The Mariners Losing Games Isn’t So Much A Concern As Losing Players

The good teams can withstand a few injuries and still be great. The good teams can withstand players underperforming expectations, or otherwise going through prolonged slumps, because they have enough depth to fill things out and compete at a high level.

The Mariners aren’t there yet. The Mariners are on a shoestring tightrope they’re trying to walk, with pretty much zero depth and therefore zero margin for error when it comes to players getting injured. That’s why, this slew of guys either suffering severe injuries, or otherwise playing through nagging ones, is much more of a nightmare scenario than the Mariners having a sub-par road trip.

Julio Rodriguez had to be pulled from the outfield yesterday, as he’s dealing with back tightness that it sounds like will land him on the IL. Eugenio Suarez is famously already on the IL with an injured hand that might prevent him from playing third base again this season (rendering him as exclusively a DH, which really does a number on our team defensively). Mitch Haniger is playing through aches and pains. Ty France is playing through aches and pains (and has to try his glove at third base for the first time in years). J.P. Crawford missed yesterday with a leg issue or some damn thing. Cal Raleigh has an injured thumb on his glove hand.

This is forcing us into a position we’d rather not be in. Like having Carlos Santana out there every day (when he’s probably best served with regular rest days, at his advanced age). Like being forced to use Winker in spite of his struggles both at the plate and in the field. Like riding Sam Haggerty and Dylan Moore, when you figure both will come with diminishing returns the more they’re exposed to MLB pitching. Like playing Toro even though he’s a nonsense man with zero bat-on-ball skills whatsoever. Like taking stabs in the dark, with Kelenic called back up even though he can’t hit Major League bendy pitches (and, from what I recall, his prowess at hitting Major League straight pitches isn’t all that elite either).

Everyone feels this need for the team to fight to the bitter end for that top wild card spot, when that’s just asinine to me. Rest everyone who needs to rest – putting them on the IL for 10 days, if need be – and let’s just back into the playoffs as Wild Card #3!

There’s no way Baltimore is catching us. They play Houston for 4, the Red Sox for 4 on the road, the Yankees for 3 on the road, and the Blue Jays for 3 to close out their season. They won’t have the wins when all is said and done. And the White Sox aren’t even on my radar; they’re too far back. I don’t give two shits about the #1 or #2 wild card slots. Just give me #3 and let’s call it a season.

Meanwhile, let’s use these remaining 2 weeks to get healthy! We need all these guys for the post-season. How we finish the regular season is irrelevant! We did it! We’re good enough with the pitching we have to coast into that third wild card slot. But, if we keep pushing guys before they’re fully healed, then it’ll all be for naught.

I only care about what happens in the playoffs, against the Guardians of Cleveland, the Yankees of New York, and whoever we might face in a potential ALCS.

So, you can panic about this Oakland series all you want. It’s not phasing me. We lost 4-1 on Tuesday after managing all of one hit. Seems like a bad luck game to me more than anything (Luis Castillo falling apart against that lineup for a second time is a bit perturbing, though). We lost 2-1 on Wednesday, but that was even crazier of a scenario, where Robbie Ray went 6 shutout innings and some poor defense behind Erik Swanson doomed us.

Sanity was restored (at least for one day) in yesterday’s 9-5 victory. Sure, Julio had to leave, but Kelenic had a couple of monster hits (has he FINALLY turned a corner? We’ll see over the next week and change), and France and Haniger seem to be waking up from their slumber. It wasn’t a good outing by Kirby, but it was nice to see the offense overcome against a team they’re supposed to beat.

One final trip – to Kansas City – and then we’re home until the playoffs. We’ve only got a half-game cushion with the Rays keeping us in that third wild card spot. We’re still 4 up on Baltimore (but really we’re 5 up, since we hold the tiebreaker).

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 Were On Fire While I Was On Vacation

You hate to max out your vacation time before Labor Day, but I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of my trips this year. The past 10 days or so were no exception, and I can see that the Mariners felt the same way, as they wrapped up a 6-game undefeated road trip while I was out of town.

