I’m So Ready For Julio Rodriguez To Dominate For The Mariners

Julio Rodriguez appears to be a consensus fifth in the American League MVP race according to Vegas (behind top guy Aaron Judge, then Juan Soto, Corey Seager, and Yordan Alvarez). It’s gotta be exciting for these guys, because Shohei Ohtani is in the National League now, so somebody else can finally win for a change!

Fangraphs has Julio seventh in all of baseball for projected WAR with 5.6. ZIPS has him third in all of baseball at 5.7 WAR. Pretty much wherever you go, there’s Julio, projected right there among the very best players in baseball.

This is interesting to me, because while Julio was clearly the best player on the Mariners last year, I wouldn’t say he had a GREAT season. He was definitely hotter than the sun in July and especially August, but other than that he had long stretches where he struggled, especially in the first half, but also down the stretch in September.

Now, clearly, a struggling Julio is A LOT different than a struggling Ty France, or a struggling Taylor Trammell (which is pretty much his entire career). Even when he’s having a tough time, he’s still awesome. He’s still a presence. He’s still a guy other teams have to fear. And, of course, he’s going to give you great defense regardless. He’s still going to play hard and make some moves when he does get on base. He’s going to find ways to contribute.

But, his slash line in 2023 was down across the board compared to his 2022 rookie season, which is why his WAR fell from 6.0 to 5.3. Again, still great! He finished 4th in MVP voting last year, but no one voted him higher than 3rd.

It takes quite a special season to win the MVP award. The Mariners have had exactly two MVPs in their history: Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997, and Ichiro in 2001. Griffey that year was the leader of the most fearsome offense baseball had seen since the ’27 Yankees. And Ichiro entered the Major Leagues like a house on fire, leading the team to a 116-win season. THIS is what I would like to see from Julio. And 2024 is no better time to make that happen.

There’s a lot of hype that the Mariners have improved their offense this year. I’m still in a “I’ll believe it when I see it” mode of thinking. Regardless, I would say no one is expecting these Mariners to blow the doors off of the 2023 variety. It’s all “cautious optimism” and probably a marginal step up.

If you want to see significant improvement from this team, it has to be twofold. First, the depth has to be stronger. The bottom of the order MUST be better. I’m not saying we have to be lights out 1 through 9 in the order, but we can’t have the bottom 4-5 batters completely stinking up the joint like they did for most of last year. If we can see some competence, if we can have more professional at-bats, if we can even just make better and more productive outs, I think it’ll make a world of difference.

But, even that hinges on the second part: we need our stars to be super.

We need J.P. to continue to dominate at the top of the order. We need Cal to continue being a power machine. We need our veterans – Garver, Haniger, Polanco – to step up when they’re healthy. Ideally, we need this Driveline experience to hit the jackpot with Ty France. And, more than anything, we need Julio to play at an MVP level. Not just good with some elite stretches, but consistently great throughout the year.

Even if it’s just the veterans playing AS good as they were last year, and some semblance of improvement from the bottom of the order, I think we could really make some hay with an MVP Julio.

That’s kind of what I’m banking on here, if I have any hope whatsoever of the Mariners making it back to the playoffs. I’m expecting the starters to be great. I’m expecting them to figure it out in the bullpen. But, I’m also expecting the offense to be a dud yet again, costing us winnable games and seeing us ultimately falling short of a wild card berth.

However, if we get MVP Julio? Then, I’ll be willing to suspend my disbelief. I’ll be willing to go all in on this team with its cheapskate ownership group. I’ll be willing to hope that we can somehow put it all together for a magical playoff run.

Now is the time! He had his Rookie of the Year campaign. He had his Sophomore Slump. Now, it’s time for the MVP trophy. Now, it’s time to take that next step into the stratosphere. Be the envy of everyone, and the face of baseball, as you were destined to be!

The Mariners Traded For Gregory Santos

After the last deal, for Jorge Polanco, the Mariners made a weak spot that much more flimsy by raiding from a bullpen that was already down Paul Sewald (as well as promising youngsters Isaiah Campbell, Penn Murfee, and Matt Festa, among others we’ve shipped off over the last couple seasons). The loss of Justin Topa meant that our third-best reliever (and maybe our first-most-consistent reliever) was gone. I mean, can you imagine what a bullpen would look like with Sewald, Brash, Munoz, AND Topa? Well, we had it for most of last damn year, and look at where it got us!

Well, over the weekend, the M’s made a trade with the White Sox. We gave them reliever Prelander Berroa, minor league outfielder Zach DeLoach, and a very nice 69th overall draft pick. In return, we get reliever Gregory Santos.

Berroa was a promising reliever prospect who pitched primarily in AA last year, while drinking a sip of coffee with the Mariners in two appearances. There’s some incredible stuff there, a blazing fastball, tons of strikeouts, but also a little iffy on the command. I find it extremely interesting that the Mariners – an organization prized for developing bullpen arms – would give up on a prospect like Berroa. Maybe they’re worried about his arm holding up, maybe they doubt his ability to rein in his command. Whatever it is, it feels like he was the most talented of The Pile we have on the 40-man roster today. Ultimately, the thinking is: Santos has it right now, whereas Berroa might still be another year away. And if you believe that this team is trying to win in 2024 (which I’m still not so sure they are), then obviously you like a Santos more than a Berroa.

With Santos, there’s lots of club control, and instead of being a huge maybe, the belief is that he’s a legitimate stud. My concern is his durability and his ability to generate strikeouts.

He appeared in 60 games in 2023, all with the White Sox. In 2022, he pitched in 37 games (mostly in the minors); in 2021, he pitched in 17 games (also mostly in the minors), and in 2020 he didn’t pitch at all due to COVID. So, it’s no wonder he landed on the IL late last year with arm problems; the hope is that it was just fatigue. But, the Mariners tend to be one of those teams that over-taxes their bullpen, so I don’t know if I’m jumping for joy.

As for his strikeouts, it’s not like he DOESN’T strike batters out. But, he’s not in the upper echelon of a Brash or Munoz. He averaged 9.0 stikeouts per nine innings last year; Munoz averaged 12.3 and Brash averaged a whopping 13.6! What’s interesting about Santos is that he has reverse platoon splits. As a right hander, he’s actually BETTER against lefties. It’s a sample size of one season, but still. Lower batting average, on-base, slugging. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is leaps and bounds better. While Brash and Munoz aren’t BAD against lefties, when they do struggle, it tends to be because lefties get to them. Santos might be a salve for this problem. We can mix-and-match a little more, if an opposing team has a run of lefties coming.

What sounds crazy to me is that Fangraphs or someone has projected Santos to be the best reliever in baseball in 2024. If that’s the case, then DAMN is this a good deal!

