The Mariners Dropping A Series In Anaheim Isn’t The Worst Thing Ever

The most important thing regarding the Mariners is simply Making The Playoffs. In that sense, it might not have been too cool if we’d been swept in that 4-game series. But, I wouldn’t have been totally opposed to that either.

We sit 5 games ahead of Baltimore, all alone as the third wild card team. That’s the sweet spot. Honestly, we could probably stand to give the Rays and Blue Jays a little bit of a cushion. Because, the second-most important thing regarding the Mariners is holding onto that third wild card spot. That means we avoid the aforementioned Blue Jays and Rays in the wild card round, plus we avoid the Astros in the ALDS (if we are to make it that far). A 3-game road trip to Cleveland is absolutely my top choice for the Mariners. And, losing 3 of 4 to the Angels went pretty far towards reaching that goal.

I will say this was a fairly ugly series, for numerous reasons. The pitching shit the bed on Friday, with Robbie Ray giving up 5 runs in 5 innings. Matt Festa followed by giving up a 3-run home run in the sixth to really put us away. The offense somehow managed to claw its way back (thanks to homers by Julio and France, and two homers by Carlos Santana), but ultimately we didn’t have enough, and lost 8-7.

Then, the hitting went to sleep for a couple games. That’s not too surprising when you factor in the injuries to Suarez (who hit the IL after getting hit on the hand with a pitch on Friday), Julio (who has yet to hit the IL, after tweaking his back in batting practice), Haniger (who did … something; maybe fielding for a ball?), Raleigh (who has a left thumb/hand injury from sliding into a base), and Ty France (who is allegedly dealing with a nagging something or other, and is playing through it in spite of his struggles at the plate). The only “good” injury news – if you want to call it that – is the fact that Dylan Moore returned from the IL, to help mitigate some of this damage.

Anyway, on Saturday we lost 2-1. Ohtani went 7 shutout innings. Kirby gave up 2 runs in 6 innings. Trammell homered against their bullpen, but that was it.

We lost 5-1 on Sunday, with Marco having one of those Bad Marco days, giving up 5 runs in 6.1 innings. Not a lot of positives to hang our hat on here.

In the rare 4th game of a series landing on a Monday, we salvaged one on the back of Logan Gilbert going 6 innings, giving up 1 run while striking out 11. It’s in the running for most dominant outing of his career, that’s for sure. And, it came with a relatively soft landing, as the bats decided to wake up again. France hit an RBI double in the first, Santana hit a grand slam in the fifth, France hit a 3-run bomb in the seventh, and Santana added a solo homer in the ninth (all adding up to a 9-1 victory). It’s been cool to see Santana get hot at exactly the right time, with France and Haniger starting to find their swings again.

The hope is for Julio to return sometime this week. But, we’ll see about Raleigh, and obviously Suarez is a HUGE concern (since he’d been red-fucking-hot over the last month or so). At this point, I think we’d be thrilled if Suarez is back by the playoffs, but you have to worry about his health at that point; will he be able to return to form? Or, will this injury essentially wipe out his season with ineffectiveness, even if he does return to the field? I think it’s safe to say the Mariners need EVERYONE to be healthy and producing, if we want to make some noise in the playoffs. If we lose any vital cogs, it’s going to decimate our chances.

The road trip concludes with three in Oakland, followed by three in Kansas City. Now is not the time to go on a massive winning streak, although I don’t know if it can be helped. Those teams are SO BAD and our pitching is still really damn good. Then, we’re home for 10 games in 9 days against Texas, Oakland, and Detroit. Ditto there. Here’s to everyone getting healthy over the next couple weeks, but also here’s to the team finishing with the third wild card spot. We deserve it!

The Luis Torrens Era Comes To An End With The Mariners

Before the Mariners headed to Texas yesterday to start their road trip tonight, they made a couple more roster moves. As expected, Julio Rodriguez came off of the IL, with Jarred Kelenic being sent back down to Tacoma. This means that in the short term, Jake Lamb gets a stay of execution. But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a little disappointing with regards to Kelenic.

Kelenic started the year on the Major League roster and lasted through May 11th before being sent down. At that time, he was hitting .140/.219/.291. In this most recent stint, he appeared in nine games, and all of those numbers have managed to go down. That’s in spite of some promising developments at the AAA level, which is just demoralizing to me as a fan, so I can only imagine what it’s been like for him. Last year, after he was sent down, he returned and made an impact at the big league level. Part of me was hoping that would be the case again this year, but it’s clear there’s something broken with … whatever he’s doing at the plate. I mean, I’ve never seen a more uncomfortable-looking batting stance in my life. I feel like going back to the drawing board might be in order there.

He had 2 hits (1 of them a homer in that 6-run first inning Gerrit Cole game) in 27 at bats, with 0 walks and 11 strikeouts. I will say that the defense was still there, but you can’t really make a career out of just competent outfield defense. I think that nails it as far as 2022 being a total and complete Lost Year for him. I also think – barring a very dramatic development between now and next year – that we’re going to have to forever temper our expectations when it comes to Kelenic. In all likelihood, he’s never going to pan out, and if he does it’ll be with another franchise.

