erik lundegaard

Seattle Mariners posts

Thursday August 17, 2017

M's Game: Now Pitching for the Mariners ... Someone

Mariners game: Marco Gonzales

Second pitch. Pay attention, girls. 

Is it possible for even the most gung-ho fan to keep track of Mariners starting pitching anymore? This was our rotation at the beginning of the year:

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma
  3. James Paxton
  4. Ariel Miranda
  5. Yovani Gallardo

Now?

  1. Felix Hernandez (DL: 10)
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma (DL: 60)
  3. James Paxton (DL: 10)
  4. Ariel Miranda
  5. Yovani Gallardo
  6. Erasmo Ramirez? (traded for: July 28)
  7. Andrew Albers? (purchased: Aug. 12)
  8. Marco Gonzales? (traded for: July 21)

Iwakuma lasted just six starts (I never got to see him), Felix a lucky 13 (I never got to see him) and Paxton, who became our ace, 20 (yeah, never saw him, either).

All in all, we've had 16 pitchers start games this season. I've seen Miranda twice, Gallardo twice, and Andrew Moore, who made his Major League debut in June and was sent back to the minors in July, twice. I was there for Dillon Overton's only start in May (he lasted 3 1/3; he's now with San Diego), one of Sam Gaviglio's starts (he's had 11, the most for any of the non-five), and yesterday, against Baltimore, before the M's roadtrip for the rest of August, I was there with my friend Andy on a sunny Wednesday afternoon to see Marco Gonzales make his third start for the team since being acquired from St. Louis in late July. Previously he'd lasted 4 innings against KC and 4 1/3 against the Angels. The hope was he'd go longer. 

It didn't look good at the outset. O's shortstop Tim Beckham sent Marco's second pitch into the right-field bleachers. Then he settled down, the M's scored some runs—chiefly on new acquisiton Yonder Alonso's first homer as an M—and Marco took a 3-1 lead into the 5th. He needed just two outs to have his longest outing since Sept. 14, 2014, when he went 5 2/3 for St. Louis against Colorado. He got the first out fast: Chris Davis went swinging. This was followed by a single, a single, a wild pitch, a triple, a single, a single, and there went that chance. It's all Scott Servais could stands, he could stands no more. In came Tony Zych—the last word in M's relief. He got the next two guys and ultimately the win.

It wasn't a bad game. They had the lead, we tied it and took it; then they tied it and took it. In the bottom of the 5th, the M's scored 3 right back again (single, HBP, single, pop out, single, single, single, double play), then tacked on another in the 6th on Leonys Martin's solo shot to make it 7-4. In the 9th, with this cushiest of closer leads, fireballer Edwin Diaz came in and ... couldn't find the plate. Three walks in a row to load the bases. Then Manny Machado hit a sac fly (speared by Martin, nicely, in right center), and Schoop struck out, and he seemed nearly out of it. Until he hit the next two guys with pitches. That made it 7-6, bases loaded, and Servais went to the pen again. For Marc Rzepczynski. Who, as if to show Diaz how it's done, struck out Chris Davis on three pitches. Happy walk home. 

A week ago, when the M's were the second team in the wild-card hunt, the game might've felt important. But that was before the M's five-game losing streak, mostly to the Angels. No one can seem to hold onto that second wild card spot, can they? The Royals surged, claimed it, then fell back. Same, at various times, with the Rays, M's, Twins. Now it's the Angels turn. Even the Rangers are still in the hunt. The M's are just 1.5 back, but with three teams between them and the golden (brass/tin) ring, and with this rotation made up of wire and chewing gum, which is why nothing yesterday felt particularly urgent. Andy and I talked about a recent trip he'd made to the Olympic peninsula, politics, of course (to vent, more anything), and Charlottesville. We chatted up a wedding party seated next to us—half of them were from Balmer—then met up with our friend Paige, who had taken her boy and two of his friends to the game and were sitting 30 rows back of the M's dugout. Paige, a big Seahawks fan, didn't get that 9th inning, but that's baseball. It's certainly M's baseball. 

It was my ninth game at Safeco this year. They're 5-4.

