to make some noise in the playoffs. If we lose any vital cogs, it’s going to decimate our chances.

The road trip concludes with three in Oakland, followed by three in Kansas City. Now is not the time to go on a massive winning streak, although I don’t know if it can be helped. Those teams are SO BAD and our pitching is still really damn good. Then, we’re home for 10 games in 9 days against Texas, Oakland, and Detroit. Ditto there. Here’s to everyone getting healthy over the next couple weeks, but also here’s to the team finishing with the third wild card spot. We deserve it!

The Playoff-Bound Mariners Took Down The Defending Champs

You never want to put too much stock in any one series, but this past weekend’s set against the Atlanta Braves was a good barometer to see where the Mariners are at among playoff contenders. Granted, the odds of actually facing the Braves in the playoffs are astronomical – both teams would have to endure their respective gauntlets to meet in the World Series – but it’s still important to see the Mariners play good teams and actually perform accordingly.

Friday’s 6-4 loss was a little wonky, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see the likes of it come playoff time. Robbie Ray was just a little off. He gave up a couple homers (4 runs in total) in five innings; it wasn’t his best work. But, then again, the Braves have an outstanding lineup, so you kind of expect them to lean into some of these pitches. Then, Matt Festa came in and gave up a couple of solo jobs that proved to be the deciding runs of the game. The only noteworthy hitting performance by the M’s was Carlos Santana’s 2 homers. But, obviously, he can’t do everything himself.

I was in attendance for Saturday’s 3-1 victory, and it was everything I could ever want. It was a fun pitcher’s duel, with George Kirby really putting his stamp on being this team’s third-best starter. He made it through the first six innings with ease, and should’ve gone further were it not for an untimely J.P. Crawford error that cost us at least one, if not two outs. With two runners on and no outs in the top of the sixth – against that Braves lineup – Scott Servais did the sensible thing and went to Andres Munoz, who got out of the jam while only giving up the one (unearned) inherited run. Very nice line for Kirby overall: 6 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 0 earned runs, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts. Swanson and Sewald closed it out from there.

Offensively, we had a Sam Haggerty solo homer to kick off the scoring in the bottom of the fifth (he also made a couple of fantastic defensive plays in left, proving once again why he needs to be this team’s everyday left fielder). Eugenio Suarez mashed a solo bomb in the bottom of the sixth to give us our winning run. And Julio Rodriguez clubbed a double in the bottom of the seventh to give the game its final score. All in all, a fun and entertaining game throughout (capped by a White Sox fan (?) running onto the field in the middle of it).

Sunday’s 8-7 victory topped them all though. Marco Gonzales continued his hot streak, going 6 innings and limiting the Braves to 1 run on 2 hits (0 walks, 5 strikeouts), in what might be his best performance of the year (especially when you factor in the offense he was going up against). It looked like we were going to cruise to a 6-2 victory, thanks to a J-Rod homer in the first, a Suarez homer in the fifth, and some nice rallies in the 4th and 6th innings to give us a nice little cushion.

But, Swanson gave up a run in the 8th, and Diego Castillo came in to close out the 9th with a 4-run lead. He proceeded to basically give it all away, giving up 3 runs in 0.2 innings. Paul Sewald had to come in and try to salvage the game, but he too didn’t have it, giving up a go-ahead 2-run bomb. All told, the game went from a sure-thing series win, to the Mariners being down 7-6 heading into the bottom of the ninth.

I don’t know who the Braves’ closer is, but apparently he’s pretty highly regarded. Seems suspect to me, given his numbers. This would be his 7th blown save on the season, which seems absurdly high for someone who’s supposed to be elite. Anyway, with one out, Julio jerked a slider harder than anyone’s ever hit anything in life, for the tying solo homer. Then, with two outs, Eugenio Suarez muscled a fastball to left center for the game-winner. That’s 25 homers (and counting) for Julio, and 30 homers (and counting) for Suarez, who have both been pretty red-hot of late.

We’re now 79-61 on the year, and we close out this homestand with two against the Padres starting tomorrow. I believe those are our final games against winning teams until the playoffs. We’re in a virtual tie for the top wild card spot with Tampa (they have one fewer victory and one fewer defeat), which means we’re in the second wild card spot (a half-game – in the win column – ahead of the Blue Jays). More importantly, though, we’re 6 games ahead of Baltimore (who are on the outside of the playoffs, looking in). Our odds of making the playoffs are 99.8%. There are 22 games remaining.

What a wonderful time we’re all having right now!

The Mariners Won Another Wildly Impressive Series Over The Yankees

The thing is, you can’t talk about this series victory over the Yankees without talking about the miserable 9-4 loss on Monday. Oh believe me, I don’t want to talk about it; I want to ignore it and move on! But, there’s cause for real alarm, because Logan Gilbert gave up a season-worst 7 runs in 4.0 innings of work.