You know what gets me? He used to be so delightfully cocky. It was 90% of his charm! He was so dominant through the minors, and he really let his personality shine through in interviews. Now, all I can see is someone who appears to be internally struggling with confidence. And that’s a recipe for disaster in professional sports. I really hope he gets it figured out, but I’m not holding my breath at this point.

***

This was supposed to be a Luis Torrens post, and there I go talking about Kelenic!

The other roster move the Mariners made yesterday was to call up Curt Casali off of the IL. He’s the backup catcher we traded for with the Giants, in a very necessary move to help give Cal Raleigh some rest.

Raleigh has been playing in a crazy number of games this year for a catcher, appearing in 72% so far. It’s even more impressive when you figure the M’s had a whopping three catchers on their roster to start the season, before Tom Murphy had a season-ending injury. And that also factors in a short stint in Tacoma where Cal was sent down to work on his swing (he left Seattle with a slash line of .083/.214/.208 in late April; it’s up to .207/.276/.458 now). Ever since Murphy went out – and since Cal started raking the ball – Raleigh has been playing virtually every day. Not literally, of course. Usually if there’s a day game after a night game, he’ll get a blow, but even then he might still come in to pinch hit or take care of the 9th inning catching duties.

I’m guessing, since he’s a big, strong kid without a lot of miles on his legs, the Mariners feel they can get away with it in the short term, but you can’t run him into the ground. They saw that at the deadline, and hence the Curt Casali deal.

As I mentioned at the time, Casali isn’t anything special. It’s not like we nabbed some other team’s starting catcher and brought him over here to back up Cal. He’s a clear #2. But, he’s also a competent one, by all accounts. And, unfortunately, that’s just not Luis Torrens.

Torrens came over in that famed fleecing of the Padres, where we brought in Ty France, Andres Munoz, and Taylor Trammell for Austin Nola and a couple of scrub relievers. I mean, that one goes in the Mariners Hall of Fame for best trades ever, but here we see the first chink in the armor.

Torrens’ bat was always the draw when it came to his overall package. No one ever really expected him to be an “everyday” starting catcher. I remember there being questions about him eventually moving to another infield spot. That came to a head in 2021. He was sent down early in the year because of his hitting, and when he returned he started to seriously rake, but never really got behind the plate again. He was primarily a DH, with a sprinkling of first base opportunities (and some work behind the scenes, I believe, at second or third base).

With his offensive woes seemingly rectified, he returned in 2022 with a new lease on life. We figured, again, he’d play some DH, but also opted to work him back in at catcher when we had that 3-man rotation (and Cal was struggling). That proved to be quite necessary when Murphy got hurt. I don’t remember there ever being a time this year when Torrens was the main starter – it seemed pretty simultaneous that after Murphy went on the IL, Cal took over as the team’s starter thanks to his offensive resurgence (to say nothing of his skills handling the pitching staff and calling games).

The main problem with Torrens is the fact that his offense has totally cratered. And he’s out of options, so we can’t just send him to Tacoma to work on it.

It’s a bummer. I really liked Torrens’ bat. You don’t see a lot of guys with his kind of power, especially to the opposite field (especially in Seattle). He had some big hits with the Mariners since 2020, most recently in that epic 1-0 victory over the Yankees in the 13th inning as a pinch hitter.

But, it’s becoming clear that he’s a man on an island in some respects. He’s just not what you want, defensively, from a catcher. He’s not atrocious; he’s passable. But it seems like whenever he has to take on too many defensive responsibilities, his bat goes down the tubes. And he’s not good enough defensively to make up for those kinds of limitations on offense.

Thankfully, the National League has embraced the DH, so I think he’ll be back again. I had my doubts that Daniel Vogelbach would stick around very long after leaving Seattle, and yet we still see videos of him popping up on Twitter from time to time, doing something fucking rad. Torrens is a DH, and an emergency fill-in at a couple of spots defensively. If he’s free to just focus on hitting, I think he’ll be okay and stick around a little while. Of course, he’d have more value if he hit lefty, but that’s neither here nor there.

Also, I guess there’s a slim chance that no one claims him and he accepts a demotion to Tacoma. After all, we’re one more injury away from him being back with the Mariners in that scenario. But, after his struggles this season, a change of scenery might be in his best interests.

3-DAYS LATER UPDATE: The slim chance comes to fruition! But, the M’s DFA’d Ken Giles over the weekend for some reason. That’s going to be annoying if he jumps to a contender and dominates in the playoffs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Dominated The A’s, Barely Got The Sweep

There’s something exciting about a sweep. They don’t come easy, even against the very worst teams. And, I think it’s safe to say, the A’s are indeed one of those very worst teams.