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Posted at 08:55 AM on Aug 17, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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Saturday August 05, 2017

No. 500

Robinson Cano: double no. 500

No. 500, about to be launched into the right-field corner

I love me some doubles. My friend Jim and I are always talking it up whenever anyone challenges the single season doubles record, 67, set by Earl Webb in 1931, which, for a time, seemed like every other year—even though none of those guys wound up with even 60. The highest recent total was 59 by Todd Helton in 2000, which is tied for 7th all-time with Chuck Klein and Tris Speaker. But there's an asterisk there. Albert Belle hit 52 of them during the '95 season, which was shortened by a month by an owner strike, as was, obviously, '94, when Chuck Knoblauch was stuck on 45 with two months left in the season. We'll never know how far these guys might have gone. 

The Mariners' Robinson Cano has never hit more than 48 doubles in a season, but last night against KC he became the 63rd player to slug 500 doubles for his career. (He's currently tied for 61st with John Olerud and Goose Goslin.) And he's only 34. Where might he wind up? Only 17 guys have 600+ and I could definitely see him getting there. Since he averages 30+ a year, it would take a serious injury to stop him. What about 700? That's a tougher get. Only four guys have done that—the last Pete Rose, and he played forever. But top 20 all-time? Definitely. 

These aren't magical numbers like homeruns but they should be. Congrats, Robby. Keep it going.

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Posted at 03:48 PM on Aug 05, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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Sunday July 30, 2017

M's Game: Meet the Mets Fans, Beat the Mets

Michael Conforto catch at Safeco Field

Confortissimo

Do fans of opposing teams roam other stadiums with the kind of impunity with which they roam Safeco Field? I'm curious. I go to Mariners games these days and feel like I'm in occupied territory. Yesterday, for an afternoon game against the Mets, local fans of the Queens, NY-based team set up a “Queen's Court” in the section just inside the foul pole along the right field side—the mirror image of Felix Hernandez's “King's Court” in left field—and all wearing orange t-shirts rather than Felix-yellow. They all yelled “Bruuuu” for right fielder Jay Bruce, and stood up cheering whenever Mets starter Jacob DeGrom had two strikes on a Mariners batter. Which, as the afternoon progressed, was often. 

I saw a bunch of these guys outside before the game and didn't know what to make of them. Were the shirts a big Mets thing? Was Safeco Field giving them away to fans? I wouldn't put it past the Mariners org, which has always put profits before pennants. As one can judge by the complete lack of pennants flapping in right field.

I get it. The M's have the longest current postseason-less drought (15 years and counting), and are one of two franchises without a trip to the World Series (Expos/Nats). You lose long enough and season ticket sales fall, which means there are more seats available for your New York dolls, your Boston commons, your Canadian bacons. With whom we fans have to put up. Win again and these folks will dissipate. 

Well, we won yesterday, oddly, given the pitching matchup: Yovani Gollardo (4-7, 70K/40BB, +5 ERA) for us vs. Jacob DeGrom (12-3, 152K/41BB, +3 ERA) for them. Yovani did better than normal but DeGrom dominated:

  • Gollardo: 5 2/3 IP, 2 Ks, 2 BBs, 5 hits
  • DeGrom 6 IP, 10 Ks, 1 BB, 5 hits.

Luckily, three of the five hits DeGrom gave up were bunched together in the second inning for two runs, while in the third the M's combined an infield hit off DeGrom's leg, an error on a double play ball, and a sac fly for another. That made the diffrence. 

The Mets scattered their hits (one each in the 2nd, 3rd and 5th innings), and when they bunched something together (in the 6th inning they plated a run on two singles and two walks), they lacked the big blow.

We really shouldn't have won—DeGrom dominated, our bullpen kept walking guys, Kyle Seager kept running into outs, local boy and Mets left fielder Michael Conforto kept making great plays, M's right fielder Mitch Haniger got hit in the face with a pitch—but we did win: 3-2. The greater joy than that thin vicarious victory was how it shut up Mets fans in our section. For a moment.