That follows Gilbert’s previous-worst mark of 6 runs given up last week in New York against this very team (that was in 5.1 innings). It’s been a terrible month of August (13 runs in 9.1 innings over the two starts) and a concerning overall inflation of his numbers as the season has gone along. Now, MAYBE the Yankees just have his number; I guess we’ll see the rest of the way. But for a guy who had been the best and most consistent overall starter for the Mariners (at least, until Luis Castillo came to town), that’s not what you want to see from someone who’s slated to play an important role in this team’s playoff run. Especially when you consider he’s most likely to join the top two guys in any post-season rotation we roll out there. The Mariners need Gilbert to continue being great, is what I’m getting at.

One of the problems seems to be the fact that he’s so fastball-heavy, especially early in games and early in counts. The Yankees have jumped all over Gilbert, and I don’t see why others wouldn’t do the same.

Other than that, I don’t have much to say about Monday’s game. That’s because Tuesday’s game was so thrilling, that’s ALL I want to talk about, ever again, for the rest of my life!

Round 2 of the heavyweight matchup between Luis Castillo and Gerrit Cole was always going to be better and more impressive than Round 1 last week (where Cole gave up a 6-spot in the first inning, and we cruised to a 7-3 victory). But, even if you had high expectations for this one, the game exceeded it by leaps and bounds!

Cole was brilliant: 7 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts.

Castillo was even better: 8 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts.

There wasn’t anything even close to offensive output through seven innings. That’s mostly because whenever the Mariners managed to get to first base, they ran themselves out of the inning (a blunder by Frazier trying to turn a single into a double, and a caught stealing by Haggerty that wasn’t even close to succeeding). The Yanks almost served a knockout blow to Castillo in the eighth – as they had two runners on for the first time all day – but with his 110th pitch, Castillo was able to induce a ground ball to get out of the mini-jam.

Then, it was a battle of the bullpens. We got the best the Yankees could throw out there, and they got the best of what we had to offer. Andres Munoz not only struck out the side in the ninth, but he struck out the top of the order. Paul Sewald took care of the 10th (thanks to a nifty pick-off move as the ghost runner tried to steal third before he threw his pitch). Matt Festa looked a little erratic out there, but he generated a line-drive double play to second to once again eliminate the ghost runner, before allowing another line drive – this time to right field – that was caught before it hit the ground.

Enter Matt Brash – game still scoreless – for the 12th and 13th innings. In his very first at-bat, Brash snagged a groundball behind his back in some sort of miracle play that resulted in him forcing the ghost runner into a pickle (he would run himself out of the baseline for the first out), and as the batter tried to reach second base, he too ran himself out of the baseline for the double play. It was as absurd of a play as you’ll ever see, and I loved every second of it. Brash got a strikeout to get out of the inning.

In the bottom of the 12th, it looked like we might FINALLY end this thing. With one out, Haggerty (the ghost runner) advanced to third on a ground out from France. With two outs now, Haniger and Jake Lamb walked to load the bases, with Suarez at the plate. But, he couldn’t get that elusive base hit (indeed, the Mariners hadn’t gotten a single base hit since the 8th inning at this point), striking out swinging and breaking his bat in two with his knee as he walked back towards the dugout.

That seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. I should point out that at some point in extras, we pinch hit Santana for Kelenic, which necessitated the Mariners putting Haniger (the erstwhile DH) in right field. That meant we lost our DH, and Brash’s time was limited (since there’s no way you’re letting a pitcher bat in a game this important).

He was able to go back out there in the 13th inning though, and once again he worked some sort of voodoo to keep it scoreless. Right off the bat, we intentionally walked Aaron Judge, because there’s no way we’re letting that freak of nature beat us. Then, after a strikeout, Brash walked the bases loaded. Thankfully, he was able to get another strikeout, followed by a ground out, and that kept the game right where we needed it to be.

Cal Raleigh led off the 13th by singling to right; with Judge’s arm, there was no way Suarez (the ghost runner) was scoring there. With no outs, though, that’s a pretty enticing scenario! J.P. Crawford ended up tapping it back to the pitcher, but it advanced Raleigh to second. That led to an intentional walk of Sam Haggerty (the second time they’d done that to him in the extras), which brought up the Brash spot in the lineup. Luis Torrens – who has been having a God-awful season to date – pinch hit, which was risky in its own right, because he’s the only backup catcher we have right now. If he failed, that would’ve put a lot of pressure on Raleigh to stay healthy through the end of the game.

Thankfully, Torrens came through! He took strike one looking, swung at strike two (both pitches 97 miles per hour and nasty looking), and then put the third fastball into play, pushing it to right field for the game-winner. 1-0, an all-time classic. Absolutely unreal!

The M’s would be forgiven if there was a bit of a hangover on Wednesday afternoon’s getaway game. Once again, it was another amazing pitching matchup – Reigning Cy Young Award Winner Robbie Ray vs. All Star (and former Mariners reliever) Nestor Cortes – and while this one didn’t quite live up to the magic of Tuesday night, the game was still scoreless through five and a half innings.