Apparently, we have the Cleveland Guardians’ number. When I left, we were hosting them for four games, taking three. There was a 3-1 victory where Marco Gonzales got back on the horse and all the scoring was completed in the first inning for both teams. We followed that up with a 3-2 nailbiter in 11 innings. We had our only loss to the Guardians after that, with an uncharacteristic blown outing by Andres Munoz. Still, it was a narrow 4-3 affair. But, we came right back to take the series, winning a 4-0 shutout thanks to Robbie Ray’s 7 innings of dealing.

That set us on the road for the Tigers and Guardians again. We had no trouble destroying the Tigers: 9-3, 5-3, 7-0. We got to take a load off of Kirby’s arm in the first game (giving Flexen the 4-inning save). The Return Of Abraham Toro came with a 2-run homer in the later innings to give us the lead for good in the second game. And Logan Gilbert took advantage of a lot of runs early to throw 6 relatively easy shutout innings before giving way and saving his pitch count. Great job, everyone!

Even more impressive was the 3-game sweep of the Guardians on the road, especially when you factor in how – on Sunday’s getaway game – it took over 8 hours for the game to complete thanks to huge rain delays. We beat ’em 6-1 in the opener, on the back of another strong outing by Castillo. We shut them out again 4-0 in the next Robbie Ray start on Saturday. And we finished them off in that aforementioned rain game, where Kirby was limited to 3 innings before the 4 and a half hour delay. Even though technically the bullpen gave up our 3-1 lead late, it was awesome work by those guys to keep us in it and take on the burden of the day. It gave us enough time to rally in the 11th inning, with a Crawford RBI single and a Raleigh 2-run homer. Flexen got his second save of the week, as the last pitcher available.

At the moment – with yesterday’s defeat to the White Sox, thanks to what I’m sure was a miserable late return home Sunday night/Monday morning – we’re still in a virtual tie with the Rays for the top Wild Card spot. They are, of course, charging the slumping Yankees for the division title, so things could look a lot different by month’s end. Nevertheless, even with our hot run lately, we’re still 11 games behind the Astros for the A.L. West. So, don’t even think about that.

The good news in all of this is that we’re almost a lock to make the playoffs. Our odds of making it are, like, 99% or something. This is really happening!

The Mariners Had An Annoying Split Against A Terrible Team

The Athletics and the Nationals have lost a combined billion games this season. They are – no if’s, and’s, or but’s – the two worst teams in all of baseball. And, in the last five games, we’ve gone a combined 2-3 against them.

This isn’t an outrage to end all outrages, but it’s like, what are we doing here? The whole point of getting to enjoy this fluffy pillow of a schedule is beating up on crap teams like these! Then, you coast into a comfortable #1 wild card spot, and off we go.

Nothing ever comes easy for this franchise, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It just goes to show how much work we’ll need to do this offseason. We’re not a championship team, by any measure.

Tuesday’s game pretty much went according to plan. We got a dominant start out of Robbie Ray (6.2 innings, 1 run on 2 hits & 2 walks with 7 strikeouts) and some rock-solid bullpen work until the ninth, when Sewald gave up a run. The offense did just enough, though, with 2-run homers by Haniger and Suarez, and that all adds up to a 4-2 victory.

Yesterday’s game, on the other hand, was God damned insufferable. Our offense shit the bed against a terrible starter and they were pretty useless against a whatever bullpen. We totally squandered a fantastic start by George Kirby (7 innings, 1 run on 8 hits, with 9 strikeouts) and for a while there it looked like he might take the hard-luck loss. Thankfully, Julio bowed up with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth to tie it. Unfortunately, it was all for naught, as Paul Sewald gave up a 2-run homer to cost us the game. Bad time for our trusty best reliever to go into a slump.

We have a huge series coming up starting today. The Cleveland Guardians née Rippers, Lake Shores, Bluebirds, Bronchos, Napoleons, & Indians come to town for a 4-game set. They’re currently the leaders in the A.L. Central, but as things can change in an instant, they could very well be contenders for one of our wild card spots (especially if the Twins get hot down the stretch). Right now, we’re effectively tied with the Guardians (we have one more victory and one more defeat), so if we want to make sure we have the edge over them heading into the playoffs, it would behoove us to win a bunch of these games. Because oh by the way, we also play them in Cleveland in about a week. So, get used to this team, because we’re going to be seeing a lot of them!

