7 Days in May-Or How the Mariners Spent a Week in Hell

Like I said in my last post, it’s been a lousy week.  But it could be worse, I could be the Mariners.  So much bad, so little fun.

Let’s start with a week ago today May 11th.  The M’s flew into Detroit expecting to play an evening game.  They are fresh off another series win in Toronto.  There was still a certain glamor surrounding the team after James Paxton’s no-hitter, Joey Votto’s comments notwithstanding.  But instead of a game against the lowly Detroits with the momentum gods firmly in Seattle’s favor, there was a tarp on the field.  The game was postponed, and a make-up double header scheduled for Saturday.

Double-headers are the devil’s work.  Teams today aren’t built for double-headers. The M’s, typical of many of today’s big-league teams have starters that go 5-6 innings and mounds of one-inning relief pitchers.  Manager Scott Servais must have been so cranky. Both teams were allowed to add an additional player to their roster for the day.  The M’s chose right handed reliever Dan Altavilla, fresh off the DL.

Saturday, May 12: Game One  Tigers 4-3

Lefty Marco Gonzales worked around ten hits in six innings of work.  He held the game to a scoreless tie until the Tigers scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings and then a two run homer to Jose Iglesias in the sixth finished off Detroit scoring.  Newly called reliever Eric Goeddel finished the game, allowing two hits. Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd was effective against the M’s, allowing three runs on only three hits through six innings.   In the ninth, the Mariners loaded the bases with two outs and but Dee Gordon grounded out to the first baseman to end the game.  The Mariners were 0-6 with runners in scoring position.

Saturday, May 12: Game Two Mariners 9-5

Felix Hernandez started this game and was hit early and often.  He lasted only five innings and got pounded for eight hits and five runs.  James Pazos, Nick Vincent, Juan Nicasio, and Dan Altavilla were excellent closing out the game, allowing only one hit over the remaining four innings.  The Mariners got things going in the first on Nelson Cruz’s RBI single.  Ryon Healy hit a two run homer in the fourth.  Robinson Cano blasted a three run shot in the fifth to give the M’s the lead.  The cherry on top came when Kyle Seager doubled home Cruz and Cano in the 7th, followed by a Healy double to score Seager.

Sunday May 13: Tigers 5-4

In his first start after his no-hitter, James Paxton was less than sharp, allowing three runs on six hits over six innings.  But the real killer was the bullpen.  Chasen Bradford allowed a run in his inning of work on a hit batter followed by a Julio Iglesias double.  Juan Nicasio allowed a run on three hits in his inning.  Though the M’s struggled with starter Blaine Hardy and a bevy of Tigers relievers, the M’s had chances to win this with the lineup going 2-13 with runners in scoring position.  The themes for the week will be bullpen breakdowns and failure to hit with runners in scoring position. The true lowlight of the game came, however, when Robinson Cano was struck on the hand by Hardy, fracturing the 5th metacarpal, requiring surgery.  Of course it could be worse, and it will be.

Robinson Cano Injury
When Robinson Cano fractured his right hand on a pitch from Blaine Hardy, I didn’t think it could get worse. Then it did.

Monday May 14: Mariners 1-0

This was the makeup game for the April 6th postponement featuring snow and freezing temperatures.  It was nearly postponed again due to rain.  Thankfully, sort of, the M’s and Twins got this one in.  It really was the Wade LeBlanc show, as the veteran lefty threw six innings of three-hit shutout ball. The bullpen wrapped things up, allowing one hit, and garnering Edwin Diaz his 14th save.  The M’s eaked out a run in the 8th when Dee Gordon led off with a double, and scored when Jean Seguras bunt was obligingly tossed into right field by Logan Morrison. The M’s were 1-13 with runners in scoring position.

Tuesday May 15: Mariners 9-8 (11)

Juan Nicasio
Juan Nicasio really wants to earn his big paycheck, but something bad is happening beyond the pink hat.

The day began with devastating news that Robinson Cano violated MLB drug guidelines and would be suspended for 80 games.  The vacancy at second base was filled, at least temporarily, by veteran Gordon Beckham. This wild affair featured three comebacks to tie the game by the Texas Rangers, before Guillermo Heredia’s terrific walk-off single in the 11th. This game featured seven Mariners pitchers, and the three we think of as most important, starter Mike Leake, set up man Juan Nicasio, and closer Edwin Diaz, all failed. Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger both had big nights.

Wednesday May 16: Rangers 5-1

Bartolo Colon pitched a super game, allowing four hits over 7.2 innings. As good as Colon was, Mariners starter Christian Bergman was every bit as good allowing only two hits over seven.  It was left to the bullpens to close things out, and the M’s simply collapsed. James Pazos, Nick Vincent and Marc Rzepczynski all allowed runs in the 8th and 9th innings to seal the Mariners doom.

Thursday May 17 Tigers 3-2

Ryan Cook
Ryan Cook’s 1.1 perfect innings after two years of injury was the only good thing to come out of Thursday’s loss.

Matthew Boyd pitched around six hits and two walks, holding the M’s to two runs. Though Marco Gonzalez was effective through 5.2 innings, the Tigers broke through for a run in the sixth.  It looked like the Mariners would hang on, but Nick Vincent coughed up three hits and two runs in the eighth to let this slip away.  However, Mariners hitters are not off the hook for this game. The M’s were 2-7 with runners in scoring position with opportunities to get more in the 2nd and 7th innings. The only good news was the return of Ryan Cook to a major league roster after more than two years of arm and shoulder miseries.  Cook was effective in 1.1 innings and hit 97 on the radar gun.

Scott Servais
Thomas Paine was wrong. THESE are the times that try men souls.

In Review 

Though the team went 3-4 for the week, it was a truly awful seven days.  Start with the loss of Robinson Cano, a charismatic team leader and strong performer on the field. Add a bullpen with many unreliable pieces.  In my view, nothing is more demoralizing than taking a lead into late innings only to watch the bullpen fritter it away.  The bullpen cost the M’s three games this week, and prolonged Tuesday’s game into 11 innings, and more than that put a big question mark on Scott Servais’ ability to trust the players he has.  Finally, despite Mike Blowers’ assertions to the contrary, the M’s were not good driving in runs this week.  They had opportunities to win some games with a few timely hits, and they simply didn’t.

Right now the Mariners sit a half game out of the second wild card spot behind the Angels, another team that is struggling.  Another win or two would put the Mariners in that spot as they try to close out a very winnable month of May, and head into a very challenging June schedule. I don’t know if this is the week that made or broke this team, but in September, if we’re shaking our heads wondering what the hell happened, this could be the week we look at.


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