Indeed, Cortes was spinning a no-hitter until the bottom of the sixth, when Sam Haggerty jerked a line drive home run off of the left field foul pole for a 1-0 lead. That would prove to be short-lived, as Ray – maxing out at 115 pitches – couldn’t quite get out of the seventh unscathed. It’s understandable – given how many relievers we had to use the night before – that Servais would try to squeeze an extra inning out of Ray (especially when he was dealing so hard through six), but he walked one too many guys, then paid the price with a 2-run homer to the Yankees’ #9 hitter.

That ended Ray’s day, but it didn’t end the Yankees’ seventh inning scoring spree. Aaron Judge (of course) saw a hanging slider from Penn Murfee, and did what he does with those pitches, depositing it to left for a solo homer and a 3-1 lead. I figured that was the ballgame, but boy was I wrong again!

In the bottom of the same inning, France reached second on a single and a passed ball; he would end up scoring on a Haniger RBI single to make the game 3-2. After a Suarez strikeout, Carlos Santana did what he does: hit go-ahead bombs. This one was jacked to right field for a 4-3 lead.

That lined us up for Diego Castillo’s return from the IL (a 1-2-3 eighth inning), followed by Sewald’s 15th save on the season. The best part: no Aaron Judge coming around in either of those innings to rain on our parade.

We have an off-day today, and boy is it well-earned! Those last two games felt like 40. It’ll be nice to go back on the road and (hopefully) beat up on the Texas Rangers some more.

Some quick bits of news that I don’t think I’ve mentioned on the blog: Abraham Toro was sent down to Tacoma earlier this week for sucking. Kyle Lewis was sent down to Tacoma more recently, also for sucking. Chris Flexen has been put into the bullpen, because it’s impractical to run a 6-man rotation out there with only 13 pitcher spots allowed. And, it looks like Julio Rodriguez is going to return soon (possibly as early as tomorrow).

In other news, Jake Lamb sucks (and was batting in the cleanup spot in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory for some God-foresaken reason; he went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts and a meaningless walk) and I don’t know why he’s here. Also, Jarred Kelenic sucks as well, and figures to get the demotion upon Julio’s return. Oh, and Jesse Winker had to leave Monday’s game with back spasms, so we’ll see how long he’s out for.

We’re so close to a lineup without any black holes, I can almost taste it!

The Mariners Swept The Rangers After Being Swept By The Astros

Even weirder: the Astros just got swept by the Athletics after sweeping the Mariners. Baseball is idiotic.

Oh, what a difference a Julio Rodriguez makes!

He didn’t return in time for Monday’s game. But, the impact he made on Tuesday and Wednesday is pretty gargantuan.

Monday’s game was a run-of-the-mill 4-3 victory. Chris Flexen went 6 innings, giving up 2 runs. The offense manufactured a couple runs in the fourth, before Ty France hit a solo bomb in the fifth, with Santana beating out a fielder’s choice (avoiding the double play, in other words) to add an insurance run in the seventh. Diego Castillo didn’t have very good command – needing 22 pitches to get one out in the ninth, while giving up a solo homer to give the game its final score – but Erik Swanson only needed three pitches to get the final two outs for his second save of the year.

Tuesday’s 5-4 victory was anything but run-of-the-mill. George Kirby returned from his mini-sabbatical, tethered to a pretty severe pitch count as the team ramps him back up. He was expected to throw 60-70 pitches (thinking maybe 3-4 innings of work), but he only needed 51 pitches to make it through five innings, to potentially qualify for the victory. He looked outrageously impressive; sharp with his command, and nasty with his 2-seam fastball moving all over the place. All told, he gave up 2 hits and a walk, while striking out 4 and giving up 0 runs.

The aforementioned Julio Rodriguez returned for this one and homered in his first at bat of the game. The Mariners continued to make the Rangers’ starter work as we got another run in the same inning. It looked like he might get knocked out early, but those were the only two runs the Rangers’ starter gave up.

It was 2-0 heading into the seventh, before Texas closed the gap to 2-1. However, Cal Raleigh homered in the bottom half to make it 3-1, and seemingly pave the way to a safe and sound M’s victory. Not so fast, though, as Paul Sewald got two quick outs before suffering some insanely bad luck. Well, the two walks weren’t “bad luck” so much as “bad command”. But, the 2-run double to tie the game looked like it was going to go foul before bouncing the opposite way – just inside the first base bag – as if it was deflected by an invisible tennis racket or something.

Erik Swanson came in for the top of the ninth – game still tied – but the Rangers worked him over for a run to make it 4-3 heading into the bottom half. That’s when the offense got going again. J.P. Crawford led off with a single, followed by a Cal Raleigh double to tie it at 4-4. Adam Frazier sacrificed Cal over to third, and with one out on the inning, the Rangers did the sensible thing: they intentionally walked both Julio and Ty France to load the bases.

