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Destruction Follows Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, Stats Unaffected

Marshawn Lynch

Seahawks Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch not only punishes defenders that try to tackle the powerful runner, but also tends to leave a trail of destruction of those that often find the task to be too difficult.

Lynch’s role with the Seahawks was in question at the start of the season when it was rumored that the defending Super Bowl champions would be moving to a running back by committee. So far, that hasn’t been the case with Lynch carrying the ball on nearly 60% of running plays.

His stats haven’t taken a hit either. With 234 rushing yards, Marshawn Lynch is ranked 6th in the NFL among all running backs. He’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry and his three rushing TD’s are tied for best in the league.

The Seahawks are currently on their Bye Week and will be traveling to face the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football on October 6th.

Taijuan Walker Dominates, M’s Almost Sweep Astros


            Over the last four days the Mariners and the Astros played baseball against each other four times. The Mariners won the first three games before dropping the last one in particularly deflating fashion, because losses to Houston are deflating. One of these games was Taijuan Walker’s big league debut, and he was excellent. That’s what matters here, is that Taijuan Walker happened. The other games? Trivial. Taijuan Walker’s the biggest deal right now, and rightfully so. He’s twenty one years old and one of the best pitching prospects in the universe. He’s in the majors now! Tai Walker! Let’s just get straight to the recaps, because one of them is about Taijuan Walker. Taijuan Walker. 

Thursday, August 29 – Mariners 3, Astros 2 

            You know what’s completely uninteresting? A game between a fourth place team and a fifth place team at the end of August the day before a top prospect’s major league debut. Yeah, Erasmo Ramirez is interesting and all, but we want our shiny new toy! The biggest news of the day was not even game-related, as Michael Morse was claimed on waivers by the Baltimore Orioles and subsequently held out of the lineup. Morse was possibly the worst player on the roster, depending on what you think of Endy Chavez, and his waiver claim was the biggest news of the day. This is a fan base hungry for Taijuan Walker.

            Then they played the game and the Mariners won. That’s why they play the games! Erasmo was sharp, striking out seven batters in five and two thirds innings. He walked two and allowed a home run to Brett Wallace, but was otherwise excellent. Ramirez might not be a huge part of the Mariners long-term future, but he’s a cost-controlled young arm on a team that has a severe lack of good starters. Success from Erasmo Ramirez means more payroll to devote towards luring guys like Jacoby Ellsbury to Seattle. Maybe. Just as a reminder, the last major free agent to sign in Seattle was Chone Figgins, and that was in 2009.

            Franklin Gutierrez led the offense with three hits, including another dinger. Franklin Gutierrez’s isolated slugging percentage is .338, which is higher than Miguel Cabrera’s isolated slugging percentage. It’s higher than everybody’s isolated slugging percentage, except for Chris Davis. Aside from Guti’s two-run shot, the Mariners also got runs from a Nick Franklin first inning solo shot. The dinger was a welcome sign, because Nick Franklin has been gut-wrenchingly awful for a really long time now. He’s closing in on replacement level, which sure as hell doesn’t fit the narrative we collectively strung together after his star-level start at the big league level.

Friday, August 30 – Mariners 7, Astros 1

            Finally, the one that matters. I don’t have cable, and as a result listen to almost every game on the radio. For the last month or so, every game I watch on television has been a game I went out of my way to watch, having identified it as a contest that needed visual enhancement. Since becoming a non-cable person, I’ve listened to a lot of games and only watched a couple, all featuring Felix. This one did not feature Felix. Needless to say, this was one worth watching.

            Taijuan Walker is electrifying. Everyone loves a big league debut, even if that debut is Abraham Almonte or someone like that, some guy who probably doesn’t have a lengthy big league career in front of him. This is because baseball is a game featuring human beings, and watching human beings accomplish their life-long goals is fascinating. A rookie’s first call-up is about more than how they do against the highest level of competition, it’s about how they react to everything. To the crowd. To the lights. To the pressure. It’s almost as interesting to watch a young player’s emotions as it is his fastball.

            Walker’s emotions showed the most early on, predictably, as he did something that he had never done before and had always dreamed of doing. He took the deepest of deep breaths. You could see him focusing himself before every pitch, and the first pitch he threw almost went into the dirt. It took him three tries to get his first strike, and after he did you could see traces of smile creeping over him. Walker’s twenty-one. He’s one of the youngest players in the major leagues, and a guy who many of us have watched closely since he was drafted. This debut was about more than balls and strikes. It was the realization of a goal, a shared goal between player, coaches, and fans. It was the start of a big league career that hopefully lasts a long, long time. The results could have been bad and we would have still had reason to celebrate.

            Of course, the results were excellent, as Walker allowed only two hits over five dominant innings, which, again, were the first five innings he had ever thrown at the big league level. He walked Brett Wallace and only struck out two guys, but this is where we get to say eh, whatever, big league debut. He was only allowed to throw seventy pitches, because he’s a twenty-one year old top prospect coming up on an innings limit. His fastball was a sight to be seen, reaching the upper nineties and blowing right past the Astros hitters. Of course, the Astros aren’t much of a test as far as major league competition is concerned, but results are results. Walker’s secondary pitches started off shaky but he improved seemingly every inning, which is a welcome sign. His next test comes against Kansas City on Wednesday, and I couldn’t be more excited for it. Welcome, Taijuan. Stay forever.

            Dustin Ackley tried his damnedest to steal the spotlight, and really has been commanding attention for the last month-plus. In this game he went four for five, driving in four runs and saving one with a phenomenal diving catch in center field. He hit a freaking triple. Just when everyone was ready to write him off as Jeremy Reed, Ackley is as hot as he’s ever been. He’s been playing center over Gutierrez, for what it’s worth. At this point it’s probably safe to assume Ackley’s going to be factored into the team’s plans this winter, and it’s suddenly easy to remember why he was the number two overall pick a few years ago.

            This was just about as awesome as a late August M’s/Astros game could be. The Mariners scored seven runs and two important young players led the way. Abraham Almonte did in fact make his debut and was just fine. Huzzah to baseball.

Saturday, August 31 – Mariners 3, Astros 1

            It will be a shame if and when Joe Saunders makes multiple September starts. Not that he was especially bad in this game, but he did walk more batters than he struck out and he is thirty-two and having a vile, unwatchable season. Not that the Mariners have great options or anything, but they have options. Chance Ruffin, for one. Blake Beavan, for another, and I can’t even believe I just typed those words. It’s September, the Mariners are way the hell out of contention, and hey maybe it’d be weird and interesting to see what happens if a broken Tom Wilhelmsen starts a major league game this month. Anyways, Saunders pitched and limited damage while walking three and striking out two. He lowered his ERA to 4.92 and if Aaron Harang is gone then why is Saunders still here? His salary is a sunk cost. Time for more Brandon Maurer starts, or anything. Give Raul Ibanez a start for all I care.