That’s why you kind of have to temper that excitement a little bit. Wake me up when the Mariners do it against a good team, you know? Even a mediocre team would be more impressive than something like this. The A’s are a small handful of very good players away from being a glorified AAA squad.

On top of that, it feels like a fluke that we got the sweep at all. The first two wins were about as impressive as it gets – 8-2 and 9-0 – but this afternoon’s nailbiter was idiotic as all get-out.

Marco Gonzales looked exceptional on Tuesday, going 7 innings, giving up 2 runs (both in his 7th inning of work, after the M’s had amassed a 7-0 lead). That was his eighth quality start on the season, fourth out of his last five games, and sixth out of his last eight. This one was noteworthy for how efficient he was (only 2 strikeouts, but also only 1 walk and 7 hits given up), with 17 ground ball outs (easily a season high). The game was also noteworthy in it being Ken Giles’ first game back in the big leagues since his 2020 injury that required Tommy John surgery. He’ll be brought back slowly to start, but so far he looked pretty good.

We’ll remember this game as the one where we had back-to-back-to-back homers by J-Rod, Winker, and Suarez. France and J-Rod both had 3 hits apiece, Winker had two extra-base hits, Upton had an RBI single, Trammell had a solo homer, and Cal Raleigh got on base every plate apperance.

Wednesday’s game featured 6 shutout innings from George Kirby (5 hits, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts). Winker, Crawford, J-Rod, and Trammell all had multi-hit games. Raleigh and Winker each had homers. And, we got to empty our bench (for the most part) with this game being a laugher by the end of the fifth inning.

Which brings us to this afternoon. Yet another quality start, this time by Robbie Ray (6 innings, 1 run on 4 hits & 2 walks, with 6 strikeouts). The A’s manufactured a run in the bottom of the first with two outs, then there was nothing but zeroes until the ninth inning. The Mariners are on some crazy streak of games where the starters have pitched at least 6 innings while giving up 3 runs or less, it’s really been fun (and would be a lot more fun if we didn’t have so many of these types of games where the offense can’t do a damn thing).

I don’t know how you explain this one. In the top of the ninth, Moore and Winker walked, with a J-Rod pop-out and a Suarez strikeout mixed in. Then, Kevin Padlo walked to load the bases. A wild pitch by the second reliever in the inning pushed home the tying run. Then, a second wild pitch – on ball 4 to Toro – scored the go-ahead run.

And, that was it. 4 walks and 2 wild pitches = 2-1 victory. Diego Castillo got the win, Paul Sewald got the save, bingo, bango, bongo.

Of course, we can’t have anything nice without something disasterous also happening. In this case, Ty France was trying to make a play defensively at first base and the runner ran into him, causing him to possibly hyperextend his elbow. It’s either going to keep him out for a few days or a few months, with probably no in-between.

In other words, if you haven’t already written the season off, then I’d go ahead and get your quill and inkwell ready. It was announced today that Tom Murphy is having season-ending surgery on his shoulder. That’s not the worst news in the world, but if you were counting on help from him sometime this season, think again. With Haniger out for at least another month, and Lewis out for God knows how long, a significant Ty France injury is the last nail in the coffin. We don’t even have a healthy Evan White to throw into the mix! Not that he’d be worth a damn at the plate, or even come CLOSE to making up for the loss of France’s bat. I guess what I’m getting at is: get ready for a lot more Dylan Moore!

I just hope this injury to France doesn’t keep him out for any of the 2023 season. More and more, it’s looking like we’re (at least) another year away from playoff contention. Even that comes into serious doubt if we don’t get France back for a full season next year.

The Mariners Were Punchless Against The Red Sox

I seem to be getting pretty lucky in the timing of my vacations. Every time I leave town for a long weekend, that’s when the Mariners unleash their most inept and frustrating performances.

Last Friday, Marco Gonzales slogged through 4.1 innings, giving up 2 runs, but throwing a massive amount of pitches just to get through the first inning. We might’ve improbably won this game thanks to a mostly-strong performance out of the bullpen, except Andres Munoz continued his run of looking simultaneously dominant and hittable. A guy who throws 100 with veritable ease shouldn’t throw so many fucking MEATBALLS that get destroyed, but here we are. Hence the 5+ ERA. He has an 11.4 K/9 which is good, but he’s giving up an .806 OPS; it’s a bizarre case.

Of course, giving up 4 runs shouldn’t be an insurmountable chore against the Red Sox, but on this night it was. Winker had a 2-run homer in the fifth to tie it up, and Raleigh had an RBI single late to make it close, but that was that.

We salvaged the game on Saturday thanks to a rally in the bottom of the 9th, after Sewald gave up a go-ahead run in the top half of the inning. Yet another glitchy performance from a guy who was absolutely dominant last year (related: Drew Steckenrider was recently DFA’d and then brought back to Tacoma on a minor league deal, to give you an indication of how the 2021 relievers are doing in 2022).