Obviously, we don’t know what Zach DeLoach is going to turn into (or Gabriel Gonzalez, for that matter, from the Polanco deal), but neither projected to be much of anything for the Mariners in 2024. DeLoach played all of last year in Tacoma, and was presumably their best and most consistent hitter, but was he ever going to crack our ever-growing chasm of Quad-A utility guys? I mean, shit, we already have Haggerty, Raley, Canzone, Marlowe, Moore, Trammell, and Clase. And that’s not even factoring in Julio and Haniger! Frankly, DeLoach going to the White Sox feels like the best thing for him. My guess is, as someone who’s already been traded multiple times, he’s not going to pan out at the Major League level. But, if he does, a place like Chicago, with low expectations and lots of opportunity for at bats, just might do the trick.

In a future post, I’m going to write about the bullpen. There’s still work to do, but I don’t know if that’s going to come from outside the organization. All those developmental coaches are going to have to earn their paychecks this spring!

I Don’t See How You Can Give The Mariners Anything But An F Grade For This Offseason

They were talking about this on Brock and Salk this morning, and it’s just absurd to me how they were bending over backwards to try to excuse this team for its actions this offseason.

I’ll just say, flat out, I don’t believe the 2024 Mariners are any better than the 2023 Mariners. Why anyone would believe that is ludicrous. We’ve downgraded in the outfield, we’ve downgraded at third base, we’ve maintained our same shitty level of play at second base and first base; the only spot we’ve upgraded is DH, which as I’ve said repeatedly the team doesn’t deserve credit for because all they’ve done is replace a corpse with a warm body. Literally ANY move at DH would’ve been an improvement.

On the pitching side of things, the rotation is the same. And while you can MAYBE hope for some improvement from the very youngest members of the rotation, I would also argue your depth is drastically reduced. Last year, Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo were your depth. Now, they’re in the rotation, and your depth guys include that dud we got from the Giants, and whoever is sucking up innings for the Rainiers. Emerson Hancock feels like a pipe dream with his litany of injuries, and it doesn’t seem like any other highly-rated prospect is ready to make the leap to the Majors this year. As for the bullpen, we never really did anything to replace Paul Sewald, unless you count the various projects we’ve brought in who we’re hoping will develop under our system. Wish in one hand and shit in the other and let’s see how much better the Mariners’ bullpen is in 2024.

So, where is this improvement coming from? Your guess is as good as mine. They tried to argue that this isn’t like last year’s crop of crap – A.J. Pollock, Tommy La Stella, Kolten Wong – but are we sure? What’s Luis Urias supposed to give us? Competent defense? We were already getting that from Suarez, along with a significant amount of pop (pop that is 100% not there with Urias). We swapped out Kelenic for a probably-worse version of Kelenic; we swapped out Teoscar Hernandez for injury-prone Mitch Haniger. We’re still saddled with the likes of Canzone, Rojas, Dylan Moore, Sam Haggerty, Cade Marlowe, and Taylor Trammell; those guys aren’t anything. Mitch Garver is the only guy who looks plausibly decent, but would it shock anyone to see him come to Seattle and struggle to hit? Also, can he stay healthy?

Now, if you’re going to argue that at least the Mariners aren’t the A’s, then congratu-fucking-lations; you’re not the fucking Cleveland Indians from the movie Major League! Here’s your fucking prize! But, it’s clearly an apples & oranges situation. If you’re happy to not be the A’s, that’s not something that should automatically raise your grade. To me, you’re only graded on yourself, what you did and what you’re capable of doing. You don’t get compared to other teams; we’re not ranking all 30 MLB teams. I would say the Mariners AND the Athletics deserve F’s, albeit for different reasons.

I will say that – given the constraints handed down by ownership – Jerry Dipoto and Co. did okay for themselves. It’s not like they had a ton of options to improve the ballclub. But, we’re not grading them; we’re grading The Mariners. Fans don’t care about how good of a job the GM did; fans care about wins and losses. So, in that sense, maybe it’s too early to give a proper grade. Maybe we have to let the entire season play out and do it all at the end. But, with the information we have now, I can’t imagine the Mariners will be any better. In fact, I’m betting they will be considerably worse.

So, unless they prove me wrong in a big way, they get an F for this offseason. They let us all down, again, and they don’t deserve a single benefit of the doubt.

What Is The Mariners’ Lineup Looking Like For 2024?

For the record, it’s impossible to try to predict how ANYONE in baseball is going to perform from year to year. There’s injuries, there’s regression, there’s age, there’s personal life matters that creep in; those are all elements that can negatively affect players. On the flipside, maybe they go to Driveline and work on their swing. Maybe they learn a new pitch. Maybe they get in “the best shape of their lives”.

Who expected J.P. Crawford or Jarred Kelenic to take their respective steps forward last year? Who expected Suarez to come to Seattle and be a hit? On the flipside, who expected Winker to come here and be a total bust? Who saw the Ty France nosedive coming? Who expected to get absolutely nothing out of Kolten Wong, A.J. Pollock, Adam Frazier, and the like? Oh wait, maybe don’t bring up those last three guys.

So, I’m willing to admit that I’m probably going to be dead wrong about a lot of these guys, one way or the other. But, for fun, let’s take a look at who we’re likely to see as our 13 position players, and how they fit in a potential lineup.

The “everyday” guys seem to be something like this:

  • Left Field – Luke Raley
  • Center Field – Julio Rodriguez
  • Right Field – Mitch Haniger
  • Third Base – Luis Urias
  • Short Stop – J.P. Crawford
  • Second Base – Josh Rojas
  • First Base – Ty France
  • Catcher – Cal Raleigh
  • Designated Hitter – Mitch Garver

The bench guys – who figure to see a good amount of platoon time – include:

  • UTIL – Dylan Moore
  • OF – Dominic Canzone
  • Catcher – Seby Zavala

The final guy is someone between Sam Haggerty, Taylor Trammell, Cade Marlowe, Zach DeLoach, or Jonatan Clase (I’m assuming one of them will have a torrid Spring Training and force his way onto the team for a couple weeks, until it’s clear his spring was an aberration).

I’ll tell you right now, that lineup is ROUGH to look at. Here’s an order, for reference:

  1. J.P. Crawford (SS)
  2. Julio Rodriguez (CF)
  3. Cal Raleigh (C)
  4. Mitch Garver (DH)
  5. Luke Raley (LF)
  6. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  7. Ty France (1B)
  8. Josh Rojas (2B)
  9. Luis Urias (3B)

As a tried and true Mariners fan, I can only allow myself to feel good about the top three guys. Everyone else has a wild range of outcomes going from Absolute Worst to Better Than Expected.

