The 2022 Mariners Are A Complete Disaster

This past (long) weekend gave the Mariners every opportunity to make up some ground in a crowded field of wild card hopefuls, against one of the teams in direct competition. A team that’s in our division no less. Indeed, a team that had been in SUCH a freefall that they lost a crazy number of games in a row and fired their highly-touted manager.

The rare five-game series. Thanks to MLB dragging their feet to get the CBA done, necessitating the regular season to start a week late, we apparently have a number of pre-scheduled doubleheaders throughout the year to help make up for lost time. I actually really enjoy doubleheaders, and wish they’d do this more often. But, I also wish they’d give teams more off-days throughout the year as a compromise, and that’s probably not happening anytime soon.

Anyway, we got a glimpse at how the Angels and Mariners match up against one another. Two teams – on paper – that appear to be pretty close to one another. Yet, here we are – four days later – and it’s the Angels who won 4 of 5. Now, we sit and wait, wondering if the Mariners will be the next team to fire their manager after a particularly miserable stretch.

It’s not 14 losses in a row, but this homestand saw the Mariners go 3-8. That’s after the little blip of hope we saw with the M’s winning 4 consecutive series, to ever-so-slightly turn things around. I guess that was just a mirage. I feel like these are the true Mariners we saw over the last 11 games (again, all at home), where we were shut out a whopping 4 fucking times.

I’ll say this: shit-can the hitting coach and do it immediately. What a fucking joke. That’s 10 fucking shutouts in 68 fucking games. 15% of all Mariners outcomes are a shutout loss! That’s asinine! A fucking lamp post would be a better hitting coach!

Of course, that might not be the only head that needs to roll in this situation. I mean, how many times do you need to watch Mike Trout beat you (I count four in this last series alone) before you understand he needs to be pitched around? I don’t care who else they have in that lineup; it’s literally Mike Trout killing us every fucking time! Scott Servais, ultimately, is the best manager we’ve had since Lou Piniella (and, I would argue, Sweet Lou wouldn’t fare NEARLY as well with the guys we’ve had in Servais’ tenure, given his management style), and I don’t believe he should be let go. But, it’s hard to watch him bungle every important Trout at-bat by allowing our pitchers to continuously miss down in the strike zone (where he hits them long and far).

The real culprit is twofold: the players our front office is bringing in, and the development of said players at the minor league level. All of that lands at the feet of Jerry Dipoto. But, of course, he’s got all the power at this point, so I don’t know what you do there. You can’t really keep Servais and punt Dipoto. All you can do is clean house, and hope the next regime doesn’t have their heads up their own asses.

It would be one thing if it looked like the “future core” of this organization looked like it was developing at an appropriate pace. Even the silver lining of a Julio Rodriguez is something I’m going to reserve judgment for until season’s end. I want to see the full year – all the ups and downs – before I call him a raving success. He could go in the tank and then what are we talking about? A good month or two? Isn’t that what we’ve seen from just about every other highly-touted prospect who’s come through here?

This is the worst hitting lineup since 2010, bar none. Nothing about it makes any sense. And nothing I’ve seen from these guys gives me ANY hope for the immediate future. Even if we write off 2022 – as I expected would probably be the case, heading into this season – what do we have to look forward to in 2023 and beyond? One good hitter, maybe (Julio) and one good pitcher (Gilbert). Take a look at the Angels (Trout and Ohtani) to see what that gets you. Julio and Gilbert by themselves aren’t going to do it all.

Jesse Winker gets a lot of shit – and rightly so – for playing so far below his expectations. He was just signed through the remaining two Arbitration years, I believe, heading into this Angels series. What was our reward? 1 hit in 10 at-bats. Nice job, Jerry.

Thankfully, we’re out from under Adam Frazier after this year. He went 3 for 13 against the Angels, all singles. No RBI. Only one of them resulting in a run scored by Frazier.

Abraham Toro is getting WAY too much playing time out of necessity, thanks to injuries. He was the big prize in our deadline deal last year, that at the time was widely praised by all who took notice. He went 2 for 14 against the Angels, both harmless singles.

I could go on and on, but let’s finish with Justin Upton. His career is clearly washed, but we brought him in as a hail mary (again, thanks to injuries). He stunk in Tacoma – and probably didn’t get enough time to acclimate to even AAA-level pitching, to say nothing of what we’ve got in the Majors – but was called up during the series against the Angels because that’s the team that cut him earlier this year. So, why not hopefully capitalize on some revenge factor, right? Well, he went 1 for 10 with a harmless double. Yay. Another .100 hitter to throw onto the pile.

This is Jerry Dipoto’s organization. He’s built it from the ground up. He brought in all the players from outside the organization, he’s responsible for who we’ve drafted, and the buck stops with him when it comes to the minor league coaching that “develops” those guys. Who have we developed? It’s obnoxiously rare that anyone’s hit thanks to our system. Who has flailed? I mean, how much time do you got? Jared Kelenic – a can’t-miss prospect if there ever was one – is currently a complete mess. That’s on Jerry and his team. He’s proven in the past he doesn’t have what it takes (see: his tenure with the underachieving Angels), and he’s proving again that he is who we thought he was.

Ultimately, the more we hear about free agents who don’t want to come here, the more it’s clear that they’re not just rejecting Seattle. They’re specifically rejecting Jerry Dipoto and his Mariners.

The bloom isn’t just off the rose at this point. It’s withered and burned to ash. What will ownership do to rectify things? And, more importantly, how many more decades are we going to have to wait until the Mariners make the playoffs again?

The Angels Knocked The Mariners Out Of The Playoffs

You can boil it down to that. The Mariners lost 2 of 3 at home this weekend to the Angels. The Mariners finished 2 games behind Boston and New York for the wild card spots. Had we swept the Angels, we would’ve been right there in a 3-team play-in situation.

It’s sad for me, more than any other emotion. Of course, I was out of town all weekend and didn’t really have access to the games outside of an occasional Twitter catch-up session, so I didn’t have to sit and watch these games. I would’ve been a wreck, I’m sure. It’s frustrating though because this isn’t even a good Angels team! They are SO injury-depleted on offense, and their whole pitching staff outside of Ohtani is a mess (and he wasn’t even slated to pitch this series once they shut his arm down). The Angels were every bit of a 77-win team, and we couldn’t beat them with our season on the line.