Unfortunately for them, we had Carlos Santana in the 3-hole. Having a veteran, professional hitter to take that spot means the world to this organization. Santana worked the count to his favor, then got a ball he could drive to center. It was JUST deep enough to score Cal on a tag-up from third base (after video evidence on replay review confirmed he didn’t leave early).

That set the stage for Wednesday’s afternoon sweeping, 4-2. Marco Gonzales gave up 2 runs in 7 innings (4 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts), though we were down 2-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh. That’s when the magic man did it again.

With one out, Cal walked and Sam Haggerty doubled to put runners on 2nd & 3rd. Instead of intentionally walking him again, the Rangers left their starter in there to face Julio, who made him pay with a 3-run jack to make it 4-2. Swanson and Munoz combined to endure the eighth, and Matt Festa worked the ninth for his second save of the season.

In hindsight, I don’t see how anyone pitches to Julio in that situation ever again, especially with first base open. The Rangers even had the benefit of not having to face Ty France, who was getting the day off to rest a sore wrist. I don’t know how likely it would’ve been to see him pinch hit, but it sure seemed like the M’s wanted him to rest ahead of our trip to Houston (first game later today). Regardless, you love to see two players of the calibre of J-Rod and France hitting back-to-back like that. Pick your poison, man! Or, walk them both and still have to go up against a professional hitter in that 3-hole.

I can’t tell you what it means to our season to not have fucked away this Rangers series after faceplanting against the Asstros last weekend. Now, we play those Asstros again, followed by the Yankees, which could make for a very LONG next seven days.

The Mariners Swept The Rangers, Literally Refuse To Lose

There comes a time in most every Mariners season when you start doing the math. If the Mariners were to only win – throw out some crazy insane number, like 22 of their next 25 games – then we’ll pass a bunch of teams in the standings and put ourselves right back in that playoff race (assuming they lose some crazy number of collective games in that same span). It’s the final nail in the coffin for a fan, right before you give up and admit how impossible it all is. Acceptance: your season is dead.

Because teams just don’t go on those crazy insane runs! They don’t win 22 of 25 games! They sure as shit don’t win 14 games in a row! That’s not how baseball works. You win 60 games, you lose 60 games, and it’s what you do with the rest that determines if you make the post-season or not.

Except, here we are. THESE Mariners DO win at this ridiculous clip. It defies logic. How is this the same team we saw struggle so mightily in the month of May? Two months ago. Two months ago, this was legitimately one of the worst teams in all of baseball. Now it’s the absolute hottest team in all of baseball.

On June 19th, the Mariners lost to the Angels to fall to 29-39 (the Angels at the time were 33-36). Now, we’re 51-42, while the Angels are 39-53. How is that for a turnaround?! Fuck them Angels, is what I’m getting at.

It has, of course, been an ideal time to play the big mediocre chunk of our schedule. Other than a total of six games against the Blue Jays and Padres, none of the teams in this span have a winning record (to be fair: the Orioles are at exactly .500). The Rangers are one of those mediocre teams, and we got to play them four times heading into this week’s All Star Break.

On Thursday, Marco had a bear of a time, coming off of last week’s double header in D.C. that featured a Bullpen Day in the second game. But, he gritted through six innings, giving up 5 runs. Naturally, the offense picked him up, and the bullpen did its job, because that’s what this team is about now.

We overcame deficits of 4-0 in the second, and 5-1 in the fifth, thanks to a Sam Haggerty inside-the-park home run, and lots of ass kicking by Winker, France, and Julio, among others. When you talk about how impossible a 14-game winning streak is, it’s because you’re not supposed to win games like these. Games where the starter doesn’t have it, and the offense struggles through the first six innings. But, we ralled for five runs in the seventh and eighth innings to take the 6-5 victory.

Friday’s game featured your run-of-the-mill Robbie Ray Quality Start, where he went 6.2 innings, gave up 3 runs, and struck out 12. We built up a 4-0 lead halfway through the game, gave almost all of it back by the seventh inning (4-3), before Julio Rodriguez struck with a grand slam in the top of the eighth, with two outs and a reliever who was mystifying our hitters to that point. It was a star-making moment in a season full of them for our All Star.

Saturday’s game was a thrilling little pitchers duel. Carlos Santana gave us a 2-1 lead early with another homer, but the Rangers tied it in the seventh off of our otherwise remarkable bullpen. The game went to the tenth inning before a J.P. Crawford single put us ahead 3-2. Matt Festa got the save with a clean bottom half.

Sunday, on paper, would’ve been the most likely game to break the winning streak. Chris Flexen was taking the hill on short rest – a byproduct of sending George Kirby down to Tacoma to rest his arm – but he came through with 3.2 innings of 1-run ball. Since we were looking at a juicy four days off this week, we pulled out all the bullpen stops from there. Thankfully, the offense was up to the task, with 2 RBI each by Cal Raleigh, Julio, and our late-breaking All Star, Ty France (who got the invite over the weekend, presumably due to injuries on the A.L. squad).

