The Mariners Dropped A Tough Series In Tampa

Well, we’re not off to a great start with this homestand. But, surely the Rays won’t be a team we need to contend with for a playoff spot, so there’s no way these games will have mattered, right?

The bigger bummer in all of this is the fact that the Mariners won 8-4 in the series opener on Tuesday. That means we had two chances to win this series, and our bats just couldn’t come up with the offense to push us over the top. Of course, by all rights, if the Rays didn’t implode defensively in the fourth inning of that one – giving up 7 unearned runs in the process – we probably would’ve been swept!

The big star of this one was Logan Gilbert, who threw another 5.2 shutout innings. He hasn’t given up a run since very early in his very first start of the year, now with an ERA of 0.40, which couldn’t POSSIBLY get any lower, right?! By the time he left the game, we were up 8-0 and this was a terrific opportunity for the M’s to plow through the D-Squad bullpen. But, they proceeded to give up 4 runs in the 7th, which necessitated using Andres Munoz in the 9th to lock it up.

France, of course, had a big day with 2 RBI. Frazier had 3 RBI. Suarez and Crawford each had two hits. Scoring those 7 unearned runs was probably the most fun part of the season, especially when we’re talking about Mariners road games.

Wednesday’s game was rough in a lot of respects. Marco Gonzales only managed to get one out before a line drive smashed into his pitching wrist, resulting in him leaving the game. That turned it into a de facto Bullpen Day. Yohan Ramirez came in and pitched pretty well for a bit, but Scott Servais mistakenly left him in there an inning too long, and we paid the price. He ended up giving up 2 runs in 3 innings of work. Matt Festa pitched 1.2 scoreless, Steckenrider got back on the horse with a clean inning, and Justus Sheffield pitched 2 scoreless to keep the game close.

Unfortunately, Tampa’s starter was on a roll. We managed a couple runs after he left the game, but ultimately lost 3-2. Crawford and Toro each hit solo homers.

Then, earlier today, Tampa had a scheduled Bullpen Day of their own – pushing back Corey Kluber to tomorrow, which we all understood was a huge break for the M’s – but we could only muster 1 run in a 2-1 defeat.

Chris Flexen picked up plenty of slack, going 6.2 and giving up both runs, and the combo of Castillo and Misiewicz took us the rest of the way without any further damage. That go-ahead run by the Rays happened in the 7th inning, and that was that. Suarez’ first inning RBI triple was the only damage of the game, as we were held to 6 hits on 2/8 with runners in scoring position (one of those hits being a France single that was hit too firmly to score the man from second).

Luckily, the NFL Draft kicks off tonight, so no one will remember this series. The Rays are really fucking good, so it’s not like this is a surprising development. I’m curious to see – as the season goes along – if the Mariners are ever going to put up much of a fight against the best teams, or if we’re just the Good Bad Team who can only pound on the weaklings in the game. We’ll see! Not looking great so far!

The Mariners Are Red Hot, Swept The Royals

I don’t think anyone is confusing the Kansas City Royals with a potential playoff team – so our head-to-head record against them will probably not mean much – but you still love to see your team win the games they’re supposed to win, and these were three games the Mariners were SUPPOSED to win.

This, in large part, makes up for that infuriating loss to the Rangers. We really should’ve had the sweep there, so failing that, it’s nice to get one here. Heading into this 9-game homestand, if you offered me 7-2, I would’ve taken it in a heartbeat. So, I’m not going to be butthurt that it wasn’t 8-1. In all honesty, if you told me we’d go 7-2, I would’ve expected to lose both of those games to the Astros, so this is actually BETTER.

As it happened, I missed all three against the Royals. On Friday, I was at the Dave Attell show at the Tacoma Comedy Club, so you can forgive me if I have priorities. It sounds like I missed a hell of an enjoyable game! Chris Flexen pitched 7 innings of 1-run ball, Anthony Misiewicz got the hold, and Andres Munoz got the first save of his Mariners career.

Even more impressive – given the game finished 4-1 – is that all the runs were scored off of extra-base hits by the future of the franchise: J-Rod with a 2-run double, and Kelenic with a 2-run triple. In a game without much firepower from the offense, that’s HUGE. Suarez led the way with 3 hits; J.P. Crawford and J-Rod both had 2 hits to go with Kelenic’s one.

Saturday’s game sounded like a lot of fun (unless you’re a fan of pitching). Matt Brash ran into some trouble in the fifth; he finished with 4.1 innings, 3 runs on 5 hits and 4 walks, with only 2 strikeouts. The bullpen and defense (two more errors, including yet another by J.P.) didn’t help a whole lot, but thankfully the offense was up to the task. It wasn’t all terrible by the bullpen, of course, but Yohan Ramirez took the brunt of it, giving up 3 runs while only recording a single out. Otherwise, they gave up 1 unearned run in 4.1 innings.

Where do you even begin with the offense, though? The M’s scored in each of the first three innings, to build a 5-1 lead. Then, we tacked on a run in the 6th and 7th before exploding for six more runs in the 8th. So, even though the Royals had a brief 7-6 lead in the top of the 7th, we really mauled the shit out of them to win 13-7.

Ty France was 5 for 6 with 3 runs and 5 RBI (including a 3-run homer to put it away in the 8th). J.P. was 2 for 5 with a 2-run homer early, Suarez was 2 for 3 (both doubles) with 2 walks, Murphy and J-Rod both had two hits and two runs scored, and Toro, Kelenic, and Winker all had big hits and RBIs. Basically, everyone but Adam Frazier contributed, and it was a sight to behold, I’m sure.

The Mariners capped off the homestand with a 12-inning thriller on Sunday, where we won 5-4. In this one, Jesse Winker was the long-overdue hero, hitting a sac fly in the 10th to re-tie the game, before hitting an RBI single in the 12th to win it.

Robbie Ray had another Quality Start, going 6 innings, giving up 2 runs, and the bullpen did their job heading into the 9th, with Festa and Swanson both doing good work. However, Drew Steckenrider had his second consecutive pisspoor outing, giving up a solo homer to tie the game at 3-3. From there, though, the bullpen snapped right back into dominant mode. Castillo gave up the ghost runner on second in the 10th, but both Matt Koch and Ramirez held the Royals scoreless the next two innings to give us a chance to win it.

Ty France had another 3 hits and 2 RBI, J.P. had two more hits in the middle of our lineup, and Frazier had a hit and 3 runs scored at the top.

I’ll tell you what, France is as hot as I’ve ever seen anyone, slashing .375/.459/.656. J.P. Crawford is up there, though, with .352/.471/.574. I’m also loving what Suarez is bringing to the table; he’s certainly exceeded expectations, even though his .527 slugging percentage is no shocker. Toro and Frazier are starting to contribute more and more, and J-Rod doesn’t look overwhelmed in the slightest. With Kelenic and now Winker starting to heat up, this is a VERY formidable lineup (that will only get stronger whenever Haniger gets off the COVID IL). To go with how strong our bullpen has looked, you’ll also forgive me if I start to get a little hyped up here.

The Mariners are 10-6, which is tied with the Blue Jays and Yankees for the best record in the American League. We have a 1-game lead over the Angels, and a whopping 2.5-game lead over the Astros. We’ve also scored the second-most runs in the A.L. (77, just behind Anaheim’s 79), AND – not for nothing – we have the best run differential in the league with our +18.

Granted, we’re not even really at the 10% mark through the season, but you do the math. That puts us on pace for 100 wins! I’m just saying. This is EXACTLY the kind of start you want to see out of a team that’s a fringe prospect for making the post-season. I’m not going to quibble about how bad the Rangers and Royals are, because the Twins, White Sox, and Astros are all really good.

We have a well-earned off-day before a beefy road trip. Three in Tampa, three in Miami, then three more in Houston. Let’s hope some of these COVID guys start feeling better soon, and let’s keep the win train chugging on down the tracks!

