The Mariners Completed A Team-Record 21-Win Month Of August

It’s kind of incredible that the Mariners went 21-6 in the month of August. Incredible in that this was the franchise record for wins in any single month, especially when you consider the team won 116 games in 2001. But, also, just compared to where we came from to start this season.

We were 12-16 through April. We went 17-11 in May, but 7 of those wins came against Oakland. Then, we went 9-15 in June to further send this season spiraling, culminating in a 15-4 loss to the Rays that had the fans in T-Mobile Park booing like we haven’t seen in quite some time. 38-42 felt like the nadir, and a real tipping point for this team. With two weeks to go before the All Star Break, and a month to go before the trade deadline, you had to wonder if this team had what it takes.

After that, we started to turn it around, going 7-2 to close out the first half. In the entire month of July, we went 17-9, in spite of some hiccups in the immediate aftermath of the All Star Break. That kind of play brought us to 55-51, but not a whole lot in the way of activity at the deadline.

Then came August. Two 8-game winning streaks in that span. An 8-2 road trip – including a sweep of the Astros – and a 5-1 homestand at the end, against the dregs of the sport.

We won 2/3 against the A’s this week, which isn’t as disappointing as it appears when you consider the loss came in a game where everything that could’ve gone wrong DID go wrong.

Let’s kick it off on a happy note: an easy, breezy 7-0 victory on Monday. Bryan Woo – in his second start coming out of an IL stint – was still on a restricted pitch count, but managed to go 6 innings, giving up 3 hits and a walk, while striking out 5, all on 69 pitches. Boy, that’s huge! I know the level of competition is sus, but he still had to go out there and do a lot with a little, if we wanted to preserve our bullpen, and he passed with flying colors. The Mariners jumped all over the Oakland starter – scoring 4 runs in the first three innings, and 6 runs in the first four – affording us the opportunity to utilize the back-end of our bullpen (Saucedo, Campbell, and Thornton all feasted).

The heart of our line up – one through five – did all the damage. J.P. led off the game with a homer, had 2 hits total, with 3 runs scored. Julio went 4/5 with a homer, 3 RBI, and 3 runs. Suarez had 2 hits and a walk, with a run. Teoscar also had 2 hits and 2 RBI. And Ty France went 2/3 with a walk. 12 of our 14 hits came from those five guys; simply remarkable!

It’s hard to say whether or not this would’ve been a sweep had everyone been healthy, but things got off to a VERY rocky start on Tuesday when George Kirby was scratched due to a stomach bug. It looked even more grim when Julio was also scratched with what was later revealed to be a nerve issue with his foot, that has a mysterious origin no one can seem to pinpoint.

Given the last-minute nature of things, Luke Weaver was forced into action, and the results were as predictable as they were aggravating. It really does look like he has quality stuff: the fastball is live, with some movement; the breaking pitches are solid, and he’s got a great mix of different ones to go to. But, his command and/or control is EXTREMELY lacking. He catches WAY too much of the plate, and was pounded accordingly. Since he wasn’t stretched out, he only went 3.2 innings, giving up 7 hits (including 2 homers) and 3 runs, with 0 strikeouts. I don’t know how many hard hits he gave up to batters with two strikes, but it was appalling. And, to make matters worse, he had one of the worst pick-off moves to first I’ve ever seen, spiking it so bad it bounced up and bashed into Ty France’s thumb/wrist, resulting in him being pulled from the game out of an abundance of caution and hand swelling.

Weaver had a tremendous Mariners debut against the White Sox, pitching 2 flawless innings, striking out 5. But, he’s followed that up with two appearances where he’s gone 4.2 innings, giving up 4 runs. Just scrolling through his game log with the Reds this season, I would say the latter two performances are more on brand with what he is. I don’t understand how this is something we’re valuing over a guy like Tommy Milone, who can at least induce weak contact and get the defense involved. You can’t utilize your defense if you’re giving up bombs to the cheap seats!

All that being said, the bullpen did everything it could to keep us in this one; the A’s never scored again after Weaver was pulled with runners on base. Campbell, Thornton, and Saucedo each pitched on no rest, and ate up 4.1 innings of 1-hit ball, with Matt Brash sprinkling in a scoreless inning as well.

Unfortunately, the offense just didn’t have it in this one. The A’s starter was wild – giving up 5 walks – but he held us to 1 hit and 1 run in 4 innings of work. And the bullpen behind him was pure filth, striking out 9 across 5 innings, probably pitching better than they have all season. Just hitting the corners, keeping us off-balance, and making us look ridiculous. Down 3-1, with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, we did manage a little rally. Rojas singled and J.P. doubled to give us two in scoring position with Suarez at bat. But, alas, we couldn’t complete the rally and that was that.

On getaway day yesterday, we were still without Julio, though France had healed up enough to go 0 for 3 with a walk. Bryce Miller didn’t have his best stuff, but he gutted through 6 innings, giving up 3 runs. Teoscar tied the game with a 3-run bomb in the third, which was precisely what this team needed to get going. Justin Topa didn’t have good stuff either, giving a run back in the seventh to put us in a 4-3 hole.

Our offense really lit them up in the bottom half of the inning, though. With a lefty on the mound, Canzone doubled, Ford singled, and Moore walked to load the bases. One out later, J.P. doubled home two runs to give the M’s a 5-4 lead. Too bad we couldn’t play add-on, but Brash and Munoz had it going on to preserve the victory.

We head into September tied for the A.L. West lead. We’re also comfortably ahead of the Blue Jays for a wild card spot. Not SUPER comfortable; I’m not dropping the ol’ Mission Accomplished banner just yet. But, they seem to be the only competition outside of our division for the wild card, if worse comes to worst.