If I had to guess, I would’ve been a ball of anxiety and rage on Friday. That was the 2-1 loss where the offense was 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. The game started off well enough, with Jarred Kelenic hitting an RBI double in the second. But, Marco gave up a 2-RBI double in the top of the third to give the game its final score. We had ALL OF THOSE INNINGS left to go, and couldn’t do a damn thing in any of them! Marco got one more quality start to throw on the pile (6 innings, giving up 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 5), and the A-Squad Bullpen (plus Misiewicz) shut it down from there, but it sadly wasn’t enough, as the Angels were able to match us 0 for 0 the rest of the way.

That loss made Saturday’s game a must-win, literally. Either win, or the playoff hopes would’ve died that night. Things were looking good for a while, Haniger hit an RBI single in the third and a 2-run homer in the fifth to give the M’s a 3-1 lead. Flexen made it 5.1 innings, giving up just the 1 run, and once again it was A-Squad Bullpen Time (plus Misiewicz).

Only, it was Paul Sewald in the 8th who blew it! He gave up a 3-run homer to make it 4-3 Angels. Luckily, these cardiac Mariners were able to get a rally going in the bottom half of the inning, punctuated with a Haniger 2-RBI single (giving him 5 RBI on the game), and a Seager 1-RBI single to make it 6-4 Mariners. Steckenrider shut it down from there for his 14th save of the season. It was a nice effort from the heart of the order, as France, Haniger, and Seager had all 8 of our hits and 6 of our RBI in this one (as well as 4 of our 6 runs scored).

That set us up for a Sunday miracle that never materialized. We needed to win and either the Yankees to lose to the Rays or the Red Sox to lose to the Nationals to force a play-in. But, we lost and they didn’t, so that was that.

Tyler Anderson had quite a rollercoaster of a week. First, he fell on his face in that 14-1 defeat to the Angels the previous Saturday, then he heroically stepped up on Tuesday against the A’s to give us 4 innings of 1-run ball on very short rest. But, he lost it again in the season finale, against those pesky Angels who won’t seem to give him a break. He lasted all of 1.2 innings before getting pulled, having given up 4 runs (3 earned) on 5 hits and 2 walks.

It was a bullpen day from there, with Misiewicz and Swanson (of the D-Squad Bullpen) giving up three more runs in their combined 2 innings of work. The M’s made it interesting early, scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the second to make it 4-2. But, we were down 7-2 after five innings, with our rally in the sixth cut short to just a lone run. We couldn’t do anything but cry the last three innings of the 7-3 defeat.

Cry because, of course, Kyle Seager had his farewell under the most bittersweet of circumstances. I’m glad I missed that too, because I’m sure I would’ve been a puddle of tears. I’ll have more to say about Seager in the coming days. He was never my favorite Mariner (impossible with Felix around for almost his entire career), but he was always there and almost-always a reliable fixture. A pro’s pro, and he’s going to be a huge hole to fill on this team, with his veteran presence, as well as his defense at the hot corner, and his bat in the middle of the order.

I’m not one of those fans who takes solace in the journey, when the destination is more disappointment. But, maybe I’ve softened in my old age. This was a fun Mariners team to follow for 162 games. Well, MOST of those games. Over half, definitely!

Here’s the thing: I never expected this team to break the playoff drought. Indeed, I never expected them to win 90 games, which is utter lunacy when you think about it. But, even as we headed into this final week, it never seemed likely that we’d win enough – and get the help required – to force our way in.

When we lost that Red Sox series back in mid-September, that’s when the season was over in my mind. We were 78-68 and there were too many teams and games in the standings to overcome. Yet, we finished the year on a 12-4 run to end up 90-72; what a remarkable run!

But, of course, the level of competition was subpar: Royals, A’s, and Angels.

Here’s a list of our records against the playoff teams in both leagues:

  • Astros 8-11
  • White Sox 3-3
  • Rays 6-1
  • Yankees 2-5
  • Red Sox 3-4
  • Giants 2-1
  • Dodgers 1-3

That’s an overall record of 25-28, but heavily propped up by an unlikely dominance of the Tampa Bay Rays. Against the rest of baseball, we were 65-44; almost a .600 winning percentage. I would argue the Mariners were not on that playoff level; we were one tier below. I would also argue that if we found ourselves in a 1-game playoff with either the Yankees or Red Sox (but especially the Yanks), we almost certainly would’ve lost. Yet, it would’ve felt like a tremendous accomplishment just to be there, and I’m not interested in that.

I want the Mariners to be division winners. I want them to make it to the World Series. I want them to win it all and give us what we’ve been dying for all these decades.

This team might be forgotten to the sands of time, since it ultimately fell two games short. However, if this was just the start of something HUGE, we might look back at the 2021 Mariners as one of the great What If’s in franchise history. Either way, there seems to be tangible evidence of … something happening here. We could always Mariners it up and see everything fall apart, but I’ve been wrong before.

What’s certain is this: expectations will go through the roof in 2022. That starts with this offseason. It’s not unfair to immediately set our minds into Next Year Mode as fans. That means pleading with this organization to finally spend money on bona fide All Stars in trade and free agency to fill in around the talent already here.

2021 was a big success in many ways. We won 90 games, we played “playoff baseball” for the last two weeks of the season (for all intents and purposes), and we learned a lot about the young core of this organization. As the offseason begins, I’ll be writing about those guys a lot. The young core who stepped up and asserted themselves as cornerstones, as well as the young core who fell apart and should be dealt away posthaste.

This is going to be a FUN offseason! I can’t remember the last time a baseball season ended and I wasn’t simply relieved for it to be over so I could focus on other things. This is the first time I’ve ever wished the next season could start tomorrow!