            The Mariners won this game, and not entirely because of the Astros. In fact they won in spite of the Astros, as the offense was entirely shut down for innings two through nine. Everything came in the first against Dallas Keuchel, who’s day began with a single by Brad Miller. Guti flew out, then Kyle Seager singled before a Kendrys Morales single brought Miller home. Raul Ibanez walked, then Nick Franklin walked with the bags juiced. Dustin Ackley scored Seager on a groundout, because Newly Productive Dustin Ackley sparks the offense even when grounding out. Keuchel went on shutdown mode for the next six innings before ceding to Erik Bedard, who is now a reliever on the Houston Astros. Bedard walked two and struck out none while allowing no runs and is a reliever on the Houston Astros. He’s also the highest-paid player on their roster, making just a hair over a million dollars.

Sunday, September 1 – Astros 2, Mariners 0

            This game was started by Hisashi Iwakuma, who will probably get some down ballot Cy Young votes, and Brett Oberholtzer, who you are just now hearing about for the first time ever. Oberholtzer is some young guy who only pitches for the Astros because the Astros don’t have any major league baseball players on their roster.  In addition to starting the game, Oberholtzer finished the game. This is because the Mariners got four hits against him, and turned those four hits (and a walk) into zero runs. Oberholtzer threw a 113-pitch complete game shutout, and who is Brett Oberholtzer? Again, he is nobody, and he shut down the Mariners to help his “team” avoid a sweep.

            Not to say that Iwakuma wasn’t brilliant, because he was. Over seven innings Kuma struck out seven Astros and walked only one. Like I said, don’t be surprised if and when his name shows up towards the bottom of some Cy Young ballots, because that’s the kind of season he’s had. His ERA is back under three. Brett Oberholtzer’s ERA is under Hisashi Iwakuma’s ERA. Seriously who is this guy? Charlie Furbush allowed some doubles or something, who cares, the Mariners got shut out by an imaginary baseball player. Tom Wilhelmsen made his triumphant return by facing one batter. He got him out! Good for you, Tom!

UP NEXT: Mariners @ Royals 

            The Royals have been some kind of enigmatic this season, which is a marked improvement over just about every other Royals season I can ever remember happening. Dayton Moore famously traded Wil Myers to Tampa Bay over the offseason in an attempt to turn the Royals into contenders. While James Shields has been excellent, Myers has been excellent too, as a rookie outfielder raking at the league minimum with another half-decade of club control. Worse yet, the Royals offense has been bad. Worst yet, the big trade has simply turned the Royals into the worst AL team over .500, nowhere near playoff contention. Which is what most analysts expected at the time.

            The last few months have seen the Royals turn from a disappointment to the hottest team in the AL, then back into a pumpkin and now they’re playing good again. They’re three games over .500 and traded their top prospects in order to get here. The Royals are exactly the team the Mariners should want to avoid becoming. The Royals are a fun team to beat because they’re perennially mismanaged and do lots of important things wrong. Remember, this is the best Royals season in a long, long time. PITCHERS: Felix vs. Danny Duffy, Erasmo vs. Bruce Chen, Taijuan vs. Ervin Santana, joe saunders vs. Jeremie Guthrie. The Mariners are one DFA away from having four compelling starters in this series. Imagine that!

Mike Trout Sweeps Mariners


Just in case anyone needs a reminder, here’s how things stood a few days ago: the Mariners took two of three from Texas and then the Mariners took two of three from Oakland. Those two teams are competitive in the AL West, which is the division the Mariners play in. There existed, and exists, a big gap between the two competitive teams in the AL West and the next tier of the division, which features two teams that sure would like to be competitive. The Astros are in this division, too. Of the two middle-tier teams, the Mariners went into Friday’s action with a four game advantage and a team that isn’t puke in a dumpster. The Angels didn’t. The Angels are disgusting.

Then they actually played the games and the Angels swept the Mariners, who put up arguably their most miserably lifeless performance of the year three days in a row. Now the gap in the standings is down to a single game, and one notices that the Angels have a run differential almost three times better than that of the Mariners. And speaking of the Mariners run differential, it’s -94. Negative ninety-four. That’s second-worst in the AL, so worst among teams currently attempting baseball.

Over on the senior side the Marlins and Phillies are worse off, with the Giants and Padres each a blowout away from joining Seattle in the outscored-by-over-ninety-freaking-runs-this-year club. The Mariners have the fourth-worst run differential in MLB and the thirteenth-worst winning percentage, which suggests a team outperforming its peripherals, so to speak. This over-achieving Mariners team is eleven games under .500.

So the Mariners all of a sudden look like one of the game’s worst teams, and it’s easy to argue that that’s what they are. It’s just as easy to argue that they’ve taken a step backwards this year, despite Nick Franklin’s first month in the big leagues and a barrage of solo home runs. Eugggghhh. And they just had to do it against the Angels, of all teams. The Angels have the third-worst team ERA in baseball. The Mariners scored two runs in twenty-seven innings.

Chalk it up to Mike Trout. Trout didn’t have a monster series by his standards, but his standards aren’t fair. Let’s just say Mike Trout carried the Angels through this one, and hey, when you’ve got a special player like that who knows what will happen, maybe you’ll be the Angels and you’ll find yourself sweeping a better team. The Mariners probably aren’t that much better team, but it’s fun to make pretend. What follows are not exactly recaps, but you don’t want to read recaps of that crap any more than I want to write them. What follows are make-pretend scenes in which Mike Trout fails humanity. Nobody’s perfect!

Friday, August 23 – Angels 2, Mariners 0

Raul Ibanez struck out and then noticed something peculiar. “Felix?” he said, looking nervously towards the apple tree in the front lawn. “Felix, is that you buddy?” “Meow,” said Felix the house cat from the top of the tree. “Are you stuck up there little guy?” Somebody named Chris Nelson hit a two-run home run and the cat cried again. “Don’t worry,” said brave Raul, “I’m coming for you Fi-Fi.” Ibanez made a hasty phone call and within minutes Mike Trout was there. “Will you save my cat from this tree?” begged Old Man Raul. “Hmmmmm let me think about it,” said Mike Trout before flipping Raul the bird and turning his back. “Fat chance!” said Trout, trying to hide the embarrassment of going nil-for-four with two Ks. “Smell ya later, Old Spice!” Raul Ibanez sighed and struck out again.

Saturday, August 24 – Angels 5, Mariners 1

Erasmo Ramirez showed up to the first day of school wearing plaid suspenders and a thick pair of glasses, his pocket protector bursting with ballpoint pens and his backpack rolling dutifully behind him. Mike Trout stood in his varsity jacket, smirking as he stuck his hands sans thumb into the wool pockets. He nodded towards Erick Aybar and winked. The two exchanged sinister glances, and Mike Trout let out a shrill whistle. “Hey, you! Eras-nerd!” Erasmo paused for a second before saying “yeah guys?” Aybar walked. “Just wanted to tell ya,” said Mike Trout, “how nice it is to see you this FALL!” He pushed Erasmo backwards over a crouching Aybar, who then stood up and bumped chests with Trout. “Well,” said Trout, brushing his shoulders off as Ramirez glared up from the hallway floor, “guess that’s what they call a home run!” Ramirez watched from the ground as the two chest bumped again, high-fived and ran away laughing.

