erik lundegaard

Seattle Mariners posts

Thursday April 04, 2024

Pos: Mariners Will Win Division! M's: Not So Fast

On the day that Joe Posnanski predicted the Seattle Mariners would be the fifth-best team in baseball, I attended my first game of the 2024 season, where the Mariners did a brilliant job of showing Joe he's not exactly Nostradamus.

We trotted out young ace George Kirby, who finished eighth in Cy Young balloting last season, and began this season by shutting down the Boston Red Sox in a 1-0 victory. Here, against the Cleveland Guardians (nee Indians) in the first inning, Kirby gave up a seeing-eye single to Steve Kwan, an HBP to Andres Gimenez, and a ringing double in the right-field corner to Jose Ramirez. 1-0. Then our defense fell apart. Josh Naylor grounded sharply to Ty France at first, who stepped on the bag but lost control of the ball—bloop—trying to complete the DP at home. 2-0. Will Brennan then grounded to drawn-in second baseman Jorge Polanco, our “big” off-season acquisition, and bloop again: the ball shot up in the air. 3-0. Brennan stole second as backup catcher Seby Zavala (part of the Eugenio deal) aired it into center. Kirby got the next batter, Bo Naylor, to strike out, but the ball bounced away from Zavala, and Naylor took first. Mercifully we got a pop out and a groundout to end it, but the next inning they got two more. In the 4th, they got three more, 8-0, the first on another Ramirez double. The Guardians kept repeating themselves that way. The most obvious example is when Bo Naylor struck out again in the 7th but got to first again when the ball bounced away from Zavala. I rarely see that once in a game anymore—taking first on a dropped third strike—let alone twice by the same player.

Mariner bats, meanwhile, strung together two doubles and three singles over nine innings and never managed to get a guy to third. The highlight of the game, for Mariners fans, was the top of the 9th when backup infielder Josh Rojas (part of the Sewald deal) pitched. I first noticed when a curveball floated in at 64 mph. Apparently he'd pitched last season with Arizona, two one-inning stints, getting shelled the first time, giving up a hit and no runs the second. Yesterday? No hits, no runs, just a walk, then a foul out (to himself), and a 6-3 DP. What remained of the crowd roared its approval.

So we're having Salmon Runs this season? That's the innovation? A between-inning race between four dudes dressed as different types of salmon? And this is how many years after Milwaukee was doing brat battles?

After the game, I listened to the latest Poscast and their 98.6% accurate predictions, in which Joe, again, said the Mariners would win the division. Then this admission: “I just want it so badly. I might not even be thinking straight, but I want Julio to win the MVP, I just want that team to be great.” Yes, it's pretty to think so.

Posted at 07:27 AM on Thursday April 04, 2024 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Sunday October 01, 2023

2023 Mariners Done

Yesterday, the Seattle Mariners were eliminated on the second-to-last game of the season, and I watched most of it because it was on network TV. I'd watched nothing of the two previous very exciting games (a walk-off two-run double from J.P. Crawford and an 8-0 win capped by a grand slam from J.P. Crawford) since they were on cable, and who has cable in 2023? One of these days I'll set up a VPN yadda yadda so I can watch the baseball games Major League Baseball won't let me watch—won't let me pay to watch—unless, of course, I pay an exorbitant sum like $90 a month. To recap: The entire MLB package is about $30 a month but of course the Mariners are blacked out in Seattle, so I'd need a special streaming service which costs like $90 per month to see those games. I refuse. But if I just VPNed it with a different zip code I'd be good. Next year. Wait till next year. 

Anyway, it was interesting seeing the Mariners on big-screen TV—“Oh, so that's what Sam Haggerty looks like”—but mostly it was just depressing. Luis Castillo's slider kept sliding out of the strike zone, tempting no one, and in the 3rd, the second time through the order, he gave up a leadoff walk to Marcus Semien, then got Seager to fly out and Grossman to strike out ... and that was his last out of the 2023 season. After that, nickel and diming. An infield roller to third that Eugenio Suarez made a nice one-handed play on but safe. Single up the middle to plate a run, a walk to reload the bases, a single to right, a single to right, then another walk to reload the bases, and that was it for Luis. We brought in Matt Brash to face Semien again, and, as they say, Brash got his man: a line shot to right that Dylan Moore made a beautiful Superman catch on, which mercifully ended the inning.

We had a chance in the 5th. Single, fly out, single, and then it was J.P. again, down 5-0, but he blooped one into center right and slammed his bat in frustration. Except it was perfectly placed: second base, right field and center field all converged and missed, and Siemen kind of hurt himself in the tumble, and it reminded me of J.P.'s hit last October in our incredible victory against the Blue Jays. Could it happen again? It couldn't. Julio, who's been lax in September, hit a 1-0 can-of-corn to left, then Gino grounded out and there went the season. We got two more hits: A two-out Kelenic single in the 6th and a Gino solo shot in the 8th, but mostly we went without a struggle, 6-1. I missed the very end, opting to see the 1977 movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” at SIFF Egyptian.

Joe Posnanski, who, in March, threw caution to the wind and predicted a Mariners pennant, summed it up thus:

And the Mariners' roller coaster season, which looked so blah (they had a losing record on July 15) and then looked so promising (they were in first place for 11 lovely days in late August and early September) will now end. If they were in the American League Central, they would have clinched the division title days ago. If they were in the National League, they would be the No. 2 wild card. But they are neither of those things, and if my dog could talk, I'd be a TV star.

I think Joe means if the Mariners were in the AL Central without the Twins, since the two teams have identical records, but otherwise yes. Once again we have the best record for any team not going to the postseason—and a better record than a few going:

Cold comfort. In a way, it's amazing we did as well as we did. Not much of a fan of the manager, Scott Servais, and while I like our young core lineup (Julio, Cal, J.P.), overall the Mariners strike out too much, are a bit streaky, and the role players don't play enough of a role. We have too many role players and need better ones. Next year. Wait till next year.

Posted at 11:57 AM on Sunday October 01, 2023 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Sunday September 17, 2023

Dodgers Clobber Mariners with One Hand Tied Behind Their Backs

A friend offered us three free tickets to the Mariners game today, and we got rooked.

We sat in the sun in the left-field bleachers, row 2, good seats, but I've never been much of a bleacher bum and age 60 is the wrong time to start. I squinted a lot and didn't always pick up the ball. Neither did the Mariners. It was the third game of a three-game series with the Dodgers and we were trying to avoid the sweep. Their lineup suggested they were, too. It was their B squad, the getaway game group. No Mookie, Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy or Will Smith. It was LA saying, “We'll take ya with one hands tied behind our backs!”

And they did.

We had our third-best pitcher on the mound, Logan Gilbert, and they went the opener route: Shelby Miller pitched an inning, then Ryan Yarbrough for 4.2, then a kid named Gavin Stone for the rest. Logan gave up a first-inning solo shot to Jason Heyward and Jarred Kelenic dropped a ball, Charlie Brown style, in the left-field corner, but at least it didn't do any damage. Plus J.P. Crawford led off our half with a double. HERE WE COME! And there we go: pop out, strikeout, line out. In the top of the second, they scored three more. Bottom two, with one out, Gino walked, Mike Ford singled and Ty France singled. Speed on the basepaths! Ah, but Rojas struck out. But wait! Single from J.P. to plate a run! And we had Julio up with the bases juiced!

And he grounded out to the pitcher.

That was pretty much it. That was our shot. The final was 6-1, Dodgers. 