My Football Teams Disgust Me, So I’m Writing About The Mariners Today

Well, it wasn’t the ideal scenario for the Mariners over the weekend, but it’s hard to be perfect all the time, even when you really NEED to be perfect. After looking totally inept on Saturday, I was thoroughly impressed with how we bounced back on Sunday, especially with Shohei Ohtani on the mound, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Before we dive in, it’s nice to take a bigger picture look at what just happened. The Mariners were left for dead after the Red Sox series. Really, that entire homestand was a disaster, when you factor losing 2/3 to the Diamondbacks into the equation. But, we hit the road against three teams and won 8 out of 10! Outstanding!

After the 4-game sweep down in Oakland, I can understand being a little disappointed in only taking 2/3 to the Angels this weekend. But, even though they’re injury-depleted, and their pitching has been suspect, there’s still some talent in that dugout that can do some damage. Getting off on the right foot was imperative, and to their credit, the Mariners succeeded on Friday.

Logan Gilbert got the start and cruised through the first five innings. With his pitch count in pretty good shape, and with the bullpen severely overworked from the series with the A’s, it would’ve been nice to see him squeeze out a sixth inning, but that was not to be. After getting the leadoff man out, he gave up a single and then walked his final batter in an at-bat that is somehow still going on. Joe Smith came in to clean up the mess, but gave up an RBI single and sac fly beforehand.

That turned a 4-2 lead into a tie ballgame. We manufactured a couple of runs in the top of the seventh though – giving one back in the bottom half – and that was the ballgame. A nice and tidy 6-5 victory, with Steckenrider and Sewald getting the last 2.1 innings for the hold and save.

Ty France loomed large in this one, going 2 for 4 with 3 RBI. Mitch Haniger went 1 for 3 with 2 RBI, and Luis Torrens went 2 for 4 with an RBI. Ohtani loomed large in all three games, but we contained him in this one. By which I mean he went 0 for 1 with 4 walks (2 of them intentional).

Saturday’s game was a 14-1 laugher. But, you know, I wasn’t laughing. Tyler Anderson had all of Seattle’s praise after his game down in Oakland, but this is also what he’s capable of! 2 innings, 9 runs on 9 hits, 1 walk, and 0 strikeouts. He’s not an ace! He’s an okay, middle-of-the-road starter with mediocre stuff. To expect this guy to be worth upwards of $15 million a year is insane; guys like him are a dime a dozen! That’s why we were able to trade for him for practically nothing. It’s games like these that lead me to say I don’t think the Mariners need to break the bank to extend him longterm. Especially when he’s been an N.L. pitcher his entire career; the more the A.L. gets a look at him, the more he’ll be exposed as the mediocre starter that he is. The Mariners need to go out and get a bona fide ace! Spend money on THAT guy, whoever he is!

I’m so not interested in talking about this game, other than to point out that Justus Sheffield was asked to help mop up some innings; he went 1 inning and gave up 3 more runs in the process. He walked 5 guys and needed 34 pitches just to do that. What the hell are we supposed to do with him?! Does he have options? Can we start him in Tacoma next year? He’s clearly a junkballer, and not even a move to the bullpen has seen any uptick in his MPH. At this point, maybe we can just cut our losses and hope some other team sees something in him. I wouldn’t expect a significant return, but maybe we can tack him onto some REAL prospects in deal.

Oh, and before I forget, Ohtani went 2 for 3 with 2 triples, 2 walks, 3 runs, and 3 RBI. But, then again, just about everyone for the Angels had a good game in this one.

That left me feeling pretty grim about our chances on Sunday, especially with Ohtani on the mound. He certainly failed to disappoint, which in turn greatly disappointed me! He went 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and striking out 10. But, one of those hits was a Jarred Kelenic solo homer in the 7th! Why is that important? Because Marco Gonzales bowed up in this one, also going 7 innings and giving up just the 1 run (a solo homer in the 2nd). He was almost as impressive, since he held the Angels to 3 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 5 (including holding Ohtani to a 1 for 3 day).

We busted out with a significant rally in the eighth inning – with Ohtani finally out of the game – by scoring 5 runs. Haniger hit a go-ahead RBI single, and Jake Fraley hit a bases loaded/bases-clearing double to make it 5-1. Paul Sewald locked down the bottom half of the eighth, and Diego Castillo finished off the ninth.

So, here’s where we stand: one week left to go! Six games, all at home. Three vs. the Athletics, an off-day on Thursday, and three more vs. the Angels.

We’re 5 games behind the Astros for the division; write that one off, if you haven’t already (you really should’ve written that off about a month ago, if not at the beginning of the season).

The Yankees currently inhabit the top wild card spot, thanks to them sweeping the Red Sox. The Red Sox currently inhabit the second wild card spot, one game behind the Yanks. The Blue Jays are one game behind the Red Sox, the Mariners are two games behind the Red Sox, and the Athletics are three games behind the Red Sox.

That’s what we’re looking at. I’m still not going to go through all of the remaining schedules of the other teams in contention; all you need to know is that the Mariners need to keep winning. The Mariners, indeed, probably need to win out to have a reasonable shot at overtaking the teams they need to overtake.

As far as our rotation, it shakes out pretty favorably: Flexen, Kikuchi/TBD, and Gilbert against the A’s; Anderson, Gonzales, and Flexen against the Angels. There’s a lot of chatter about minor leaguer Matt Brash getting called up to take Kikuchi’s start; he’s been tearing it up this year, so that could be exciting! I can’t imagine he’ll have the longest leash, so I would still expect Kikuchi to make an appearance in that one. I’ll be interested to see how he responds to the demotion.

Here we are, 86-70. It’s crazy that we just need to go 4-2 the rest of the way to get to 90 wins. It’s even crazier that we have a legitimate chance at all to make the postseason! What a time to be alive!

The Mariners Open Up The Second Half With A Series Win Over The Angels

I was heartened to see the Mariners did the sensible thing and went with their three best starting pitchers to open up the second half stretch run. With the All Star Break giving the team a few days off, they easily could’ve rejiggered the rotation however they wanted, including making last Friday a de facto Opening Day 2.0 (or Opening Day 3.0 if you count when the state started allowing full capacity seating again) and brought out Marco Gonzales as the ostensible “ace” of the staff. Instead, he’s been bumped to the 4-hole in the rotation, missing the Angels entirely as he gets his turn in Colorado.