Also, if Ty France could find his swing again, I’d really appreciate it!

The Mariners Had A Very Enjoyable Sweep Over The Angels

In their first series down in Anaheim since The Brawl TM, the Mariners did what they needed to do: took care of business against an inferior opponent, who also just so happens to be lacking one Mike Trout, Mariner Killer TM. It was a sight to behold!

Things looked a little dicey in the first game, and I can already hear you asking how things could get dicey in a 6-2 victory. Well, for starters, the game was 2-2 heading into the ninth, before the Mariners rattled off four unearned runs (thanks to some laughable – to say the least – Angels defense). It was yet another monster pitching matchup; what did Luis Castillo do to deserve going Gerrit Cole-Gerrit Cole-Shohei Ohtani in his first three Mariners starts?!

This one wasn’t quite as dominant for Castillo, but it was still pretty fucking good. He pitched Ohtani to a draw through six innings, and with our bullpen, I’ll take that all day. The offenses touched up both pitchers just a hair – as each gave up 2 runs – with Winker hitting a solo bomb in the first, and scoring on a Crawford single in the third. I will say that not only is it great to have a dominant guy like Castillo, but it’s a breath of fresh air to see someone so regularly go beyond 100 pitches in his starts. I’m used to being that Cinderella-esque magic number where starting pitchers turn back into pumpkins, but Castillo seems to be one of the few in all of Major League Baseball who is sort of bucking that trend.

As one might expect, the Mariners’ bullpen was rock solid through the final three frames. But, we did bring our A-Squad just to make sure: Castillo, Munoz, and Sewald. The Angels had … less than.

Cal Raleigh led off the ninth with a groundout. Sam Haggerty followed with a single. He ended up on second base after a ball got away from the catcher, who blindly threw it into the outfield (thinking Haggerty was going to run, when he initially wasn’t). Then, Haggerty swiped third base with relative ease. Carlos Santana walked and Dylan Moore ran for him. That brought up Julio Rodriguez who lined a screamer up the middle that hit and bounced off the glove of the Angels’ second baseman. Haggerty was initially caught in a run-down, but no one from the Angels opted to cover home, so we got not only a free run out of the deal, but Moore made it all the way to third base, and J-Rod was safe at first. If that wasn’t enough insanity, Ty France followed with a grounder to the short stop. Once again, the runner at third (Moore) was running on contact. He should’ve been dead to rights at home, except the ball got knocked out of the catcher’s glove and everybody was safe (with J-Rod at third and France at second). Winker followed with a simple RBI groundout, then Haniger was intentionally walked. J.P. Crawford knocked an RBI single into the outfield to give the game its final score.

It was the perfect storm of Mariners speed being pesky, a lefty reliever with very hittable stuff, and manager incompetence leaving him out there about four batters too long. Phil Nevin, don’t listen to anyone who says anything to the contrary, we’re going to miss you when you’re gone.

If you thought 4 unearned runs in the ninth was cool, stick around for Tuesday’s game and our 5 earned runs in the ninth!

There’s nothing quite like going back-to-back with Castillo, then Ray. Ray went 6 innings, gave up 2 runs, and struck out 10. He left the game with a 3-2 lead, which of course, the bullpen carried the rest of the way. Let’s just get to that ninth inning straight away, because it was so good!

A Suarez walk was sandwiched between two outs before things got going. New backup catcher Casali singled to keep things going. Then, Adam Frazier ripped a triple down the right field line to make it 5-2. Haggerty singled to make it 6-2. And Julio homered to the opposite field to make it 8-2. That’s some efficient baseball killing right there.

Wednesday’s getaway game featured offensive firepower on both sides. Almost exclusively the top of the Angels’ lineup accounted for their 7 runs. You’d think with the way the Mariners have played throughout the year that 7 runs would be about 4 more than they needed. But, we jumped on ’em early and kept playing add-on to win it 11-7.