29 games to go. 7 against Texas, 3 against Houston, 4 against Tampa, and 3 against the Dodgers. There’s also 6 against the Angels and A’s. In our immediate future, we have our final East Coast swing until maybe the playoffs, at the Mets, Reds, and the aforementioned Rays. The Mets are bad, the Reds are average, and the Rays are still ahead of us by a fair amount. It’s gonna be edge-of-your-seat entertainment from here on out!

The Mariners Are On The Brink With Their Starting Rotation

I don’t want to alarm anyone, or overlook all the awesome things the Mariners are doing as a team this year. But … this is just something to keep an eye on.

The unquestioned strength of the 2023 Mariners is its starting rotation. It’s interesting to think of what could’ve been had everyone stayed as healthy as they were in 2022, but there’s definitely an argument to be made that injuries to Robbie Ray and later Marco Gonzales actually made this rotation stronger.

We have no idea how Robbie would’ve responded after some late-season challenges last year; he is a former Cy Young Award winner, after all. There’s no reason why he couldn’t return to form. But, I think some skepticism is a little smart – and valid – and if you asked me who I would want right now to start an important game between Bryce Miller and a fully healthy Robbie Ray, I’d pick Miller and it’s not even close. As for Marco, he’s been on a clear downward trend since 2020; his stuff wasn’t even good enough to crack the playoff roster last year. Between an inexperienced and sometimes wild Woo or Gonzo, I think I’m taking Woo’s stuff and not looking back.

The thing is, while that’s fine in a hypothetical, in reality we’re talking about two rookie pitchers who have limits to how long they can pitch this season. They’re both skyrocketing beyond their career highs in innings. The short IL stint for Woo will help, but just think where we were a week ago. We were staring down the barrel of a 6-man rotation, with the addition of another impressive young arm in Emerson Hancock. An embarrassment of riches! Just as the offense is catching fire and pulling this team back into the playoff race. It was all so perfect.

It turns out, a little too perfect. Hancock’s last start got cut short after two innings, he came up lame with a shoulder issue, and now he not only finds himself on the IL, but the 60-day IL. His season is done. It speaks to a tragic long-term outlook – considering this is the third time he’s found himself with serious arm issues – and if you look at the way he throws a baseball, it just looks fucking painful. I imagine this won’t be his last time on the IL, and I’m seeing a bullpen role ultimately being his fate.

Okay, fine. Woo has returned and we’re back to our five best starters. We’ll see how it goes the rest of the way.

The thing that scares me is now we’re talking about the third season-ending injury to a valued starting pitcher. Four if you want to count Easton McGee (whose season was dashed after one spot start in Seattle), though I don’t know if I’d call him “valued”. Digging deeper into our depth, obviously Chris Flexen was a flop and was DFA’d. And, until this year, Taylor Dollard was an up-and-coming prospect who just got his feet wet in AAA before going down for the season after 3 starts. Who’s left? Darren McCaughan (of the 5.99 ERA in Tacoma, and underwhelming mop-up appearances with the Mariners) and Tommy Milone (of the 4.44 ERA in Tacoma, with two decent spot starts with the M’s spanning 9 total innings). That’s it. The cupboard is bare in AA; there aren’t any more flashy prospects waiting in the wings.

Now, I see that – as part of yesterday’s spate of roster moves – we picked up someone named Luke Weaver. He’s just flat out bad. He started all year for Cincinnati and sucked through and through with a near-7 ERA, averaging less than 5 innings per outing. It was pretty clear the Reds didn’t trust him, nor was he someone to be trusted, ultimately resulting in his release last week.

We’re told that he’s going to be a long reliever, and an occasional spot starter, and BOY HOWDY does that sound unappealing coming from him.

It’s weird that we’d choose Weaver over Milone or McCaughan, two guys in our system, whose stuff we’re familiar with. What do we know about Weaver? He’s got a good pitch mix, but just hasn’t unlocked his potential yet? He’s 30 years old! He is who we thought he was! Besides, is late August of a pennant chase the best time to build up a reclamation project? Can you even call someone a “reclamation project” if he’s never put together a full season of competence?

Here’s my concern: what if we lose another starter? That’s what I’m talking about when I say we’re on the brink. God forbid we lose one of our top three guys, but even if we lose Miller or Woo to injury, the dropoff is CONSIDERABLE. Again, the plus side is that it’s late August. A pisspoor fifth starter won’t ultimately be the reason we’d fail to miss the playoffs in that scenario. But, then again, the Mariners are where they’re at, and the margin for error is pretty thin. So, YEAH, a pisspoor fifth starter MIGHT ultimately be the reason we flame out! One bad game in the last week or two of the season might be the one game that costs us.

Hopefully, the offense is here to stay, and maybe they’d bail us out going forward. That’s what I have to cling to, anyway. The Rays have been bitten by the injury bug probably more than any contender, and yet they’ve still managed to stay in the thick of things. They’re an inspiration! Here’s to the Mariners being like the Rays (minus employing the alleged underage sexual assaulters).

Well, really, here’s to the Mariners not losing any more guys to injury. Let’s stay just the way we are from here on out!

Is Now The Right Time For The Mariners To Call Up Emerson Hancock?

I always find August to be the most interesting time in a baseball season. It’s also often the most frustrating. When you hear about the “dog days of summer” in reference to baseball, this is the time that’s being referenced. Early-to-mid August through the end of the month; this three week (or so) stretch. You’re past the All Star Break, you’re past that stretch run in July where every game fells like life or death because of the impending trade deadline, and you’re a little bit beyond that deadline, where you see a little boost from whatever moves you ended up making (to either add to your big league club, or from minor leaguer call-ups after subtracting from your big league club).

It’s also, critically, before the stretch run in the month of September, where playoff spots are won or lost.