Hilariously, the Mariners have done all this winning over the last month, but we’re still 9 games behind the Cheating Astros. But, more importantly, we’re firmly entrenched as the second Wild Card team (out of three). We’re a half game behind the Rays, a full game ahead of the Blue Jays, and three games ahead of the Red Sox (who are on the outside looking in).

I never could’ve imagined this happening in my wildest dreams. I kind of half-expected the Mariners to improve during the summer, maybe getting tantalizingly close to contending for a wild card spot (like a small handful of games out), but ultimately finishing the way the Mariners always do: just short. That could still happen, if I’m being honest. The hitting could revert to being less than clutch again, the bullpen could gag away games here and there like they were at the beginning of the season, and the rotation has been way too healthy compared to what would be expected of literally any baseball team.

But, boy, does this have a different feel to it. I know I must have said that before, in the last decade-plus where the Mariners have looked like they might be contenders. Odds are, I’m setting myself up for disappointment, just like in those years. But, I dunno. The way the Mariners are doing it – with Julio, Cal, Ty, J.P., Winker, and Haggerty (of all people) leading the way – it’s not just a gaggle of overpaid vets on short-term deals doing the job (save Santana, I suppose; what a godsend!). It’s the young, fresh-faced new blood leading the way.

No Jinx Guy or anything, but this could be it!

The Mariners Avoided Catastrophe By Defeating The Orioles

I suppose, if the Mariners keep winning series 2-1 for the rest of the year, eventually our record will improve enough to get back into the thick of a playoff race. But, we’ve dug ourselves such a deep hole that these sorts of minor victories feel hopeless. We need sweeps! We need to start winning at a 70% clip! I want to see this thing turn around in a hurry, and struggling against the likes of the Orioles is not going to do anything to soothe this nausea!

This series started off so promising, with a 10-0 rout on Tuesday. George Kirby went 6 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and walking 1, while striking out 8. And the offense gave him a VERY soft landing, piling up 8 of our 10 runs in the first three innings. Taylor Trammell had 3 hits and 4 RBI, Adam Frazier and Ty France had multi-hit games, and damn near everyone else in the lineup contributed in some small way.

Hopes of a cheap sweep were dashed by Robbie “One Bad Inning” Ray, who could only manage 5 innings while giving up 4 runs. He has only 4 quality starts in 11 games (and he’s supposed to be our Ace). What’s worse is that he has only 1 quality start in his last 7 appearances (the cheapest of all possible quality starts, going exactly 6 innings, giving up 3 runs against the lowly A’s). If you were interested in how many “Felix Quality Starts” he’s racked up so far (to harken back to a TRUE Mariners Ace), it’s exactly one, in his first game of the year, when he went 7 innings and gave up just the 1 run. He has no other games where he’s matched either total (never as many as 7 innings, never as few as 1 run). What a bust!

To be fair, Sergio Romo also had a meltdown from the bullpen, but that’s neither here nor there. J.P. Crawford had a homer and Julio Rodriguez had an RBI. Ty France had 3 hits.

The rubber match looked like it was going our way after the top of the sixth, when we took a 6-3 lead. But, in the bottom half of the inning, Matt Festa gave up a run, while leaving two more runners on. Paul Sewald came in to mop up, and for the second straight appearance he gave up inherited runners, this time to tie it at 6-6. Just another in a long line of shaky bullpen games from this unit that was supposed to carry the team.

The game remained tied through regulation, when Abraham Toro tripled in the ghost runner to take a 7-6 lead. Scott Servais apparently didn’t have any other choice than to squeeze a second inning out of Diego Castillo, who came up huge for the win.

Luis Torrens and Jesse Winker each had 3 hits, J-Rod had 2 hits, and a bunch of other guys came up with offense.

Does anyone get the feeling that Servais doesn’t trust Chris Flexen as far as he can throw him? It seems like he’s always on the shortest of leashes, and clearly it’s not to preserve his arm. I dunno, maybe it is. Of course, it’s not like his performances this season have earned him the kind of faith we might expect.

His contract has a club option for 2023 that doubles from $4 million to $8 million and converts to a player option if he reaches 150 innings pitched this year (or a combo of 300 innings between 2021-2022). He had 179.2 IP last year, and is at 55.1 this year, for a total of 235. You gotta wonder if some shenanigans are at play, especially if the club has already decided he’s not in our long-term plans. Again, though, if he’s going to be as mediocre as we’ve seen for most of this year, do you blame them?

The Mariners Struggled In Miami

With the NFL Draft happening over the weekend, I was a little preoccupied when it came to following the Mariners. When I was at home, they were relegated to the Little TV. And, as usual for a weekend, I wasn’t at home very much, at least when the M’s were playing.

I was looking forward to the Friday matchup against the Marlins, simply because Matt Brash was on the hill. However, he just didn’t have it, which is understandable since he’s a rookie. 2 innings, 6 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks, with only 3 strikeouts. Festa, Mills, and newcomer Penn Murfee eached pitched 2 innings – giving up another 2 total runs in the process – but the end result was an 8-6 defeat.