Cal Raleigh had 2 homers to lead all baseball catchers in homers (18 on the year and counting). Suarez hit his 20th bomb on the year, and Winker hit his 13th. Haniger had two hits and two runs scored, Crawford got on base four times (including 3 walks) and scored once. Santana had a 2-RBI single. Oddly enough, everyone except Julio got in on the action.

George Kirby did okay – 5.2 innings, 3 runs – and the bullpen picked the perfect game to get a little roughed up. Ohtani is as hot right now as I’ve ever seen anyone, so it’ll be good to get away from this team for a month or so. Maybe he’ll have cooled off or be shut down by the time we see them again in September.

We’re up to 65-54 on the year, and our road trip continues with three over the weekend against the lowly A’s. We’re officially the top Wild Card team at the moment, leading by three games in the win column over the Rays and Blue Jays (who are tied for the 2nd/3rd spots). Onward and upward!

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 Were Lucky To Split Against The Lowly Angels

It’s mind-boggling to think that the Mariners needed a 14-game winning streak, and to win 22 out of 25 games to close out the first half … all to keep themselves in a Wild Card spot by a measly two games. That just goes to show you what kind of offensive problems we’re dealing with on this team. Problems that aren’t going to magically disappear.

Too often, it’s too big of a struggle for the Mariners to score more than a couple runs. And that means if the pitching isn’t perfect, we’re going to fall on the losing end of games we should win. Like half of the games we played against the Angels over the weekend.

The Angels are terrible. Since the big brawl, they’ve gone on a freefall. Now, Mike Trout is hurt, which means they just have the one guy – Shohei Ohtani – and even he’s been flailing quite a bit with the bat of late.

And yet, if you knew nothing about this season or these teams, you might look at the weekend series as a whole and come away thinking the Angels are the better team.

Robbie Ray had it going on Friday, when he went 7 innings, giving up 1 run, while striking out 10. Unfortunately, the Mariners scored exactly 0 runs until the bottom of the ninth inning, when an unlikely rally tied the game at 3-3 (I should point out that the weak link of the bullpen – Ryan Borucki – gave up a 2-run home run in the top of the ninth to make this one even more challenging for the offense). That late explosion of runs didn’t carry over to the tenth, though, as the Angels sacrificed a ghost run across to win it 4-3.

We had even more solid pitching on Saturday afternoon, headlined by George Kirby going 6 innings, giving up 1 run, walking 0, striking out 8, all in 80 pitches. The bullpen was nails from there, and Ty France’s 2-run home run gave us all the cushion we needed, winning the game 2-1.

Saturday evening’s game, though, was a total disaster. This was the second of the two doubleheaders with the Angels we’ve had this season, which presumably cuts one of their trips up to Seattle off of their schedule (the remaining 7 games we play against them are all in SoCal, where they will presumably be free to plunk our guys with impunity). My main concern came to fruition in this one, when it comes to a proposed merging of Kirby and Flexen spots in the rotation. If you pitch Kirby first, that’s only going to allow the opposing team to tee off on Flexen’s slow junk balls. Which they did, albeit a few hours later, on Saturday. 6 innings, 5 runs, 2 homers. The Mariners lost 7-1, because of course the offense couldn’t pick up the slack.

Thankfully, I was there at the stadium on Sunday with my girlfriend, and our powers of luck combined woke up the bats from their hibernation! I was clad in my finest Felix Hernandez shirt and we had some pretty great seats in the first row of section 334; you could draw a straight line from us all the way to the right field foul pole (which will come up again in a bit, I promise).

As it was preordained, Marco Gonzales gave us an unimpressive quality start of 6 innings and 3 runs given up. Was there a rhyme or reason to it? No way! He gave up 8 hits and a walk, but he also somehow found a way to strike out 7. I … I got nothing.