These are the hardest games. Everyone’s tired. Everyone’s at least a little banged up. The weather is fucking miserable. And, lord help you if the scheduling gods have thrust an extended road trip upon you.

I don’t know how to search for this – or if the information even exists to someone like me (without going through every single season and doing the math for 40+ years) – but anecdotally it feels like the Mariners fucking stink in the month of August. Like, more than most teams. I’m sure I’m way off base and we’d find them somewhere in the middle of the pack, but I think it’s actually a pretty safe assumption given how mediocre the Mariners have been for the duration of their history. Nevertheless, I always dread this stretch of August, because bad things always seem to happen.

Is it any coincidence that the greatest collapse in Mariners history – a 15-14 defeat in Cleveland in 2001, when we had a 14-2 lead going into the bottom of the 7th inning – happened right around this time (August 5th)? I will always believe that was a turning point in our 116-win season, that ultimately led to an unceremonious ouster in the ALCS.

Anyway, I find this particular stretch, in 2023, to be more interesting than almost any other in my time following the M’s. Obviously, we all know what’s happened so far this year. The Mariners were supposed to be playoff (and even divisional) contenders, they got off to an absolutely mediocre start, and have only in the last month and change clawed their way back to respectability. The job isn’t done yet – not by a long shot – but the Mariners are just now starting to resemble the team we all expected them to be.

It’s an interesting time because of what we did – or didn’t – do at the trade deadline. We kept our everyday lineup mostly intact. There were a couple of addition-by-subtraction moves in jettisoning Pollock and Wong, along with a couple of We’ll See additions of Canzone and Rojas (who, for now, are largely on the fringe of regular playing time, mixing in with the group we already had in place, rather than getting extended looks). What’s happened is what was obvious to everyone: the M’s were only going to start winning more often when the core guys started hitting more often.

But, maybe the most important thing is happening as we speak. We’re at a crossroads, so to speak, when it comes to the back of our rotation.

We lost Robbie Ray after his first start of the season. We lost Marco Gonzales at the end of May. We lost Chris Flexen to ineffectiveness. That, in turn, opened up two spots in the rotation that were filled by AA call-ups Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo. As has been pointed out by the Seattle Times, among others, they’re both nearing their innings limits. Miller is at a combined 106 innings, after throwing for 133.2 last year. Woo is at a combined 99 innings, after throwing only 57 last year (he’s coming off of a major arm injury in 2021). I don’t know what the upper limit is for these two guys, but I get the sense it’s fast approaching. The Mariners are all about working guys up slowly, to hopefully prevent long-term damage, which is the right thing to do, but a bitter pill to swallow in a playoff chase.

The tough part is: there’s no veteran help coming anytime soon. Ray is out for the year. And we have no idea when Marco will be able to throw again; he very well also might be done. We have Tommy Milone – a Quad-A guy in Tacoma at the moment – and that’s pretty much it as far as guys with Major League experience.

Enter Emerson Hancock.

It’s not totally clear what the plan is at this point. We know that Woo was placed on the IL with a forearm strain, so probably Hancock is taking Woo’s spot for now. My hope is that the M’s are fudging the numbers a bit, and this is just an excuse to give Woo some healthy rest, without needing to make a more serious move to free up a spot on the active roster.

Assuming that’s the case, what’s the plan for when Woo returns? Are the Mariners going to move one of these young guys to the bullpen? Are they going to go to a 6-man rotation for the next few weeks/the rest of the season? Some combination of the two (a 6-man rotation, then convert one or two to the bullpen at season’s end)? Anything could be on the table.

My main questions for today are: is this the right move? Is it the right move for the Mariners? And is it the right move for Hancock’s professional baseball career?

Hancock was selected in the first round of the 2020 draft. He pitched most of 2021 in Everett, before a late call up to AA Arkansas. Then, he spent the entirety of 2022 in AA (with, I believe, some injury issues limiting his availability), and so far in 2023, he’s spent a comparable amount of time (0.1 fewer innings in 1 fewer start) in AA, working on things and growing as a pitcher.

In that sense, he’s probably ready. The Mariners, for their highest-rated prospects, like to call them up directly from AA. It makes you wonder why they even have a AAA team in the PCL, if all the stadia are so bad for pitchers/good for hitters, but the allure of having the Tacoma Rainiers right there in your backyard (for IL purposes, as well as hopefully-temporary demotions to work on things or get heads right) should be obvious to all.

I like to look through game logs in cases like these, where a highly-rated prospect is invited to The Show. Just looking at a stat line might be deceiving, unless the numbers are so blazing hot they’re undeniable. Hancock, at first blush, doesn’t look like a dominating AA force (4.32 ERA in 98 innings across 20 games), but that doesn’t tell you everything. Before his most recent outing on August 2nd (5 innings, 3 runs, on 6 hits and 2 walks, with 7 strikeouts; nothing to sneeze at), he was on fire: 20 IP, 1 ER, 8 hits, 2 walks, 19 K’s across three starts.

Cause for concern: in the start immediately preceeding that stretch, he was knocked out in the second inning, after giving up 9 runs on 9 hits, with 2 walks and 2 K’s. But, by and large he’s been mostly good this year, especially since the beginning of June. And, again, not even the game logs tell the full story, because we don’t really know what the team was asking him to do. Maybe he was told to focus on his secondary pitches, to get them up to snuff (knowing his fastball and control would play anywhere).

In the first two months of Woo’s season down in AA, he wasn’t anything spectacular. He was fine, but the starts tended to run short (almost certainly by design), and the results were up and down. But, apparently he’d mastered whatever it was the Mariners wanted him to work on (at least, well enough to get the call-up once Marco went down), and that’s all that mattered.