Luis Torrens had a 3-run double in the top of the second to take a brief 3-2 lead, but we were playing catch-up from there. The 9th inning rally was fun while it lasted – RBI double from Kelenic, sac fly from Torrens, and RBI single by Frazier – but ultimately not enough. J-Rod and J.P. Crawford each had multi-hit games.

Saturday’s 3-1 loss was a real missed opportunity. Robbie Ray was on the hill and he was dealing through four, but gave up 3 runs in the fifth and that was that. The offense was a Dylan Moore solo homer in the third; Winker and Crawford had the four other hits for the team.

Thankfully, we were able to salvage a 7-3 victory on Sunday to get one back. Logan Gilbert did more Logan Gilbert things, going 5.2 innings, finally giving up another earned run in the sixth, but was otherwise pretty unhittable (giving up just the 3, though he did walk 4 more). The bullpen was adequate from there, but thankfully the offense played add-on to keep this game out of reach.

J.P. Crawford had a solo homer in the second (he’s hitting an insane .372/.462/.628 so far this year), Toro had an RBI single in the fourth, and Julio Rodriguez had three hits on the day, including a 3-run homer in the sixth (the first homer of his career; he’s up to a slash line of .234/.306/.325, which is encouraging given his age and experience level, especially compared to Evan White, Jarred Kelenic, and Cal Raleigh). Even Jesse Winker got in on the action, with a 2-run single in the ninth (he’s SO CLOSE to the Mendoza Line, he can taste it).

With that series, the Mariners dropped to 12-10 and in second place in the A.L. West (behind a red-hot Angels team, who – after the weekend – were 15-8). There’s three more games on this road trip, in Houston, before returning home on Thursday for a 4-game set against the Rays (and then no more games against the Rays for the rest of this regular season). I’m glad this Florida part of our season is ending, because our opponents weren’t too kind to us. Let’s hope we have Houston’s number, though, because they’re a far more pressing concern this year.

The Mariners Dropped A Tough Series In Tampa

Well, we’re not off to a great start with this homestand. But, surely the Rays won’t be a team we need to contend with for a playoff spot, so there’s no way these games will have mattered, right?

The bigger bummer in all of this is the fact that the Mariners won 8-4 in the series opener on Tuesday. That means we had two chances to win this series, and our bats just couldn’t come up with the offense to push us over the top. Of course, by all rights, if the Rays didn’t implode defensively in the fourth inning of that one – giving up 7 unearned runs in the process – we probably would’ve been swept!

The big star of this one was Logan Gilbert, who threw another 5.2 shutout innings. He hasn’t given up a run since very early in his very first start of the year, now with an ERA of 0.40, which couldn’t POSSIBLY get any lower, right?! By the time he left the game, we were up 8-0 and this was a terrific opportunity for the M’s to plow through the D-Squad bullpen. But, they proceeded to give up 4 runs in the 7th, which necessitated using Andres Munoz in the 9th to lock it up.

France, of course, had a big day with 2 RBI. Frazier had 3 RBI. Suarez and Crawford each had two hits. Scoring those 7 unearned runs was probably the most fun part of the season, especially when we’re talking about Mariners road games.

Wednesday’s game was rough in a lot of respects. Marco Gonzales only managed to get one out before a line drive smashed into his pitching wrist, resulting in him leaving the game. That turned it into a de facto Bullpen Day. Yohan Ramirez came in and pitched pretty well for a bit, but Scott Servais mistakenly left him in there an inning too long, and we paid the price. He ended up giving up 2 runs in 3 innings of work. Matt Festa pitched 1.2 scoreless, Steckenrider got back on the horse with a clean inning, and Justus Sheffield pitched 2 scoreless to keep the game close.

Unfortunately, Tampa’s starter was on a roll. We managed a couple runs after he left the game, but ultimately lost 3-2. Crawford and Toro each hit solo homers.

Then, earlier today, Tampa had a scheduled Bullpen Day of their own – pushing back Corey Kluber to tomorrow, which we all understood was a huge break for the M’s – but we could only muster 1 run in a 2-1 defeat.

Chris Flexen picked up plenty of slack, going 6.2 and giving up both runs, and the combo of Castillo and Misiewicz took us the rest of the way without any further damage. That go-ahead run by the Rays happened in the 7th inning, and that was that. Suarez’ first inning RBI triple was the only damage of the game, as we were held to 6 hits on 2/8 with runners in scoring position (one of those hits being a France single that was hit too firmly to score the man from second).

Luckily, the NFL Draft kicks off tonight, so no one will remember this series. The Rays are really fucking good, so it’s not like this is a surprising development. I’m curious to see – as the season goes along – if the Mariners are ever going to put up much of a fight against the best teams, or if we’re just the Good Bad Team who can only pound on the weaklings in the game. We’ll see! Not looking great so far!

The Mariners Are Red Hot, Swept The Royals

I don’t think anyone is confusing the Kansas City Royals with a potential playoff team – so our head-to-head record against them will probably not mean much – but you still love to see your team win the games they’re supposed to win, and these were three games the Mariners were SUPPOSED to win.