Thankfully, the Mariners jumped all over the Angels’ starter from the get go. We were able to manufacture a run in the first (and could’ve scored a lot more). We did end up taking advantage of that guy’s wildness in the third, when Winker homered with the bases loaded, pulling the ball just inside the foul pole. No one had a better view of it being fair than we did! It was pretty glorious. We added a run in the fifth off of Haggerty’s double, and that was that. All the bullpen needed to do was preserve a 6-3 lead the rest of the way. Munoz, Murfee, Sewald, see ya later.

The day itself was beautiful. Mid-to-high 80s, clear skies. The seats we had, unfortunately, were smack dab in the center of the sun, but we did ultimately get some shade in the fourth inning or so. This came on the heels of a great weekend in general. We went to a wedding, we schmoozed on the observation deck of the Smith Tower, we walked around the waterfront and Pike Place Market, we brunched with some fine folks. The city of Seattle has taken some hits over the last couple decades, but it can still impress you if you know where to look.

The Yankees come to town tonight, and then our remaining schedule gets remarkably easy the rest of the way. We also, not for nothing, have our top three starters going the next three days. It’s not necessarily the same order as one might expect from a playoff series, but it might as well be. Gilbert, Castillo, Ray. I’ll be REALLY curious to see what they’re able to do this week.

How Much Of An Overpay Was Luis Castillo For The Mariners?

We’ll never get the official line of thinking behind why the Mariners were willing to give up who they gave up to bring in Luis Castillo for 1 year and 2 months worth of baseball. Not unless one of our executives joins up with the Bellevue Rotary Club for another recorded Internet chat.

The general line of thinking, however, among reasoned baseball people (i.e. not fans and their reactionary rhetoric) is: this is why you build up your farm system. The whole point of doing a rebuild is to stock your farm system full of talent. That’s step 1. Step 2 involves evaluating that talent and marking down who is among the priority guys you want to keep and build around. So, here we are, in the dog days of 2022, and we’ve already (more or less) completed both of those first steps. We brought in prospects, to the point that over this past offseason, we were considered to have either the best or one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. And, meanwhile, over the last couple years, we’ve gone and evaluated all those guys, not to mention the guys who were already at the Major League level. We came to realize Julio is the real deal and a superstar in the making. We brought up Logan Gilbert, then George Kirby, and have earmarked them as rotation mainstays. We locked in J.P. Crawford and will probably soon do the same for Ty France. We’re starting to see quality production out of Cal Raleigh, who looks like a starter in this league for years to come. Then, we went and signed the reigning Cy Young winner (Robbie Ray) to lead our rotation.

I should say that the Mariners aren’t a completed product yet. They’re not the Asstros or Yankees. There’s still a lot of building left to do if we want to be among the best of the best. But, we’re on the right track, which is why this is the perfect time to get to Step 3, which is using the leftover prospects to trade for legitimate stars and starters to come in and help your big league club succeed in the post-season.

And the thing I wonder – the thing we’ll never get a straight answer to – is how much did it hurt Jerry Dipoto to give away the players he gave away? The Mariners, theoretically, SHOULD have the best idea about how good these guys will be. They’ve been in our organization, we’ve watched them every day, we’ve gotten to know them as people. We know their work ethic, we know their strengths and weaknesses at least a little bit better than anyone else. And, frankly, we know their medicals better than anyone else, so we’d know if there’s some underlying concern that might spring up down the road.

I often bitch about the Yankees because it seems like whenever they trade away a highly-rated player, it turns out that guy’s a bust. Yet, we KNOW they’re fully capable of drafting and developing among the best in the game. But, they seem to also be among the best at properly rating their prospects (even as the rest of the league over-rates them). But, you know, I’m not looking at every deal they’ve ever made. I’m sure they have gaffes just like everyone does.

But, I know the Mariners, and they’ve got a long line of lopsided trades against them (or, at the very least, trades that worked out for NEITHER side).

The general consensus is – at the moment – that the Reds got a great haul of prospects back. I wouldn’t say the Mariners got fleeced, but we’ll see; if Castillo gets hurt, or struggles, then sure. Or, if the prospects pan out and turn into All Stars, then yeah, you could argue a fleecing has occurred. But, right now, I would say it’s tilted in Cincinnati’s favor, while at the same time it’s understandable that the Mariners did what they did.