Every so often, you see glimpses of this Mariners offense attempting to break out of their season-long slump. Games like this one, where almost everyone contributed in some positive way. Crawford, Julio, Suarez, and Toro all had multiple hits. But, these games inevitably are the exception and not the rule.

We couldn’t keep the series win train rolling on Sunday though, with a 2-0 dud to close out the series. Robbie Ray was phenomenal – thanks to increased usage of his 2-seam fastball – going 7 shutout innings, giving up just 3 hits and a walk, while striking out 4. The game was all tied up at 0-0 heading into the 8th, when again, Sewald took the brunt of the damage. Of course, by all accounts, the batter hit a crazy pitch off the plate for a 2-run bomb, but that’s the way it’s been going for Sewald this year.

You need to score runs to win ballgames though, and Luis Torrens was all that prevented this one from being a Red Sox no-hitter. One hit. That’s it. So many fucking shit-terrible hitters in this lineup, it’s harkening back to those 2010 Mariners in terms of guys we’re going to look back and exclaim, “THEY were on this team?! Jesus Christ.”

Also, Jarred Kelenic has been striking out and hitting bombs and that’s pretty much it in Tacoma. Kyle Lewis has the world’s stickiest concussion. Mitch Haniger is a walking rehab stint (except, with that ankle, I doubt he’s walking very well). Evan White is a fucking ghost. And there aren’t any other position players close to making the jump to the Major Leagues anytime soon.

Were you wondering how Justin Upton is doing down in AAA, hoping that he might be some sort of savior? How does a slash line of .175/.267/.375 make you feel? That’s across 10 games and 40 at bats, where he’s racked up 17 strikeouts against only 4 extra base hits.

It’s bleak, man. Jesse Winker rightly was benched last night, and hopefully lost his spot atop the lineup. Adam Frazier is just doing nothing. Abraham Toro has one great game out of every ten. Cal Raleigh’s power numbers have improved, while everything else is bad as fuck. Taylor Trammell – after a hot start – has already cooled off considerably (no surprise there). And we’re stuck giving Dylan Moore and Sam Haggerty more playing time than they deserve, which is NOT what you want to see.

The Mariners Avoided Catastrophe By Defeating The Orioles

I suppose, if the Mariners keep winning series 2-1 for the rest of the year, eventually our record will improve enough to get back into the thick of a playoff race. But, we’ve dug ourselves such a deep hole that these sorts of minor victories feel hopeless. We need sweeps! We need to start winning at a 70% clip! I want to see this thing turn around in a hurry, and struggling against the likes of the Orioles is not going to do anything to soothe this nausea!

This series started off so promising, with a 10-0 rout on Tuesday. George Kirby went 6 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and walking 1, while striking out 8. And the offense gave him a VERY soft landing, piling up 8 of our 10 runs in the first three innings. Taylor Trammell had 3 hits and 4 RBI, Adam Frazier and Ty France had multi-hit games, and damn near everyone else in the lineup contributed in some small way.

Hopes of a cheap sweep were dashed by Robbie “One Bad Inning” Ray, who could only manage 5 innings while giving up 4 runs. He has only 4 quality starts in 11 games (and he’s supposed to be our Ace). What’s worse is that he has only 1 quality start in his last 7 appearances (the cheapest of all possible quality starts, going exactly 6 innings, giving up 3 runs against the lowly A’s). If you were interested in how many “Felix Quality Starts” he’s racked up so far (to harken back to a TRUE Mariners Ace), it’s exactly one, in his first game of the year, when he went 7 innings and gave up just the 1 run. He has no other games where he’s matched either total (never as many as 7 innings, never as few as 1 run). What a bust!

To be fair, Sergio Romo also had a meltdown from the bullpen, but that’s neither here nor there. J.P. Crawford had a homer and Julio Rodriguez had an RBI. Ty France had 3 hits.

The rubber match looked like it was going our way after the top of the sixth, when we took a 6-3 lead. But, in the bottom half of the inning, Matt Festa gave up a run, while leaving two more runners on. Paul Sewald came in to mop up, and for the second straight appearance he gave up inherited runners, this time to tie it at 6-6. Just another in a long line of shaky bullpen games from this unit that was supposed to carry the team.

The game remained tied through regulation, when Abraham Toro tripled in the ghost runner to take a 7-6 lead. Scott Servais apparently didn’t have any other choice than to squeeze a second inning out of Diego Castillo, who came up huge for the win.

Luis Torrens and Jesse Winker each had 3 hits, J-Rod had 2 hits, and a bunch of other guys came up with offense.

Does anyone get the feeling that Servais doesn’t trust Chris Flexen as far as he can throw him? It seems like he’s always on the shortest of leashes, and clearly it’s not to preserve his arm. I dunno, maybe it is. Of course, it’s not like his performances this season have earned him the kind of faith we might expect.