Sunday, August 25 – Angels 7, Mariners 1

“Yeah,” said Nick Franklin as he lay down on the padded bench. “I was thinking a spider web around my elbow, to show people that I like spiders and think it’s neat that they east all those pesky flies.” “Uh, sure” said Aaron Harang, blowing his nose into a ratty towel and then almost immediately using the same towel to wipe sweat from his face. “So think we can get this started?” Franklin said eagerly. Harang farted and it smelled like an open grave full of eggs. “Uh gee, yeah the thing is I just can’t quite remember how this dang-blanged tattoo gun thingamabobber works.” That’s when Mike Trout walked in the door. “Oh, hey Aaaaaaaaaron,” he yawned. Trout pointed to Franklin and laughed. “What’s this little dweeb doing here?” Harang coughed and a little bit of hot dog flew across the room. Harang’s mother called to tell him he was adopted. “Now listen here pipsqueak,” Trout said to Franklin. “Spiders aren’t cool. Spiders are eight-legged freaks and nobody likes them. Nobody likes you! You’re a spider!” Franklin turned away in shame and struck out three times, batting .235. Mike Trout ripped a poster off the wall and spit on the floor, said “later freaks” and slammed the door. Harang picked his ear with his pinky nail and ate it and allowed seven earned runs.

UP NEXT: Rangers @ Mariners

Great, a series against the Rangers. The Mariners were so good against the Angels, surely this will be a breeze. A nice, pleasant breeze, that’s what this series will be. It’s like playing the Astros, in that they’re playing a team from Texas, and that should be enough. Texas used to be known for having bad pitchers all the time, and while that may not be true today, maybe it will be! Maybe the Rangers staff will short out and the offense that got manhandled by Garrett Richards will find success against Derek Holland. We know how this team loves to give Felix run support. They love giving Felix run support exactly as much as you love it when someone steps on the heel of your shoe in a crowded place. They hate scoring runs for Felix, is what I’m saying.

Starting pitchers because I hate this sport. Monday: Travis Blackley vs. Joe Saunders. Guess who has the ERA advantage here! Oh wait, it’s Blackley. How about by FIP? Saunders! Huzzah! Tuesday: Derek Holland vs. Hisashi Iwakuma. Holland’s still having a freaky-good year and yeah this game should at least be watchable. Wednesday: Martin Perez vs. Felix Hernandez. Hooray, a pitching mismatch. The Mariners always win these with Felix on the mound! And by “always” I meant “today is opposite day.” Happy fandom!

Mariners Mercilessly Destroy Another Playoff Team


If the season ended today, the Oakland Athletics would be in line for a postseason appearance. Some may argue that an opportunity to play Tampa Bay in the one-and-done Wild Card round isn’t the same as reaching the postseason but you know what, no, the Wild Card round counts. It’s the playoffs. The A’s are two and a half games from leading the AL West, but also hold a two and a half game lead over Cleveland for the second wild card slot. They’d make the playoffs, is what I’m saying. And this is significant because the Mighty Mariners just spent three days making them look like a bunch of diaper-crapping babies.

The Big, Bad Athletics of Oakland won the AL West last year, recall, despite not being predicted by anyone except their mothers to do that. That is, assuming their mothers don’t know much about baseball. I’m sure Mrs. Sogard took a look at her bespectacled son’s spectacles and teammates and said “woah yeah the Angels signed Albert Pujols, I dunno son you guys kinda look awful, especially with those dweeby glasses.”

The A’s went on to win the division on the last day of the season and they’re good again this year, too. The Mariners played the A’s three times and won two of those times. In doing so they sent a message: watch the heck out. The Mighty Mighty Mariners are in town, and no Ranger or Athletic should dare stand in the way of the Seattle Baseball Death Machine.

Okay, so the Mariners did lose the first game, and it was a low-scoring game at that. The second game they won because the Athletics bullpen did that thing that the Mariners bullpen often does, i.e. it imploded. Wednesday’s game was a fun one, with lead changes and dingers and stuff, and the Mariners won that one too, and it too was a low-scoring affair.

So the Mariners merciless destruction was really actually quite different than your average merciless destruction. Good ol’ Mariners, doing things their own way. One of these years they’re going to make the playoffs with a losing record.

Monday, August 19 – Athletics 2, Mariners 1

Gotta get ’em where you want ’em, Robbie Thompson probably told his (interim) club before instructing them to lose a close one in order to give the opponent a false sense of comfort heading into the rest of the series. Thompson’s strategy of forfeiture is questionable, but it appears his voice in the clubhouse rings loud and clear. The Mariners did as instructed, dropping a close one, two to one. Or maybe they tried their damnedest and got shut down by Jarrod Parker. The world may never know.

Aaron Harang turned in an acceptably dominant outing of his own, and is not really at fault for this loss because Carter Capps is at fault for this loss, but let’s start with the starter. Harang pitched seven innings, allowing one run on five hits and a walk while striking out three. In doing so he brought his ERA under five and a half! Way to go, fella. Harang FIP watch: 4.72. Harang WAR watch: 0.4, in 114.2 innings. That’s not exactly a replacement level starter, but yeah, that’s a replacement level starter.

Carter Capps entered a tie game in the ninth inning and struck a bro out before Brandon Moss took him deep for yet another 2013 Mariners walk-off loss. Last year when Dustin Ackley was having his first putrid season I often found myself completely accepting that yes, he’s going to play poorly today, and that will last through the year. But then, next season, he’ll be fine because it’ll be a new season.

As the story goes, Ackley never showed signs of life, I never stopped believing that he’d turn a magical offseason corner, and then when he was even worse this year I found myself resigned to it and suffered little to no emotional damage. Carter Capps is kind of doing that but he’s a reliever and relievers are more volatile than second basemen so he’ll be fine next year, right? Right? RIGHT

Tuesday, August 20 – Mariners 7, Athletics 4

Nick Franklin has been slumping. Remember when he was Nick! Franklin! Rookie! Sensation! but whenever he’d succeed everyone would say “Ackley did this too you guys I dunno.” Nick Franklin’s wRC+ recently dipped all the way down to 101, and while that’s still above average, it’s average. 100 and 101 are just about the same in the context of this statistic. His defense has been bad, too, and so naturally, the slump has brought forth inevitable concerns about Nick Franklin and his team-leading strikeout rate.

What did Franklin do Tuesday? Not strike out, for one, and get two hits, for another. One of those hits was a two-run home run! He also took out A’s backup catcher Derek Norris sliding safely into home plate, ripping his knee open in the process and breaking Norris’s toe. The radio guys were excitedly proclaiming that Franklin’s slump was one hundred percent officially over, and then Franklin went and hurt himself and is going to miss a few days. Also, Nick Franklin has a big spider web elbow tattoo. He also looks like a little kid, and what the hell Nick Franklin who are you.

This game was a come-from-behind win, in which the Mariners scored seven unanswered runs after the A’s did all their scoring in the first inning. The A’s did this scoring against one Joe Saunders, who started his work day like this: triple, single, homer, groundout, homer, walk, successful pickoff(!!!), walk, single, lineout. Way to go, Joe. Joe Saunders FIP watch: 4.78. Worse than Harang! Joe Saunders WAR watch: 0.3. Worse than Harang again! Joe Saunders has contributed less value to the 2013 Mariners than Stephen Pryor, a reliever who’s been injured since early April.