Again, the Dodgers didn't start their four best hitters and put second-hand goods on the mound, and they still clobbered us. Gavin Stone has pitched seven games this year and in terms of earned runs has given up: 4, 5, 7, 1, 4, 7. Against us, on this day, he pitched 3.1, gave up one hit and zero runs. Zero. He had an ERA over 10 when he showed up and now I think it's south of that. He got his first save. Way to go, kid.

On the way home, I complimented my wife on how gungho she was during the game. 

“I don't feel gungho now. I feel dispirited.” 

“You know that makes you?”


“A Mariners' fan. Welcome to the party, pal.”

Posted at 05:18 PM on Sunday September 17, 2023 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Wednesday August 30, 2023

Julio- and Kirby-less M's Look Feeble Against A's

The M's touted Julio's 4-hit streak pre-game, announced him in the starting lineup, but he wasn't there. 

Is it me? I'm beginning to think it's me. 

The last game I'd gone to was the infamous Felix game, where they inducted King Felix Hernandez into the Mariners Hall of Fame and then truly honored his Mariners career by scoring zero runs, wasting a great start by George Kirby, and losing 1-0 in 10 innings. 

They wound up losing the next two games, too, including one against a not-good KC squad; but after that they went on a truly blistering hot streak, winning 12 of the next 13, with Julio Rodriguez setting a MLB record with 17 hits over a four-game stretch. He was suddenly everything we'd hope he'd be. For August, he's slashed a .429/.474/.724 line, and was national news, and the Mariners, who had been creeping toward a wild-card spot, were taking the '95 Buhner approach and saying screw the wild card, we want the division. And they TOOK it. They leaped past both Texas teams and it felt a bit like '95 again. PLUS, in last night's game, we were starting George Kirby, our No. 2 and maybe even No. 1 pitcher. PLUS we were playing the Oakland Athletics, who, at 38-94, were not just the worst team in baseball but one of the worst teams in basebally history. PLUS they were starting a guy with an ERA over 6.00! So I was feeling about as confident as I've ever felt about a Mariners game as I walked to the park last night in the pregame drizzle.

And then I see our starting pitcher. “Wait, that's not George Kirby. Where's George Kirby?”

“Out,” Jeff said. “Undisclosed illness.” 

“And this is...?”

“Luke Weaver.”

“Who is...?”

“Some callup, I think.” 

[Editor's note: We picked him up August 22, a few days after he was released by the Cincinnati Reds, and since then he'd pitched three innings in relief, giving up 1 run. But for the season his ERA was over 6.00.]

They hit him early and often. Even the outs were tagged. One of them went to the warning track but our centerfielder settled under it.

“Wait, that's not Julio. Didn't they announce Julio was starting?” I looked at the scoreboard. Eugenio Suarez was batting second. No Julio. “Where's Julio? What happened?” 

Jeff got out his phone and went to a Lookout Landing thread. Sore left foot. And suddenly, without George and Julio, our mighty team didn't seem so mighty. After two innings it was 3-0, A's, and we were lucky it was only 3-0. We didn't get our first hit until the the bottom of the 4th, a leadoff single by Teoscar Hernandez. Then we mixed in some outs with some walks. Then Cade Marlowe walked with the bases loaded for a run. Then Jose Caballero popped to short for the third out.

And that, it turned out, was the ballgame. 

The A's kept bringing in pitchers with ERAs over 5.00 and we kept doing nothing with them. We didn't get our second hit until the bottom of the 8th—an infield single from Mike Ford. We didn't get our third hit until the bottom of the ninth with two outs—a bloop single to right by Jose (Who?) Rojas. Then J.P. Crawford followed with a double to left and the place was on its feet. A base hit would tie it! A homerun would win it! All would be right with the world again!

And on the seventh pitch Eugenio Suarez struck out. And there went the game and the recent 4-game win streak. 

It's me, isn't it?

Final sad note: Last night is probably the last time I get to see the Oakland A's, the team that ruled the baseball world with their long hair and staches when I was a kid. Next season they're supposedly moving to Las Vegas to play in a dinky stadium in 110-degree heat before hungover gambling tourists. The national pastime. Somewhere, Shoeless Joe is spinning in his grave.

Posted at 08:09 AM on Wednesday August 30, 2023 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Sunday August 13, 2023

Happy Felix Day

August 2012: The Mariners managed one more run that day than they did for Felix Hernandez Day last night.

Could it have gone any other way? On the night the Seattle Mariners induct into their Hall of Fame Felix Hernandez, King Felix, the six-time All Star and 2010 Cy Young Award winner for whom they could never score any runs, who gave them the best years of his career without even tasting the postseason once, that very night—which was last night—our young starting pitcher and first-time All Star George Kirby, over nine innings, gives up exactly three hits, all scattered singles, and zero runs ... and we still lose. Of course. Of course.

In the top of the 10th, with that stupid ghost runner on and Ms closer Andres Munoz in, the visiting Baltimore Orioles go:

  • SB (to third)
  • 6-3 (no run)
  • single (run)
  • E4 (1st and 3rd)
  • 3 (foul out)
  • SB (2nd and 3rd)
  • K

So we were lucky to just give up the one run. And against their ace closer Felix (!!) Bautista, we went:

  • K
  • K
  • K

And thus endeth the win streak. Happy Felix Day, everyone! I guess a Felix did win after all. 

Before last night, the Mariners had won eight in a row, starting with that afternoon game against Boston that my wife and I saw last week, and with a Blue Jays loss in the afternoon we'd moved into a tie with them for that final wild card spot. A victory would've put us in the lead.

Before the game, I'd told my seatmate Tim that, for the honorarium, rather than trotting out the usual crew of Mariners HOFers they should just intro players from those shitty 2009-2013 teams. “Felix, remember Chone Figgins, who over three years slashed a .227/.302/.283 line? How about a hand for Eric Byrnes, who brought his blonde-haired swagger to the Emerald City for 38 plate appearances and 3 hits! And when your games needed saving, who wasn't there for you? That's right, it's Josh Leuke, Blake Beaven and Aaron Laffey!” Instead,  it was Junior, Edgar, Ichiro, Jamie, Dan, Alvin. “Besides Jamie, what do those guys have in common?” I asked Tim, and then answered my own question. “None of them saw a World Series.”

Last night was a game we really should've won, too. We were trotting out our No. 2 (maybe No. 1?) guy against what I assume is their No. 5 guy—and maybe not even that. Cole Irvin is a spot starter. He came in with a 5.44 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP and proceeded to mow us down. We got our first hit in the third, a leadoff double by Dylan Moore, who moved to third on a groundout and was stranded. I love the win streak but our best guys are all between .240 and .260 and strike out a ton. What was our best shot? I think in the sixth. Ty France drew a two-out walk against reliever Mike Baumann before Cal Raleigh doubled to right. A speedier guy might've scored but we didn't have speed on the basepaths. Then Teoscar Hernandez lined a shot to left (drop! drop! drop!) that didn't drop. Or it dropped into Austin Hayes' glove.

But it was nice to be there for Felix Day. These on-field honorariums are a little odd but particularly for him you want to show up. It's like that line from “Death of a Salesman”: Attention must be paid.

Posted at 07:10 AM on Sunday August 13, 2023 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Friday August 04, 2023

Mariners Keep the Line Moving

Julio highlights

As we walked through the International District to the Mariners-BoSox game Wednesday afternoon, my wife asked me which of the two teams was better.