His contract has a club option for 2023 that doubles from $4 million to $8 million and converts to a player option if he reaches 150 innings pitched this year (or a combo of 300 innings between 2021-2022). He had 179.2 IP last year, and is at 55.1 this year, for a total of 235. You gotta wonder if some shenanigans are at play, especially if the club has already decided he’s not in our long-term plans. Again, though, if he’s going to be as mediocre as we’ve seen for most of this year, do you blame them?

The Mariners Managed A Surprisingly Dominant Series Win Over The Astros

If anything seemed unlikely to happen after the Mariners lost a series to the lowly Athletics, it was these very same Mariners turning right around and winning a series against the first place Astros. Yet, lo and behold, there it happened. And, not only that, but very nearly a series sweep!

While I was away, splashing around at the Great Wolf Lodge (and probably getting myself sick in the process, but it’s a small price to pay for family fun and entertainment), the Mariners put up some very impressive performances. What’s irked me so far this year is that we’re not super timely, in that I mean when the pitching is dominant, the hitting is also pretty good. But, when the hitting is bad, the pitching is also kind of mediocre; thus our losing record through two months of the season.

On Friday, we got 7 innings of 1-run ball out of Chris Flexen; he sprinked around 7 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6. I’m going to go ahead and say that based on opponent, it was easily his best performance of the year. Flexen has been adequate to good at times this year, but usually the offense falls on its face, so it was nice to see the Mariners jack so many homers to win it 6-1. Nevertheless, this kind of start would’ve been better placed in one of those earlier games where the offense wasn’t quite so strong. Then again, beggars can’t be choosers, I guess.

Julio Rodriguez and Kyle Lewis each hit 2-run bombs, while Ty France and the newly called up Taylor Trammell hit solo homers to give us all the offense we needed. This was all the more impressive considering Justin Verlander was on the hill opposite us, who gave up all 6 of those runs in his 6 innings of work. Outstanding!

Not to be outdone, the Saturday Mariners won 6-0, in a rare shutout victory for our side. Logan Gilbert, again, had easily the best start of his season, going 7 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits while striking out 5. The difference between him and Flexen is that he’s been performing at a high level all year. Nevertheless, this was true ace shit Gilbert was dealing with, not to mention it’s his third straight game of 7 innings. When you consider he’s still on something of a pitch count in his young career, I don’t know what more you can say. Gilbert is the real deal!

We saw another Kyle Lewis homer in this one. That’s two in back-to-back days, with a day off on Sunday (spoiler alert). The team is being extra cautious with him, which I like. Because, at this point, it’s abundantly clear we need his bat in the lineup as many days as possible. If that’s only 4 out of 7 days, so be it. That beats the hell out of whoever the fuck being in the lineup 7 out of 7 days.

The offense as a whole was strong in this one yet again, with 13 hits, only a day after notching 10 hits. That would not last (again, spoiler alert), but I’ll take as many promising developments as I can get (another one being that after a rough first couple of weeks down in Tacoma, Jared Kelenic is finally starting to look like the hitter we know he is, at least against PCL opponents).

Our 2-1 defeat on Sunday was not due to Marco Gonzales, who kept the outstanding start train rolling, going 7.2 innings, giving up 2 runs (though, it should be noted that Paul Sewald gave up the second – inherited – run, and thus was unable to do his job of keeping the game tied in a sticky situation, which has otherwise been his M.O. since the start of last year). Marco’s been a little up and down this year, but I still feel like he keeps us in ballgames more often than not. He does need a better offense – and for our defense to play up to its abilities – to be a truly great starting pitcher. Hopefully in 2023, things will finally come together for him. I feel like he’s damn near a 20-game winner on a team with a high-functioning offense.

There, unsurprisingly, wasn’t a lot of offense in this one. Ty France had the lone RBI, and is a manimal against pretty much anyone you put out there against him. Unfortunately, it gets to be pretty bare bones at the bottom of the lineup, especially when Kyle Lewis needs to sit. Mitch Haniger can’t return soon enough. This was proven in the bottom of the ninth when we loaded the bases, only for Luis Torrens to hit into a game-ending double play. Can’t have that. For one thing, with better hitters returning, you’d like to think you won’t need the Torrenses of the world covering your ass. But, also Torrens needs to be better. What hitter doesn’t relish that opportunity? Be a professional hitter and get that fucking runner home!

There was a holiday off-day yesterday as the M’s flew back across the country to face Baltimore in a 3-game set. They’re pretty much as bad as we are, so we should at least have a fighting chance the next few days.

Ranking The Trustworthiness Of The Mariners, Part 2: The Non-Pitchers

Check out what I wrote about the pitchers HERE.

Now, we’ve got the position players. There were 21 pitchers on the 40-man roster, which means we have 19 players listed below. Right away, it’s a less-pleasing number – impossible to equally divide into three separate categories – and as it turns out, I can’t even come all that close to making an equal three-way split anyway. The majority of the players you’ll find below are in that medium-trustworthy category. If things break right and the Mariners are once again contending for a playoff spot in 2022, it’ll be because a high percentage of these 50/50 guys bust out and are productive regular players. If the Mariners regress away from their 90-win 2021 season, it’ll be because a high percentage of these 50/50 guys shit the bed. But, first, let’s get the bad players out of the way.