Garver should be fine, but would it shock anyone to see a middling slugger come to Seattle and hit for Warning Track Power? Raley has less of a Major League track record, so he gets a little less confidence from me. Haniger, obviously, is going to get hurt within the first two months of the season, missing more time than he’ll play for. France is working out at Driveline, so there’s hope that he follows in J.P. Crawford’s footsteps, but I’ll believe it when I see it; I’m heading into 2024 expecting nothing from France. Rojas is Just A Guy, and will almost certainly lose playing time to Dylan Moore, among others. Urias is also Just A Guy, and will almost certainly lose playing time to Dylan Moore, among others.

How many Dylan Moores do we have on the team, anyway?

I would say there’s better than a 50/50 chance that the bottom third of the lineup is as bad as it’s ever been, with probably better than a 35% chance that 5 out of our 9 hitters – on the whole – are underperforming and actively costing us ballgames.

And that’s, again, AFTER the bulk of our moves in trades and free agency. That’s ostensibly supposed to be an “improvement” over 2023. Odds are, the Mariners will be a significantly WORSE hitting and scoring team in 2024.

We pretty much decided to punt second and third base. We swapped Kelenic for Raley, which is kind of a wash. We swapped Teoscar Hernandez for Haniger, which feels like a downgrade when you consider the time Haniger is going to miss (with the very real possibility that Haniger is just cooked as a professional ballplayer). The only actual upgrade is at DH, but it’s hard to give them credit for that when they effectively punted DH last year. Getting something – when we were so consistently getting nothing – is pretty easy to do when you actually find a warm body to put there.

And don’t even try to start with me on suggesting improvement out of guys like J.P., Julio, or Cal. They are what they are, until I see otherwise. But, I am by no means banking on them being anything more than what I’ve seen. Same goes for Canzone, or any of the other Quad-A guys we’ve got on the 40-man roster that we’re forced to keep on the 26-man roster because they’re out of options. Again, I’ll believe it when I see it, and I don’t expect to see much of anything.

So, yeah, pretty bleak! Hope we find some improvement in our bullpen! Hope our starters are able to carry this team on their backs the whole year! How many 1-0 losses do we have to look forward to?

What Happens If This Is It For The Mariners?

The recent moves by the Mariners have a rationale behind them. You’ll note there that I didn’t say it was a GOOD rationale. I didn’t even say it was a rationale that I buy. But, they – the Mariners (ownership and front office) – feel they are in an economic pinch. This is in spite of 2.7 million fans coming to games in 2023, this is in spite of all the success this team has had the last two seasons, this is in spite of all the countless millions of dollars this team has generated over the years.

Where is the economic pinch coming from?

Well, local cable provider Xfinity/Comcast/Whatever The Fuck decided they would do their customers a solid by removing Root Sports from the basic cable package. That saved people, what, $10 per month? Something like that? On the one hand, it makes sense. The vast majority of people who subscribe to cable aren’t necessarily interested in sports programming, and if given the choice of saving $10 per month, or having the option to scroll past a sporting event, I’m sure most people would gladly take the ten bucks. Sports fans – and there ARE many of us – tend to forget that we’re actually a minority in this world (depending on the sport, of course, and depending on the locale; in Alabama, for instance, I’m sure football fans are in the majority; you get the idea).

What has been the gripe all along about people on the west coast generally, and in the greater Seattle area specifically, when it comes to the Pac-12? There isn’t enough fan interest – compared to the SEC and Big10 – to generate the kinds of revenues for our schools to be able to compete on a level playing field. Well, I guess for Seattle, you can extend that to Major League Baseball (Mariners), Hockey (Kraken), and the NBA (Trailblazers), among other lesser sports. We apparently don’t care enough about these teams to force Xfinity’s hand in keeping Root Sports on the basic plan. As a result, if we want to keep Root Sports – and we’re forced to go with Xfinity – we have to pony up for whatever the sports tier is, something like $18-$20 extra per month. I would bet that most fans interested in the Mariners, for example, don’t give a shit about all the other things one might get with that sports tier; they just want the M’s. So, then it comes down to a decision: do you want to pay an extra $20 per month for all the bells and whistles, just to get the one thing you want? Or do you want to say, “Fuck it, I don’t need to watch the Mariners anymore, I can listen on the radio”? Or do you find an alternative streaming option that offers Root Sports at a lower financial level, cutting the Xfinity cord for good?

That’s the pinch. What we don’t know exactly is how much this is costing the Mariners. They have a controlling ownership stake in Root Sports. This was done, in theory, to bring in extra revenue streams for the team that they didn’t have to share with the rest of Major League Baseball. This SHOULD have been making us countless millions of extra dollars every year, to ideally put us in the upper echelon of Major League teams when it comes to revenue, as a result, allowing us to spend with the big boys. But, we don’t know if that’s true or not. We don’t know if this deal has been as good for the Mariners as they intended. Maybe it has! But, as with all billionaires, it doesn’t matter what you made LAST year; it only matters what you make NEXT year. And, again, we don’t know what this is going to cost the M’s. Either it’s super dire, and the RSN model is going to collapse upon itself as more and more people cut the cable cord, or it’s just kind of annoying and is going to take some millions of dollars out of the pockets of literal billionaires.

CAN’T HAVE THAT! Losing even one dollar is an outrage to fucking billionaires, because they’re fucking psychopaths. Greedy fucking villains who we entrust with our sporting allegiance, because we have no other choice. We’re not Packers fans.

Anyway, now the Mariners have – through the trades of Suarez, Gonzales, White, and Kelenic, and through the lack of a qualifying offer to Teoscar Hernandez – saved themselves, what, $20 million for 2024? Hypothetically something close to $40 million, if Teoscar would have signed? Anyway, let’s just say $20 million; that feels like a comfortable round number to work with. We assume this is money the team is going to use towards filling out the roster, but we also assumed the Mariners would increase payroll over last year, rather than savagely cut it, so where does assuming get us?

What can you get for $20 million?

We need a right fielder, left fielder, third baseman, second baseman, and designated hitter. I think it’s safe to say we’re never going to get a legit DH under this front office group; they’d rather put whatever bullshit in there they have laying around, under the guise of giving guys “rest days” (that never actually happen, because it just ends up being Mike Ford or some bullshit). If we take DH out of the equation – and project some scrub already on the roster for that role (Canzone, Haggerty, Moore, whatever) – that’s still four starters we need. If we project Urias in that third base spot (a black hole if I’ve ever met one), and maybe Dylan Moore in that second base spot, that’s still two outfielders we need to find, and only $20 million with which to spend.

YOU CAN’T GET ANYTHING IN BASEBALL FOR UNDER $20 MILLION! Do you remember what A.J. Pollock cost last year? His broke ass was $7 million, specifically to be a platoon partner; he wasn’t even brought here to be an everyday player! Who the hell are we going to get for $20 million, to fill anywhere from 2-5 open spots in the everyday lineup? No one. No one good, anyway.

