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!