Similarly, with Bryce Miller, he wasn’t setting AA ablaze in the month of April. He had one good start, and even that was limited to 5 innings! So, you know, it’s impossible for someone like me, outside of the organization, to make any sort of educated determination on a pitcher’s readiness.

I would say Hancock is at least as ready as Miller or Woo. Maybe more! He has far and away more innings logged in AA than Miller and Woo combined. We’ll see how it translates to Hancock’s performance with the Mariners – especially in the dog days of summer, in the middle of a playoff race – but I can’t argue with decision, knowing what we know.

So, we’ll see if this is the right move for this year’s Mariners. I would think, going forward, this experience will be invaluable in the years to come. Either Hancock ingratiates himself as a permanent member of this rotation, or he turns himself into an even more valuable trade chip this offseason, in the event we find a deal for a quality bat. He’s never going to reach his fullest value as a trade prospect until teams see him pitch at this level. You have to believe – with Ray returning next year, and with one more year of Marco under contract – that the Mariners will be trading one of these young arms (as loathe as we are to think of it) in the offseason.

But, as I said before, for 2023, it’s either Hancock or Milone. Milone can get called up anytime; he’s not going anywhere. He’s a known quantity. You like him as a spot start guy in an emergency, but there’s diminishing returns the more exposed he becomes to Major League hitting. Hancock, on the other hand, has vastly more impressive stuff, and he’s a bit of a mystery. Here’s hoping that plays well in the short term, to give us a much-needed boost in this oh-so-critical time of the season.

Do The Mariners Have What It Takes To Get To 90 Wins?

And, more importantly, is 90 wins enough to get the Mariners in the playoffs?

As we sit here, the Mariners have played 89 games out of a 162-game season. Doing my very best mathematics, I believe that means there are 73 games left to go. In those first 89 games, the Mariners have gotten to 45 wins. I know we talk about pre- and post-All Star Break as the first and second “halves”, but as you can clearly see from my math above, we don’t actually have half of our games remaining. We have considerably less than half. And yet, somehow, we have to find a way to double our win total just to get to 90 wins, in 16 fewer games. Which, as I noted above, might not even be enough to get us in the playoffs.

The Mariners have dug themselves an annoying little hole here. Let’s take a look at the damage before we assess the likelihood of pulling out of this nosedive.

The Mariners are 45-44, in third place in the A.L. West. We had been in fourth place for most of the season, until this 7-2 stretch to close out the first half led to us taking a game lead over the Angels. But, we’re 4 games behind Houston and 6 games behind Texas. That’s not completely insurmountable, but obviously a tall order.

As for the wild card spots, we’re squarely in the thick of it. There are 8 teams (not counting the current division leaders) in the running for 3 spots. Currently, those spots are held by the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Astros. Since we know the Mariners are 4 games behind the Astros, that means we also know the Mariners are 4 games out of the final wild card spot. There are two other teams ahead of us as well: the Yankees are 3 games better, and have a tiebreaker over us thanks to winning 4 of 6 in our season series; the Red Sox are 2 games better, and are currently leading the tiebreaker advantage by having beaten us 2 of 3 times so far.

I should also point out, for tiebreaker purposes, that both the Blue Jays and Orioles have a 2 of 3 advantage so far. The Angels lead our season series 4-2, the Guardians have already won a tiebreaker advantage over us 4-3, and Texas has a 5-1 advantage. Currently, we have an edge over the Rays 2-1 (probably meaningless, since they figure to have a far-and-away better record than us by season’s end, and will likely win their division), the Astros (a significant 5-2 lead, with 6 games to go), and we’ve yet to play the Twins, which feels important if – indeed – the Mariners have decided to start playing more competent baseball.

So, there’s kind of a lot to overcome. It’s never easy, is it?

To get to 90 wins, the Mariners will have to go 45-28, or win at a .616 clip the rest of the way. That’s very nearly winning 2 of 3.

I mean, it’s not impossible, but it also leaves us with a razor thin margin for error. Is this team capable of going 45-28? Sure. If the pitching holds up (meaning: both it performs well, and doesn’t suffer any more catastrophic injuries). If the hitting turns itself around. It’s not like we’ve gotta turn into a completely new team; we just need to do a little bit better than we’ve been doing all year. Maybe a new bat helps. Or maybe we’re not able to find that difference-maker, but a guy or two already on the roster starts playing to his expected abilities.

There are some built-in challenges we have to overcome as well. Bryan Woo almost certainly won’t make it to the end of the season. He has a hard innings limit, and I don’t think there’s a way for us to manipulate that without risking his arm long term. My hope here is that he’s able to bridge the gap between Marco Gonzales’ IL stint. But, I haven’t heard any news about Marco in quite some time.

There’s also the Bryce Miller factor. This IL stint for a blister issue might be the best thing for him and us. I believe we have a little more leeway with Miller as far as an innings limit is concerned, but at some point his season is likely to end before we get to the playoffs, even if it is in September. There doesn’t appear to be any guarantee that Marco comes back, but even if he does, there’s a strong likelihood we may need another starter at some point. That means any number of Quad-A guys in Tacoma (like Tommy Milone, for instance, or Darren McCaughan), or maybe we give Emerson Hancock the ball (who surely has innings issues of his own, not to mention a shaky start to his AA season).

Does all this mean the Mariners might need to bring in another starter? I doubt we’ll do that – unless someone gets hurt in the next three weeks – but you never know.

Gun to my head: what do I predict?