  • Me: Kind of equal. Both are a couple of games over .500.
  • She: What's .500?
  • When a team's wins and losses are the same. Mariners have like three more wins than losses, Red Sox five or something. But the Red Sox are a much better hitting club. In team batting, they're near the top and we're near the bottom. (Fact-check: 4th vs. 26th.)
  • So is our pitching better?
  • I guess? Today we have Logan Gilbert going and he's not bad. Except he's better during away games than home games; and he's better at night than during the day.
  • Oh.
  • Right. So don't expect much.

For five innings, that Mariners' truism proved true. Then something magical happened. 

Down 3-0, Cal Raleigh hit a 2-run homer in the sixth. That wasn't the magical thing—though it helped—and on the 10th pitch, which made it even better. No, the magical thing was the next inning when we did this:

  • Walk
  • Single
  • Single (1 run)
  • K
  • Single/error (1 run)
  • Single (1 run)
  • 6
  • Double steal (1 run)

It was the most fun inning I've seen all year. I was reminded of the 2014-15 Kansas City Royals, the “Keep the line moving” Royals, who just nickeled and dimed you, and ran on you, and put the ball in play, forcing you to make plays, often forcing unforced errors—as with Julio's single, the third in the inning, which either the shortstop or third baseman could've gotten but neither did. Julio's bat shattered, perhaps confusing them, they bumped into each other, the ball dribbled into left field. Beautiful. The double steal was also super fun. Two outs, Julio on third, Eugenio Suarez on first, Ty France at the plate. Gino goes and seems caught between 1st and 2nd, the catcher throws down, which is when Julio goes. The throw back to the plate is late and Julio, with his highlighter-colored sleeve (pink) and shoes (yellow-green), pops up, exults, has himself another highlight

Here's the whole beautiful inning.

This was the rubber game of the series and it looked like it wouldn't go our way until it did. We played a couple of trade-deadline kids we got from Arizona for Paul Sewald, and one of them, Dominic Canzone, who's 25 but looks 12, started us out with that walk. Cade Marlowe, whose debut Evan and I saw against the Twins on July 20, Moon Day, added that first RBI single. And in place of Sewald, we plugged in fireballer Andres Munoz, who got 'em out 1-2-3 in the ninth. Final: 6-3.

Yesterday was more late-inning heroics, again with the kids. Evan has been tracking Marlowe since the game we went to, like he's personally invested in the kid, and yesterday was a banner day. Ninth inning, down 3-1 to the Angels in Anaheim, we went: BB, BB, a single from Canzone, K, then Marlowe came up and on an 0-2 pitch did this. Then Munoz came in and struck out the side. We're now five games over .500. Is this the start of something? 

Posted at 09:24 AM on Friday August 04, 2023 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Monday July 10, 2023

.500 Days of Summer

After the first game of the 2023 season the Seattle Mariners were one game over .500, and at the start of 2023 All-Star Break the Mariners are one game over .500. That's often baseball, those ups and downs, that stasis, but much of the season felt like a struggle to get to .500 and then slipping below the surface again. Hey, we finally made it! Oops. Glug glug glug.

  • 4-8 —> 8-8 —> 8-11
  • 11-16 —> 17-17 —> 21-20 (!) —> 21-23

We began June two games over .500, then of course lost five of six. How many times last month did we reach .500 only to lose the next game? A lot. June 6, .500; June 7 loss. June 13, .500; June 14 loss. Same with June 16-17, 18-19, and 23-24. You know the Vic Chesnutt song “Flirted With You All My Life”? That was the Mariners and .500 for the first half of 2023.

Going into July we were four games under, so of course we win four in a row. And then of course we lose one. Glug glug. 

That said, we did end the first half by winning series against the Rays, Giants and Astros, all postseason contenders. The last series we lost was to the Nationals, who have the second-worst record in the NL. So it goes.

MLB no longer as the All-Star Game but the All-Star Week, and this week, or this year, it's in Seattle. I'll miss the homerun derby today but will be at the game tomorrow, section 327.

Posted at 07:24 AM on Monday July 10, 2023 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Wednesday June 28, 2023

Tom Murphy Goes 3-3 in Dispiriting M's Loss

And here ya are. And it's a beautiful day.

In the bottom of the second, with one out, a man on first, and the M's down 3-0, Mariners catcher Tom Murphy hit a dunker into right field for a single. A second later the non-Diamond Vision screen let us know it was his 200th career hit. I applauded softly and then realized, “Wait, that's a season for some guys. How long has he been playing anyway?”

Since 2015, it turns out. But he's mostly backup, and often injured, and 200 is 200. Plus we had a rally going now. Go M's!

Until we didn't.

Murphy had himself a day anyway: 3-3, all singles, using all fields. And he never made it past second. He was: 1) stranded at first, 2) stranded at second, 3) eliminated at second. But then it wasn't exactly Murderers' Row hitting behind him. Our No. 7 hitter was A.J. Pollock, a DH hitting .158(!), who went 0-3 with two strikeouts. Behind him was Dylan Moore, a backup left fielder hitting .050(!!), who went 0-3 with one strikeout. No. 9 hitter Jose Caballero (.238) must've thought, “How am I hitting behind these guys?”

It was a beautiful day at the ballpark and not a good day at the ballpark. I arrived late, or at least on time, but then waited a while in a slow-moving line to get inside. By the time I did, the M's and Logan Gilbert were down 3-0: single, single, double, single. Then Logan found his game again. Julio hit one to the wall in the first, and we had that first-and-third situation with one out in the second, and we nearly tied it in the fifth when J.P. sent one to the warning track in center with two on and two out, but that was the best we managed against Washington Nationals starter Patrick Corbin, who went 7 innings, struck out 9, walked nobody, and gave up zero runs. The last time Corbin went seven or more and gave up no runs? Pre-pandemic. August 2019. Welcome to Seattle, kid.

We got our one run with a leadoff homer from Caballero in the 8th. That was off new pitcher Amos Willingham. And by new I mean new. He'd just been called up, and Jose was the first batter he'd ever faced in the Majors. Two batters later, Julio sent another one to the warning track, but Jose's was the only hit the kid gave up. Good for him. Welcome to the Majors, kid.

But it's getting dispiriting again. The M's began poorly last year but made their move by now. No move is being made this year. We're just floundering. We struggle to .500, then slip below the surface again.

My next scheduled game is the All-Star Game on July 11 and I can't fathom who our All-Star will be. We don't really have one. Last time the ASG was in Seattle was that year we won 116 games and we had, like, seven All-Stars. This year? No regular player is hitting above .275, or slugging above .450, or getting on base at a .350 clip. We're second in the Majors in strikeouts, 15th in walks, 15th in homeruns. Seriously, I don't know who I'd pick. Jered Kelenick for his hot start? Teoscar Hernandez for his hot June? Julio for being Julio? I guess I'd go Luis Castillo, who, sure, is 5-6, but with a 2.86 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and a 108-28 strikeout-walk ratio. Oh, poor Luis! I just realized: Last year it looked like we'd saved him from MLB pergatory with the hapless Cincinnati Reds, and now the Reds are young and hot, and the M's are not and not.

In the ninth, down 4-1, manager Scott Servais' one move was to pinch-hit for our 3-for-3 guy, Tom Murphy, with two out and nobody on. He didn't let him have his day. Or he didn't let Cal Raleigh have his day off. I don't get it, to be honest. Raleigh K'ed on four pitches. It's an ending that makes sense anyway, even if it doesn't make any sense. 

