The Mariners Keep Losing Guys & Somehow Winning

I’m starting to think if we just murder the entire team and fill it with cast-offs and Rainiers, the Mariners might finally win the World Series!

(that was only for humor, please don’t murder the entire team)

We’re in the middle of the world’s best – yet dumbest – road trip:  three whole games, from Seattle to Oakland and back again.  Considering all the travel the M’s have had to do – to such exotic locales like Minnesota, Kansas City, Cleveland, Toronto, Detroit, Minnesota again, et cetera – it’s actually kind of cool they only have a couple of 2-hour flights to deal with this week.

Anyway, yesterday Dee Gordon went on the DL.  Over the weekend, Nelson Cruz was hit on the elbow and he was missing from last night’s game (hoping to play tonight, but we’ll see).  Then, during the game, Mitch Haniger was also hit by a pitch and had to leave.  It’s a forearm bruise and not a tumor fracture, so we’re all hoping he’ll be back soon; but nevertheless he’s set to miss a few days at least.  And, if all that wasn’t enough, as Jean Segura slid head-first into home to score the winning run, he bashed into the catcher and fucked up his shoulder, so HE could also be missing some time and/or be sent on the DL.  Ain’t that some fucked up shit?

39 year old Jayson Werth was pulled from last night’s Rainiers game, so he figures to play for Haniger for at least a few days.  He hasn’t exactly been tearing it up down in Tacoma – hitting .193 with 4 homers and 5 doubles in 24 games – but I guess you could say he’s been better of late – hitting 3 of those homers and 4 of those doubles since May 14th.  I don’t know how much faith I want to put into those numbers, but maybe it means he’s starting to get his timing back?  Not for nothing, but he really hasn’t been good since 2014, so just because you’ve heard of the name doesn’t mean you should get your hopes up.

As for last night’s game, what a hum-dinger!  (yeah, I didn’t watch it)

Mike Leake pitched around a couple of jams and got into the 7th inning having given up only the 2 runs.  Mike Zunino jacked a game-tying 2-run homer in the top of the 7th off of Trevor Cahill to eventually send this thing into extras.  Pazos and Vincent did their jobs (Vincent getting the win with his 1.1 innings of work), the aforementioned Segura scored from first on a Guillermo Heredia double, and Edwin Diaz had no trouble locking down his 16th save in the bottom of the 10th.  Just a gritty, grind-it-out, hardscrabble, come-from-behind Mariners-type victory!

Today, the A’s have a AAA call-up (who has apparently struggled mightily against the M’s) facing off with Marco Gonzales.  I’m loath to say this – because I know it’s going to bite me in the ass – but I actually feel sort of confident about tonight’s game!  There’s no quit in this team!  Of course, the prospect of having Andrew Romine and Gordon Beckham in the same lineup gives me the willies, so get well soon Jean Segura and Dee Gordon!

Dee Gordon Is On The Dee Ell

The Mariners lost their starting second baseman to a broken hand, then a drug suspension.  Then, the Mariners lost their starting second baseman to a broken toe.  Here we are.

It doesn’t look like he’ll be out much longer than the 10 days, but still, this doesn’t help.  Like, at all.

Daniel Vogelbach got the call up, mostly because the team needs someone to hit for the hurt Nelson Cruz tonight, but also because this team already has 2 more guys who can play second base as it is.

So, probably not something to get all bent out of shape about, but it’s a slow news day and I wanted to write about something.

Good: The Mariners Won The Season Series Against The Tigers

The Tigers aren’t good, man.  They’re just not.  And yet, we came out of Detroit a week ago having lost 2 of 3, followed by losing the opener to this home series over the weekend to make it 3 of 4.  It just looked dismal at that point, and you had to wonder if all the injuries and suspensions and shaky pitching had finally caught up to this team.  Let’s face it, playoff teams win season series against inferior opponents like Detroit; whereas Mariners teams – that inevitably always fall short of the playoffs – find ways to lose these series to inferior opponents like Detroit.

I mean, this is a team that’s actively tanking 2018 to try to build a better ballclub in 2019 and beyond!  The Mariners, conversely, have been building to this year for a while now, and are pretty actively trying to go for it all, farm system be damned!  With two franchises going so clearly in opposite directions right now, it couldn’t be any more demoralizing to lose a bunch of games to this team.