I think the smart money is on the Mariners NOT making the playoffs. What needs to happen for this to come to fruition is simple: the Mariners need to continue playing the way they’ve played all year. We will, at some point, make a trade, but I can’t imagine it will be for any sort of high-impact bat. I think it’ll be one of those hedge moves. Maybe it’s a guy with club control – where we can shed Wong and/or Pollock – of the Abraham Toro variety. Maybe there’s an aging Carlos Santana type to be had for cheap. But, what’s working against us is the simple fact that there are so many good teams looking for improvements (11 out of 15 teams in playoff contention the American League alone, with another 8 out of 15 in the N.L. all within just a half-game of the post-season, not counting the Padres and Cubs, who have losing records but positive run differentials). So, either the Mariners have to over-spend in trade to get someone who might not even be enough to get us to the playoffs anyway, or we settle for someone on the fringes and hope for the best.

Conversely, what needs to happen for the Mariners to right the ship?

We need Julio, Eugenio, and Cal to all pick up their games significantly on the offensive side of things. We need Teoscar, Ty, Jarred, and J.P. to just be who they’ve been and no worse. We need a little more out of second base, whether that’s Wong getting hot or Caballero being more than just a walk machine. And then we just need a bat to be in that middle range of Teoscar/Ty/Jarred. Like a Mike Ford, or a Tom Murphy, or an A.J. Pollock, or TBD.

But, the majority of this stretch run needs to be dominated by our stars: Julio, Eugenio, and Cal. Those are our monsters, and it’s about time for them to be unleashed.

On the pitching side of things, no notes from our starters, other than: no more injuries. As for the relievers, I want to see some unsustainable hot stretches from our back-end-of-the-bullpen guys. Brash, Munoz, and Sewald. No more blown saves. No more back-breaking homers allowed. Just zeroes, by whatever means necessary.

I believe in Julio. I think he has a helluva second half in store. I’m less bullish on Suarez or Raleigh. And the bullpen kinda scares me a little bit.

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to root like crazy. That doesn’t mean there’s a small, simple part of me – buried deep down, underneath decades of insufferable Mariners play – that believes in a playoff run. If it happens, it’ll be up there with the ’95 comeback. But, I’m bracing myself for disappointment. This is the way.

The Mariners Have Played Slightly Better Lately

Still not good enough to entirely draw my interest. But, I’m cautiously encouraged. It’s not like I haven’t seen flashes of competence before, so I’m not jumping into this pool until I see a more consistent stretch of dominance.

The good news is that the Mariners have won back-to-back series against quality baseball teams in the Rays and Giants. The bad news is that in our two losses over that span, it showcased everything that’s still wrong with this team.

Last Friday, the Mariners lost 15-4 in the series opener against the Rays. We’ve been seeing these types of defeats more and more in the last month. This one might’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back, though. We were up 4-0 heading into the top of the fourth. The game was tied 4-4 heading into the top of the eighth. Bryce Miller had blister issues on his throwing hand, and the bullpen obviously wasn’t super sharp from there. We know this because the Rays scored a whopping 8 runs in the 8th, then another 3 runs in the 9th off of Mike Ford to give the game its final score. 15 unanswered runs led to an avalanche of boos from the home crowd. Well deserved boos.

The Mariners managed to bounce back the next day, winning 8-3 behind another strong start by George Kirby (7 innings, 2 runs). J.P. and Julio each had 3 hits, Teoscar and Kelenic each had 2 hits, and a smattering of other guys chipped in. A real team effort in this one, too few and far between if you ask me.

We managed to sack up in the finale, coming back to win 7-6. It looked extremely ugly to start, as (at that time) our lone All Star – Luis Castillo – gave up 6 runs in the first three innings (4 earned), and we were down 6-1 heading into the bottom of the third. But, the M’s came roaring back with a 4-spot in that frame to make it 6-5. Tom Murphy tied it with a solo homer in the sixth, and we scored the go-ahead run in the seventh off of a hit by pitch. Everyone in the lineup, 1-9, contributed in some way. Castillo settled down to get through six innings, and the bullpen was nails from there.

The good times kept on rolling in San Francisco with a 6-5 victory on Monday. Bryan Woo had his best start of the year so far (6 innings, 2 runs), but things were deadlocked at 2-2 until the 9th inning, when all hell broke loose. The M’s rallied for four runs to seemingly run away with things. Except, Paul Sewald, in the bottom half, gave up a 3-run bomb to tighten it up again. Luckily, the offense nabbed that insurance run. Great games by Julio (3 RBI), Teoscar (2 for 5 with a run and RBI), Eugenio (2 for 4), Ford (2 for 3 with a walk), and even Kolten Wong (a hit and 2 runs scored).

The 4th of July had all the fireworks coming from Logan Gilbert, who pitched his first-ever Major League complete game shutout. It was a breathtaking experience, where he only gave up 5 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 7. The offense put up 6 runs thanks to Mike Ford’s 4-hit day (including 2 doubles, a homer, 2 runs scored, and an RBI), and multi-hit days from J.P., Julio, and even A.J. Pollock (who also got in on the action with a homer). What we’ve been seeing from Ford so far is nothing short of amazing, and I really hope he’s able to keep it up.

Unfortunately, the winning streak stopped at four games (tied for a season high), thanks to a 2-0 loss yesterday. I guess a sweep was just too much to ask. We needed a Tommy Milone spot start thanks to Miller’s blister; he gutted out 4.1 innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) on 4 hits and 4 walks. The consummate Good Enough start from a Quad-A pitcher, who gets in and out of trouble all day long. The bullpen shut it down from there, but it didn’t matter, as we were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

For a day there towards the end, the Mariners were back to .500; now, we’ll have to settle for 42-43. It’s a 4-game set down in Houston, and then it’s the All Star Break. I can virtually guarantee I will watch none of this Astros series, but you never know. I can be fickle, especially if the M’s look to be nursing a lead.