Scott Servais gets overlooked quite a bit when we talk about the success of the Seattle Mariners, both this season and over his tenure with the team. He also gets an inordinate amount of blame when shit goes wrong, particularly whenever the bullpen melts down late in various demoralizing losses. In essence, how the bullpen does seems to be the only indicator as to whether or not a manager is good … at least, if you read which way the tea leaves are blowing on Twitter.

Managers are more than bullpen decisions. Granted, they make those choices too; they have to use their best judgment to determine whether or not a guy “has it” on a particular night. But, a lot of even THOSE decisions are made for them by the stats department. Guys have certain strengths and weaknesses and if you’re in a position to win a ballgame, you put the pitchers in there who figure to fare best based on the myriad numbers that have been crunched.

It’s not Servais’ fault if a guy has an off-night though. It’s not his fault if his bullpen is terrible, just as it’s not his good grace if a bullpen is amazing. I would argue, compared to the managers we’ve seen over the last 10-15 years, Servais has shown the best judgment in not sticking with bad relievers for too long. Even when you glom onto the latest thorn in our side, Rafael Montero, you can see he lost his closer’s job almost immediately this year. He’s pretty much been converted to a long relief role in blowouts at this point, to see if the team can salvage some value or production out of him. His stuff still has potential, and he must be willing to work with the coaches in improving his game, otherwise if he was difficult I think he’d already be gone.

But, if you take a step back from obsessing over one guy, and look at the team globally, what Servais and his staff have been able to do with this group of guys is pretty remarkable. The Mariners are 50-44. They have no right to be this good, with a group of players this mediocre, and with a run differential of -51. You can write this off as a fluke, but this also isn’t the first time a Scott Servais-managed team has had a winning record with a negative run differential. This isn’t the first time he’s maximized the talent of his team and squeezed out as many wins as possible. He seems to be adept at getting a lot out of a little, which leaves me excited to see what he could do with a team loaded with talent.

That gets me back to his decision to go Flexen/Kikuchi/Gilbert over the weekend. He’s loyal to his guys, to a point, but he’s not going to force an issue just to make guys happy. He’s going to lead, by making the hard choices and potentially pissing off a guy like Marco Gonzales. Too many former Mariners managers would’ve stubbornly stuck with Marco, saying, “He’s my guy” and getting rightly roasted as a result. But, where are the accolades when Servais makes the smart decisions like this? Well, they come from me, on a blog hardly anyone reads.

I like Servais. I hope he stays here a good, long time. I hope he gets to see this rebuild to fruition. I hope we get to see what he’s capable of when the Mariners are ready to start winning 100 games per season.

***

As I mentioned, Chris Flexen got the start on Friday. He kept the good times rolling by going 7 innings, giving up 1 run. Thankfully, the M’s were able to rack up a 6-1 lead by the time he left the game, because the defense and bullpen just didn’t have it in this one. We nevertheless were able to hang on for a 6-5 victory, but it was a nailbiter at the end.

Kendall Graveman has been a concern for us of late, since he returned from the COVID-IL with a case of being an anti-vax idiot (allegedly). I wouldn’t put a lot of the blame on him in this one, since all three of his runs were unearned (thanks to two errors), but he’s also shown to be much more hittable of late. Even though, spread out over the entire season, Graveman has been our best reliever, it was heartening to see Servais pull him with one out remaining in the bottom of the ninth, to go with the hot hand of Paul Sewald, who was able to shut the door.

Jarred Kelenic got called back up to the Mariners in this one. How far we’ve fallen that he’s not the biggest story on this blog at the moment. But, he broke his 0-for-Forever streak with a hit on Friday, so good for him. He also found himself batting 7th in the lineup, which is probably where he should’ve been all along, so go ahead and count that as a knock on Servais (I would say, in general, his lineup construction has been fine, though there are baffling moments sprinkled in, as there are with all managers).

The offensive heroes on Friday were the guys we’ve come to expect to lead the way: Haniger, France, and Seager. They combined to go 7 for 12 with 5 RBI, 5 runs scored, including homers by Seager and Haniger, and a double by Haniger to boot. Dylan Moore also had a couple hits to chip in.

Saturday was worrying, because it was the second sub-par outing in a row for Yusei Kikuchi. Ever since he made the All Star squad, he’s fallen apart. It was easy to explain-away the game against the Yankees (who tend to mash lefties), but giving up 7 runs in 5 innings to the Angels makes this the start of a trend. A trend, quite frankly, I don’t like! Let’s hope he turns it back around sooner rather than later.

The other two runs were given up by, you guessed it, Rafael Montero in his one inning of work. Again, what can you do with this guy besides release him at this point? I feel like he has until Hector Santiago’s suspension is up, then he’s most likely gone. He’s pitched in 39 games this season. He’s performed well on occasion, but he’s given up at least one run in 19 of those games. That’s an INSANELY high percentage of games where he’s failed (I would argue it’s a failure whenever a reliever gives up even one run; blanket statement, and probably unfair, I know). 11 of those games he’s given up 2 or more runs, which is astronomically bad. And he’s not trending in the good direction; he’s given up 2-3 runs in 6 of his last 7 appearances (since he had those remarkable back-to-back 10th inning shutdown performances against the Rays). Rafael Montero, we hardly knew ye.

The Mariners lost 9-4 on Saturday, though, so it’s hard to be too mad at Montero. Maybe he slips through the cracks; we’ll see. There are certainly enough blowout opportunities to sneak him to the finish line with this team.

Haniger had a homer and 4 RBI in this one. Kelenic had his second hit since being called back up. Dylan Moore had two more hits. As did Ty France. J.P. Crawford had three hits!

The rubber match was thrilling for a number of reasons. Logan Gilbert pitched into the sixth inning again (5.2 innings, 2 runs on 4 hits & 2 walks, with 9 strikeouts), and the bullpen did its job until the very end. Things got a little hairy in the ninth, after an Ohtani homer off of Sewald, but the M’s were up by a lot and things weren’t really in doubt. A 7-4 win and yet another series for the good guys.