The Comeback happened in the eighth when the A’s went to their usually-stellar bullpen. Michael Saunders started it with a single, then Henry Blanco doubled and was taken off the bases in favor of Brendan Ryan. Then came Brad Miller’s RBI single, and Nick Franklin’s RBI single, and then came a new reliever. That new reliever, Ryan Cook, uncorked a wild pitch that scored a run. Kendrys Morales reached on a fielder’s choice, which led to the aforementioned Franklin knee gash play. After a new catcher, a Raul Ibanez walk and a Justin Smoak whiff, Cook flailed away another run-scoring wild pitch to put the nail in it, as they say. Danny Farquhar struck out two batters in the ninth inning and has a 1.64 FIP.

Wednesday, August 21 – Mariners 5, Athletics 3

Hisashi Iwakuma Has A Home Run Problem, read the headlines nowhere. But it’s true! Iwakuma gave up two more long balls, bringing him to twenty four on the year. That’s the seventh-most on the season, and puts him in the company of guys like Phil Hughes and Jeremy Guthrie. But unlike the names surrounding him on that list, Iwakuma has been awesome, so the home runs, while existent, have been more of a “quirk” than a “problem.” Importantly, he drops to eighteenth-most in baseball when sorting by HR/9, so there you go, he’s thrown a lot of quality innings.

The Mariners sub-ace again succeeded despite long balls, allowing three runs while pitching seven innings. He had four strikeouts to two walks, which isn’t too neat, but his ERA’s under three and his FIP is good and he’s good and whatever we like him. One of the dingers was Coco Crisp, leading off. The other was Brandon Moss, who just does this kind of thing from time to time. Good pitcher, succeeding despite home runs. It’s possible, as we’ve seen before and are currently seeing.

A.J. Griffin, who started for the A’s, actually allows the most home runs of any starter in the majors, with two of those coming Wednesday. Michael Morse hit what felt like his first ever home run, although it was actually his thirteenth of the season. Michael Morse has been stupendously awful this season and I’m going to puke if he’s re-signed. The other long ball came from Brad Miller, who didn’t hit two home runs in a game where he hit at least one home run for the first time ever as a major leaguer.

Brendan Ryan of all people chipped in offensively, adding three RBI on two nifty lil’ singles. Well timed, Boog. It’d be nice if he stuck around as a defensive replacement/spot starter for the next couple years, no? Good teams should have guys like him on the bench. The Mariners should try building a good team, with him on the bench.

So to recap, the M’s starting pitcher was good and the M’s position players did mostly good run-scoring things. That happened, and then Danny Farquhar stole the show. Much has been written about Farquhar recently, because he is new and utterly dominant. Also because he has an insane and hilarious ERA/FIP gap. Also, his FIP is third-lowest in the game behind only Greg Holland and Jason Grilli, both of whom are amazing closers. By K/9 he’s fourth, behind only Holland, Grilli, and Aroldis Chapman.

Farquhar has the most unhittable pitch in baseball, and Wednesday he used it to strike out Stephen Vogt and end the game. Interestingly, he threw the curve only once to each of the other batters he faced that inning, missing both times. Then Vogt swung and missed at the two Farquhar hurled at him. Danny Farquhar also has a good cutter, and a good fastball. He’s like, a really really really really good pitcher on the Mariners.

UP NEXT: Angels @ Mariners

The worst baseball team this side of Houston comes to town from Friday to Sunday, and word is they’re here to stink up the place. The Angels are closer to last place than they are to first place, and the Astros are the team in last place. Hell, they’re closer to last place than they are to second place. The Mariners have a four game advantage over Anaheim, and more importantly the Mariners don’t look like hot rotten trash all of the time. The Angels, on the other hand, look like hot rotten trash all of the time. This is, as far as I’m concerned, the best Angels season ever. In relation to me, of course, and what I look for in an Angels season.

Mike Trout leads the Halos with an otherworldly 8.6 WAR, but after him the next best Angel (Howie Kendrick) lags six full wins behind. Josh Hamilton has the third-highest plate appearances total on the team and is slashing .229/.286/.419, and a few months the Angels signed him for five years and $125 million dollars. Albert Pujols is out for the year and probably shouldn’t play the field ever again, and his contract goes for eight more years after this one, and then after his contract ends the Angels still have to keep paying him money.

Twenty four pitchers have appeared for L.A. this season, and thirteen of them have been worth 0.0 WAR or less. Mostly less. This is a really, really bad baseball team that has a staggering amount of money tied up in long term sunk costs. This is also a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009.

Pitchers! Starting pitchers are important because they start the games and have a lot to do with how much damage the other team does. It’s good to have good starting pitchers, and the Angels actually have one or two of those. But they also have one or two Garrett Richardses, including Garrett Richards himself, who starts Friday against King Felix Hernandez. Saturday pits old friend Jason Vargas against Erasmo Ramirez, who will look to continue a slow, painstaking trend towards good process and good results. The series will conclude with a stirring battle between Jered Weaver and Aaron Harang.

The Mariners aren’t playing outside of the AL West again this month which means it’s time to crush hopes and dreams in Arlington and Oakland while padding the ol’ record against LAnaheim and Houston. Is there another eight-game winning streak in this team? How about twelve? Probably not, but “that’s why they play the games” amirite!

Mariners Take Two From Red-Hot Rangers


As noted in our series preview a few days ago, the Texas Rangers have been insanely hot for the last few weeks. They’d lost two of their last sixteen games! That’s a level of bonkers-good performance that simply can’t be sustained for extended stretches, except for the fact that the Dodgers have been doing just that for about two months now. The Mariners didn’t seem to have a lot of momentum going into this series, and it was quietly understood that these three games could get ugly. Except the middle one, of course, because of the Felix Hernandez factor.

The same exact Texas Rangers who had lost two of their last sixteen have now lost two of their last three, as the Mariners backed Hisashi Iwakuma and Erasmo Ramirez’s stellar starts while completely falling apart behind a malfunctioning Felix Hernandez. The Mariners scored ten runs in this series, allowed nineteen, won two games and Felix was awful in his start. Don’t bet on baseball – one, it’s frowned upon, and two, perhaps most importantly, it’s just not the kind of thing worth attempting to predict. You will make a prediction, and your prediction will be wrong, completely wrong. The Mariners took two of three from the hottest team in the league and the hottest pitcher in the league imploded. Do not place your bets.

Friday, August 16 – Mariners 3, Rangers 1

Derek Holland is having the season Rangers fans could only dare dream about, in case you haven’t been following the Mariners’ hated rivals particularly closely. Everyone knows how Yu Darvish is amazing, right? Darvish is at 4.1 WAR, and Holland is at 4.8. Holland has a 2.99 FIP in 168 innings, and has been the most productive player on a first place team. Despite that, his amazing year has flown under the radar. So don’t be too surprised that he limited the Mariners to two hits over seven innings, walking three and striking out six. That’s not too surprising. Holland is incredible, although it’s hard to lose the notion that he is just an overperforming middle-of-the-rotation arm.

After Holland came out, out-of-nowhere relief ace Neil Cotts came in and let the Mariners steal a win. With the Rangers clinging to a 1-0 lead, Cotts walked Nick Franklin. Kyle Seager stepped up, looked at a couple of strikes, and launched a fastball just over the outfield wall for a 2-1 lead. Justin Smoak, who is actually having a real breakout for real, added an insurance dinger in the ninth off Tanner Scheppers. Like his penmate Cotts, Scheppers has an ERA well under two. What are these Rangers? How is this possible? Dave Duncan must be secretly filling the water coolers in Arlington.