This, in large part, makes up for that infuriating loss to the Rangers. We really should’ve had the sweep there, so failing that, it’s nice to get one here. Heading into this 9-game homestand, if you offered me 7-2, I would’ve taken it in a heartbeat. So, I’m not going to be butthurt that it wasn’t 8-1. In all honesty, if you told me we’d go 7-2, I would’ve expected to lose both of those games to the Astros, so this is actually BETTER.

As it happened, I missed all three against the Royals. On Friday, I was at the Dave Attell show at the Tacoma Comedy Club, so you can forgive me if I have priorities. It sounds like I missed a hell of an enjoyable game! Chris Flexen pitched 7 innings of 1-run ball, Anthony Misiewicz got the hold, and Andres Munoz got the first save of his Mariners career.

Even more impressive – given the game finished 4-1 – is that all the runs were scored off of extra-base hits by the future of the franchise: J-Rod with a 2-run double, and Kelenic with a 2-run triple. In a game without much firepower from the offense, that’s HUGE. Suarez led the way with 3 hits; J.P. Crawford and J-Rod both had 2 hits to go with Kelenic’s one.

Saturday’s game sounded like a lot of fun (unless you’re a fan of pitching). Matt Brash ran into some trouble in the fifth; he finished with 4.1 innings, 3 runs on 5 hits and 4 walks, with only 2 strikeouts. The bullpen and defense (two more errors, including yet another by J.P.) didn’t help a whole lot, but thankfully the offense was up to the task. It wasn’t all terrible by the bullpen, of course, but Yohan Ramirez took the brunt of it, giving up 3 runs while only recording a single out. Otherwise, they gave up 1 unearned run in 4.1 innings.

Where do you even begin with the offense, though? The M’s scored in each of the first three innings, to build a 5-1 lead. Then, we tacked on a run in the 6th and 7th before exploding for six more runs in the 8th. So, even though the Royals had a brief 7-6 lead in the top of the 7th, we really mauled the shit out of them to win 13-7.

Ty France was 5 for 6 with 3 runs and 5 RBI (including a 3-run homer to put it away in the 8th). J.P. was 2 for 5 with a 2-run homer early, Suarez was 2 for 3 (both doubles) with 2 walks, Murphy and J-Rod both had two hits and two runs scored, and Toro, Kelenic, and Winker all had big hits and RBIs. Basically, everyone but Adam Frazier contributed, and it was a sight to behold, I’m sure.

The Mariners capped off the homestand with a 12-inning thriller on Sunday, where we won 5-4. In this one, Jesse Winker was the long-overdue hero, hitting a sac fly in the 10th to re-tie the game, before hitting an RBI single in the 12th to win it.

Robbie Ray had another Quality Start, going 6 innings, giving up 2 runs, and the bullpen did their job heading into the 9th, with Festa and Swanson both doing good work. However, Drew Steckenrider had his second consecutive pisspoor outing, giving up a solo homer to tie the game at 3-3. From there, though, the bullpen snapped right back into dominant mode. Castillo gave up the ghost runner on second in the 10th, but both Matt Koch and Ramirez held the Royals scoreless the next two innings to give us a chance to win it.

Ty France had another 3 hits and 2 RBI, J.P. had two more hits in the middle of our lineup, and Frazier had a hit and 3 runs scored at the top.

I’ll tell you what, France is as hot as I’ve ever seen anyone, slashing .375/.459/.656. J.P. Crawford is up there, though, with .352/.471/.574. I’m also loving what Suarez is bringing to the table; he’s certainly exceeded expectations, even though his .527 slugging percentage is no shocker. Toro and Frazier are starting to contribute more and more, and J-Rod doesn’t look overwhelmed in the slightest. With Kelenic and now Winker starting to heat up, this is a VERY formidable lineup (that will only get stronger whenever Haniger gets off the COVID IL). To go with how strong our bullpen has looked, you’ll also forgive me if I start to get a little hyped up here.

The Mariners are 10-6, which is tied with the Blue Jays and Yankees for the best record in the American League. We have a 1-game lead over the Angels, and a whopping 2.5-game lead over the Astros. We’ve also scored the second-most runs in the A.L. (77, just behind Anaheim’s 79), AND – not for nothing – we have the best run differential in the league with our +18.

Granted, we’re not even really at the 10% mark through the season, but you do the math. That puts us on pace for 100 wins! I’m just saying. This is EXACTLY the kind of start you want to see out of a team that’s a fringe prospect for making the post-season. I’m not going to quibble about how bad the Rangers and Royals are, because the Twins, White Sox, and Astros are all really good.

We have a well-earned off-day before a beefy road trip. Three in Tampa, three in Miami, then three more in Houston. Let’s hope some of these COVID guys start feeling better soon, and let’s keep the win train chugging on down the tracks!