Kelenic has a 3-game hit streak, everyone! France is red hot (had 3 hits – including a homer – with 2 runs and 3 RBI), Luis Torrens had another dinger. And Mitch Haniger scored 3 runs to be highly involved.

The Mariners keep plugging away. This is really a fun team! I can’t say I’m loving EVERY minute of the experience, but the good days outnumber the bad ones, and I think that’s all you can really ask from this team.

The Mariners Closed Out The First Half With A Series Win Over The Angels

Friday’s 7-3 victory set a nice tone for the weekend. Marco Gonzales got the start and had a very 2021 Marco performance, giving up a run in each of the first three innings (including probably the most mammoth home run in any game ever, off the bat of Shohei Ohtani), before looking like the Marco of old the rest of the way. He ultimately was pulled after 5.2 innings, giving up those three runs on 7 hits, while striking out 3. One out from a Quality Start, yet I don’t know if anyone would describe it as such. He has a problem, almost certainly physical, that he’s dealing with this year, and I don’t hold a lot of hope for him to turn this season around.

The Mariners bats were quiet throughout, except for an opposite-field 2-run double (that was inches away from being a 3-run homer) by Shed Long in the fourth inning. We were losing 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning before a Ty France single tied it up. It remained 3-3 into the bottom of the eighth when Mitch Haniger hit the go-ahead grand slam to give the game its final score. Helluva run by the bullpen in this one, with four guys combining to go the last 3.1 innings, giving up just 2 hits in that stretch.

Chris Flexen was the obvious hero in Saturday’s 2-0 victory, going 7 shutout innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 6. Luis Torrens had two hits – including an RBI triple – and the other guys did just enough to eke this one out. I can’t say enough good things about Flexen this year, as he’s really been the co-Ace of this staff with Yusei Kikuchi. I won’t go so far as to suggest Flexen also deserved to be an All Star, but I will say he’s easily the biggest free agent bargain on this team, for what he’s been producing.

On Sunday, we were saddled with yet another bullpen day, thanks to Justus Sheffield’s injury. And, we were rewarded with yet another Justus Sheffield-like performance. The soon-to-be suspended Hector Santiago got the start and lucked his way into 3 innings, giving up just 1 run. But, the bullpen behind him couldn’t do the impossible once again. These games are going to happen, especially with the struggles of the Mariners’ rotation outside of Flexen, Kikuchi, and Gilbert.

Sunday’s game was noteworthy because Cal Raleigh got called up from Tacoma. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, but I thought there were some promising signs. In his very first at bat, he saw 8 pitches, fouling off 5 of them (he also saw 7 pitches in his final AB of the day). I know that’s really grasping at straws for positivity, but it’s always nice to see guys not look totally lost in their initial call-ups. I also need to cool my jets when it comes to having high expectations for these guys right out of the box. Young players struggle early in their careers MUCH more than not. An 0 for 4 is normal, not a disappointment.

This leaves the Mariners at 48-43 over the first half. There are only 71 games remaining, with the M’s right in the thick of the Wild Card hunt. We’re 3.5 games behind the Oakland A’s for the second wild card spot. We’re also 7 games behind the Houston Astros for the A.L. West. With those two teams ahead of us – and both pretty clearly superior – I would still say it’s a considerable long shot for the Mariners to make the post-season. But, you never know.

In an odd turn of events, immediately following this week’s All Star Break, we resume playing the Angels, this time on the road. It already looks like we’ll be seeing two of the same Angels starters we just saw over the weekend; I’ll be curious to see what the Mariners decide to do. Ideally, we should take this opportunity to reshuffle the rotation, maybe come right back with Flexen, Kikuchi, Gilbert. But, I don’t think they’ll disrespect Marco like that (unless he does have nagging injury issues going on, and they decide to give him extra rest over the next week), and I also don’t think they want to over-work Gilbert’s arm this early into his career.

What the Mariners really need to do is make a trade for a quality starter or two, but that’s neither here nor there.

The So-So Mariners Split A Series Against The Angels

We kicked things off last Thursday with an impressive 6-2 victory, behind a gutty Justus Sheffield performance (2 runs in 5.2 innings), when he didn’t necessarily have his best stuff. Jake Fraley hit his first big league home run – a 3-run shot – and continued to add to his crazy-high on-base percentage with two more walks. Seager and Haniger also had a couple hits each (including a solo homer for Seager), and the bullpen totally shut things down in the end.

Friday’s game was a hard-luck 3-2 defeat. We were able to touch up Shohei Ohtani for a couple runs in his 6 innings of work (thanks to J.P. Crawford, who has been remarkable of late). Even though Taylor Trammell and Donovan Walton both had a couple hits each, there just wasn’t enough offense to go around. The Bullpen Day did its job and then some, with Robert Dugger giving up 2 runs in 2.1 innings, but there was only one run given up the rest of the way. The Mariners actually had the bases loaded with nobody out in the 8th, with the heart of the order coming up. We’ve been much better with runners in scoring position this season than we have with the bases empty – which seems more a byproduct of flukiness than anything – but it wasn’t to be on this night. Haniger fouled out, and Seager and France both struck out to end the threat.

Saturday’s game was a nightmare scenario (12-5 defeat) that thankfully wasn’t even worse. I would argue the Mariners had a very good chance to take this game, except Yusei Kikuchi – who had been pretty much cruising as usual to this point – took a line drive off of his knee in the bottom of the fifth with nobody out and had to come out of the game. This was on his 64th pitch of the game, so his arm was fresh enough to take him into the seventh or eighth. If that batter hits it anywhere else in the infield, we might’ve been looking at a double play and a quick end to that inning! Instead, he gave up 4 runs in 4 innings, and the overworked bullpen imploded from there, giving up 8 additional runs the rest of the way. The lone bright spot was the 5-run fourth inning for the Mariners, thanks in large part to a Jake Fraley grand slam. I don’t know how the Angels’ starter ended up going 7 full innings, but I guess other than that one inning, the Mariners rolled over like obedient puppy dogs (literally figuratively, with a 12:3 ground ball to fly ball ratio). The silver lining here is that Kikuchi responded well to treatment and might not miss a start, which is a relief considering how much agony he was in on the field when he had to be helped off.