The Same Ol’ Mariners Are Back! Also, The Same Ol’ Mariners Never Left

It’s been so, so, so so so so so so SO long since the Mariners have been relevant. Even when they’ve been in quote/unquote Contention over the last two decades, there were so many clear flaws that you knew they were ultimately going to fall short, even if – at times – you deluded yourself into believing in miracles.

The fact of the matter is: the 1995 Mariners used up a lifetime’s worth of miracles. There are no miracles left.

Which is okay, we don’t need miracles. We need a good fucking baseball team. THAT’S what’s going to put us over the top one day. Is this the start of being that good fucking baseball team? Well, we’ll find out. I’m surprisingly bullish on this group of youngsters, and the job Jerry Dipoto is doing finding viable veteran talent to put around them. But, I’ve been foolish bullish before, and I’ve obviously been disappointed.

Every year, we agree to tie the knot with these Mariners, and every year that B-word leaves us at the altar!

There’s not a lot left to do with the rebuild at this point. We’re in the ascending phase, where the best youngsters are either on the cusp of reaching the Big Leagues, or are already there and gaining valuable experience. The next step is to further weed out who deserves to stay here, and who can be dealt for other veterans/prospects to keep this train chugging along. The next step – on a parallel track – also includes breaking the playoff drought. Using the guys we have now and actually making the post-season for the first time since 2001.

So, that’s the question before us. That’s all that matters really. We’ll find out, in due time, who deserves to stay and who deserves to go. I have my opinions on the matter, which I’ll get to. But, the real question is: will the 2022 Mariners make the playoffs?

We have a week’s worth of games to examine – and a 3-4 record at our disposal – yet I don’t feel like have a very confident take on the matter.

I don’t think the Mariners are as bad as they’ve looked through seven games, particularly when it comes to their offense. But, I also don’t think the Mariners will be able to scrounge up the same record in 1-run games as they had in 2021. Ultimately, I don’t think this is a team that can win 90+ games. Therefore, I don’t believe this team will make the playoffs.

Who I Like

I like J.P. Crawford. He was just signed to a 5-year extension for $51 million. I think that’s a tremendous deal. The guy’s a leader, the guy plays fabulous defense, the guy can handle himself with a bat, and he seems to always be in the mix whenever we have a scoring rally. Granted, his power is minimal, but everything else is good enough to make the overall package a quality value.

I like Ty France. But, we already knew that. Great bat, good power, better-than-expected defense at first base. Just a solid dude.

I like Mitch Haniger. This might be his last year here, which would be a shame, because he has power, he has great defense, and he’s another terrific leader. Oftentimes, he’s the only guy keeping this offense afloat; we need more players like Haniger, not less.

I like Jesse Winker. Though, part of me feels like I have no choice in the matter. He’s a newcomer; I don’t know him from Adam. But, he has a proven track record behind him, and I have to assume he’ll start hitting in bunches. We still don’t know if he has anything against left-handed pitching. And, we’re pretty sure his defense is a deficit. But, assuming the offense comes around, I don’t think anyone will care.

I like Julio Rodriguez. But, talk to me in a year. I will say that his speed should ensure he doesn’t have any 0 for 39’s on his ledger. Speed is the great slump buster in baseball. Other than that, I have a general belief that someone among our young crop of highly-rated prospects will pan out; my guess is it’s J-Rod.

Who I’m Unsure About

I’m unsure about Jarred Kelenic. We had most of a year with him last year, we had the strong finish to the season in September, now we need to see him parlay that into a vast improvement over the course of 2022. If he’s destined to be an All Star – not just a one-time All Star on a shit team, but a regular fixture in the midsummer classic – then we can’t be enduring multiple years of him being a below-replacement player. There are rookies and young guys far and wide who come up and make an immediate impact. And then there’s Kelenic, who’s taking the other path to superstardom. If his 2022 is a carbon copy of 2021, then I think that’s a sign he’s Just A Guy, and will always be kind of a mediocre player (who gets more chances than he probably deserves, thanks to his original highly-rated prospect status).

I’m unsure about Adam Frazier. I need him to be the guy we expected. I need the high batting average and high on-base percentage. He’s never going to be a power bat, and I’m resigned to that. But, he can’t be Chone Figgins.

I’m unsure about Luis Torrens. I’m also, in general, unsure about the whole 3 Catchers thing; that can’t be practical, right? Part of me believes we’re only including Torrens in this rotation as a means to bolster his trade value. His bat plays at this level, but I’m not sure his defense is what you want. Then again, he’s my highest-rated catcher on the team at this point, so maybe he should be getting MORE time.

Who I Don’t Like

I don’t like Cal Raleigh. I just think he stinks and I’m never going to believe he’ll be anything above a Mendoza Line hitter. This is more of an indictment on the Mariners and their ability to develop catchers than anything else. If Raleigh was drafted by the Yankees or Red Sox, I’m sure he’d be a perennial All Star. And, I’m sure when he’s eventually traded to the Rays, he’ll start to figure things out. But, I believe he’ll be nothing but a black hole in our lineup as long as he’s in Seattle.

I don’t like Eugenio Suarez. But, to be fair, I never did. He was a throw-in and a salary dump in the Winker trade. I think we’re stuck with him, and I think he MIGHT approach 30 homers. But, a right-handed power bat in T-Mobile Park isn’t super great, especially when he brings little else to the table. Defense should be a struggle, his average will definitely be abysmal; it’s going to be a nightmare.

I don’t like Tom Murphy or Dylan Moore. I just think these guys are fringe Major Leaguers.

I don’t like Abraham Toro. There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of power, and if the average isn’t there, then I don’t know what he does for you.

So, we’ve gone through the everyday players, and it’s a pretty muddy scene! Looks like we’ll need our pitching to step up, but do we have enough?

Who I Like

I like Matt Brash. What a fun pitcher! Hard thrower, nasty off-speed stuff; this guy looks like a star in the making! Of course, that almost certainly means he’ll be majorly injured at some point. I’ll spend every start he makes cringing at every wince, until we find out he needs to go on the IL for arm or shoulder surgery.

I like Logan Gilbert. It’s not surprising I like the young guys, because the M’s have put a lot of effort into this area with their drafting and development. Gilbert was solid as a rookie last year, and already looks like he’s ready to parlay that into steadier improved play. He might never be an ace, but he could be a rock solid #2 starter for many years to come.

I like Robbie Ray. I don’t know if he’ll win any more Cy Young awards, but he’s the Ace we’ve desperately needed since King Felix started to decline. Right out of the gate, he’s pitching into the 7th inning. I’m taking that White Sox game as the outlier that it is; he’ll be a steadying force for our rotation all year.

I like Drew Steckenrider and Paul Sewald. I think they’ve got what it takes to lock down the later innings and those high leverage situations.

I like Chris Flexen. He’s a bulldog. He’ll give us more Quality Starts than not. That’s all I’m looking for out of a 3rd/4th starter.

Who I’m Unsure About

I’m unsure about Marco Gonzales. Ultimately, he is who we thought he was, which means he’ll be fine. Someone around a 4-ERA type of pitcher. But, he’s going to look REALLY BAD some starts, before he settles into a groove again. It’s better that he’s only being asked to be a 3rd/4th starter – rather than its Ace – because even though he also has that bulldog mentality, he just doesn’t have the arm talent to lead a rotation.

I’m unsure about Diego Castillo. Overall, I like his stuff, but he’s also going to have some meltdown performances, and a lot of times where he has to do a highwire act to get out of a self-imposed jam.

I’m unsure about Andres Munoz. I want to believe – because throwing 103 mph is pretty fucking phenomenal – but I also know he’s young and could be wild. These are Major League hitters, and they can still hit 103 if the ball catches too much of the plate. I also worry about his arm getting blown out. So, there’s a lot of concern there. But, damn, that arsenal is outstanding!

