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.

The Trade Deadline Came In Like A Lion & Went Out Like A Lamb For The Mariners

You can’t be happy with that headline, can you? We can do better.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a relatively big fan of the Luis Castillo trade (I’ll be a bigger fan of it if he shoves against the Yankees later this morning), even if there’s a distinct possibility that we overpaid to get him here. But, at best, that only represents a solution to ONE of our problems.

As we’ve all talked about endlessly, you can’t have enough bullpen help. I like the stuff of Ken Giles, but he obviously missed all of 2021, and has had multiple setbacks/injuries in 2022 that have thus far limited him to 5 appearances. He can’t be counted on. Diego Castillo has bounced back in a big way after struggling in April, but he landed on the IL and I don’t think he’ll be the last. Ryan Borucki has had a pretty impressive turnaround in his career since joining the Mariners, but how legitimate is that?

We’ve got Paul Sewald, who I think we’re all happy with. We’ve got Andres Munoz, who has fucking electric stuff, but who can also lose the feel of his pitches at the drop of a hat and will start walking the world. Erik Swanson has been a revelation, but this is really the first year he’s put it all together; there was a time in his career not too long ago when he was used exclusively in mop-up situations when the game was out of hand one way or the other. And I guess Penn Murfee looks like the real deal, but he’s also a rookie, so there’s at least a little concern on my part.

One more ace reliever would’ve hit the spot. If this team is going to push all its chips into the middle on the strength of their starting and relief pitching, then really just going all out and making sure we’ve got the best we can possibly get is paramount.

That’s because our most glaring weakness is hitting. And yet, the company line all along centered on how we were largely standing pat with the bats.

On the one hand, I get it. Mitch Haniger returning to full strength is like getting an All Star middle-of-the-order bat with two months to go. Julio, France, and Haniger topping our lineup is something I can get behind. And, let’s not forget, Kyle Lewis was the Rookie of the Year two seasons ago. If we can just get some positive regression out of Adam Frazier and Jesse Winker – two veterans who should have figured it the fuck out by now – while continuing to get what we’ve gotten from Suarez, Crawford, Raleigh, and Santana, then that’s a good-enough lineup (with the pitching we’ve got) to roll into the playoffs and try to make some noise.

On the other hand, though, I’m in agreement with all the experts who are saying the Mariners are not obligated whatsoever to continue giving Carlos Santana everyday at bats. Also, if I never see Toro in the lineup again, it’ll be too soon. Santana should be a bench guy playing part time, and most everyone else comprising the depth on this team is just fucking atrocious.

I know what they say – the depth everywhere is bad – but it just seems like the Mariners have the worst of the worst, and there’s no good internal options.

Look at some of these guys we’ve seen this year! Future trivia answers to questions no one has any business asking. Donovan Walton, Travis Jankowski, Jack Larsen, Stuart Fairchild, Steven Souza Jr., Mike Ford, Marcus Wilson, Kevin Padlo, Andrew Knapp. And that’s not even getting into the names we’ve actually heard of (who still aren’t worth much of a damn). Justin Upton, Jarred Kelenic, the aforementioned Toro, Dylan Moore, Taylor Trammell, Luis Torrens.

So, it comes with no positivity whatsoever to announce the non-Castillo moves the Mariners made at the deadline yesterday.

  • Curt Casali (backup catcher) from the Giants
  • Matthew Boyd (lefty starter/reliever) also from the Giants
  • Jake Lamb (reserve corner infielder/outfielder) from the Dodgers

In return, we gave up some reliever no one’s ever heard of, a low-level catcher prospect (both going to the Giants), and cash (going to the Dodgers).

Casali’s just a guy. But, with the Tom Murphy injury (out for the year), and considering Torrens is giving you less than nothing, having just a guy is actually a modest improvement. Of course, we’ll see how his bat plays in Seattle. At least his defense is supposed to be good.

Boyd is a starter who figures to join our bullpen. As a starter, he’s ho-hum; as a reliever, he’s an unknown. He does not seem to be an improvement over anyone; indeed, it seems like he’s nothing more than an innings-eater.