That was unfortunate, but the M’s bounced back with a 9-5 victory on Sunday to even the series. Logan Gilbert was really impressive for his second consecutive outing, going 5 innings, giving up 1 run, and getting his first Major League win. He struck out 7 (which is good), gave up only 2 hits (which is great), but did walk 4 guys (not so hot). We did stretch him out for 105 pitches (his previous high in a big league game had been 80), but that’s probably just as much out of necessity (the bullpen being shot) than wanting to build up his arm. This one could’ve gotten hairy, as the Mariners only had a 4-2 lead heading into the ninth, but we were able to add on 5 runs in the top half, to counter their 3 additional runs in the bottom. J.P. Crawford continued his hot streak with 2 hits, runs, and RBI. Fraley had another hit, walk, and RBI (on said walk). Donovan Walton had two more hits, including a solo homer, 2 RBI, and 3 runs scored. And Jarred Kelenic didn’t get any at-bats, as he’s mired in an 0-for-forever slump, with his batting average down to .096.

The road trip continues through the midwest this week – Detroit and Cleveland, so hopefully no weather SNAFUs – before another nice, long homestand.

The Mariners Took 2 Of 3 Against The Angels

Seemingly on the ropes, the Angels brought back Shohei Ohtani just to DH this series, but it wasn’t enough.  Turns out the Angels don’t do a whole lot when Mike Trout isn’t hitting .600 against the Mariners.

I was at the game on the 3rd, sitting in a suite, drinking all I could drink and eating a fair amount to boot.  As I was rightly hammered, I don’t remember a whole lot about this game.  Other than the sweet beer can tower we built out of 16-ouncers:

This took three men and a lot of heart …

Wade LeBlanc signed his extension before the game, which was a bit of good news.  I was all ready for him to fall on his face against the Angels, allowing me to make an endless string of “perfect timing” jokes, but the dude’s a stud and this signing is looking better and better all the time.  7 innings, 1 run on 3 hits & 1 walk with 4 strikeouts.  The M’s built up a 3-run lead in the first and a Nelson Cruz homer late was all we needed.  Edwin Diaz got his 33rd save and we won the game 4-1.

I watched the game on the 4th from home, slightly hungover, but not too damaged.  Mike Leake didn’t really have it in this one and we were 2/12 with RISP.  Lots of mistakes in this one cost us the sweep, but that’s okay.  Angels took it 7-4.

Last night’s game was past my bedtime, but I hear nothing but good things from Marco Gonzales, who gutted out 6 innings of 1-run ball.  Guillermo Heredia had a couple doubles; Dee Gordon had a triple and a single (and a run, and an RBI, and a miraculous diving catch to save at least a run from scoring); and Chris Herrmann had his first homer in a Mariners uniform.  The bullpen was near perfect and Edwin Diaz got his 34th save of the year, as the M’s won again by the score of 4-1.

On the downside, Mike Zunino is on the DL with an ankle injury.  Considering he plays practically every day, maybe giving him a couple weeks to rest isn’t the worst thing in the world for his longevity late in the season.  Mitch Haniger was also scratched before the game, as he ran into a wall and has a bruised knee.  He’s not on the DL yet, as he’s only expected to miss a couple games, so let’s hope that’s the case.

The Mariners now have a 12-game lead over the Angels, who would need to go on a crazy hot streak to get back in contention.  This just doesn’t feel like their year (single sarcastic tear).  I suppose, for the time being, the A’s are our only competition for the second wild card spot, and they’re still a whopping 7.5 games back.

On the brighter side of things, we’re just 2 games back of the Yankees for the first wild card spot, and only 1.5 games behind Houston for the division lead.  Got a long way to go, but the Mariners are here to stay.

The Rockies come to town this weekend, then it’s a quick trip to Anaheim and Colorado, then it’s the All Star Break.  Let’s get ready to rumble and whatnot.

The Mariners Won 3 of 4 Against The Rays

And 6 of 7 in the season series!

The game on Thursday saw the Rays creep back into it late before the Mariners slammed the door.  How would the rest of the weekend look?

Pretty much as expected, all things considered.  Marco Gonzales took the hill on Friday and continued this streak of greatness he’s been on.  He advanced his career high in innings pitched – this time going 7.1 innings of 2-run ball – before giving way to the bullpen.  We put up 4 runs thanks to some solid small ball.  Daniel Vogelbach returned – and had an RBI single – as the Mariners had to put Nicasio and Altavilla on the DL (Nicasio with a minor knee issue; Altavilla with what looks to be a serious arm thing that might keep him out for an extended period of time).  Jean Segura had another hit to bring his average to .340, second in the American League at the time.  And, Mitch Haniger drove in the other two runs as he continued his push to be an All Star.  Alex Colome got one out in the 8th, but ended up allowing the Rays to once again pull within 1 run, necessitating Edwin Diaz needing to get a 4-out save.  He did his job to get his 22nd save on the season.

Saturday was a rematch of the previous week’s duel of Felix vs. Snell; this time, it was a collosal bummer.  Felix struggled through 3 innings, giving up 6 runs; and while Roenis Elias was able to limit the damage in his 4 innings of work, giving up just 1 run, the offense couldn’t quite chip away at the deficit (going 0 or 11 with RISP).  So, we lost by a score of 7-3.  Newcomer Mike Morin joined the relief corps; he hasn’t had a good season at the Major League level since 2014, but he ended up striking out 2 in his scoreless inning of work, so we’ll see how he does in Nicasio’s absence.  He obviously won’t be thrust into an 8th inning role, but that’s neither here nor there.

The Mariners bounced right back on Sunday.  James Paxton struggled a bit (for him), but still went 7 innings, giving up 3 runs and striking out 10.  Pazos let a runner get on in his 0.1 innings of work, who would eventually come around to score with Alex Colome on the mound (he would let all three victories get to within 1 run, just to make things interesting against his old club).  Nevertheless, Edwin Diaz got his 23rd save of the season, thanks to some suspect baserunning from the Rays, making the final, baffling out at home plate.  Cruz, Zunino, and Seager all homered to account for the 5 runs the M’s scored.