I’m unsure about Sergio Romo. Already, he’s on the IL, having ramped himself up too quickly after signing so late into Spring Training. Clearly, he’s nearing the end of his terrific Major League career. And, towards the end of 2021, he struggled quite a bit. Does he have any magic left in that old silk hat he found? We’ll see.

Who I Don’t Like

I don’t like Anthony Misiewicz. I’ve written about him a lot. The guy is 50/50. Half the time he’ll be fine and we won’t have to think about him, but half the time he’ll suck. He’s our best lefty out of the bullpen, and that’s a real problem.

I don’t like Matt Festa, Yohan Ramirez, or Erik Swanson. All interchangable, hard-throwing righties. They’re all part of the D-Squad bullpen (including whoever we have in Tacoma).

I don’t like Justus Sheffield. Yep, he made the team, and yep, he’s our main long reliever and alternate lefty reliever. He’s washed.

Overall, I dunno, I just don’t believe in the 2022 Mariners. I think we’re a year away. I hope it’s only a year. God help us if we go into 2024 on the same playoff drought.

I’m guessing 84 wins for this team. It’s going to be hard and frustrating to watch, and we’ll probably head into next year with even MORE questions than we had heading into this year. But, I hope I’m wrong.

Given our history with the Mariners, though, if you bet on them to miss the playoffs, you’d be correct the vast majority of the time. So, that’s a pretty sturdy limb I’m walking out on. Really, it’s no limb at all; it’s just the flat ground outside my house.

“Mariners disappoint yet again, news at 11.”

Ranking The Trustworthiness Of The Mariners, Part 1: The Pitchers

Look, we’re in the throes of the dead part of the year. It might not be quite so dead if the Supersonics were still around, or if the Kraken were worth a damn, but here we are: grasping at straws, writing about the upcoming baseball season during a lockout with no end in sight. Worst of all: this post is almost certainly going to be out of date and moot as soon as a new CBA is signed and the Mariners can start shuffling their roster around. Weeee!

At the moment, the Mariners have 21 pitchers on their 40-man roster. As is common knowledge, even though the hypothetical regular season is just over a month away, the Mariners’ roster is anything but finalized. I would not expect the following 21 pitchers to all be on this 40-man roster on March 31st; moves will be made, and some of the people I talk about will cease to matter. At least, when it comes to Mariners fans like me.

I split up the 21 pitchers into three categories: Yes, No, and Maybe? It just so happened that each category had an equal seven members, so let’s go through them, starting with the least trustworthy pitcher and work our way up to number 1.

I suppose I should set some groundrules and define what I mean by “trustworthy”, but why don’t we get to that as the post goes along. There’s already been too much preamble, as far as I’m concerned (but I’ll be damned if I’m going to censor myself!).

No: The Least-Trustworthy Mariners Pitchers Of 2022

#21 – Juan Then

Then is an interesting starting pitching prospect who needed to be added to the 40-man roster, lest we risk losing him to the Rule 5 draft that happened some time ago. He’s yet to pitch above A-ball. Prior to the pandemic, he looked like he might be a quick riser through the minor leagues, but his 2021 wasn’t great. There’s absolutely no way he’ll pitch for the Major League ballclub this year, and odds are he’ll never play a game in Seattle as a member of the Mariners. My guess is he is trade fodder for a team looking to shed salary and build up their farm system.

#20 – Aaron Fletcher

He’s a lefty reliever who’s had a couple brief cups of coffee with the M’s in 2020 and 2021 and has a pro ERA over 12. He SUUUUUCKS. He’s young enough to turn things around, and the M’s don’t have a ton of lefty bullpen options at their disposal, but nothing I’ve seen as of yet leads me to believe he’s ready for the rigors of the Majors.

#19 – Justus Sheffield

He was once projected as a possible #1 or #2 starter, now there’s talk of him being shifted to a permanent bullpen role. He had a decently-effective 10-start 2020 season (with zero pressure), but his 2021 was a disaster. He started 15 games, struggled pretty much throughout, went on the Injured List (even though it was dubious that he was actually injured in any meaningful way), returned as a bullpen arm, and continued to struggle. I think he’s toast. He’s got no life on his fastball, and he can’t get by on nothing but sliders, because by and large his slider is only effective when it’s out of the zone, and if you see it coming, as a batter it’s easy to lay off of it.

#18 – Matt Brash

He’s another guy with no Major League experience, yet the unknown factor puts him above both Sheffield and Fletcher. He skyrocketed through the minors – spending much of 2021 in AA – before getting called up to Seattle late last year. He never did get into a game, but there was rampant speculation he was set to start one of our final games. He’ll almost certainly get called up to Seattle at some point this year, but it’s always best to temper expectations with someone so inexperienced. Nevertheless, I would expect some ups to come with the requisite downs, which already puts him ahead of the curve compared to the three guys behind him.

#17 – Wyatt Mills

He had a pretty brief cup of coffee in Seattle last year, but his numbers in Tacoma were pretty great. I would expect him to take a step forward in 2022. I don’t remember a lot about him, but for the Rainiers he had 51 strikeouts in 28.2 innings, so I’m assuming his fastball is pretty elite. Get it under control and you’ve got something.

#16 – Joey Gerber

There’s a pretty significant caveat here: I kinda/sorta trust him IF he’s healthy. But, he missed all of 2021 with injury, so that’s why you find him in the bottom third in terms of trustworthiness. Nevertheless, in 2020 he was one of our better relievers, so we know the stuff is there. Can he get it all back? That remains to be seen. I expect him to start his 2022 in Tacoma (assuming he’s off the IL and throwing again), eventually working his way back up to Seattle as need arises.

#15 – Justin Dunn

I kinda think I have more confidence in Dunn than I should. He often gets lumped in with Sheffield, as both are working their way through the organization at a similar pace. Dunn also had a solid – if unspectacular – 2020 season. Unlike Sheffield, Dunn actually flashed some improvement in 2021. Now, granted, Dunn was still effectively wild – walking a ton of guys, while not necessarily giving up a lot of hits – but his FIP went down almost two full points, and his strikeout rate improved. He seemed to be in better physical shape in 2021, and that translated to an improved fastball. Command has always been his bugaboo, but you’d think experience would help him rein that in a little bit. Unfortunately, his 2021 was cut short due to injury; his final appearance came in mid-June. He kept trying to return, but repeatedly suffered setbacks. It doesn’t appear he had surgery on his shoulder, so we’ll see if he was able to fully recover with conservative care. We’ll also see if he gets any more chances to start, or if the team moves him to the bullpen full time. Lots of questions here.

Maybe?: The Medium-Trustworthy Mariners Pitchers Of 2022

#14 – Erik Swanson

Swanson came over in the Sheffield deal and I’ll admit, I wrote him off after his 2020 season. He was another starter, but he got demoted to the bullpen a year prior to Sheffield. As it turns out, though, that was the best thing for him. Swanson was a middle-tier reliever in a VERY good 2021 M’s bullpen, providing solid numbers throughout his 33 appearances. There are times he’ll get knocked around, but he flashed a live fastball and kept us in a lot of games a lesser reliever might’ve let get out of hand. Still, if there’s a negative regression candidate, I think Swanson is our guy; I could see his ERA balloon back up over 5 or 6 runs relatively easy. His secondary pitches aren’t super thrilling; until he builds them up, he’s going to continue being overly reliant on his fastball, which is hittable for Major League batters.

#13 – Andres Munoz

He got in one game at the very end of 2021, pitching 0.2 scoreless innings. The good news is: he recovered from his injury. The bad news is: he’s had almost two full years off. His fastball is electric, but he’s probably a guy we don’t want to push too hard in the early going. He’ll have every opportunity to win a bullpen job in Spring Training though, and the sky is the limit on his potential. But, I’d like to see him do it a few weeks before I start buying in 100%.