Before we get to the Tigers, I should point out that the Mariners split their 2-game set against the Rangers.  Honestly, with all the travel, the make-up game, and the weird scheduling times, I’m more impressed that the Mariners avoided a sweep at all.  We came back to win that 9-8 thriller on Tuesday, only to shit the bed on Wednesday afternoon, but who can get mad about that?  Sure, the Rangers are crap, but circumstances, man.

It was that Thursday loss to the Tigers, though, that really got to me.  Marco Gonzales did his thing (and might’ve even gotten through that sixth inning had Kyle Seager not made a run-scoring error), and in spite of the run, we were still up 2-1 headed into the eighth inning.  With Juan Nicasio being held back to work on his stuff, Nick Vincent came in off of quite a roll, only to blow it.  Will anyone ever take command of the 8th this year?

I was at a comedy show on Friday, so I missed this one, but things looked pretty dire heading into the 7th, down 4-0.  Thankfully, turnabout is fair play, and the M’s put on a 5-spot in the bottom of the 7th to take the lead, with Nicasio and Diaz able to hold the fort for the save.

Saturday was just a marvelous night all the way around.  James Paxton got his second career complete game (the first being his no-hitter a few games back) as the Mariners won 7-2.  He struck out 8 while giving up just a walk and 3 hits; I could’ve done without the 117 pitches – particularly with the game so well in hand – but we’ll see if that matters or not.  I know Paxton is a big, strong animal and everything, but if he goes on the DL in a week, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.  I mean, maybe it’s a nice morale boost or whatever, but we were beating them by 5 runs; seemed unnecessary to throw an extra 20 pitches on his arm just to get that 9th inning.  It’s not like the bullpen was massively overworked or anything; you still had a guy warming up just in case someone got on base!

That brought us to Sunday, where Francisco Liriano damn near no-hit us.  As it was, he went 8, giving up just 1 hit and 3 walks, before he gave way to the team’s closer, up by a comfortable 2-0 margin.  The Mariners once again saw Wade LeBlanc pitch into the sixth inning, giving up both of those runs, and got clean bullpen work from newly called-up Ryan Cook, as well as Pazos, Altavilla, Nicasio, Diaz, and Vincent.  With one out and Segura on second, Mitch Haniger stepped up in the 3-hole and belted a massive game-tying homer to ultimately send this game into extras.  Then, in the 11th, Dee Gordon singled, swiped second, and was hit in by Segura to send the fans home happy.

I’ll say this:  Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger have been absolutely carrying this team so far this year!  With Cano gone, and with Cruz being a magnet for opposing pitchers to hit on damn near a daily basis (as well as with Seager not doing a whole helluva lot at the plate, with Healy being his streaky self, and with the rest of the outfield being more Small Ball than Long Ball), it’s been a godsend to see Segura and Haniger develop into not just The Future, but The Present.  Could that Taijuan Walker trade have gone any better for the Mariners?

Now, here we are – with a Monday off-day – 27-19, in second place in the A.L. West (2 games behind the Astros and 1.5 games ahead of the Angels to lock into that second Wild Card spot.  I’m still not convinced this is a playoff team and probably never will be until it actually happens, but this is as good as I’ve ever felt about a Mariners team this late into the season for a long, long time.

Getting back to winning that season series against the Tigers, we’ve also won the season series against the Indians, and are 2-1 against the Twins, Royals, White Sox, and Blue Jays.  We’re 3-2 against the Rangers and 4-2 against the suddenly-surging A’s.  The only teams we have losing records against are the Angels (1-2) and the impossible Astros (1-3).

Obviously, the hitting is the story of the season.  Segura, Gordon, and Haniger are leading the way.  Cano was having a fantastic season until he got popped and broke his hand.  Zunino, Cruz, and Seager could be better, but are still providing the power this lineup needs.  Healy overcame a disaster of a start to be a dynamic force towards the bottom of the lineup.  Heredia has not shied away one little bit with his increased playing time.  All we need is for Gamel and our bench guys to pick it up just a tad and the offense should be able to weather the storm (for the most part) of losing Cano for 80 games.