We now sit atop the A.L. West with the Houston Astros (1 game better in the loss column, 1 game worse in the win column), 4.5 games up on the Angels, who come to town for a 3-game series starting tonight.  They just saw their prized offseason acquisition – Shohei Ohtani – go on the DL (with a chance he might need Tommy John surgery and not return until the 2020 season), so things are going pretty poorly down in Anaheim.  With the Mariners flying high – and Felix not set to start until the Boston series – now is the perfect time to pounce on our greatest rivals for that 2nd wild card spot (while hopefully keeping the Astros at bay for the division).  It’s sad that we have to start dreading every Felix start, but that’s apparently the world in which we live.

We’re officially entering the teeth of the schedule:  3 vs. the Angels, 3 vs. the Yankees, and 7 vs. the Red Sox (4 at home before an East Coast road trip next week).  After some cupcakes, we’ll face the Angels 6 more times before the All Star Break, so it’s time for the Mariners to play their very best!

The Mariners Lost The Series To The Angels

This was kind of a big deal:  the first series of the year against REALLY your primary rival for the Wild Card.  You figure there are three teams in the A.L. East who are vying for two spots – a division winner and that other Wild Card spot – you figure there’s only one team coming out of the A.L. Central (unless one of the sub-Indians teams goes on a real hot streak), you figure the Astros are eventually going to separate themselves as the clearcut winner of the A.L. West, and it’s going to be a 2-team race for 1 spot between the Mariners and Angels.  If that all proves true, and we figure the Mariners are going to struggle mightily against the Astros, and beat up on most of the lesser teams around baseball, then the measure of the 2018 season is going to come down to how we play against the Angels.  This was, as I said, the first look at how we’d fare against them, and honestly it wasn’t pretty.

Shohei Ohtani was always going to dominate the Mariners.  If you’ve followed the Mariners for any period of time, that was completely obvious to you, because why wouldn’t he?  It’s a guy we all wanted, a guy we thought might want to come here throughout the courtship, and a guy who ultimately not only spurned us, but spurned us for a division rival.  This was – while not a 1 to 1 complete match – A-Rod going to the Rangers all over again.  This was every major prospect we traded away.  This was every guy who stunk for the Mariners and ended up being amazing somewhere else the very next year.  All of that, all rolled into one guy who’s both an amazing hitter and a guy who can throw upwards of 100 miles per hour, while having just the most devastating off-speed pitches in baseball.  There was never a chance he WOULDN’T kick our asses, in spite of some early-season struggles with command or whatever.  That was never going to come into play; he was always going to throw 6+ innings and quite frankly we were LUCKY to get the 2 runs off of him that we got.  I wrote off that Sunday game as a loss the second I saw confirmation he was going to be the starter.  The fact that we lost 8-2 is very disappointing, but I won’t say I was surprised by the number of runs we gave up either.  Felix just isn’t going to be very good against the better offenses of this league, so when the guys aren’t hitting for him, those games are going to be pretty ugly more often than not.

I was much more disappointed in the 5-0 drubbing on Friday.  Mike Leake didn’t look like anything special and the offense was just overwhelmed.  Midway through the game on Saturday – when the Mariners were losing 1-0 and looking similarly overwhelmed offensively – I thought there was a legitimate chance (with Ohtani going the next day) that the Mariners would not only be swept at home, but completely SHUT OUT in a 3-game series, which would have to be up there all-time on the futility list.

I was at the game on Friday and ended up leaving early, which was the appropriate thing to do.  I got my Han Seago bobblehead, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a bobblehead, so I’m happy.  I was also at the game on Saturday, and thank Christ the Mariners started piling on some runs, because I would’ve been pretty distraught if I would’ve paid to watch two demoralizing defeats in a row.

It was 90’s Night on Saturday, and while we got there too late (or went in through the wrong entrance) to get the James Paxton Fanny Pack that I wanted, it’s probably for the best.  Do I really need one more Mariners thing I’m never going to use?  That’s awkward to display?  No thanks.  Losing out on the bobblehead would’ve been far worse.

Anyway, they played like it was the 1990s, as the Mariners hit a bunch (winning 9-8 in 11 innings) and got some really shoddy pitching (particularly from the bullpen, as our top two guys did everything in their power to give this one away).  I had a feeling before the start of the game that it would be high scoring, and even predicted there’d be more than 12 combined runs scored, but I never could’ve imagined the way it happened.  For starters, as I said before, it was 1-0 into the sixth inning.  The Angels hit a 3-run jack to ensure Marco Gonzales wouldn’t survive a 6-inning start totally unscathed.  Down 4-0, that’s when the Mariners embarked upon the big comeback.  There were 2 runs in the bottom of the sixth, then another 4 more in the eighth to take a 2-run lead into the ninth.  That’s when all hell broke loose.

With two outs, Mike Trout hit a double off of Edwin Diaz, and with two strikes, Justin Upton hit a game-tying 2-run home run for Diaz’s first blown save of the year.  Juan Nicasio came in for the 10th and gave up a go-ahead run, followed by the Mariners tying it up in the bottom half of the inning on a single and a throwing error.  Newcomer Erik Goeddel gave up another go-ahead run in the 11th, but this time the Mariners were able to walk it off thanks to an RBI double by Seager and a game-winning single by Healy.

It was one of the more improbable victories you’re ever going to see, and if there’s ANY reason for optimism based on this series, that’s what you’d point to:  this team’s fight.  This team’s elite hitting.  But, overall, the starting pitching was pretty miserable all three games, and the bullpen has proven over this past week that you’re not going to be able to rely upon them 100% of the time.  They’ve shown cracks.  There’s still only 2 guys you can REALLY count upon, and even those guys aren’t perfect.  The more they struggle, the more this team is going to struggle, and the less likely this team will break the playoff drought.