The late-inning home run heroics would have been moot had it not been for the hard work of one Hisashi Iwakuma, who posted one of the more dominant outings of his excellent year. Iwakuma went seven innings while striking out eight and allowing only one run on an A.J. Pierzinski single. The Rangers had four hits and drew three walks against the Mariners number two starter, who would also be the number two starter on just about any other team in baseball, except for the teams where he’d be pitching Opening Day. Lord Danny Farquhar struck out two of the three batters he faced in recording a flawless save.

Saturday, August 17 – Rangers 15, Mariners 3

Felix Hernandez is a guy who likes to share the spotlight. After Iwakuma’s gem the night before, Felix became aware that all the attention would soon shift to him. “That doesn’t seem right,” thought the King, “for Kuma’s great start to be so quickly overlooked. What this world needs is some perspective.” So to give the previous day’s game some perspective, Felix threw a stinker. An absoulte stinker, with five runs in five innings and more walks (five) than strikeouts (four). A Bonderman, except that no way could Jeremy Bonderman have ever struck out four batters in five frames. Felix, in short, was terrible, allowing all five runs in one single inning. It’s the second time he’s done that this year. The road to the Cy Young just got a little rockier.

After Felix mailed it in the rest of the team followed. The offense scored a run in each of the first three innings and then promptly stopped scoring runs. Kyle Seager hit a solo homer and his little “slump” is totally over now. He’s incredible. Kyle Seager is an amazing Major League Baseball player, drafted and developed and currently playing for the Seattle Mariners! The bullpen was terrible, worse than Felix, and the prime culprit was Oliver Perez. Perez allowed six earned runs in two thirds of an inning. His ERA was, like, zero or something a month or so ago, and now it’s 4.25. Ollie looked like a long term piece recently enough that he wasn’t traded at the deadline. Ultimately, however, he’s a reliever, and relievers do things like allow a bazillion runs in a week just because it’s possible. That 4.25 ERA, by the way, is third-best in the Mariners ‘pen.

Sunday, August 18 – Mariners 4, Rangers 3

Many words have been written, here and elsewhere, regarding the strange season of Erasmo Ramirez. He should have made the team out of spring training but didn’t, hurting himself instead and missing a couple months. He returned to make a mockery of AAA hitters, but had to stay down a while longer than most anticipated due to the big league team’s insistence on dicking around with Jeremy Bonderman. He struggled right before being called up, then struggled more when he was called up. Walks were a problem, and homers were a bigger problem. We’ve been waiting for Erasmo to have a genuinely good outing. We don’t have to wait anymore.

Ramirez pitched seven innings of four-hit ball, allowing two runs, one unearned, while walking only one and striking out two. While more strikeouts is always desirable, Ramirez did get thirteen outs on the ground versus five in the air, so it’s not like he wasn’t controlling the Rangers all day. Again, four hits. Erasmo looked great against a lineup that had spent the previous evening decimating the Mariners ace and ‘pen. The only run he allowed was on a sac fly. His FIP dropped by .48 today. Erasmo Ramirez pitched, and it was good.

The offense clicked at the right times, plating four runs on ten hits while again waiting until the late frames for the drama to begin. The Mariners, it should be noted, have been some kind of kryptonite to Yu Darvish ever since the righty came to MLB. Darvish allowed singles to Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley in the fifth. Saunders stole, then scored on an Endy Chavez ground out. Nick Franklin walked to lead off the sixth, then scored on a Michael Saunders double. Kyle Seager walked to lead off the eighth, then scored when Dustin Ackley singled off of new reliever Robbie Ross. Elvis Andrus tied things up again in the bottom of the frame, but Seager had the last laugh, mashing a game-winning RBI double off of closer-to-the-stars Joe Nathan in the top of the ninth. Bada bing bada boom, Mariners take two of three.

UP NEXT: Mariners @ Athletics

What the Mariners just did by taking this series was create an opportunity for the A’s, who have been battling for the division with the Rangers all season. The A’s went 2-1 against Cleveland while the Rangers were going 1-2 against Seattle, and now Oakland sits half a game back of Texas in the West. What the A’s want to do now is roll over the M’s and hopefully lay claim to first place. What the Mariners want to do now is go undefeated for the rest of the year, but you can’t always get what you want. Unless you’re Houston, and what you want is the number one pick in the draft. Which is what they want.

The A’s have had a weird season. Think of what makes the A’s good: young pitching, a tinkering GM, Yoenis Cespedes, and magic. This year’s A’s have been successful all year and Cespedes has an OBP under .300. Dan Straily, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and A.J. Griffin have been mediocre, collectively and as individuals. Billy Beane has spent all of his spare time playing Adam Rosales ping pong with John Daniels. This Athletics season has been fueled primarily by Bartolo Colon and Josh Donaldson. Colon is one hundred years old, was suspended for PEDs last year, and is inexplicably having one of his best seasons. Donaldson is Kyle Seager with better fielding and a higher BABIP. Everyone else has been okay, but those two have carried the Oaklanders to where they are today. Where they are today is good enough to qualify for the playoffs, were the playoffs to start today, or tomorrow.

Starters! Monday pits Aaron Harang against Jarrod Parker. Tuesday features Joe Saunders and Sonny Gray. On Wednesday it’s Hisashi Iwakuma versus A.J. Griffin, and wow the A’s have a really underwhelming rotation. How are they this good with so few good players? Watch and learn, Mariners fans! Game one starts at 7:05pm.

Mariners Help Rays Keep AL East Race Interesting


Want a positive spin on a series where the Mariners performance started out okay in the first game and progressively deteriorated? The playoff races in MLB this year aren’t very interesting. Not yet, anyways – baseball has a funny way of keeping us on our toes, so that when we get comfortable with the way things are, things change. But so far, the races aren’t very compelling. It’s the middle of August, and the postseason is looking pretty predictable.

The five NL teams are virtually set in stone, and the Tigers are going to win the AL Central. The West is going to be the A’s, or the Rangers, with whoever doesn’t take the division likely thrown into the one-game playoff. The Indians and Royals and Orioles and technically the Yankees are hanging around within hypothetical striking distance of the play-in game, but realistically that game looks like it’s going to be played by the Rays and the loser of A’s-Rangers. Yawn.

Except! The Rays were recently in the division lead, until all of a sudden they were four games out. Enter Seattle. The Mariners, never content to let things settle quietly into place, dropped two out of three to a Tampa Bay team that decided it had had enough with long losing streaks. The Red Sox took the opportunity to lose two while the Rays were winning two, and all of a sudden the team that has long looked like a wild card lock is back to being a potential division winner. All because of the Mariners.

Okay, so the Rays were probably going to do this anyway because they are good. Beat the Mariners, I mean, and climb a little closer to a possible division crown. But here we are, again, as usual, watching the M’s play meaningless August baseball and searching for any possible way to insert them into the playoff narrative. By helping the Rays pick up two much-needed games in the East, the Mariners were a teeny tiny part of the playoff narrative, if only for a moment. To the recaps!