What’s worse is that both Casali and Boyd are currently injured, so they can’t even help us out now anyway. Casali is on the mend – rehabbing at the AAA level – so we should probably see him soon. But, Boyd had arm surgery, hasn’t pitched at all in 2022, and has already had one setback. Apparently, we traded for him based on the strength of a bullpen session he threw? September seems to be the earliest he could help us, if he’s going to show up at all. On top of that, he’s on a 1-year deal, meaning he’s strictly a rental and will be a free agent at the end of the season; so it’s not even like we can stash him and hope he pans out next year!

I’ll be honest, I don’t love this deal. But, I’m also pretty confident this will ultimately be a trade that helps neither team.

The deal that I really don’t understand, though, is bringing in Jake Lamb, a 31 year old past-his-prime reserve infielder/outfielder with no pop and pretty mediocre numbers overall. His last useful season was in 2017, and he fell off a cliff after that!

What’s his role here? Clearly, as a backup. But, when is he going to see the field? Why would you play him over Sam Haggerty, for instance, who actually has done a little bit in his reserve role? Is he even better than Toro, who – say what you will – has at least had the occasional bright moment here and there?

Taken as a whole, what the Mariners did on the August 2nd trade deadline was marginal at best. At least all of them will (potentially) be gone by next year, unless we opt to re-sign them.

I’ll conclude with this: there’s a chance that this was all shrewd by Jerry Dipoto. I hate coming off as an apologist for him, because I don’t think he’s earned it. There’s a real opportunity for these 2022 Mariners to not only make the post-season, but actually make a dent. Luis Castillo was a fantastic start towards that goal. But, an impact bat really could’ve put us over the top and given us a chance to do some playoff damage (don’t talk to me about Soto, because the M’s clearly didn’t have the prospects to bring him in, unless you were willing to give up on Julio, Gilbert, and Kirby).

That being said, making a deal just to make a deal isn’t always a good thing. What if we traded for a guy and he shit the bed? Then, not only have we brought in someone who’s clogging up our everyday lineup, but we’ve given away valuable prospects to do so.

There’s reason to believe the aforementioned veterans Winker and Frazier will turn their seasons around and approach their career norms. We’re already starting to see what Frazier is capable of; after a miserable June, his rebound has been a big boost. And we’ve seen glimpses out of Winker; oddly enough, his June was really his best (and only good) month (across the board, reaching his career norms), though he’s cooled off considerably since the All Star Break.

We could’ve dumped Frazier and found a proper everyday second baseman. But, Winker was never going anywhere. He’s signed through 2023, and he was supposed to be the crown jewel of that first Reds deal this past offseason. Right now, his value is pretty minimal, so trading him would’ve been a tough ask. We just gotta hope that he gets better as he figures out American League pitching.

If those two guys step up, and we get a boost from Haniger and Lewis – all the while hanging onto Gilbert, Kirby, and the prospects we’ve got left in the organization – then Dipoto will look like a genius.

But, if we fail to make the playoffs, or if our offense totally faceplants in the post-season, then I think we can point to this deadline as a real missed opportunity.

That being said, I don’t think Dipoto is going anywhere anytime soon. I also don’t believe that we’re one big bat away from winning the World Series this year. The onus is on the upcoming offseason, and what the Mariners are able to do in the free agent market, combined with what we’re able to make in trades.

But, it’s batshit crazy to start thinking about that now, when we’ve got an exciting finish to this regular season to look forward to.

The Red Hot Mariners Swept The Blue Cold Blue Jays

This has really been a turnaround for the ages! I don’t know, necessarily, how sustainable it is, but at this point I’m just going to enjoy the ride for as long as we’re continuing on this trajectory.

The season nadir was the end of the 5-game series vs. the Angels in Seattle. This pre-dated, obviously, the fight down in Anaheim the following weekend; we were 29-39, ten games under .500. That was June 19th, which is about as dead in the water as you can be. Just a bloated fish carcass spewing pus and attracting flies.

Since that date, the Mariners have gone 16-3. One of those losses was the day of the brawl itself – when we lost pretty much all of our top-line hitters – and another was the following day, against Baltimore, when George Kirby shat the bed. It’s been an utterly remarkable run, which is even more impressive when you factor in how far from full strength we’ve been.