I’ve been a little intrigued by the pitching of late, though.  Obviously, Felix and Leake have been pretty big disappointments, even based on my lowered expectations, but they’ve kind of been keeping us in games for the most part.  He never looks great, but Felix has only looked BAD a couple times; other than that, he has a bad inning here and there, but is usually able to limit the damage and hold it down until the offense can pick him up.  And, while I think most people expected Leake to be better heading into the season, he’s only a little bit worse than what I predicted, based on his overall experience in the MLB (and not just his last 2 amazing months of 2017).

On the flipside of things, James Paxton has been on the roll of all rolls in the month of May.  Wade LeBlanc continues to be on the run of his life (and absolutely should not be returned to the bullpen if/when Erasmo Ramirez gets healthy).  And even Marco Gonzales continues to be the most economical of starters that we have.  If he EVER figures out how to make it through the sixth inning without handing over the lead he’s been given – and God forbid starts working his magic into the seventh inning and beyond – I might actually be able to one day forgive this GM for trading away future superstar Tyler O’Neill.  That’s not even getting into Christian Bergman’s 7-inning 0-run start and Ariel Miranda’s 5-inning 1-run start.

As for the bullpen, that’s always going to be volatile.  Scrabble hasn’t been anything close to what we need from a lefty specialist.  Nicasio has had moments of greatness, but too many slip-ups for comfort from an 8th inning guy.  Vincent has been a little bit up and down (probably right on track, from my pre-season expectations).  But, Diaz has been extra-special, Pazos has been very stout, Altavilla’s been a little better than expected, and if Ryan Cook can hold it together, he could be a pretty big addition to this group.  Also, Chasen Bradford has been a nice innings eater and someone I didn’t even come close to expecting anything from.

All in all, I think the bullpen will have its bad moments (as they all do), but is overall better than I thought.  And, while the starters are far from elite (aside from Paxton), I’m coming away very impressed with this unit.  I’ll never be confident with these guys, but I think they’re managed very well.  If that continues, it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility for this to be a Wild Card team in 2018.

Cano’s Fucked & The Mariners Are Gone

Not too long ago, it was a broken bone in Robinson Cano’s hand of unknown severity that was causing all of our sleepless nights this week, fretting the fate of a Mariners team seemingly on the verge of breaking a playoff drought longer than any other in major American professional sports.  Yesterday, we learned of his 80-game steroid suspension, and it doesn’t even matter that the Mariners beat the Rangers in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the 11th last night.  This season has gone so far sideways that we can’t even sit around and mope about one thing for a single day before some other atrocity befalls this cursed franchise.

I mean, seriously, on the same day Cano gets clipped, some dickhole hits Nelson Cruz on the foot with a breaking ball?  Sure, he should be back in a few days, BUT WE GET IT BASEBALL GODS!!!  It can always get fucking worse for the Seattle Fucking Mariners.  ENOUGH!

The earliest Cano can come back is mid-August.  He should be weeks healed from the broken bone by then, but I’m not sure all that matters much.  The real ramifications are, of course, that this essentially doubles his time away from the Mariners this season, which severely affects their chances to sneak into that Wild Card game.  What’s even worse, of course, is that even if by some grace of the baseball gods the Mariners do manage to somehow grab that second Wild Card spot, Cano won’t be allowed to play in it.  Or any of the other possible post-season games this year.

Just when you thought it was safe to be a Mariners fan again.

I’m obviously much less concerned with how this affects Cano’s legacy.  I’m also less concerned with how or why it happened.  Did he knowingly take something against the rules and then try to cover it up?  Sure seems like it.  Even if he didn’t knowingly take something against the rules, he’s an idiot and SEVERELY negligent for not knowing what’s going into his body.  Either way, I guess this is a black mark on his otherwise Hall of Fame career, but again, what do I care?  He did most of his Hall of Fame damage in a Yankees uniform anyway, and Hall of Fame inductions don’t win the Mariners any World Series titles, so fuck all that noise.

Before the season, I was dubious at best about the Mariners’ chances of making the post-season; with the hand injury, my doubts only intensified.  With this suspension now?  Forget it.  While my overarching opinion hasn’t changed – this isn’t a playoff team, and more shit like this will chip away at the good start they’ve enjoyed – I have an even more concrete opinion of the 2018 Mariners and it’s absolutely unimpeachable:

Even IF the Mariners make the playoffs in 2018, as it’s currently constructed, there’s no hope of even sniffing the World Series, let alone winning it.  Not with the level of competition that looks to vie for the other playoff spots.