For the record, I do kind of expect the Mariners to spend this $20 million. I don’t think we’re done making moves; there will probably be a few new players coming in at some point. Remember that year when the Seahawks had some extra money to spend, and rather than sign one great offensive lineman, they spread it around on 4-5 scrubs? I think that’s what the Mariners will do. They’ll bypass all of these potentially impactful bats, wait around for the guys nobody wants, and still probably overpay a few of them into coming here, kinda like the way the Seahawks overpaid for Luke Joeckel.

When I talk about “this being it” for the Mariners, that’s what I mean. I think all of the potential impact bats are already on this roster. Julio, Cal, J.P., hopefully Ty France with a new Driveline swing.

Then, there’s everyone else: Dylan Moore, Josh Rojas, Jose Caballero, Sam Haggerty, Luis Urias, Dominic Canzone, Cade Marlowe, Taylor Trammell. You know, all of these junk guys who are just around because they don’t have any minor league options. That’s the kind of talent we have, and that’s the kind of talent I expect the Mariners to bring in with their meagre ration of $20 million.

By my count, we have 4 spots left on the 40-man roster. I would say, if the season started today, all of the guys I just listed – plus a backup catcher, also a nobody – are the 13 position players on the 26-man active roster. Maybe we mix and match, drop a guy here and there down to the minors, depending on who we’re able to bring in via free agency or trade, but again, the talent level isn’t going to be all that different from what we’re looking at.

Pretty grim! Almost no power, almost no high batting averages, very little ability to get on base with any regularity. That seems like a lineup that’s destined to take this team absolutely nowhere. It’s significantly WORSE than it was in 2023, and again, that was a lineup that failed to push us back into the playoffs. We can only go downward from here with a lineup even closely resembling THAT.

So, where do we turn to for hope?

I think, at this point, it’s safe to say we should start thinking of the Seattle Mariners in terms of the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals, and the like. I know we’ve always lamented the Mariners for being too cheap, but that hasn’t really been the case until now. They’ve always just been afraid to go the extra step. They’ve always been content with half measures. They’ve always failed to finish the job to put this team over the top. In that sense, how is this any different? We get close to where we want to go – in the playoffs for the first time in two-plus decades, then a game or two short of the playoffs a season later – but never do what needs to be done to turn this team from a fringe contender into a legitimate World Series contender.

But now? With this kind of cost cutting? With reports that it’s all but certain that the Mariners are never going to be able to extend Cal Raleigh – because he’ll cost too much, and likely because he wants to go somewhere to be on a winner – we’re not only fucking up our contention window, but now we know this window has a finite timetable to it.

We’re never going to be able to keep this young core together. That was the plan before, right? Draft and develop a spectacular young core, then fill in around the edges with quality outside veterans to push us over the top. Now, we have to pick and choose who we can keep. We have to think about a future where we can have George Kirby OR Logan Gilbert, but not both. We have to think about all of these young guys as they head into their arbitration seasons, where their salaries will skyrocket based on their high levels of performance as very young players. We’re not going to be able to extend them all early. And we’re not going to be able to afford them even DURING those arbitration years, let alone afterward when they become unrestricted free agents. That means – since, again, we’re thinking in terms of A’s, Rays, Royals, etc. – that we’re going to have to start trading some of these guys for more cost-controlled prospects and just hope and pray we can develop the guys we get in return into viable Major League pieces.

The bummer in all of this is that our next crop of homegrown prospects are another full year or two away from hitting the Major Leagues. So, not only do we have an ever-shrinking window with our current crop of young Major League talent, but there’s likely going to be a significant gap between when those players start leaving, and the next crop ascends.

How long do we have with our current crop?

Cal Raleigh is arbitration eligible in 2025-2027. Logan Gilbert is eligible in 2024-2027 (his estimated 2024 contract will be $5 million, and will only go up and up and up from there). George Kirby is eligible from 2025-2028. Luis Castillo is signed through 2027, with a vesting option for 2028. Robbie Ray is here likely through 2026 (he has a player option after 2024, but considering he’ll at best be playing half a season next year, seems unlikely he’d opt out); we’re stuck with his crazy salary unless he gets lumped in with the next round of salary dump trades. And J.P. Crawford is signed through 2026. Obviously, Julio isn’t going anywhere, so I hope he likes being our ONE good player, because I’m guessing if we haven’t won a World Series by 2026, we’re going to start moving on from most of these guys.

That’s a 2-3 year window. 2024 & 2025 for sure, MAYBE 2026, if ownership hasn’t totally panicked by then and switched to a new GM/manager combo. We can write off 2024, as the team has no prospects ready to come up. 2025 is maybe a possibility to improve from within. Leaving us with a narrow pinpoint window of 2026 as the ideal target.

By then, maybe Cole Young, Harry Ford, Colt Emerson, Michael Arroyo, Felnin Celesten, Tai Peete, and the like, will be ready to make their mark at the Major League level.

If that’s how ownership is going to treat this team – if all we have left to hope for is our prospects taking the next steps – then I think it’s time to turn our attention to the minors. Because I don’t think there’s going to be any significant help coming via free agency. Sure seems like most trades – from here on out – will be shipping off guys with less club control for guys with more club control. Then, it’s just retreads and reclamation projects as far as free agency is concerned.

Obviously, I’m not saying that 2026 is the year we win the World Series. That’s a BEST case scenario, and also the soonest we should even be thinking about that. I think the lead-up to 2026 is going to be pretty frustrating, and 2026 itself might be a total disaster for all I know.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know where I’m at with this team anymore. I feel like I had the rug pulled out from under me. Again, I don’t know why I should’ve expected any different. But, it hasn’t felt like dire straits like this for a while. It still felt like this team was on the rise, even with the pitfall that was 2023. But now? I can only see the doom and the gloom.

I don’t know how much more I can give as a fan to this team. I think as this ownership group starts pulling back its money and its effort from the talent level on the Major League roster, so will I start to pull back my interest in watching this team, in going to their games, in investing my heart and soul into the day-to-day grind. As the Mariners predictably fall short on the field, so will I fall short in giving a fuck.

There’s more to life than Mariners baseball. I know I’ve threatened leaving this team high and dry for years now. But, I also wasn’t married then. I didn’t have a family then. I didn’t have other things that would draw my attention away from this organization that CLEARLY doesn’t give two shits about this fanbase. Why bother? Why feed into their villainy? Let them run the Mariners into the ground. I’ve got my own life to live.

What The Mariners Need To Fix Heading Into 2024

Whenever you hear someone from the team talk about what went wrong with the 2023 Mariners, and what they need to do to get back to the playoffs in 2024, they make it sound like it’s just a small tweak here and there. I got into the positives of the 2023 squad, and yeah, there’s a lot of good pieces here. But, I would also say it’s not an insignificant undertaking!