Ty France spent a portion of this chunk on the IL. J.P. Crawford and Jesse Winker both faced lengthy suspensions. Luis Torrens sat on the IL following the brawl. That’s not even factoring in the Haniger and Lewis injuries, plus it predates the impending Julio Rodriguez one-game mystery suspension for whatever he allegedly did in that brawl.

How do you explain it? Well, the starting pitching, for … starters. They’ve been good all year, but it seems like they’ve taken it to another level. The bullpen has started to come around. And, clearly, we’re starting to see that timely hitting we’ve been missing; that timely hitting that carried the 2021 Mariners to a 90-win season.

We saw all of that in spades in this Toronto series. I wouldn’t say the Blue Jays are anywhere NEAR our most hated rivals in the grand scheme of things. But, for one series every year, there isn’t a more annoying fanbase to have to contend with than all the fucking Canadians who infiltrate our state to cheer on their nation’s last remaining Major League Baseball team.

Look, I’m sure these Canadians are lovely people. But, there’s a certain amount of insecurity we feel as fans when an opposing fanbase so thoroughly invades your safe space. You’re not supposed to go to a home game and find the road team receiving the bulk of the cheers; it’s off-putting to say the least. There’s a way around that, of course: buy up all the seats and force the Canadians to watch from home. But, obviously, that’s not ever going to happen. Even if the Mariners were one of the best teams in baseball, season ticket holders would just use this as an excuse to re-sell their seats, jacking up the price, to help pay for the rest of the year. This is just the way it’s always going to be, and we’re going to have to live with it.

That being said, it’s particularly gratifying when we beat the Blue Jays, and get to send their fans back to their hotel rooms despondent, taking solace while stuffing their faces with poutine or whatever the fuck it is they eat. It’s especially gratifying to sweep them in a 4-game series (for the first time ever), knowing that for some of them, this was their one big vacation this year, ruined by an unforeseen spree of Mariners competence.

Marco Gonzales was the beneficiary of a lot of run support on Thursday, en route to an 8-3 victory. He went 6.2 innings, giving up 3 runs (2 earned), and the bullpen was rock solid from there. We were up 7-1 after three innings, which made this a paricularly enjoyable ride. Cal Raleigh, Dylan Moore, and Eugenio Suarez each hit homers, Carlos Santana had an RBI, and Crawford had a hit and 2 runs scored.

The bullpen really came out and shined on Friday, after Kirby failed to get through the fifth inning. He limited the damage to 2 runs on 10 hits and a walk in 4.1 innings, and that was it the rest of the way. This was a dynamic pitching duel throughout, lasting into the 11th inning, before Suarez hit a walk-off 3-run home run off of Sergio Romo. Obviously, everyone in the bullpen killed it, but Ryan Borucki was saddled with both of the extra innings and kept his former team scoreless in spite of the ghost runner rule. I don’t know if I totally trust him, but he’s been on quite a tear since coming to Seattle.

Saturday’s game was an even more impressive pitcher’s duel, with Robbie Ray continuing to do his thing, going 6 innings, giving up 1 run. What was most encouraging was to see him get into a bases loaded, no-out jam, and work his way out of it without giving up a run, let alone the “big inning” we’d seen from him before he turned his year around. The Jays hit a solo homer in the sixth to go up 1-0, but Carlos Santana hit a 2-run bomb in the seventh to give the game its final score. This game saw the return of Matt Brash, who got the win in his first inning of work out of the bullpen for the Mariners. There was also a nice save by Diego Castillo, working his third straight day.

What seemed like the least-likely victory came on Sunday. Logan Gilbert was just okay in his six innings, giving up 4 runs. The bullpen got touched up for a run finally, giving the Jays a 5-4 lead that went into the 8th inning. They were running out a Bullpen Day though, on top of some really shoddy defense, that gave the Mariners 3 unearned runs out of the 6 overall. This was the Carlos Santana show, as he hit two homers: a solo job in the second inning to tie it, and a go-ahead 2-run bomb in the 8th to make it a game-winner. I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a lot of hope for the Santana trade, but he’s been just what the doctor ordered.

We’ve got one more week until the All Star Break, so let’s finish strong Mariners! Because it looks like after that, we finish up our final 7 games against the Astros in the next 10 games.