The Mariners went 1-2 against the Angels in this series, and they were MUCH closer to being 0-3 than they were 2-1.  If that continues throughout the season, and we end up somewhere around 6-13 or so against them, that’s ultimately going to be the deciding factor in whether we reach the Wild Card or not.  Anything worse than 9-10 against the Angels is a guaranteed No Playoffs For The Mariners; anything around .500 and we have a shot if we get lucky; anything 11-8 or better and I’ll go on record as saying that’s good enough to get the Mariners in.

So, the question is:  can they do that?  Based on what I saw this weekend, I don’t think so.  Based on what these teams are right now, on paper, if nothing significantly changes, I don’t think the Mariners will be better than the Angels, and I ultimately believe they’ll be maybe 2-3 games out of the Wild Card when the season ends.  Take that or what it’s worth.  It’s still early, there’s a lot that can happen.  I’ll say this:  I don’t think the Angels are DRAMATICALLY better than the Mariners.  I think they’ll have their ups & downs just like we will; they’ll have series where they look like crap too.  But, in the head-to-head matchups, I don’t think we match up well with them, and I think that’s ultimately what’s going to torpedo this season.

The Mariners Are Kinda Good

The last time I wrote about the Mariners, they just barely grinded out a series win against the pretty hapless Chicago White Sox.  It wasn’t pretty, it was far from impressive, but it felt so very Mariners and what they are in the early going of 2018.  They were headed to Cleveland to wrap up a 10-game road trip with a 4-spot against a team that’s been to the playoffs the last two years, including a World Series trip.

And somehow not only won 3 out of 4, but DOMINATED in the final two to put an exclamation point on the month of April.

Paxton took the hill on Thursday and left with a 4-2 lead after 6 innings, but the bullpen – behind the struggling Nick Vincent and the outright shitty Scrabble, alongside the hard-luck Blown Save Guy Dan Altavilla – coughed it up in the 7th.  Thankfully, Kyle Seager doubled in the go-ahead run, and Nicasio & Diaz were able to slam the door shut.  That’s 11 saves for Diaz in the first month of the season, who is on quite a pace right now.

Corey Kluber got the start on Friday, against Erasmo Ramirez who apparently was rushed back to the Majors off of his injury and doesn’t quite have his usual stuff.  Why this happened, I have no idea, but obviously the M’s didn’t stand a chance in this one.  Erasmo gave up 6 runs in 5 innings; Kluber almost got the complete game.  AND YET, the combo of Scrabble and Wade LeBlanc kept the damage to those 6 runs, while the Mariners were able to chip away.  Mitch Haniger hit a 2-run homer in the 7th, and Mike Zunino hit a 3-run homer in the 9th to make it VERY interesting.  Unfortunately, one batter later, Ben Gamel lined out to end the threat.  Pretty impressive showing, nevertheless.  You have to wonder if someone like Ariel Miranda might’ve limited the Indians to fewer runs … maybe we’re talking about the second hard-luck loss for Kluber against the Mariners this season!

On Saturday, it didn’t matter who got the start, as the Mariners blew the Indians away, 12-4.  Leake did his job, going 6 innings, giving up 4 runs, and the lesser bullpen guys wrapped this one up in a nice little bow.  But, this one was all about the offense.  Gordon had 2 hits, including a double, as well as a stolen base and 3 runs scored.  Segura had 3 hits, including a homer, as well as 4 RBI and 3 runs scored.  Cano had a hit, a run, and 2 RBI.  Cruz went 4/5 with a homer and 2 RBI.  Seager had a 2-run homer.  Even Healy joined in on the action with a 2-run homer of his own!  Nothing but mashing, up and down the lineup in this one.  It’s too bad I was busy all day, this one would’ve been fun to watch.

On Sunday, again, who started?  I have no idea.  Marco Gonzales, I guess.  6 innings, 2 runs allowed off of 6 hits and a walk, with 4 strikeouts and only 89 pitches.  That’s not a bad little line right there!  Back-to-back quality starts for the kid; let’s build on this!  Keep your chins up!  But, again, the offense just laid them to waste.  Dee Gordon 4/5 with a run and an RBI.  Segura with a hit, run and RBI.  Cano with a 2-run homer.  Haniger with a triple, homer, RBI, and 3 runs scored.  And good ol’ Ryon Healy – BACK FROM THE DEAD – with 2 more homers, 3 runs and 4 RBI in the 9-hole in the lineup.  I wouldn’t expect that to last (I don’t get why we keep putting the slowest players in the 9-hole for Gordon to bat behind), but it is kinda cool to think that the lineup, 1-9, is as stacked as it is, especially if Healy can keep it up.

We had an off-day yesterday, allowing a road-weary team a chance to rest before a quick 6-game homestand.  3 against the A’s, followed by 3 against the Angels this weekend.  It looks like I’m going to both the Friday and Saturday games, which means I’ve got a VERY good chance of seeing Shohei Ohtani.  I know he’s probably going to destroy us, but I’m going to be screaming my lungs dry just in case we’re able to knock him out.  Fingers crossed!

Anyway, I dunno, it’s kinda fun to be a Mariners fan right now.  After all the expectations I had for the 2017 team, and how miserably they started in the month of April, it’s nice to see us at 16-11, in second place in the A.L. West (half game ahead of the Angels; 2.5 games behind the Astros), and locked into that 2nd Wild Card spot (half game ahead of the Angels & Blue Jays; 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the 1st Wild Card spot).  Unrelated in all of this:  it looks like the winner of the A.L. Central gets a free ride into the ALDS, as all the Wild Card contenders right now appear to be in the East & West.  Must be nice to play in such a shitty division; if the Mariners were in the Central, we’d be competing for the top record in the American League right now!

As things stand, the Astros are who we thought they were, the Angels are pretty much who I thought they were (going to hang around that Wild Card area all year), the Rangers are much worse than I thought they’d be, and the A’s are a little better than I thought they’d be.  If the A’s turn out to be a serious player for the Wild Card, it’s going to make our lives miserable having 3 fucking good teams in same division to play 19 times apiece.  So, let’s nip this thing in the bud right now, starting tonight.  Sweep these fuckers out of Seattle and send them down a shame spiral for the rest of the year!