I should point out that George Kirby was named as an alternate to the All Star Game (very much deserved), as was Julio thanks to some drop-outs. I don’t know if Julio was as much deserved of this honor, but he was already going to be there for the Home Run Derby, he’s still one of the biggest young stars in the game today, and Seattle is the host city. A little padding of our All Star representation never hurt nobody. Softens the blow of what could’ve been quite the embarrassing situation of potentially only having the one guy in a Mariners uniform.

The Mariners Swept The Rockies To Start To Right The Ship

All right, we’re back to .500 at 8-8. For those keeping track of the streakiness of the Seattle Mariners to date, we’ve endured a 4-game losing streak, won three of four, had a 3-game losing streak, and have now won four more in a row. I’m not going to get into where the Mariners should be, or all of that nonsense, because the fact of the matter is: the Mariners deserve to be 8-8. They’ve played like an 8-8 team so far. But, all of that can quickly change. Starting today, in fact!

This weekend series against Colorado was an all-around great set of games by the Mariners. Things got off to a really encouraging start on Friday when the Mariners actually managed to overcome some adversity!

Marco Gonzales had his start scratched to go on Paternity Leave, which meant we had to endure a spot start from AAA call-up Tommy Milone. He did all right, though. 4.2 innings, 1 run on 3 hits and 2 walks, with 3 strikeouts. Not too shabby! Not good enough to get the victory, but more than enough to keep us in the game after we scored all 5 of our runs in the first four innings.

Kelenic kept driving the homer train with his fourth in four games, giving us a 2-1 lead. Then, Julio and Ty had back-to-back RBI doubles to finish things off offensively. The bullpen had a little hiccup with Trevor Gott’s 0.2 innings of relief, but then settled down with Brash finally getting out of a jam, followed by the new-look duo of Topa and Speier bridging the game to Sewald in the ninth (for his 3rd save of the young season). 5-3 victory.

The M’s blew things wide open on Saturday with a 9-2 mauling. George Kirby made it into the seventh inning (6.1, 2 runs on 6 hits & 0 walks, with 3 strikeouts), and Murfee and Castillo had some much-needed soft-landings to work through their problems.

This one was all about the offense, though. Julio was 1 for 5 with a triple and 4 RBI. Suarez was 1 for 4 with a homer and 2 RBI. Teoscar had 2 hits and an RBI, Cal had a hit and an RBI, Kelenic had a hit and a run scored. And, more importantly, J.P. Crawford got on base four times, with 2 hits and 2 walks, to pull his numbers up closer to career norms.

The chef’s kiss game came with Sunday’s 1-0 thriller. Luis Castillo was perfect through six innings; he finished with 7 shutout innings, giving up only 2 hits, while striking out 9. Topa locked down the 8th, and Sewald got his fourth save in the 9th.

And who was our hero offensively? None other than Jarred Kelenic, of course! We got to their bullpen in the sixth inning, and he pushed Ty France home with an RBI single. In case you were wondering, he’s slashing .362/.423/.723. It’s not going to be this way forever, but the longer he can keep this up, the better it will be for his confidence when he inevitably finds himself in a cold spell.

You can honestly say the Mariners wouldn’t be where we are right now without Jarred Kelenic. If you had told me prior to the season that the Mariners would have a losing record through 16 games unless Kelenic stepped his game up, I would’ve been dreading the outcome. But here we are! He’s defying expectations left and right, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

He only has two games without a hit so far, and he’s riding a 10-game hit streak. More importantly, he’s not missing. Everyone gets mistake pitches to hit, and after consistently whiffing on them to start his career, he’s taking advantage and really mashing the hell out of ’em.

And what’s really going to help this team out going forward is our ability to pencil him into the lineup every single day, regardless of the handedness of the starting pitcher. It’s early, and it’s a small sample, but he’s hitting against lefties. And when he’s not getting hits off of them, he’s also not looking totally overmatched. Promoting Kelenic from a platoon partnership to an everyday role is only going to help the Mariners going forward, because that means we’re saddled with one less fucking dud.

The homestand continues this week with three against the Brewers, followed by an off-day on Thursday, then three more against the Cardinals over the weekend. Time to feast on the N.L. Central!

The Mariners Swept The Nationals In A Doubleheader

The winning streak is now 10 games. Oh, you read that right!

This was always a two-game series – after an off-day on Monday to fly across the country – but Tuesday’s game was entirely rained out. That led to a doubleheader yesterday – one in the morning, one in mid-afternoon – against the lowly Washington Nationals. Doubleheaders are notoriously difficult to sweep under any scenario, but you can kind of see why the Nats are so bad.

The morning game ended up being the lone suspension game for Julio Rodriguez (who this week was not only named to the All Star Game, as our lone participant, but also entered into the Home Run Derby, making it a thing I have to watch for the first time in eons), which finally puts an end to all the Anaheim Brawl Madness.

We got another great start, this time from Chris Flexen, who went 6 innings and gave up 1 run. We also got some offensive magic throughout, with a Suarez 3-run bomb in the first, a couple of solo bombs by Winker and Frazier in the fourth, and an insurance bomb by Raleigh in the ninth.

That was a 6-1 lead we took into the bottom of the ninth. We had Paul Sewald warming up – prior to Raleigh’s homer in the top half – for some reason, but opted to go with Penn Murfee instead. He got two outs, but gave up a 3-run homer to Juan Soto before being pulled. It looked like – for a second – that Servais was going to let Murfee pitch out of it, but there was just no way. Say what you will about the Nationals, but they can run a lefty-heavy lineup out there with the best of ’em. And a guy like Murfee – with a slurvy slider that kind of sweeps over the plate – probably isn’t the best option out of the ‘pen. Paul Sewald did come in to get the final out – on 4 pitches – to rack up his first save of the day (spoiler alert).