So, Cano can get injured, he can get suspended, he can even retire in disgrace, it’s not going to matter.

What I hope for is that the Mariners take this $12 million they’re going to save and rent a quality starter for the remainder of the year.  Might make things more interesting.

As for all the talk of moving Dee Gordon back to second base, I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance that it would happen until the team acquired another proper starting outfielder.  I mean, this was a team already too uncomfortable to play Guillermo Heredia on an everyday basis (settling on someone in Ben Gamel who’s been the fucking worst since the All Star Break last year and hasn’t re-adjusted to the way the rest of the league has adjusted to him), now we’re going to start BOTH of them?  I guess when you take a look at our second base alternatives, it doesn’t sound totally crazy, but at some point I have to believe this team goes after a better outfielder (likely to stick in left field, with a platoon in center until Cano returns and Dee can move back).  I know this team has more pressing needs elsewhere (like up and down the pitching staff), but figure outfielders are more prevalent and shouldn’t necessarily cost as much to acquire in trade.

Just a rotten, rotten day any way you slice it.

Cano’s Gone & The Mariners Are Fucked

The one thing the Mariners had going for them was their elite lineup compensating for a suspect pitching staff.  Regardless of how good a lineup is, there are still going to be games where they just don’t have it – they suffer poor BABIP luck, they can’t hit with RISP, they just get dominated by a great pitcher at the top of his game – and somewhere in there lies the 2 losses to Detroit over the weekend.  Lots of balls hit right at guys, and lots of futility with men on base, unable to take advantage of struggling pitchers and knock them out of games.  The good thing about an elite Mariners lineup is that these types of games happen less and less often.  The bad thing about injuries to that elite Mariners lineup is that these types of games will happen more and more, and the pitching staff simply isn’t good enough to pick up the slack.

Robinson Cano has a broken bone in his hand.  He’s going to be out for many weeks as it heals.  Robinson Cano is one of our very best hitters.  He’s going to be replaced by a sub-replacement level hitter.  Saying nothing of the change in our defense, this is a complete disaster.  Andrew Romine has improved quite a lot since he spent the bulk of this season batting .000, but he’s a far cry from competent at the plate, and we’re set to see him most every day (that is, when we don’t see AAA call-up Gordon Beckham).

So, if Cano is out for the foreseeable future, and if the pitching stinks, what’s left?  Well, the rest of the hitters are going to have to pick up the slack in a big way.  I don’t know how much more Gordon, Segura, or Cruz can do.  Seager seems to be heating up, which is going to be crucial.  Haniger continues to plug away, but doesn’t quite look like he’s making that leap into superstardom like it appeared back in April.  Healy has obviously been remarkable since his return from the DL, but he’s going to be up and down all year, so I don’t think we can really depend on him.  The obvious sources of improved production reside at catcher and left field.  Mike Zunino needs to get his ass over .200 with the batting average, for starters, so a massive hot streak appears to be in order.  The other one is Ben Gamel, who’s done absolutely nothing all year since returning from the oblique injury.  Who didn’t see that coming a mile away?  Nevertheless, it’s been long enough.  He’s had his “spring training” period or whatever you want to call it; now it’s time to start returning to the form he showed in the first half of 2017.  Figure it the fuck out, Gamel!  You’re our only hope!

Regarding the series with the Tigers, I want to say this series was lost when Friday’s game rained out.  They predictably split the doubleheader on Saturday (losing the first game in frustrating fashion; busting out with the bats in the second), and they tried their damnedest to keep rallying in the Sunday finale, but could never secure a lead after the third inning, and Juan Nicasio is just the fucking worst.

I don’t want to say it’s all over, but then again I also don’t want to say I ever believed in this team in the first place.  I’d say the best case scenario is the Mariners will tread water until Cano comes back, but we’ll have plenty of other injuries to go around by the time that happens.  It’s been a pleasant few weeks since we had our offense back to full strength, and now it’s over.  Barring many more injuries, the Mariners will still “contend”, but we knew what we were getting into before the season even started.  The Mariners are going to Mariners all over themselves and finish around .500 by season’s end.  Even with Cano, our fate was always going to be on the outside looking in; now without Cano, figure that fate is more secure.

The Mariners Won A Crucial Series Against The Blue Jays

And we’re back!