Tuesday, August 13 – Mariners 5, Rays 4

Judging by outdated, so-said “traditional” metrics, 2013 Erasmo Ramirez has been terrible. Just look at his 7.06 ERA! But but but. Judging by outdated, so-said “traditional” metrics, 2013 Erasmo Ramirez has been great. Just look at his 4-0 record! So, you ask, which one is right? Which “statistic” shows us the true Erasmo?

Neither! Erasmo Ramirez has not been good, let alone infallible as his record would suggest. Seriously, a pitcher’s record is as informative as a pitcher’s hair color. In that it’s not. His ERA at least tells us that his results have been poor, but what we’re interested in is how good he’ll be going forward. To that we turn to other measures, which help illuminate the difference between process and results. 

Erasmo’s strikeouts are up, from 7.32 per nine frames a year ago to 8.59 today. His walks are up too, though, and his groundball rate has tumbled. His batting average on balls in play has gone way way up, from .243 in 2012 to .326 this year. That BABIP jump does most of the explaining as to why his ERA looks the way it does, and his unsustainable 17.5% home run per fly ball ratio does the rest. Ramirez has some real issues right now, but he’s not awful. Even if he’s looked pretty bad at times.

Tuesday we got to see both the 7.06 Erasmo and the undefeated Erasmo, as the young hurler struck out seven in five and a third innings while also allowing two homers, then got out of the way as soon as the team had a lead to cling to. On the plus side was the raw stuff, as illustrated by the seven Ks. On the minus side were two Ben Zobrist homers. Those were the only extra base hits allowed by Erasmo, or any Seattle pitcher for that matter. Oliver Perez and Yoervis Medina kept the Rays from piling on, and Danny Farquhar nailed down another excellent save, with no baserunners and two strikeouts.

Brad Miller hit his third and fourth career home runs, and one remember that his first and second career homers also came in the same game. Brad Miller likes to bunch ’em together, they’ll say, until he inevitably hits just one home run in a game some day. Both of Miller’s shots were solo, which left the rest of the run scoring to the likes of Justin Smoak (two RBI single in the fourth) and Dustin Ackley (RBI triple to center field in the sixth). The young M’s bats did a good job of roughing up rookie starter Chris Archer, who had the worst outing of his brief MLB career.

Wednesday, August 14 – Rays 5, Mariners 4

This post opened by suggesting that the Mariners “progressively deteriorated” over the course of this threee-game set, and while sure, that’s kind of true, it’s not entirely true and in particular doesn’t tell the full story of just how close they came to winning this one. Three outs away, that’s how close, if you want me to be all exact about it.

Three outs that never were, as Danny Farquhar blew his first save at the MLB level by walking one and allowing four hits without recording out number one. Any blown save is frustrating, and this particular blown save pushed the new closer’s ERA back over five. There are people out there who don’t care to recognize that Danny Farquhar has the best strikeout rate of any M’s pitcher ever, and those people probably want the new closer to go away. No blown save is acceptable, or something, and ERA ERA ERA. Farquhar will be fine, so long as he’s striking out 37.4% of the hitters he faces. Danny Farquhar has been worth 1.2 WAR. That’s six times as much value as Aaron Harang has produced in almost seventy more innings.

Harang got the start, as luck would have it, and outperformed Farquhar, for a day anyway. Three runs scored on seven hits and two walks, though the big fella did get five strikeouts in his five innings. He allowed a homer to rookie sensation Wil Myers, who should be ashamed of the way his first name is spelled. W-I-L-L, Wil. He also lasted only five innings because he threw 103 pitches and dammit, Aaron Harang, why can’t you just try not being super frustrating for once just to see what it’s like, where’s your 2007 nostalgia c’mon man. We were so spoiled when the Mariners had Kevin Millwood.

Four runs weren’t enough to win the game but they were enough to warrant discussion in this here space. How the heck did the Mariners score four runs, you ask? By sticking it to reigning Cy Young winner David Price, that’s how, which is especially impressive given that Price has been bonkers lately. Kyle Seager was hit by a pitch in the first inning, stole second, made it to third on a wild pitch, and then scored on a Kendrys Morales single. All this happened quite quickly, as Seager was batting third and Morales cleanup. In the fifth Dustin Ackley walked and Humberto Quintero singled, followed immediately by a Brad Miller triple and a Nick Franklin double. Still the best season of Quintero’s career by WAR, by the way.

Thursday, August 15 – Rays 7, Mariners 1

Raul Ibanez snapped his homerless streak! Dustin Ackley hit another double! Brandon Maurer struck out four batters in less than three full innings! Thus concludes my comprehensive list of things that went right during this game of Seattle Mariners baseball.

Joe Saunders is falling apart. Okay, that’s a little harsh, and implies that he was intact at some point this season. But Thursday he struck out zero while walking three and allowing five runs, in all of four and a third innings. The outing before that he allowed nine runs. This was one of the worst Joe Saunders outings of the year, and we were so spoiled when the Mariners had Kevin Millwood. Kevin Millwood signed a minor league deal and gave the 2012 Mariners 161 innings, valued at 2 WAR. Joe Saunders is making six million dollars and he sucks so much.

Alex Cobb was in the midst of a breakout campaign for Tampa Bay before a line drive hit him on the head and made him stop playing baseball for several months. He was reactivated for this start and was excellent, though understandably he didn’t pitch very deep into the game. The Mariners were just worthless against him, managing three hits and six strikeouts. Raul had his dinger, but that was the only damage. Old friend Jamey Wright struck out three Mariners in two innings and hey look at this terrible bullpen, maybe we were spoiled by Jamey Wright too. Brandon Maurer and Carter Capps pitched and allowed runs because haha are you kidding me this is really what the Mariners pitching staff has become isn’t it.

UP NEXT: Mariners @ Rangers

The Rangers have been hot as hell lately, winning fourteen of their last sixteen and overtaking the A’s for first place in the AL West. They’ve gone from a wild card outsider to a virtual lock for the postseason, mostly due to the whole stopped-losing-games thing. Matt Garza and Alex Rios are Rangers now, because the Rangers were aggressive in exchanging future talent for now talent before (and after!) the trade deadline. They were good, and now they’re better. The risks they took have paid immediate dividends, just as the Rangers hoped they would.

Adrian Beltre is on the Rangers and he’s one of the best players in the game, a guy who long ago came to Seattle after a historic season and was unfairly maligned by a fan base that was just completely unprepared for him to not be Barry Bonds. Beltre’s still rather incredible in the field and is hitting as well as ever, so he’s a treat. Rangers uniform be damned, Beltre remains one of my favorite active baseball players. Plus there’s the whole Felix rivalry thing, which is just so great. Yu Darvish is also on the Rangers and throws sixteen different pitches and is a starter who’s strikeout rate is closer to Farquhar than Felix, which is insane. He’s disgustingly good, and again, even a Rangers uniform isn’t going to stop me from calling him one of my personal favorites. He’s probably one of everyone’s personal favorites.

The above paragraph needed to be written because those two dudes are so great but to cut to the chase: the Rangers are the Mariners direct rivals and the most despicable non-Angels team on planet earth. The Rangers suck, in that I hate them and you probably hate them and good, they deserve all that hate and more. Probably pitching baseballs over the next three days: Hisashi Iwakuma and Derek Holland, both excellent number two starters having excellent number two starter seasons. Felix Hernandez and Martin Perez, an ace and some guy who is proof of concept that every pitcher on the Rangers who you have never heard of is better than you think he should be. Erasmo Ramirez and Yu Darvish, a question and an answer. This is a series that could potentially include every Mariner with the exception of Joe Saunders and Aaron Harang. Based on that and that alone, this series should be excellent.