No: The Least-Trustworthy Mariners Non-Pitchers Of 2022

#19 – Alberto Rodriguez

Everything I know about this guy, I learned from this link. Given his level of experience, I think there’s an extremely low chance that he plays for the Mariners this year. That being said, it does seem like his potential is higher than some of the players you’ll see ranked ahead of him in this post.

#18 – Jose Godoy

We’re talking about the fourth catcher on the 40-man roster (technically the third, I guess, if we assume Luis Torrens has played his last game behind the plate); this guy is injury depth and that’s it. Expect him to play the vast majority of his games in Tacoma. If he’s in Seattle for any length of time at all, something has gone seriously FUBAR.

#17 – Donovan Walton

He’s a 28 year old utility player; he stinks.

#16 – Kevin Padlo

He’s another white utility player; the only reason he’s ranked ahead of Walton is that he’s three years younger. Having less experience is a drawback, but that just means maybe there’s potential there for him to surprise us.

#15 – Taylor Trammell

2021 was his first year scraping the Big Leagues and he had every opportunity at the beginning of the season to lock down a starting outfield job. He failed. He showed a little more pop than expected, but his average was abysmal. Figure he’s another trade fodder candidate.

#14 – Evan White

For someone who has been as bad as he has through the first two years of his Major League career, it’s shocking he ranks as high as he does. But, his sub-par rookie season in 2020, followed by his sub-par and injury-plagued 2021, has cost him his starting first base job. I don’t know what’s in store for his career, but for someone who signed an early guaranteed-money contract – buying out his Arbitration Years – his Mariners future is cloudy at best.

Maybe?: The Medium-Trustworthy Mariners Non-Pitchers Of 2022

#13 – Tom Murphy

I don’t know what happened. He had such a relatively strong 2019 season, was slated to be our starter in 2020 (but got injured), then was our starter in 2021 but totally faceplanted. He eventually lost his job to a rookie and that was that. I don’t know how he’s still here, but there’s a reason why he’s a bubble guy for me when it comes to trustworthiness. The only notch in his favor is his veteran leadership. Also the fact that he’s projected to be our backup catcher in 2022; maybe reduced usage will help his overall output? I don’t have high hopes.

#12 – Cal Raleigh

It’s funny how secure I was in our catching position heading into 2021, only to see these guys be the biggest question mark heading into 2022. Raleigh had a rough rookie campaign last year, but pretty much any experience is good experience. He handled the pitching staff well, played adequate defense, and at least flashed some potential at the plate. I don’t think he was rushed into the Majors too early, but we’ll see. It wouldn’t shock me to see him return to Tacoma for a spell in 2022, but my hope is he’ll be playing better in September than he does in April.

#11 – Dylan Moore

Moore was one of our best and most surprising players in 2020, which makes his 2021 output that much more devastating. Initially, he was just a utility guy (and a bad one at that), then he turned himself into a starting second baseman; now he’s back to being a utility guy (and a bubble one at that). I don’t know if he’s long for the Mariners; we seem to have a logjam of utility guys. 2022 is really Now or Never for him.

#10 – Jake Fraley

Depending on health, Fraley might start out the season as a starting outfielder, but I don’t expect that to last. His saving grace in 2021 was his quality eye at the plate, and the slightly improved pop in his bat. But, his average was pitifully low, and his walk rate declined the more he played. He seems like a fourth outfielder at best, and is almost certainly another trade fodder candidate. He’s keeping a roster spot warm for another guy coming up later on this list.

#9 – Julio Rodriguez

This guy! Our very best minor league prospect and someone who is a consensus Future Superstar by pretty much every minor league scout. Think Kelenic last year, only with a higher all-around upside; I would expect him to have a starting job by early May, if not sooner. But, of course, that doesn’t mean he’s destined to be elite from the jump; again, think Kelenic last year. He’ll have ups and downs. He’s rated as highly as he is, though, because it’s believed he’ll have fewer downs than Kelenic, which is absolutely thrilling to me.

#8 – Kyle Lewis

Our 2020 Rookie of the Year is a bit of a tragic injury case. Last year, he suffered the second major right knee injury of his relatively brief professional career. When he’s healthy, he’s pretty great! He would be a fantastic outfield starter for us right this very minute if he can stay upright. As it is, he might just be trade bait, or a tale of woe of what might’ve been.