And, not for nothing, but they did it NOT just for the best starting pitcher available, but one of the very best starting pitchers period. If I’m going to trade away a bundle of highly-rated prospects, I’d like to know I’m at least getting the cream of the crop. Don’t waste my time on middling starters; I want fucking superstars!

Part of me holds out hope, though, that Jerry Dipoto is quietly giggling at what we gave up. That he knows better. Maybe Marte has some holes in his swing that will rear their ugly heads when he gets to the Major League level. Maybe Arroyo’s bat has been built up more than it’ll actually end up being. Maybe the reliever’s got future shoulder problems, and maybe the starter is just a guy.

Maybe the REAL studs in our prospect group are still down there, waiting to be elevated and turned into superstar Mariners at some point down the line.

None of these questions can be answered now. All we can do is speculate. It matters what Castillo does over the next year and change. It matters how the Mariners play around him. Winning baseball games, in the regular and post-season, is what matters.

If the Mariners fail, then we’ll turn our sights to Cincinnati and see what it is we ultimately gave up. It’ll be YEARS before we comprehend the full magnitude of what happened. Luis Castillo, likely, won’t even be here by the time most of those prospects see the big leagues!

All we can do is hope for the best, while dreading the worst, because we’re Mariners fans, and that’s all we ever get. The fucking worst.

The Mariners Traded For Luis Castillo As They Were Nearly Swept (Again) By The Astros

I can’t wait for the Mariners to sneak into the playoffs as one of the wild card teams, only to get swept by the Asstros in the A.L.D.S.

I don’t want to talk about this weekend series. The Mariners won 1 out of 4 games, and they were LUCKY to even win that. Even worse, Julio Rodriguez went on the IL and Ty France is sitting out a few days, both with wrist injuries that figure to linger the rest of the season. It’s about as low as I can imagine feeling while still technically qualifying for the second Wild Card spot.

Anyway, the deal: the Mariners get Luis Castillo from the Reds in exchange for 4 prospects. Noelvi Marte, Edwin Arroyo, Andrew Moore, and Levi Stoudt.

Let’s talk about … the discourse. This deal, of course, happened over the weekend, so the best I could do is follow along on Twitter. It SOUNDS like there’s panic in the ranks of Mariners fandom. And I get it, this is a massive haul of prospects going away. Marte was probably our highest-rated prospect, and word on the street is that Arroyo has the potential to be even better. Two short stop prospects for a year and a half of a starting pitcher?! That’s a lot! To say nothing of the reliever who throws over 100 mph (Moore) and the lottery ticket of a starter (Stoudt).

I’ll just say this and move on: Twitter is a poor example of the general populace. They’re only the most vocal and complain-y members of the populace (and I absolutely acknowledge my very small part in that). But, I think more Mariners fans – especially the most casual Mariners fans – are deeply in favor of this move, because it means we’re FINALLY going for it, after all this time.

It’s the loons who obsess over prospects all the time that really get to me. How many prospects actually pan out and turn into stars? It’s a very small percentage. How many of those same loons pegged Jarred Kelenic as a can’t-miss uber-prospect? Well, I’d say he’s very much missed in his parts of two seasons in the bigs. And I don’t think it looks good for him going forward.

We all figured Marte was on the trade block. We’ve got J.P. Crawford locked up long-term, for starters. And even if Marte is destined to shift over to second or third base, he was probably at least two years away from being in a position to crack our roster. That’s for a guy who, again, is no guarantee. He’s not Julio. Now, he might turn into a very good player, but them’s the breaks. You need to trade some good prospects every now and then to get in some good players. Guys who, you know, will perform well at the Major League level right away.

Arroyo hurts, though. He’s not as highly-rated as Marte – at the moment – but his trajectory suggests his prospect rating is about to explode. He could go down as not just the one that got away, but the really embarrassing folly of this deal. For the two of them, plus a reliever with tremendous potential, plus a starter, again, it seems like the Mariners should’ve gotten more.

At the very least, I would’ve loved to have seen this deal at the beginning of the year, piggybacking on the Winker/Suarez deal.