Pilots Become Brewers, Beat Mariners


A long, long time ago, in 1969, Major League Baseball expanded to Seattle, Washington for the first of two times. I see you looking around the room, thinking “now wait a second, I only see the Mariners in here.” That’s because of some other city’s local hero, Bud Selig, the now-commissioner of baseball who was then a heartbroken midwesterner determined to bring the sport’s highest level back to his home town. Selig was rich, the Pilots were broke, and the Braves had left Milwaukee high and dry years before. In 1970, Major League Baseball left Seattle, Washington, and the Milwaukee Brewers were born.

In 2013 the Brewers came back to town and beat the crap out of the Mariners. To be fair the Brewers came back to town a lot from 1977 to 1998, when they voluntarily left the American League, but this marked their first return since heading to the senior circuit. The 2013 Brewers had higher expectations than the 2013 Mariners, yet by this point in the year it’s become clear to most candid observers that Milwaukee is fielding a worse club than Seattle. Not that the Mariners are good, mind you, but the Brewers are arguably the worst non-Marlins team in the NL right now.

They entered the year with a ballsy team-building strategy: two starting pitchers, three relievers, and guys playing first, short, third, right, center, and catcher. The rest of the roster was to be total nothingness. Fast forward to August and these are the Milwaukee Brewers: Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura, and Jonathan Lucroy. Consider that the Brewers have won fifty-one games with three players and it becomes apparent that this season has actually been a smashing success for the Brew Crew. A team that only exists up the middle has won baseball at a .432 clip. That’s incredible.

This gutted facade of a Brewers team has been bad, so bad, but over the weekend they paid an interleague visit to the Mariners and were good. Until Felix happened, of course, and then they were the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers. Keep reading for the juicy details!

Friday, August 9 – Brewers 10, Mariners 5

For the Mariners, this weekend was predominantly about Ken Griffey Jr., with actual baseball games being kind of a distant afterthought. There was the opportunity for that to change, of course, had the Mariners played excellent, compelling baseball games, but that didn’t happen. The Mariners played awful baseball for two days, with the run prevention unit failing spectacularly to do their job. 

The last few months have been kind of a “wait and see” time for the back of the rotation. Surely this can’t keep being so terrible, right? Joe Saunders, Aaron Harang are not good pitchers, to be sure. Maybe they were before, but not now. “Not good” doesn’t have to mean “ERA over fifty,” or whatever Saunders’ ERA is, but it’s starting to become clear that the “expected” regression may never come.

Saunders allowed nine runs in four and a third innings, with two walks and four strikeouts and a Yuniesky Betancourt grand slam. Yeah, Yuniesky Betancourt, grand slam, Joe Saunders. To the maligned starter’s credit, only four of those nine runs were earned, as the Mariners awful defense continues to be awful. But to be honest, his ERA is 4.69 and his FIP is about the same and he’s been given 140 innings. The Mariners run differential is a lot worse this year than it was the year before, despite the team being obviously more promising. The back of the rotation is the biggest reason why.

Brad Miller had a three-hit game from the leadoff spot that included a double, while Justin Smoak hit a two run home run. The other three Mariners runs were scrappy lil’ singles and this game sucked. Gee guys I sure do hope things went better the next –

Saturday, August 10 – Brewers 10, Mariners 0

Maybe it’s not fair to say that this year’s team has more obvious promise than last year’s. The “obvious” that we see is essentially young infielders, a DH who actually hits, and an injured catcher who should probably get more AAA seasoning. Oh, and a forreal number two starter. But last year featured potential outfielders, which are in question this year. Last year had a bullpen, which this year really doesn’t have. Last year the back of the rotation wasn’t this bad. This pitching staff is really unthinkably bad, Felix and Kuma aside.

Hisashi Iwakuma was cruising until the top of the seventh inning. He had allowed no runs and only one inconsequential extra-base hit until the wheels fell off in his final, abbreviated frame. The Brewers sent ten men to the plate and the first six reached base. The first six scored, actually, as Iwakuma allowed big hits to guys like Juan Francisco and the Yunibomber before allowing a three-run blast by Scooter Gennett. The Brewers have somebody named Khris Davis, who sucks, especially compared to Chris Davis.

Yoervis Medina had to finish the frame, and by that point the nice pitcher’s duel had ended with a sword to the throat. Lucas Luetge quickly coughed up four more runs and then there was a fireworks show. Or was that the night before? It’s hard to tell when the crap flows into the other crap and your favorite baseball team essentially becomes a river of never-ending crap. The Mariners got four hits this whole game. A reliever started for the Brewers.

Sunday, August 11 – Mariners 2, Brewers 0

So to recap the recaps: things were bleak, then things were bleaker. In the midst of all of the terrible, terrible baseball, there were fireworks and Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame. Felix Hernandez was slated to start the Sunday game, and was coming off a bad start. Felix and Felix alone would be tasked with salvaging some positive memories from the weekend, or at least the baseball part of the weekend.

King Felix Hernandez did it. He pitched eight shutout innings, striking out nine Brewers in the process. He scattered four hits and a walk while silencing the ragtag lineup that had just scored twenty runs in eighteen merciful innings. The Brewers suck, but they might have forgotten it had it not been for the King’s heroics. Lord Danny Farquhar pitched a scintilating ninth inning to cap off the win.

What more is there to say about Felix Hernandez that hasn’t already been said? Felix is going to the Mariners Hall of Fame, just like Ken Griffey Jr. just did. He’s eventually going to the real Hall of Fame, just like Ken Griffey Jr. eventually will. Of course, a major injury could stop him short, but Felix has racked up over 40 career WAR and arguably hasn’t even reached his “peak” years yet.

Felix is right up there with Max Scherzer in the AL right now, as those two seem to be pulling away from the competition in the Cy Young race. Scherzer has the worthless “stats” on his side, and the better team, and so he’s probably the favorite for dumb reasons. You know what Max Scherzer isn’t? The best pitcher on earth. You know what Felix is? The best pitcher on earth, and a Mariner.

Oh yeah, and the Mariners scored two runs on four hits. Justin Smoak hit another bomb and the M’s won. But really, this one was all about Felix.

UP NEXT: Mariners @ Rays

It’s been a wild week for the Tampa Bay Rays, in the midst of a wild season. Not long ago they were flirting with last place in the AL East, during that weird stretch where the Blue Jays were super hot and threatened to make the division into a five-team race. The Blue Jays have since collapsed, again, and the Yankees are looking pretty shot too, leaving Tampa as one of three teams truly “in it” in the East. Boston had held a death grip on first place for most of the year until being uprooted by the Rays a little while ago. The Rays, at that point, looked unstoppable, the Dodgers-east, the best team in baseball even. That was a week and change ago.

