Month: May 2017

M’s survive 4-4 road trip through hell

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Ariel Miranda pitched just well enough to pick up a couple of wins in the M’s 4-4 road trip to Washington D.C., Boston and Denver. 

Eight days ago I reflected on the challenges faced by the Mariners as they set off on an eight-day road trip to Washington, Boston, and Colorado.  I suggested that, given the current state of the Mariners pitching staff and their offensive struggles, the M’s could consider a three win road trip a success. When they convincingly clobbered the Rockies 10-4 last night at Coors Field, Seattle earned a 4-4 road split.  This was almost miraculous given the quality of the opponents and way the trip began.

The first two games in Washington met all our worst expectations as the Nationals lit up Christian Bergman for 10 runs in four innings on the way to a 10-1 stroll through the mess that is the Mariners pitching staff. The following day, Sam Gaviglio allowed four unearned runs in the first inning on the way to a 5-1 loss. The M’s continued their offensive lethargy, which the pitching just wasn’t good enough, and it looked like the trip could end 0-8.

But Ariel Miranda pulled a rabbit out of his hat and managed to still the Nationals potent offense to win 4-2.  Though the five-inning outing wasn’t his best effort, it was far from his worst.  A nearly spotless effort by the bullpen over four innings held on for the victory.

If the first two games in Washington seemed shaky, the first two games in Boston made the ride through Nationals Park seem like a summer breeze. Back to back shutouts, 3-0 and 6-0 illuminated the Mariners mysterious offensive futility that persisted from the White Sox series and resulted in a RS/RA of 9-52 over eight games.

But somehow in the Sunday finale at Fenway, Christian Bergman found whatever was missing in D.C. and shutout the Bosox through 7.0, and the Mariners found a way to score, beating their AL East rivals 5-0.

At 2-4 the Mariners limped into Coors Field to face the NL West-leading Rockies. The Boston finale seemed to cure them of what ailed the Mariners as they combined decent pitching performances with sufficient offense to sweep the Rockies 6-5 and 10-4.

The Mariners open a ten game home stand against those same Rockies tonight.  At 24–29 they return home in pretty much the same condition in which they left.  Their pitching staff is still dependent on guys who should still be toiling in the minors.  Their offense is wildly inconsistent.  Too many key guys are on the DL. 53 games into the season, we should have a pretty clear idea of who these guys are.

I don’t think we can say that.  With Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyley still on the DL and no clear date set for their return, the M’s will continue with Bergman, Gaviglio and Miranda.  And what happens to an ineffective Gallardo with Paxton returning and others looking like they might be back next month?

How will the projected return of outfielder Mitch Haniger affect the trio currently playing?  Certainly the performance of Ben Gamel has earned him consideration for time in one of the corners as Jarrod Dyson struggles with the stick.

With lots of home games in June against some pretty good teams in the Rockies, Twins, Rays, Astros and Blue Jays, the M’s have to figure out how to win consistently if they are going to jump over the seven teams in front of them in the Wild Card chase.  Not impossible, but every passing game in the wilderness makes it more difficult.

Go M’s

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Whither now Mariners?

 

Mariners lose again 2
Ariel Miranda watched Jose Abreu circle the bases after tying the score 1-1 in Friday night’s loss to the White Sox. The Mariners notched one hit against Jose Quintana and the Pale Hose. 

The M’s head out on a tortuous road trip, with a series is Washington, Boston, and Colorado.  The Nationals and Rockies are division leaders, and although the Red Sox haven’t quite caught fire yet, they could do so any time.  Maybe preying on some woeful Mariners pitching will get them started.

The M’s find themselves 20-25 after a terrible homestand.  They began by winning two of three against the last place A’s, but could do nothing with a White Sox team that came into Safeco Field struggling. After managing a run on one hit Friday night, the Mariners offense went meekly, losing 16-1 on Saturday, and 8-1 on getaway Sunday.