I was listening to the Brock & Salk show this week, and one of the callers bemoaned the fact that the Mariners keep winning these series, but they’re totally incapable of sweeping them.  And, while obviously the hosts were right to laugh at him because when you think about this organization … I mean, your expectations can’t be that high!  It’d be like the Cleveland Browns starting to turn around their fortunes and being upset they’re not immediately in the Super Bowl.  These are the MARINERS, just be happy they’re winning any games at all!

And yet … I kinda sorta get where that caller was coming from!

Dating back to the first series of the year, the Mariners had chances against the Indians in that loss, but the offense couldn’t push us over the top.  Then, in the finale against the A’s, we lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to lose out on the sweep.  There was the finale in Texas where Erasmo Ramirez stunk up the joint; the opener against the lowly White Sox where Mike Leake stunk up the joint; and once again against the Indians, where a late rally against Kluber & Co. fell just short.  Then, we had Paxton’s 16-strikeout game against the A’s that should’ve given us the sweep, until finally we get back to this Toronto series.

Game 1 – no hitter.  Glorious.  Game 2 – sigh.

The headline of Game 2 was:  Juan Nicasio melted down in the 8th inning with a 2-1 lead, giving up 4 runs and costing us the game.  But, I’m here to argue it never should’ve come to that.  The Blue Jays were running out a starter on a terrible streak – Jaime Garcia – and we had MULTIPLE chances early in the game to put him away.

Bases loaded in the first, but only managed 1 run.  Multiple runners on in the third, but again managed just 1 run.  Two more walks in the fifth, but couldn’t push a runner home.  Garcia allowed runners in 4 out of 5 of his innings pitched, but in the end all we could muster against a guy who walked 5 and hit 1 batter was a measly 2 runs (1 earned).  I mean, that was the game right there, and it was vastly overshadowed by people bemoaning our bullpen woes.

And I get it.  We have two guys – Nicasio and Diaz – and right now Nicasio, I’m not sure, is the guy we thought we were getting.  He’s been fantastic most nights, but he’s been shakier a whole lot more often than we were hoping.  And I don’t know if anyone else is really stepping up.  Nick Vincent maybe, but I feel like we need more right now.  Hopefully James Pazos can be a guy like that, though he’s got to handle all of our left-handed duties with Scrabble sucking as hard as he is.

It’s a shame too, because we wasted a really good start out of Wade LeBlanc.  Sure, he only lasted 5 innings, and sure he threw less than 60 pitches, but he held the Blue Jays to 1 run off 4 hits with 0 walks and 3 strikeouts, and I agree with the decision to turn it over to the bullpen at that point, with a narrow 1-run lead.  The fact that the offense let it remain so close is what’s really the overriding factor of why we lost that game.

Too bad, too, because we ended up crushing Game 3.

7 out of 9 guys had at least 2 hits (only Cruz and Heredia lost out on the fun).  Seager hit two homers, including a first inning grand salami, and most importantly everyone kept piling on the rest of the way, scoring in 6 out of 9 innings.  We knocked J.A. Fucking Happ’s ass out of there in a hurry, and went on cruise control the rest of the way.

Mike Leake rebounded in a big way, going 7 innings, giving up just 2 runs.  And, some shaky bullpenning in the 8th inning notwithstanding, we got out of the series with a much-needed win against a potential Wild Card rival.  I said it before, but keeping the Blue Jays at bay is going to be critical to our chances, as we need to keep it to a 2-team race for that second wild card, between us and the Angels.

The Mariners are in Detroit right now and already had one rained out, so there’s supposed to be a doubleheader today.  We’ll see how this goes.  The Tigers are bad, so we gotta find a way to squeeze out another non-sweep series win!

James Paxton No-Hit The Blue Jays In Canada

This was a real gem that snuck up on me.  I knew he was doing good in the early going, but James Paxton obviously wasn’t as overwhelming as he was in his previous start, when he struck out 16 batters in 7 innings.  The three walks in the first four innings masked the fact that he’d been no-hitting them the whole time, and I don’t think it dawned on me until maybe after the 5th?  Either the announcer alluded to something, or someone on Twitter whispered something, and then I went on ESPN and sure enough, a big ol’ (Canadian) goose egg in the hit column!