#12 – Yohan Ramirez

Ramirez is another guy with a live fastball, but plenty of control/command issues. Nevertheless, he came up HUGE in some high-pressure spots in 2021. He also shit the bed pretty spectacularly in equal numbers, so the potential is there, the health is there, but the limitations are pretty stark. Thankfully, there are plenty of right-handed bullpen options ahead of him, so we don’t NEED him right away.

#11 – Ken Giles

We signed Giles prior to the 2021 season knowing full well he was injured and would be missing the entire year. But, we signed him specifically so he could be a significant bullpen piece in 2022; this was the plan all along. He’s a veteran with plenty of closing experience, and was one of the best relievers in baseball in 2019. Another heater guy, he should slide in quite nicely with our returning bullpen guys. We don’t need him to be a closer, but it’s nice knowing he’s there in case the others aren’t quite as good as they were last year. The risk, of course, is that Giles has had two years off, essentially. Will he last the duration? Or, is he just a walking injury waiting to happen?

#10 – Diego Castillo

I’m probably lower on Castillo than I have any right to be, but this is a guy whose ERA numbers have always outperformed his FIP numbers. He also was decidedly worse last year with the Mariners than he was with the Rays (prior to our trading for him). Not that he was terrible with the M’s, but every appearance felt like a rollercoaster (askew hat tip to Fernando Rodney). I don’t trust him! I know he’s pretty good, but for the life of me I don’t trust him. Part of trust is knowing what to expect ahead of time, and I feel like I never know if we’re going to see the Good Diego Castillo or the Bad Diego Castillo.

#9 – Anthony Misiewicz

Now, with Misiewicz, there’s a guy you can set your watch to! He’s the top lefty reliever in the bullpen, so right away not a lot is expected of him. Even with the rule changes to how relievers are used, more often than not you can get away with having him throw less than a full inning. That’s when he’s at his best. Trying to stretch him into multiple innings is when you’re looking at disaster. However, given his youth, and the volatile nature of relievers, I’ve got a gut feeling that he’s due for some positive regression. Having said that, bank on this being my worst take of this post; putting him anywhere near the Top 10 is probably foolish, but I yam who I yam.

#8 – Nick Margevicius

Here’s another guy who I have to say at the top: IF he’s healthy. I like him, though. As a long reliever, I think he’s effective. He’s a nice guy to have in the bullpen if a starter struggles or gets hurt. He’s nice lefty insurance in case our other bullpen lefties struggle. All in all, he can do a lot of things that help a ballclub. More often than not, he’ll keep you in ballgames. That’s all I ask from a guy like this. Granted, his terrible career numbers are his biggest detriment (and the reason why he isn’t in the good category), but he’s still pretty young.

Yes: The Most-Trustworthy Mariners Pitchers Of 2022

#7 – Logan Gilbert

I should say at the onset that I’m VERY high on these top 7 pitchers. So, just because Gilbert falls in at #7 doesn’t mean I’m questioning him. I’m just being a little overly cautious. He was a rookie in 2021 and I think it’s safe to say he out-performed expectations. Most importantly: he improved as the season went along, becoming one of our very best starters by season’s end. That’s tremendous for someone so young; he should be a mainstay in the rotation for many years to come. He might not be an Ace, but he’s a solid #2 or #3, right now. All that’s left is to be consistently great, throughout the year. There will still be occasional bumps in the road in 2022, but they should be fewer and further between; that’s exciting.

#6 – Marco Gonzales

Marco was on a steady upward trajectory through 2020 before regressing a bit in 2021. I will say that he was throwing better at season’s end, and it’s likely he was dealing with a lot of injury issues throughout the season, but some of his poor starts were just disconcerting enough to sour me on him a tad. A tad! I still think for what he is, he’s good for this organization. Marco will still keep the M’s in ballgames more often than not. He’s just not, you know, an Ace. Thankfully, we no longer need him to be. As a #3 or #4 starter, I think he’s just fine.

#5 – Chris Flexen

This might be a little low for someone who was unquestionably the best Mariners starter of 2021, but a lot of the projections have Flexen as a significant negative regression candidate. It did seem like he wiggled off the hook quite a bit last year, and he might not be so lucky a second time around. The flipside to that argument is: he figured out how to be a starting pitcher over in South Korea and now he’s a completely different animal. That’s what I’m hoping for – that’s why I still have him in my Top 5 – but I’m allowing for there to be more bad outings out of him in 2022. That doesn’t mean he’ll totally faceplant; I still expect him to keep us in games by and large.

#4 – Paul Sewald

Now, HERE is probably my second-most laughable ranking of this post. Sewald was hands down the best pitcher in the organization last year. But, he was almost unsustainably elite last year, and I have a hard time believing he’s going to continue being That Guy going forward. Don’t get me wrong, he was one of my favorite Mariners last year. But, you could see him start to get touched up towards the end of the season, and that strikes me as very ominous. I hope I’m wrong!

#3 – Robbie Ray

If there’s anyone destined to rip our hearts out, it’s the guy who has parlayed one elite pitching season into a big-money, long-term deal. He had one previous All Star year in 2017, but his 2021 Cy Young season is why he’s here. The pressure is on, because not only is he our Ace, but he’s joining an up-and-coming roster with increased expectations. I’m heading into this year with love in my heart, confident that his stuff will continue to lead the way. But, in the back of my mind, there are dark, sinister thoughts of the albatross he could morph into, from the very onset. The Mariners have a long and fucked history of free agent starting pitchers coming in here and stinking straight away. I hope he’s not another notch on our bedpost.

#2 – Drew Steckenrider

It’s a total mindfuck to have my top two most-trustworthy pitchers be two other righty relievers not named Paul Sewald, but I don’t know what to tell you. I like Steckenrider. I don’t think he’s a closer, though he has that experience. I thought Scott Servais used him perfectly last year, pitching him based on matchups. Sometimes he was our closer, but sometimes he came into the game in the 7th or 8th innings. He’s just a steady, hard-throwing righty who produced crazy-effective results.

#1 – Casey Sadler

Have you seen his numbers?! Sub-1 ERA. Has a fastball in the upper 90’s, yet his best pitch is his slider; I love everything about his repertoire! He’s decidedly not a closer – and there’s no reason to expect that to change – but as a guy you mix and match with, I think no one is better on this team. The best thing about the bullpen in 2021 was how there weren’t really any super egos. The guys settled into their roles, but nothing was set in stone. They went into games on an as-needed basis, and absolutely dominated. It gives me hope for 2022, even though I know in my mind the likelihood of negative regression hitting all of these guys collectively.

The 2021 Seattle Mariners State Of The Young Guys

I promised to get around to talking about the young guys, and here I am delivering on that promise!

As I noted previously, there’s reason for both optimism and pessimism surrounding the immediate future of the Seattle Mariners. If we glom onto the negative, you’ve got an unsustainable offensive model where the team sucks at hitting, except for very specific points in any given ballgame where the team comes together to score JUST enough to win by a run or two. Otherwise, we’re looking at severe blowout losses that throw our run differential out of whack. Furthermore, the people doing most of the hitting are veterans, while many of the young guys struggled mightily.

I’m going to try to look on the bright side with this post, but you know me. Some of that negativity is bound to creep in.

I’ll start with a point I made in Tuesday’s post: J.P. Crawford and Ty France are far from old fogeys. Just because they’ve been around the bigs for a few years doesn’t mean they’re past their primes or anything; Crawford will be 27 in January and France is 27 now. We control Crawford through 2024 and France through 2025; I don’t care about any years beyond those right now, if I’m being honest. The “Win Forever” concept is a nice idea in theory, but let’s just get to the initial “Win” part before we start talking in terms of multiple years or decades down the line.