Game 2 was always going to be a Bullpen Day. The Mariners have temporarily sent down George Kirby to manage his innings load on the season. With the All Star Break coming up, it makes sense from a timing perspective. I’m told this allegedly won’t be the only time he gets sent back down for a spell, but I have my doubts on that, barring injury.

In spite of the Bullpen Day, it turned into quite a pitchers duel! Erik Swanson got the start and went two shutout innings. He gave way to Tommy Milone, who fustigated them for 3.1 more shutout innings, before he finally left the game with runners on. That lead to Matt Brash coming in and getting out of the inning lickety split with a double play. He ran into trouble of his own the following inning, but Diego Castillo was there to clean up the mess.

All the while, the Mariners had been in a scoreless tie until the sixth inning, when Winker hit a solo bomb (his second of the day) and Frazier hit a sac fly to give the M’s a 2-0 lead. That held until the ninth, when Sewald came in and promptly gave up a solo homer to Soto to make it 2-1. He was able to make it out, striking out the side, holding that 2-1 victory (and almost certainly earning himself a well-deserved day or two off in this Texas series coming up).

That’s 10 wins in a row. That’s 18 wins in the last 21 games. That’s a 47-42 record. That’s good for a 3-way tie for the last two wild card spots. Not that we’re at that point or anything. Just pointing out the obvious. Also, stay away from the divisional standings, because even with our good fortune of late, we’re still 11 games behind the Cheating Astros. We could sweep them the rest of the regular season and still be four games back; it’s insane.

Will the Mariners ever lose again? Almost certainly, as soon as this next series. But, they could also keep this train rolling somehow. Crazier things have happened!

Can The Mariners Win Over 24.5 Games?

I saw a tweet yesterday that shows the Mariners are projected – by at least one Vegas-adjacent betting-type establishment – to win the (tied for) third fewest games in the Major Leagues this year. Only the Tigers and Orioles are projected to win less often (pretty bold prediction, since both of those teams also won the fewest games last year).

Couple points to note: as this guy tweeted out, the Mariners haven’t won fewer than 25 of their first 60 games since 2010 (the last time the M’s lost over 100 games in a season). And, as Divish would go on to respond, the Mariners from a season ago – who started out with a ridiculous 13-2 record – ended up 25-35 after 60 games.

So, let’s use that as a jumping-off point. I’ll be honest, my initial gut reaction was to say, “Of course the Mariners are going to win fewer than 24 games this year!” The above tweets gave me pause a little bit, until I remembered that while the M’s have been mediocre almost my whole life over the last decade, they really haven’t been horrendously BAD since 2010, so yeah, that checks out.

The 2019 Mariners – who finished 68-94 – were much closer to the horrendously bad end of the spectrum than they were mediocre. And, since then, they’ve lost two of their more productive full-time hitters (Omar Narvaez and Domingo Santana) and two of their better part-time hitters (Edwin Encarnacion – who was traded away halfway through last year – and Mitch Haniger – who is still dealing with his injured whathaveyous).

On the pitching side of things – which was easily our biggest weakness in 2019 – we’re down many of our most productive veterans. Mike Leake was traded away last year, Tommy Milone (uhh, YEAH, look it up, he had the third-highest WAR among Mariners pitchers last year!) signed as a free agent with the Orioles, and Anthony Bass (fourth-highest WAR) was claimed by Toronto. With Wade LeBlanc also joining the Orioles, you could argue letting Felix move on to another organization was the best Addition By Subtraction move this team made (though you won’t hear that from me!).

What did we do to replace these veterans? Well, obviously, we’re stacking the roster with younger players! It’s what the Mariners – as a rebuilding team – are SUPPOSED to do! So, please, GET OFF MY ASS; I’m not complaining about any of this! I’m just writing words. And, in the context of this premise – Can the Mariners win over 24.5 games? – I’m going to contend that everything they’ve done to date points to the fact that no, they cannot.

Younger players are unpredictable … but you can pretty much predict what’s going to happen anyway. Look at me, I’m doing it right now! They’re going to struggle, because that’s what they do. They’re going to look great for a while, then they’re going to slump for a while; some might rebound and parlay that into success in 2021 and beyond, others will flame out and never make any positive impact for this organization.

As excited as I am for Kyle Lewis, Evan White, Austin Nola, and maybe J.P. Crawford (wait, I’m maybe excited about J.P. Crawford? What does that even mean?), I don’t think we can count on them to be anything close to consistent (except for “consistently bad” which is always on the table when you’re talking about the Mariners). And those guys (along with Kyle Seager, who showed he still has something left in the tank last year) are probably going to be the BEST guys on this team! Everyone else, I expect to be pretty mediocre at best, with a decent number of total flameouts headed our way.

I still expect the bullpen to be a disaster, with a good chance that it will be significantly worse than it was in 2019. The rotation could be interesting, though. Marco Gonzales should still be the best pitcher on this team (I would hope this is the last year we’re able to say that). Kendall Graveman – who is slotting to be the #4 starter as we head into the regular season this weekend – might be a legitimate stud if he can stay healthy! Taijuan Walker – our #2 guy at the moment – I’m less jazzed about, but his bulldog mentality should keep this team in plenty of games. I’m also starting to be really worried about Yusei Kikuchi, as I don’t believe he’s fully accepted his re-worked mechanics, and will start tinkering again at the first sign of trouble. Then, there’s Sheffield and Dunn, the young upstarts who will be getting their first legitimate shots at big league action. Like the younger hitting prospects, they too will struggle at times (and when they struggle, BOY will they struggle!).