I counted 12 positives, and that’s including Teoscar, who is not a guarantee to be back. He’ll likely be extended a qualifying offer, which everyone believes he will turn down. At which point, either you find a way to sign him as a free agent, or you have to go out and fill that spot in right field. Regardless, 12 is less than half of the Major League roster. Even if you add a few of those bullpen pieces to the mix, you’re still hovering around 50% of the team that could definitely use an upgrade. That’s hardly a small tweak here and there!

If we’re talking about reasons why the Mariners fell short this year, you have to start with Ty France and Eugenio Suarez. Ty has been a regular whipping boy this season, for good reason. He has drastically fallen off a cliff these last two years, to the point where he was barely above replacement level in 2023.

In 2021, I would’ve said Ty France was one of our most important players. His batting average has slipped 41 points, his on-base percentage has slipped 31 points, and his slugging has fallen a whopping 79 points. Its been a disaster, on top of which, his strikeouts are climbing. He’s doing nothing well, and even his defense – by the numbers – has fallen off. He somehow managed to avoid the IL, and he had a career high in HBP; that’s what he has to hang his hat on. He has 2 arb years remaining, and I’m not even sure we should give him that much. It might be better for everyone involved for him to just move on, except I don’t know what’s out there to fill in at that spot. It’s not like we can trust in Evan White. Free Agency sounds like a wasteland. We’ll probably have to fill that spot via trade, and so help me if we bring in another one of these Quad-A guys to try to hit in T-Mobile Park.

The only hope is that his year two arb number doesn’t increase much, and that he follows through with the program at Driveline (and it somehow manages to stick). I know they worked wonders for J.P., but I can’t imagine Ty France has been going out and doing nothing the past two offseasons; Driveline is no guarantee of future success.

Eugenio is a slightly different story. His batting average and on-base percentages year over year are pretty close to one another; it was just his power that took a bit of a dive (31 homers in 2022, 22 homers in 2023). That’s a little trickier to explain. His line drive percentage actually went up this year – which might speak to the uptick in doubles – but his fly ball percentage dropped. His pull percentage spiked, while his balls to center and right fell. His hard hit rate and ground ball percentages were both static, and his strikeout rate actually went down a tick (even though his overall strikeouts went up, mostly due to his playing in every single game). Is that just bat angle? Is that the way pitchers were throwing to him? Were they busting him up and in, and that reduced his effectiveness in getting the ball to leave the park?

He also just turned 32 years old, so we can’t necessarily rule that out. Either way, I don’t see him going anywhere. Or, let me put it this way: I don’t see both him AND France leaving (maybe one or the other). But, you can’t try to replace both of those guys plus Teoscar; that’s just too much to try to accomplish in one offseason.

There wasn’t a bigger (and better) story than Jarred Kelenic for the early part of the season. This was truly a make-or-break season for the youngster, and he seemed to take the biggest step forward of anyone in a Mariners uniform. The first couple months were outstanding! It’s too bad they were overshadowed by the rest of the team struggling as much as they did.

His first 53 games – through the end of May – saw him hit .277/.333/.513, with 14 doubles, a triple, and 10 homers. His final 52 games – June through the end of the year – saw him hit .226/.320/.316, with 11 doubles, a triple, and 1 homer.

So, what was that all about? How much did the stint on the IL for kicking a water cooler have to play into it? Well, considering he was struggling mightily leading up to it – hence his physical display of frustration – you can’t blame it ALL on the layoff. Did pitchers adjust to whatever adjustments he had made in the offseason? Probably. Was he ill-equipped to then adjust again? Sure seems like it. What does this mean for his Major League career going forward?

Well, I think it’s safe to say he salvaged some of his value, which is a plus. But, can you really go into next season with him as your everyday left fielder? Or even your most-days platoon left fielder? For what it’s worth, I don’t know if his splits necessarily dictate that he HAS to be a platoon guy. He had a slightly higher batting average and slugging percentage against lefties, and was actually luckier with BABIP against righties than lefties. So, I think he’s fine to be an everyday outfielder. I still think there’s room for him to grow as he continues getting comfortable at the Major League level. But, he goes in the tank for far too long to be considered dependable, and he doesn’t strike me as an All Star type player. He might luck into a hot half-season and get handed a spot one year. Overall, though, I think he’s destined to do whatever it is he’s going to do in another uniform. I believe this will be the offseason we package him to another team, in hopes to bring in a veteran we can count on.

The rest of the problem children include Jose Caballero, Mike Ford, Kolten Wong, Dylan Moore, Dominic Canzone, A.J. Pollock, Josh Rojas, Sam Haggerty, Cade Marlowe, Taylor Trammell, Cooper Hummel (remember him?), Tommy La Stella, and Brian O’Keefe. I can’t possibly devote an entire paragraph or series of paragraphs to these guys, because we’d be here all day. Suffice it to say, they’re all fringe Major Leaguers (at best), and were eating up WAY too many spots in our lineup for this offense to be even remotely effective. Some of them had decent stretches (Ford had 16 homers on the year, Caballero was an on-base machine for a while, Rojas and Marlowe had brief hot streaks), but on the whole, these are not the types of players you want to pin your hopes on.

On the pitching side of things, you have to begin with Robbie Ray and the fact that he only made the one start this year. Now, do we know if he would’ve been good this year? Remember how poorly the end of his 2022 season went. But, that could’ve been a fluke. The bottom line is that a guy you were expecting to eat up a significant chunk of quality innings wasn’t around for you. It accelerated the development of Miller and Woo – which in the end might’ve been a bonus – but you could see those guys start to wear down towards the end of the year. Would they have been fresher if we could’ve held them back a little longer? We’ll never know, but it sure seems likely.

Marco Gonzales only made it 10 starts this year, and continued his gradual downturn ever since 2020. We’re still stuck with him for one more year, and I find it hard to believe we’ll be able to find a trade partner for him. On the one hand, he’ll be healthy by the start of 2024, and you can’t have too much starting pitching; on the other hand, he’s useless as a member of the bullpen, and if he keeps Woo or Miller from starting for too long, it’s going to be enraging.

The biggest tragedy of this year might’ve been the injury to Emerson Hancock. We only got about two and a half starts out of him, but he looked fairly promising in his limited action. And it happened right around the time Bryan Woo was returning from his brief IL stint, when we were supposed to head into the dog days of summer with a 6-man rotation, to hopefully keep everyone fresh. How important was THAT in derailing our season? Who’s to say? It’s one more What If to throw onto a season full of ’em.