I would argue there’s a lot to like about the way Jarred Kelenic finished his season. Sure, his rookie season was miserable for the vast majority of it – finishing with a -1.7 WAR in 93 games – but his September/October were leaps and bounds better than the rest of his year. It can be easy to discount a late-season surge like that, but this wasn’t a guy getting a cup of coffee at the end of a losing year. This was a guy who worked through his initial struggles – largely at the Major League level – and found a breakthrough after a lot of trial and error. It doesn’t mean he’s necessarily going to start 2022 on fire and be an All Star the rest of his career, but it doesn’t rule it out either. Regardless, I would expect a huge improvement in his overall numbers next year; I don’t think we have much to worry about when it comes to Kelenic. We know, if nothing else, he’s going to continue to put in the work to be one of the greats.

I also want to talk about Logan Gilbert up top, as another young stud who should be a mainstay for a good, long while. On the whole, he made 24 starts, had a 1.0 WAR and was up and down with his production at the Major League level. But, he also saved his best and most consistent work for the final month of the season; only one game out of the final six featured him giving up more than 2 runs (and that was 4 runs against the Angels, in 5.1 innings of work). He ended up being one of our better pitchers down the stretch, in a playoff chase, which is very encouraging for his career going forward. He’s got the kind of stuff that can be dominant at the Major League level, so I’m very much looking forward to what he has to offer next year and beyond.

In the next tier down, I’d like to talk about a few guys who showed some promise, but also might end up flaming out.

There’s a lot to like about what Abraham Toro did as a Mariner, and I’ll staunchly defend that trade with the Astros anytime and anyplace. Even if he never makes it as a consistent, reliable everyday player, the idea was sound. All you can ask from your GM is to make good decisions based on the information he has available at the time, and then hope for the best that the players he brings in pan out. Toro will be 25 in December and we control him through 2025; that’s easily worth a reliever rental in my book.

On top of which, Toro made an immediate impact as soon as we acquired him! His first month on the team was outstanding, culminating in a game-winning Grand Slam against Kendall Graveman on August 31st. He scratched the surface of being a .270 hitter in that time, but did falter pretty severely down the stretch. His slash line was overall better as a Mariner than it was as an Astro, but there was a little bit of a dip in his slugging. He finished the year – across both teams – with 11 homers in 95 games, which is okay, but not amazing. He might have more left to unleash upon the game of baseball, but it kinda looks like he’s dependant upon his batting average to provide offensive value, so if his BABIP slumps, he’s going to be a pretty miserable hitter (aren’t we all?).

In a vacuum, there are two openings across the infield – at second and third base – and one of those spots needs to be filled by a quality, proven veteran who’s a middle-of-the-order type hitter. I’m okay with Toro getting one of the other spots as we head into 2022, but he’s going to need to produce more than he did in 2021 if he wants to stick around long term.

I’d also like to throw Cal Raleigh into this bin, even though he had a worse year than anyone I’ve mentioned so far. It’s hard out there for most any rookie at the Major League level; the jump from the minors is extreme and will quickly weed out those who don’t belong. I would argue it’s the hardest of all for rookie catchers, who not only have to worry about their own hitting and defense, but they have to lead an entire team full of pitchers through every ballgame they’re in.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you Raleigh will be fine. He might be a total bust! The Mariners have been calling up catchers for years now, and I’ve spent all this time expecting one of them to pan out; none of them did. Mike Zunino was as sure a bet as you’ll see as a catcher and he still managed to strike out a bazillion times. Only this year did he pull it all together as an All Star who hit 33 homers – with the Rays – and that was with a whopping .216 batting average with 132 strikeouts in 109 games. I think we all were hoping Raleigh would be better than Zunino, but I have my doubts.

A lot will be learned next year. Like Kelenic, Raleigh is an extremely hard worker and a natural leader behind the plate. If he’s able to flush his .180/.223/.309 slash line, maybe he can make strides towards being a viable starter going forward.

I’ll say a little bit about Fraley, Torrens, and Bauers: I think they’re okay, but I don’t think any of them are starters. Torrens is a likely trade candidate – since he can catch and play first base – and Fraley feels like a reserve/fourth outfielder on a good team. Bauers has all the tools – and apparently puts on a great batting practice show with his bat – but he’s yet to really put it all together; it felt like a lot of his hits were lucky bloops and dribblers that narrowly evaded opposing gloves.

There aren’t a lot of promising young pitchers at the Major League level, but I’ll talk about a couple of relievers here. Yohan Ramirez took what seemed like a significant step forward in 2021 over his 2020 season. In 2020, he was mostly put into losing games and blowouts; in 2021, that largely continued, but he was also put into some high-leverage situations and came out okay! The team is trying to harness his stuff, as he’s got a great splitter to strike guys out, but he can be wild at times and get behind in the count. I’m curious to see if he can continue to get better.

Andres Munoz is a guy who can throw triple-digits; he got the shortest cup of coffee at the end of the year, playing in Game 162. But, he’ll be 23 in January, and we control him through 2025, so hopefully he can parlay that confidence boost into a great Spring Training.

There are, of course, young pitchers in the minors we’ve still got to look forward to; I’ll save my breath on them until we know what the 2022 roster looks like, as I expect to see multiple veteran starters brought in to round out the rotation (though our bullpen looks largely set with in-house guys).

You can’t talk about the young guys with promise without throwing 2020 Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis into the mix. He was injured for most of 2021 – the same knee he tore back as an A-ball player – and his long-term prospects appear to be dwindling. It’s not great that he tried to rehab the knee without surgery, only to have a late-season setback that cost him the rest of the year. It’s going to be super frustrating if he does need surgery, causing him to miss 2022 as well.

There’s no denying his talent when he’s healthy, but Kyle Lewis gets tossed onto the Maybe Pile when it comes to talking about future mainstays on the Mariners.

Which is more than you can say about guys like Evan White, Justus Sheffield, and Justin Dunn. I don’t know what the fuck is going to happen there. White sucked in 2020 as a rookie, then played in only 30 games before going down with a hip injury that required season-ending surgery. In those 30 games, he also sucked. His defense is, of course, elite, but at this point so is France’s. White’s bat just doesn’t play at this level, even a little bit. He’s got power, but misses balls too consistently. And he’s not even a cost-effective prospect since we signed him to that 6-year, $24 million deal before he even played a single Major League game! He made a combined $2.6 million for his last two worthless seasons, is set to earn $1.4 million in 2022, then that figure jumps to $3 million in 2023 and $7 million and $8 million in 2024 and 2025. What do you do with that? If France sniped his job at first base, do you try to trade White? What do you get for a guy with that kind of contract, who can’t hit? Do you try to move him to a different defensive position; make him a super-sub?

As for Sheffield and Dunn, I’ve lost all faith in them ever panning out. They just don’t have the stuff to be good or consistent at this level.

Thankfully, as I mentioned, there are lots of prospects in the minor leagues to pull from in the next year or two. The State of the Young Guys is pretty strong for the Mariners, with one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. Here’s to hoping we trade away the duds and manage to hang onto the superstars!

The Mariners Swept The Athletics To Make Things Just Interesting Enough

What a series! We probably need to see three more just like them if we want postseason baseball in Seattle, but damn!

Remember that one year recently when the M’s were just a single game out of the second wild card spot? Would it shock you to know that was back in 2014? For some reason, I thought it was in 2018 – when we won 89 games – but we were a whopping 8 games out that year. Nope, in 2014, we finished one game behind Oakland, thanks to a 4-game winning streak to close out the season. BUT, we were only in that position in the first place because immediately preceeding that 4-game winning streak, we were mired in a 5-game losing slump (two games in Houston, three games in Toronto, the latter notorious for a 1-0 defeat where Taijuan Walker went all 8 innings in the loss, giving up just 4 hits).

That’s more or less the story for a lot of these “contending” Mariners teams over the last 20 years. We dig ourselves such a hole that – even though we’re entertaining and somewhat good, and most importantly, close in the standings – there just isn’t enough at the end to overcome our lack of talent. That appears to be the case here in 2021 as well. With 9 games remaining, we are now just 2 games behind the Yankees for the second wild card spot (with Toronto sandwiched in between, a game back). That’s a tall order to overcome, even though our schedule plays out relatively favorably.