Today, the Rays sit three back of Boston for the division and have lost five straight, and seven of ten. They were swept by the Dodgers, and nobody’s lining up to call them the best team in the game anymore. The Rays are a reminder that baseball changes fast, but they’re also holding onto a wild card spot. It’s still feasible that the Rays are a great team, not a good team, and a glance at their roster can explain why.

The Rays are complete, as baseball teams go, with a rounded offense and a good defense that back up a sterling rotation. Nobody’s really excelling this year out of the starting five, but David Price seems to be back to Cy Young form while Matt Moore shows that he’s just a couple less walks-per-nine away from being elite. Jeremy Hellickson is doing mostly good things, and Chris Archer is arriving even as his strikeouts lag. The bullpen is coming together after Fernando Rodney’s early-season misadventures. Evan Longoria is a bonafide superstar, Ben Zobrist never stops, and Wil Myers has been worth 2 WAR over his first 189 major league trips to the plate. James Loney is hitting .312, following in the grand tradition of Jeff Keppinger and Casey Kotchman. The Rays are excellent, even if they’re currently mired in a skid and are overdue for another perfect game.

Monday’s a travel day, so the M’s resume play on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. Erasmo Ramirez starts against Chris Archer, as the young M’s hurler looks for his first good start of the year. Aaron Harang battles David Price in a hilarious Wednesday mismatch, and Thursday brings Joe Saunders and an unannounced starting pitcher who is almost certainly going to be better than Joe Saunders. Can the Mariners push the Rays streak to eight losses? Highly unlikely! But possible! Anything is possible!

Mariners Hit Homers, Take Baltimore Series


The Seattle Mariners, fresh off a massively crappy sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox, decided to make a change. “By golly,” said Raul Ibanez to his rag-tag bunch of teammates. “We ought to do something different in our upcoming series against the Baltimore Orioles.” All around the room heads nodded, players silently muttering “well shucks he’s right” and twiddling their thumbs. “Next time,” said the gritty veteran, “we should make it our goal to win a game or two.” More nods. “Heck,” continued Ibanez, “if you boys can string together two consecutive wins during this series, I’ll personally take everyone out for pizza after the big game.” Jaws dropped. More nodding. “Dude your veteran presence is so good” said Brad Miller as Jack Zduriencik stood in the background, hands folded across his chest.

So the Mariners went to Camden Yards and took two of three against a good Orioles team. This serves as a needed shot in the arm to a team – and fanbase – that had been deservedly frustrated following a poorly-timed rough patch. Any roough patch is poorly timed, sure, but this particular one came right after a stretch where the Mariners looked legitimately excellent, particularly the young talent that is hoped to carry the team for the next hundred years. When that young talent all of a sudden started to look like festering crap, worry and fear set in. Was it all an illusion?

The Baltimore series didn’t answer all of our questions about the young guys because no single series could ever possibly do that. What this series did was provide a reason to smile, and sure enough I’m smiling while typing this. Are you smiling while reading this, and while thinking about the Seattle Mariners? Smile! The Mariners just won baseball games!

Friday, August 2 – Orioles 11, Mariners 8

The Orioles, as you probably know, have hit more home runs that any other team in the majors. They have accomplished this feat largely because of Chris Davis, which you also probably knew. The Mariners are tied for third in the majors with 136 homers, in case you were wondering, which you probably were. This series featured two teams who hit lots of home runs.

This game, as chance would have it, was dictated by dingers. For the good guys it was Michael Saunders and Humberto Quintero teeing off against Chris Tillman, with Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse going back-to-back against Francisco Rodriguez in the eighth. For the bad guys it was Davis and Eric Flaherty off of Aaron Harang, while Nate McClouth added a grand slam off of Brandon Maurer in the sixth and essentially put the game away.

Harang started and was terrible. He walked two batters and struck out only one, on a foul tip. He allowed seven runs in five innings and it really looks like the M’s are going to do this whole Aaron Harang thing until the end of the season, which is just a shame because he’s got a 5.27 ERA and a 4.55 FIP that suggests he’s been bad and unlucky. Maurer also probably shouldn’t be here, but he at least has a spot in Tacoma. It is worth nothing that Kendrys Morales went four for four in this game and is some kind of otherworldly hot right now.

Saturday, August 3 – Mariners 8, Orioles 4

Erasmo Ramirez still hasn’t pitched a great major league game in 2013, but this at least represents a step in the right direction. He allowed four runs in six innings, including solo shots from Matt Wieters and Manny Machado. He did strike out six and walk none, which is a particularly welcome sight given his recent problems with the free pass. More Ks and less BBs will make Ramirez a better pitcher. More Ks and less BBs will make any pitcher – or anybody, really – a better pitcher.

Michael Saunders was the big key on offense, smacking two home runs and driving in five runs in the process. He also walked, making him one of three M’s to reach base three or more times. Brad Miller had a double and two singles, and Justin Smoak went three for three with two walks and a dinger. Camden is kind of a launching pad these days. Danny Farquhar earned his first career save and is anyone else totally weirded out by the fact that he might be on the verge of emerging as a dominant reliever? Because that fact totally weirds me out.

Sunday, August 4 – Mariners 3, Orioles 2

While relatively quiet offensively, this game was dominated by the long ball, just like the others in this set. Baltimore’s only runs came on a two-run shot by Danny Valencia in the sixth against Joe Saunders. Saunders pitched six innings with two runs, two strikeouts, and two walks. He allowed eight hits and ran his pitch count up to the point that when Valencia hit his bomb it was questionable whether Saunders should have even been pitching still. Wei-Yen Chen also allowed a game-changing dinger in his last inning, as Henry Blanco crushed one with a man on base to give the Mariners a 3-2 lead in the seventh. Raul Ibanez had the team’s only two hit game with a pair of doubles.

Perhaps the real stars of this show were unlikely bullpen kingpins Yoervis Medina and Danny Farquhar, each of whom were stellar against one of the best offenses in the league. Neither allowed a baserunner, with Medina striking out four of the six men he faced while Farquhar was again perfect in earning his second straight save. Yoervis Medina and Danny Farquhar. If you had told me before the season that two of the M’s best relievers were going to be, I don’t know, Hector Noesi and Kameron Loe, I’d have said “that sounds extremely unlikely but potentially believable.” Medina and Farquhar have been more than a little unexpected, in a good way.

UP NEXT: Blue Jays @ Mariners

The AL East trip continues, though the next stop is actually in Seattle. The Jays were supposed to be the best team on earth but instead have been bad, despite getting expectedly good seasons from Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Bautista, as well as an unexpectedly good one from team WAR leader Colby Rasmus. The pitching has collapsed and the positional role players have bellyflopped, while free agent gamble Melky Cabrera is having a miserable year reminiscent of his dismal days in New York and Atlanta. Things have not gone well for Team Canada, to say the least.

Monday features Hisashi Iwakuma and R.A. Dickey, who won a Cy Young last year and isn’t very good this year. Tuesday it’s Felix Hernandez and Josh Johnson, who used to be consistently very good and this year has a worse FIP than Aaron Harang.Wednesday pits the afformentioned Harang against maybe J.A. Happ or maybe not, depending on whether or not he’s ready. Happ hasn’t pitched since being hit in the head with a line drive in May and holy wow that is so terrifying to think about. Pitchers shouldn’t necessarily have to wear helmets, but preemptive protective metal plates in their heads surely would be worth consideration.

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