And we’ve already gone into the bullpen of it all. There were gods and clods, and the clods were pretty damn mediocre. Trading Sewald, so far, looks like a disaster. But, that’s one of those things you can’t measure in two months’ time. You have to look at it over the next 2-3 years and see where everyone lands. I’ll say this: I don’t have any confidence in Canzone or Rojas. But, I also think we’re right around the corner from Sewald turning into a pumpkin. In which case, it was all for naught, and very well might’ve been the single biggest factor in sinking our season.

So, TL;DR, what do we need to fix? Well, we need to upgrade at either 1B or 3B. We need to fill RF with either Teoscar or Other. We need a bona fide fucking DH, because this horse shit we’ve been doing isn’t going to fly.

The Mariners are so full of shit with this DH thing, by the way. It was supposedly a means to give regular guys off-days, but how often was it used for that purpose, really? Suarez played at third damn near every day. France rarely went off first. J.P. never sits. Instead, that spot went to Teoscar on occasion (which was really a means to improve our outfield defense), Cal once in a while (when Murphy was healthy and able to back him up), and people like Ford, Pollock, Haggerty, Rojas, and the like. Lots of bullshit bench guys getting DH starts and doing nothing with them! Just sign a great hitter and park him there! Enough with this experiment that you’re not even using as you say you will!

Also, we need a proper second baseman, a proper backup catcher (who can stay healthy all year), and an outfielder or three (depending on what happens with Teoscar and Kelenic). Oh, and replenish the bullpen with at least one heavy duty arm (so it’s not just Brash, Topa, and Munoz and that’s it).

So, yeah, there’s a lot to do, and only one offseason to do it.

What’s Up With Ty France?

I don’t want to nitpick too much, since the Mariners have been playing so well over the last couple months, but I have real concerns about Ty France that just aren’t going away.

We traded for France at the 2020 deadline in the infamous COVID-shortened season. He was a part of that blockbuster Austin Nola deal that also brought back Andres Munoz, Luis Torrens (back with the M’s this week as some insurance, reporting to Tacoma), and Quad-A outfielder Taylor Trammell. He got regular playing time with us in 2020 and showed a high-average, high-OBP toolset with a little bit of pop and versatility. Really, my favorite kind of player.

He assumed our starting first baseman job in 2021 thanks to injury and ineffectiveness from Evan White, and he’s run with it. In 2021 and 2022, his power numbers surged: 32 doubles & 18 homers in 2021, 27 doubles & 20 homers in 2022. With that, though, the average has gone down each year. .291 in 2021, .276 in 2022, and .254 this year. His OBP has gone down too, ever-so-slightly, in the .370’s in 2020, to .368 in 2021, to .340 the last two years. It should also be pointed out that he’s either at or near the top of the league in getting hit by pitches. And, due to that and some other flukey circumstances, he’s had his share of time on the IL, which has also worsened as time has gone on (152 games played in 2021, 140 in 2022, and so far 130 this year; here’s hoping he doesn’t get hit with too many more errant baseballs and can move the needle in the right direction in this final month).

What has me concerned is the power outage from his bat. With one month left in the season, he has 30 doubles, but only 10 homers. His career slugging percentage through 2022 was .438; this year it’s .379. And I don’t know how to explain it! His BABIP is down compared to career averages, but slightly up from last year. His strikeout rate is at his career norm. His hard hit rate is also at his career norm. He’s hitting fewer ground balls than normal, and therefore his fly balls are up a tick. He’s up in pull and center percentages, hitting fewer balls the other way (which, again, would indicate he should have more homers, not drastically less).

Where France is extremely down compared to career norms is in his Win Probability numbers. He’s very much in the negative, when he was firmly a net-add the last two years. That goes to explain his reduction in WAR (4.2 in 2021, 3.0 in 2022, 0.8 so far this year), and a mediocre RBI line (73 in 2021, 84 in 2022, only 51 so far this year), but Win Probability numbers also have a clutch feel to them, and France has been decidedly NOT-clutch in 2023. I mean, look no further than the fact that his ground ball percentage is drastically down (46.7% in 2021, 47.8% in 2022, only 42.5% this year), but he’s somehow grounded into MORE double plays (13 in 2021, 18 in 2022, a whopping 24 this year with a month to go).

I mean, I don’t have the specifics on all MLB first basemen, but I have to think France ranks among the worst. He has a defensive WAR of -1.0 for crying out loud! Between that and his dwindling performance at the plate – on top of his reputation as a player frequently playing in pain, with suffering results – I don’t think it’s any surprise that he’s seen his spot in the lineup fall in recent weeks. You can’t just lock him into the three- or four-hole anymore. And, with two years of arbitration left, you have to wonder how much longer he’s destined to be in this organization.

There was cause for optimism back in July when it was reported he had some chiropractic work done that supposedly fixed his neck, allowing him to see the ball more easily, fixing some funky mechanics that had crept into his at-bats. But, in the second half (starting July 14th), I don’t know if we’ve seen a ton of improvement:

  • First Half: 86 games, .261/.332/.389, 22 doubles, 7 homers, 19 walks, 66 strikeouts
  • Second Half: 44 games, .238/.358/.351, 8 doubles, 3 homers, 17 walks, 30 strikeouts

I mean, it looks like the chiro did improve his vision at the plate; he’s not flailing quite as often at those pitches out of the zone. But, his power and batting average are still slipping.

I don’t know what to tell you. How do you explain it? Is it just baseball? Is he breaking down with age and a skyrocketing HBP count? Is his bat speed dwindling? Probably the bat speed thing, right?

Regardless, it sucks. Ty France is so much fun to root for. And when he’s on a heater, there isn’t a tougher out, or someone I’d rather see at the plate in an important situation. The problem is: he hasn’t been that guy very often this year. And he REALLY wasn’t that guy late last year when we were in our playoff run.

Julio isn’t going to continue being a supernova forever. Teoscar’s hot streak is bound to cool off at some point. The more Cal Raleigh is forced to play – in the absence of a competent backup, until Tom Murphy returns – the less effective he’s bound to be at the plate. With Suarez kind of an enigma this season, we could REALLY use a scorching month of September out of France if we want to achieve our goal of winning the West and securing a wild card bye.

I fear, if he continues on this disappointing trend, we’ll be in for a similarly disappointing exit from this season.

Biggest Disappointments (So Far) Of The 2023 Mariners

Yesterday, I got into some of the bright spots. Today, it’s time to shine a light on the pits of despair.

As always, there’s a lot of blame to go around when a team is as mediocre as the Mariners. To put things in perspective, as of the moment of this writing, the M’s are 10-1 against Oakland, Colorado, and St. Louis (three of the worst, or at least most-underperforming, teams on our schedule to date). Against everyone else, we’re 14-23.