#7 – Abraham Toro

I don’t really have a great idea of what the Mariners have planned for Toro. He was a significant trade target at the deadline last year, and slotted in as a starting second baseman right away. He was pretty good, but the power wasn’t there, and he sort of faded down the stretch. He doesn’t play the outfield, and there are two holes on the infield – second and third base – one of which is going to be filled by Adam Frazier. There’s lots of speculation that the M’s will go out and acquire another starting infielder, which would make Toro’s place on the 40-man redundant. Is he another trade guy? Or do the M’s believe in him more than the rest of us? I do think he has starting potential – and I’d be interested in seeing what becomes of him – but if he’s handed a starting job (and a spot in the top half of the lineup) and the Mariners fail to make the playoffs, I think we’ll be pointing a finger at Toro as a big reason why. On the flipside, if he hits, then he’s a relatively inexpensive star on a young, up-and-coming team for the next few years!

#6 – Jarred Kelenic

I still believe in Kelenic, but I can’t put him in the top tier on this roster just yet until I see him perform at a high level consistently. He has the potential, he has the drive, he just needs to put it all together at the plate. It’ll happen, but his real breakout year might not be until 2023.

Yes: The Most-Trustworthy Mariners Non-Pitchers Of 2022

#5 – Luis Torrens

Look, if this seems too high to you, just know that I hear you. I get it. Torrens over Kelenic is going to look MIGHTY dumb sooner rather than later. But, Torrens – when they gave up on him being a catcher and made him a full-time DH – vastly improved as a hitter. He was bottoming out early in 2021 and spent a spell in Tacoma, but upon his return he was nails. I don’t think the M’s can afford to have a full-time DH on their roster – they like to give guys days off by playing DH – but as a regular hitter and an emergency catcher, I like what they have in Torrens. I also think they can build his value up to be another trade candiate if the right deal comes along. His power – especially to the opposite field – is something that’s rare in this game today.

#4 – Adam Frazier

He just seems like a steady veteran presence. Someone who will start for us at second, play everyday, and hit for a reasonably high average. Also, his eye at the plate will keep his value up there on this team. On a good team, with 7 or 8 quality hitters, I think Frazier is a key glue guy. But, if we’ve only got 3 or 4 quality hitters – and Frazier is one of them – I think there will be offensive woes beyond our comprehension. Here’s hoping others step up around him.

#3 – Mitch Haniger

He’s probably the best all-around hitter and player on this team, but he gets dinged for his injury history. He made it through 2021 unscathed, which might give you solace, but actually has me on high alert. That means he’s due for a major injury! I hope that’s not the case, because he’s a really good guy – and a really good player when he’s healthy. The Mariners need Haniger to lead the way if we’re going to make the playoffs in 2022.

#2 – Ty France

Hands down probably the best pure hitter on this team. He’s also not too shabby defensively at first base. I know that’s supposed to be Evan White’s job, but France’s effectiveness dwindles when you make him play elsewhere on the field. It’s easier to try to move White around, while occasionally giving White a spot start at first when France DH’s.

#1 – J.P. Crawford

With Seager retired, Crawford is the unquestioned leader of this team (or, at least up there with Haniger). He’s one of the best defensive short stops in the game, and he’s turned himself into a pretty effective hitter at the top of the lineup. Given how hard he works, and his natural ability, I expect him to be a plus Major Leaguer for the foreseeable future. There’s no one I trust more on this team, to get a big hit, or make a big play defensively. All around stud.

The Mariners Bought Out The Arbitration Years Of Andrés Muñoz

The Mariners have done nothing but make unexpected moves this offseason, starting with the deal for Adam Frazier, and the signing of Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray. I would put this deal with Muñoz in the same camp.

Andrés Muñoz is yet another guy we got in the Austin Nola deal with the Padres. It’s so completely unbelievable how well off we made out on that trade, I almost never want to talk about it again! Ty France alone would’ve made it a win for our side. But, Luis Torrens has been a consistent contributor, Taylor Trammell looks like he’ll be a valuable trade piece at some point, and now Muñoz is apparently slotted to be a major back-end of the bullpen piece for years to come.

It’s 4 years, $7.5 million, not a shockingly-high figure. This Lookout Landing piece gives a lot of great information as to why this could be a good deal for the Mariners; in essence, if he pitches to the plus-side of his potential, we’ll have a bargain on our hands after two years (there are also three option years beyond the regular contract years, that will likely be higher in salary, but if he’s still here for those years, then he’s almost certainly out-pitched expectations to an outstanding degree; I don’t expect those option years will be picked up).

Of course, if he pitches to the plus-side of his potential, we’ll have a bargain regardless, because we’re talking about less than $2 million a year for a guy who can touch 100 mph on his fastball. That will be a nice little addition to what projects to be an already-solid bullpen.

The surprising thing about this move is that the Mariners didn’t have to do this. They really only do this for players they believe in (first round draft pick Evan White comes to mind, though there might be others I’m forgetting; I know they tried with Jarred Kelenic), so it would stand to reason they believe in Muñoz. Because bullpen arms in their pre-arbitration years don’t cost a lot. Even during those arbitration years – where they’re getting raises prior to every season – it’s not like they’re breaking the bank for an MLB team. This isn’t a move they needed to make to try to save some future dollars; it might even be foolish when you consider what injury risks pitchers are, especially pitchers who throw in the triple digits.