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Posted at 08:53 AM on Jul 30, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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Wednesday July 26, 2017

M's Game: Sale Sails, M's Mum

Rafael Devers gets his first Major League hit, a homerun, at Safeco Field

The youngest Red Sox homerun since 1965.

It was a beautiful day for a crappy ballgame, but I kind of expected that. Pitching for the Mariners was Andrew Moore, whom I'd seen make his not-bad Major League debut a month ago against Detroit. Since then he'd started four games and gone 1-3, while his ERA ballooned to 5.70. Going for the Red Sox was ... Chris Sale, currently leading the AL in innings pitched, strikeouts, wins, WHIP, WAR, and ERA. So not exactly a fair fight.

Worse, once again, Safeco Field was a coven for opposition fans who had no fear of making noise. I don't do well with this. I want to say, “This is our house!” as Felix said, “This is my house!” last year to Blue Jays fans, but it feels like I'm the only one saying it. But it's the Red Sox, right? I can get along with those guys. We have our mutual hatred of the Yanks. I mean, on the way into the park, I had a good conversation with a Sox fan. It was all gonna be good. 

Except sitting a seat away from me in Section 327 were two chuckleheads in Sox gear and they turned out to be all noise, no signal. During routine pop flies by Mariners players, they would chant, “Practice practice.” Seahawks QB Russell Wilson threw out the first pitch and they actually stood up and booed. I stood up, too, and warned them, “Yeah, you don't do that here. Not in Seattle. Cheer your team, but you don't boo Russell Wilson.” I said it all with a smile. That smile soon went away. 

When did it go away? Maybe in the top of the second when the Sox scored a run, threatened more, and Sox fans at Safeco, including the chuckleheads, began chanting, “Let's go, Red Sox!” In my house? I felt the rage, and was chanting, “Shut up, Red Sox!” right back. Then I reminded myself to relax. You can't control it. You're not responsible. Breathe deep. I noticed their No. 9 hitter was a guy named Devers. Rafael Devers. Third base? Who was normally third base for the Sox? Not him. According to the Safeco scoreboard he had played exactly zero games this year, with zero at-bats. “Was it his Major League debut?” I wondered. “Or just his 2017 debut?” At 2-0, he fouled off to left with some pop. “Kid's got strength,” I thought. Next pitch wound up in the centerfield bleachers. 2-0, Sox. I watched him round the bases, get congrats in the dugout. “Do you know this guy?” I asked the chuckleheads. “Is he a prospect?” They didn't know. “Because he hasn't batted this year. And if he'd never batted in the Majors, well, he just hit a homerun in his first at-bat. And that's a rare thing.” 

Turns out it wasn't his first at-bat. Devers' ML debut was last night against the M's when he went 0-4 with two walks. Had I read the scoreboard wrong the first time? Nope. The M's scoreboard was simply wrong again

Indeed, when Devers came up again in the top of the 4th, just after catcher Sandy Leon made it 4-0 with a 2-out, 2-run homer, the Safeco scoreboard credited him with a 1.000 OBP, a 4.000 slugging percentage, and an unreadable OPS. For a few seconds. Then it corrected itself. But that homer was his first hit. He's also, at 20 years, 275 days, the youngest BoSox player to homer since Tony Conigliaro did it at 20 years, 265 days in 1965.  

Meanwhile, Chris Sale sailed. Tall and lanky (6'6", 172), he didn't even look like he was trying hard until Jean Segura roped a one-out double in the third. Then he seemed to take it up a notch—striking out Ben Gamel on three pitches, Nelson Cruz on four. He went 7 innings, gave up 3 hits, no runs, walked one, struck out 11. No Mariner got past second. Just another day at the office. 

There was a bit of excitment in the 9th—by which time I was sitting in the sun next to the left field foul pole—when, with one out, off reliever Blaine Boyd, Kyle Seager singled and Guillermo Heridia walked. So they called for Craig Kimbrel, the best closer in baseball. I looked at his stats: 42 IP, 18 hits, 6 runs, 76 strikeouts, 7 walks, 1.29 ERA. Oy. He faced two guys, threw 9 pitches, got two more strikeouts, walked off with an easy save. I walked out of the park. 