The Mariners Only Won Two Of Three Against The Rangers

It’s hard to not have a sour taste in your mouth when you were so close to a series sweep. How do you go into that final game, score 5 runs in the first inning, and manage to give it all away? We should’ve won that game by double digits! They should’ve been using position players to pitch away meaningless innings! It’s all so aggravating.

The flipside to this line of thinking is that the Mariners won yet another series. We’re 4-2 on this homestand, and 7-6 on the season; still in very good shape. But, God damn are the Rangers terrible, and they had no business winning that final game.

Of course, neither did we. Not the way we played. I’m just going to get into it at the top, because I’m already worked up.

Contrary to what you may believe, the Mariners aren’t especially good at defense. You’ll hear that the key to the M’s winning games is “Pitching & Defense” but I’m here to tell you that’s a gross generalization. Sure, the pitching is vitally important. But, I’m not so sure you’re going to get a huge lift out of this team’s defensive ability.

This isn’t just a gut-reaction to 3 errors last night. Errors aren’t the be-all, end-all of a team’s defensive competence. You can be an outfielder who gets to balls, but then has a noodle arm (*cough* WINKER *cough*). You can be a second baseman who also gets to balls, but maybe bumbles it just enough to eliminate a doule play opportunity, but still gets the out at first (*cough* FRAZIER *cough*). You can be a battery that fails to control the base-stealing game of your opponent (pretty much every pitcher/catcher combo on this team).

What sucks, and what makes last night’s game particularly stupid, is that J.P. Crawford accounted for 2 of those 3 errors, and I think he’s – without question – the best defensive player on this team. That’s just One Of Those Nights, but it also doesn’t paper over the fact that this team is largely middle-of-the-road defensively. Crawford is great, Haniger and France are good, the catchers are okay, but after that it’s nothing but flaws.

Kelenic, Moore, and J-Rod have pretty mediocre throwing arms from the outfield. Suarez looks like one of those guys you stick at third base because first base (probably his best defensive position, outside of DH) is blocked. Frazier and Winker are clearly here for their offense (making Winker’s start to this season … I mean, there are no words). And don’t get me started on Luis Torrens.

So, don’t go banking on the defense saving this team a ton of runs this year. I think, more often than not, they’ll make the routine plays they’re supposed to make. But, these guys are going to need to HIT if they’re going to win games.

Something that looked like we were going to get in spades last night, after a 2-run home run from Ty France, followed by a 3-run home run from Crawford to lead off the game. There were five runs on the board and zero outs! We had ’em on the ropes! Those turned out to be the only runs we would score until scratching across a sixth run in the eighth to tie the game. The Rangers, meanwhile, were gifted numerous scoring opportunities thanks to our pisspoor defense, and methodically chipped away at that early 5-0 deficit. Ultimately, they took out Drew Steckenrider in the ninth to prevail 8-6.

The name of the game in this one was hitting with runners in scoring position. The M’s were a meager 2/11, with a lot of those chances coming in the first three innings, when we had the Rangers’ starter teetering on the brink. We could never quite hit him with that knockout blow, and that was our downfall.

Marco Gonzales, meanwhile, has to lead the league in unearned runs allowed, as this was his second start out of three outings where he gave up 6 runs/2 earned runs. Obviously, you can’t say he was on fire in this one, but giving up 4 unearned runs in the fifth will make anyone’s performance look mediocre.

Yet, the bullpen – until Steckenrider in the ninth – kept the game right there at 6-5! God bless ’em, the D-Squad pulled through. Swanson pitched 1.1 scoreless, Festa and Sheffield both pitched clean innings. It was all right there for us.

I’m not going to get into the umpiring in this one, though I hear this is the same crew we had in Minnesota. And this guy behind the plate is particularly inept at his job. He deserves to be fired. Or, at least, demoted to the minor leagues where he can’t do anymore damage with his nebulous strike zone.

It’s a shame, because this series had some delightful baseball on the Mariners front. After an off-day on Monday, Robbie Ray got the start on Tuesday and pitched 6 innings of 2-run ball. Suarez hit a 3-run bomb on an impressive outside breaking ball. Kelenic hit a rocket of a solo homer off the foul pole. And Toro had a crucial late-game 2-run bomb to put this one away, 6-2.

Wednesday’s game was even more delightful, with Logan Gilbert pitching into the seventh inning, holding them scoreless. Misiewicz and Munoz kept the shutout alive until the ninth, when Diego Castillo gave up a couple of meaningless runs. But, by then, we had a 4-run lead, ultimately winning 4-2.

We were also 2/12 with runners in scoring position in this one, which should’ve been something of a tip-off. Thankfully, we were able to put those to good use in the fifth, as we manufactured just enough.

Hitting with runners in scoring position always seems to be a bugaboo early in seasons. The Mariners have been heavily reliant upon timely hitting, usually because overall our hitting is so poor. So, we NEED to string hits together at opportune times if we’re going to win ballgames. Let’s hope this doesn’t become a season-long nightmare, because I don’t know what I’m going to do if I have to watch this kind of flailing for six months.