Saturday’s immolation came at the hands of fellow arsonists Yovani Gallardo and Dillon Overton.  Together they surrendered nine and five runs respectively over 3.2 and 4.1 innings. Utilityman Mike Freeman pitched the last  inning and allowed the final run. I wonder if he can start.

Sunday’s conflagration began at the hands of Chris Heston, who allowed seven runs over three innings. While Dan Altavilla chipped in the eighth run just for good measure, the remaining four innings were well-managed by James Pazos, Steve Cishek, Mark Rzepczynski and Casey Lawrence.

Yes, the pitching sucks.  At 226 runs allowed, the Mariners have provided more opposing offense than any team in the American League.  More than any team in baseball except the San Diego Padres.

Unfortunately Seattle’s offense has likewise spun down the drain while facing the White Sox.  Over the last three games, the M’s were outscored 26-3.  But you already knew that. Taking it a step further, the M’s totaled only 40 hits in the seven game homestand.  That’s less than six hits per game.  It’s pretty tough to score much without hits.

It could be they’ve just struggled without Robinson Cano in the lineup. Perhaps they’ve been in such early holes, players have tried to do too much.

But the bottom third of the Mariners order with an inconsistent Jarrod Dyson, a catcher tandem of Tuffy Gosewich and Carlos Ruiz, and a Taylor Motter who is showing why he’s a great utility guy, but not quite ready for the daily big time, makes it hard on the other six guys.  Kyle Seager is not all the way back. Danny Valencia is still finding his way.  Guillermo Heredia and Ben Gamel are learning.  Nelson Cruz and Jean Segura can’t carry the team, though they’ve certainly tried.

And hovering over all this mess, is a barrelful of injuries.  We hear reports of who is improving and when we might see them.  Who is having setbacks and who is not.  But, it’s not clear who will be ready when.  Paxton and Haniger back maybe when the team returns from the road trip.  Felix . . . maybe, whenever?  Iwakuma sometime in June.  Smyly, end of June.  Cano will be added to the roster Tuesday.  Zunino has already replaced Tuffy. That’s not likely to be enough.

What’s clear, is the Mariners season is teetering on the brink. They are hopelessly behind the Astros unless that team and its stadium is destroyed in a meteor strike. The M’s are 5.5 games behind the second Wild Card spot.  That number isn’t hopeless, and the league has done a gentlemanly job of staying close to our boys. But there are seven teams in front of the Mariners, and one, the Texas Rangers, has gotten blazing hot. It could be that the M’s catch fire when they get their walking wounded back. Or not.

What is certain however, is this road trip is next on Seattle’s list of crosses to bear. Eight games against quality teams that play well at home.  In the five games in National League parks, they’ll be without their best hitter.

With 117 games left to play it’s hard to say this is the pivotal road trip of the year.  But if the M’s can’t pitch; if their offense hides in the clubhouse and they can’t find a way to win at least three games, it’s hard to see how they get in and stay in the Wild Card chase.  It’s also not hard to imagine M’s management taking this team apart if this spiral continues.

Go M’s.

 

Finally, something to cheer

Christian Bergman

Jean Segura leads the American league in batting, hitting .359.  The man is a machine, seemingly living on base. Nelson Cruz leads the league in RBI’s with 36, a couple behind Nationals 1B RyanZimmerman and tied with all-everything Nationals OF Bryce Harper for the MLB lead. We should celebrate that Jarrod Dyson has eight Defensive Runs Saved and tied the league record for being hit by a pitch three times in a game.

But let’s face it, looking out on the burned twisted wasteland that is the Mariners pitching staff, this team needs a hero, a pitcher who can lead this team to the promised land of post season baseball.  Actually, they need several heroes, but we’ve got to start somewhere.

Last night Christian Bergman threw a 7.1 inning two-hit shutout at the Oakland A’s last night.  The A’s shouldn’t be mistaken for the ’27 Yankees, the 2016 Cubs, or even this year’s Houston Astros, but a dominant pitching performance in a year when virtually every Mariners pitcher is broken or, at best, capable of surviving six innings in a cage with a beer league team, is nothing to sneeze at.