But, I don’t want this post to be 300 pages long. So, we’re not going to get into the bottom part of the order too much. Frankly, I never expected much out of La Stella or Pollock or even Wong; they all felt like poor fits to me, and I was never going to be surprised that they sucked. It also isn’t terribly shocking that Haggerty has been bad at the plate, or that Murphy got off to a slow start, or that Trammell & Hummel are more Quad-A guys than actual Major Leaguers. If you went into this season banking on one or more of these guys to be catalysts to our success, you were always bound to be disappointed.

What’s more concerning has been our studs, who have been decidedly unstudly. We’re never going to go anywhere if these guys don’t pick it up.

With so many other storylines going on, Julio Rodriguez was kind of sliding under the radar for a while. But, he’s been pretty far from what we had come to expect from him. Somewhere in between the dregs of last April and the rest of the season, but a helluva lot closer to the poor end of that spectrum. I don’t think it was out of line for people to already have notions of MVPs dancing in their heads, so an OPS under .700 this far into May is fairly discouraging. I don’t think anyone believes this is who he’s going to be the rest of the year, but he can snap out of this funk anytime now, as far as I’m concerned.

Teoscar gets a lot of the flak, and sort of gets lumped in with the other shitty newcomers, but I don’t think he’s unsalvageable. I also don’t think he’s necessarily been anything other than what we should have expected. Maybe he’s a little light in the extra-base hits, maybe he’s striking out a bit more than normal. But, he was always a guy who struck out a lot. He was always Boom Or Bust. I think where the disconnect lays – and I’m as guilty of it as anyone – is projecting him to be some sort of Home Run King or something upon arriving here. We saw a guy with a lot of talent, a guy entering a contract year, and a guy with enough power to overcome the challenges of playing half his games in Marine Layer, U.S.A. But, I think this is just who he is. He’s not going to become the next Nelson Cruz in a Mariners uniform. He’s going to muddle his way through this season, and take the biggest deal he can get with another team next year. I do expect he’ll pick it up a little bit at some point, but I also don’t think he’s going to be a huge guy for us.

I think I’m officially starting to sour on the Ty France experience. I certainly, 100% don’t want to see him reach a second contract with the Mariners. We’re talking about a guy who, sure, when he’s healthy, he’s probably my favorite type of hitter on this team. But, part of that quality that makes him so rootable also tends to get him hurt. He crowds the plate and takes an inordinate number of pitches off his body. Last year, he went on the IL while playing in the field, and when he returned he was pretty much worthless for the rest of the season. It turned out – obviously – that he was playing in a considerable amount of pain. And, at least for him, he can’t seem to perform when he’s trying to fight through nagging injuries. Already this year, we’ve seen him go in the tank; is he already dealing with injuries and we’re not even two full months in yet? I just wish Evan White wasn’t also so injury prone (with MUCH more devastating conditions), because I was really hoping to see what he could do before his contract starts getting expensive. Either way, Ty’s home run power seems to be dwindling, and he’s not even really putting up an impressive batting average. I think it’s a long, slow decline from here on out.

Eugenio Suarez is quite off of his power pace from last year, and while I don’t think this is bound to continue forever – he tends to hit them in bunches – it’s yet another major reason why the M’s have had so much trouble scoring runs this year. Last year at this time, he had 9 homers and 9 doubles; this year it’s 5 and 5. Just boil it down to that. Everything else being pretty much equal, you have to imagine the additional RBI of just equalling what he did last year (adding 4 more doubles and 4 more homers to his current total) might be worth a small handful of games by themselves, considering what our record is in 1-run games.

It’s easy to shit on Marco Gonzales – I do it all the time! If you put him in perspective, I’ll admit you could do a lot worse for a #5 starter. But, we’re 9 starts in and I would argue he didn’t give us a chance to win 3 of them based on his performance. He’s reached 6 innings (and no further) 4 times, in spite of extremely reasonable pitch counts in all of his starts. That shows me a guy who can, at times, be effective, but even then he can’t be trusted. We’re trying to squeeze as much as we can out of this dried sponge, and then getting him the hell off the mound.

I would say Matt Brash isn’t exactly the force of nature we were promised by pretty much everyone this offseason. The stuff is still there, but he’s disturbingly hittable for a guy we’ve been trying to shoehorn into high leverage spots. It makes me wonder if he’s ever going to figure it out. I was still holding out some hope that he’d one day return to a starting role, but if he can’t even master a single inning, how would we be able to trust him with 6+?

Finally, let’s dump on Chris Flexen. On the one hand, maybe we should be praising him; for, if he hadn’t stunk so hard in his limited duty as a 6th starter – following Ray’s injury – we wouldn’t have gotten to see Bryce Miller this early. But, his entire package – even as a reliever – has been appalling. He’s in a contract year, he had been pretty reliable as a back-of-the-rotation starter until this season, and there was every reason to believe we might trade him at the deadline for a prospect, or as part of a package to bring in a hitter to help us for the stretch run. Instead, his value is pretty much nothing, and we’d be trading him just to get him off our roster. I would say that maybe there’s hope he can rebuild his reputation in the bullpen, but we don’t have very many opportunities to make use of a long reliever with the rotation arms we have now. And he’s not a leverage reliever in the slightest; you can pretty much only use him in blowouts. Sure, he’s had five consecutive scoreless outings (8 total innings) since his ERA hit its zenith of 8.86, but it’s taken him a little over 3 weeks just to accrue those outings. He’s a last resort, and he’s going to have to be near-perfect from now until the end of July to have any value at all.

The Mariners Capped Off A Losing Road Trip With Another 1-Run Defeat

It’s just the same shit on a different day, you know? How long are we going to continue spinning our wheels in this muck?

What the Mariners need to do is string together a bunch of series wins in a row against the okay-to-good teams, and sprinkle in some sweeps against the bad teams. The Mariners failed on all fronts during this road trip. And, really, it’s been just one long continuation since the season started. We blew the finale in Detroit, which might’ve saved us and at least given us a winning record for the road trip. That meant we had to defeat a good team 2 out of 3 times, and we just weren’t up to the task. We got manhandled in the final two games of the Red Sox series, then for good measure we dropped the rubber match against the Braves the only way we’re capable of: regressing HARD.

It’s not just regression for the Mariners in 1-run games, with our 4-12 record, it’s a fucking over-correction. At this point, we need some regression just to get back to fucking .500!

We started off the series Friday losing 6-2. Bryce Miller had his first bit of struggles, though I will say that 2 of the 3 runs he gave up were helped along by our bullpen – specifically Trevor Gott – not doing its fucking job. He still went 6.1 innings (on a day where the bullpen was also understaffed due to recent over-work) and limited that potent Braves lineup to 4 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 4.

That performance gave Miller his first career Major League loss, as the offense couldn’t do jack shit. The bullpen went on to give up 3 more runs in a 6-2 defeat.

