The last few days have been a week. First there was the disaster at Wrigley in which Steve Cishek single-handedly lit the team bench on fire and walked over the prone bodies of his teammates with their faces frozen in a permanent “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”
It was followed the next night by Cishek trying to make nice, acknowledging Sunday night’s wild pitch by throwing exactly the same ball to Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts to lead off the 8th inning at Safeco Field. Mookie celebrated the moment by hitting the next pitch into the right field seats for the winning solo homer. Tough couple of days for Cishek, the Mariners and M’s fans everywhere.
That was after Monday’s trading deadline passed, with M’s doing very little. Picked up a waiver claim on minor leaguer Mike Freeman and DFA’s Patrick Kivlehan. They missed out on a trade for Reds shortstop Zack Cozart, probably a guy who could have helped this team, but I’m assuming the price was simply too high.
Sigh, just not a lot of good news going into Tuesday night’s rematch with the Red Sox. With Boston throwing lefty ace David Price at the M’s and the home team countering with reclamation project Wade LeBlanc, our chances just didn’t look good. The Mariners were likely to finish the night with another L, and dip below .500 for the first time since April 21st after a loss at home to the Angels left them 8-9.
And God only knows, that’s the way things started. David Ortiz doubled home Pedroia in the first inning. Hanley Ramirez hit a tremendous home run out to left-center field, and was followed by back to back doubles by Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Aaron Hill. Bosox up 3-0.
But in the good news department, LeBlanc was able to hang in for a solid six innings, reducing the wear on a dazed and confused bullpen. But when recent call-up Donn Roach relieved LeBlanc in the 7th, he held Boston at bay. But in the 8th that Ortiz guy drove in a fourth run to take a commanding lead 4-0.
But two really good things happened in this game. The first is that the M’s mounted a comeback. It may not match the epic 16-13 comeback destruction of San Diego on June 2nd, but for a team about to be left for dead by most of the casual fans in Seattle (remember Seahawks training camp opened last week,) it was a critical win.
Mike Zunino led off the bottom of the 8th with a missile off Price into the left field seats. Seeming somewhat more mortal, Leonys Martin and Luis Sardinas got to Price for successive singles, before Guillermo Heredia recorded his first major league hit by driving in Martin. Price out, reliever Matt Barnes came in to get pinch-hitter Seth Smith. Newly acquired lefty Francisco Abad came in to face lefty Robinson Cano. Abad was greeted by a no-doubt-about-it howitzer blast. The M’s take the lead 5-4.
The second really good thing that happened is when rookie Edwin Diaz came out to close the ninth inning. It was like that moment in Jerry Maguire when Rene Zellweger said “You had me at hello.” There were no covered eyes. I wasn’t waiting for a slider two feet off the plate. I didn’t double check for an arrow sticking out of my butt. Diaz was dominant, and despite a one-out walk to Travis Shaw, was effective. Could the 22-year old be the best Mariners closer since J.J. Putz in 2007? Tomorrow is another day, who knows?
This has not been a good year but . . . Despite many flaws-not enough clutch hitting, too many defensive and base-running errors, injuries and ineffectiveness from starters and relievers-this team has managed to hang around .500. With the Red Sox series, the M’s wrap up the truly terrible two months of their schedule. Yes, they are only 53-52. But I would remind you that last year on August 3rd they were 49-58. Do I think they are going to play their way back into the Wild Card chase? Nope, I don’t.
But I do think they’ll be better. Why? Here’s a few reasons:
- Reinforcements-it appears some of the wounded will leave the DL soon-Taijuan Walker will rejoin the bullpen. Charlie Furbush will add a much needed left hander to the bullpen. Nick Vincent will shore up the ‘pen from the right side.
- According to MLBTradeRumors, Jerry Dipoto expects to be busy during August. That may be a challenge as trades for major league players must clear waivers, but certainly deals have been made in August before. Adam Lind? Zack Cozart? Seth Smith? We’ll see. (There is an interesting explanation of why the Cozart deal didn’t happen too.)
- Young guys will get their shot. The M’s put Guillermo Heredia in left field, with his superior defense and speed, putting Nori Aoki on the bench. The 25 year old will have ample opportunity to see if he can hit, because he certainly is young, athletic and controllable. If Lind is moved, we may see Dan Vogelbach, obtained in the Mike Montgomery trade. Unfortunately, the highly touted 1B/DH isn’t hitting a lick, with only a .182/.321/.341 slash since moving to the PCL. Ariel Miranda, acquired in the Wade Miley trade, will get his first major league start on Thursday. Nobody knows if any of these guys will be successful, but they are the next wave of young players Dipoto is counting on to make the Mariners better and younger.
- The bullpen is better and faster. Edwin Diaz, Tom Wilhelmsen, and Drew Storen are all high octane right handers to give the M’s that hot fuel bullpen the Royals and Yankees have had. Too bad they don’t have a lefty like that-oh they did but sent Montgomery to Chicago.
There is enough good stuff happening with this team to keep me interested. Again, I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs, but they’ll benefit enough from the softer schedule and an improving roster enough so they may have a say in who makes it and who does not. They remind me of the old 60’s song, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” Not the perky, resentful Diana Ross and the Supreme’s version, no the plodding, downbeat heavy metalish cover by Vanilla Fudge.