I’m not sure if Christian Bergman is that hero the M’s need.  If he is, he’ll have to prove it every fifth game. But I do know it is the first sort of dominating pitching performance a Mariners starter has had since. Ariel Miranda’s seven innings of shut out ball in a 7-1 win over the Marlins on April 17th.  Yep, that’s more than a month ago.

The M’s, Blowers and Sims, or anybody else can promote all the six innings of muddle Mariner pitchers have managed over the past week, but it just isn’t good enough. Tonight Sam Gaviglio will take his place on the Safeco mound to make his first major league start.  He’ll try to brush away the memories of various Dillon Overtons, Ryan Webers and Chris DeJongs and elevate the team to levels we all hoped for when things were rosy in March.

But every day is a new game.  Every start is just the next one. Today, let’s celebrate Bergman’s excellent performance and hope for another from Gaviglio as the White Sox roll in to town.  We need all the heroes we can get.

17-17 With Every Day a New Adventure

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After administering a whupping to Philadelphia’s godawful bullpen for two games, the M’s head in to Toronto’s Rogers Centre to meet the Blue Jays for four games.

I’m not sure which is the bigger story? After five weeks of struggle the M’s have fought their way back to .500.  Or the M’s have four-fifths of their projected starting rotation entering Spring Training on the DL.

Add to the starters, relievers Evan Scribner, Evan Matthews, Steve Cishek, and Shae Simmons.  Add to the pitchers, all everything outfielder Mitch Haniger. Add to the injured, an ineffective Mike Zunino and Leonys Martin and the team that trundles into the Jays’ home is pretty different from the one that rolled into Houston on April 3rd.

The Mariners won five of their last six.  That’s no small feat.  But let’s not get too smug.  They beat an injury-riddled Angels team, a bad Rangers club, and a Phillies crew that may be good some day, but today has a breathtakingly terrible relief pitching.

If all the injuries and moves on the pitching merry-go-round haven’t induced vertigo and oxygen depletion, news today the M’s have additional losses to their roster. Robinson Cano’s tweaked quadriceps will keep him out of the lineup.  Mike Freeman will fill in at second base.  And if things couldn’t be weirder or worse, Cuban players Guillermo Heredia and Ariel Miranda were having visa issues at the border and were not expected to get to Toronto in time for tonight’s game. Miranda isn’t scheduled to pitch tonight, and Taylor Motter will take Heredia’s place in left field.

In addition, Jerry Dipoto has been anything but idle today as he sucks up any potential pitching reinforcements that might aid his ailing staff.  The M’s recalled Zac Curtis from AA Arkansas directly to the big club, and sent right hander Dan Altavilla to AAA.  They also claimed RHP Casey Lawrence from the waiver wire.  He’d been DFA’ed by Toronto.  Dipoto also purchased the contract of RHP Justin DeFratus of the independent Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. De Fratus is bound for Arkansas.  He also snagged  RHP Tyler Cloyd from the independent Somerset Patriots.  Cloyd will go to Tacoma.  Both have major league experience, and De Fratus was once a Mariner property.

Phwah, I hear you exclaiming.  It’s the Blue Jays. They suck!  Well, you’re right, sort of.  The Jays, not unlike the M’s, got off to a slow start and did a swan dive into an empty pool their first 25 games or so.  But they’re improving.  The M’s will be running youngsters Chase DeJong, Dillon Overton and Christian Bergman out to start games that would have been pitched by Felix Hernandez, James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma.  They are fly-ball pitchers about to do their business in one of the biggest homer-producing parks in the major leagues.

We are often reminded the M’s have, correctly, scored the second most runs in the American League behind the Yankees.  But they are also third in most runs allowed.

The M’s need to at least split this series before coming home to face a pesky (at least for the Mariners) A’s team, and the White Sox who have hung around the .500 mark with their surprising pitching.

Go M’s