What’s different – we hope – is that these Mariners appear to be the start of something significant. So, even if we fail to make those two games up, there’s still reason for optimism for the near-future of the Seattle Mariners.

And we’re in THIS position because of the 4-game sweep in Oakland! That took us from two games behind them, to two games ahead of them, which you just love to fucking see because fuck the A’s. Even if we don’t make the playoffs, knowing we’re a MAJOR reason why they’re also not in the playoffs will give me all the warmth I need in my heart to carry me over into the 2022 season. FUCK. THE. ATHLETICS.

You don’t work a 4-game sweep in Oakland without some great pitching, and the Mariners had it going all week. Tyler Anderson was up first and got the series off on the right note. 7 innings, 1 run (4 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts). The only blip was Diego Castillo giving up a run in a third of an inning, but Paul Sewald got the remaining five outs to preserve the 4-2 victory.

Offensively, France and Seager got the M’s out to a 3-0 lead in the third, then Seager added an RBI single in the fifth (he had a HUGE series, going 3 for 4 with 3 RBI in this game).

Marco Gonzales kept the party going with a quality start of his own (6 innings, 2 runs), and Sadler, Sewald, and Steckenrider worked clean innings to close it out. We saw an early 1-0 deficit after one inning, but Jake Bauers manufactured a run in the second, and Dylan Moore and J.P. Crawford put up three more runs in the fourth to give us a bit of a cushion. Crawford hit a solo bomb in the ninth for a little added insurance in the 5-2 victory (also, Seager was 2 for 5).

Chris Flexen continued the pitching parade with 7 innings of 1-run ball (3 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts). This time, Castillo worked a clean inning, and Steckenrider got his second save of the series (also sparing us the necessity to pitch Sewald a third straight day).

This 4-1 victory was brought to you by a Kyle Seager solo homer (he finished 3 for 5), a Tom Murphy RBI single, a Ty France solo bomb, and a Luis Torrens insurance sac fly in the seventh.

Finally, the sweep came under heavy scrutiny with Yusei Kikuchi going yesterday. Another 3-inning special where he gave up 3 runs. We got a run back on an Abraham Toro RBI double in the top of the fourth, but Yohan Ramirez gave up a solo bomb in the bottom half to make it 4-1 Oakland.

Ramirez was pulled after a third of an inning, but the much-maligned Anthony Misiewicz got the final two outs of the inning to keep the score right there. Cal Raleigh hit a 2-run bomb in the fifth to make it 4-3, and Mitch Haniger hit a solo bomb to tie it up in the sixth. Not to be outdone, Luis Torrens hit a pinch-hit 2-run home run later in the sixth to make the comeback official.

From there, it was lockdown bullpen time. Joe Smith pitched a perfect inning. Casey Sadler pitched two scoreless innings, Diego Castillo took care of the eighth, and Paul Sewald gave up a relatively harmless solo homer in the ninth before completing the save in the 6-5 victory.

The Mariners are 84-69 now, with three games down in L.A. against the Angels. Then, we return home for our final six games of the regular season (unfortunate, since we REALLY struggle to hit at home). It will probably require some remarkable type of 7-2 finish to secure the wild card spot; at the VERY worst 6-3, but I refuse to play the schedule/matchup game with the other teams in contention.

I’m just going to sit here and enjoy the last week and change of this very entertaining Mariners season. What happens after that will be whatever.

The Red Sox Were The Straw That Broke The Mariners’ Back

It’s funny how two days can totally change the outlook of your entire season.

On Monday, the Mariners prevailed 5-4 over the Red Sox and pulled to within two games of the second wild card spot, with two more games to go against the very team they needed to overtake. Logan Gilbert gave us six hard-fought innings, holding the Red Sox to two runs. It was pretty impressive, given his struggles this year. You could argue two of his best games were against the Red Sox this week, and that Yankees start where he went 7 innings of 1-hit ball; that’s two formidable national opponents who he absolutely handled.

Diego Castillo got through the seventh, just in time for Mitch Haniger to hit a 3-run tie-breaking homer (all three runs unearned thanks to some timely terrible Red Sox defense). Paul Sewald gave up back-to-back solo homers to give the game its final score, but Drew Steckenrider got the save in the ninth. Kudos to Haniger for going 4 for 4, and J.P. Crawford going 3 for 4.

There was reason for hope on Tuesday night, though the final third of the game saw to it to crush our hearts. Tyler Anderson gutted his way through 4.1 innings, limiting the Red Sox to just one run. They were starting to get to him in the fourth and fifth innings, and with the Mariners’ offense struggling (we managed to take a short-lived 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth), I thought Scott Servais made the right move in getting Anderson out of there and going to his bullpen. Casey Sadler got us out of a jam in the fifth, but things went downhill quickly from there.

For some reason, Servais decided to go to Anthony Misiewicz in the sixth. The Red Sox had JUST seen a ho-hum lefty all day, and here they were getting a shot against another ho-hum lefty. Misiewicz got through the first two batters unscathed, but the wheels fell off and when the inning was over, the game was tied.

Servais then went to Joe Smith – the guy I would’ve thrown in there instead of Misiewicz – and he did what he was supposed to do: 1 inning of shutout ball. Unfortunately, Servais then opted to try to squeeze a second inning out of Joe Smith, which proved fatal. A leadoff triple in the top of the eighth sealed Smith’s fate. Drew Steckenrider was tasked with trying to prevent that runner from scoring; he managed one harmless groundout (sandwiched around two harmful walks) before a double cleared the bases. I had given up on the game by this point, so I couldn’t tell you what happened after that, other than the M’s lost 8-4.

The M’s would lose the finale on Wednesday 9-4. Once again, we got what we needed from our starter – 6 innings, 3 runs from Marco Gonzales – but pretty much the entire bullpen seems to be running out of gas, down to the last man. Sadler, Sewald, and Castillo got us to extra innings, but of course the offense kept shitting all over itself. A combination of Swanson, Sheffield, and Ramirez gave up 6 runs in the tenth inning to seal our fate. Why would we go to Sheffield with no outs, the bases loaded, and losing by a run? I can only assume the lack of Mariners offense has led to lesions on Servais’ brain, because he’s the LAST guy you’d go to in that situation, unless your intent was to blow the whole game to kingdom come.

That loss drops us to 78-68. We are an impossible 7.5 games behind the Astros in the A.L. West; we’re also a whopping 4 games out of the wild card, with three teams we’d have to leap over. All of this with 16 games left in the season. Sure, there are 9 winnable games against teams under .500 (three at the Royals this weekend, then six more against the Angels), and the other 7 games are against ONE of our wild card foes – the Oakland A’s – but that’s just too big of a mountain to climb in too short of time.

What a brutal last three weeks. If you want to know where the season went wrong, go back to that first Royals game on August 26th. Heading into that game, we were 11 games over .500, with 10 games against bottom-feeders in those very Royals, as well as the Diamondbacks. We managed to go 5-5 in those games; unforgivable. We somehow managed to go 3-3 against the Astros – which is great, for us – but then this Red Sox series slapped us right back down again. Every time we got on a little roll, we’d drop a brutal series in agonizing fashion. We had to win this Red Sox series, minimum, and we had to go at least 8-2 in those games against the bottom-feeders. Do that, and we’d be right there in the mix. We didn’t, and now the playoffs have slipped away.

There will be time for post-mortems after the season is officially over, but these next two and a half weeks feel like the walking dead. It’ll be interesting if we can end things on a high note, or if we really fall apart.

The Mariners Are Finally Done With Houston For 2021

The Mariners lost to the Astros on Monday 11-2. It was the fourth time we’ve had to face Lance McCullers since the All Star Break, and the only time we didn’t get beaten was in Seattle on August 31st when we threw that shutout by Kikuchi & Co. and Toro hit the grand slam off of Graveman to win it 4-0 (note: McCullers gave up 0 runs in his five innings of work, still managing to keep us off-balance, even in defeat).