From then on, it was all about sitting there, doing the same thing I’d been doing the whole game, not mentioning what was going on to my dad, while smirking at all the people on Twitter with flagrant disregard for the unwritten rules of baseball.  I love it, I subscribe to flouting them whenever they come up, but at the same time I still very much believe in my power to jinx something thousands of miles away, so if Paxton were to lose his no-hitter, it wasn’t going to be MY fault!

(I’ll also say this, when a couple guys on Twitter who’d been suspiciously quiet all night *COUGH Softy and Mitch COUGH* suddenly chimed in with pre-bottom-of-the-ninth-inning Tweets, I thought I’d lose it)

And boy did he almost lose that no-no a few times last night!  Dee Gordon with the diving catch in center in the first, that crazy falling-down foul ball catch by Ryon Healy (who knows what the batter would’ve done if the at-bat was extended?), the pick of the throw in the dirt from Segura to Healy, that unbelievably amazing diving stop & throw by Seager on what could’ve easily been a double and what SHOULD’VE been an infield single, that scary deep fly to Gamel when the outfield had been playing in, that other tough catch of a liner into center by Gordon, and, of course, my heart stopped for a beat on the final at-bat with that hard grounder to Seager.  I thought – FOR SURE – 2 outs, 2 strikes, that ball was going to find a hole to break all our hearts.

I mean, you just can’t say enough about that defense.  When people talk about how ERA is a bullshit stat, a lot of people point to the fact that errors tend to make a pitcher look better, but just as much – if not moreso – it’s the other way around with an amazing defense lifting up the guy on the mound.  You tend to always see at least one or two amazing plays in any no-hitter situation, but all night long those Mariners out there carried the mail.  That’s as much of a Team No-Hitter as the 6-pitcher one a few years back.

Still, all that being said, James Paxton is the man.  That was a helluva show!  We all knew he had it in him and it would come out eventually.  I’m just glad I was there to watch the whole thing from start to finish.

Offensively, it was more of the same.  These guys, for the most part, put constant pressure on opposing teams.  You can hold the M’s down for a while, but eventually we’re going to lean on you, and more often than not break through.  We manufactured 2 runs in the third with the top of our lineup, Zunino hit a jack to right field for 2 more runs in the fourth, and Haniger chimed in with a sac fly to score Cano.  Dee Gordon had 3 hits and a stolen base; Cano, Cruz, and Healy each had 2 hits apiece; and Seager and Gamel got in on the action with singles.

This is an important series.  The Blue Jays are one of the three teams in the A.L. East vying for a playoff spot.  We need to do everything in our power to stay comfortably ahead of them, as we already have our hands full with the fucking Angels.  Getting this win is a great start to the series and the road trip.

Getting the no-hitter is the most perfect icing on that cake.

The Mariners Won The One They Weren’t Supposed To Win

Oh so close to a series sweep.  Oh so close to first place in the A.L. West.

Just like they drew it up, right?  Blow the game where Paxton has the best game of his career, come back with a spot starter and beat the other team’s ace!  This is baseball, everyone.  It’s dumb as fuck.

We squeezed 4 shutout innings out of Wade LeBlanc last night, as we stretched him out to 70 pitches.  Assuming he stays in the rotation, I’d think the goal next time out is 85 or 90 pitches, and then full go by his third start.  But, that’s getting ahead of ourselves.  For now, it’s just nice to get this one win.  LeBlanc has truly been a godsend this season, coming in super late, locking down the long relief role in the bullpen, and now entering the rotation following an injury to Erasmo Ramirez.  I don’t know if we can expect this type of dominance going forward, but I’ll take whatever I can get when I can get it.

Chasen Bradford is another guy who just came out of nowhere.  I guess he was a reliever for the Mets in the second half of last year, but other than that, this is his first real opportunity to earn a bullpen role on a Major League ballclub.  I mean, I dunno, he had pretty decent numbers last year, all things considered, and they just cut him out of nowhere before Spring Training this year!  Is their bullpen really so great?  Is he out of options?  These are the questions I don’t have answers to, because I don’t give a shit, but their loss is our gain.  Bradford has done nothing but his fucking JOB this year, and he’s been wonderful!  Back-end of the bullpen guy, there to eat up innings.  That’s it, but he does it like a champ!  Last night, to wit:  2.1 innings, 1 run, to bridge the gap between LeBlanc and the late inning guys (and get his THIRD win of the season, no less!).