The rational side of me understands this is what the Mariners need to do. First of all, they need to over-pay for literally everyone, because they’re not the Yankees. We’re all paying that fucking Yankees tax, because everyone in the world over-rates Yankees prospects to the point of insanity (when, in reality, the Yanks are the best in the world at keeping their very best guys, while jettisoning good-looking guys who will ultimately under-perform expectations).

But, moreover, the Mariners have to take this opportunity. To strike while the iron’s hot. Because you don’t get a lot of these chances in the game of baseball.

That being said, the irrational side of me sees this as the Erik Bedard Deal 2.0. Remember that disaster? Remember how the Orioles got marginally better with players we could’ve desperately used to actually contend? What are the Reds going to do with our guys, other than flip them down the road for more prospects, while maybe squeaking into a wild card once or twice?

Here’s the upside, though: Luis Castillo is legitimately amazing! He throws in the mid-to-high 90’s with a devastating change up. He’s been compared to young Felix (given how hard he throws) and veteran Felix (when he wrangled that change into a Cy Young-winning weapon of mass destruction), so I’m conditioned to like this guy!

He’s an ace, period. Now he’s in a rotation with Robbie Ray (shrug emoji), Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales, George Kirby, and Chris Flexen. Say what you will – and spoiler alert, I’ve got some thoughts – but that’s a pretty formidable rotation.

We needed another starting pitcher for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, Kirby is going to reach an innings limit and almost certainly won’t get to participate in the playoffs. There’s also talk about pulling back on Gilbert, since this is just his second season – and first full season – in the big leagues. Then, there’s always injuries to contend with. So far this year, we’ve seen the injury bug hit our bullpen pretty hard, and our everyday lineup a fair amount. But, our rotation has been wildly, unsustainably healthy through four months. I think everyone expects that to change at some point; at least now we’re better prepared. I shudder to think who might’ve stepped in had we not brought in Castillo.

He also gives us the best opportunity to make a significant impact at the deadline. If you’re like me, then you’re pretty sure the Mariners either don’t have what it takes to wrestle Juan Soto from the Nationals, or they’re not willing to do what it would take. My hunch is, what it would take starts with a Julio Rodriguez and goes from there. There just aren’t a ton of great bats out there! The best addition we’re likely to see is Mitch Haniger when he comes off of the IL.

What happens if we trade for a bat, and he’s like so many other guys we’ve brought in? Either he’ll need an adjustment period to get used to playing half his games in Seattle, or he’ll downright fucking suck his entire time here. We’re just as likely to see positive regression from the guys already on our roster (Winker, Frazier, Suarez) than we are to see a vast improvement from some outside bat (again, if you believe Soto is unreachable). So, I’m cool going this route and holding off until the offseason before addressing the offense again.

This team lives and dies with its pitching. That’s also – not for nothing – what most of the very best playoff teams do. If we’re going to make any kind of noise in the postseason, we need monster pitching (which is why I hope we make moves for another ace reliever or two).

I have high hopes for Castillo. He’s been elite even in that bandbox they play in over in Cincy. I’m a little annoyed that his first two appearances in a Mariners uniform are going to be against the Yankees and Gerrit Cole, but here we go! We’ll get a great look at how his stuff is going to play. If he comes in on fire, I think that bodes well for this year and next. If he struggles, then I think we’re going to be justifiably concerned. We HAVE guys who can dominate the Rangers and A’s; we need someone to take down the Yankees and Astros!

If he pans out, there’s nothing that says we can’t extend him beyond next year. If the Mariners are out of contention next season – and an extension doesn’t look likely – we can always flip him at the deadline. But, otherwise, heading into 2023, our rotation looks set, and it looks pretty fucking great. Castillo, Ray, Gilbert (with the training wheels fully off), Marco, and Kirby (who should be that much stronger in his second season in the bigs).

In the short term, that’s it for the Cheating Astros for the regular season. God willing, we won’t have to see them again until 2023. Don’t think they’re cheating anymore? Well, don’t tell Robbie Ray that, because they seem to be tipped off to what he’s throwing, better than most other teams in the A.L.