I don’t know what his record is against the Mariners, but it seems like he kills us every single time, and not only that, but it seems like our own pitchers absolutely fall apart. Kikuchi also went in the game this week and couldn’t get out of the second inning, giving up 6 runs (4 earned), all in that fateful second. The only positive in this game was Toro continuing to rake against his old team, getting two hits (including a 2-RBI double).

Tuesday’s game was one of those losses where you think you might have the Astros licked, then they rip your guts out at the last minute. We withstood a Logan Gilbert start where he didn’t quite get through the fifth, but only gave up 2 runs. J.P. Crawford hit a 2-RBI double in the top of the fifth to tie it up, and Kyle Seager hit a solo bomb in the sixth to take a 1-run lead. Our bullpen held it down from there, and our offense even tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth to make it 4-2. Paul Sewald time! We had it in the bag!

But, then, of course, Alex Bregman hit a 2-run home run into their insanely short porch in left field to tie it up. We failed to score in the 10th, and Yohan Ramirez gave up a leadoff ground rule double to end it.

Once again, we were staring down the barrel of a sweep, but somehow pulled out the win on get-away day. Tyler Andersen didn’t quite have it – though, it sounds like the ump was all over the place, of course – giving up 4 runs in a little over 4 innings. But, once again, the bullpen was fucking nails and gave the offense enough time to scratch across the winning runs!

Toro had a 2-RBI double in the first, finishing with two hits on the day. Kelenic hit a 2-RBI double in the seventh to tie it at 4-4. Marmolejos hit a 2-RBI single in the ninth to take the lead, and J.P. Crawford hit a 2-run homer to salt it away at 8-4. Even though Bregman hit yet another homer off of Sewald in the bottom half, it did very little damage, as we won 8-5.

It’s always a relief when you can put the Astros in your rearview mirror. I go into every Astros series wondering just how in the hell are we even going to win AH game?! I don’t do that with any other team. Wins seem more possible against the rest of the league. But, I’ve been watching the Mariners lose to the Astros for so long now, it’s fucking demoralizing.

At press time, we’re 5.5 games behind the Astros for the A.L. West. We’re only 2.5 games behind the Yankees for the second wild card (the Red Sox are still clinging to the first wild card), but the Blue Jays have been scorching hot and went and surpassed us (we’re one game behind them; but two in the loss column).

Thankfully, we’re back home and get three more games against the Diamondbacks. I don’t know what we did to deserve such luxury, but we ABSOLUTELY MUST TAKE ADVANTAGE!

No fucking around anymore, Mariners! We’re just over three weeks away from the finish line; it’s time to put the pedal to the metal here.

The Mariners Swept The Diamondbacks, Part I

I’m really setting myself up for disaster with this title.

Friday’s 6-5 victory was even wackier than the usual wackiness we’re confronted with on a near-daily basis with the Mariners. Tyler Anderson was absolutely DOMINATING through six innings, giving up just the one run and keeping his pitch count crazy-low. It wouldn’t have been outside the realm of possibility to see him get the CG, or at least get through eight innings unscathed.

But, that seventh came around and the train jumped the tracks, killing a town full of people and one medium-sized orphanage. He got zero outs, ultimately giving up two runs in the process, and the M’s required two relievers to get out of the inning with a tie ballgame. Just like that, a 5-1 lead was wiped out. The offense THOUGHT they’d done enough, with a Tom Murphy RBI walk in the first, and 2-run homers by Haniger and Kelenic in the fifth and sixth, respectively.

Thankfully, Steckenrider and Sheffield (reliever extraordinaire!) were the tourniquet that got us to extra innings. From there, a Kelenic single gave the Mariners an unearned run advantage, while Yohan Ramirez worked a clean bottom of the tenth to get his second save of the season.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know a lick about what happened Saturday; all I remember is I had terrible sleep, with this recurring nightmare that the Huskies somehow lost to Montana at football less than a year after losing to them at basketball (but I know that can’t be true). It appears that Marco Gonzales had a get-me-over five innings, giving up five runs on 8 hits (including 2 homers) and 1 walk, while striking out 2. He only ended up with the win because the Mariners managed five runs of their own through four innings, before Seager hit his second 3-run home run of the game in the top of the sixth. The 8-5 victory was cemented then and there, with both bullpens doing excellent work the rest of the way.

Other than Seager’s 2 for 5 day with 6 RBI, J.P. Crawford went 4 for 5 with 2 runs and a 2-RBI single. Toro and Marmolejos both had multi-hit games, and Haniger, France, Kelenic, and Torrens all chipped in with one hit apiece. Diego Castillo returned from the IL to get the save in this one.

The sweep didn’t come easy, even though the Mariners won Sunday’s game 10-4. Would it shock you to know that game went into the 11th inning? It shocked me, and I watched the whole thing!

The M’s manufactured a couple runs in the fourth to take a 2-0 lead, while Chris Flexen was predictably rolling. He finally stumbled in the sixth, though, ultimately giving up three runs before his day was done. Thankfully, the Mariners got right back on the horse in the top of the seventh, where a Kelenic double play still managed to score the tying run.

That was it for a while. Swanson, Sewald, and Steckenrider got the game to extras. The M’s failed to score their ghost runner (or ANY runner, really) in the top of the 10th, but thankfully Yohan Ramirez has morphed into a reliable back-of-the-bullpen arm we can trust. He got through the bottom half unscathed, which allowed the Mariners to score 7 runs in the top of the 11th.

This is a fun one to re-live, because batting around for this team is so rare. Haniger and France walked to get things started. Then, Kyle Seager – as fire-hot as I’ve ever seen him – hit a 2-run double to make it 5-3. The Diamondbacks went to their second reliever of the inning, who gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Toro and Murphy to make it 7-3. He struck out Kelenic and got Moore to pop up before Jake Bauers pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot, who mashed a double to right to score two more, making it 9-3. That led to the Diamondbacks going with their third reliever of the inning, who gave up an infield chopper to Crawford, and a Haniger RBI single to make it 10-3. He would go on to hit France in the arm guard before getting Seager to finally ground out to end the inning.

I got my first look at Matt Andriese in the bottom of the 11th, who got as soft of a landing as you’ll ever see in an extra innings/game-ending situation. I didn’t LOVE what I saw, he appeared to struggle early – almost walking a guy before giving up an RBI single to Ketel Marte – but he settled down and didn’t require us to use a reliever we might desperately need in this Astros series coming up, so I was happy.

The Mariners are 75-62 after that sweep, and would you LOOK at THAT! We’re officially one game AHEAD of the Oakland Athletics! Huh?! That’s not supposed to happen!

We’re officially 4.5 games behind the Astros – playing our final three regular season games against them starting today – but what’s more important is we’re only 3 games behind the Red Sox for the second wild card spot. This is usually where the Mariners start to falter again – so we’re going to Houston right on cue – but it’s still amazing that it’s Labor Day and we’re RIGHT THERE in the thick of it!

Talk to me again in three days and we’ll see where I’m at. But, what a wild ride, huh?

The Mariners Extended Dipoto & Servais As They Try To Contend Down The Stretch

After just totally biffing it against the Royals, the Mariners played three winnable games against the Astros, winning two of them in shutout fashion.

The only loss was in the series opener on Monday, where we bafflingly blew it in the 8th by turning a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 loss. Chris Flexen didn’t have his greatest stuff, but still pitched into the sixth inning, giving up just 2 runs. Casey Sadler locked it down through the 7th, giving us just enough time to take that all-too-brief lead in the bottom of the sixth.

The Astros scored their first two runs in the 1st inning, making the Flexen performance even more impressive. Jose Marmolejos – back with the Mariners after going on the warpath with the Rainiers for much of the season – hit a solo homer in his first at bat to make it 2-1. That’s where it remained until Dylan Moore – pinch hitting for Marmolejos – jacked a 2-run homer to make everyone happy.