On the plus side, the win kept the Red Sox a game ahead of the Yankees in the AL East. Ya gotta like that. Chuckleheads notwithstanding.

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Posted at 05:39 PM on Jul 26, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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Monday July 24, 2017

M's Game: All Good Things

Ben Gamel

Ben Gamel after his seeing-eye single plated two. He looks a little like Treat Williams, doesn't he? 

On Sunday, June 11th, the New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the three-game series in the Bronx, then won the next day against the Angels in Anaheim to run their record to 38-23—15 games over .500. They looked to be a lock for the AL East title. Yankee fans were already talking 41st pennant and 28th world championship.

That Sunday was also the day I returned from 2+ weeks in Europe. Just sayin'.

For the next six weeks the Yanks didn't win another series. They played 10 series and went 0-8-2. Last Thursday night they limped into Seattle with a 48-45 record, barely hanging onto the second wild-card spot. A good blow could end their season.

Instead, the Yanks won the first two games, then lost the third in extra innings Saturday night. My friend Jim and I went to Safeco yesterday for the finale. With a victory, we could keep their winless series streak alive. 

Staring for the Yanks was 25-year-old Caleb Smith, making only his second Major League appearance. Last week against Minnesota, he'd pitched 3 innings in relief, giving him 4 hits and 2 runs and getting stuck with the loss. This would be his first Major League start. That was the good news. 

The bad news? We were starting Yovani Gallardo and his 5+ ERA and he didn't exactly look sharp. On the second pitch Brett Gardner rocketed the ball into the right-field stands for a 1-0 Yankees lead. An inning later, Didi Gregorious did the same for a 2-0 Yankees lead. Every ball the Yankees hit (with the exception of catcher Gary Sanchez) seemed well-struck, sailing toward the stands. Most died on or by the warning track. A few were tracked down by centerfielder Guillermo Heredia. After 3 1/2 innings, we were down 3-0 but it seemed like we should've been down by more.

Then, in the bottom of the 4th, Danny Valencia singled for only our second hit of the game. Cano followed with a bloop single over the second baseman's head, and Nellie Cruz walked to load the bases. With no outs. This was our chance. 

But Seager struck out and Mitch Haniger fouled out. 

“We can't load the bases with nobody out and come away with nothing,” I said to Jim. 

We didn't. Ben Gamel poked the ball to the right-side that seemed almost comically out of reach of both the first and second basemen. That plated two. Then Herredia lined a double into the left-field gap to plate two more. And just like that we had the lead. 

And just like that we sat on it. 

In the top of the 6th, with one out, reliever James Pazos lost control, walking two batters. Then he gave up two singles, and the game was tied and the bases were loaded. Tony Zych came in and promptly gave up a double to Clint Frazier, and it was 6-4 Yankees. And who was coming to the plate? 6' 8" phenom Aaron Judge, who nearly hit one out, literally nearly out of the park Friday night. He was given a pass, of course. The Yankee fans around me thought it was a dumb move, since now they faced Sanchez, but I argued it was smart. Sanchez hadn't looked good, and Judge was getting out of his post-HR Derby slump. Plus it set up the double play.

We didn't need it: Zych got Sanchez to pop out and Matt Holliday to ground out to end the inning. Still, we were down by two. 

We didn't get another hit until the 9th, by which time Jim had left and Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman was on the mound. First man up, Nellie Cruz, lined a shot that went off Chapman's thigh for an infield single. Manager Scott Servais then removed Cruz for pinch runner Taylor Motter, who promptly got picked off. Of course Kyle Seager followed that debaccle with a double, then Sanchez allowed a passed ball. So it could've been 6-5, nobody out, tying run on third. Instead, with one out, we were still down by two. Of course Seager died on third. A pop out and strike out ended the game. File home, everyone. File home. 

So after six weeks the Yankees finally got their series win. They're now 5 games over. 500 and in the lead for the wild card race by one game. They have new life thanks to my team. Apologies to Yankee haters everywhere. Which, as 538.com recently confirmed, is most of us. 

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Posted at 10:46 AM on Jul 24, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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