After Pazos closed out the 7th, it was hang-on time, and Scott Servais did the prudent thing:  he went right back to Nicasio & Diaz, hot off their blown save/loss combo the night prior.  Nicasio burned through the A’s for 3 strikeouts in the 8th, and Diaz had a ho-hum 1 strikeout in the 9th to get his 13th save of the year.

Dee Gordon continues his absolute mastery of the leadoff position, going 3 for 4 with 2 runs and 2 more stolen bases.  Robbie Cano had a 2-hit, 2-RBI night.  And Nellie Cruz had a 2-run bomb to put the game away.  The night wasn’t anything extra special; it was a very workmanlike 4-1 victory where the top of the lineup carried the bulk of the mail.

That’s another series win!  7-1-2, with a 3-game set against the Angels coming up, starting tonight.  The Mariners are now 18-12, 0.5 games out of first place (behind the 20-13 Astros and the 19-12 Angels).  So, yeah, you could say this series is pretty huge, as far as early-May series go.

I’m going to the game tonight (Han Seago Bobblehead WHAT?!) and I’m going to the game tomorrow (James Paxton Fanny Packs WHAT?!?!?!).  The last time I went to multiple games in the same series against the Angels, we were swept, so let’s not let that happen again, huh?

The Mariners Finally Blew One

We were bound to see it sooner or later.  What more perfect, Marinersiest time to do it than in a start where James Paxton is as dominant as can be?

He went 7 innings of shutout ball, leaving with what you’d assume to be a comfortable 2-0 lead.  It sounds like every Felix start from 2010-2013 (ESPECIALLY against the A’s).  But, unlike most Felix starts, Paxton did something so remarkable the King hasn’t even reached this height:  he struck out 16 batters.  And he did it while only throwing 105 pitches!  He sprinkled in 5 hits and a walk, but was otherwise as dominant as can be.  In that respect, it was very much in line with a Classic Felix start.

As was the way the bullpen decided to shit all over it.

Again, it was bound to happen.  After some struggles through the first two weeks, Juan Nicasio racked up 7 consecutive scoreless appearances, looking better and better each time out.  So, giving up a 1-out, 2-run, game-tying homer to the best hitter on the A’s, Jed Lowrie (who, not for nothing, ALWAYS kills the Mariners for some reason) is something I’m willing to forgive.  Of course, had I been watching the game last night, I might’ve thought differently, and flown into a rage on Twitter the likes of which … would’ve made no difference whatsoever.

Then, I mean come on, what more does Edwin Diaz have to do?  He gave up 1 inconsequential run in his first 15 appearances, going 12/12 in save opportunities (and winning the April Relief Pitcher of the Month).  In a tie game, in the top of the 9th inning, at home (where – at that point – it’s impossible to save your closer for a save opportunity in that game), with some very capable boppers coming up in the bottom of the 9th, OF COURSE you use your best reliever in that situation!  The sooner we get people out of the mindset that you can only use your closer in save situations, the sooner I’ll be saved from having to read all the idiots complaining to the beat writers about why they put Edwin Diaz in there in a tie game.  THINK ABOUT IT!  ASSHOLES!

So, anyway, yeah, I’m willing to forgive Diaz too.  It sucks that we lost, it sucks that a peach of a start was ruined, but it’s what the Mariners do.  Not for nothing, but it’s what a lot of other teams do too.

Also not for nothing, there is NO WAY I’m bringing Paxton out there for the 8th.  He threw 105 pitches!  Nicaso and Diaz have been amazing this year!  AND, oh by the way, Paxton is constantly getting injured.  Why would you risk that?  When you’re up 2-0, at home, with your best relievers set to lock it down … no.  Just no.  Scott Servais does plenty of things I disagree with, but this is far from one of them.

I’m more concerned about why the offense couldn’t do more than they did against a guy making his first start in the Major Leagues in 2018.  I know Brett Anderson is a veteran, but our offense has been on fire!  Eventually, we’re going to need to get some actual production out of our catcher and left field positions.  Cruz and Segura can’t do fucking everything!

If this turns into a trend, then we have a serious problem.  But, for now, let’s see how it plays out.  The A’s stole one that the Mariners should’ve won; maybe the M’s can do the opposite tonight.  Wade LeBlanc gets the nod against the best starter on the Athletics, Sean Manaea.  We’ve already seen this Manaea guy once this year; he went 7 innings and gave up 1 run in an A’s victory.  4 out of his 6 appearances against Seattle in his brief 3-year career have been quality starts, so obviously he’s not intimidated by our Mariners-ness.  Let’s change that tonight, huh?