Posted at 05:52 PM on Wednesday June 28, 2023 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Sunday May 28, 2023

The Two MLB Teams With the Longest World Series Droughts Play a Rubber Match in Seattle

My sister and I at the Baseball Hall of Fame in the summer of '73. Moved by Clemente's death the previous December, I bought much Pirates merchandise. Photograph by Bob Lundegaard.

On the way to the ballpark today I wondered if these were the teams with the longest pennant droughts. The Mariners, of course, have never been to the World Series, the only franchise that hasn't, and they came into existence in 1977. The Pirates, meanwhile, haven't clinched a pennant since the feel-good Willie Stargell-led team that blared “We Are Family” in the clubhouse in the fall of 1979. Nearly 50 years ago.

That said, the Pirates own a pretty impressive World Series record: 5-2. They lost the first one in 1903, got clobbered by the great “Murderers Row” 1927 Yankees, but won every other time they've been, always in seven games, often dramatically. The Honus Wagner-led Bucs beat Ty Cobb's Tigers in 1909; they beat the then-World Champion Washington Senators in 1925; Maz lived every kid's bottom-of-the-ninth dream in 1960; Clemente was all-worldly against the O's in 1971; and Stargell and Co. battled from a 3-1 deficit to take the '79 crown, also from the O's. Not a bad legacy. But, again, that was nearly 50 years ago. 

As for my question? Yes, these are the teams with the longest pennant droughts:

Founded Team Pennants Titles Last Went
1977 Seattle Mariners 0 0 n/a
1903 Pittsburgh Pirates 7 5 1979
1969 Milwaukee Brewers 1 0 1982
1903 Baltimore Orioles 7 3 1983
1903 Cincinnati Reds 9 5 1990
1903 Oakland Athletics 14 9 1990
1903 Minnesota Twins 6 3 1991
1977 Toronto Blue Jays 2 2 1993
1969 San Diego Padres 2 0 1998

Every other team has been to the World Series this century.

Long way of saying that while I rooted for the Mariners this afternoon, I'm not exactly not rooting for the Pirates. Would be great to see them in the Series again, but the NL path looks rougher than the AL: Goes through the Dodgers, Braves, Mets, and maybe eventually the Padres and Cardinals. Not to mention Oct. suprises. 

The place was packed—Memorial Day weekend, plus a Julio Rodriguez poster giveaway—so though I arrived 10 minutes before gametime I didn't sit in my seat until 10 minutes after the game started. Not bad timing, though. Five seconds later, Julio went deep to put the M's up 1-0. I was sporting my new RODRIGUEZ 44 jersey—the first “authentic” Mariners jersey I've ever owned, bought as a 60th birthday present for myself in January—and Julio's homer was another nice present. In the 4th, Cal Raleigh also went deep. Both teams tacked on a run in the 5th (Pirates: single, single, sac fly; Mariners a two-out Kelenic double that scored J.P. from second), and it felt like it might stay that way. But in the 8th, Andrew McCutchen hit a high chopper to short, J.P. hurried the throw, and it went into the dugout. Three pitches later, OF/DH Bryan Reynolds rippped a triple past a diving Ty France, and just like that (as Dave used to say), they had the tying run on third with nobody out. M's reliever Justin Topa struck out the next batter (Connor Joe, no comma) but was himself relieved by Paul Sewald. Who not only walked the next batter, but did so on a wild pitch that tied the game. 

Bucs threatened again in the 9th. A lead-off double by South Korean-born CF Ji Hwan Bae, but he was stranded; then he made a nice two-out, diving warning-track catch on a J.P Crawford shot in the bottom frame. So extras, with ghost runners on second. Theirs went single, K, K, SB, IBB, K for no runs. Ours went 4-3, K, IBB, HR, a no-doubter by Eugenio Suarez that sent the crowd home happy. Most of the crowd. I saw a few McCutch and Clemente jersey-wearers; but like us they're used to it. 

Went to the game with David G., and we talked death, J. Edgar Hoover, Robert Louis Stevenson (presciently: before we learned the losing pitcher was named Robert Stephenson), and how the advent of phonograph records killed the family piano. Related: I recalled how, as a kid, everyone seemed to sing along with the National Anthem before the ballgame, and by the time I was an adult no one was singing along. A little sad. To go with our little happy for the day. The win moved the M's past the Angels for third place in the division. Plus it's nice to win a series against a team that isn't the A's.  

Posted at 07:51 PM on Sunday May 28, 2023 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Sunday April 02, 2023

M's Manage 3 Hits in 40-Degree Temps, Lose Quickly

The last Mariners game I went to was Game 3 of the 2022 ALDS, an 18-inning affair against Houston that the M's lost 1-0. It took 6 hours and 22 minutes and ended their season.

Last night I went to my first Mariners game of the nascent 2023 season, a 9-inning affair against Cleveland that the M's lost 2-0. It took 2 hours and 5 minutes. Thank you, pitch timer. If I'm going to see my team get shut out in low 40s temps, I'll take the speedy variety.

Initially, the game felt like it was going to be zippy in action as well as gametime. In the top of the 1st, the Guardians' best player, Jose Ramirez, lined a two-out single to right and then promptly stole second against the Mariners' backup catcher Tom Murphy. In the bottom of the 1st, the Mariners' best player, Julio Rodriguez, led off with a seeing-eye single to left and then promptly stole second against the Guardians' backup catcher.

Bigger bases, fewer throwovers: Gentlemen, start your engines! It's like Oprah: You get a stolen base, you get a stolen base, we all get a stolen base!

Except that was the last stolen base of the game. In the bottom of the 2nd, the M's new right fielder, Teoscar Hernanez, drew a one-out walk and promptly stole second. Well, he looked safe—from 300 level behind homeplate—but I guess they tapped his helmet before he arrived. He disputed, the M's didn't, that was that. And it was the last SB attempt of the game. Not that there were a lot of baserunners to give it a go. Half the game was three up/three down, and of the M's whopping three hits, one was Julio's seeing-eye single, one was Julio's bad hop/E6, and one was a one-out double to right in the 8th inning by Tommy La Stella off of the Guardians' beleaguered reliever James Karinchak.

I'd missed some of that drama in Game 1 Thursday night. Karinchak got called on a pitch-timer violation in the 8th inning of a 0-0 game, seemed rattled, and promptly walked leadoff hitter J.P. Crawford. Then with one out, he hit the M's new second baseman Kolten Wong with a pitch; then Ty France blasted a 3-run homerun. Last night, M's fans, awarer than myself, began taunting Karinchak by counting down the pitch clock before each pitch. That was fun. I forget if it began before or after La Stella's double, but for a second we suddenly seemed to have a chance. And with our 2022 heroes coming up! Alas: PH Cal Raleigh struck out (looking bad) for the second out, and then somehow Karinchak walked J.P. on four pitches—none of them close. Is he afraid of Crawford? That put the tying run on base for our best player, Julio, who promptly struck out on three pitches (looking bad). And that was our three hits: two dribblers from Julio and a ringing double from La Stella. (I hope we all do a Brando imitation every time he comes to the plate.)