But, then Joe Smith was tasked with handling the 8th inning. I don’t totally get it. Was Drew Steckenrider simply unavailable? Did Scott Servais lose his mind? Either way, shaky defense and even shakier pitching meant Smith gave up three singles and two runs, before he was pulled for Yohan Ramirez to get the final two outs of the inning. The Mariners were toast from there.

Tuesday saw Yusei Kikuchi take the mound, desperately needing a quality start to help save his Mariners career. And, to his credit, he went out and dominated: 7 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 4. His fastball was lively, he threw it often, and he got ahead of hitters; when he’s able to do that, good things tend to result.

The game was, nevertheless, scoreless as we headed into the bottom of the eighth. Paul Sewald got the job done in the top half against the top of the lineup, setting the stage for Kendall Graveman, who was making his first appearance in Seattle since the infamous deadline deal.

Graveman still has electric stuff, but the Mariners put a tough challenge on him. J.P. Crawford led off the inning with a walk, Seager singled after a Haniger strikeout, and Ty France was hit on the forearm to load the bases. The table was set … for Abraham Toro of all people, the very centerpiece the Mariners got back in return in the Graveman deal.

Toro got in a 1-2 hole early, whiffing hard on Graveman’s sinkers. But, he finally started making contact – fouling off three pitches while working the count even – before unloading on a sinker in the inner-middle of the plate for a grand slam. It was glorious! I’m not going to say the Mariners won the trade in that single at-bat – lord knows this bullpen has been plenty fallible in Graveman’s absence – but I’ve been a fan of Toro since we got him, and that further cements in my mind the value he brings to this team, both this season and in the years to come.

It was Graveman’s first loss of the season – and it dented his ERA pretty good – but he’s still been wildly effective for the Astros since going over there. Just, you know, not against the Mariners. Against us, he’s gone 1.1 innings and given up 5 runs. Shit, maybe he WAS the world’s greatest teammate! He’s so good, he’s STILL helping us win ballgames!

If the 4-0 shutout was impressive, Wednesday’s 1-0 shutout was truly remarkable. Logan Gilbert – another starter who’s struggled over the last month – went 5 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits & 0 walks, while striking out 4. Again, lots of fastballs and he did a good job of staying ahead of hitters.

This game saw the return of Justus Sheffield, now a reliever since his return from the IL. I don’t know if that’s a permanent move, or if that’s even a role he’s well-suited for, but he got through his one inning unscathed to get the win. Because we scored our lone run in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to a Crawford single, walks by Haniger and France, and a sac fly to center off the bat of – you guessed it – Abraham Toro. It wasn’t a deep fly ball by any means, but with Crawford’s speed – and the sun wreaking havoc on the outfielder – it was long enough.

Then, it was shutdown time. Sadler did his job in the 7th. Steckenrider returned to get two outs in the 8th (before putting two runners on), which necessitated Paul Sewald going in there for the 4-out save. Which he managed heroicly, striking out three guys in the process (while only getting into a little trouble in the 9th before slamming the door shut).

It’s a bummer we didn’t manage to take all three games – because at this point in the season, we could’ve really used the boost – but winning this series was very impressive the way we did it. The Astros have the best offense in baseball, and we absolutely shut them down!

Before the game on Wednesday, it was announced that Jerry Dipoto was extended (and promoted to President of Baseball Operations). Essentially, he’s still the GM, and he still reports to the owner, John Stanton, but clearly this is a big endorsement of his rebuild. It was simultaneously announced that Scott Servais was also extended to continue managing the ballclub; the terms for their contracts were not disclosed, so it’s unknown how long they’re under contract for.

I don’t really know of anyone who thinks Servais is a bad manager. Quite the contrary, I think most of us are really impressed with how hard he gets his guys to play for him, even when they’re lacking in talent compared to some of the elite teams around baseball. We might get blown out here and there – that’s going to happen – but we tend to be IN most of these games at the very least, and as far as the last two seasons are concerned, winning much more of them than anyone would’ve predicted.

I like Servais. I don’t have a lot of regard for managers in baseball in general; I think, for the most part, these teams sort of manage themselves. They get too much of the blame when things go wrong, and probably an appropriate amount of the credit when things go right. But, you can really see how Servais has built the culture here. It’s different than it was under Lloyd McClendon, Don Wakamatsu, Eric Wedge, and on and on dating back to the glory days of Lou Piniella. Honestly, Servais might be the best manager in all of baseball right now, and I’ve been saying for a while: I’d LOVE to see what he does with a team that’s as talented as the Astros or Dodgers or Yankees.

And, for what it’s worth, I do think Servais makes a high percentage of the correct calls when it comes to sticking with a pitcher vs. pulling him for a fresh arm. I mean, that probably has a lot to do with the analytics department, but it’s a credit to Servais that he actually follows the numbers and not just his fucking gut (*cough* Lloyd McClendon *cough*).

As for Dipoto, he’s MUCH more divisive. Fans seem to either love him and lap up the Kool Aid like the thirsty sheep that they are; or fans seem to hate him and want to ride him out of town on a rail.

I’m in the middle. If I had my druthers, we would’ve backed up the Brinks truck to Theo Epstein’s house and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse YEARS ago. But, obviously, that’s never happening. We hired Dipoto after the 2015 season, and while his moves have been hit-or-miss, I think there’s a lot unexplained from his tenure. He inherited an aging roster that was still trying to break the playoff drought. How much did ownership hamper him when it comes to tearing it all down back then and rebuilding immediately? I would argue they meddled quite a bit, with guys like Felix, Cruz, Cano, and Seager playing at the tops of their games.

It wasn’t until after the 2018 season – when we won 89 games, but again fell well short of making the playoffs – that we FINALLY committed to a real, official rebuild. I would say, by and large, Dipoto’s moves before that point were largely disappointing and underwhelming. Again, how much was he hampered by ownership, who likely limited his spending? I would argue quite a bit, with Felix’s dying contract, Seager’s bloated deal, and Cano’s albatross hanging around our neck.

I contend that SINCE the end of the 2018 season, Dipoto has been largely on fire with his trades, his under-the-radar dart-throw free agent signings, and his draft picks. In that time, he turned around a farm system that was one of the worst – if not THE worst – in all of baseball, into one of the best this year (including one publication ranking us #1 overall). The trade of Cano & Edwin Diaz for Jarred Kelenic (and others) is the big draw. But, he also pulled off the Austin Nola deal (for Ty France and Luis Torrens) and the aforementioned Graveman deal for Toro.

It hasn’t worked out perfectly since then. The Mariners really bottomed out in 2019, for instance. But, we played much better in a COVID-shortened 2020 season. And, this year, we find ourselves firmly in contention for a wild card spot with a month left to play.

You can argue that many of the young position players are failing to make the leap from AAA to the Major Leagues, but if that’s Dipoto’s fault, then it’s also on all the scouts and pundits who continue to laud these players as among the most talented of all the prospects coming up in the last two years. They’re still young-enough in their careers to turn things around. Plus, there are more prospects where they came from if they do, indeed, fail at this level.

On top of which, the Mariners have cheaped out long enough. It sounds like after having this year to analyze the guys we’ve got, the purse strings are going to be loosened, allowing us to go out and make some splashy free agent deals. Between that, and the trades we can make by having one of the best farm systems in baseball, as long as we don’t fuck things up COMPLETELY, we should be watching the Seattle Mariners in the post-season sooner rather than later.

So, no, I’m not a Jerry Dipoto hater. But, I’m also not drinking the Kool Aid completely either. He still needs to finish the job. Lots of teams throughout baseball have been in the position we’re in now. VERY few actually manage to morph into World Series champions, let alone enjoy the kind of sustained success you see out of teams like the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox.

I’ll fully believe it when I see it. Don’t do what the Mariners always do: get swindled in trades for mediocre veterans who come here and shit the bed. DO do what good teams do: ship off shaky prospects for quality starters, and let’s go win us a fucking World Series title!