The Mariners Won The Series Opener Against The Athletics

And also sent a couple pitchers onto the DL.  So, you know, you take the good, you take the bad, and so on and so forth.

Got another Felixy good start in this one!  6 innings, 3 runs, 3 hits, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts.  Numbers probably would’ve been better, but as has been the case just about every single game, he was brought out to start an inning he shouldn’t have started, gave up a couple baserunners immediately without getting an out, then the bullpen was left to fend for itself.  Maybe in another 10 or 20 years, the Mariners will find a manager who has a clue and runs a pitching staff the way it’s supposed to be run in the 21st century.

Dan Altavilla was one of the arms to go on the DL.  He has a minor strain of something or other that shouldn’t keep him out too long, but I dunno.  Are we sure this isn’t something that’s going to nag at him all season?  We’ve got five months to go!  Knowing absolutely nothing about the injury, I’m setting the over/under at 2.5 months of Major League action out of Altavilla, and right now I’m staring hard at the under.  Because when do pitchers ever just bounce back like nothing happened, without further repercussions down the line?  Everyone’s always super optimistic right when the injury happens, then there’s setbacks, shutting him down, ramping him back up, rehab assignments, a return a few weeks later, then after a bunch of subpar performances, BAM, shut down for the season.  Maybe that over/under was too high.  Maybe 1.5 months is more accurate.

Anyway, in his place, Struggling Nick Vincent handled the 7th inning, gave up both of Felix’s runs, then managed to get out of trouble.  Juan Nicasio did his thing in the 8th (he’s REALLY looking like the guy we signed to the big bucks this past offseason), and Edwin Diaz worked around a couple walks in the 9th to strike out two guys in getting his 12th save of the season.  Absolutely mind-blowing!

On offense, Dee Gordon went 5/5 with 2 stolen bases and a run scored.  Nelson Cruz had a 3-run bomb in the 5th to take the lead for good in the game.  And Jean Segura tacked on a couple of RBI – including a crucial late insurance run – to salt the game away.

The Mariners are now 17-11, and notably, +1 in run differential.  That’s somewhat concerning, as you gotta wonder when the other shoe is going to drop with the back-end of that bullpen.  I’m not saying it’ll fully collapse, but Diaz and Nicasio won’t be this dominant every single game.  On the flipside, with the offense fully healthy, we gotta hope that we’ll see more GOOD Mariners blowouts as opposed to the bad ones that have hindered our run differential thus far.  I’ll be more curious what that figure is in another month, as we get more time with our full roster.

Or, as close to it as we can get.  The bigger of the two DL drops yesterday goes to Erasmo Ramirez, who we can’t confirm was brought back too quickly from his Spring Training injury … but he was totally brought back too quickly from his Spring Training injury.  It’s disappointing, I guess, but I dunno.  I wasn’t expecting Ramirez to replicate his August and September of 2017, because for him, that was an unsustainable run.  Now, by the same token, I didn’t expect him to be as bad as he was in his first two starts this year, but again THE TEAM RUSHED HIM BACK TOO SOON!  My overall feeling on this injury – which looks like it could keep him out for a month at a minimum, but probably a lot longer – is No Big Loss.  It’s Erasmo Ramirez, it’s not James Paxton.  It’s not Felix Hernandez.  It’s not even Mike Leake!  Replacing Erasmo Ramirez with Wade LeBlanc (which is the plan this week) or Ariel Miranda at some point down the line, or a couple of the other no-names in Tacoma, isn’t a huge drop-off from Ramirez.  It might not be ANY drop-off!  And, dare I say it, if the baseball gods are on our side, could we be talking about addition by subtraction?

What I do know is, with Hisashi Iwakuma’s latest setback, don’t count on him filling this role.  He’s done.  It’s not official, but he’s done.  It’s time to stop CPR and call the time of death.  He had a nice career with the Mariners, made more money than he should need for the rest of his life, so I tip my cap and let’s move on.

Paxton goes tonight.  Hopefully, with the new calendar month, he figures it out and gets it going.  Should probably win this one if we hope to win the series, as LeBlanc is a huge question mark going tomorrow.