The End of a Disappointing Season: We Can’t Even Lose Right

Umm, Seth, I don't think you were supposed to do that.
Umm, Seth, I don’t think you were supposed to do that.

Your Seattle Mariners won the final game of the season to end a two game losing streak It ends a pretty tough ending to the 162 game campaign, as the Mariners finished 2-9.  Though the M’s hovered around the fringes of playoff contention until they steamed into Kansas City on September 22nd, they were never seriously in the playoff picture the entire year.  Their season was undone by injury and underperformance in all parts of the game-offense, starting pitching and relief pitching.

However the beloved Sea-town nine did have an opportunity to finish the season right.  The Chicago White Sox had a one game lead over the M’s, going into the final game; the Sox had the 11th worst record (76-85) in the major leagues and the Mariners had the 10th worst (75-86.)  Nevertheless, the two teams, terrible as they were, still had a prize to fight over.  The ten teams with the worst records in baseball are exempt from surrendering their first round draft pick if they sign a free agent pick receiving a qualifying offer from their team, the best free agents available in the upcoming class. The Mariners gave up their first round pick in 2015 to the Baltimore Orioles after signing right fielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz.

The Mariners started the day with a one game advantage.  Unfortunately, the White Sox failed to do their part, Playing the Detroit Tigers at home starting pitcher Frankie Montas coughed up a run in the first and the visiting team never looked back. The Tigers shut out the ChiSox 6-0 to end a disappointing season for both teams. The Chicago loss left them at 76-86, tied in the loss column as the Mariners entered play for the final time in 2015.

Disappointing news sure, but the Mariners had this one in the bag from the start.  They were starting swingman Vidal Nuno on the heels of a 13 inning duel to the death with the visiting Oakland A’s on Saturday. The depleted bullpen was further diminished as manager Lloyd McClendon ran out seven relievers in support of a fine effort by Roenis Elias, but to no avail as J.C. Ramirez barfed up a two run gopher ball to Marcus Semiens in the 13th and the M’s surrendered a quiet 1,2, 3 in their half of the inning.

Yes, the Mariners had every reason to steam into their season finale with their daubers down and their minds on going home.  Adding to the previous night’s debacle was the news that  Cruz injured his groin and would not play.  The odds were stacked against them, the 10th spot seemed theirs.

And things certainly started out right. Nuno gave up two runs in the third when Oakland center fielder Craig Gentry tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by catcher Brian Anderson.  First baseman Marc Canha followed with a solo homer, A’s lead 2-0.  But the M’s, playing in front of  22,407 faithful on a lovely fall afternoon did not remain silent long, scoring single runs in the fourth inning and tied the game in the sixth. Nuno failed to perform his usual early inning collapsing act, got through six innings and turned it over to the relief corps.  I swear I saw a guy in the stands smiling grotesquely and flicking his lighter.  Immolation of the season finale was pre-ordained.

But no. Mayckol Guaipe, he of a dozen late inning meltdowns (it was just one pitch that did it,) pitched to two batters and only surrendered a walk. Logan Kensing dragged his 6.59 ERA and 1.390 WHIP, and having pitched .2 innings in the Saturday night debacle spun 1.2 perfect innings!  The M’s miraculously remained tied with the A’s 2-2.  In the bottom of the eighth, with the Mariners having mustered only five hits and remaining silent since they scored in the 6th, were in the process of exiting their at bat quietly when Seth Smith stepped into the batters box to face righty reliever Ryan Dull.  Smith has been god-awful since I wrote my piece about him, hitting .204 in August and .216 in September.  Of course the Mariners got Smith to punish right handed pitching, and Smith did just that driving a pitch 409 feet, just over the center field fence. Tom Wilhelmsen, who blew his second save in the ninth inning on Saturday night, somehow found his composure, his fastball and his curve all in one game sealed the deal.  M’s win 3-2.

So the Mariners and White Sox both finish the season at 76-86.  Could be worse, right? There must be some gentleman’s test of skill to settle this? Coin flip? Rock, paper, scissors? Pistols at twenty paces? No, sorry.  Remember last year when the Mariners had that awesome season that left them within one Fernando Rodney blown save, one Justin Smoak called third strike with the bases loaded, one Kendrys Morales pop up with the tying run on third away from the playoffs?  It was much better than Chicago’s 73-89 spanking in 2014, so the pick belongs to them.

Unfortunately it leaves General Manager Jerry DiPoto with some difficult decisions.  Does he go after a top flight arm like David Price and surrender the team’s first round pick, or does he concede an impactful free agent signing in the interest of rebuilding the depleted Mariner farm system? It don’t get no easier.

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