That wasn't the worst part of the game, TBH. The worst part of the game occurred in our section, 327, when, in the late innings, as it cleared out from the cold and futility, a gang of drunk/high doofuses came and sat near us. Realizations hit you in stages. Oh, these guys aren't really fans. Oh, they're drunk and/or high. Oh, they're really, really stupid. One guy asked me who we were playing—it was the 8th inning at this point—and I pointed to the scoreboard. “Cleveland,” I said. “The Cleveland Guardians.” “Guardians?” he said, laughing through his nose, and peering at the scoreboard as if through a haze. That was our only interaction. The dude next to him, who looked like he could've been casted as an extra in “Romper Stomper,” then began shouting at the players. Bon mots like “Fuck you, ______!” If I were braver, or simply more foolish, I would've warned them against getting high. Not generally getting high, but, you know, who should probably not partake. Stupid people, for example. Those who can't afford the IQ drop pot brings; who become so stupid a kind of miasma of stupidity surrounds them and infects everyone else. This was that. For half an inning, I think I was more tuned into them than the game, or to my own conversation with my friend Jeff, before I shook loose and just tried to blot them out. Two T-Mobile ushers tried to handle them with not much success. Not fun.

Positive takeaways? Our starter, 6'6“ Logan Gilbert, looked great, going 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and one walk while striking out 7. He was sharp: boom boom boom. He only made one mistake—to Josh Naylor, who nailed it into the right-centerfield seats. The other Cleveland run came off Diego Castillo, another line-drive homerun, this time by Andres Giminez in the top of the 7th, after Giminez turned a nice DP on Julio in the bottom of the 6th.

We also got a good running catch from Teoscar. 

I arrived about 10 minutes before gametime and texted Jeff the goings on: ”The guy throwing out the first pitch is a many-time World Series winner w/the NY Yankees." Yes, Tino Martinez, back in Seattle. I get it, '95 and everything, and not his fault we traded him and Nellie for problem children Sterling and Russ—helping the Yankees pad their late-century dynasty. And if it had been Nellie I would've cheered loudly. Maybe because he came back to us as a free agent? Tino just feels Yankee to me, now and forever. But I have to admit, he looked good. He's aging well. For a Yankee.

The National Anthem was sung by grade school kids from Renton and was adorable. They should do that more often. 


Posted at 12:50 PM on Sunday April 02, 2023 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Thursday February 02, 2023

Kyle, We Hardly Knew Ye

I missed the Kyle Lewis trade last November. In my defense, I was down with COVID. 

My friend Jeff and I were there for his first game in Sept. 2019 when he homered in his second Major League at-bat. He had a nice cup of coffee that September, too: .268/.293/.593. OK, so the OBP should've been worrisome, particularly since everything else was in place: 29 Ks to 3 walks? Still, we were hopeful. 

And though the next season was truncated by the COVID pandemic, he did well, .262/.364/.437, and stabilized that K-BB ratio somewhat: 71-34. He got named A.L. Rookie of the Year (for that awful year), the fourth Mariner so honored, and first since Ichiro in 2001. And if you discount players like Ichiro and Kazahiro Sasaki, who, let's face it, played in professional leagues before MLB, then Kyle was the first Mariner ROY since Alvin Davis in 1984. Either way, it was a helluva beginning. All the world like a woolen lover did seem on Kyle's side. And maybe ours.

Then in 2021 he crashed into the wall in a spring training game against the Dodgers. Bone bruise. 10-Day IL. He came back in late April, played in May, but went back on the IL in June. Same knee, torn meniscus. Surgery. He didn't return until May 2022 and was rusty. A month later he took a curveball to the head—concussion—and things got worse. Plus his spot in center field was taken by the guy who would become the Mariners' fifth Rookie of the Year, and the new face of the franchise, Julio Rodriguez. Lewis was hiting .143 when the M's sent him down to AAA in early August.

And now this. Or then this. November this. Traded to Arizona.

So who did we get for him? Outfielder/catcher Cooper Hummel. About whom I have nothing but questions:

  • How good is he? Not great. Last year in 66 game he sported a .176/.274/.307 line and a -0.3 WAR. 
  • Huh. He must be young. No, he's 28, a year older than Kyle. 
  • Is he good defensively? Not apparently. -0.3 defensive WAR, too.
  • OK, did he improve as the season progressed? Maybe. His best split is from 10 games in September. A .710 OPS.

That seems like not much to get for a guy two years removed from ROY. Though there's this from Ryan Divish's column on the trade: “Mariners' analysts loved him, particularly his ability to control the strike zone at the plate. He had a career .397 on-base percentage in six seasons in the minor leagues.” One assumes he'll be our backup catcher rather than our sixth or 12th outfielder. 

All in all, a sad, sudden end, for Kyle and the Mariners (and us), after such a promising start. Godspeed.

Posted at 01:10 PM on Thursday February 02, 2023 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Sunday October 09, 2022

This Team

My wife is traveling through Ireland with her brother and sister-in-law this month, and yesterday she sent me a text, telling me about leaving Ennis for Doolin and from there to Dingle, and adding a joke about the names of the towns, and how she’s having a great time but misses trees. Then she asked what was going on with me. Here’s my series of texts in response:

  • I’m at a bar with Jeff for the Mariners game.
  • Buckley’s in lower Queen Anne. 0-0 in the 2nd.
  • Mariners down 2-0.
  • 3-0. And there is a table of Blue Jays fans here.
  • 4-0.
  • 4th inning. We have zero hits.

To which she wrote, “OK, things could change” and added the fingers-crossed emoji. And she was right. They did change. My next text: 

  • 8-1

In another bar on the other side of the world, she texted me a trio of cat-crying emojis.

These were my next three texts, sent at various times over the next 90 minutes:

  • 8-5
  • 9-9 in the 8th. This team.
  • Final score, 10-9, Mariners. We advance to the ALDS.

This is how that looks in win probability.

We later learned that only two previous teams have ever come back from down 7 or more runs to win a postseason game. In the 1929 World Series, the Chicago Cubs were beating the Philadelphia A’s 8-0 in the 7th inning of Game 4, and the A’s came back and won it 10-8. And in 2008, the Red Sox were down to the Rays 7-0 in the 7th of ALCS Game 5 and won it 8-7.

And now this team.

I predicted Adam Frazier’s hits, by the way. Jeff can corroborate. I began the 5th inning by saying that this is when fans begin to take notice of the no-hitter. If the starter—here, Kevin Gausman—gets through 5 with the no-no intact, a hum develops. People begin to talk. They point to the scoreboard. I didn’t really know Gausman. I assumed he was young but he’s a journeyman, 31 years old, finished sixth in the Cy Young voting last year for San Francisco, signed as a free agent by the Blue Jays Dec. 1. His 2022 numbers were good but not DeGrom good: 12-10, 3.35 ERA. But he led the league in FIP, or Field-Independent Pitching, i.e., the elements of the game that a pitcher can be said to have control over: walks, strikeouts, HBP and homeruns. He’d struck out 205, walked just 28, gave up 15 homers in 174 innings. Since we tended to strike out a lot, walk not much, and rely on the long ball, Jeff figured this was a bad matchup for us. He wasn’t wrong.

Adam Frazier led off the 5th for us and took a strike. “He’s going to get a hit,” I said. For most of the year, I didn’t have much feeling about Adam Frazier one way or the other. He was one of our bland middle infielders, hit between .200 and .250, not much pop. He was another journeyman, 30 going on 31, who’d spent most of his career with the Pirates. We’d gotten him in a trade with the San Diego Padres last Nov. 27 for some minor leaguers, and his 2022 numbers didn’t exactly leap off the page: .238/.301/.311. I remember being shocked when Scott Servais had him lead off against the Angels in early August when Julio was out. I wasn’t wrong.