We recovered on Saturday for a 7-3 victory. But, that coincided with a Braves Bullpen Day, so I don’t know how much credit the offense gets for its relative explosion. Suarez had 2 hits and 3 RBI. Kelenic had 2 hits and 2 runs scored. Crawford had 2 hits and an RBI; Hernandez and Trammell both had one hit and RBI each. And even Julio walked 3 times and scored twice. It was a nice all-around day for everyone but Ty France.

Logan Gilbert got the relatively easy victory, and looked pretty good doing it. 6 innings, 2 runs on 4 hits and 1 walk, with 9 strikeouts. He busted out his splitter for the first time with any regularity and consistency, and it generated some quality results! That’ll be a nice little weapon for him going forward; assuming it doesn’t lead to any arm injuries.

Then came the 3-2 defeat on Sunday. George Kirby gave up all three runs in his 7 innings of work. The Braves had some hard hits, but otherwise it was a pretty masterful performance. Kirby limited them to 6 hits and a walk, while striking out 6; he did what he was supposed to do: keep us in the game. But, the Braves’ offense did what it was supposed to do: give its team a lead against a good pitcher anyway. I don’t know if the starter the Braves trotted out there was worth a damn, but taking a peek at his ERA, it tells me probably not. Yet, he limited us to 1 run across 6 innings. We got to witness a Kelenic homer early, and Jose Caballero’s first career homer late. But, otherwise, it was fucking nothing AGAIN from this offense.

When are we going to heat up, boys? The weather’s BEEN fucking nice! It’s time to start hitting like you mean it, and start winning games like your season fucking depends on it! Because, guess what? Your season fucking depends on it!

The Mariners Won An Impressive Series Over The Astros

As early as our playoff exit – a 3-game sweep against the Astros in the ALDS – I knew: just as soon as we played them again in the regular season, we’d get our revenge. Of course, “revenge” is a strong word. They knocked us out of the postseason, en route to a World Series championship; we beat them 2 out of 3 times in early May. I’m doing the math over here, but it doesn’t quite add up to the same.

Of course, if you had asked me heading into the weekend what the M’s might accomplish, I’d have my doubts that we’d take down the defending champs. Hell, if you’d asked me in the seventh inning on Saturday and I would’ve said you’re out of your mind if you think the Mariners are winning 2 of 3!

Friday’s game was just one of those annoying fucking Astros victories that looks like every other annoying fucking Astros victory over the Mariners. Luis Castillo was one out away from getting out of the third inning unscathed. But, he walked a batter with a runner on third, leading to Yordan Alvarez (biggest Mariners Killer east of the Rockies) taking an 0-1 change-up out to center field for a 3-run bomb. All told – save that one bad pitch – Castillo had a strong outing: 7 innings, 4 runs on 5 hits and that 1 walk, with 5 strikeouts. But, since it’s the Astros, that one bad pitch was a monster home run that helped cost us the game.

What made this the most like a usual Mariners/Astros game was the fact that we clawed our way back in it. Down 4-0 in the fifth, Kolten Wong hit a bases-clearing 3-run double to make it interesting. And, Geno Suarez hit a game-tying RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to make it REALLY interesting.

Then, this bullshit umpire crew decided to have their fun. Matt Brash had Kyle Tucker struck out on an OBVIOUS strike three on the outside corner of the plate. Considering Tucker’s a lefty, and most umpires tend to expand the strike zone further on lefties, it’s particularly galling that we didn’t get that call there.

You don’t even have to know anything about this particular game to know what happened next: Tucker hit a home run on the subsequent pitch to nail the victory for the Astros. No amount of Scott Servais bitching to the home plate umpire could change that.

Not for nothing, but this umpire crew SEVERELY botched a call on Saturday – saying Tom Murphy blocked the plate, even though the throw beat the runner by a good two feet, as the runner started his slide too early in trying to score – before replay review saved us. Then, on Sunday, there was a bang-bang play at first that would’ve given us another run, but of course since the idiot umpire called him out, the play “stood” upon further review (note: I didn’t say “was confirmed”). Again, most umpires call that safe; tie goes to the runner and all that. But, not this crew!

Anyway, fast forward to the eighth inning on Saturday. Marco was on the hill against a guy making his very first career start. J.P. France doesn’t throw particularly hard, doesn’t have especially amazing stuff, and got into some real serious trouble in the first inning. We could’ve very well changed the career trajectory of this guy! With one out, he gave up a single, hit a batter, and walked the bases loaded. Cal Raleigh had a 1-0 count, but ended up striking out swinging, before Teoscar Hernandez struck out looking.

France went on to pitch 5 shutout innings, giving up 3 hits and that one walk. Will that give him the confidence he needs to make it in the Major Leagues? Could we have effectively killed his confidence by making sure he didn’t escape that first inning? We’ll never know!

Anyway, this was a game I had pegged – coming in – to have a total score of OVER 9.5 runs combined (for those wagering at home). That meant, of course, that the rookie Astros starter surely put up amazing results, while Marco put up a Quality Start (6 innings, 3 runs). It was 3-0 heading into that eighth inning, when all hell broke loose.

Rafael Montero came in; the same guy who has been elite everywhere EXCEPT in a Mariners uniform. This was to be the beginning of the end of this game, as no one touches the high-leverage relievers in the Astros’ bullpen. Right on cue, Ty France grounded out and Jarred Kelenic struck out.

Then, a Suarez walk. Then, a Cal infield single that somehow dribbled past the pitcher. Then, a hard-hit infield single by Teoscar (where the short stop tried to get the runner at third, because he was running so far away from first). A J.P. Crawford bases-clearing double ended Montero’s night, with the game tied 3-3.

It didn’t stop there! Taylor Trammell pinch hit for Tom Murphy and walked. Jose Caballero – in for the injured Wong – doubled them home for a 5-3 lead. Julio singled Caballero home, then France singled, then Kelenic reached on an infield single to make it 7-3.

We brought in Paul Sewald – even though it wasn’t a save situation – and that turned out to be highly warranted. He got into a little bit of trouble, giving up a 2-run double, but managed to lock it down for a 7-5 victory.

Game 3 was a just a joy. Bryce Miller continued the hot start to his Major League career, going 6 shutout innings, giving up just 2 hits and a walk, while striking out 5. He’s now given up 1 run in 12 innings across two starts. Outstanding!

Julio slammed a solo homer in the third to kick off our scoring, Suarez ended up scoring later that inning on an error, and somehow Kelenic scored in the fifth on a play I didn’t see. Was it a wild pitch or something? No one will ever know!

Anyway, the Mariners were ice cold in the bullpen, making this a well-earned 3-1 victory.

That brought our record back to .500, with the red-hot Texas Rangers coming to town for the first time this season. Just what we need, another team in the division to consistently give us fits.