I mean, hell, Muñoz himself is coming off of Tommy John surgery! He missed all of 2020 and almost all of 2021 (returning for our very last game, to pitch 0.2 innings). They must REALLY believe in this guy if they’re willing to get ahead of this thing.

Either that, or it’s the kind of big balls move a GM makes when he has all the power over personnel decisions. Usually, when it comes to the Mariners, this is the kind of move that backfires horribly, and is one of a long list of moves we look back on and say, “See, this guy had no idea what he was doing!”

But, if things work out, and the Mariners win it all, then this is the kind of move we might look back on and say, “See, this guy is a genius!”

I guess, more than anything, I don’t mind it. It’s only $7.5 million. For the kind of stuff this kid has, it’s worth a shot. It’s worth it even if he’s only healthy for two of those years, as long as he produces incredible results in that time. So, why not? Let’s make this bullpen a dominant force for years to come! Clearly, as was the case in 2021, a dominant bullpen can take you a long way.

The Mariners Keep Winning Series, Defeating The Blue Jays

Are the Mariners actually decent? This question was posed to me yesterday after the M’s took the series against the Blue Jays, 2 games out of 3. Sure, I think the Mariners are decent. But, “decent” and “good” are two different things. I think the Mariners will hover around .500 all year, but I also think there will be some ugly losing stretches we’ll have to endure, that ultimately prevent us from making the playoffs. When I close my eyes, I don’t see a playoff team. If I squint really hard, it’s possible. But, you have to wonder how much help is on the horizon.

There are still younger guys who will be called up and could make a difference in the second half of the season. Kelenic is out there, Cal Raleigh is bursting at the seams. But, where is the pitching coming from? With all of these off-days of late, we’ve temporarily abandoned the 6-man rotation, but you have to believe it’s returning after the All Star Break. The M’s don’t HAVE six healthy viable starters, with Justin Dunn on the shelf and presumably requiring an extended break to calm down his arm. On top of that, Justus Sheffield has been hot garbage over the last month, so we’re REALLY in need of two starters if we want to continue on these winning ways. And that assumes our existing starters manage to stay healthy the rest of the way, which you know will not happen.

Just enjoy the fucking ride. It’s been fun the last couple weeks, as the Mariners have gone 12-4 to lift their record to 43-39. That seems like an abnormally fortunate stretch of baseball for a team whose run differential is still -42.

I talked earlier in the week about how the Blue Jays’ record wasn’t indicative of their talent level, that they’re much better than you might think. Tuesday’s 9-3 drubbing proved that point quite nicely. Chris Flexen was okay (5 innings, 3 runs), but the bullpen totally shit the bed, with Rafael Montero and Will Vest giving up 3-run home runs in back-to-back innings. Ty France’s 3-run home run – to grace Flexen with the well-earned no decision – was the only offense to speak of.

Wednesday’s 9-7 Mariners victory was one of the more entertaining games of the season, marred by a brutal YouTube telecast (more Sarah Langs, less of … everyone else, please). I, of course, had zero faith in the M’s in this one, especially after what I witnessed the previous evening. Justus Sheffield didn’t disappoint, in that respect, giving up 4 runs in 4 innings. Frankly, he was lucky he didn’t get blown up more than he did!

The M’s jumped out to a 4-1 lead that was chipped away to a 4-4 tie after four innings. Highlights from that stretch included a Trammell RBI double and a Seager 2-run home run. Haniger hit a 2-run bomb in the fifth to make it 6-4, which dropped to 6-5 by the bottom half of the inning. That score held until the 8th when the Blue Jays hit a solo bomb to tie it. We made it to extras where, in the tenth, Dylan Moore hit a 3-run home run to put the game away (a harmless Blue Jays unearned run scored in the bottom half, but nothing after that).

6 innings and only 2 earned runs out of the bullpen in that one! On top of which, Crawford, Seager, and Moore all had multi-hit games (13 hits total for the Mariners). The only downside to this one was the money I definitely didn’t lose by betting against the Mariners, I don’t even know what you guys are talking about!

There was a lot to like about the rubber match, with another dominant Yusei Kikuchi performance right at the top. 7 innings, 1 run (5 hits, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts). Dude, we HAVE to pick up his option years. I mean, yeah, wait until the end of the season or whatever, but get this done. He has clearly turned a corner in his career, and if this is the type of pitcher we can expect going forward, he’ll be a bargain!

Homers by Fraley and Long, multi-hit games by Fraley, Haniger, and Seager. Just a great game all around for the Mariners.

That made it a 4-2 road trip, and now here we are: a 9-game homestand to close out the first half, starting with three against the Rangers this weekend. Don’t look now, but there’s buzz around this team. Maybe ill-placed buzz, but buzz nonetheless.