But I had a feeling for him now. He had a lean hungry look. Mostly I had the feeling that it's the pesky middle infielders you have to watch out for—the Mark Lemkes and Jeff Reboulets of the world. Those are the guys that can break up a no-hitter; and those are the guys who can do damage in the postseason when you least expect it. “He’s going to get a hit,” I said again.

Which is when he lined a single to left.

“Nostradamus!” Jeff yelled at me with a smile.

I had a feeling for the next batter, too, Carlos Santana, since he’d come through with so many big hits for us early in his stay. But this feeling was earlier, in the final week of the season, and even during Game 1 on Friday. There, he’d swung through everything and looked so helpless at the plate that I lost the feeling. I didn't have confidence. I didn’t think he was going to do anything for us. He was the exact wrong guy to have at the plate.

Which is when he doubled off the top of the wall in center. They doublechecked to see if it was a homer but it wasn’t, but now we had two men on and Jarred Kelenic at the plate—the former top prospect who blisters Triple-A pitching and hits .150 in the Majors. He’d looked good in September, not in October, and too tight at the plate during the post. I wanted to send him a pizza laced with Xanax. He hit a little blooper to left, not deep enough to score anybody. “At least he didn’t strike out,” I said, and as I said it, they sent Frazier. And the throw was not good. And we had a run.

And then Toronto scored four more.

I was kind of surprised when Gausman went out to pitch in the top of the 6th. I figured they’d save him for Houston—if necessary—since this game was obviously over. They didn’t need him. I was also surprised they left him in after he gave up three straight singles. And I was further surprised that when he got Mitch Haniger to strike out and Frazier to pop out that they pulled him then. Did Blue Jays manager John Schneider want to bring in a lefty to turn Santana around? I just looked at the numbers. Batting left against right-handers, Santana, in 2022, had 16 homers; batting right against lefties, he had 3. Fewer at-bats, sure, but by about half, not 1/5. So I assume that was Toronto’s thinking. They wanted to keep Santana in the park.

They didn’t.

When Gausman left to a standing ovation, he was a hero: 5 2/3 IP, 7 Ks, 1 BB, 1 run. That’s a 1.59 ERA. He’d saved their season. Three pitches later, as he sat on the bench, his game ERA had ballooned to 6.35. That's got to be tough to watch. To Santana, reliever Tim Mayza threw:

  • a wild pitch (1 run scored)
  • a swinging strike
  • a 3-run homer (3 runs scored)

And just like that we had a chance again.

They tagged on an insurance run in the 7th, and in the top of the 8th we got one back (Suarez double, Raleigh single), and then loaded the bases with two more singles and nobody out. Fun! With Santana up again? More fun! Of course he strikes out on four pitches, and Dylan Moore, our other nondescript middle infielder, strikes out on six pitches. And who do we have left? J.P. Crawford, whom I love, our team leader, but who hasn’t exactly been hitting well lately: .218 in August, .195 in September, .100 in October, and 0-for the series. And on the first pitch he bloops one to center. We’re all yelling “Get down, get down, get down!” hoping beyond hope. The good news: none of the fielders seem to have a bead on it; it seems to be heading toward the no-man’s land in the middle of them all. Which is where it lands as they crash together—center fielder George Springer has to come out of the game—and all of our baserunners score, “Everybody scores!” I yelled in Rick Rizzs homage, and everybody at Buckley’s goes nuts. Everyone is high-fiving in this late-stage pandemic era, and a guy in a corner booth gets out a trombone and starts playing a tune and we all cheer.

Bottom of the 8th was a tough one. I’d already forgotten how tough it was. Andres Munoz, he of the 103-mph fastball, the lights-out dude who shut the door the day before, wasn’t as sharp. With one out he walked Bo Bichette; then Bo stole second. Vlad Jr. grounded out, but that brought up Alejandro Kirk, their catcher/DH, who looks like a little Oompa-Loompa but was an All-Star earlier this year at age 23, and sported a nice .285/.372/.415 line for the season. And in this series he felt like The Guy: 3-7 with a walk. Fouled off everything. But here, on a 3-2 pitch, he grounded to second. It was his last at-bat of the season.

Which brings up my second Adam Frazier prognostication. The Blue Jays went with reliever Jordan Romano, 2.11 ERA in 64 innings, and he got Eugenio Suarez on three pitches. But then Cal Raleigh—Cal Raleigh again!—lined a double to right. I was wondering whether we should pinch-run for him when Mitch Haniger flied out to center. Two outs. Now it was Adam Frazier. And for some reason, I had that good feeling again.

“He’s going to get a hit,“ I told Jeff. ”We’re going ahead here.”

Afterwards, tons of Mariners fans posted how the date was Oct. 8, which was the exact day in 1995 that Edgar Martinez lined a double down the left-field line that scored Joey Cora from third and Ken Griffey Jr. from first to win Game 5 of the ALDS against the New York Yankees—the most famous hit in franchise history. This one was another line shot, also for a double, down the right-field line this time. And it put us ahead.

Over the din at Buckley’s, Jeff again shouted “Nostradamus!” at me, but with slightly more awe now. “Adam Frazier Whisperer!” he yelled at me, almost accusingly, as we went around high-fiving people in the joint—pandemic schmandemic—including two Asian guys who sat politely and quietly at the table in front of us for the entire game and now looked around at the celebration in amazement. But could we tack on insurance runs? We couldn’t. But would Scott Servais stick with Munoz, go to Erik Swanson, whom we’d seen warming up, or maybe go to fourth starter George Kirby, a rookie, our first pick in the 2019 draft, and the August 2022 AL Rookie of the Month? He went with Kirby, who issued a one-out walk to Matt Chapman, then got an eight-pitch strikeout of goggle-eyed catcher Danny Jansen. Then he got Raimel Tapia to fly out into the soft glove of our Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez in centerfield. And that was the game and the series. It was over. They had done it.

This team.

When I left the bar, the city was slightly greyish from wildfire smoke, the sun a hazy red ball hanging over Puget Sound, and I decided to walk along the waterfront, hoping for fresher air, but just floating, buzzing inside, and high-fiving the people I saw wearing Mariners jerseys and with similar dazed, happy expressions on their faces.

Over the last couple of days, I’d spoken with baseball friends about our chances in this series, and the more they knew about baseball the less chance they thought we had. I think I left the door a little more open than they did. I thought there was light coming through it. I knew we'd done well against Toronto this year. I knew the other numbers, too. We had the third-worst team batting average in the Majors. We kept winning way more one-run games than is theoretically feasible. We shouldn’t be here.

I think of the San Francisco Giants. In the 1960s, when they had Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal, all Hall of Famers, all in their prime, they couldn’t win it all. They went to one World Series, in ’62, and lost in 7. San Francisco didn’t get its World Series championship until 2010 when, sure, they had Buster Posey, who might go to the Hall, and Tim Lincecum, the Cy Young winner back then. But mostly they won with Freddy Sanchez and Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff and World Series MVP Edgar Rentaria. In baseball, you just never know. And maybe that’ll be us, too. In the 1990s, when we had Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodriguez, all in their prime, all Hall of Famers or would-bes, we didn’t even get to the World Series. So maybe what gets us there is Cal and Ty, Eugenio and Julio. And Carlos, J.P., and Adam.

Either way, I’m going to be enjoying this floating feeling for the next few days.