All of that points to the smartest money being bet on the Mariners winning UNDER 24.5 games in 2020. And, that doesn’t even factor in the very real possibility that COVID-19 takes a significant turn for the worse and the league is forced to shut down. I don’t know what that does for betting purposes, but I think all of us nonbelievers would have a great claim to our winnings in that scenario. I mean, if the season were to be canceled prematurely … did they or did they not win fewer than the listed number of games that I shorted?

The 2020 Taylor Family Farm has never been in more secure hands! I’m betting the whole thing on the Mariners being the losers I know they can be! Don’t let me down, fellas!

Yesterday’s Game Was Almost The Epitome Of A Perfect Mariners Loss

Picture this: a delightfully pleasant-weather spring day in Seattle. After a morning tastefully celebrating D-Day, as I do every year, I scrambled to get as much work done as I could, elated that my workday would be wrapping up around noon.

At the strike of twelve, I was in my Mariners hat and on my way out of the building. The wait for the light rail to arrive was longer than the ride from Westlake to International District, but it beats the hell out of walking all the way there I guess. I was starving, so I bought a $4 hot dog in the alley next to CenturyLink Field and had just enough time to wolf it down before I met my friends next to the Left Field Entrance.

Section 332 …

We got seats in section 332 for the 12:40pm start time and JUST missed first pitch, as we were waiting in line to get our first beers of the day. When we finally sat down, the Astros already had runners on base with nobody out. This was the second time Scott Servais used an Opener in this series alone – apparently he doesn’t trust soft-tossing lefties against the top of the order, because he did the same thing in the Wade LeBlanc start (who went on to pitch 8 innings of 1-run ball) – and it was the second time it totally backfired. In the aforementioned LeBlanc start, Cory Gearrin went 1.0 innings, giving up 3 runs in a 4-2 loss. I’m not saying had LeBlanc gotten the actual start – and subsequently went 8 innings of 1-run ball in this hypothetical scenario – that we would’ve won 2-1 (because, lord knows we’re more than capable of blowing a save in the 9th), but going down 3-0 in the first inning was a hole too big to dig our way out of.

Welp!

Yesterday someone named Austin Adams, who I’ve never heard of before, was somehow WORSE! Yes, he gave up 3 runs in the first inning, putting us in a would-be insurmountable hole against the likes of Justin Verlander (or so we thought), but he didn’t even have the decency of going a full inning! He threw 30 pitches and got 2 outs; starter Tommy Milone had to come in with a runner on base and get the final out of the inning (he would go on to throw 5 more on top of it, giving up a Wade LeBlanc-esque 1 run).

Can we fucking stop with the Opener now, Scott Servais? Or, at least, can we put a reliever in there who knows his ass from a hole in the ground? I don’t even know if that phrase makes sense here, but I’M STANDING BY IT!

The Mariners got a run back in the bottom of the first thanks to some weird defense by the Astros (deciding to NOT catch a pop fly by Encarnacion was an interesting choice, I must say), and then things settled in a little more predictably for a while. The Astros’ lead ballooned up to 5-1 before things started getting interesting.

We chased Verlander in the bottom of the seventh and worked a nice 2-out rally against the bullpen, pulling the game to 5-4. The Astros got one back in the eighth, and the M’s did the same in the bottom half. Then, against their closer in the bottom of the ninth, the Mariners pulled it to 6-6 to force the game into extras.

The Astros took the lead in the top of the tenth, but Omar Narvaez jacked a solo bomb to re-tie the game in the bottom frame. Things stayed that way until the 14th inning, when a line drive got past Domingo Santana in right for a leadoff triple (he would score the game-winning run on a sac fly). Spoiler alert, but the M’s lost with the bases juiced full of walks, but I’m gonna stop here for a moment to talk about Santana.

Servais wasn’t all Opener Gaffes this week; he also made what I thought was a pretty savvy move. For most of the year, the outfield has been Santana in left, Mallex Smith in center, and Mitch Haniger in right. It made sense. Haniger is probably better suited as a right fielder, and his strong arm plays well there. Smith was supposed to be a defensive whiz and a natural in center. And, while Santana’s natural home is in right, the left field in Safeco isn’t unreasonable, and it would seem to mask his weaker throwing arm (at least compared to Haniger’s).

Well, that ended up backfiring miserably, as Santana has led all of baseball in errors and misplayed balls while in left field, and Mallex’s defense has completely fallen apart for some reason since he re-joined the Mariners. So, this week, Servais moved Smith to left, Haniger to center, and Santana to right. That would take some of the mental pressure off of Mallex, and hopefully do the same for Santana. While we might have less range with Haniger in center, overall you’d think it would be a net positive throughout the outfield.

Well, that miscue by Santana in the 14th inning – taking a terrible GODAWFUL route to the ball, letting it get over his head, then bounce around allowing the runner to get to third – proves once and for all that he’s just not an outfielder. He’s a fucking defensive disaster. At this point, I don’t know if the team has any other choice but to keep him there, hope he improves, and find a way to trade him for prospects or something (assuming his bat continues to play).

It’s doubly imperative to keep him there, as Haniger left the game yesterday halfway through with an injury; we’ll see how long that keeps him out.

Anyway, yesterday was ALMOST perfect. The Mariners lost, which is important for us getting that top draft pick next year (still hanging tough with that 5th spot, 5 games back of Baltimore/Kansas City), but the Mariners were also entertaining in that loss! Hell, I was getting as hyped up as anyone with Vogelbach in there making life miserable for Houston’s pitching (he finished 2 for 5 with a run, an RBI, and 2 walks).

The only downside to the whole thing is, of course, the ballpark cutting off beer sales after 7 innings! There was DOUBLE that amount of baseball left to be played! We all ended up leaving the game early – some of us to go get another beer at a nearby bar – because we were TOO sober!

All in all, though, a pleasant way to spend a Thursday in early June.