Posted at 01:20 PM on Sunday October 09, 2022 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Saturday October 01, 2022

Stay Fair! 21 Long Years of Frustration End as Seattle Mariners Make the Postseason

A second later, everyone knew.

I was at the game. My friend Erika's husband got tickets from work, and they had an extra. Did I want to go? This was Thursday morning, I said “Yes!” then began to do the math. The M's had been so-so, middling to blah, since those great series against the Braves and Padres in mid-September, but the Orioles had been worse. In the past week they'd lost four of five and now the Magic Number for the M's was a mere 3. After Thursday's games (O's loss, M's win) it was down to 1, and the O's were in the Bronx against the mighty Yankees, 4:05 PST start, and we were playing the lowly A's, 6:40 start, and Logan Gilbert was going against a pitcher sporting a 7.15 ERA. Odds were pretty good, I thought, that I'd be at the park when the Mariners clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2001.

M's fans on social media yesterday were rooting for the O's. They wanted us to do it on our own, not back into it with another team's loss, but it was more of a shrug to me. I mean, yes, we should do it. At the same time, the M's had last been knocked out of the playoffs by a Yankee victory, Oct. 22, 2001, Game 5 of the ALCS, so it wouldn't be unseemly, and maybe even a little poetic, if we were knocked back into the playoffs by a Yankee victory.

I crunched other numbers just for fun. The last time the Mariners were in the postseason ...

  • The Dow was at 9,200
  • The #1 movie in America that week was “K-PAX,” starring Kevin Spacey
  • Mark Zuckerberg was captain of his fencing team in high school
  • Barack Obama was in the state senate in IL
  • TIME magazine was about to name its “Person of the Year” ... Rudy Giuliani

You could do this forever. Most of the guys in our starting lineup were toddlers, our starting pitcher was 4 years old, our rookie star wasn't even 1. I'm turning 60 in January and I was in my 30s the last time the Mariners were in the postseason. Twenty-one years is a long time, basically. It's a quarter of a life. If you're lucky. 

I arrived 20 minutes early. The seats were great seats, section 119, row 11, seat 10, close to the Mariners dugout, the area where Mariners players toss baseballs coming off the field. That gets a little sad. The greed. The battles for tossed baseballs. At the same time, I saw a few adults giving them to kids. That warms the heart.

In the Bronx, the Orioles were winning 2-1 in the 8th.

For a moment it looked like it would be a breeze. In the bottom of the 1st, Dylan Moore led off with a single, stole second, and Ty France drove him in with a double. 1-0. Nice. And then nothing. Then Ken Waldichuk turned into Roger Clemens. He struck out the next two, got a ground out. He allowed a leadoff walk in the 2nd and a one-out double in the 4th but no one even got to third. And in the 2nd, Logan Gilbert gave up a two-out, two-strike, towering homerun to rookie catcher Shea Langaliers that tied it.

And the Orioles won it in the Bronx.

By the time Waldichuk left after 5, he'd lowered his ERA by nearly a run. Each inning we got an A's pitcher with a better ERA and an equally ridiculous name: Waldichuk ceded to Pruitt, who was replaced by Puk, who gave way to Cyr. Thankfully, A's batters weren't doing much, either. Their No. 3 hitter Jordan Diaz led off the 4th with an infield single that should've been an E-6 (J.P. Crawford pulled Ty France off the bag), which was their third hit of the game, and which turned out to be their last hit of the game. Gilbert went 8 full. 

And in the bottom of the 9th, the A's brought in Domingo Acevedo, 6'7“, 240, a mid-3.00 ERA and a WHIP below 1.00. Leadoff hitter Mitch Haniger went to a full count before striking out swinging. Carlos Santana went down on three straight pitches. I'd been hoping for a homer, an emphatic final yes, but those were the guys to do it. The next hitter was Luis Torrens, our backup catcher, whom we'd sent down mid-year, and he wasn't exactly Johnny Bench. Erika and Chris said every game they'd been to this year went into extras. The M's won them all, but none of them finished after 9. It seemed like we'd get that, and the stupid ghost-runner rule, again.

And then Cal Raleigh came to the plate to pinch-hit for Torrens. 

From the looks of him, I'd always assumed Raleigh was a kind of journeyman, someone who'd knocked around for lesser teams in the N.L. for, say, 10 years, but no, he's just 25 and he's always been ours. We took him in the third round of the 2018 draft from Florida State, and he made his debut in July 2021. His debut year numbers don't exactly leap off the page (.180./.223/.309). and this year his OBP is still below .300; but he's great behind the plate and he keeps hitting homers. I read the other day that he's the first catcher with 1.5 defensive WAR and 25 homers in a season since Johnny Bench? Nice company. I'd wondered why he wasn't starting but apparently it was a thumb thing? 

Against Acevedo he got two quick balls on him and I was hoping, with that 2-0 count, that hitter's pitch, for a nice sendoff, but he swung through it. It's fun checking out the pitches against him and what he did with them. The slider was the trouble pitch. Cal swung through the first two he saw. On 3-2 pitch, he fouled off the third one. And Acevedo tried it one more time. 

If you look at the footage, he's almost on one knee. He was ready for it. He would not swing through it again. 

Off the bat, even from my unfamiliar seat, I knew it had the distance but I couldn't tell if it would stay fair. Rick Rizzs, with way better seats, thought the same. ”Stay fair!“ he cried. For once the baseball gods listened. And 21 long years of frustration was over.

That's Dave Niehaus' line, of course, from the '95 clincher against the Angels. His was 19 long years of frustration, and back then that seemed forever, even though I'd only been following the team and suffering with them for ... four years? Really only three years: '93 was when I became a true M's fan. But the M's had never made the postseason, and there they did, and miracles kept happening. And it was joy. It was pure joy.

So is this, but I feel slightly removed from the greater Seattle celebration. The M's finally made it back to the postseason with a pinch-hit walkoff homerun with two outs and on a 3-2 count. Not only doesn't that happen every day, it's never happened. The crowd went nuts, the team celebrated, they did their little circle celebration dance with like everybody, including trainers, or at least people in street clothes, and hardly any of the fans budged from their seats. They stayed and cheered. They wanted to keep celebrating. The team went into the locker room, they came out again, they high-fived fans around the park. But by then I'd already left. It was partly to beat the crowd, it was partly leftover pandemic concerns, and it was partly because, well, as great as the end was, the game was kind of frustrating. Playing the worst team in the A.L., facing a pitcher with a 7.15 ERA, we did nothing for eight innings. It's a reminder that, while the M's have good defense and a solid bullpen, they also have the third-worst batting average in the Majors. That's why they have trouble with the likes of Waldichuk, Puk and Cyr.

I guess it's like Joe Posnanski's rejoinder for people who say baseball is boring: ”Baseball is boring. Until it isn't." The M's are a frustrating team ... until they aren't.

Goodnight, Mr. Niehaus, wherever you are.

Posted at 01:19 PM on Saturday October 01, 2022 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Friday August 26, 2022

SeaUsRise, Sewald Fall

94 middle-in: Not sure I agree with you 100% on your pitching work there, Paul.

Thirty-two year-old Mariners reliever Paul Sewald is having a great season. In 50 innings pitched, he’s got a 2.66 ERA, an amazing 0.69 WHIP, with 56 Ks against 13 BBs. Any team would want him.

So why do I always flinch whenever he trots in from the bullpen?

Here’s why: I’ve been to eight games this year, he’s appeared in six of them, pitched a total of 5 innings and given up 5 runs—all earned. In those games, he’s got a 9.00 ERA, a horrendous 2.20 WHIP, with 4 Ks against 6 BBs.

And it’s not just a consequence of one bad outing. In two of those games he didn’t give up a run but still gave up the game. On May 29, Marco Gonzalez was pitching a tight 1-1 game against the Houston Astros when he gave up a one-out double in the 8th. In comes Sewald. He gets a groundout, walks a guy intentionally, walks a guy uninentionally, then gives up the go-ahead (and ultimately game-winning) single. We lose 2-1. My next game, June 15, Marco Gonzalez is pitching a tight 0-0 game against the Minnesota Twins when he scatters a walk and single in the 7th. There are two on and two out. In comes Sewald. And he promptly gives up a single to break the tie and the Twins go on to win 5-0.

Again, those are the games where, statistically, he doesn’t look bad. The only game I’ve been to where Sewald trotted in and did what relievers (and he) tend to do was the 13-inning beauty against the Yankees in early August: three up, three down. Otherwise, in those six games, he’s been on the mound four times when the M’s gave up the lead.

That includes Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Washington Nationals—the literal worst team in baseball (41-83), whose two best hitters (Soto, Bell) are now with the Padres. Plus we were facing a pitcher with an ERA over 6.00. I assumed, OK, we got this. And sure, Mariners starter George Kirby gave up a run in the 1st. But this was the Nats, the literal worst team in baseball.

This is what we managed through the first six innings:

  • One-out single, erased in DP
  • Leadoff walk, bupkis
  • One-out HBP, bupkis
  • One-out walk, erased in DP
  • Leadoff double, stranded
  • One-out single, bupkis

It wasn’t until two outs in the 8th that Julio Rodriguez tied the game with a homerun to left—his 20th. Finally! Now we’re talking!

And in trots Sewald for the top of the 9th:

Cue Charlie Brown-ish sigh all around T-Mobile Park.

I guess the ump wasn't great throughout the game—J.P. even got tossed late—but that's bad placement from Sewald on a 1-2 pitch with two outs in the 9th inning of a tie game. If there's a general zone for hitters, he placed it exactly there. Charlie Brown could've hit it out. 

For the bottom half, we got a leadoff double and a walk. And with two outs Cal Raleigh soared one to center, the deepest part of the park. Caught at the warning track. It was that kind of blue-ball game. All promise and no follow-through.

So what to make of this statistical anomaly with Sewald. Am I just bad luck for the guy? I go to a lot of day games so I thought maybe he’s just bad at day games. Nope. He’s better during the day: 23.1 IP, 1.93 ERA, 0.64 WHIP. However, he is worse at T-Mobile. His home/away innings are all but split down the middle (25.2/25) but he's given up 14 of his 15 earned runs, and 6 of his 7 homers, at T-Mobile. His away ERA is 0.36. At home, it's 4.91. Wow.

Paul, my next scheduled game is Sept. 6 against the ChiSox. Give me a call if you’d rather I didn’t go. I’d understand.

Posted at 10:32 AM on Friday August 26, 2022 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Wednesday August 10, 2022

Mariners Turn Ghostbusters on Yankees in Extras

Well, I never thought I'd see that again.

By which I mean a game that goes 13 innings because the two teams keep putting up goose eggs in extras. Every inning, each team essentially got a leadoff double and stranded them all. In two of those innings, the Yankees made baserunning blunders that erased their Rob Manfred-mandated ghost runner. You know the old “three up, three down” line? For the Yankees, it was “two up, three down.” Which ... yeah, I can't even.

I also never thought I'd see that again: my long-suffering Seattle Mariners manhandling the mighty New York Yankees like it was 1995. Or how about watching a true ace pitch for your side? That was fun. Welcome to Seattle, Luis Castillo. How about a packed stadium in which, whenever Yankee fans began their idiot “Let's-go-Yank-kees!” chant, we drown them out with “Let's-go-Marin-ers!” That was funner. That made me proud.

I've been tracking these 2022 Yanks for a while now, initially out of fear. By mid-June it felt like they couldn't lose: they were 49-16, 33 games over .500. That's a .753 winning percentage, which put them on pace to win 122, which would've shattered the 116-game mark the Mariners set in 2001. They'd lost just once that month. They were big, moneyed, and unstoppable. Then, suddenly, not. They lost a game here, a game there. They split a four-game series with Houston at the end of June. They split a two-game series with Pittsburgh at the beginning of July. They lost a three-game series to Cincinnati before the All-Star break. And since the All-Star break, they've gone 7-12, getting swept in two-game series by the Astros and Mets, and in a three-game series last weekend by St. Louis. They've been no-hit, one-hit, two-hit, and last night, after crushing the M's 9-4 in the opener, they managed just three hits in 13 innings: a single in the 1st, a single in the 4th, a single in the 8th.

They couldn't run the bases. Their 10th-inning ghost runner was speedy, Andrew Benintendi, but he got caught stealing—by the pitcher. He made his move to third before our pitcher, Paul Sewald, made his move to the plate and got caught in a rundown. We kept playing pickle with the Yanks. It was little league again. It was elementary school. In the 11th, their ghost runner Miguel Andujar was doubled off second after a leadoff lineout, and in the 12th, their ghost, Jose Trevino, was caught between second and third on a comebacker to the pitcher. After we ran him down, we ran down the batter, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, trying for second. Ghosts were falling everywhere. The Mariners were Ghostbusters.

But the M's, still Julio-less, weren't doing much against Gerrit Cole, either. We got a single in the third from Sam Haggerty, who's still batting over .300 and still batting near the bottom of the order for some fathom-less reason. Next inning, leadoff hitter Adam Frazier lined a single to right and improbably tried to stretch it to two, and was out by a country mile. Since Ty France then grounded out to third on a slow roller that would've advanced Frazier, and Mitch Haniger lined a single that would've scored him, my friend Jeff complained for the rest of the game about the run Frazier cost us. Meanwhile, I kept wondering over why Jake Lamb and his .200 SLG was hitting cleanup for us. It was a beautiful summer evening, with wafts of cool, clean sea air, and we had nothing but complaints.

A one-out double by Cal Raleigh in the 5th went nowhere. A two-out single from Sam Haggerty (again!) in the 8th went nowhere. In the 9th, a leadoff HBP was erased in a DP. In the 10th, our ghost never moved. In the 11th, we sacrificed him, then ended the inning on a DP. In the 12th we loaded the bases on walks but Eugenio Suarez struck out with two outs and promptly broke his bat over his knee, Bo Jackson style. 

Yanks had a real shot in the 13th. Matt Brash was pitching his second inning of relief and walked the bases loaded with one out. But then he got Gleyber Torres swinging and a groundout to short from Andujar. Which is why, in the bottom half of the 13th, even after a leadoff single by Cal Raleigh and a IBB to Haggerty, it still felt problematic. It was the third straight half-inning that the bases were loaded and so far no one had scored. And with one out, our pinch-hitter in the nine-hole was .200-hitting backup catcher Luis Torrens, who quickly went 0-2. Same old, same old, right? Wrong. A line single to right. Stadium goes nuts. We go nuts. Aaron Judge in right goes nuts trying to get Haggerty in a force at second. With one out? Was he just being a dick? Or was he too tired to remember what was happening? 

Anyway, it's been a while since I've seen such a game. I guess never. 

Posted at 09:18 AM on Wednesday August 10, 2022 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  
 |  Next page »

All previous entries